Highlights of our vacation

This is Hohenzollern Castle, one of the definite highlights of our trip to Germany earlier this Castle Hohenzollernmonth. We drove from the Rhine valley across the Black Forest to Hechingen, at the edge of the Schwaebische Alb. As you approach the castle, the roads become narrower and steeper, until the castle looms overhead in the forest. There, you get out of the car and climb up the hill for 30 Minutes until you reach the main gate, where you pay admission. Hohenzollern Castle is the ancestral seat of the House of Hohenzollern, which ruled Prussia and Romania as Kings and the German Reich as Emperors.   More photos:

(click on any photo to enlarge and start the slide show)

Burg Liechtenstein, GermanyAnother castle with a nice view we visited was Liechtenstein Castle near Honau in Germany, owned by the Dukes or Urach. This is the view from an overlook near the castle. Later that evening we Burg Liechtenstein, Germanyhad a very lovely dinner of local trout and local, wild boar at a restaurant in the village below.


Speaking of Liechtenstein, we also visited the more famous Liechtenstein Castle in the Principality of Liechtenstein. Also privately owned, this was the only old castle that had a big “No Trespassing” sign, as it is still the residence of the (very rich) Prince of Liechtenstein. Of course it too, has a very nice view.

None of us had ever been to Liechtenstein, so now we can cross out on our to-do lists: visited all four German-speaking countries (Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Liechtenstein). Visited the fourth-smallest country in Europe and sixth-smallest country in the world (Only Vatican City, Nauru, Tuvalu, San Marino and Monaco are smaller).

At 2,962 m (9,718 ft), the summit of the Zugspitze was the highest-altitude highlight of our trip, but sadly also the lowest-visibility one.

Even though the weather was quite nice everywhere else, a stubborn cloud shrouded Germany’s highest alpine summit all day. We took the cable car to the glacier station about 1000 feet lower and we had a much nicer view of some of the surrounding mountains.  Still, for the kids the real highlight of that day was to be able to go sledding. In August.

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Our tour through my old stomping grounds – the Baden/Alsace region – yielded several more highlights with a nice view. The castle Haut-Kœnigsbourg (or Hohkönigsburg) in Orschwiler in Alsace features a spectacular view of the Vosges mountains, across the Rhine valley and all the way to the Black Forest. This castle is interesting because it was carefully restored in 1900, and not just rebuilt according to some romanticized idea of the middle ages. So it really gives visitors an pretty good idea what a medieval castle looked and felt like. The German Emperor Wilhelm II had it restored as a monument to the German heritage in Alsace and to claim a link to previous German rulers – the Stauffers and the Habsburgs in particular.

From there we proceeded on to Strasbourg, where we visited the Cathedral.

The old city of Strasbourg with its medieval cityscape of timber-framed buildings is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The (mostly) Gothic sandstone Cathedral towers over the old city. At a height of 142 m (466 ft), it’s north tower was the world’s tallest building from 1647 until 1874, eclipsing the Great Pyramid of Giza by just a couple meters. We climbed up to the platform at 66m (217 feet) and enjoyed a great view across the city and the Rhine valley.

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Finally, the next day on the other side of the Rhine, we visited Freiburg and also climbed up on that city’s  cathedral, the Freiburger Münster (pictured here with the spire in scaffolding).

The minster’s 116m (380ft) tower was completed in 1330 and the choir was consecrated in 1513 – it took over 300 years to complete this church. Only in 1827, did the Freiburg Minster become the seat of a bishop. The oldest bell in the tower dates back to the year 1258 and it is called “Hosanna”. During the bombing raids in 1944, all the buildings around the church were destroyed, but the church remained unscathed. The view from the platform on the tower, right beneath the spire, was fantastic. The Black forest on one side, the Rhine valley was spread out all the way to the Vosges mountains.


More to be posted soon …

(updated 8/22 with more photos) (updated 8/25 with some dates about Freiburg Minster)


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