Karen & Vanessa's visit

When Mike and I announced we were moving to England, we thought we'd have some friends decide they couldn't pass up the opportunity of seeing Germany the easy way - you know with someone that understands driving on the autobahn and can somewhat communicate with the natives! Anyway, those friends turned out to be Karen and Vanessa and I'm so glad they were able to visit. At the time of their visit, Mike was already living and working in England so it was a much-needed break from myself.

Karen and her husband, Larry, lived next door to us in Tennessee and amazingly her family is German - what a coincidence. Her father was born in Speyer, Germany and moved to the states when he was a teenager. So needless to say she really wanted to see where her family came from and had a perfect reason to visit.

After first going to the wrong terminal at the Frankfurt airport, I finally found them (an hour late) and we headed for Wolfstein, Speyer and southern Germany. Karen's father was born in Speyer but resided in the small town (dorf) of Wolfstein. While in Wolfstein, we attempted to find Karen's father's childhood home. All we knew was that it was behind the towns' church. Wolfstein is a quaint little village with a lovely castle ruin overlooking the town. We didn't spend too much time there as we had a schedule to keep.

Our next stop was Speyer. Speyer sits on the Rhein River in southwest Germany and was originally settled by the Celts, then by the Romans and was sacked in 450 by the Huns. It is a beautiful city and was a pleasant surprise for me since I had never heard of it. The city's most memorable landmark is the four-towered Imperial Cathedral. Construction on the cathedral began around 1030 and was completed in 1061. Speyer Cathedral is one of the biggest and most important Romanesque buildings in Germany and its crypt contains the tombs of eight emperors and kings as well as four queens. Next to the cathedral is the stunning 19th century sculpture of "The Mount of Olives" by Gottfried Renn. The original sculpture dated from the 15th century but was destroyed. I was really looking forward to seeing the Jewish baths - Mikvah - (and comparing them to Cologne's) but unfortunately they were closed the day we were there. The baths date back to 1126 and have been preserved through the centuries virtually unchanged so I've read. After taking in the sights of Speyer, we were on our way to Schwangau - the home of King Ludwig's Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau fairytale castles. It was a very long day but Karen and Vanessa endured. Once we checked into the hotel they went straight for the hot tub instead of the bed. The hotel was the perfect place for their first night in Germany. It was a traditional Bavarian guesthouse with the staff dressed in Dirndl and Lederhosen. We also had a wonderful view of the King's castles from our balcony. What more could you ask for?

The next morning we toured Neuschwanstein Castle, then drove through Austria in route to the Zugspitze, the highest point in Germany. No skiing this time only sight seeing. After reaching the top, we enjoyed the German tradition of Kaffee and Kuchen and then took lots of pictures of the snow-capped peaks of the Alps. After our afternoon in the Alps, we did some shopping in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, and then we were off to Munich for the next few days.

Munich was lots of fun. We walked around the city until our feet were killing us. We took in a traditional German show at the Hofbrauhaus and drank a few BEERS throughout the evening. Munich is a great city to visit. After Munich, we made our way back to Bielstein where Karen and Vanessa got to experience a day at the Cologne Christmas markets before going to Amsterdam. Once they returned from Amsterdam, we took a boat cruise down the Rhein River with a stopped at St. Goar. Unfortunately, the weather didn't cooperate with us on the trip - the fog kept rolling in so I didn't get very good pictures of the castles lining the river.

Thanks for a great time Karen & Vanessa. I hope you'll visit us in England.

Wolfstein: castle ruin:

Wolfstien church:

Karen's father's childhood home:

Karen & Vanessa with the Speyer Cathedral in the background:

"The Mount of Olives" sculpture:

Closeup of figures of sculpture:

Karen & Gabi in hot tub:

View of Ludwig's castles from our room:

Neuschwanstein:

Karen & Vanessa in the cable car to Zugspitze:

The Alps from Zugspitze:

Birds are everywhere!!:

Vanessa shopping in Garmisch-Partenkirchen:

Karen & Vanessa in Munich:

The girls at the Hofbrauhaus show:

The show:

Gabi & Vanessa enjoying BEERS after the show:

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