Thanksgiving Holiday in Vienna & Prague with Family   Leave a comment


Thanksgiving Holiday in Vienna & Prague with Family

Nov. 25 – 29, 2016

Vienna, Austria and Prague, Czech Republic


 As promised this is the continuation of the adventure, “Greece & the Hidden Gems of the Dalmatian Coast cruise.”  As stated in the last blog Karree & I left Zagreb, Croatia early Thanksgiving morning by direct train enroute to Vienna, Austria.  We had a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner and all the trimmings with my daughter Kellee & husband Jim and some of their friends.  The next day Karree, Jim, Kellee & I headed by train to Prague, Czech Republic, to round out the Thanksgiving holiday by spending three nights right in the old town square of Prague. 


Karree & I left Zagreb, Czech Republic early Thanksgiving morning and arrived in Vienna, Austria in the early afternoon.  It actually was a pleasurable ride viewing the scenery as we rolled along.  It is also nice because one isn’t stuck in a seat and can freely move around.  And very importantly there is also coffee, drinks & snacks for purchase.  I love to ride trains in Europe!


My son-in-law could give the cooking show chefs a run for their money!


We enjoyed a great Thanksgiving Dinner in Vienna with family & friends.


The four of us took the train from Vienna to Prague.  It was about a four hour ride, and a great time to watch the scenery, play cards and to catch up on visiting. 

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Prague, Czech Republic is regarded by many as one of Europe’s most charming and beautiful cities, and has become the most popular travel destination in Central Europe along with Vienna & Krakow.  Prague is built along the Vitava River and for ten centuries, it has been a magical city of bridges, cathedrals, gold-tipped towers and church domes.  Almost undamaged by WWII, Prague’s medieval center remains a wonderful mixture of cobbled lanes, walled courtyards, cathedrals and countless church spires all in the shadow of her majestic 9th century castle which overlooks the city.  Prague is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


Prague:  We booked an apartment right in the old town square of Prague.  Sometimes people say it doesn’t matter where you stay because you only sleep there.  I have to disagree.  The location of this apartment was fantastic and made the trip just perfect.   This was recommended to us by our friend Cheryl in Denver.  When I book hotels internationally I always use  This apartment is Apartments Old Town Square 27 and the room is the luxury two-bedroom apartment.  I highly recommend it. 


Christmas Market in the old town square of Prague.  It worked out very well because we could buy food at the Christmas Market & take it right upstairs to our apartment and eat it. 



The Prague Astronomical Clock:  It was first installed in 1410, making it the third-oldest astronomical clock in the world and the oldest one still working.  And as stated previously it was located right out our apartment window.  It was fun rushing to the window at the top of the hour to watch & listen to it. 


Kellee had purchased “standing room” tickets to the Prague Opera House.  We didn’t stay for all of the performance but it was nice seeing the beautiful opera house. 


The Old Town Bridge Tower:  Charles Bridge, was built by Emperor Charles IV starting in the year of 1357.  Access to the Charles Bridge was protected by bridge towers, built at either end of the bridge. The tower on the side of the Old Town, known as Old Town Bridge Tower, was built between 1370 and 1391.  The gate to the Old Town was also conceived as a symbolic victory arch through which Czech kings passed on their coronation processions.


Bridge Statues & Statuaries:  The bridge is decorated by a continuous alley of 30 statues & statuaries, most of them baroque-style, originally erected around 1700 but now all replaced by replicas.  The originals can be seen in the National Museum in Prague. 

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Charles Bridge:  Charles Bridge is on the top of every Prague visitor’s must-see list. It is also popular with Czech artists, musicians and souvenir vendors whose stands line both sides of the bridge year-round. Prague Castle with the St. Vitus Cathedral is the castle showing in the background.


Lesser Town Towers:  On the Lesser Town end of the Charles Bridge are two bridge towers. The smaller one, the Judith Tower, was built in 1188 to guard the entrance to the former Judith Bridge. The adjoining taller tower was erected in 1464 on the orders of King George of Poděbrady who wanted a counterpart to the Old Town Bridge Tower.  We crossed the bridge and walked through the Lesser Quarter to get to the Prague Castle.


We walked through Lesser Town and up the long hill to the castle.  We didn’t get there until around noon and the line to get tickets was so long we decided to come back the next day and be there before 9 am.  The next day we rode the tram that took us up above behind the castle, there was no line so we paid and walked right in.  However, it turned out to be a cold, windy, rainy day as opposed to the day before. 


We arrived just in time for the changing of the guard.


 Prague Castle Complex:  Records indicate that Prague Castle is the largest castle area in the world. Its three courtyards and a number of magnificent buildings cover over 18 acres.  The Prague Castle experienced one of its greatest periods during the reign of Charles IV (1346-1378) when it became the seat of the Holy Roman Emperor. The Royal Palace was rebuilt, the fortifications were strengthened, and the construction of St. Vitus Cathedral was initiated, following the style of Gothic French cathedrals of the time.


St. Vitus Cathedral:  The cathedral’s foundation stone was laid in 1344 by Emperor Charles IV. The first architect was Matthias of Arras.  Over the following centuries renaissance and baroque details were added and the job was completed in 1929.


 A Christmas Market in the Prague Castle courtyard.


  Lots of things to see & museums to stroll though in the Palace Complex.


We had a delightful lunch in a restaurant in a cave, and ample time to thaw out our hands & feet.


The conclusion of a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend with family.


Keep on traveling!

Posted January 25, 2017 by marilynfarmer in Travel

Greece & the Hidden Gems of the Dalmatian Coast Cruise   Leave a comment

Greece & the Hidden Gems of the Dalmatian Coast Cruise

Nov. 8 – 24, 2016

Athens, Corinth Canal, Itea, Delphi and Corfu Greece; Saranda and Butrint Albania; Kotor and Perast Montenegro; Dubrovnik, Gromaca, Korcula, Hvar, Vrboska, Split, Plitvice Lakes and Zagreb Croatia. 


Jim & I booked “The Hidden Gems of the Dalmatian Coast & Greece ” with Grand Circle Travel.  We had also decided to stay behind after the trip and spend the Thanksgiving holiday with our daughter Kellee, and son-in-law Jim at their home in Vienna, Austria.  At the time Jim & I booked this trip were happily going about our lives with never a thought but what we would just grow old together.  Jim went to his heavenly home on May 9, 2016 when he was killed in an accident on our farm.  He was the love of my life and we had 51 years wonderful years together.  {On a previous blog you will find a memorial tribute to him.}  I cannot say enough good comments about the Grand Circle Travel Company.  They so kindly changed everything over to my daughter, Karree so she could join me on this trip.  Please note:  The continuation of this travel blog will be posted on my next blog entitled “Thanksgiving Holiday with Family in Vienna & Prague.” 


    This is our tour director Visja, she was a joy, very knowledgeable and loved sharing learning and discovery experiences!  The map is copied from  We cruised 728 miles and enjoyed a four-country journey.  This is my 37th trip with this company, and by being in the country of Albania made the 75th country/territory I have visited.  Jim & I were very fortunate and we both loved to travel.

Winking smileSave MoneyMoney:  If you decide you’d like to go on this or any Grand Circle Travel or Overseas Adventure trip, and you are a first time traveler with them, they will give you $100 per person off any trip if you mention the name of my travel blog and my customer number #561413.  New travelers instantly receive $100 each off the cost of the trip, and I will receive $100 when you depart on your trip.

Athens, Greece:  It’s one of the world’s oldest cities, with its recorded history spanning over 3,400 years.  The city has many ancient monuments and works of art, the most famous of all being the Parthenon, considered a key landmark of early Western Civilization.  Athens is the capital and largest city in Greece.

Changing of the Guard:  Located at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in front of the House of Parliament.


Syntagma Metro Station:  This interesting museum is located in an the Athens Metro Station.  It features a variety of historical items unearthed during the process of building the metro.


The famous Acropolis of Athens and the Parthenon:  It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Acropolis contains the remains of several ancient buildings of great architectural and historic significance, the most famous being the Parthenon.  The Parthenon is a former temple dedicated to the goddess Athena, whom the people of Athens considered their patron. Construction began in 447 BC when the Athenian Empire was at the peak of its power.  The Parthenon is regarded as one of the world’s greatest cultural monuments.  (This photo was taken from our hotel in Athens.)


The Erechtheion:   Another ancient Greek temple located on the Acropolis.  It was dedicated to both Athena and Poseidon.  It was built between 421 and 406 B.C. (The two photos are different views of the same building.)


Boarding our ship the M/V Athena:  Owned, operated, and staffed by Grand Circle Cruise Line, this ship was designed exclusively for two small groups of just 25 Grand Circle travelers, each with its own Program Director.  Sailing out from the harbor we spotted a U.S.A. ship.  See that beautiful American flag flying proudly? 


Beginning our 728 mile cruise journey from Athens, Greece and along the Dalmatian Coast of Albania, Montenegro and ending in Split, Croatia.  At the end of the trip we disembarked our ship and went by coach to Plitvice Lakes & Zagreb, Croatia. 


Corinth Canal:   This canal connects the Gulf of Corinth with the Saronic Gulf in the Aegean Sea. It cuts through the narrow Isthmus of Corinth and separates the Peloponnese from the Greek mainland.  It was completed in 1893 and is 4 miles in length and 70 ft. wide at its base, making it impassable for most modern ships.  This was a huge reason Jim wanted to book this trip.  On a previous trip he had looked down into the canal and by golly he was going to sail through it now.  Well, Karree & I did that for him. 


Itea:  The little town where we docked and then took a coach to Delphi.  And…..Jim’s rainbow.


 Delphi Archaeological Museum:  It is one of the principal museums of Greece and one of the most visited.  We were told that one of the most impressive exhibits is the Sphinx, which was produced between 575 & 560 B.C.  The Kouroi of Delphi, archaic male statues known also as Cleobis and Biton, were produced at Argos between 610 and 580 BC.


My favorite in the museum was the Charioteer.  The statue is said to be one of the finest specimens of 5th century bronze sculpture, it belonged to a larger complex including the chariot, the horses and possibly a stable boy.  I tell you, it seemed that his eyes literally followed me. 


Archaeological Site of Delphi: A UNESCO World Heritage Site.  In the 6th century B.C., Delphi was the religious center and symbol of unity of the ancient Greek world.  It is famous as the ancient sanctuary that grew rich as the seat of the oracle that was consulted on important decisions throughout the ancient classical world.  The Pythia commonly known as the Oracle of Delphi, was the name given to the High Priestess of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi who also served as the oracle.  These pictures show the remaining columns of the Temple of Apollo.

We had an outstanding local guide.  She explained in great detail about the Oracle of Delphi.  I came away with this:  “Life is what you make it.”  At this point & time, with the recent loss of Jim, this most definitely touched my heart. I must remember…..”life is what you make it.” 


The reconstructed Treasury of Athens, built to commemorate their victory at the Battle of Marathon in 380 B.C.


The theater at Delphi is build further up the hill from the Temple of Apollo and it presented the seated audience with a spectacular view of the entire sanctuary below and the valley beyond. It was built in the 4th century B.C.

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 Monastery of Hosios Loukas, Greece:  We received a bonus on this sunny day.   The seas were too high to sail so it was arranged for us to go by coach to this beautiful, historic walled monastery situated near the town of Distomo, Greece.  It is one of the most important monuments of Middle Byzantine architecture and art, and has been listed on  UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. 


Distomo, Greece:  We stopped at this pretty town on the way back to the ship.  And we had beautiful scenery as we drove.


And then the seas calmed and we sailed away into the sunset.


  The Achilleion Palace, Corfu Greece:   This palace was built in 1890 for Elizabeth, Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary.  In her day Elisabeth was known as “Sisi.”   Uncomfortable with the constraints of court life in Vienna, Sisi retreated to Corfu in her later years and immersed herself in the world of the ancient Greeks.  The central theme of the palace is the mythical hero Achilles (that’s his statue in the garden). The Imperial gardens on top of the hill provide a majestic view of the Ionian sea.  At this lovely location we decided we needed a picture of our happy little travel group. 


Corfu, Greece:   Corfu, an island off Greece’s northwest coast in the Ionian Sea, is defined by rugged mountains and a resort-studded shoreline. Its cultural heritage reflects years spent under Venetian, French and British rule before it was united with Greece in 1864. Corfu Town, flanked by 2 imposing Venetian fortresses, features winding medieval lanes, a French-style arcade and the grand Palace of St. Michael and St. George.


Oh no, I should have got my life vest out!


Sailing out of Corfu, Greece.  Arriving in Saranda, Albania.  Albania marks my 75th country/territory that I have visited. 


Butrint, Albania:  We docked in Saranda and went overland by coach to Butrint, Albania.  We visited the ruins of Butrint, A UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Butrint has been inhabited since prehistoric times, and it was at various times the site of a Greek colony, a Roman city, and a part of the Byzantine Empire.  After a brief occupation by the Venetians, the city was abandoned in the late Middle Ages after marshes formed in the area.  I thought this archaeological site was very interesting. 


Pilot Boats:  This is how the pilot boats escort ships in and out of their harbors.  The sailor from that harbor gets off the pilot boat and into our ship and brings our ship into port.  It’s the rules of the water.  Our cabin was located right above the ship entrance so had nice opportunity to watch and get some photos.


After Romania we set sail for Kotor, Montenegro.  Cruising in the Bay of Kotor was absolutely beautiful.


Arriving at Kotor, Montenegro:  It is a perfectly preserved historic town.  In the Middle Ages, this natural harbor on the Adriatic coast was a walled city and an important artistic and commercial center.  Note the ancient fortified city walls above the town.  Karree hiked to the very top.  More about that later.


Kotor, Montenegro:  I love, love this awesome little town!  A UNESCO World Heritage site, the old city was built between the 12th and 14th centuries and is filled with medieval architecture and historic monuments. Extending over 2.5 miles, the city walls that have protected Kotor for centuries lead up to the fortress of Saint Ivan.

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Fun evening entertainment on the ship for a youthful Montenegrin group.


The Hike:   In Feb. 2010, Jim & I were in Kotor and Jim hiked up the city walls clear to the Fortress of Saint Ivan.  Not to be outdone by her Dad & in memory of her Dad, Karree did the same hike.  Jim was 70 years old at the time and Karree came back saying that she was amazed at his fortitude and accomplishment at his age.  Love & miss you Jim!


Then & Now Memories:  Jimmy Otho 2010 & Karree Ardith 2016

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Perast, Montenegro:  Near the little town of Perast on the Bay of Kotor  are two islands, one is called St. George and the other Our Lady of the Rocks.  We took a boat to Our Lady of the Rocks.  This church was raised in 1630 on an artificial island, which was built by fishermen from Perast. According to a legend, after a shipwreck these fishermen found on a sea rock an icon of Holy Mother of God with Christ.  They vowed that right on that spot where the icon was found they will build a church, which would be dedicated to this icon of the Holy Mother of God, protector of sailors and fishermen.


 Dubrovnik, Croatia:   A UNESCO World Heritage Site & another of my favorite cities in the world.   Dubrovnik is considered the ‘Pearl of the Adriatic’, situated on the Dalmatian coast, and it has been an important Mediterranean sea power from the 13th century onwards.  Although severely damaged by an earthquake in 1667, Dubrovnik managed to preserve its beautiful Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque churches, monasteries, palaces and fountains. Damaged again in the 1990s by armed conflict, it is now the focus of a major restoration program co-ordinated by UNESCO.


 Medieval City Walls of Dubrovnik, Croatia:  This series of defensive stone walls have surrounded and protected Dubrovnik since the city’s founding prior to the 7th century.  The city walls contain an intricate and complex system of forts, bastions, casemates, towers and detached forts.  Karree & I walked the city walls.  It was the highlight of our visit to the ancient city.  It’s about 1 1/4 miles and took over two hours as we marveled in the beauty of the scenes that unfolded in front of us. 


Gromaca, Croatia:  We drove to the village of Gromaca, near Dubrovnik and visited a family and enjoyed a home-hosted dinner with them.  But first we went to their smoke-house & then to the wine cellar.  We were served homemade spirits, that would knock your socks off.  Oh, and that’s me modeling my new coat that I had just purchased in Kotor that afternoon.


Korcula, Croatia:   It’s a small island on the Adriatic & lies just off the Dalmatian Coast.  We docked a stone’s throw away and enjoyed the unique old town.  The old town is believed to have been the birthplace of Marco Polo. 


Hvar, Croatia:  It’s an island in the Adriatic Sea, located off the Dalmatian coast.  Hvar town is the largest of four towns on the island with a little more than 4,000 population.  It had some little shops & Karree bought a cute skirt. 


  Island of Hvar:  The island of Hvar is unusual in the area for having a large fertile coastal plain, and fresh water springs. Its hillsides are covered in pine forests, with vineyards, olive groves, fruit orchards and lavender fields in the agricultural areas. The climate is characterized by mild winters, and warm summers with many hours of sunshine (not the day we were there). We drove by coach across the scenic island. 

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Vrboska, Croatia:   We drove to the other side of the island Hvar to Vrboska for a fun wine & cheese tasting with friends.


Enjoyable evening entertainment by a Croatian group.


The M/V Athena and our last day of sailing.


Split, Croatia:  It’s the second-largest city of Croatia and the largest city of the region of Dalmatia. It lies on the eastern shore of the Adriatic Sea, centered on the Roman Palace of the Emperor Diocletian.  The Palace Is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the greatest Roman ruin in Southeastern Europe.  Built like a fortress, the palace was occupied by the Emperor Diocletian from 300-313 AD.  The ancient city is all around and within Diocletian’s Palace.


Karree hiked up the hill above Spit.


 Plitvice Lakes, Croatia:  We disembarked our ship and traveled overland to the Plitvice Lake Region.  It’s a 114-square-mile national park with 16 lakes linked by a series of waterfalls and cascades.  It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 


 Zagreb, Croatia:  It’s been Croatia’s capital since 1557.  There is a lower town whose well-designed street grid was laid out in the 19th century.  The old Upper Town has the city’s medieval landmarks. 


Train Ride:  Our fantastic trip of “Hidden Gems of the Dalmatian Coast & Greece” came to a conclusion on Thanksgiving morning.  Karree & I were on the early morning train to join my daughter and son-in-law for Thanksgiving.  It was a direct train from Zagreb, Croatia to Vienna, Austria.  It took about seven hours and only costs the equivalent of $60 US dollars for the two of us.  It was actually a delightful ride. 


 To be continued:  My next blog “Thanksgiving Holiday with Family in Vienna & Prague” will be the continuation of this adventure. 

Posted January 17, 2017 by marilynfarmer in Travel

England, Wales & Scotland   8 comments

England, Wales & Scotland

July 3 – 26, 2016

London, Oxford, Bladon, Bampton, Cotswold, Cheltenham, Bath, and Stonehenge England; Llangollen,  Snowdonia, Llanfair…, Caernarfon, and Portmeirion Wales; Chester, York, Whitby, Grange, and Lake District England; Edinburgh, Inverness, Loch Ness, Isle of Skye, Scottish Highlands, Glencoe, Loch Lomond, Trossachs, and Glasgow Scotland. 


We booked “England,Scotland & Wales” with a pre-trip in London and a post-trip in Scotland with Grand Circle Travel. At that time Jim & I were happily going about our lives with never a thought but what we would just grow old together.  Jim went to his heavenly home on May 9, 2016 when he was killed in an accident on our farm.  He was the love of my life and we had 51 years wonderful years together.  {On my previous blog you will find a memorial tribute to him.}  I cannot say enough good comments about Grand Circle.  They so kindly changed everything over to my sweet daughter-in-law so she could go on the trip with me.  So here it is. 


This is our awesome tour director, Anita.  She made everything a fun adventure.   Yes, GCT has an itinerary that one can depend on seeing & doing everything that’s listed, but Anita added to that itinerary and we had lots & lots of learning & discovery.  It might be a snack, a wine, a liquor of a particular region that we were in or it might be some interesting thing or event in a town that only a local would know.  It was obvious that Anita loves being a tour director!  Thank you Anita. 


SmileSave MoneyMoney:  If you decide you’d like to go on this or any Grand Circle Travel or Overseas Adventure trip, and you are a first time traveler with them, they will give you $100 per person off any trip if you mention the name of my travel blog and my customer number #561413.  New travelers instantly receive $100 each off the cost of the trip, and I will receive $100 when you depart on your trip.

Grand Circle Travel provided us a splendid hotel in London.  The Tower Hotel was located right by the Tower Bridge and across the street from the Tower of London.  A wonderful area!  The second picture is the view out of our window.  We were in London for six nights and Grand Circle provided us “Tube” passes.  Riding the tube is very straight forward and easy to accomplish.  We were totally surprised and impressed by the friendliness and helpfulness of the people of London. 


Buckingham Palace:  Our first venture on the tube was to see the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace.  Buckingham Palace has been the official residence of the monarch since 1837.  The changing of the guard takes place everyday at 11 a.m.  The replacement troops are led by a band and they all converge at Buckingham Palace in a perfect storm of pageantry.   


The Royal Mews:  We toured the palace’s working stable, which is located within a couple blocks of the palace.   We saw the royal horses, a bunch of old carriages, and the gold state coach. 


Kensington Palace:  From 1689 to 1837 it was the royal residence before Buckingham Palace.  It was built for the joint monarchs of William and Mary, Queen Victoria was born and raised here, Princess Diana lived here and now Prince William, Princess Kate & family live here.  These most recent apartments of course are never open to visitors. 



Grand Circle provided a tour of London which started out in a double decker London bus, and later we walked to numerous places.  Here is what we saw.


Westminster Abbey:  Since 1066, when Harold Godwinson and William the Conqueror were crowned, the coronations of English and British monarchs have been held there.  There have been at least 16 royal weddings at the abbey since 1100.


Chelsea & I rode back to the Tower Bridge area down the Thames River on a water taxi. 


Hampton Court Palace & Gardens:    It is located about 12 miles south of London.  It became a royal residence when it was turned over to Henry VIII in 1529.  Below is the entrance, the Great Hall and Queen Mary’s bedchamber 


British Museum:  Once again we journeyed on the tube and this time went to the British Museum.  Two of the splendid things we saw was the Colossal bust of Rameses II, from 1250 BC. and The famous version of the ‘Crouching Venus’ from the  1st century AD.  This amazing museum is free.


 Tower of London:  It was built by William the Conqueror in 1078 to keep the Londoners in line.  Over the centuries more walls and towers have been built around it and it now covers 16 acres.  The heavily fortified Tower served as a royal residence, the Royal Mint, the Royal Jewel House, and the prison and execution site of those who dared oppose the Crown. 


The Globe Theatre:  The original theatre was built in London by William Shakespeare in 1599.  Since then there is a newer version of it built in the same manner and it also has a thatched roof just as it did in 1599.  This was something Jim was all about doing while he & I were in London and I had purchased tickets on line.  Chelsea & I attended the Globe and saw “Taming of the Shrew.”  It was an enjoyable evening. 


Oxford, England:   We enjoyed London but were excited to head out to see more of England.  Our first stop was Oxford, whose university has educated some of the world’s most prominent scholars & statesmen.  Oxford University was established in the 11th century.  The University is a collection of more than 38 colleges & buildings spread throughout the city. 


Bladon, England:   Winston Churchill had requested to be buried in the family plot in the little town of Bladon, which is located about 5 miles west of Oxford.  So Winston Churchill was buried in the graveyard of St Martin’s after his state funeral on January 30, 1965.  We visited the very unassuming grave of this great man. 



 Bampton, England:  This charming village will seem oddly familiar to Downton Abbey fans.  This town has been used for filming the outdoor scenes and also some of Downton Abbey’s key events have been filmed in and around the church in Bampton.  


Cotswolds, England:  Our travel through the Cotswolds area of England was beautiful.  It was a constant landscape of rolling hills and charming country cottages.  I particularly enjoyed the thatched roofs. 


 Bath, England:  Bath was founded in the 1st century AD by the Romans who used the natural hot springs as a thermal spa.  The springs produce 500,000 gallons of 120 degrees Fahrenheit water everyday.  The lead-lined bath, steps, column bases, and edging stones all date from Roman times. 



Stonehenge, England:  Stonehenge is perhaps the world’s most famous prehistoric monument. It was built in several stages: the first monument was an early henge monument, built about 5,000 years ago, and the unique stone circle was erected in the late Neolithic period about 2500 BC.


Llangollen, Wales:  We left England and traveled to the Snowdonia region of Wales, stopping at a small pretty little town of Llangollen in Northern Wales for lunch. 


Snowdonia Region of Wales:  This scenic & mountainous section of Wales is part of the Cambrian Mountains and surrounds the region’s highest peak, Mount Snowdon.  It was a beautiful drive even in the rain.


Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, Wales:  Oh yes, we visited the town in Wales with the longest name in the world.  I dare you to pronounce it correctly!  It is a Welsh word that translates to:  “St Mary’s Church in the Hollow of the White Hazel near a Rapid Whirlpool and the Church of St. Tysilio near the Red Cave”.  Here it is at the train station and of course at the gift store. 


 Caernarfon, Wales:  We stayed in this small historic town which is located right on the coast looking across to the Island of Anglesey.  A medieval castle was located near our hotel.  The castle was built by the English after their conquest of Wales.  It was here that Price Charles was formally inaugurated as Prince of Wales in 1969. 


 Ffestiniog Railway:  We did a fun ride on the steam train from the coast of Porthmadog into the mountains at Blaenau Ffestiniog.  The Ffestiniog Railway is the oldest independent narrow-gauge railway in the world.  It was built in 1832 to carry slate but has been carrying passengers since 1864.  (I copied the route map from the train web site and the 2nd one is from the brochure on the train.) 

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Scenes along the way though the Snowdonia Mountains. 


  National Slate Museum:  The quarry once employed 3,000 men, but the quarry was closed in 1969 & later made into a museum.  The workshops which served the needs of the quarry and its locomotives were built in 1870 on land created from the continuous tipping of spoil from the adjacent Vivian Quarry.  The quarry is located by towering slate mountains,  and the workshops once serviced and maintained the enormous Dinorwig slate quarry above it. 



Portmeirion:  it’s a tourist village in Gwyedd, North Wales.  It was designed and built by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis between 1925 and 1975 in the style of an Italian village, and is now owned by a charitable trust.  This unique coastal resort has hotels, cafes, shops, and holiday cottages. It’s open all year for family days out, short breaks, and weddings.  This happened to be one of Chelsea favorite places and she purchased a nice water color here.



  More of Snowdonia’s spectacular scenery.



Chester, England:  It’s located in northwest England.  Around 60 AD, the Romans expanded their empire to Britain and founded it as a Roman fortress.  The city today still displays the Roman layout, & it’s known for its extensive, well-preserved Roman walls made of local red sandstone. In the old city, the Rows is a shopping district distinguished by 2-level covered arcades and Tudor-style half-timbre buildings.


  York, England:  It’s a historic walled city at the confluence of the rivers Ouse and Foss in North Yorkshire, England.  It  was founded by the ancient Romans in 71 AD, and holds 1900 years’ worth of history in its ancient walls.  The narrow street pictured is known as the Shambles which was originally the meat-butchering area of York. 


 York Minster:   It is the largest medieval church in England.  A nun in the church gave us an extensive tour of the beautiful Minster.  That evening Chelsea & I came back to “evensong”  a choir concert which was held in this beautiful choir section of the Minster.  We got to sit in the ancient wooden seats, not the folding chairs.   


The Great East Window:  It is the size of a tennis court, and is the single largest expanse of medieval stained glass in the world. It was created between 1405 and 1408.  For the next 3 years this masterpiece is under restoration.  The top of the window is now clear glass but the original stained glass will eventually be back in the window. 


The Quire Screen is one of the most intricately carved in all the UK, with depictions of famous churchmen set within niches facing the nave. 


One cannot be in England without going to a Tea Room and having scones, clotted cream & jam.  So we did!  While in York we also did the “Ghost Walk of York.”  Both events were a great deal of fun. 


 Whitby Abbey, England:  The haunting ruins of Whitby Abbey overlook the North Sea on the East Cliff above Whitby in North Yorkshire.  It is among the most celebrated sights of North Yorkshire. The first monastery here, founded in about 657, became one of the most important religious centers in the Anglo-Saxon world. The hightop is now dominated by the shell of the 13th-century church of the Benedictine abbey founded after the Norman Conquest.


We walked down the 199 steps into the seaside town of Whitby.  It’s a commercial & fishing port & the town is split down the middle by the River Esk.  Whitby is also a key setting for Bram Stoker’s Dracula.  It is from this town that explorer James Cook first set out to sea.


Castle Howard. England:  Castle Howard is a baroque masterpiece, more palace than house, conceived by Charles Howard, 3rd Earl of Carlisle.  It is a private residence and has been home of the Howard family for more than 300 years.  Construction of this Baroque masterpiece began in 1699, it took 100 years to complete.  It contains lavish, treasure-filled rooms—including paintings by Rubens & Gainsborough.  It is familiar to television and film audiences as the fictional Brideshead and Brideshead Revisited.  Immediately behind the house is a large formal 1,000 acre garden.


We left York heading in the direction of the Lake District.  We drove west skirting Yorkshire Dales National Park.  We stopped at this pretty little town for a stroll about.


Grange-over-Sands, England:  We had a fun surprise in the little town of Grange-over-Sands.  We stopped at the Thyme Coffee House and Restaurant and Anita treated us to scones, clotted cream & jam.  Delicious! 



Lake District. England:  A delightful ride today through the Lake District, England’s largest national park and home to 16 major lakes.  Set amidst the most mountainous region of England, it has been the inspiration for countless writers, from Wordsworth and Keats to Beatrix Porter. 


We had lunch in this historic home in the countryside in England.  Beatrix Potter is best known for her beautifully illustrated children’s books of Peter Rabbit, Jemima Puddle-Duck and friends. She spent many childhood holidays in the Lake District and these times influenced her work.  She had something to do with this house, but I can’t remember what. haha


I just have to share how pretty this countryside in England was.  And…we saw thousands of sheep throughout Great Britain. 


Hadrian’s Wall, England:  It was a defensive fortification built by the order of Emperor Hadrian in 122 AD in the reign of the emperor Hadrian.  The wall separated England & Scotland.  The wall with its defensive ditches and large forts stretched from the North Sea to the Irish Sea, a distance of 75 miles.  It was a continuous wall with a milecastle every roman mile & two turrets equally spaced between. It formed the northernmost frontier of the Roman Empire. 

A significant portion of the wall still stands and can be followed on foot along the adjoining “Hadrian’s Wall Path.”  We talked to some youngsters who were hiking the wall.  What great fun for the younger set. 


   Edinburgh, Scotland:  Recognized as the capital of Scotland since at least the 15th century, Edinburgh is home to the Scottish Parliament and the seat of the monarchy in Scotland.  it is Scotland’s second most populous city with almost half a million population and the seventh most populous in the United Kingdom.  Our hotel was located right along the “Royal Mile” so we were right in the middle of everything. 


Street vendors in Edinburgh except for the guy in the white Ferrari.  So we have the tiny truck at the snack stand & then the Ferrari….which would be more fun to go for a spin in? 


Edinburgh Castle:  This  historic fortress dominates the skyline of the city of Edinburgh from its position on the Castle Rock.  The castle stands at the head of the old town on the Royal Mile.  A royal dwelling has been located here since the 12th century, and the castle’s St. Margaret’s Chapel, the oldest surviving building in the city, dates to that time.   


St. Margaret’s Chapel:  The oldest building in the castle, and in Edinburgh, is the small St. Margaret’s Chapel.  It dates from the reign of King David I (1124-1153), and it is one of the few 12th-century structures surviving in any Scottish castle.  It was built as a private chapel for the royal family and dedicated it to King David’s mother,Saint Margaret of Scotland, who died in the castle in 1093.


Scottish Entertainment, Edinburgh:   So we decided we just had to do the expensive optional of the cheesy evening of Scottish entertainment.  And the evening wouldn’t have complete without a serving of Haggis.  The famous Scottish haggis is sheep’s pluck (heart, liver & lungs); minced with onion oatmeal, suet, spices & salt, and traditionally encased in the animal’s stomach.


 Royal Yacht Britannia, Edinburgh, Scotland:  It is the former royal yacht of the British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, in service from 1954 until 1997.  She is the 83rd such vessel 1660.  During her 43-year career, the yacht travelled more than a million nautical miles around the globe.  The vessel was perhaps most famously used by Prince Charles & Lady Diana for their honeymoon cruise. 


 Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh, Scotland:  It is the official residence of the British monarch in Scotland.  It’s located at the bottom of the Royal Mile in Edinburg, at the opposite end to Edinburgh Castle.  Holyrood Palace was completed in 1501 and has served as the principal residence of the Kings & Queens of Scots since the 16th century, and is a setting for state occasions and official entertaining.  (No photos allowed inside.)


Holyrood Abbey:  The abbey was founded in 1128 by King David I, and today we view the ruins.


We began our journey by coach through Edinburgh, Scotland in a northerly direction towards Inverness, Scotland.  Our first stop of the day was to see the famous golf course of St. Andrews.  The photo in the rain is of the 1st, 17th & 18th holes. 



Driving through the countryside of Scotland.


Inverness, Scotland:  It’s located on Scotland’s northeast coast, where the River Ness meets the Moray Firth.  It has a population of about 55,000 and a pleasant town.  Loved our historical hotel theBest Western Inverness Palace” located on the River Ness (building with the 2 turrets) and across from the Inverness Castle (the picture was taken looking out our window towards the castle).  We stayed at this hotel while to toured northern Scotland. 


 A delightful day in the Scottish Highlands.

Loch Ness, Scotland:  A beautifully awesome day of seeing the Scottish Highlands.  We saw Loch Ness, and no we didn’t spot the Loch Ness monster!  The area is serene. 


More Scottish Highlands


Eilean Donan: Next down the road came this castle.  It is located on a small tidal island where three lochs meet, Loch Duich, Loch Long & Loch Alsh, in the western Highland of Scotland. 


The Isle of Skye:   It’s connected to Scotland’s northwest coast by the Sky Bridge (opened in 1995).  It is known for its rugged landscapes, picturesque fishing villages and medieval castles.  The main industries are tourism, agriculture, fishing and forestry.  To fulfill the tourism spot, Chelsea bought Derick a pair of hand knitted wool socks.  He’s worn holes in his wool socks that he was given in Bulgaria when he lived there. 


After leaving The Isle of Skye we drove on tiny roads & saw more incredible scenery. 


Highland cattle are a Scottish cattle breed. They have long horns and long wavy coats that are colored black, brindle, red, yellow, white, silver or dun, and they are raised primarily for their meat.  These were free-range cattle & sheep  along the road.  I love the furry little calf.


The Scottish Highlands are absolutely beautiful!


We stopped for refreshments out in the country at this neat place.


Balnuaran of Clava:  The Clava cairn is a type of Bronze Age circular chamber tomb cairns which is located to the east of Inverness in Scotland.  At Balnuaran of Clava there is a group of three cairns which lie close together in a line running northeast to southwest.  The monuments were built between 3,000 & 4,000 years ago.  The oldest are a circular wall enclosure – the central ‘ring cairn’ and two ‘passage graves.’  The entrances to the graves are  oriented southwest towards midwinter sunset.


Our last day on the road we traveled from Inverness to Glasgow through the scenic landscapes of Glencoe, Loch Lomond, and Trossachs. 


 Our Grand Circle trip of “England, Scotland & Wales” ended in Glasgow, Scotland.  As I mentioned at the first of my blog, this was my first trip without Jim.  With the help of my daughter-in-law I think I have discovered that I should and can enjoy traveling.  It will never be the same because I will always forever love and miss Jim but I know he wants me to enjoy the remaining time that the good Lord grants me here on earth.  So…..keep on traveling!

Posted August 27, 2016 by marilynfarmer in Travel

In Loving Memory   6 comments

In Loving Memory to the Love of My Life


April 1940 – May 2016


Jim went to his heavenly home on May 9, 2016 when he was killed in an accident on our farm.  Jim & I had 51 wonderful years together.  We raised four children that we couldn’t be prouder of and we’ve had awesome family and friends all of those years.  We loved life together.  Praise God for all of our blessings!  We were not ready for Jim to make his heavenly journey just yet and we miss him so much, but as Christians we know that one day we will be together again. 

For our family from now to eternity every rainbow we see is Jim (Dad) smiling down from heaven.  The evening Jim died, Karree’s dear friend Holly sent us a picture of a beautiful double rainbow that she had just seen and said “that’s Dad, he is trying to tell you he’s okay.”  Also later that night while Karree was on the plane flying from Colorado to Kansas she saw a magnificent rainbow out the window.  During Jim’s visitation many people told us there was a beautiful double rainbow over the church and that it must be Jim smiling from heaven.

On the last morning Jim & I had together, we sat in the swing in the backyard drinking our coffee and Jim started tapping on my leg and pointing to the hummingbird feeder hanging on the barn.  It was the first Baltimore oriole we had ever seen drinking the hummer food.  We were so excited and laughed and enjoyed the precious moments together.  During the week as friends and family dropped by to extend sympathy we were usually sitting in the backyard and one couldn’t even begin to count the number of Baltimore Orioles that would descend giving us moments to enjoy their beauty.  I feel Jim’s spirit was right there with us. 

We are so thankful that Jim was a Christian and knew his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  With joy in our hears, we as Christians have the assurance that we will again be united with Jim and our loved ones gone before.  Everyone has an appointment with death, and Jim always said, ‘death is a part of living’.  He had received God’s offer of salvation and was saved, and it was always on his heart that everyone could experience salvation and receive Christ into their heart.  “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.”  Acts 16:31.  The Bible says there is only one way to Heaven.  “Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.”  John 11:25.

I know that Jim would be very pleased that I want to share on behalf of him the plan of salvation. 

God loves you:  “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”  John 3: 16.

All are sinners:  “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  Romans 3:23.

All may be saved now:  “For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”  Romans 10:13. “Behold I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him.”  Revelation 3:20.

Are you ready to receive Jesus Christ as your Savior?:  Right now, you can pray to God to have the Spirit of His son, Jesus Christ, come dwell inside your heart.  And with that, you can receive the gift of God’s grace and a promise of life spent in heaven after your life here on earth. 

My decision to receive Christ as my Savior:  I need to confess to God that I am a sinner, and believe that the Lord Jesus Christ died for my sins on the cross and was raised for my justification.  I receive and confess Him as my personal Savior. 

After receiving Jesus Christ as your Savior, as a Christian you should:  Read your Bible, talk to God in prayer, be baptized, work & fellowship in church with other Christians and tell others about Christ. 

At the funeral Pastor Rick gave us such comfort when he said that where Jim had the accident is hollowed ground because that is where God received Jim into heaven.  We know where Jim is, he is with the Heavenly Father and he’s fine.  God please grant his family strength and give us peace knowing what a fine Christian man he was.

God rest his soul—-love of our life—-see you in eternity.

Marilyn, Eric, Kellee & Jim, Karree, Derick & Chelsea

Posted August 17, 2016 by marilynfarmer in Travel

Eastern Europe to the Black Sea River Cruise   Leave a comment

Eastern Europe to the Black Sea River Cruise

Mar. 29 – Apr. 9, 2016

Budapest, Hungary; Tvrdja, Osijek & Vukovar, Croatia; Novi Sad, Sremski, Karlovci & Belgrade, Serbia; Vidin, Ruse, Arbanassi, & Veliko Tarnovoi, Bulgaria; Constanta & Bucharest, Romania.


We booked “Eastern Europe to the Black Sea” with Grand Circle Travel.  This two week river boat cruise was our 35th trip with this company.  (The map of our itinerary is copied from the Grand Circle web site.)  We cruised 1,177 miles continuously along the Danube River, stepping ashore in five Eastern European nations.  Interestingly enough we also experienced five different currencies on our adventure.  Our wonderful tour director, Bojana is pictured below.  She was a joy to be around, very knowledgeable and loved sharing learning and discovery experiences.     

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The best part of this trip is the fact that our oldest son, Eric, decided he wanted to see this area of the world on a river boat, so we knew that was reason enough for us to do this trip.  It was so much fun!  In my previous blog I posted our pre-trip before we joined up with Grand Circle.  The three of us went to Vienna, Austria where our oldest daughter and son-in-law live and from there the five of us enjoyed the Easter weekend in the Wachau Valley of Austria.  So now, continuing on with our spring trip to Europe, here is my blog of “Eastern Europe to the Black Sea.” 


An update:  This was the last trip Jim & I took together.  Jim went to his heavenly home on May 9, 2016 when he was killed in an accident on our farm.  Jim & I had 51 wonderful years together.  We raised four children that we couldn’t be prouder of and we’ve had awesome family and friends all of those years.  We loved life together.  Praise God for all of our blessings!  We were not ready for Jim to make his heavenly journey just yet and we miss him so much, but as Christians we know that one day we will be together again.

  I just have to post this sequence of pictures, some of the last we have together.  Memories can’t get better than this!

                 P.S.  On my next blog after this I have a memorial to Jim, “the love of my life.”



SmileSave MoneyMoney:  If you decide you’d like to go on this or any Grand Circle Travel or Overseas Adventure trip, and you are a first time traveler with them, they will give you $100 per person off any trip if you mention the name of my travel blog and my customer number #561413.  New travelers instantly receive $100 each off the cost of the trip, and I will receive $100 when you depart on your trip.


Budapest, Hungary:  Jim, Eric & I left Vienna by train early on a Tuesday morning in order to join up with the Grand Circle river boat in Budapest, Hungary.  


Our Grand Circle ship “The River Aria” was docked in a superb location near the ultra beautiful Parliament Building in the main area of Budapest. 


Marilyn waving from our upgraded balcony cabin. 


Budapest, Hungary:  It is situated on both sides of the Danube River, with Buda (on the right hilly bank) to the west and Pest (on the left flat bank) to the east.  Budapest is the capital and the largest city of Hungary, with a population of 1.74 million.  It is the country’s principal political, commercial, cultural, industrial and transportation center. 

The lights of Budapest from our ship at night, with the Chain Bridge connecting the Buda and Pest sides of Budapest. 


The Chain Bridge:  It was the first permanent bridge across the Danube in Hungary, and was opened in 1849.  At the time of its construction, it was regarded as one of the modern world’s engineering wonders. 


Castle Hill:  This is the historic side of Budapest located on the hilly Buda side.  Matthias Church dates to the 13th century and was formerly used for the coronations of Hungarian kings. 


Holy Trinity Statue:  The tall white statue was built in 1713 to commemorate the victims of the 1691-1709 plague epidemic and to protect the city from future plight.   Fisherman’s Bastion:  The Bastion takes its name from the guild of fishermen who were responsible for defending this stretch of the city walls in the Middle Ages.  The Bastion has a great panoramic viewing terrace, with many stairs and walking paths and an amazing atmosphere.


Looking from the Fisherman’s Bastion to the Pest side of Budapest.


{All of the following sites are located on the Pest (flat side) of Budapest.}

Hungarian Parliament Building:  It is the seat of the National Assembly of Hungary, located on the Pest side.  This Gothic Revival style building is one of Europe’s oldest legislative buildings (1885) and a notable landmark of Hungary. 


Heroes’ Square:  This Millennial Column is set off by equestrian statues of the Magyar leaders who conquered this region during the 9th century. 


St. Stephen’s Basilica:  This Roman Catholic church is named after Stephen I, the first king of Hungary.  It was completed in 1905 after 54 years of construction. 


Outdoor food court in Budapest.  Particularly enjoyed the sign for the “Rooster Testicle Stew.” 


The Great Synagogue:  The largest in Europe, designed in a Moorish style and was built from 1854-1859.  The synagogue complex consists of the Great Synagogue, the Heroes’ Temple, the graveyard, the Memorial and the Jewish Museum.


It is estimated that Hungary’s pre-war Jewish population was 800,000.  The extermination phase of Jews in Hungary began after the Nazi invasion in March 1944.  In May 1944 the deportations to Auschwitz began. In just eight weeks, some 424,000 Jews were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau. After October 1944, when the Arrow Cross  party came to power, thousands of Jews from Budapest were murdered on the banks of the Danube and tens of thousands were marched hundreds of miles towards the Austrian border. In all, some 565,000 Hungarian Jews were murdered.

Holocaust Memorial at the Great Synagogue:  The weeping willow monument in Budapest to Hungarian victims of the Holocaust. Each leaf is inscribed with the family name of one of the victims. 


Holocaust Shoe Memorial:  Thousands of Jews from Budapest were murdered on the banks of the Danube.  The location of this memorial is close to the Parliament and beside the Danube River in Budapest. The shoes represent Hungarian Jews who lost their lives during the Holocaust.


And now our 1,177 mile cruise on the Danube River from Budapest, Hungary to Constanta, Romania began.

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In the night we cruised from Budapest to Batina, Croatia.  At Mohacs we arrived at the Hungarian border and the authorities required a face check of every passenger with our passports.  So about 4:30 in the morning we all marched to the lobby so they could see our sleepy faces.


Tvrđa (Citadel), Croatia:  We docked at Batina, Croatia and took a coach about 12 miles to Osijek.  We first stopped at Tvrda which is the old historical city of Osijek in Croatia. Tvrda has a Habsburg star fort built on the right bank of the River Drava.  All five planned bastions and two gates were complete by 1715.  Tvrđa was the largest fortress on the border with the Ottoman Empire.


This single-nave St. Michael’s Church with two towers (1725–1748) was built by the Jesuits on the foundations of the Kasim-pasha’s Mosque.  Tvrda It has the best-preserved and largest ensemble of Baroque buildings in Croatia.


Church of the Holy Cross & Monastery, Tvrdja:  The Franciscans spearheaded the renewal of Catholic life in Slavonia in the years following the Ottoman occupation, and built this monastery church to serve as their spiritual center.  The accompanying monastery was the site of a theology academy and in 1735, Slavonia’s first printing press.


Elementary School Visit In Osijek, Croatia:  We had a special treat when we visited the elementary school in Osijek.  This school in supported, in part, by the Grand Circle Foundation.  The students put on a wonderful musical performance for us. 


The Battle of Vukovar, Croatia:  Before the war of Independence Vukovar was a mixed community of Croats, Serbs and other ethnic groups.  Between August and November 1991, there was an 87-day siege of Vukovar & surrounding villages by the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA), and supported by various paramilitary forces from Serbia.  This area remained occupied by Serb hand until 1998, when it was reintegrated into Croatia.  The war ended with Croatian victory.  A total of 20,000 people were killed in the war, and refugees were displaced on both sides.

The Vukovar water tower:  Heavily damaged in the battle, the tower has been preserved as a symbol of the conflict.


Home Hosted Dinner with survivor of the Battle of Vukovar:  We joined a local family for lunch in their home.  It was indeed a learning experience.  The young man at the end of the table told us how one morning in 1991 they received a phone call from a friend at the other end of town telling them the Serbs were marching in and killing everyone in sight.  His family had a small farm so they quickly turned all their animals loose and escaped with the clothes on their back to a large town further inland.  He said that town was under constant seize but was never occupied.  The Serbs occupied their home in the countryside for 7 years.  When they returned in 1998 most of it was unrecognizable but they have worked and rebuilt everything. 


Vukovar, Croatia:  Serbia is located directly across the Danube River.   Our ship was docked in this area of Vukovar next to the memorial to the 20,000 people killed during the Battle of Vukovar.  Many of the building are still waiting for repairs from the battle, and many are renovated.     


Novi Sad, Serbia:  It’s the second largest city in Serbia with a population of about 250,000.  The city lies on the S-shaped meander of the river Danube.  It was a very pleasant town and Jim, Eric & I enjoyed strolling around the Old Town, shopping a bit, having a cup of coffee and eating ice cream, not once but twice. 


Sremski Karlovci:  It is a small town located about 8 miles from Novi Sad and has a population of approximately 9,000. It is renowned for its numerous and richly decorated baroque and neo-classical buildings.


Cathedral Church of Saint Nicholas:  It was erected in 1762. It is considered to be one of the masterpieces of Serbian baroque architecture. 


Jovan Zivanovic Apiculture (beekeeping) Museum and Winery:  We learned about beekeeping and also visited the 300 year old wine cellar.  We enjoyed samples of both the wine & honey.


Yes, this is April 2, and all day it was Jim’s birthday.  That evening it wasn’t the usual dinner at the ship, we were taken to the countryside in Serbia for dinner.  Talk about a fun birthday celebration.  He had local gypsies serenading him and then the lighted birthday cake!  A great evening. 


Belgrade, Serbia:  Belgrade is the capital of Serbia, and former capital of Yugoslavia.  It’s one of Europe’s oldest cities, and the center of political and cultural life in the country.  Belgrade and the rest of Serbia are still emerging from many years of repressive rule. 

Tito Memorial:  This memorial honors Josip Broz Tito, who held Yugoslavia together as an independent country in the turmoil that followed WWII and the Cold War. 


St. Sava orthodox Cathedral:  It’s one of the largest Orthodox cathedrals in the world. 


Belgrade Fortress:  This imposing fortress is on a rocky ridge at the confluence of the Danube and the Sava rivers.  At the end of the first century A.D. the Romans built a fortress here, since then it’s been destroyed and rebuilt numerous times.  The fortress is now the site of several museums and Kalemegdan, a vast park.


Exploring the busy downtown of Belgrade on a Sunday afternoon.


Day 8 was spent cruising on the Danube.  It was a delightfully sunny day and we enjoyed being on the top deck to watch the sites go by. 


The rock sculpture of Decebalus:  A carving in rock of the face of Decebalus, the last king of Dacia, who fought against the Roman emperors Domitian and Trajan to preserve the independence of his country, which is now modern Romania. The sculpture was made between 1994 and 2004.


The Danube was once a raging river pounding through deep gorges.  In the 1960’s Yugoslavia & Romania cooperated on a joint venture that raised the level of the Danube with a series of hydroelectric dams called the Iron Gates


Vidin, Bulgaria:  It’s a city in the northwest of Bulgaria, on the banks of Danube River.  Vidin is a border town with Romania to the North and Serbia to the west.  Vidin is currently the poorest city in the EU, but it is a pretty town with many historic and cultural landmarks.  Tourism has experienced a decline except for groups that come along the Danube on cruises.

Baba Vida:  This is Vidin’s main landmark, built in the period from the 10th to the 14th century.   It is said to be the only entirely preserved medieval castle in the country. The castle has got a nearly square shape, its angles pointing at the four geographical directions.


The Vidin synagogue deserted after the Jews were forced to leave.  Next is the Mosque of Vidin. 


When Derick was in the Peace Corps in Bulgaria he sent home his favorite baking dish–the Bulgarian traditional clay-pot covered baking dish.  It arrived home broken.  I purchased his replacement in this little shop. (first picture), and carefully carried it home.   

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Cruising from Vidin to Ruse, Bulgaria.


 Ruse, Bulgaria:  It’s located on the Danube and the Danube River forms a natural border between Bulgaria & Romania.  Ruse is known for its 19th and 20th century Neo-Baroque and Neo-Rococo architecture.  We docked in Ruse, but just saw an overview of the city since we chose to do an optional excursion to Arbanassi & Veliko Turnova.


 Arbanassi, Bulgaria:  It is located near Veliko Turnovo and is known for the rich history and 17th- and 18th-century churches.  The cute little town has 80 houses, five churches and two monasteries and they reflect the fortress-like architectural style of that time when the town flourished.  

The Holy Archangels Michael and Gabriel Church, Arbanassi:  This 300 year old church has a plain exterior with a flat roof.  Under Turkish rule, churches couldn’t be taller than a mosque and they couldn’t have domes. The architect created a dome (important to Orthodox Christians) on the inside by lowering the ceiling around it.  The walls are all covered with frescoes.  Inside the church a men’s cappella group sang for us.  It was beautiful. 


Konstantsaliev House:  This house is among the largest of the richly decorated houses that have been preserved in Arbanassi.  This 400-year old house has been turned into an interesting museum. It had an upstairs guesthouse with a carved ceiling, a family bedroom (where they all slept together), a nursery, kitchen and dining room.


Lunch at Mexaha Restaurant in Arbanassi:  We were greeted with the traditional hot bread fresh out of the oven, and then enjoyed a delicious lunch at this cute restaurant.


Veliko Turnovo, Bulgaria:  It was the capital of Bulgaria from 1186 to 1394.  The town is situated on 3 hills and presents a unique architecture with the houses seemingly stacked one above the other on the hills that slope downwards to the Yantra river. 


Tsarevets Fortress:  From 1185-1395, Bulgaria was the largest and most powerful state in Southeastern Europe, and Tsarevets Hill was the main fortress of the Medieval capital of Veliko Turnovo. 


The Bulgarian countryside as we traveled from Veliko Tarnovo to Ruse.  We saw lots of shepards out with their sheep and cattle. 


Back in Ruse, our ship was honored with a serenade by the Ruse Men’s Band. 


Danube-Black Sea Canal:  On our last day of cruising, the MS River Aria sailed the European canal system that links the North Sea to the Black Sea.  The Canal was notorious as the site of labor camps in the 1950s Communist Romania, when, at any given time, several tens of thousands political prisoners worked on its excavation.  More than 40,000 forced laborers died building this canal under Stalin from 1949-53.


The 40 mile canal was begun in 1949 and not fully completed until 1987.  We are passing through a lock.


Port of Constanta:  It was interesting to see the off-shore drilling as we passed by.  The port is the main container hub in the Black Sea, and all direct lines between Asia and Black Sea call in Constanța.


I found this article in the Constantza Port News:  Thursday, 07 April 2016
 River Aria opens the cruise season in Constanta Port.


“Today, April 7, at 13 o’clock, the river vessel River Aria will open the cruise season in Constanta Port.  The vessel comes from Ruse (Bulgaria) with 143 American tourists who will finish their cruise in Constanta. They will be disembarking tomorrow, April 8, and will be transported to the Otopeni Airport.”

(So I guess this is way there were TV reporters with cameras when we disembarked the ship.  They interviewed a couple of our passengers, but I didn’t  see that in the news article.)

Constanta, Romania:  This city is the country’s oldest continually inhabited city.  It dates back more than 2,300 years.  It has a population of approximately 285,000 and is the fifth most populated city in Romania.  The Port of Constanta is the largest port on the Black Sea and one of the largest in Europe.

We toured the historical area of Constanta, beginning with the The National Museum of History and Archaeology.  The Glykon Snake is considered a unique piece in the world, representing a deity of the Romanian mythology (2nd century BC).


Cathedral of Saints Peter & Paul:  Built between 1883 and 1885 it was the first Orthodox settlement built in the area of Constanta after the release from Ottoman domination.  The inside of the Cathedral is remarkably beautiful. 


I think Jim is walking with a bounce to his step today!


 Then a visit to Mamaia Beach on The Black Sea.


Our farewell dinner and our farewell to the Captain, hotel manager & tour directors on the awesome MS River Aria.


 We disembarked the River Aria one last time and went by coach to Bucharest, Romania.  I have to share this fascinating poster that I saw in a restroom at a truck stop on the highway as we en route to Bucharest.  Don’t know if it’s a left-over from Communist times or what. 


Bucharest, Romania:  It is the capital and largest city of Romania, as well as its cultural, industrial, and financial center.  It has a population of approximately 1,900,000 within its city limits.  The late dictator Nicolae Ceausescu was all about fine architectural buildings and broad tree lined avenues, so we saw all of this in our bus tour of the city.


Palace of the Parliament:  It’s the seat of the Parliament of Romania and the it is the second largest administrative building in the world (after the Pentagon in the United States).   It was former dictator Ceausescu’s most infamous creation.  Ceausescu had between 20,000 and 100,000 workers on the project.  It is said that thousands of workers died here.  This 3,000 room palace was built in 1984 and is still unfinished.  A picture from the front and from the back shows how huge this building is. 


Revolution Square:  This is the building on what is now called Revolution Square where Dictator Ceausescu stood on the balcony in front of 100,000 people that had been forced to come listen to him.  He was overtaken by the crowd during the Romanian Revolution of 1989.


 The Romanian Revolution, Dec, 1989:  It started in the city of Timisoara and soon spread throughout the country, ending when Dictator Ceausescu was giving a speech in Bucharest to 100,000 people.  The crowd began chanting anti-government slogans & booing, and violence erupted on the streets with more than 1,100 people were killed. The Ceausescus escaped by helicopter, but were captured.  After a one-hour trail, the Ceausescus were found guilty of genocide and other crimes, and killed by a firing squad.  Thus ended 42 years of Communist rule in Romania with Ceausescu ruling Romania for the last 21 years of the 42 years.  He earned the reputation as being a brutal dictator. 

This man, 27 years ago, was one of the people that led the Romanian Revolution.  He is showing us the picture of him (front & center) on a captured military vehicle.  GCT arranged for this hero to tell us about communist times.  He told of the brutality the people of Bucharest endured; the freezing cold with no heat, no food, very little water, cruelty, and among other things you couldn’t even be in a group of over five people or you would be shot. 


I copied this photo from Wikipedia, and the caption reads, “Protesters rejoice after taking control of a military vehicle in Bucharest.”  Our guest speaker is front & center on this vehicle.


  On this trip we traveled in Eastern Europe, and in every area we learned of the atrocity and horror many and most of the people endured from the time of Hitler; to countries being occupied by tyrants; and through the time of Communist rule.  The Eastern European’s are a strong and resilient people to be admired.  Not only did we learn their history first hand from many remarkable people, we also saw and enjoyed the wonderful, beautiful area in which they live. 

Here in America twenty-seven years ago Jim & I were happily going about our daily life and raising our children in freedom, not giving much thought to the struggles of the Eastern European people.  People….stand tall for freedom and daily thank those that have protected, and those that continue to protect our freedom.  God bless freedom and God bless America!

Posted May 4, 2016 by marilynfarmer in Travel

Easter Weekend in Austria with Family   6 comments

Easter Weekend in Austria with Family

Vienna, Burg Liechtenstein, Burg Plankenstein, Schallaburg Castle, Burgruine Aggstein, Spitz and Durstein.

March 26 – 29, 2016


What could be more fun than visiting in Austria when your daughter and son-in-law live in Vienna?  This time we decided to pass through Vienna on our way to join a river cruise that began in Budapest, Hungary and went to Bucharest, Romania.  Our oldest son, Eric, and Jim & I arrived in Vienna on Saturday March 26, 2016, of Easter weekend.  The first order of business was to go to the Easter Markets in Vienna.  And we all know that with this family, it will involve eating!


Fun times!


Next Kellee needed to buy decorated Easter Eggs, there were so many beautiful eggs to select from.



The Vienna kids rented a car and we all loaded up and headed out of Vienna to enjoy some time in the countryside.  Our ultimate goal was the Wachau Valley and to stay two nights in a ancient restored castle.  So off we went!  Following the red arrows on the google map below it shows we left Vienna and drove to Burg Liechtenstein and then to Berg Plankenstein.  The next morning we went to Schallaburg Castle, Burgruine Aggstein and then back to Berg Plankenstein.  After a another delightful night staying at Berg Plankenstein, the next morning we drove to the Danube town of Spitz, then the Danube town of Durnstein, and late that afternoon drove back to Vienna. 

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Liechtenstein Castle:    Our first stop was before the Wachau at the Liechtenstein Castle.  It was less than an hours drive from Vienna.  The Castle is located at the edge of the Viennese Forest.  The original castle was built in 12th century, and was destroyed by the Ottomans in 1529 and 1683.  The Castle was the seat of the Liechtenstein dynasty until 1295, when it passed out of the family.  In 1807 Prince Johann Josef I of Liechtenstein reacquired control of the Castle for his family, and it has remained their possession since.  It was rebuilt in 1884, and this is the castle we see today.  (Pictures were not allowed inside the castle.)



The Wachau Valley: This is the name given to the 20 miles stretch of the Danube between the towns of Melk and Krems, Austria.  This is where the river cuts a narrow, rocky valley between the foothills of the Bohemian Forest and the Dunkelsteiner Wald.   This area is considered the most beautiful part of the Danube.  This valley is noted for its many ancient little towns nestling below historic old castles and castle ruins. At the time of the Renaissance, some 31 monasteries were known to have operated here.  (We didn’t tour Melk, because we had all been there previously.)

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So, this family toured this magnificent part of the Danube.  Jim and I have seen this area by boat and by train, but never in an automobile.  So thanks, to our son-in-law we’ve done that now.  It was a grand tour.  We started this adventure by staying in a castle.  So…in the Wachau Valley we stayed in a castle, visited a castle, explored a castle ruin, and wandered the streets of the ancient towns of Durnstein & Krems.  The drive along the little country roads also contained many fun discoveries.  And we managed to do all of this on Easter weekend from Friday evening to Monday evening. 


Berg Plankenstein:  We stayed two nights in this historic, 800 year old castle.  It was definitely off the beaten path on the top of a hill about a 30 minute drive from the village of Melk, Austria and the Danube River.  Burg Plankenstein offered individually furnished rooms with ensuite bathrooms, and heat registers in every room.  The rooms weren’t luxury but they were clean and comfortable.  How often does one have the opportunity to stay in a real castle?  I booked it on  I loved our stay in this centuries old castle! 


First we climbed the circular stairway up the castle turret two levels to our rooms.  Our rooms were grouped together in this part of the castle.  Somewhere along the way we found a big banquet room for dinners & receptions. 


The reception & tavern area were all very cozy.



We enjoyed dinner both evenings at the castle.  They served traditional Austrian and regional dishes at the castle tavern.  And there was ample time for a few hands of cards after dinner.


The breakfasts were very good and the castle cat enjoyed watching us eat. 



Schallaburg Castle:  Located about 3 miles south of Melk stands this 900 year old castle.  This castle is considered the most important piece of Renaissance architecture in Lower Austria due to the rich terracotta decoration on the two story arcaded courtyard. The castle dates back to the Middle Ages.  It is a combination of a Italian Renaissance residential castle and a Gothic chapel.  It was originally built as a defensive stronghold, then redesigned as a princely seat at the transition from the Middle Ages to the modern era.



The castle features elegant staircases and numerous terracotta decorations depicting characters from mythology.



The Gothic Chapel.



Some of our group is listening to the auto guides and trying to learn some history, others are not.  


Another inner courtyard and a view of the countryside from the castle. 


The castle garden & a picture of us at the garden mirror. 




Berg Aggstein:  About 10 miles north along the Danube from Melk is the ruins of Aggstein Castle (Burgruine Aggstein).  It stands high above the shores of the Danube River on a steep cliff and it is built on a massive long rock.  The castle was founded in 1231, and was destroyed and rebuilt several times.  The surviving sections include parts of the dining hall, kitchen, chapel, towers and its mighty walls.  The castle is known as the place where the Kuenringer (robber barons) lived.  They are alleged to have captured ships traveling downriver with an iron chain stretched across the Danube.



And time for a little refreshment.


We all really enjoyed climbing around and looking at all of the castle ruins. 


The castle chapel and then a picture of the castle toilet. The contents would just drop down to the level below. 


Recent findings allow dating of the oldest remains of walls of the castle ruins Aggstein to the 
period around 1200.


One can see that below the castle is the Danube River and can imagine how the Kuenringer (robber barons) captured ships traveling downriver with an iron chain stretched across the Danube.


Our pleasant drove through the Wachau Valley.


Loved the frog crossing signs we saw along the way!


Spitz town on the Danube:  It’s located on the left bank of the Danube. This old market village, has been occupied since the time of the Celts and was first mentioned in 830 AD.  It’s known for the vineyards rising above it, and the Late Gothic church of St. Maurice.  In the church is a carved group of Apostles from 1380 and an altarpiece by Kremser Schmidt on the high altar. Sitting above the town is the ruins of the Hinterhaus Fortress.


The Late Gothic church of St. Maurice.


Inside St. Maurice we saw “The apostles” which date back to 1380.


This is the altarpiece by Kremser Schmidt on the high altar and another picture of the very pretty church. 


Spitz is famous for its production of apricots.  They even have an “Apricot Festival” in July.  The apricots are available as dumplings, cakes, strudels, marmalades, fruit stews or fruity and delicious brandies.  We tried out the liquid apricot.


Durstein:  This was our last stop on our Wachau Valley adventure.  Durnstein was first mentioned in 1019 and gained notoriety in 1192 when Richard the Lionheart was held captive in the castle by Duke Lepold V of Austria.  Durnstein is well-known for its wineries and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Wachau region. 


Durstein Castle ruin sits above the town.  We didn’t hike up to it. 


And you wonder….what could possibly be going on to have this group watching so intently?  Well, I guess we were all trying to figure out how a car was going to ever get out of a tiny area that it had been wedged into by numerous other cars.  And yes, after considerable maneuvering it went purring on down the by-way.  It doesn’t always take a lot to get the attention of this family!


The best and most memorable times in the world…..are with family!


Then the family happily loaded up into the car and Jim B drove us back to Vienna.  Jim, Eric & I spent the night with Jim & Kellee then early the next morning caught a train from Vienna to Budapest to begin our next adventure which was from Budapest, Hungary to Bucharest, Romania by river boat.  That blog will be my next post. 

Posted April 25, 2016 by marilynfarmer in Travel

Fall in Europe: Austria & Germany with Family & Friends (Part 2)   4 comments


Fall in Europe:  Austria & Germany with Family & Friends (Part 2)

Vienna, Austria; Fussen, Rothenburg, Braubach, Cochem & Frankfurt, Germany

Sept. 25 – Oct. 9, 2015

Part 2 begins with our good friends, Mark & Karen joining us in Vienna, Austria.  Very early that morning our first part of “Fall in Europe with Family” had come to a conclusion with Keith & Marilyn going to Italy by train, and Derick & Chelsea flying home after having already been in Europe for over two weeks.  Thus, it’s the beginning of more fun times.


St. Stephens Cathedral:  It was originally built between 1369 & 1433.  Today, it is one of the most important Gothic structures in Austria.  This is my favorite site in Vienna, so it was the first place that we took our friends. 


The Weiner Neustadt Altarpiece:  (1447) It’s considered one of the greatest treasures.  Richly gilded & painted, it depicts the Virgin Mary in the center between St. Catherine & St. Barbara. 


Vienna Wine Hiking Day:  Vienna’s wine mountains & vineyards can be discovered every year in the autumn on the wine hiking trail.  And….there was ample opportunity to sample wines.  Karen & I particularly enjoyed the Sturm (young wine) because it was very sweet.


A rather pretty stroll on a fall day outside of Vienna.  We started out with a quickness to our step.  But later some of us weren’t as “quick”. 


When you stop to sample the wine there is also the opportunity to buy a snack to go with the wine.  Karen may not be entirely thrilled with my selection of our snack.


This is the map of our wine tour hike.  Supposedly we did the one that had more downhill than uphill.  I wouldn’t bet on that!


Time for more refreshments!


  After all of our walking we were really hungry.  Time for a pig roast in Austria!


Hands down, this was the best Sturm of the day.  They had to pull Karen & I away… we could walk some more. 


Are we there yet?  Jim B is showing off.  Trying to impress us with the “quickness of his step”!


 Judenplatz Holocaust Memorial:  This is the central memorial for the Austrian victims of the Holocaust.  Thousands of inverted books, representing lives of the lost Austrian Jews, line the exterior.


The Wiener Staatsoper (opera house), dates from 1869.  This was rather a “bust”.  I thought I had cheap tickets to a matinee.  But it turned out to be a round-table discussion (in German) of the upcoming performances.  This is what happens when you book on line and you don’t bother to translate everything.  Well, we got to sit in the expensive seats for cheap, and we got to see the beautiful opera house.


The best part of the morning was the ice cream.


A delicious dinner compliments of my favorite son-in-law.


Augustinian Church:  Built into the Hofburg, this is the Gothic & Neo-Gothic church used by the Habsburgs as their court church and also for weddings.  This is where Emperor Franz Joseph I & Empress Elisabeth (Sisi) were married. 


Imperial Crypt:  It’s located in Neuer Markt square near the Hofburg Palace.  Since 1633 it’s been the principal place of entombment for members of the House of Habsburg.  The bones of 145 Habsburg royalty (including 12 emperors & 18 empresses) are in this crypt. 


The Imperial Treasury, Vienna:  It’s located in the Hofburg Palace and contains over a thousand years of European history.  The collection, housed in 21 rooms, contains rare treasures that were compiled by the Imperial House of Habsburg.  The collection includes the Imperial Crown, orb, and Sceptre of Austia and Imperial Regalia of the Emperors & Kings of the Holy Roman Empire. 


Agate Bowl:  This is my favorite item in the museum.  The Agate bowl dates from the 4th century & is believed to have been created at the court of Constantine.  The Agate Bowl is the largest carved stone bowl in the world, (it is 30 inches wide, including the handles) and for centuries has been regarded as the greatest masterpiece in the museum.  In 1564, Holy Roman Emperor Maximillian II, declared it to be an inalienable heirloom. They saw the “natural miracle” in the stone with a mysterious inscription—the name XRISTO (Christ) at the bottom of the bowl within the grain.  It is now generally believed that the inscription inspired the legend that the bowl was the Holy Grail.  


It’s always time for ice cream.  We are enjoying our ice cream & my Radler Citrus in the courtyard of the Hapsburg Palace. 


Demel Eiscreme:  The famous bakery in Vienna that provided their specialties to the Habsburg Imperial & Royal Court.  Kellee bought a couple things & I didn’t think they were so great, but the shop was a beauty. 


Suddenly it is time to bid farewell to Vienna & Jim & Kellee.  Our last evening in Vienna is spent in an Italian restaurant.  Our next adventure is Germany by train. 


Germany by Train:  My handy google map shows the general route of our train adventure, which began in Vienna, Austria, to Munich, Germany, sight seeing in Germany & concluding in Frankfurt.   I will add right here & now that the German trains (DB Bahn) & we four Kansas people did very well & got along just fine.  In order to save money I had already purchased a few “saver fares” on line.  I was very proud of my early saver fare for first leg of our journey from Vienna to Munich on a direct four hour ride.

However, that didn’t come to pass.  Germany had closed its borders to more Syrian refugees and had also canceled that direct route between Vienna & Munich.  DB Bahn rerouted us indirectly with many train transfers.  As it turned out most of the train was full of Syrian refugees, and they all transferred trains with us until the transfer stop in Passau, Germany.  We Kansas people transferred to a train going to Munich, Germany, but security put the refugees behind a fence, I guess to be processed.  Still wonder where they all ended up.  The entire situation is very sad, and a challenge for all governments concerned. 

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Our Germany Itinerary of “Fairytale towns & Medieval Castles”:    We stayed two nights in (1)Fussen.  From there we went to (2)Rothenburg and also spent two nights.  After Rothenburg to the tiny Rhine town of (3)Braubach for one night.  Then to (4)Cochem where we spent four nights.  Our last stay was one night at an airport hotel in (5)Frankfurt.  My itinerary turned out to be pretty good.  At each town we stayed in a great location in the old town and ventured out from there. 

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We finally arrived in Munich, Germany and transferred to a train to Fussen, Germany.  With our changed train route we were finally in Fussen in the late afternoon, after having left Vienna at 8 that morning.  Now let the Germany fun begin!

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 Fussen, Germany:  The little medieval city in Bavaria is only a few miles from two famous castles, Neuschwanstein & Hohenschwangau.  We stayed right in this old market square and enjoyed the cute town.


Karen & I just had to try the Schneeballen (snowballs).  They were featured items in the bakery windows both here & in Rothenburg.  We weren’t too crazy about these fried balls of pie crust, because they were very dry & not very sweet.


We found a delightful place to eat, and the meal even came with bibs!  It was a bit cool in Fussen, so some of us ended up with new hats, gloves & jackets. 



Hohenschwangau Castle:  This was the childhood residence of King Ludwig II of Bavaria & was built by his father, King Maximilian II of Bavaria.  The castle was built on a historic fortress site from 1832-1837.   After the death of King Maximilian in 1846, Ludwig lived in Hohenschwangau.  In 1869 he had his own castle, Neuschwanstein, built only a stone’s throw from his parental home. 


Fog had really set in and we could barely see Neuschwanstein Castle. 


No photos were allowed in the castle except in the first room & the last room.



  Neuschwanstein Castle:  It may be the most famous & most photographed castle in the world.  It was built from 1869-1892 & was financed from King Ludwig’s own funds.  The castle was dedicated to the life & work of Ludwig’s dear friend, Richard Wagner, who died in 1883 before he had set foot in the building.  Ludwig only lived in the palace a short time before he died in 1886.  Ludwig died under mysterious circumstances in Lake Starnberg, together with the psychiatrist who had certified him as insane.  The castle had been built to be a private refuge, but seven weeks after the death of King Ludwig II, Neuschwanstein was opened to the public.  Every year 1.4 million people visit this castle.

We took a shuttle bus up the mountain, but still had a pretty fair walk getting on up to the castle. 


It was a grey threatening day, but it never did rain.  It was a bit cool, but our extensive walking kept us warm. 


No photos were allowed inside the castle except in this room with the castle replica.  It really puts into prospective how massive the Neuschwanstein Castle is.  Then we walked all the way down to the town.  We had a nice lunch before going back to Fussen. 


 On DB Bahn: (German Train) One can purchase regional day tickets for a very reasonable price.  We bought Bavaria regional day tickets, boarded the train and away we went from Fussen to Rothenburg.  It was about 235 miles, took us 4.5 hours and we had 3 transfers to make. 

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Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany:   We absolutely loved this beautiful old medieval city.  Seeing the original buildings it was like a trip back in time to the Middle Ages.  It’s considered to be Germany’s best-preserved walled town and one of the most perfect walled cities in Europe.   It’s so perfect, so picturesque, so darling that it doesn’t seem possible.  It is a joy to stroll around Rothenburg, taking time to enjoy the the defensive towers, town gates, half-timbered medieval houses, the cobble stone streets, and the marketplace that seems to be right out of a fairy-tale.  


Our favorite little hotel on our trip was the Hotel Restaurant Alter Keller, which I booked from We loved the medieval building that came complete with creaking floors. 


Looking out our window to the charming street.


The Rothenburg Marktplatz:  This is where it all happens, both then and now. 


Ratstrinkstube Town Hall on Marktplatz:  According to the story, in 1631, the mayor saved the town from destruction at the hands of troops of General Tilly by winning a wager by drinking 3 1/4 liters of Franconian wine.  So…every hour on the hour, the clockwork figures on the clock above the Ratstrinkstube entertain the public with the key scene from the legend of the Master Draught. 


Town Hall & Tower:  At 200 feet it’s Rothenburg’s tallest spire.  The old town hall dates to the 13th-century. 


Gasthof Goldener Greifen:  A delicious meal & a cheerful waitress at a restaurant recommended in the Rick Steves Germany 2015 book. 


Tour with the Nightwatchman:  We followed the guy in the black cloak carrying a lantern.  The tour (7 Euro) started at 8 pm & it was informative & entertaining as we followed him through dark alleyways & across dimly lit squares.  We listened and found out how the people lived in the Middle Ages.  Highly recommend this tour. 


Walking the Wall:  This 1.5 mile walk on the centuries old town wall was splendid.  From the wooden walkway on the 14th century city walls, the red roofs of the picturesque town and the steeples of the 14th century St. Jakob’s Church stretch below.  Our walk on the wall began at the end of this street.


You can’t help but ask yourself if time has stood still, as you stroll past all of this beauty.  Wonderful, splendid Rothenburg, Germany!

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      Our next stop on our itinerary was Braubach, Germany.   From Rothenburg to Braubach, it was about 185 miles, 4.5 hours and we had to make three transfers.   We needed to leave our Alter Keller Hotel before breakfast was served, but the kind proprietor volunteered to pack us this huge breakfast to eat on the train. 

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We transferred at the big train station in Frankfurt, where we got on a train to Koblenz, then in Koblenz & transferred to a local train to Braubach.


Braubach, Germany:  It’s a small town along the Rhine River with a population of approximately 3,000.  It is a cute little town with medieval architecture intact, including half-timbered buildings, portions of the town wall and the Marksburg Castle on the hill above.  Braubach dates back to the early 1200’s.  During my research I discovered that Braubach would be celebrating “Winzerfest Braubach am Rhein” on the exact date that we would be along the Rhine.  With an open day/night, my love of small towns, a unique festival, and finding a zimmer with two available rooms….it was “let’s do it!” (This photo is compliments of Jurgen.)   


Privatzimmer Metz:  We have new German friends in Jurgen & Brigitte.  We stayed at their zimmer and they were a delight.  Through google translator I emailed Jergen to make the arrangements.  Nothing to do but they meet us at the train station to walk us to the zimmer. I told him to just watch for four old Americans, and he said “we are two old Germans”.  That was just the beginning of their sweet hospitality.  Late that night we even all got to watch the fireworks together on the upstairs balcony.


Loved the little town and all the merriment with the Winterzest.  From our zimmer it was literally out the door and you are in the town center.  Our first merriment was the oom-pah band that was playing in this tiny building.  Later that evening we joined the festivities with the locals & oom-pah.


Right around the corner & more fun.

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Braubach is located right beside the Rhine River.  We walked across the street & the parking lot to take a look at the river and also got some pictures of Marksburg Castle that sits above the town.  We visited the castle the next morning. 


Later that evening was a parade that made it’s way along the tiny medieval streets.  The last event of the night was a big fireworks display, which we watched with our friends, Jurgen & Brigitte.


Marksburg Castle:  It is one of the main sites that make up the UNESCO World Heritage Rhine Gorge.  This castle was built around 1117 to protect the town of Braubach & to reinforce the customs facilities on the Rhine.  This is the only castle on the Rhine that has never been destroyed.  We had planned to ride up to the castle on the little tourist train, but it didn’t seem to be in operation.  So, don’t tell anyone, but we took a taxi to the castle.  It actually turned out to be cheaper than the tourist train would have cost, and we felt we had been getting plenty of exercise.  


We entered Markburgs Castle through a covered entrance with roughed in steps carved right the slate floor. 


The Great Battery:  Houses the cannons that aim out over the lower Rhine protecting the castle & the town of Braubach. 


   This is looking from the castle down at Braubach & the Rhine River.


Giant wine barrels are located in the cellar. 


  The residential apartments included furniture of what it was like back in the day.  They also had indoor toilets.


Back to Braubach & one more eating opportunity at the festival.  We had so much fun in Braubach & Jurgen & Briditte are our new friends.


Here comes the train, let’s get on it & head to our next destination, Cochem.  Cochem was only about 35 miles away with one transfer in Koblenz, and we were there in about an hour. 

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 Cochem, Germany:  Located on the Moselle river in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany.  It has a population of about 5,000.  As early as Celtic & Roman times, Cochem was settled.  In 1232 it was granted town rights.  Shortly after that, the town fortifications were built and they still stand today.  Cochem sits on both side of the river.  This is the historical side & we stayed on this side. The Reichsburg Castle overlooks the town of Cochem. 


Market Square in Cochem.


 Reichsburg Castle:  The original castle from the 12th century was destroyed in 1689.  It remained a ruin until a wealthy Berlin businessman bought it and rebuild the castle in 1868.  He created a neo-Gothic castle that could serve as a summer residence for his family. (No photos were allowed inside.) 


Overlooking Cochem from Reichburg Castle.


Burg Eltz:  We used the home base of Cochem to explore areas along the Moselle.  In “Rick Steves, Germany 2015”, Steves declares that his favorite castle in all of Europe is Burg Eltz.  He also mentions that the scenic 1.5 hour walk up the Elz Valley to the castle makes a great half-day outing.  Burg Eltz is located outside the town of Moselkern and Moselkern is a short train ride from Cochem.  So off we went!   First we walked from the train station to the base of the mountain trail, stopped to eat delicious onion soup, then on up to the castle.  It may have taken us a little longer, but Rick Steves, we did it, we are quite the hikers you know!


Finally after what seemed to be much longer than Rick Steves mentioned, we caught a glimpse of the castle….and that gave us hope. 


Then down & back up again.


We are here!  And all in the same day!


Burg Eltz:  The first record of Burg Eltz is from 1157.  By about 1490, the castle looked like it does today.  It was the homes of three big landlord families gathered around a tiny courtyard and all within the fortification.  We did a 45-minute tour of the castle.  It has 80 rooms, 40 fireplaces, & 20 toilets flashed by a rain drain.  It was decorated & furnished much as it was 500 years ago.  (Photos were not allowed inside.) 



Now it’s time to head back down the mountain, so we can get there before dark. LOL


   As per “Rick Steves, Germany 2015” Beilstein is the quaintest of all Mosel towns.  So Beilstein here comes the four from Kansas.  We chose to cruise from Cochem to Beilstein and thoroughly enjoyed seeing all the vineyards located along the River Moselle. 


Going through the lock between Cochem & Beilstein.


Beilstein, Germany:    It is a beauty!  Beilstein was granted town privileges in 1309.  The town has approximately 180 residents, about 30 guesthouses & eateries, one bus stop and no train station.  Beilstein is so well-preserved because it was essentially inaccessible by road until about 1900.  It was absolutely delightful!


Lunch in a wine cellar.


More of the fairy-tale town. 


Metternich Castle:  The castle, now in ruins, is located above Beilstein.  The history of the castle goes back to 1268, and some historians think as early as 1129.  In the 1600’s, the Earl of Beilstein ruled from this castle above town.  He built the Altes Zollhaus in 1634 to levy tolls from river traffic.  In 1689, during the Nine Years War, the castle was destroyed by French troops. 


Great fun.  Great family.  Great friends.  Great everything!  Keep on traveling!

Posted November 2, 2015 by marilynfarmer in Travel