In 2013, my wife and I took a trip through Italy stopping at a five cities over a two week period. We flew into Venice and then open-jawed it out of Rome with a connection through Dusseldorf, Germany both ways. When you are flying on miles your options for direct flights are really limited (especially if you are being frugal with your miles like we try to be and fly during “supersaver” periods where it is only 40,000 for roundtrip to anywhere in Europe). On the flight to Venice our layover was pretty short – about two hours – but on the way back it was an overnighter so we decided to get a hotel in downtown Dusseldorf (rather than staying at the airport) and had the opportunity to enjoy the old city center.
We walked through the center and ate at the most traditional German restaurant in town (the name escapes me) and the waitstaff did not speak any English which made the ordering challenging (since the menus were also all in German). We aren’t complaining – it was Germany of course – but just stating a fact that we weren’t in the more touristy Munich or Berlin areas where they seem to cater more to non-German speaking populations. We enjoyed walking around and spent some time walking on the riverwalk. My wife took this picture of the sheep hanging out in the grass on the opposite side – this isn’t something you see all the time (ever?) in large US cities – Dusseldorf I think is the third largest city in Germany and one of their industrial hubs (hence why American Airlines flies alot of international flights through there) so we found it quite unique to just see a bunch of sheep enjoying the weather just like we were.
An Afternoon in Dusseldorf (Dusseldorf, Germany)
It’s been awhile since I posted any pictures in Neuschwanstein Castle in the Black Forest area of Germany. Neuschwanstein is the former castle of “Mad King” Ludwig who essentially spent the family fortune building this masterpiece before his mysterious death in 1866. After his death his family opened the castle to the public (for a nominal fee) in an effort to recoup some of their families wealth.
Photo of the Day – The Mad King’s Castle
Off to do some sight seeing around my home town today. The weather for late June is cool (low 70s) but will make for a much nicer day outside.
The “Mad King” Ludwig II of Bavaria grew up in this ‘small’ castle at the foot of the Alps named Hohenschwangau Castle. It was the summer home for his father – King Maximilian II and Ludwig spent a good portion of his developmental years here. When King Maximilian died Ludwig became king but his mother (the Queen) remained as Ludwig never re-married. Therefore, Ludwig needed a place of his own and built Neuschwanstein Castle for a little separation between he and his mother (because I mean with 30+ rooms how can you possibly find any privacy?). Neuschwanstein dwarfs the much smaller Hohenswangau and was reportedly Walt Disney’s inspiration for the Disney Castle but both were very impressive on the interior. Unfortunately, they did not allow photography on the inside.
Photo of the Day – Castles in the Mist
I had a rough January – in large part I think because I was stuck in Chicago for all of it. Chicago is great of course but I need regular vacation in order to keep me energized and so I put together a list of the biggest benefits I get from regular travel. It doesn’t have to be a long vacation or anything – just a quick change in scenery to break up the monotony of life.
1) Reduce Stress – Getting away gives you the chance to de-stress and relax. Even on business trips just being out of the office gives me a whole new (better) outlook on my job and why I appreciate and enjoy what I do. Sure a big meeting can be stressful as well but travel stress is often ‘good’ stress filled with anticipation of what is going to come rather than fretting about things in the past.
2) Avoiding Monotony – This combined with the stress reduction are why I need frequent travel. Without it I feel like Phil from Groundhog Day who lived the same day over and over and over again for 30 – 40 years.
3) Being Active – Instead of sitting behind a desk all day and trying find time to cram a gym visit into the day I actually feel like I move around more while traveling. Whether it is walking to see the sites or just going from place to place in business meetings. I definitely feel more productive at the end of the day and don’t feel like I a lazy slug if I didn’t make it to the gym.
4) Creating lasting Memories – Travel combined with photography is exhilarating because the memories are frozen in time and bring you back to that time/day. It’s a great hobby.
5) Fall back in love with your spouse/partner/etc.. – Travel has the ability to re-ignite that spark (see number 2 above). No matter how hard we try you can’t recreate the feeling you get when traveling and doing so with someone you love just makes it all the better. I’m fortunate to have found a compatible travel buddy and while she won’t be joining me much the next two years (grad school for her) I’ll be taking lots of pictures so she can hopefully find some enjoyment out of the lasting memories I’ve tried to capture for the both of us.
Photo of the Day – Brandenburg Gate
Our second trip through Europe and Germany was one of my most anticipated places. Ever since I was a kid I always wanted to go there. I left highly disappointed while my wife loved it. I think the weather put a damper on my visit because it rained almost constantly which meant we were indoors more and I couldn’t bounce from site to site. Come to think of it that’s probably why G liked it – we slowed down and focused on the largest attractions (like the Brandenburg Gate) without feeling like we were in a continuous race to see everything.
Got caught in a loop today and before I knew it half the day was gone – what was the loop you ask? There wasn’t any football on, no that’s tomorrow. Instead it was a random show on the ‘Science’ network (a channel I honestly didn’t know even existed until this morning when I saw an ad for the show. The show is called An Idiot Abroad and it involves Ricky Gervais who I know some people either love or hate. Personally, I like most of what the guy does as far as acting but by far and away the most annoying Twitter personality ever. I’ve only unfollowed two people on Twitter – LeBron James and Ricky Gervais – everyone else even if I find their schtick to be occasionally annoying I still am interested in what they have to say.
The basic premise of the show involves the main character Karl Pilkington who I presume is some sort of UK comedian and Ricky Gervais decides what item on someone else’s bucket list he is going to accomplish – things like seeing the Gorillas in Uganda, Whale watching off the coast of Alaska, Swimming with the dolphins in Australia, Driving the length of Route 66, etc… Each ‘task’ is epically awesome but of course being a reality TV show they can’t make it quite so simple so Ricky Gervais is constantly giving him side tasks and things he needs to do in order for Gervais to pay for the trip. For example, in route to Australia he has to stop off in Thailand and hang with ladyboys and Thai Box someone while blindfolded. Each show seemed to be better than the next but the only part I found annoying is how Karl Pilkington seemed to be ho-hum about everything he was doing. I’m sure that’s the stick of the show but by the end of the six-seven episodes I watched his attitude was getting a little annoying. However, despite that I highly recommend checking the show out – if you have Comcast you can watch them on demand.
Photo of the Day – Pillow Fighting in Berlin
During our trip to Berlin I got to scratch an item of my list and that was getting into a Pillow Fight in the middle of Berlin – right beneath the Brandenburg Gate. What are the odds? In all seriousness, it wasn’t on my bucket list but the randomness of the pillow fight and being there to take part in it was pretty cool. This was just a random girl but seconds before she started dancing she had smacked me in the face with a giant feather pillow.
When we were in Berlin we stayed in what used to be Eastern Germany. Supposedly the hotels in that part of town are actually ‘nicer’ which I found to be somewhat counter-intuitive because of what I expected Eastern Berlin to look like. It’s probably because the hotels (I think we stayed at like a Marriott so it wasn’t over the top by any means) were more recently built and thus are more equipped with modern amenities than those in Western Germany.
Photo of the Day – Tattooed Monkey
We were walking to one of the museums in East Berlin when we passed this very industrial looking gorilla. I think it may have been in front of a nightclub or bar but even if it was ‘kitschy’ it was still very cool looking. I loved the saw blade that made up one of his pectorals.
We got on the subway in Berlin heading for the Brandenburg Gate – I forget what stop we boarded at but I do remember that I saw three guys dressed like the old school Beastie Boys carrying pillows boarding the train with us. We were in a foreign country – not that I thought it was the fashion but maybe some soccer (football) thing that us Americans didn’t get.
I didn’t really understand fully what was going on until we walked up the steps of the subway stop only to get ‘feathered’ – almost an entire pillow full of feathers just dropped onto our heads. I had planned to come and shoot the Brandenburg Gate at sunset but all of that went out the window when I realized what was actually going on. They were having a giant pillow fight right in the middle of Berlin. People everywhere were running around hitting friends/strangers with feathered pillows. I quickly climbed onto a dumpster – along with several others trying to avoid the chaos and started taking pictures. Eventually I ventured down on the ground level and shot some of the locals dancing and having a good time. This girl was moving side-to-side enjoying the festivities going on around her. I’m not sure if they set any records that day but I am sure that they had to be close.
Photo of the Day