Two months ago I packed my bags, dropped the kids off with great grammie, and hopped on a plane headed to Munich. When our good friends moved there about 18 months ago, they graciously invited us to visit anytime. I was thankful but never actually thought I would find myself taking them up on the offer. Happily, the opportunity presented itself, caregivers materialized, and my husband's and my 30th birthdays (two days apart in March) provided the perfect excuse for a European celebration.
We planned our itinerary based on the recommendations from our friends, and soon found ourselves on a dream vacation.
When we got to Munich, our friends whisked us off to a popular beer hall where we had our first taste of local cuisine. Pretzels, meat, potatoes and beer. Lots and lots of beer. We went to bed at 11 pm local time (2 pm Seattle time) and slept through the night. Apparently jet lag can't compete with 3.5 years of constant sleep deprivation known as life with two toddlers.
The next day included a brief stop to watch the surfers, traditional German breakfast (white sausage, pretzels, and beer), a walking tour around the city, and a trip to the beer gardens to celebrate the last day of Starkbierfest where we drank beer, danced on tables, and prost!(ed) like the locals.
Our time in Munich also included a trip to the Dachau concentration camp memorial. The guided tour was incredible and sobering, and it was impossible to comprehend the reality of the things that happened there. Later that day we did another walking tour through Munich and learned about the rise (and fall) of the Third Reich. I have never been to a city with so much history and it was both amazing and horrible to learn about the events while standing in the very place they happened.
The next day we grabbed our passports and hit the road headed for Lake Como. Our friends insisted we didn't need GPS for the five hour drive, that we could write down directions and we would be totally fine. Thankfully our car came with GPS, since we got lost almost as soon as we started driving, and continued to make wrong turns throughout our entire drive. We would probably still be driving aimlessly around the backroads of Italy if we didn't have a navigation system in the car.
Wrong turns aside, the drive through Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and finally Italy was absolutely stunning. We could see or were driving through the Alps almost the entire time and the small towns and castles carved into the hillsides with a backdrop of the Alps were gorgeous.
Lake Como was so beautiful and we had a wonderful time exploring several small towns via foot and ferry. We spent our days leisurely touring ancient castles, eating gelato every chance we got, taking a million pictures of the beautiful scenery, and enjoying delicious pasta and crisp cool wine in the sun on the shores of the lake.
We reluctantly packed our bags after four days in paradise and programmed our GPS to take us back to Munich. The Alps were so breathtaking that I couldn't help stopping several times to take photos. It seemed like every time we turned the corner the next view was more spectacular than the last. It was incredible.
The next day we headed into the Alps again, this time on foot! Hiking in the Alps was one of the things I was most looking forward to on the trip, and our experience did not disappoint. Our friends took us on a beautiful trail straight up through the woods to the top of the mountain, and along the ridge until we lost the trail in the snow and had to turn around. There were mountains as far as I could see in every direction and the scenery was incredible.
Hiking in Germany is a little different than the US in that there are restaurants on the mountains where you can warm up with lunch and hot spiced wine. They also strongly encourage celebrating a successful summit attempt with whisky. I don't typically drink while hiking, but when in Germany...
The next day was probably the highlight of the trip for my husband. He and Erik rented a BMW M3 with the sole intention to test the limits of the car, attempting to break the sound barrier on the Autobahn and challenging the point to point tactical execution on windy mountain roads. I wanted absolutely no part in this adventure, but unfortunately I ended up in the car with them for a little while. There are no photos because I spent the entire time crying in the backseat, while my husband stomped the gas pedal to the floor and our friends cheered him on excitedly.
Thankfully we lived to see the light of another day, and this one took us to Prague. We spent our time there touring castles and palaces, learning the history of the city, eating delicious (and cheap!) food, and marveling at the beauty of the various buildings and bridges.
Our time in Europe flew by and before we knew it, we were on a plane headed back to Seattle. I was happily surprised that after two weeks constantly admiring the majestic natural and man-made beauty abroad, I still was amazed as we flew over Mt. Baker and past the Seattle skyline at sunset. It took my breath away.
Simply put, this trip was lovely. It felt like such an amazing gift given to us by the family members who watched our kids and the friends we stayed with in Germany. We are so grateful to them for allowing us to have this amazing adventure together. And after two months back to my normal grind here in Seattle, I am hoping that it will be the first of many...