A random ramble...

If you ever travel by train throughout Europe, be sure to carry lots of coins. I am not sure how to get coins, since people here are absolutely crazy about exact change and most shop owners claim to not even carry any change! I digress. You must carry change because in many train stations, the WC's require payment. That is right, you have to pay to use the toliet. At first, we were a little put off by this, but now we are actually appreciating the benefits. First, the pay WC's are all remarkably clean. Secondly, they often have the benefit of nice soap and even the opportunity to shower. Lastly, they are often staffed with people who are there to clean in-between each use and will often even assist you with luggage or items that you may need but lack.

Castles, palaces and huge theatrical productions

Did you know there is a distinction between palaces and castles? I didn't until we got to Bavaria. A palace is a royal residence that serves no other function. A castle can be a royal residence, but also serves as a defensive hold.

We were fortunate enough to get to visit both. We went to Linderhof and Neuschwanstein. Both belonged to Ludwig II. Both are stunning! We also got to see the town of Oberammergau.

First we got on a bus to Linderhof. The palace there was rather small, (only by palace standards) but exquisite. The surrounding countryside was also amazing. Ludwig was a very shy man and did not enjoy constantly being surrounded by people, so he had a dining table on the second floor that was situated in platform that worked as a dumbwaiter. The table could be lowered down to the kitchen, set and filled, and then hoisted back up to the dining room allowing the king to dine without having to see a soul. Very cool. We were not allowed to take pictures inside the castle, but you will not be disappointed if you make the effort to look up some photos on the Internet.

We left Linderhof and stopped by the tiny village of Oberammergau. During the worst of the bubonic plague epidemic, someone exposed to the plague came through the town. The villages all prayed that if they were spared from the horrid disease they would dedicate themselves to performing the Passion Play (a full account of life of Jesus Christ) every decade. Well, they escaped mostly unscathed and have been putting on the most famous production since 1634. Every performance lasts seven hours, but they do take a meal break. They put on 105 performances every ten years and they are always sold out. Only locals can perform and it requires taking extensive time off work. The theater was astounding and had a fully retractable roof, needless to say it would have made my brother drool.

After Oberammergau, we traveled on to Neuschwanstein castle. It is the castle that inspired Walt Disney to create Sleeping Beauty's castle in Disneyland. It was magnificent! The scenery was breathtaking, the castle insanely beautiful and the weather glorious! To reach the castle requires a nice hike up the steep mountain (or you can get a horse and carriage). Emma and I hiked. The lushness here is so beautiful to us! It is so different from home. The castle was truly a fairy tale castle. Each room was modeled after a Richard Wagner opera. It was whimsical, romantic and completely over the top! It even had a manufactured cave!

Of course, poor Ludwig II never got to see it completed. His is a fascinating and sad tale. Take us out to lunch sometime and we will regale you with the tales.


When we were planning this trip, Emma and I agreed that we must visit a concentration camp associated with WWII. We both share an avid interest in learning about the history of that time. Actually, that is inaccurate. We are interested not in the history of the aggressors nor the military aspects, our interests lie in the victims and defenders. We have been reading about people like Anne Frank, Meip Gies, The White Rose, The French Resistance and many more. Thus, it was essential for us to visit a concentration camp.

So yesterday we spent the day at Dachau.

It has changed us forever. One can read all the books or speak to survivors, but the experience of being there is like no other.

I am not sure how to convey the enormity of seeing the crematorium. I can not tell you the complexity of pain in my heart as my daughter and I stepped into the gas chamber with tears spilling from our eyes and our whole bodies trembling. I am not sure why I needed to go, but I did. I had to see the infamous gate with the sadistic sign claiming, "Work will set you free." I had to stand with my child and witness the photos of the piles of dead while standing in the exact spot where they were discarded. There is no way to make sense of the senseless, but we needed to bear witness and be dedicated to never forgetting and never allowing it to happen again.

The survivors of Dachau are the people who have made the site a memorial. They offer tons of information, but steered clear of the trappings of emotional manipulation or touristy pandering. I will admit that Emma and I were challenged by the teenage boys joking around in the crematorium. We were horrified at the people taking smiling photos in front of places like the gate, as if this were just another stop on a tour. However, for every moment that seemed inappropriate, there were also moments that seemed redemptive. For example, the sheer number of people who stood at attention while the bell tolled dozens of times marking the exact moment of the camp's liberation.

There is no doubt that Emma and I will remember this day forever. I am grateful for the opportunity to have been there. I think it is essential, in a world growing ever more callous, to find our courage to still feel things deeply. I have huge emotions. Sometimes they are so big that they can be overwhelming to other people and even myself. I have had moments in the last few years of concern as I watched my daughter express those same heart-wrenching and extreme emotions. However, no matter how odd it is, I am pleased that Emma and I can be so moved and touched. We feel deeply affected by the world. While that does not make for an easy life, it does make a meaningful and worthwhile one.

Leaving Italy, exploring Germany

After nearly a full month in Italy, we headed north. We got to briefly see Innsbruck in Austria, but it was pouring rain the entire time we were there so I have no photos to share. Our journey took us all the way to Munich, Germany.

Our first day in Munich was filled with rain. Always a treat for those of us who live somewhere so dry. We still managed to see Marienplatz, and the Neues Rathaus with it's amazing Glockenspiel. We also saw Karlsplatz and traveled around Neuhauser street.

We got to see the site of the 1972 Olympics, where the horrible hostage tragedy took place. We discovered that Germany is a contender for the 2018 Winter Olympics. It seems after the games of 1972 and 1936, the Germans would like the chance at redemption.

Continuing with our adoration of the culinary delights of Europe, we indulged in Bavarian sausages, sauerkraut, local white asparagus, two types of mustard and apple strudel. Fabulous! However, our favorite food here so far...pretzels! These glorious yeasty masterpieces barely resemble the poor imitations we have had in our lives. These are both crunchy and soft, salty and ubiquitous. We are happy ladies.

Or second day in Germany requires it's own post, so I shall write about it separately.


There is no way around it, getting to Venice is a pain. It involved a taxi, two trains, a Valporetto (water bus), six sets of stairs and lots of walking over narrow cobblestone streets. Thank goodness we are traveling light or we would have never made it. However, we did make it to our little apartment off of Piazza San Marco.

We started off by grabbing a late lunch in the famous Caffe Florian. This cafe opened it's doors for the first time in 1720! Many famous people having frequented this cafe, including Goethe, Cassanova, Lord Byron, Marcel Proust and Charles Dickens. Whenever people dare to eat in one of the Cafes in Piazza San Marco, they are guaranteed fabulous music since all the cafes have bands consisting of a piano, two violins, an accordion, a bass, and a clarinet. No matter where you wonder in the plaza beautiful, lively music accompanies you. It is delightful.

The highlights of our week in Venice include a fabulous exhibit of work by Salvador Dali, the requisite gondola ride, shopping for masks to wear at our upcoming Masked Ball and spending every evening enjoying drinks in the piazza listening to music.

The food in Venice was very different than food we encountered in other parts of Italy. Almost everything has either cuttlefish, sardines or calf's liver in it. While we went out of our way to eat some daring dishes, we discovered that we were inept at the graceful art of removing shellfish from their shells and cleaning fish that are served whole (including all scales and bones). We also found that we were not huge fans of the gelatto, pastries nor bread in Venice. Fortunately, we bought Baci's by the boxful! Another highlight for me? Prosecco!

The worst thing about Venice? The famous Bridge of Sighs was under construction. It was hidden by scaffolding and covered in advertisements. There is a legend that if you ride under the Bridge of Sighs with your romantic love and kiss as your gondola passes under it, then your love will last forever. I guess the bridge, just like romance, requires maintenance. Want to see a sweet movie about it? I recommend A Little Romance, with Laurence Olivier.

A funny thing happened on the way to the forum...

Our last days in Rome we magnificent. We went to the Purgatory Museum, a very small museum well off the beaten path. There was a Roman Catholic priest who made it his life's work to collect evidence of people's encounters with their loved ones from Purgatory. Roman Catholic faith states that souls that are stuck in Purgatory can move on to Heaven if there are enough prayers said for them here on earth, so there are often occurrences when family members claim they are contacted by their deceased family members to ask for them to pray for them so that they can move on. The museum was quirky and tiny, and a very nice change if pace from the crowds and noise.

We also managed to go to the Villa Borghese, a beautiful park area with museums, zoo, ponds, fountains and such. We rented bikes and meandered around the beautiful grounds. We admired yet another house belonging to the famed Medici family and picnicked by the Tempietto di Esculapio.

Finally we said, "Arrivederci Roma," and prepared for our journey to Venice!

So much to catch up on...

First of all, let me tell you that I greatly overestimated how easy it would be to find wifi in Europe. It is very easy to find Internet locations, but for us and our iPhone and iPad that left no options for uploading photos and such. Nevertheless, we are back online for the moment. Since our last written post we have been to Venice, Verona, Innsbruck (Austria), and now we are in Munich, Germany.

I am going to break up each section into a different post, just to make it easier on my brain.

Happy royals

View from castle


Neuschwanstein Castle

View hiking to Neuschwanstein

Famous Passion Play Theater


Beth's ready for the opera

View from Linderhof

Princess and Palace

Linderhof's back yard

Linderhof's front yard

Linderhof Palace

Gardens at Linderhof (with swans swimming in the pond)

Art expression at Dachau concentration camp

Horrid gate


Gorgeous Bavaria


Apple strudel

On the train again.


Bottom of The Spanish Steps

Top of The Spanish Steps

Where's the lion?





Off with her head!

Et Tu Emma?

Mosaic of bones


Tea time