After surviving Alara’s first flight, we were ready to start our adventures in Germany!
We landed in Munich, but were staying right outside Regensburg, so we had about an hour drive to the house. We were staying with my BIL, his wife and 2 kids, my in-laws were also visiting from Turkey, and with my aunt and uncle visiting, it was a full house! My BIL and his family were great hosts, we immediately felt at home. We got to enjoy home-cooked family meals together, especially a Turkish breakfast every morning. I mean, just look at it!
It was also great that Alara got to meet and play with her cousins and had quality time with her grandparents.
My in-laws were more than willing to watch her and the kids while us adults went on day trips, so it was a win-win. While Alara spent most of the vacation having quality time playing out in the yard with her cousins and grandparents, she did have a bit of her own adventures.
We drove off to Koln (Cologne), which is about a 5 hour drive, to spend the weekend with cousins, aunts and uncles. It was a very nice family reunion.
Koln is a very beautiful city with so much history. It was one of the most major trade routes between east and west in Europe during the Middle Ages. During World War II, it was one of the most heavily-bombed city in Germany, but had a very successful postwar rebuilding period. The Koln Dom, or Cologne Cathedral, is probably the most beautiful and detailed Cathedrals I have ever seen. It is considered one of Germany’s most famous landmarks.
Near the Roman Museum, you can see a reconstruction on an ancient street during the Roman empire.
While Alara was spending some more quality time with grandparents, her great aunt and great uncle, we got to enjoy some great German beer by the Rhein River.
Koln was a very impressive city with with beautiful architecture and scenery everywhere.
I never thought I would be visiting Amsterdam with a toddler in tow, but there we were. Amsterdam is the capital city of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and about a 2 1/2 hour drive from Koln, Germany. This is where I realized how small Continental Europe really is. Here in the U.S., we can drive a few hours and be in a different state, not thinking it’s a big deal. In Europe, you can drive a couple hours between such beautiful cities and countries like Koln, Amsterdam, Brussels and Paris and it’s a big deal for us Americans. Unfortunately, we did not have time to visit all of these beautiful cities, but maybe next time.
Amsterdam is, of course, another beautiful city rich with so much history hosting notorious people such as Anne Frank and Vincent van Gogh. We only spent a day, a few hours really, in this amazing city. I completely recommend spending more time here, a weekend at least. I know we will be back here for sure. I would love to visit the Anne Frank Museum and Van Gogh Musuem, spend time in the Vondelpark and maybe even the Red Light District (just to get a couple drinks at a bar, I swear). 😉
On this particular day, we walked around Dam Square where we saw the Royal Palace and Alara loved all the pigeons. No, she really loved the pigeons. She was screaming at them all excited, it was really cute. The Royal Palace was first used as Amsterdam’s City Hall in the 1600s but was then used as a palace in the early 1800s, and was once referred to as the eighth wonder of the world.
At Dam Square, you will also see the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) and the National Monument. The National Monument on Dam Square is a WWII monument and a ceremony is held every year to commemorate the casualties of the war.
After seeing Dam Square, we walked through Nieuwendijk street and enjoyed some shopping.
There was an awesome candy store on that street where Alara (ok, and all of us) enjoyed some candy and ice cream.
When we got to the end of the shopping street, we were next to Centraal Station, which is a major national railway hub. I personally got a kick of all the bicycles that were parked there. Bicyclists are huge in Amsterdam as it is so easy to get around the city on bike.
We ended the day with a nice family dinner at a restaurant right along the canal. I’m starting to notice a trend on my posts… family dinners to end a perfect vacation day. 🙂
We said our goodbyes to our family in Koln and were off on our way back to Regensburg, Germany. On the way there, we decided to break down the long ride and stop in Frankfurt, which is directly on the way. Frankfurt is a very large and beautiful city, I found it to be much more modern than other Germany cities. Frankfurt is known for its business and education, and is even considered the largest financial center in Continental Europe.
We saw the Dom St. Bartholomaus (Cathedral of St. Bartholomew) and walked by the very beautiful Rhine River waterfront.
We walked around the Zeil, which is a pedestrian walkway and offers some great shopping, restaurants, cafes and even live street performers if you’re lucky!
We went inside a major shopping center, MyZeil, which had the coolest architectural design I’ve ever seen. Just check out these photos courtesy of Architonic.
MyZeil also had a Dunkin Donuts! Germany apparently has several Dunkin Donuts, but this was the only one we came across, so I was pretty excited.
Here are some other places we enjoyed sans-toddler.
We went to downtown Regensburg and admired the Dom St. Peter (Regensburg Cathedral) which has beautiful Gothic architecture and is the burial place of many important bishops.
The downtown area is very beautiful and has a lot of character.
We sat outside and enjoyed a few German beers and latte macchiatos. Okay, not together. I opted for a machiatos since it was pretty cold that day and I needed to warm up.
We also admired some traditional Bavarian clothes. When I first saw this store, I wondered where people would wear these type of clothes. Then I discovered the Regensburger Dult.
This is a popular fair with Bavarian music and culture, food and drinks, and carnival-like attractions. It happens twice a year, in May and August-September.
When we first walked in, it mostly looked like a carnival, but almost everyone was dressed up in their best Bavarian attire. There’s vendors selling local arts, crafts and food. There’s pony rides and amusement park rides with music blasting. You see candy, cookies and stuffed animals for sale. As you walk further, you see a few beer tents. We went inside a beer tent that had live Bavarian music. We ordered a few beers and enjoyed the music.
The place started to fill up quick since night was approaching and we offered some locals our seats since there was room at our table and we would be leaving soon. We talked and joked with the locals, who all spoke really good English. They actually said they enjoy this festival way better than Oktoberfest!
This is definitely a must-see festival!
Munich is the capital of Bavaria, a federal state of Germany and home to the well-known festival known as Oktoberfest. The New Town Hall, or the Neus Rathaus, is breathtakingly beautiful with its gothic architecture. It is currently used by the government for city council, the mayor’s office and part of the administration.
Nearby the New Town Hall (south-east) is St. Peter’s Church, which is a Roman Catholic and is the oldest church in the area. Near St. Peter’s Church is the Old Town Hall and was used as such until 1874.
Just west of the New Town Hall is a great, big shopping area known as Marienplatz and is pedestrian accessible only. You’ll find lots of people and street entertainment around here. Along the shopping area is the Cathedral of Our Dear Lady, or the Frauenkirche, a cathedral church considered a famous landmark.
Dachau Concentration Camp
Visiting a concentration camp is a surreal experience. It still amazes me that something as horrible as this ever happened in history, let alone only 70 years ago. Our grandparents’ generation was alive during this time to witness these horrible events. The Dachau Concentration Camp was the first to open in Germany in March 1933, was used in operation the longest until April 1945, and was originally intended to hold political prisoners. The purpose of the camp eventually included forced labor, Jew prisoners, many criminals and foreign nationals where Germany invaded or occupied. The gates to the camp says the words “Arbeit macht frei”, which means “Work will make you free”. This Nazi propaganda was used to describe these camps as labor camps, when of course work was used as a form of torture. To this day, it is customary to leave the gates open as a reminder that these gates are to stay open for good.
While all 34 barracks were destroyed upon liberation, one was reconstructed to display how the interior was arranged. What you don’t see is how confined these barracks once were. The concentration camp was initially planned to hold 6,000 prisoners, but when the camp was liberated by American troops, over 30,000 people were imprisoned there.
There were also prison cells, where the more pronounced war prisoners were kept.
I was originally expecting to be overcome with emotion when we were planning this visit. However, it was more a numbing feeling than anything else. The whole time I just empathized with the people who ever step foot in this camp before it was turned into a museum.
Nuremberg was probably one of my favorite cities in Germany. It had such beautiful and classic Bavarian-type scenery, along with medieval architecture and just a modern touch. Nuremberg is referred to the unofficial capital of the Holy Roman Empire. During the Nazi-Germany era, this city became the location for the Nazi rallies and conventions, but was later severely damaged by bombings during the war. The war crime trials against the Nazis were later held in Nuremberg, partially due to the symbolic value of bringing the Nazi party down where they once rallied together.
The Old Town is separated by the Pegnitz River, which offers beautiful water views along with the impressive medieval buildings and houses.
The Nuremberg Castle is a beautiful, historic building consisting of three sections: the Imperial Castle, the Burgraves of Nuremberg and municipal buildings of the Imperial City. Nuremberg became an Imperial Free City during the 13th century and this castle was one of the most important palaces of the Old Holy Roman Empire.
The St. Lorenz is a beautiful, medieval church completed around 1400 and dedicated to Saint Lawrence.
The Schoner Brunnen literally translates to beautiful fountain, which it is. It’s located in the main market near the town hall and was built in the late 1300s.
Praque, Czech Republic
We had time for just about one long-haul day trip. Prague is a little less than 3 hours drive away from where we were staying and was one of our top choices to visit. It was totally worth it. Prague was absolutely the most beautiful city I had ever seen, hands down. It’s fairy tale type architecture and scenery was just amazing.
We spent most of our time in the Old Town, which is a medieval settlement and hosts many ancient buildings and churches. When you step into the Old Town Square, you really feel like you are stepping back in time to the 10th-12th century. But don’t worry, the surrounding musicians, street performers and vendors remind you of the current time and brings you back to reality. In the middle of the Old Town Square is the Jan Hus statue
Walking out of the Old Town, we crossed a bridge, Manesuv most, which offered breathtaking views of the Prague Castle. This bridge also had great views of the city in general and had many different vendors selling arts, crafts, and souvenirs.
Prague was by far the most beautiful city I’ve ever seen. Well, that was before visiting Rome, but that’s a story for another day. 🙂
Overall, we had an amazing time with family and friends. Even though we were there for almost 2 weeks, it felt like a short trip. We will definitely be back, that’s for sure!