Most of today was spent driving to Lyon, France. The first thing we did was find the tourist information desk to buy city passes, which get us rides on public transport and into museums. After dinner, we took a boat tour, which was a little boring, but short. Lyon has some very good street musicians, such as a violin and flute duo and cello and flute duo. Sunday is the Euro Cup finals between Portugal and France, so there is a large screen set up in a plaza near the tourist office to watch the big game. One very distinct bridge for foot and bike traffic only has mist jets at one end to cool hot people. Lyon is so much hotter than Germany. Both Germany and France have many smokers and drinkers, so the ground is often covered in cigarette butts. Lyon also has a lot of trash.
The trains don’t stop at night, but they are helpful during the day. Today was really awesome, as we spent the majority of the day surrounded by Roman ruins. We took a train to Porta Nigra, part of an old wall that surrounded Trier. This gate was preserved, because it was converted into a church. Next, we visited the Imperial Baths, which were my favorite part. The baths themselves were grassy squares, but underneath was a maze of tunnels and pipes, which looked like a scene from Indiana Jones or Tomb Raider. As the day was very hot, exploring thee damp dark tunnels was even more appealing. The final ruins we stopped at were the amphitheater. Because the museum was on the way and air-conditioned we looked at the exhibits. The majority seemed to be Roman. The theater wasn’t as cool as the Imperial Baths, because the seating was all gone. Again the best part was underground. Underneath the theater was below the water table, so we had to walk on bridges over deep pools, where a mechanical platform used to raise and lower people to the arena.
Before we left Bamberg, we toured the U.S. Army Base Warner Barracks where both my parents were stationed. Unfortunately the base is closed; the country of Germany owns the base, and it is being used to house about 4500 refugees. We drove around the fences of the base and saw the golf course and a track. After that we drove to Trier, Germany. The apartment we are staying at is near train tracks, which are very noisy. We all hope the trains stop at night. We walked around the city to find dinner. At the restaurant there was a bug zapper inside of the building.
We awoke this morning to the sound of the bell in the bakery as our apartment was above a bakery. For breakfast we walked downstairs to get baked goods. Next, we visited the palace of the Bishop-Prince, a mansion on top of a hill, overlooking the city. My favorite room had walls that were painted with an optical illusion that the celling was curved, while it actually was flat. After the tour we ate lunch in a nice garden that had short rose bushes that formed a maze. We continued to explore the city for a little. My dad, Anna, and I went to a swimming pool to relax for a couple of hours. As we didn’t have our translator, it was difficult to find our way to the pool. The locker room was just a big open room with only separate bathrooms and showers from guys and girls. The pool was amazing. In the main pool there was a cave with a waterfall that ran over the opening and chairs carved into the edge of the pool with a hole for bubbles. The next room had two water slides, one with tubes to sit in and one without. Anna and I went down the waterslide so many times to try different things, like going down backwards. There were also two quiet pools, a lap pool, diving board pool, an outdoor part, a pool on the roof, a kid pool, and a small knee-deep pool. The knee-deep pool was freezing and for walking laps in. Anna and I dunked ourselves in it and tried to hug dad. After brushing my rat’s nest of hair that forms after swimming, we walked the city until we were hungry. For dinner we ate at a restaurant call Poseidon, where my parents went for their first date. After dinner we went for another walk along the river, where we noticed a family of swans. I don’t particularly like swans after an incident on a jetski in Michigan, but as they we were safely on the other side of the river I enjoyed observing them.
Today we left Füssen to visit a medieval fortressed city called Rothenburg and to begin our visit to Bamberg. The city was very cool; we walked along the wall where archers and guards would’ve stood. High towers loomed over the walls and town buildings. After walking the wall, we visited the medieval punishment museum. This museum housed various torture and punishment machines as well as other medieval relics. Three hours later we continued the drive to Bamberg. Bamberg is a pretty cool city, and it has some importance to my family. Both of my parents were stationed in the Army, and they met there. As it was about 4:00 P.M. we wandered the city. My dad took us to the place where he and my mom first kissed. We continued our stroll around the city until we found dinner. No one really wanted to walk back to our apartment, so we bought bus passes. Some of the buses were long, so they had an accordion looking section in the middle, so they could make turns.
Germany has many castles. Today we toured two of those castles. In order to visit the inside of the castles, you needed to take a tour. Luckily both castles offered English tours; unfortunately cameras and video are not allowed inside the castles. The first castle was Hohenshwangau. To get up to the castle we took a short walk on a paved trail. Near the courtyard of the castle we found a slug. Coming from the dry southwest Colorado, we don’t see slugs everyday, so we watched it slowly climb into the gardens on the side of the trail. On the tour we were told it was a small “hunting cabin” for the owners, but I’m pretty sure a hunting cabin doesn’t have three stories, one story for each member of the family (the king, the queen, and the kids), a special staircase for only servants, and a private garden. Next, we visited Neuschwanstein castle. Unfortunately the castle has yet to be finished, as production was never continued after the king’s death, so the tour only took about 30 min. The rooms we incredibly ornate and looked like something from a fairy tale. After the castle my little sister and I got matching German Alpine/Bavarian hats. We started collecting pins from every city we will visit.
Guten Tag from Füssen, Germany! Today makes five countries in five days: Spain, France, Italy, Austria, and Germany. We might not have crossed the Rubicon, but we did cross the Alps in three countries - Italy, Austria, and Germany. While the drive did last 6 hrs, the scenery was beautiful, when we weren’t in tunnels. The Alps are amazing. Some of the cliffs are barren gray stone while others are a luscious green. Villages are tucked into the valleys while castle and fortresses tower on peaks. Once we arrived in Füssen, we went to dinner than wandered the town. I noticed there is a lot less English in this town, which is okay, because my mom speaks some German. Up on a hill there is a small castle near the edge of town. We walked around the empty castle and realized something was different. There was no noise besides the birds and occasional bell ring. Germany on a Sunday night is so much more quite than Florence.
Luckily for my feet, we didn’t climb any more towers. Today was a day of the arts; we toured the Uffizi. The building is huge. The halls are lined with various Greek and Roman statues with rooms branching off holding beautiful masterpieces. I love all things Greek and Roman, so I could’ve spent all day wandering just the halls admiring the craftsmanship, but I didn’t. After almost losing my family a couple of times after getting distracted reading who was depicted by each statue, we walked into a large room packed with tourists. This room housed The Birth of Venus and Springtime both by Botticelli. It was a similar experience to the David getting to see them in person and getting to look at from different angles; looking at every brushstroke is amazing. After wandering through more hallways, rooms, and unfortunately stairs, we arrived at a Renaissance piece depicting Greek mythology (smiley face) - the Caravaggio: Medusa, the head of Medusa, the snake haired gorgon that could turn people to stone, painted on a shield. It resembles Aegis, the shield that Zeus and Athena carried in myths. My family posed in front of it making Medusa faces. After more gelato we stopped at the Galileo Museum. My favorite part was all of the machines, clocks, and optical illusions located in the building. We also found the best free water in all of Florence; a fountain with a water coming out of a loin’s mouth. Sure it’s lion drool, but it beats the water in out apartment.
I noticed that there aren’t many panhandlers in Florence. There are street vender and performers, selling everything from splatting rubber animals and selfie sticks to handmade drawings of Florence. Almost everyone is offering something, whether it’s the many street venders selling the same photos of famous artworks at every corner or a guy solving a Rubik’s cube.
Today we climbed the Duomo and the bell tower. That’s a total of 879 steps, all climbed in less than half a day. After the narrow and steep corridors of spiral staircases the view from both the top of the dome and bell tower are amazing. Additionally halfway up, we got a break from stairs to see the paintings on the inside of the dome. All of the paintings are beautiful religious scenes. The climb up is very challenging, but once you reach the top you get a citywide view in all directions. Being up so high on the dome isn’t actually that scary. I was only afraid of dropping my phone and GoPro. After escaping the dark and intimidating steps, we were immediately followed by a creepy panhandler. Yes, a very aggressive, creepy panhandler. She continued to follow us for about 20 ft until she finally gave up. That was the first out of the total 5 homeless/panhandlers we saw during our time. After a gelato break we saw one of the most famous sculptures of all time, the David. Pictures do not give the full awe of the piece. He stands about 21ft tall in the center of the room, light shining right on him illuminating every feature. Later we visited the Medici tombs. Up until this visit I thought the famous Michelangelo tomb sculptures were next to each other and outside. It is neither. They stand facing each other in the Medici Chapel. We then took another break outside the Chapel, where I ended up playing some hacky sack with another random American tourist. After dinner in the evening, we wandered Plaza Vecchio, one of the many Medici palaces. This stop was very cool, because the majority of the art works were tied to Greek and Roman mythology, which is one of my favorite topics. The museum was also excavating Roman ruins below the building.
Ciao from Florence, Italy! We drove from Arles, France to Florence in 6 hrs and 30min while only getting lost twice! The day started out with delicious French pastries, particularly a chocolate croissant. We then drove on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in both France and Italy. You don’t directly notice when you cross the borders of Italy and France. There is very similar architecture along the Mediterranean. Italy also has a lot of greenhouses near the coast. Florence is very crowded. Even walking through the city is hectic. There are narrow streets with mopeds weaving in between groups of people. As we arrived around 4:00 P.M. local time, we wandered around the city. We made a full loop around the Duomo. Getting to see this famous structure was amazing. Tonight we are staying in an apartment in the middle of Florence within walking distance of the Duomo and the Uffizi just down from the Ponte Vecchio. Tomorrow we are going to climb to the top of the Duomo.