Thursday, August 30, 2018

Mainau (again)- go twice!

It is worth it to check out the island of Mainau each season, as the blossoms change. I was especially thrilled to discover a hydrangea garden going up the hill behind the harbor restaurant. Who knew that there are dozens of varieties of hydrangeas??? My scientist friend wants to know if they maintain different soil ph levels on Mainau to keep the blossoms different colors?
Early summer is a great time to bring a picnic and eat outside on one of the many benches. The lake views are stunning, and visiting ducks will eventually take your “no” after they beg adoringly for snacks. Unless you succumb to their puppy-dog eyes (?) and general cuteness!
There is a small animal farm, a butterfly building, and an assortment of walking paths surrounded by flowers and trees. Of course there are plentiful cafes and restaurants, where you can get everything from salads to decadent cakes.
There are parking garages in the nearby town of Konstanz, which includes a boardwalk, pedestrian shopping zones along historic lanes, and more restaurants. This is where I discovered the Läderach Swiss chocolate shop, although I can now get that brand of chocolate in Stuttgart, too.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Tübingen for the 2nd and 3rd times, Bebenhausen on the way, Easter Egg museum further on

A return trip to this university town less than an hour south of Stuttgart yielded new discoveries in warmer weather. The boats were out on the river, and a pleasant ride ensued. You are welcome to bring beverages and snacks on the boat ride.
There is a wonderful room full of old books on the 2nd floor over a tiny entrance across from the church, between an optometrist and a regular book store. The Hermann Hesse Kabinett shows where this famous German poet worked, and is a storage facility for shelves of beautiful antique tomes. I’m not sure if the staff speak English, but they probably do. There is no admission fee, and the tiny gift shop offer low cost books (at least one in English), postcards, calendar, etc.
If you are driving from Stuttgart, you will pass through the village of Bebenhausen in the blink of an eye. It is worth stopping in to the ancient walls and seeing historic buildings. You can walk around the property, or purchase admission to view the interior. I’d like to return and spend more time…this was just a quick stop.
There are no photos of the marvelous Easter Egg Museum in Sonnenbühl, but it is definitely worth the 20 minute drive along winding country roads past Tübingen to see a massive collection of decorated eggs. There are carved wood eggs, delicately engraved blown eggs, massive ostrich eggs, and an amazing series of decorated eggs from different cultures. Some have tiny pieces of straw that look like gold on the eggs, others are bejeweled by Faberge! There are limited opening hours, so check ahead of time.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Gozo Island- a Malta vacation favorite!

I usually like most parts of everywhere I go, and try to come across as generally positive about it all. That said, I especially recommend Gozo to you! If I have the opportunity to return to Malta, I will make every effort to stay some nights on Gozo. 
We took another van taxi from Sliema to the ferry between Malta and Gozo. When traveling in this direction by ferry, you pay when you return to Malta (just under 5 Euro per person round trip). The ferry was a smooth ride, and the gift shop had many English language publications- a bonus for expats living in Europe!
Our van and tour guide on Gozo were exceptional. We stopped in Victoria for more churches (gasp!), an extremely short shopping walk, and more friendly conversation with locals. It’s a good thing I’m perfectly happy with Cathedral gift shops, as this Pilgrimage did not feature touristy shopping destinations such as the glassblowers or lacemakers of Malta. There was free time though, which could have included shopping instead of siesta!
We had lunch in Xlendi, with spectacular views of the water, cliffs, and a cooling breeze. How to get my over-large luggage on the ferry and across the island to this place? A problem for another day. I know, I know, less luggage!
My favorite church felt so peaceful inside. The Basilica of Our Lady of Ta’ Pinu was beautifully carved and naturally lit. It is known to be a place of healing, and the atmosphere was so different from the ostentatious decorations elsewhere. 
A friend recently said about another church that “it feels like the church is giving me a hug”. This simple yet stunning church invited me to rest, and was one of the few places that I didn’t want to leave to get somewhere else air conditioned.
I'm so grateful for the opportunity to be a Pilgrim in Malta and Gozo!

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Malta excursions (Mdina and St. Paul’s Island)

Our group hired a few van taxis during our stay, and noted a variety among their features. Some had working air conditioning and seat belts, others didn’t. We rode together from Sliema to Mdina, where we wandered through narrow streets, into squares, and along the walls for magnificent views. And of course churches, the cave in Rabat where St. Paul was held, and museums.
A delicious lunch at the slowest restaurant in town was rushed in order to meet our waiting ride. Just plan on long, relaxing meals and don’t expect speedy meals.
In the town of Bugibba, we took a boat to the Island Where St. Paul’s ship was wrecked during a storm. There is a statue and a paved path, along with peaceful wind, waves, and rocks. This was a special and memorable excursion for our group. Other tourist boats have additional destinations in the area.
If you travel during the summer months, build in some down time during the afternoon, if at all possible. There aren’t any exciting siesta pictures, but a dip in the ocean, a pool, or shower is very welcome during hot and humid days of walking. We are finally learning our lesson after years of traveling to warm weather destinations, and wearing ourselves out in the heat of the day.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Malta Details (Sliema and Valletta)

We joined an English-speaking Anglican service in Sliema, at Holy Trinity. In comparison with many ostentation churches in Europe, and even Malta, the sincere simplicity of this place was welcome. The people were also welcoming!
In Valletta, we visited the Anglican Cathedral, which was not too ornate. The restaurant under the church provided a delicious meal and cool air temperatures! I’m not sure if a reservation is needed in the Cathedral undercroft restaurant. I will mention the places that I would return to for more excellent fare, but not every place we had a meal.
Then, the most astonishing array of gold I ever saw in St. John’s Co-Cathedral. It felt odd to walk on top of burial chambers with ornate stone inlay, and that "more important" people were located closer to the front of the Sanctuary. But my favorite church is yet to come (another day)!
This may be the simplest food photo I’ve ever taken, but I will strive for years to replicate this recipe. Wait, does Gourmet magazine still try to obtain restaurant secrets for readers? No? What, Gourmet is no more? Anyway, please make a reservation at Legligin in Valletta, though you may not get the cold gazpacho soup when you are there. You get what you get, and it was scrumptious. The 5 course tasting menu left us all stuffed, and unable to imagine squeezing in 7 courses (the other choice). Dessert wasn’t included, but the outstanding mussels more than made up for it.
You can see the family style service, and nary a drop of soup remaining- except the seconds I was about to demolish!