Today began our European Road Trip!

We woke up early to make our Eurotunnel departure time to cross the English Channel. It’s a bit strange to drive your car onto a train to be transported under the channel and in 30mins your in Calais, France.

Our first stop was Bruges, Belgium. This was my first Christmas Market back in 2016 and we could not drive by without stopping.

As always Bruges was amazing. The market square was full of Christmas stalls with various types of holiday cheer. We partook in a thin waffle from our favorite bakery that we can not seem to walk by without getting some delicious treat.

Then it was off to get the truffles I promised Joe, I sure hope they survive the journey back to NH in March😋

Bruges, the capital of West Flanders in northwest Belgium, is distinguished by its canals, cobbled streets and medieval buildings. In the city center’s Burg square, the 14th-century Stadhuis (City Hall) has an ornate carved ceiling. Nearby, Markt square features a 13th-century belfry with a 47-bell carillon and 83m tower.


Then we were off to Ghent, Belgium 🇧🇪 which is only about 30 mins from Brugges. Ghent is a port city in northwest Belgium, at the confluence of the Leie and Scheldt rivers. During the Middle Ages it was a prominent city-state. Today it’s a university town and cultural hub. Its pedestrianized center is known for medieval architecture such as 12th-century Gravensteen castle and the Graslei, a row of guildhalls beside the Leie river harbor.

Gravensteen castle

The current castle date to 1180 and was built by Philip of Alsace (1143-1191) on the site of the older fortification. It may have been inspired by crusade castles witnessed by Philip on the Second Crusade. As well as a protective citadel, the castle was intended to intimidate the burghers of Ghent who often challenged the Counts' authority.

The Gravensteen incorporates a large central donjon, a residence and various smaller buildings. These are surrounded by a fortified, oval-shaped enceinte lined with 24 small échauguettes. It also has a sizeable moat, fed with water from the Lys river. From 1180 until 1353, the Gravensteen was the residence of the Counts of Flanders. The decision to leave was taken by Louis of Male (1330-1384) who transferred the court to the Hof ten Walle.

Ghent Christmas Market- More than 150 wooden huts spread out from Sint-Baafsplein, along the Botermarkt and Klein Turkije to the end of the Korenmarkt. The scent of pine resin and mulled wine made the experience complete.

A cuberdon is a cone-shaped Belgian candy. In Dutch it is also known as a neus (nose), Gentse neus (Ghent nose), or neuzeke (little nose) for its likeness to a human nose. In French, cuberdons are also called chapeau-de-curé and chapeau-de-prêtre (priest's hat).

There are two hypotheses about its origins:

  • Either a clergy member living in the city of Bruges created it - which would explain the term of "cleric's cap", another name for it.
  • Or the Ghent pharmacist De Vynck in 1873 discovered the recipe of the cuberdon by chance. In order to increase the shelf life of drugs at the time, many were packaged in the form of syrup. When the pharmacist examined a failed preparation after a few days, he found that it had formed a crust, while the core was still liquid. From this discovery came the idea to use such a technique to manufacture candy.

Cheesy lunch goodness

The Saint Bavo Cathedral (also known as Sint-Baafs Cathedral, or in Dutch Sint Baafskathedraal) an 89-meter-tall Gothic cathedral in Ghent, Belgium. It is the seat of the diocese of Ghent, is named for Saint Bavo of Ghent, and contains the well-known Ghent Altarpiece.


Aachen, Germany

Our final destination for today. Check in to our hotel, went straight out for dinner then toured around our first of many \240Christmas markets in Germany.

Now I need to explain about dampfnudeln. It is a steamed bun we became aware of a couple of years ago. Now whenever We see it, We get it!

There are Dampfnudel city gates in Freckenfeld and Kandel, two towns in the Rhineland-Palatinate, in western Germany, very near the border with French Alsace. It is reputed that, during the Thirty Years' War, Swedish troops arrived at Freckenfeld and demanded ransom. Master baker Johannes Muck, with his wife and apprentice, made 1,286 Dampfnudeln to feed the soldiers, who then spared the village from further extortion and pillage. The Dampfnudeltor (Dampfnudel gate) even features on the coat of armsof the municipality of Freckenfeld.

Please notice below the massive bratwurst with the tiny tiny tiny bun😋


2nd day - Holiday European tour.

Christmas Markets are on the schedule for today (surprise). Our final destination will be Nuremberg this evening. This morning we heading out towards Bonn and as we entered the city proceeded to hit a wall of traffic. We both slightly considered passing this market by but fortunately found a parking garage which allowed us to visit this great city market.

Smoked Salmon

Beeswax seems popular in most markets

Meat everywhere..........

Number 2 of our Dampfnudeln tour.

After this amazing Dampfnudeln we waddled back to the car and headed to Koblenz for the 2nd Christmas Market of the day.


Koblenz, Germany

Koblenz is an ancient city in central Germany, and a gateway to the terraced vineyards and ruined castles of the Rhine Gorge. In the center, a monumental statue of William the Great marks the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle rivers. A cable car connects to the hilltop Ehrenbreitstein Fortress, which hosts museums and cultural events. South along the river is the neo-Gothic Stolzenfels Castle with its gardens.

The Koblenz Christmas market is actually one of the largest in the Rhineland-Palatinate wine growing region, it offers all the flavours of Christmas including a Christmas bakery where stollen and many other famous German Christmas cakes and biscuits.

Every year a wealth of event highlights are planned for the Koblenz Christmas market, all under the watchful eye of the boy on the famous "Schängel" fountain.

Notice the 24 advent calendar windows on the roof of the baroque town hall below.


Nuremberg, Germany

Drove directly from Koblenz to Nuremberg so we would make the market before it closed. We pulled in at 8:30pm and it was due to closed at 9:00.... just made it. Had a quick Skype call with Mom & Nikki then took in the beautiful market.

The Christkindlesmarkt in the Bavarian city of Nuremberg is one of the biggest and best-known in the world.

The market started back in the 17th century. The first evidence of a Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt comes from a wooden box with an inscription on the bottom which reads: 'Regina Susanna Harßdörfferin von der Jungfrau Susanna Eleonora Erbsin zum Kindles-Marck überschickt 1628' (essentially, 'received on the occasion of a Christkindl market in 1628').

The market survived many centuries but by the end of the 19th century was nowhere near as popular as it once had been. It was not until the 1930s and the promotion of Nuremberg as a major historic jewel by the Nazi regime that it once more increased in significance.

The markets were not held during the Second World War but were restarted in 1948. Nowadays the market welcome more than 2 million visitors a year from around the world, with thousands of spectators for the official opening by the Christkind.

Schöner Brunnen (en:beautiful fountain) is a 14th-century fountain located on Nuremberg's main market next to the town hall and is considered one of the main attractions of the city's Historical Mile. The fountain is approximately 19 meters high and has the shape of a Gothic spire.


Nuremberg to Passau,Germany

This morning we woke up and went for an early morning run around Nuremberg. We found Kaiser Nuremberg Castle

Nuremberg Castle (German: Nürnberger Burg) is a group of medieval fortified buildings on a sandstone ridge dominating the historical center of Nuremberg in Bavaria, Germany.

Then we headed back to the Christmas Market to have a run around without people and started to watch the sunrise.

Then we loaded up the car and headed to Passau along our way to Vienna. Passau was of course another Market to stretch our legs and to visit Europe’s largest pipe organ😊

The St. Stephen’s Cathedral of today was built in 1682, but the original version of the church had already burned to the ground by 1662, taking with it the parish’s first organ.

As is the case for most of the world’s giant organs, the organ at St. Stephen’s took shape gradually over the course of centuries. The contemporary version consists of five separate organs in varying tonal styles amounting to 17,774 pipes, 223 registers, and four chimes. Each portion of the organ was built separately, possesses its own unique tone, and can be played as a standalone instrument by way of its own console.

A lone, general console found in the western loft unites these disparate musical instruments into a single organ unlike any other in Europe. From this seat, a master organist can play all five organs individually or as one giant Franken-organ, producing a cacophony of sound by means of electric key action and a programmable setter capable of storing more than 4,000 settings. Mathematically speaking, the variety of ways to coax and combine range and tone from this instrument is nearly infinite.

We stopped at a petrol station in Austria and J tried to wash the car windows. Was not able to manage it😉

Welcome to Austria 🇦🇹


Arrived in Vienna at about 5pm and drove through the city to our apartment for the evening.

Our accommodation is located right in central Vienna next to a Christmas Market. My first Austrian Christmas Market😊

After a quick look around we headed back to get dressed up for a live classical ensemble preforming various classical works within the magnificent St. Peter’s Church

The Peterskirche (English: St. Peter's Church) is a Baroque Roman Catholic parish church in \240Vienna, Austria. It was transferred in 1970 by the Archbishop of Vienna Franz Cardinal König to the priests of the Opus Dei.

The oldest church building (of which nothing remains today) dates back to the Early Middle Ages, and there is speculation that it could be the oldest church in Vienna.

One amazing part of the evening was being able to skype with my mom sitting in NH watching and listening to the concert with me in Vienna, Austria 😊

Click on video below!


Started this morning touring around Vienna’s Christmas Markets that we did not get a chance to see last night. The entire city certainly changes with the light of day. All the kids were out filling up on holiday sweets and taking in the local puppet show.

Below are some of the festive food and Market scenes from Vienna. Enjoy 😊

The largest cheesy pretzel I’ve ever seen



This morning we awoke in Krakow, Poland to it snowing. We headed out to explore the city and Christmas Market. The Market Square dates back to the 13th-century.

The Christmas Market is located right in the middle of Krakow’s Old Town, next to the majestic Renaissance Cloth Hall and the towering St. Mary’s Basilica.

Oscypek, Oszczypek (Polish; plural: oscypki) is a smoked cheese made of salted sheep milk exclusively in the Tatra Mountains region of Poland.

Oscypek is made using salted sheep's milk, with the addition of cow's milk strictly regulated by the protected recipe. Unpasteurized salted sheep's milk is first turned into cottage cheese, which is then repeatedly rinsed with boiling water and squeezed. After this, the mass is pressed into wooden, spindle-shaped forms in decorative shapes. The forms are then placed in a brine-filled barrel for a night or two, after which they are placed close to the roof in a special wooden hut and cured in hot smoke for up to 14 days.

I bought a lot of cheese!

The first mention of cheese production in the Tatra Mountains dates back to the 15th century, in a document from the village of Ochotnica in 1416. The first recorded recipe for Oscypek was issued in 1748 in the Żywiec.

I mean a lot! You could buy a small cheese heated on a grill with cranberry sauce....yum (we had two of these for breakfast😋)

Listen below.....


Auschwitz - Birkenau extermination camps.

Throughout the world, Auschwitz has become a symbol of terror, genocide, and the Holocaust. The German forces occupying Poland during the Second World War established a concentration camp, on the outskirts of the town of Oświęcim, in 1940; the Germans called the town Auschwitz and that is the name by which the camp was known. Over the next years it was expanded into three main camps: Auschwitz I, Auschwitz II-Birkenau, and Auschwitz III-Monowitz and more than 40 subcamps. The first people to be brought to Auschwitz as prisoners and murdered here were Poles. They were followed by Soviet prisoners of war, Gypsies and deportees of many other nationalities. Beginning in 1942, however, Auschwitz became the setting for the most massive murder campaign in history, when the Nazis put into operation their plan to destroy the entire Jewish population of Europe. The great majority of Jews who were deported to Auschwitz- men, women, and children - were sent immediately upon arrival to death in the gas chambers of Birkenau. When the SS realized that the end of the war was near, they attempted to remove the evidence of the atrocities committed here. They dismantled the gas chambers, crematoria, and other buildings, burned documents, and evacuated all those prisoners who could walk to the interior of Germany. Those who were not evacuated were liberated by the Red Army on January 27th, 1945.

Do not be afraid of the terribly cruel images you will come to look at. Gradually, your eyes will get used to it, your heart will loose feeling and your ears will go deaf. Gradowski

“Work sets you free”

D.Olère- surviving artist

Gas Chamber 1

Gas chambers and crematorium was in one building. Operated by the prisoners themselves

Auschwitz-Birkenau II

Birkenau entrance and sorting platform

Gates to the gas chamber- The gates of death

From December 1942 on, several dozen Polish children and their mothers were kept in this barrack as prisoners. They were deported to the camp in connection with the forced resettlement of the Poles from the Zamosc region.

Zázrivá 44, 027 05 Zázrivá, Slovakia

Finally made it to our cabin located in Zázrivá, located in Žilina Region of northern Slovakia. It was quite late when we arrived with the snow coming down so we got busy getting the place heated up. The cabin is solely heated with wood on top of a mountain.

This morning we could see better where we ended up.

We decided to head into the village to a local cheese shop I had read about.

There was not really a store that we could see so we wandered around looking for the door when a young girl came out and offered to help us. She spoke some English and took us to a where all the cheese was kept.

Then she took us where they were making the cheese and gave us a tour. 😊

Korbáčik is a type of semi-hard or medium hard string cheese. It originates from the Orava region of northern Slovakia. It is made from cheese interwoven into fine braids. The name roughly translates to "little whip" which refers to the pattern woven onto the strings.

Our cheese haul for the day

Jhanet made a cute snowman when we got back

Zázrivá 44, 027 05 Zázrivá, Slovakia

After a relaxing day yesterday by the fire we headed out to explore the trails around our cabin. It had snowed several inches throughout the night so we broke out the snowshoes and headed out.

View from our deck

Trail marker

Jhanet testing out her new snowshoes

Came across some interesting cabins boarded up for the winter.

Dolný Kubín

Christmas Day 2018

Started the day by heading to Kubinska Hola and small local Slovakian ski resort. Jhanet’s big ski day out. I am happy to report we finished the day with no injuries.

Zázrivá 44, 027 05 Zázrivá, Slovakia

Beautiful snowshoe hike today. Our last full day in Slovakia. Wonderful winter wonderland.


Prague, Czech Republic

Our last Christmas Market of the Trip. I could not have imagined a more beautiful Market. All Christmas markets are unique and special, all focus on regional foods and crafts and such is true of Prague but the setting is just a bit more magical.

Charles Bridge is a historic bridge that crosses the Vltava river in Prague, Czech Republic. Its construction started in 1357 under the auspices of King Charles IV, and finished in the beginning of the 15th century.

Click below to listen

Church of Our Lady before Týn. One of the most impressive Gothic religious buildings in Prague, it was built from the mid-14th to the early 16th centuries. At the end of the 17th century, the interior was reworked in Baroque style. The cathedral serves as an extensive gallery of Gothic, Renaissance and Early Baroque works, the most interesting of which include altar paintings by Karel Škréta and the tomb of the astronomer Tycho Brahe. The organ, dating from 1673, is the oldest in Prague.

Kürtőskalács is made from sweet, yeast dough (raised dough), of which a strip is spun and then wrapped around a truncated cone–shaped baking spit, and rolled in granulated sugar. It is roasted over charcoal while basted with melted butter, until its surface cooks to a golden-brown color. During the baking process the sugar stuck on the kürtőskalács caramelises and forms a shiny, crispy crust.

Our walk back to our accommodation

The Church of Saint Nicholas is a Baroque church in the Lesser Town of Prague.

Our accommodations for the evening. Hotel Loreta - Picturesquely set on the Loreto Square within 200 m from the Prague Castle in a historical building dating back to 1384


This morning started with an early morning run through Prague. Saw many interesting sights and even had to go through security when passing into Prague Castle grounds. It was cold and very peaceful. Running up millions of stairs helped to warm us up.

Jumping for joy!

Metropolitan Cathedral of Saints Vitus, Wenceslaus and Adalbert. This cathedral is a prominent example of Gothic architecture and is the largest and most important church in the country. Located within Prague Castle and containing the tombs of many Bohemian kings and Holy Roman Emperors, the cathedral is under the ownership of the Czech government as part of the Prague Castle complex.

Prague Castle is a castle complex in Prague, dating from the 9th century. It is the official office of the President of the Czech Republic. The castle was a seat of power for kings of Bohemia, Holy Roman emperors, and presidents of Czechoslovakia. The Bohemian Crown Jewels are kept within a hidden room inside it.

Lennon wall is a wall dedicated to the famous Beatles’ singer. The wall was never officially designated as such – instead, people started inscribing lyrics, graffiti, and peace messages on it, and its popularity soon exploded. Sadly, none of the original 1980s wall art remains, as the wall has been repainted and then recovered in new graffiti several times over the years.

Came across baby crawling giants on Kampa Island. Here were three bronze sculptures by Czech artist David Cerny, titled "Babies", three giant babies with bar codes embedded in their faces. These really freaked me out (see photo above) and I can not seem to find the reason for them??

Jhanet running up to the Charles Bridge.

Charles Bridge is a historic bridge that crosses the Vltava river in Prague.

Plague Column of the Holiest Trinity - Malostranské Square, Lesser Town

Lace Ginger Bread

The Church of Saint Nicholas is a Baroque church in the Lesser Town of Prague.

The Prague Astronomical Clock, or Prague Orloj is a medieval astronomical clock located in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic.

The clock was first installed in 1410, making it the third-oldest astronomical clock in the world and the oldest one still operating


Today we hiked through Bohemian Switzerland National Park, located in the Czech Republic on the German border. We were able to start out right from our Air B&B. The day did not prove to be the nicest weather wise but we made the best and saw some interesting sites.

Saxon Switzerland is an intensively fissured and rocky canyon landscape.

Šaunštejn Castle is a rock castle near Vysoká Lípa (Hohenleipa) in the Bohemian Switzerland in the Czech Republic. Today only a few ruins remain of the original castle. Preserved are the foundations of the wooden superstructure, several rooms that were chiselled-out of the rock and the cistern.

The castle was built by the Berkaz Dubé family from Lípa in the 14th century to protect the Old Bohemian Road (Alte Böhmerstraße), the trade route from Bohemia to Lusatia. From 1435 it belonged to the Wartenbergs who used it as a base for raids. In the 15th century it was besieged several times by the Wettinsund the Lusatian League and finally destroyed.

Decided to do a little foraging 😊


Drinking water stop

Dolak Mill - called "Dolák" by locals. It is an abandoned mill in the middle of forest and canyons of Bohemian Switzerland National Park

Our Air B&B

A friend we met along the way!

Heading back to Germany today. Along the way we stopped to checkout another rock castle in Saxon Switzerland National Park

Neurathen Castle which was first mentioned by this name in 1755, is located near the famous Bastei rocks near Rathen in Saxon Switzerland in the German Free State of Saxony. This was once the largest rock castles in the region, but today only the rooms carved out of the rock, passages, the cistern and rebates for the timber of the former wooden superstructure have survived. In the years 1982–1984 parts of the extensive castle were used to build the open-air museum

The Bastei is a rock formation towering 194 metres above the Elbe River in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains of Germany. Reaching a height of 305 metres above sea level, the jagged rocks of the Bastei were formed by water erosion over one million years ago. They are situated near Rathen, not far from Pirna southeast of the city of Dresden, and are the major landmark of the Saxon Switzerland National Park. They are also part of a climbing and hiking area that extends over the borders into the Bohemian Switzerland(Czech Republic).

Franziskanergasse 4, 87629 Füssen, Germany

Arrived in Fussen where we will be spending the next few day exploring castles and mountains around the area.


Today started out a bit lazy. Woke up late and lounged around a little before I headed out to find some breakfast ingredients. It was a lovely mix of snow and rain for most of the day so we decided to explore the town instead of the big hike we had planned.

St. Mang's Basilica and former monastery viewed from the bridge over the River Lech

Füssen is a town in Bavaria, Germany, in the district of Ostallgäu, situated 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) from the Austrian border.The town is known for its violinmaking industry, and as the closest transportation hub for the castles Neuschwansteinand & Hohenschwangau which we will be hiking to tomorrow.

The church of the Hospital of the Holy Ghost, near the bridge over the Lech, has a colorful Rococo facade

Altar, Hospital Church of the Holy Ghost, Füssen, Bavaria, Germany

Our Bavarian dinner location on New Years Eve.

Neuschwanstein Castle

Happy New Year!

Decided to spend our last day in Fussen hiking to Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein castles and learning about Ludwig II.

Hohenschwangau Castle is a 19th-century palace in southern Germany. It was the childhood residence of King Ludwig II of Bavaria and was built by his father, King Maximilian II of Bavaria. It is located in the German village of Hohenschwangau near the town of Füssen, part of the county of Ostallgäu in southwestern Bavaria, Germany, very close to the border with Austria.

Hohenschwangau Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle is a 19th-century Romanesque Revival palace on a rugged hill above the village of Hohenschwangaunear Füssen in southwest Bavaria, Germany. The palace was commissioned by Ludwig II of Bavaria as a retreat and in honour of Richard Wagner. Ludwig paid for the palace out of his personal fortune and by means of extensive borrowing, rather than Bavarian public funds.

Neuschwanstein Castle

"I want to remain an eternal mystery to myself and others"...... the young King Ludwig II once wrote in a letter to his former teacher, Ms. Sybille Meilhaus. Indeed, he has succeeded in remaining a mystery to this day. 

Excerpt of the Chronicle of Schwangau: On 12th June, the arrest of King Ludwig II was made at Neuschwanstein Castle. Schwangauer citizens and Schwangauer firefighers wanted to defend their king, but he called for calm and restraint. They brought the incapacitated King secretely to the Castle of Berg. Guards watched the king constantly as he protested violently against his extradiction to the Castle of Berg. However, for inexplicable reasons, the early evening observation was cancelled. At 6.45 p.m. the king and Dr. von Gudden left the castle for a stroll. As both had still not returned by late 8 p.m. everybody went out to search for them and their two bodies were found around 11 p.m. in Lake Starnberg close to the Castle Berg. Even today, in particular the residents of Schwangau but also many admirers and fans, feel most deeply connected with "their" king. His castles are living stone testimonies of a misanthropic dreamer and idealism. Today they are magical attractions for visitors from all over the world.

This photo is for Dawn😊

After we returned to Fussen we had some proper German cuisine (just think heavy + cheese + potato) then we heading to the river to watch a New Years event that Fussen holds every year. Dozens of swimmers take to the River Lech bearing torches.

These swimmers plunge into the river and float downstream past the towns historical center. People gather all over the Thereseinbrucke bridge and cheer.

Click on video below

Then folks stand along the banks of the River Lech to watch the fireworks bring in the New Year

Fortunately it was just a short walk back to our old town apartment so we could warm up after spending a couple of hours by the river.

Oh forgot to mentioned we found a damphnudel like dessert (not quite the same) but still tasty

Hotel U Hrabenky

Today was mostly a driving day, we stopped off in Telc, Czech Republic.

Telč is a town in southern Moravia, near Jihlava, in the Czech Republic. The town was founded in the 13th century as a royal water fort on the crossroads of busy merchant routes between Bohemia, Moravia and Austria.

Besides the monumental 17th-century Renaissance château with an English-style park (a rebuilding of original Gothic castle), the most significant sight is the town square, a unique complex of long urban plaza with well-conserved Renaissance and Baroque houses with high gables and arcades; since 1992 all of this has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

4A Russell Rd, Buckhurst Hill IG9 5QJ, UK

Made it back to the UK after a wonderful European Tour! What a fantastic way to see different countries over the Holiday season.

Checking out our travels on the travel blog. A great way to remeber all that we have seen and done.