2018 Zomervakantie day 4 – Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau Castles

Almost 15 years ago, my husband proposed to me on a walking path overlooking Neuschwanstein Castle. Today, we took our children there! We didn’t quite make the exact spot – the girls were hot and tired, and it was very crowded with a queue to get over the bridge to walk further up the mountain. However we had a very special day visiting both Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau castles.

Both are VERY popular, and being here at the height of the tourist season meant that we hit the crowds as soon as we parked. However it’s all well organised, and my husband was smart to prebook our castle tour tickets online. We still needed to actually pick up the tickets but that queue was much shorter. In fact they warn that tours often book out so if you do plan on seeing these castles, book ahead and plan plenty of time.

We had a 10.55am tour for Hohenschwangau first, and had to pick up the tickets by 9.55am at the latest in the ticket office in the small town. This went quickly so we then spent some time hanging out at the lake.

You can take a horse and carriage ride up to both castles which did look fun, but because of queues, cost and concern for the horses working in the hot sun all day, we decided to walk. To Hohenschwangau, it took us around 20 minutes, it’s quite steep but manageable. This is the “yellow” castle and is where King Ludwig lived as a child. The tour takes around a half hour and is offered in different languages – our English guide was friendly and explained things well, he’s probably done this hundreds and hundreds of times! The facts and dates are all a bit much to absorb, but as you can only visit the castles on a tour, it’s necessary to follow along – in this castle there are around 25 per group.

Next we walked up a steeper slope to Neuschwanstein, stopping for an ice cream along the way, so it took us over half an hour. It was also one of the hottest days of the year, hitting 31 degrees.

The girls enjoyed seeing the castles but were understandably quite hot and tired, and weren’t very enthusiastic when Bas wanted to walk further to the spot overlooking the castle where we were engaged back on 24 August 2003. We headed in that direction though and he surprised me with a lovely necklace and earrings.

We discovered what I think was a mountain biking path back down to the village, and this was lovely and quiet compared to the masses of tourists on the main pathway. It’s a beautiful forrest that surrounds the castles, and there are many walking paths through this national forrest. We noticed that one of the lakes had dried up significantly but the trees were still lush and green.

Though Bas had hoped for a boat trip on the lake like we did 15 years ago, we were all too tired and headed back to our lodge for a rest. We stopped at a supermarket on the way to get some dinner and then “chilled” as the girls call it. I sat on the balcony for some time in the evening and watched satellites cross the sky, some lighting across the horizon behind the mountains, and even saw one blazing shooting star.

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2018 Zomervakantie day 3 – Lichtenstein castle and the Austrian Alps

We left our apartment this morning and before heading for Austria, went to check out another nearby castle, Schloss Lichtenstein. I had actually never heard of it, but it’s lovely! In fact people may confuse it for the more famous Neuschwanstein, which we are visiting tomorrow. Arriving quite early, we bought a ticket just for the grounds. Looking back, if I ever return, I’d like to see inside this castle as well.

This was a designated travel day though, so we pile back into the car to head for Austria! We laughed at some of the place names along the way – my personal favourite was Gogglingen. Again, the girls pleasantly surprised us by being great travellers.

Bas had first done a bakery stop so we had food along the way!

Then, we entered the “Tirol” region in Austria. We noticed they were actually doing border checks in the opposite direction and there were long queues of cars. In our direction, things were clear, and Bas had done some great research to even be able to take a parrallel road to the main highway that was even quicker.

We arrived in the beautiful Austrian Alps accommodation a little early at 1pm – check in wasn’t until 2pm and they were still cleaning.So we drove for around another 20 minutes, passing another castle along the way with a long suspension bridge that I would have liked to try, but no way was one of our children doing that she said!

More amazing research by Bas, we went to a lake he knew was nearby, where the girls had a wonderful time snorkelling for a couple of hours. Bas also swam and I read a book in the shade and just took in this stunningly beautiful location.

Back to check into the lodge, which is very spacious. Popular as a ski lodge in winter, and for hikers in the summer, it’s a charming old-fashioned Alpine apartment at a reasonable price of around 120 euros a night. Look at this amazing view, where I could finish my medieval book, with castles on the mountaintops in the distance!

Bas and I enjoyed a drink on the balcony, I tried some Schnapps tasters but could only handle small sips, even with these tiny bottles – these things are 40% alcohol! We’ve found that our accommodation so far in Germany and Austria has had beer glasses in the cupboard as standard! ;). He tried a local beer, and see below for the amusement of having whole kegs in the supermarket! Isabella has taken a real interest in my DSLR camera and it’s been fun teaching her to use it, she was keen to try it out on the colourful local gardens. A short walk took us to a lovely view over the village where we are staying.

We’re here for 3 nights and it’s a lovely, peaceful place! Some noise from other tourists, but not too bad. Disappointing that the man downstairs seems to chain smoke, which drifts to our balcony, polluting this gorgeous pure mountain air! Apart from that though, this is a wonderful place to stay and looking forward to spending a few days here.

2018 Zomervakantie day 2 – Hohenzollen Castle

After day 1 mostly travelling from Den Haag, we booked two nights in Reutlingen, Germany, so that we had a day to explore.

For breakfast, just a few minutes from our apartment, we discovered bread heaven! I’m not a big bread eater but this stuff is amazing! We tested a few different options, all delicious.

We packed up some for lunch and headed for Hohenzollen Castle, around a 40 minute drive from Reutlingen.

This place is amazing!

We headed back to Reutlingen and my eldest and I went to check out the shops . Don’t you love localization of fashion?

Feeling pretty carb heavy, I made a simple vegetable stir fry for dinner.

2018 Zomervakantie day 1: Den Haag to Reutlingen

We’ve lived (back) in the Netherlands for 6 years now, and my husband (Bas) has been dreaming of a European driving holiday. For various reasons, it’s not happened yet, but this summer, we are heading to a “camping” in Italy. It’s a very popular Dutch thing to do in the summer – to go to a campground either within the Netherlands or elsewhere in Europe.

As an Australian, I’ve always found it quite a novel idea that you can just DRIVE to another country! I was a little hesitant with the distances though as we have two children who complain about car trips even on a half hour drive. Because of this we are taking it easy and breaking up the driving. Day 1 of our holiday was from Den Haag to Reutlingen in Germany.

My husband did the planning and most of the packing! He enjoys it, whereas I find it a little overwhelming, despite the fact I used to be a travel agent. I now have a Dutch driver’s licence, but only for an automatic, and his car is a manual – so he’s also doing all the driving, which he also likes anyway. With the inbuilt navigation system I don’t need to read maps anymore either, so was free to nap! The girls did too…

We left just before 7am and headed for Germany. I was awake to cross the border though it’s a non-event these days, just a sign, blink and you’ll miss it. He remembers as a child that there were border checks. Now though, you just realise that the signs change language – and you’re in Germany!

Remagen was our stretch-and-lunch stop. Bas has always been interested in stories of World War II and earlier in the week had watched (part of) Remagen story, so could share with us about the key role this location played in ending WWII.

The musuem was nicely presented, with a focus on peace instead of war.

We arrived in Reutlingen late afternoon and checked into our apartment, a great value two bedroom place that was clean, spacious and close to the city centre.

It’s a pretty city, and was a lot of fun to have no idea what to expect. We discovered lovely fountains….

…beautiful buildings….…lots of flowers….

..and a sign of a guy who most likely doesn’t go to McDonalds and is boasting about his gut I think…..

We finished up with a huge schnitzel each for dinner at a local brewery. Of course we had to taste test the beer as well. Bas was excited that he could get half liter bottles “to go”.

I’m actually writing this blog post on day 2…because on day 1, I went straight to bed after dinner at about 8.30pm and slept through until almost 7am! Well I did wake briefly with strange local noises I wasn’t used to now and then, as well as when a big storm hit, but overall topped off a nice first day on holidays with a great long rest. Onto day two….

More information:

Naar Nederland

Naar Nederland Website

When I first moved from Australia to the Netherlands back in 2002, a condition on my partner visa was that I needed to take Dutch language lessons and sit an integration exam.  In 2006, the rules changed, and you now need to study for and sit a language and integration exam BEFORE you come to the Netherlands.  !

To make this easier, there is a great website I recently discovered: https://www.naarnederland.nl/en/

Even if you are not planning on moving to the Netherlands or applying for that visa, it’s a really useful place to learn more about the Netherlands and learn basic Dutch.  You can sign up for the free elearning course and work through lessons.

I discovered this via a physical book/cd/DVD pack which I picked up at the library in The Hague.  You can buy this pack online.  However you don’t need the pack – everything is also on the website, for free.  This includes online Dutch lessons, and videos about Dutch culture.  This is the English version but there are also other languages.

1 Engels – Nederland: geografie, vervoer en wonen from Boom Uitgevers Adam on Vimeo.

Remember visa rules can change and though I regularly receive questions via this website about visas – I cannot help you – please visit this website for details on applying for visas:

https://www.government.nl

Have you taken the integration test, or do you need to?  Did you find this website useful?  Comment below or come and chat over on the Dutch Australian Facebook page!

Renee

 

 

 

 

2018 NN Den Haag Urban Trail

Last weekend, I participated for the first time in the NN Den Haag Urban Trail.  What a fantastic experience! A very unique way to explore a city.  You can choose between a 5.5km or 10km race though what I really liked is that this is not a timed running competition but more what we would call a “fun run” in Australia.  Around 4800 people took part in the 3rd edition of this event in The Hague.

Fun Run

The starters line and the event itself does have the energetic atmosphere of a running race – well at least from my only other running race experience which was the Delft Golden Tenloop last year.  You do not have to be super fit to take part in the Urban Trail though.  It is expected that you run, but as the trail takes you into and out of buildings, it’s quite acceptable to take a bit of a break and a breather.  For example, in the Golden Tenloop for the 5km race, you need to finish within 40 minutes to be considered a finisher.  The 5.5km Urban Run trail took me around an hour as I (and other runners) stopped regularly to take photos and absorb the surroundings. Therefore I’d see this event as a “fun run” – you still get a good workout, but it’s a great opportunity for people to take part who may be daunted by a usual running race.  There are also fun things to see/do along with parcours, from classical music to a royal selfie, a gorgeous garden to an 80s style aerobics “class”.

Discover the city

I’ve now lived in The Hague for 6 years and have made it my home.  It’s an amazing place, and especially as I’ve previously been the editor of TheHagueOnline website, I know quite a lot about the city.  On the Urban Trail though, I still discovered new places – both buildings which I’d never been into and back streets I wouldn’t usually take the time to explore.  The start and finish lines were in stunning locations and we were also lucky enough to have great weather.  The locations for the 5.5km trail this year were:

  • Escher in Het Paleis
  • Societeit de Ver
  • Paleistuin
  • KORZO Theater
  • Hofje van Nieuwkoop
  • Koostertuin
  • PAARD
  • Het Heilige Geesthofje
  • Pro Demos
  • Decathlon
  • Q-Park Grote Marktstraat
  • Centrale Bibliotheek Spui
  • Nieuwspoort

2018 Den Haag Urban Trail Parcours. Credit: https://www.denhaagurbantrail.nl/parcours

Family fun

The minimum age to participate is 12 years old and my girls are just about to turn 9 and 11 years old, so have a few years to wait.  However if you have teenage children, its something that would be a family fun morning out.  My friend took her 13 year old son and they both really enjoyed it.  My girls and husband were along the route though, and ran short parts of the race with me, and we shared an ice cream at the end!

Official photos and aftermovie

https://player.vimeo.com/video/277287814

Official 2018 photos are on the NN Den Haag Urban Trail Facebook Page.

Other Urban Trails in the Netherlands

There are many other urban trails in the Netherlands:

At time of writing, there are (annual) urban trails in:

  • Den Haag
  • Den Bosch
  • Rotterdam
  • Amsterdam
  • Groningen
  • Haarlem
  • Arnhem
  • Zwolle
  • Breda
  • Eindhoven
  • Maastricht
  • Leeuwarden
  • Utrecht

There are also urban trails in Belgium and Germany. For more information on these, visit:

https://www.urbantrailseries.nl

For specific information on the Den Haag Urban Trail visit:

https://www.denhaagurbantrail.nl

I’ll be doing it again in Den Haag next year, and possibly exploring other city.  Have you taken part in an urban trail, or would you like to?  Comment below or on the Dutch Australian Facebook page.

My own photos and videos are here: https://photos.app.goo.gl/jePpwm1iTNFMuPMY9

Renee