Springtime in Garmish-Partenkirchen

frescoed storefront in Garmisch

Garmisch-Partenkirchen in snuggled in the Alpine Region of Bavaria.  It was a delight to wander past the traditional frescoes on homes and storefronts, called “Lüftlmalereien,”.

The paintings date back to the 18th century when wealthy merchants, farmers and craftsmen showed their wealth and status with colourful frescoes on the façade of their houses. The paintings often incorporated existing architectural structures, such as windows or doors, or took the form of medallions or scenes from the Bible, fairy tales or folk festivals.

The city is the perfect base to explore the nearby palaces and castles. With so much to see Garmisch is a forever destination that I will return to

. another beautiful building

Rathskeller Schnitzel House

You can savour a taste of Bavaria right here on Vancouver Island. The family friendly tavern is located downtown Victoria, on Quadra and View.

Lively music met us at the door when we entered. Small etchings from around Germany lined the walls. Shelves were stacked with beer steins and other local crafts from around the country. Every sight and sound in the German tavern reminded me of our amazing trip to Deutschland

Our server, dressed in a brightly colored dirndl, guided us to our cozy booth. The time worn oak tables reflected the restaurant’s popularity amongst the locals and tourists. Little has changed since the restaurant opened for business 40 years ago.

My mouth was already watering for the potato pancakes that I enjoyed in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, a ski resort town an hour out of Munich.

After much deliberation, I ordered a Jägerschnitzel, topped with onions, bacon, mushrooms sautéed in a red wine sauce. With each mouthful, delightful memories from our exciting journey around Germany trickled back.

My husband and I spent a lovely hour planning our next trip to Bavaria over a tasty meal. The potato pancakes, that I spent a week anticipating, were as good as the reviews suggested. The visit to Rathskeller was my birthday celebration, and our perfect meal ended with a free schnapps.

Our next visit will be on a Friday or a Saturday night when the accordion entertainer plays traditional folk music. I can’t wait for the next family celebration

Idyllic Ischia’s Oasis of Wellness

The thermal waters on the Isle of Ischia have been an attraction since the Romans ruled the world. This volcanic origins of this island, located on the Bay of Naples, have left behind the richest hot springs in Europe.

We heard that the neighbouring Isle of Capri was crowded, and selected a laid back day tour to the Isle of Ischia. The tour included a four hour visit to Parco Thermal Tropical located in the small village of Sant’Angelo d’Ischia

Our hydrofoil left Sorrento at 9:30am and we enjoyed a view of the magnificent Castello Aragonese as we pulled into Porto Ischia. Our coach followed the coastal road into the small fishing village of Sant’ Angelo.

Parco Thermal Tropical spa park is spread out over 30,000 square feet. A number of brightly colored tropical flowers, palm trees, and shades trees, create a peaceful environment that invite guests to linger all day. The complex includes change rooms, a restaurant, and a spa.

We paid our half-day entrance fee $18 Euros which allowed me the use of ten thermal pools, a whirlpool, Kneipp Pool, Sauna, Roman Grotto, Sunbeds and Sunshades. For a fee, guests would enjoy a variety of health treatments: mud baths, Ayurvedic Massages, hot lava stone massage and so much more.

We wandered from pool section to pool section, savouring the scenery. The ever-silent roman statues that guarded each entrance filled me with a sense of royalty. Shrouded in my white towel, I felt like a roman ruler, pampered, entitled, and fully relaxed.

tranquil lava pool in Garachico

Tranquility in Tenerife

The seaside town of Garachico, on Tenerife’s northwest tip of the island, is my favourite place to chill out when we visit Tenerife. The tranquil atmosphere of this small harbour town is a friendly change from the busy streets of the sun soaked Playa de las Americas on the south side of this tropical island.

As we wandered the ancient streets in the warm afternoon sun, all the way down to the lava pools by the harbour, we felt transported back in time. The once premiere port town, was devastated by a sudden volcanic eruption back in 1706. In an instant, the wealthy town was completely covered in ash.

Years later, this enterprising isolated city turned their worst nightmare into a unique place to relax in the island sun. All year long, locals lay by the unique rock formations and watch the fish swim by in the crystal clear harbour waters.

As I turned here and there, between the rocky pools, I noticed that some formations have been worn down by the wind and rain into inviting stool sized chairs. Tucked into a private corner, I noticed a man lost in the pages of a book. The dark stoned harbour escape, hilly in places, allowed plenty of personal space and people stopped to gaze out at the ocean to watch small boats drift by.

The fresh sea air was blessedly silent as I stood in the sun and watched the seagulls circling above, dash down to snap up food tossed into the harbour. It was the perfect place to refuel my energy after several full day excursions on the other side of the island

On the half empty streets, visitors mingled easily with friendly locals, smiles light up their faces. Pace was slow, everyone was on island time. This authentic northern gem, an hours drive from the Playa de las Americas, is often overlooked by coach tours headed for the more famous Puerto de la Cruz.

If you’re looking for a peaceful escape, head straight to Garachico for an authentic Canary Island meal.

War Cemeteries at Cassino

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On our day trip from Sorrento, in Southern Italy, we checked out Cassino War Cemeteries.  The Cemetery is the second largest Second World War Two cemetery in Italy.  More than 4,200 Commonwealth graves are located here, of which 200 are unknown, and 855 are Canadian. 

We wandered silently through the massive graveyard, snapping photo after photo of headstones of Canadian soldiers, saddened that so many had died before their 25th birthday.

Before our tour group moved on to Abbey of Montecassino we grabbed a photo of the Cassino Memorial with the names of 192 Canadians inscribed on the 15-foot high slabs of green marble.  It was an impressive monument to witness, I took a moment to reflect on how the Battle of Monte Cassino had changed history, before boarding the tour bus.

The Battle of Monte Cassino is considered one of the most important battles of World War Two.  In next week’s blog I’ll talk about the history of Abbey of Montecassino

Goreme Open Air Museum

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We enjoyed a half-day tour of Goreme Open Air Museum; our private tour also included entrance fees and entrance to one the best churches in this stone complex, Dark Church.  We toured this enormously popular sight after three pm, long after the many coach tours had departed.

This unique museum has been a member of the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1984 and is the most visited sight in the region.  A tour of this sight is the best way to learn about the history of this area.

Standing at the entrance to the complex our guide explained that during the 4th century the Cappadocia region became known as the “Land of the Three Saints”, because these three remarkable priests, known collectively as The Cappadocians, contributed a great deal to the Christian doctrine and to the Eastern Orthodox, in particular.

There are over 10 churches in this open air museum.  If you don’t book a tour the best way to explore each cave church is to follow the well marked pathways, counter clockwise.  Our guide pointed our the sign posts, explaining that each church has been given a modern Turkish name, assigned by the local village.

The cave’s interiors are painted with beautiful frescoes, the Byzantine murals are from the 900-1200AD.  Many are still in remarkable condition, but nearly all the eyes in the painted figures have gouged out by superstitious locals afraid of the Evil Eye.  Only the frescoes in the Dark Church are unmarked; the walls were protected by pigeon markings.

If you are short on time, remember, the best churches to visit in the complex are the Buckle Church (Tokali Kilise in Turkish), the Apple Church (Elmali Kilise), and the Dark Church (Karanlik Kilise).

Our private tour included a guided tour of the Dark Church; so named for the little light that penetrates the interior.  The church was used a pigeon house back in the 1950’s and it took nearly 14 years to scrape off the pigeon poop and restore the beautiful frescoes.  The murals are now considered the best-preserved frescoes in Cappadocia.  Above, I have uploaded several photos we took of the interior of the Dark Church.



Checking out Kaymalki Underground City


There are 36 underground cities in the Cappadocia region.  The underground city in Derinkuyu are the deepest, and Kaymakli Underground City is known to be the largest.

Kaymakli Underground City was first opened to tourists in 1964.  It consists of eight floors below ground, but only four levels are open to the public.  We paid an entrance fee of 10 Turkish Lira, and hired a guide for 35 Turkish Lira more, per adult. 

Our guide, Shakri, was a retired school teacher and spoke excellent English.  In his quiet, respectful, tone he explained that in the 1960’s, his family had lived in a cave house near the underground city.  The government had suddenly moved them to alternative accommodation so that the city could be developed for tourism.  I could only imagine what he must be feeling as he guided our group through the tunnel on that cool May morning.

Archaeologists believe that the upper layers were first carved out by the Hittites in about 2000BC.

Our guide’s soft voice echoed as he explained that Kaymakli Underground City is the most complex below ground city in the region.  He explained that, over the years, they have found everything from living space, stables, communal kitchens, to a church and graveyard as well.

We moved carefully through the chilly tunnels.  Our guide stopped to talk, only in rooms where we our small group could stand and listen in semi comfort.  His torch lite the dark corners of many storage rooms.

Shakri explained that even though the whole city has not been completely opened, many are certain that Kaymakli is one of the largest underground settlements in the Cappadocia region.

Archaeologists believe that the large number of storage areas, and earth ware jars support the belief that as many as 3500 residents, at one time, sought safety in this ancient cave cities.



Kelebek Cave Hotel


The view from the terrace at Kelebek Cave Hotel is one more reason to extend your stay in Goreme.   

On our first night, we discovered the most delightful small patio for two.  Completely relaxed, we sat with a glass of wine, and watched the sun set. 

 Located in the heart of the historic village of Goreme, the tops of the fairy chimney rooms at Kelebek Cave Hotel once served at simple chapels for local hermits.

 Today, this authentic cave hotel, offers 36 cave or fairy chimney rooms.  We paid 55 Euros for a standard room, that included a private bath. 

 Guests can also a meal at the restaurant, drinks on the bar, a dip in the pool, and a visit to the traditional Hammam.  I paid a reasonable 30 Euros for a soap massage after our memorable hot air balloon ride over the Cappadocia valley.

 My favorite moment was relaxing over breakfast on huge fluffy, Turkish pillows on the sunny dinning room patio.

 Mr. Ali Yavuz the genial owner manager, who speaks excellent English, also runs an on-site tour company called Turkish Heritage Travel. 

 The company offers two different full day tours.  After a included buffet breakfast, the tours depart from the hotel at 9:30am, and return at 17:00.  Lunch is included and their is a discount on the tour price when paying cash. 

 The tour company offered us half price on airport transfers when we pre-booked both of their tours. 


The Magic of Cappadocia

Imagination ValleyOur twenty fifth anniversary was special, and I wanted to spend it somewhere unforgettable.  Once I started my research, I quickly realized that the Cappadocia region in Turkey is like nowhere else in the world!

The region can best be described as an outdoor sculpture park carved by Mother Nature, and the fairy chimneys spread out around the area, illustrate her sense of humour.

Through the ages, the Hittites, Persians, Alexander the Great, Rome, The Byzantine and Ottoman Empires and Turkey have all governed the region in Central Anatolia.

Visitors can now enjoy a great nights sleep in a cave hotel; during the day they can wander through unique areas like Imagination Valley where large boulders have been eroded by nature into animal shapes.

Beneath these ancient rock formations are masses of sprawling tunnels were locals sought refuges to escape attackers.  The region is known to have over a hundred underground cities but only a few are open to the public.  Derinkuyu and Kaymakli are the most popular and can be viewed with most group tours.  Later in the month, I will blog about Kaymakli Underground City in the detail.

Goreme Open Air Museum is only fifteen minutes from the village of Goreme.  The sights best captures the history of the place in a rock hewn multi-storey complex.  Each section contains a church with the most beautiful frescoes this area has on offer.  The entrance fee is only 15 Turkish Lira, per adults, there are multiple language signs on display.

The Open Air Museum is just one mile from our hotel, Kelebek Cave Hotel.  It offers cave and fairy rooms, a restaurant and bar, a pool, laundry service, and a traditional Turkish Place.  The boutique hotel runs a separate excursion company, called Heritage Tours, from the same premises.

The region is known to be the best place, in the world, to enjoy a hot air balloon ride.  There are numerous companies to choose from.  Our early air balloon tour Kapadokya Balloons was thrilling and safe.  In the evening, don’t miss the Whirlish Dervish Ceramony.
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