Exploring & Escapades

bits & pieces of my travels

Partnachklamm

 

Garmisch-Partenkirchen, our homebase in Bavaria. The type of place you think you know from photos, only to struggle to grasp the reality of it all when you’re actually there. 

We spent the late afternoon hiking the gorge just before sunset. It felt almost Amazonian at times, surrounded by the cliffs and engulfed by the mist, the roar of the water. The ice-blue of the water. 

The colors are all real. 

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Lermoos

Lermoos, the cutest little Austrian ski village, nestled in the Alps, just south of the border with Germany. We found ourselves here by accident after our morning hike, when the original place we had scouted for lunch in a different town was closed. We drove in search of another place until we ended up here, and then we walked  in search of food until we found a sidewalk pub serving traditional Tirolese cuisine. So for me, that meant potatoes. Lots of delicious potatoes. 

The town was quiet for us, as it was the off-season for skiing, but I imagine it must be quite lively in the deep winter. Lively and cozy. Covered in snow. 

Austrian Alps

Autumn in Austria, just a short drive from where we were staying in Bavarian Germany. We began our day here, in the Alps, at Ehrenberg Castle and highline179, the world’s longest Tibet-style footbridge, which is also where I learned that I physically shake and lose my ability to breathe properly when suspended over nothingness on a swaying suspension bridge. But I did it!

It was worth it for the beautiful views. Every direction. Snowcovered mountaintops, sprawling valleys, a rainbow of foliage. A beautiful day for a late morning hike. 

Füssen

 

Bavaria, Cinderella-land, literally.

On our first full day in beautiful Germany, we drove from our hotel near the airport in Nuremberg, south to Neuschwanstein Castle, allegedly Walt Disney’s real-life inspiration for the design of Disneyland’s Cinderella’s Castle.

And it was a complete fairytale. Riding in a horse-drawn carriage into the mountains, the rainbow of architecture, the rainbow of foliage. A blue-green lake at the foot of a snow-covered mountain, friendly ducks circling the gingerbread houses.

The perfect place to pretend to be a princess for an afternoon.

Caernarfon

 

Caernarfon, a city on the water with a castle, a dragon, and a drawbridge. Quiet and colorful, like something out of a fairytale book. 

We stayed two nights in a small B&B attached to a pub within the old castle walls. It was a quick, slightly last-minute weekend getaway for us from Cambridge, but we’ve both always wanted to visit Snowdonia National Park in Wales, and the timing happened to finally work. With little time to plan, we chose Caernarfon as our base, and we were completely charmed by it – such a lovely place to stay. And the castle! It just happens to be where HRH Prince Charles was invested as Prince of Wales in 1969. We loved exploring it.

In the morning, we ran along the water into the haze without a destination, past cows and boats and camper vans. Both mornings. Those were my favorite moments, the ones where the entire town was asleep and the clouds touched the water. Everything was alive with a story – air, grass, stones, mist. So many details uncaptured on my camera, captured in my memory forever. 

Snowdonia

Spent the weekend in a fairytale land, chasing fairies through the grass, searching for dragons in the mountains. Wales was a green, grey fantasy, the kind of place that calls you outside, in the rain.

First, Tŷ Hyll, the Ugly House, a place with an unknown history. Though, rumor has it, it may have been constructed under an old Welsh Law, which stated that if you could build a house from scratch and have smoke coming through the chimney within 24 hours, you could own the house and work the land within an axe-throw of the property. Others reckon it was built by thieves, who were keen to take advantage of the location deep in the forest. History aside, the present day house is charming, exactly the sort of place you imagine yourself stumbling into for a hot meal after you’ve spent the day travelling from the Shire or King’s Landing. We sat by the fire for a traditional Welsh afternoon tea, complete with Welsh cakes and barabrith. 

When we left the house, it was raining, but we were intrigued by a small trail behind it and it’s potential to lead to nearby waterfalls. So we set off in the rain, improperly dressed for the mud that lay ahead. I just remember how green it all was. We wandered along the river, through a field of sheep and white horses, which I was convinced were secret unicorns. The rain didn’t even matter (though I did nearly ruin my boots in the quicksand/mud).

Eventually, we made it to Swallow Falls, a secret spot concealed in the trees across from the main viewing platform. They were loud and large, but we weren’t able to get a real sense of just how loud and large they were until nearly an hour later when we had walked back to our car and drove a mile down the road to the tourist viewing spot – that was an incredible view, though it was much more crowded there. We were happy to have done both the walk and platform; both had something to offer. 

Then, from the falls, it was only a short journey down the road to the little town of Betws-y-coed, one of two villages built in the heart of actual Snowdonia National Park. We parked our car to wander for a bit, but didn’t stay too long. It was cute, very photogenic, and full of very narrow (and very crowded streets). We did at least stop at a little gift shop in the center to buy a traditional Welsh wooden “love spoon” to bring home.

It took about an hour after that to drive from Betws-y-coes in the east back across Snowdonia to Caernarfon in the west. Miles of grass, stone, water, goats, fog. Nothing. Mountains. We couldn’t go the entire way without stopping; it was too beautiful not to stop. Someday, we’ll come back and hike Mount Snowdon. For now, I’m happy to have had this taste. 

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