Category Archives: Germany

River Cruise–A week aboard the AMACerto

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This week we are spending time aboard the AMA Waterways Certo, a real beauty.  One of the new long boats, this ship is state of the art and sets sail with a quaint 162 guests.  We are sailing from Vilshofen, Germany to Budapest, Hungary.  Along the way we will be stopping in Passau, Melk, Linz, Vienna, Durnstein and Krems.  Just a few beauties to give us a real taste of the romantic Danube. And did I mention that this is a Wine Cruise?  How great is that!

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Our week started off with a real Oktoberfest night of Beer, Bretzeln (Pretzels), Shuplatters Lederhosen slapping dancing, a history of the local nektar – Pilsner Beer, along with the history of the Dirndel, the traditional dress of the local women here in Bavaria.  Of course we had one quiz, what type of beer is the type of the area here in Vilshofen that varies from its neighboring Munchen.  The prize – what else, and extra beer!  Who do you think won – me of course…I guess I’m a little bit of a ringer – German girl who loves beer!

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We spent the night in the quaint mideaval town of Vilshofen, docked right in the town’s center.  Here are a few photos of the town’s main road from the left and right.  The shops line the cobblestone street offering wares, services and gastronomical delights.  To the left you’ll find the tall church steeple that rings through the day and night.  To the right, the city wall tower with it’s traditional big wooden door reminiscent of centuries past.

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As I write this, we bid adieu to this quaint little jewel along the Danube.  My home for the past two days.  I’m filled with excitement about all the various activities that await me this week – a day trip to Czesky Krumluv in the Czech Republic, a hidden walking tour of all the hidden gems in Vienna, Apricot and Sweets tasting in Linz, many bike tours through the countryside and capping it all off with my most anticipated event – an authentic Goulash Cooking Class in the Sofietel Hotel in Budapest, Hungary – did I tell you that has been my favorite soup in all of the 43 years I’ve been traveling to Europe!

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So we set sail along this romantic and beautiful river, amongst the changed colors and fallen leaves.  Next stop – The Baroque city of Passau, Germany.  Our final German stop on our voyage before entering Austria.  This jewel of a ship will be my home for the next week – and a luxurious one at that.  The German Folk music is playing in the lounge, and we are enjoying complimentary glasses of Bitburger Pilsner and Wurstchen with traditional German Potato Salad and sandwiches as our Frustoffen – basicially a mid morning breakfast – cause we didn’t eat enough at breakfast an hour earlier – only on a cruise!

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We are calling this great vessel home this week and are looking forward to learning about the vineyards along the way – it is a wine cruise after all, and much more!

To learn more about AMA Waterways, or river cruising in general, be sure to contact us on our website – Elite Travel Planners.


Triberg Weihnachtszauber – Christmas Magic in the Black Forest

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Tucked away in the southern Black Forest of Germany is the quaint town of Triberg.  Normally known as the center for cuckoo clocks, this quiet town springs to life each year from Christmas until December 30th each year.  The Triberg Weihnachtszauber – or Christmas Magic, came to life as the brainchild of business men Thomas Weisser and Rainer Huber.  What began with 100,000 lights in 2004 and a few 40,000 guests has grown into a huge festival of 800,000 lights attracting over 50,000 thousand each year.

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The Triberg Weihnachtszauber features several musical acts from Europe and the United States to entertain those who venture here to take in the illuminations.  Along with several singers and variety acts, you will not want to miss the fire show at the waterfalls which helps bring to life this dark nature preserve at night.

One of the highlight attractions on any given day in Triberg is the famous Triberg Waterfall.  The waterfall consists of a series of waterfalls dropping 496 feet and is the most accessible waterfall of its size in Germany.  Just a short walk from the parking lot or center of town you will find yourself on a bridge right at the base of the massive falls.  The Weihnachtszauber takes full advantage of this breathtaking backdrop.  The falls are illuminated in several colors for the fire show as entertainers enthrall guests with feats of music played with fire and a short fireworks show above the falls.  You will not want to miss this event as it is absolutely breathtaking.

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As you make your way through the light festival, you will encounter several Christmas Market style huts selling Wurst, Gluhwein, hot chocolate, and crepes in addition to souvenirs and even a winter photography studio.  While not a traditional Christmas Market, when you take into account all the shops of Triberg, there is plenty to keep everyone happy.  I know the 800,000 lights kept me mesmerized through a fun and festive evening.

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The Triberg Weihnachtszauber is 9,50 Euros for adults and 8 Euros for children 9+.  Overall the experience is a great time for the whole family.  Triberg is easily accessible by car and train.  Complimentary shuttles bring train guests from the station to the top near the entrance every 15 minutes.

Escaping for the Holidays

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The holidays are fast approaching.  I’m always amazed at how time seems to fly by faster the wiser I get with each year.  The nights begin to cool down everywhere.  Twinkling lights give every room a warm glow from their strung garland draped around the house.  The air has the sweet smell of fresh cookies from the oven mixed with the earthy pine needle scent from the Christmas tree.

Along with the warmth that the holidays bestow upon each of us, we also have that crazed feeling each day as the end of the year approaches.  Huge family meals are to be made, presents need to be shopped for and wrapped.  The stores are busting at the seams, there isn’t a sane driver to be found in the parking lots, nor a decent spot.  It is that time of year again, the holidays are upon us.

Christmas was always my favorite growing up.  Even though we had the hustle and bustle of every holiday with our rather large family, we would always head for the mountains of Lake Tahoe around the 27th for a week of skiing.  We would ring in the New Year with friends, fresh powder and a great feeling of being away.  While I do enjoy my home around the holidays, I also love escaping to spend the holidays somewhere where I don’t have to cook, clean and I can just enjoy the company of my friends and family.

This year we decided to pack the bags and give each other the gift of travel.  We want to spend time in the Christmas markets in Germany, have a piece of real Dresdner Stolen, and enjoy the warmth and charm of a foreign land.  I have to admit, I’m no stranger to spending this glorious time away. And since we do not travel every holiday, when we do – those memories burn even brighter for me.  Here are my top five holiday escapes I’ve enjoyed over the years.

1) New Year’s in Vienna, Austria – we loved spending the week in Vienna.  This city is so rich in culture and history.  We loved taking in the sights, palaces and markets, enjoyed a glass of Gluhwein at a street stand, or even just warming up at the Cafe Mozart while enjoying a piece of Sachertorte and hot chocolate.  We took in several of the many traditional classical concerts in halls that were older than we could fathom.  We celebrated a milestone birthday by dinning at the Rote Bar in the famous Hotel Sacher, and finished our trip by ringing in the New Year at one of Vienna’s famous gala balls.  This is a special trip – we enjoyed it on the Millennium.  Ein glückliches neues Jahr!

2.) Hawaii for Christmas – Nothing is like the lush tropical islands of Hawaii for Christmas.  You will see the traditional decorations of Christmas, but with a definite Hawaiian twist.  Experience something new – we spent the day at the beach enjoying all the tropical richness that the Hawaiian islands have to offer before dining on Abalone and spending quality time with family.  Or take in a luau with a roast pig instead of the traditional turkey of this holiday.  Mele Kalikimaka!

3.) Skiing in Kitzbühel, Austria – I grew up skiing and nothing was better than enjoying a week in Kitzbühel, the resort known for its famous tough downhill run – the Hahnenkahm.  We skied each day, went ice skating, and enjoyed a horse drawn sleigh ride.  We enjoyed a five star meal on Christmas and then celebrated the New Year with guests from all over at a private party.  The air was crisp, the slopes were a challenge, and we enjoyed all that this quaint Austrian village had to offer.  Fröhliche Weihnachten!

4.) Orlando, Florida – My first Christmas in Florida was spent at Walt Disney World, I mean who better to spend Christmas with than Mickey Mouse and friends?  The parks in the Orlando area really do the holidays right.  You haven not been to this area until you have seen it decorated for the holidays!  My favorite thing is being at Epcot and listening to the story about Santa Claus for each country – he’s different in each one as are the traditions.  New Year’s is a ton of fun at Universal Theme Parks – we personally love Islands of Adventure for the Fireworks display.  Enjoy a special meal at one of the many hotel restaurants – many have a special New Year’s reservation only menu and party.  But it’s City Walk that really comes alive this great night.

5.) Caribbean Cruise – Spend your holidays – especially New Year’s Eve at sea.  Even better – cruise with a small group of friends or family.  There’s something for everyone to make them happy.  The ship is decked in all it’s glory and the nightlife is filled with shows, lounges of all types, discos and tons of extra fun activities.  We’ve cruised the Caribbean and enjoyed the holidays on island time with friends and guests from all over the world at sea.  No one does New Year’s like a cruise ship – best of all, no one has to drive (except the Captain)!

So no matter where you choose to spend the holidays this year, maybe think of traveling somewhere you haven’t been before.  We all need that little escape from the craziness, and who’s to say we shouldn’t indulge a little.  Give the gift of travel – it’s one that you are sure to enjoy and remember for years after!

It’s never too late to plan an Escape.  Need help coming up with the perfect place or want to hear more about one of our Holiday Escapes, click here!