It’s after the New Year and after a very busy Holiday season I thought I should finish my post on our fall travels. Last I left off, we were in Bavaria and had just enjoyed the Neuschwanstein Castle. With our car and the kids enjoying riding in the back, we decided to head to Austria. We thought it would be good to reminisce about our life that was in the mountains and to be able to see how different the Alps are from the Himalayas. I think we were all happy to take in the views of the mountains again. Austria has some great roads and I will tell you, everywhere we went it was a much smoother ride than in Nepal.
We opted to go to a small village town called Fontanella and stayed overnight in an AirBnB. It ended up being a beautiful area. The one thing we did not plan on was the Austrian National holiday. We arrived and thought we would walk into town and get some food to cook dinner. Little did we know EVERYTHING was closed since it was a holiday. So, we asked our hosts if we could have a kilo of potatoes and tried to be creative. We had some food we traveled with, and I think our kids will say that this was one of our favorite dinners. We made potatoes and onions and then grilled up some apples with butter and had Nutella with them. It was creative and most of all filled our bellies for the night. I was very thankful for the reminder that our best memories are made when things don’t go as planned.
After a fun night and a good sleep, we ended up heading through Switzerland and spent the night in Colmar, France. We looked at staying in Switzerland, but we realized how expensive it was and opted for a walking tour of Zurich and staying overnight in France. While we were able to see all the beauty of the mountains and drive on some amazing roads (ok, this is something that I have a great appreciation for now!) we ended up in Zurich. When we arrived in Zurich it was raining. We were able to meet the walking tour guide and followed her around slipping and sliding through the city. Although the weather wasn’t great, we enjoyed seeing the sights and I was glad we made a stop there. Did you know the Romans had an outpost in Zurich?? The city has been established for a long time and we were able to see a stone that was placed by the Romans. Also, we saw the Technical University in Zurich where Albert Einstein, Wernher von Braun and a long list of star studded genius studied there. I know there is so much more to see in Zurich, but I am so glad that we had a quick introduction to the city (but not to the 9 Franc coffees!).
We had a short but sweet tour in Zurich and honestly, we just wanted to head to Colmar, France with all the bad weather. This quaint town in France has beautiful half timbered homes with a small river running through it. If you have ever seen Beauty and the Beast, this is where it should have taken place, it’s like it came right out of the story. I would have embarrassed my kids, but it would have been fun to sing and skip as I walked through he town and had a couple of books in the crook of my arm. Belle would have been proud. It is also famously the hometown of the Statue of Liberty sculptor. We loved walking around this quaint little city and are so thankful to have seen the Alsace region.
Hello beautiful houses and flower boxes. My sweet husband also decided that no trip to France is complete without some escargot. He enjoyed some for dinner and we *almost* got our daughter to try one. It got as far as her mouth, that was about it.
After a charming time in Colmar we decided to head back north towards Belgium. I saw that we were close to Verdun, so we stopped by and spent the day at the Verdun memorial and surrounding grounds. During World War I Verdun was one of the longest and largest battles of WWI. It was a devastating and tragic loss of life. As we visited the memorial and drove around the grounds, the land still bears the scars that show where the months and months of shelling and fighting occurred. We saw hills that were formed from the fighting that now have grass and trees and cover land that was barren. There was a whole village that was reduced to rubble. Today, in its place a small chapel was built as a memorial to remember all who died and what was lost. Although my kids may not understand what they saw that day, I hope in time they can understand that real lives and real people lost their lives and lived in terror for months. I hope their history lessons will have more weight after seeing where these tragedies occurred. War is not pretty and it feels like solemn ground walking around there.
After the stop in Verdun, we headed through the French speaking part of Belgium. We spent the night in Belgium and then the next day we wanted to head towards the highest point in the Netherlands, where 3 countries meet. While driving through cute villages, and trying to find a great pastry shop, I really had to dig into the recesses of my brain to grab the little French that I had learned to communicate. Thankfully it was sufficient. While driving back, we found the Henri Chapelle American Cemetery and Memorial. It is American ground and we pulled off the road to see the place. It is the burial ground for many Americans who died during WWII. Again, as we were there, it felt like sacred ground. There, at the memorial, was a tangible sense of all the people who fought for freedom, and honestly the thanks that many people still have in this region towards the Allied liberation.
Even though we only had one week, we were able to see so much! The last place we stopped was the 3 country border, where Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands meet. It is also the highest point in the Netherlands at 322 meters tall. We are so thankful for all the experiences that our kids (and ourselves!) have been able to see and experience. The world is such a huge, complex and amazing place, I am so thankful I am able to go out and explore it.
Until our next adventures!