404 Family Travel

Herrenchiemsee: Ludwig’s Versailles

I had a slight obsession with King Ludwig II of Germany when I was in high school. And even with this obsession, I had never visited any of his castles. So, when we headed down to Prien am Chiemsee for a month of intensive language learning (specifically German) and I discovered that the nearby castle was one of his, we went.

Herrenchiemsee

Bavaria’s Versailles

For me, the main point of interest with Herrenchiemsee is that it’s a replica of Versailles in France. The major differences being that’s it’s even more ornate than Versailles. For those that have only been to Versailles (I haven’t been there, so I don’t know) they’ll probably think that’s impossible. Well, the news for them is that it is actually an incomplete, more ornate Versailles. Ludwig II died before construction finished.
Another thing that surprised me about this is that it was not built to compete with the original. Instead it is a tribute to France’s King Louis XIV, the Sun King. And that is equally crazy and cool.

Getting to the Herrenchiemsee Palace

Ferry to Herrenchiemsee

The Palace is on an island in the middle of the lake. Herreninsel. There are several cities along the Chiemsee that offer transportation to both Herreninsel and Fraueninsel (Men’s Island and Women’s Island.)

We were there in the winter and the only comfortable way to get to the island was via a short 15 minute ferry ride. The boat was almost empty, which made it easy for us to roll our stroller on board.

From the ferry we walked directly to the palace to buy our tickets and waited the next available tour in English.

Off-season at the Herrenchiemsee Palace

Herrenchiemsee during low-season

Here’s the thing with off-season, specifically wintry destinations in Europe. Specifically castles. Specifically Herrenchiemsee (and Salzburg, which I will write about later this month.)

Off-season travel is great because there are practically no crowds so it feels like you have the place to yourself. One of the big negatives of touristy places are the crowds. Go off-season, though, and you get the benefit of visiting a touristy place without suffocating.

Off-season travel sucks because there are practically no season-dependent decorative items on display. Especially outside. Prien, Chiemsee, and the surroundings are beautiful in the winter – don’t get me wrong. The snow-capped mountains of the alps and the very stereotypical quaint German village makes visiting this area of the world in the winter a good thing. However, the big draw to Herrenchiemsee is the comparisons to Versailles. Part of the appeal of Versailles is its gardens. Obviously, the gardens at Herrenchiemsee are not in bloom in the winter. Also, the fountains? They are turned off and covered to protect them from the weather.

Once inside, we had more of the pros and cons of the off-season travel. Our English-speaking tour group was small – yay!. Some of the rooms were undergoing refurbishment and were missing some items – boo!

 Our impressions of Herrenchiemsee

Still, with all the negatives of being there without getting to see the gardens in bloom and the full-picture of the interior it was spectacular. I’ve never been to Versailles, nor have I had much interest in it. But seeing Herrenchiemsee actually made me want to see the original.

My three-month old must have loved it because he refused his stroller and preferred to look around. I’m betting he was hoping we were leaving our 600 sq. foot apartment and trading up for serious royal treatment.

My favorite part of the tour was the visit to the Great Hall of Mirrors. I’m familiar with the idea of the room because of the popularity of Versailles version. As I mentioned earlier, Herrenchiemsee is even MORE ornate so this room is even more spectacular than the original. Whereas Versailles has paintings, Herrenchiemsee has 3-d artwork. Also the windows are slightly larger meaning the room is bigger.

Though we only went to Herreninsel to see the palace, there are other activities for people to do on the island. There are paths within the woods, a monastery, and a King Ludwig II museum. For us, though, we wanted to escape the cold and head to the indoor pool on the other side of the lake.

Lake Chiemsee

Thinking about going?

  • At only 60 km from Munich it is easy to get to the island by taking a train from the city’s main train station directly to Prien. From Prien’s train station it’s a nice walk (perhaps 30 minutes),  or you can take advantage of a small shuttle-train that runs in the summer. Once you get to the dock, just hop on a ferry over to the island.
  • We didn’t take the shuttle-train, but everything else we did while there was stroller friendly. The palace doesn’t have elevators, so we had to carry the stroller up the stairs. They also have strollers and baby carriers for rent at the palace.
  • There are several ticket options available, and a few English-language tours throughout the day. The tour is the only way to see the interior of the palace, and you can only enter at the time-stamped on the ticket. The other sites can be seen at a more leisurely pace.
  • There is a small cafe serving select items within the palace. I didn’t feel it was overpriced. There are also several restaurants on the mainland near where the ferry docks, and on the walk between there and the train station.
  • Photos are not allowed within the palace.

Who should visit?

I think this is a good side trip for anyone staying in Southern Bavaria or looking for a stop on a journey between Salzburg, Austria and Munich. Especially if you have an interest in Ludwig’s castles (or castles in general). I would also recommend it to people who are visiting Germany and don’t want to trek to France to see Versailles, or people who have seen Versailles and want to figure out for themselves how this one compares.

This is the biggest attraction within the Prien vicinity and can take from 2-4 hours to the whole day depending on how casually you visit the island.

Herrenchiemsee

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A to Zs of Family Travel and a recap

A to Z

In April 2014 I participated in the A-Z Challenge. Every day (except Sundays), I wrote a post on planning tips or memory keeping ideas.

I’ve compiled those here.

A-to-Z Reflection [2014]

Recap of my A-Z Challenge Experience for 2014

Before I get to that, I want to write a recap of the experience.

On the suggestion from DJ at Dream Euro Trip, I signed up for this challenge the weekend before it started. I was a little nervous about it. Writing 26 posts in 1 month when I probably only wrote 2-3 posts in the previous 3 months? Plus, April was a busy month for me. I had plans. I was going on a mom’s trip to London and then my husband was going to leave me with the two kids as he went to the US for work for two weeks. But, I signed up and went for it.

I made some quick decisions at the beginning. I was going to keep it on the family travel theme, but anywhere from the planning to the memory keeping aspect of it. I was not going to allow myself to get too caught up in everything. I wanted to write 26 posts, I didn’t want to write 26 blogging masterpieces.

I pulled out a spread sheet and came up with an A-Z list of family travel topics. Out of all my pre-planned ideas, I only stuck with two “R is for Rest” and “X Marks the Spot”.

The rest kind of just happened.

I realized early on that I wanted my posts to go live the same time every day. 7am. Done.

I wanted to connect with other travel bloggers. Done.

I wanted to post every day of the challenge. Done.

I wanted to get better at social media. Done, but not as much as I would have preferred.

I wanted to write without too much worry about photos and perfection. Uh- yeah, definitely no perfection here. Done.

My favorite parts of this challenge was starting a new day and seeing what some of the people wrote about. I liked the camaraderie with the participants. I appreciated all the comments, especially when my topic doesn’t apply to some of the reader’s lives. They still humored me, left thoughtful comments, and were very encouraging. Thank you.

I also liked just the actual writing of posts. Getting it done. Mosts of these things were things I wanted to write about anyway. The challenge gave me a reason to.

I will definitely participate again. While I still don’t want to write 26 masterpieces, I will add photos to my posts, pin some of those photos, and take part in more social media. I’m hoping that my next theme focuses on places instead of just travel tips. Oh, and I definitely want better titles. (If there’s one thing I learned, I’m not a title writer.)

Some things I’d like seen done differently? Perhaps a link-up for each day and letter. That way it would be easier to keep up with people who were participating, but maybe we had missed in scanning the sign up sheet.

Overall, I highly recommend this to anyone looking to have some fun while also being challenged.

And without further adieu…

The A-Zs of Family Travel

A is for Airplanes with Small Children

B is for Breakfast while Traveling

C is for Count: Children and Bags + Learn Numbers

D is for Disney and Disney-fication

E is for Emergencies while Traveling Abroad

F is for Favorites

G is for Gear Suggestions for Traveling Families

H is for Hotel Alternatives

I is for Instagram Travel Thursday

J is for Jokes while Traveling

K is for Kids Love to Travel

L is for Listen to your Kids

M is for Money

N is for Nail Clippers and Packing Lists

O is for Over the Counter Drugs

P is for Parks, Playgrounds, and Picnics

Q is for Queues with Little Ones

R is for Rest Planning

S is for Scavenger Hunt

T is for Touristy Attractions

U is for “Unknown” Destinations

V is for Volunteering Trips for Families

W is for Water – Water – Water

X is for X Marks the Spot

Y is for Yucky Food while Traveling

Z is for Zoos and Science Centers

survivor-atoz [2014]

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Zoos and Science Centers

Z copy

And here we are – 26 letters later – Z.

I can’t believe I’m going to talk about Zoos. When I first decided to restart this Travel Turtle as a family travel blog, I read a lot of like-minded blogs. There was a one or two-week period when I kept reading about zoos. I turned to my husband (we were in a car) and I said, “I don’t know why people keep writing about zoos. I mean, they’re zoos. What’s there to know? You go in and look at animals. Besides, why would people go to zoos when they’re visiting a new city anyway?”

Then a funny thing happened. Over the course of this past year, I’ve been to several zoos.

Turns out there are legitimate reasons to visit a zoo, or a science center, or a lot of other types of family friendly attractions that could exist closer to home when you’re far from home. Before having kids, I hadn’t visited a zoo since at least high school. So it surprised me that they are actually interesting.

I was kind of against them because of the cruelty to animals thing, and I’ll get to that in a second.

Zoos and science centers are not the same the world over. When you are traveling, the nearest zoo will have a large section devoted to local animals. The nearest science center will give insight into the natural and scientific story of the region – and it’s really cool.

So, don’t be like me and dismiss a zoo or a science center while on vacation because  you have an annual pass to the one in your neighborhood. You can learn a lot from both. (And, of course, your kids will love them, they have playgrounds, hand-on activities, and kid-friendly eating establishments.)

Why read a blog post about zoos?

This is where the “who writes about zoos and science centers” comes in. I never visited zoos because of fear of animal mistreatment. I never stayed knowledgeable in zoo facilities because I just never went. Then I visited one that was near me and had great reviews. That’s when I discovered the value in a good zoo. Employees are not just people who needed any job. These are competitive jobs that require some level of interest and education. These people are people who care about animals. They’re animal advocates and they’re showing the visitors why animals matter.

Not all zoos are created equally, unfortunately. I know I have some readers that may have good information for me to look into to make sure I’m visiting a zoo that really puts the animals first. I’d love to hear your opinions about this. What should I look out for, if you don’t visit zoos why not, what (if anything) would you recommend in the place of zoos?

In some of my research I’ve discovered that in the United States, the USDA is the only government organization regulating the treatment of animals at zoos and aquariums. There are various accreditation agencies, each with their own standards, but membership into those agencies are also fee-based. Be aware of that distinction when you see that a zoo has a certain accreditation.

For the zoos I have been lucky to visit the past 12 months, I’ve had a good experience. For me, this is invaluable. My son loves animals. I want to take him to a place that will foster his interest, where animals are properly treated, and employees are enthusiastic and knowledgeable. This is why I read reviews.

Now I’m putting it here, for the last letter of the A-Z Challenge. It’s an introduction to what I’ll be doing in May. One thing that has been lacking in my website are reviews about places like zoos, science centers, and tourist spots. These places often have a website filled with the practical information such as prices, directions coming from the highway or public transportation, maps, and hours of operations. That’s only part of what parents want to know, though. They want to know if the price was worth it, if the animals’ environments are up to a high standard, if the kids like it, if the food was good, and other pointers and opinions they can’t find on the official website. And since this is a family travel blog, I want to provide that information.

So please come back in May and read about a few of the zoos we’ve visited, some of our favorite science centers, and other fun vacation spots (my line up includes scenic views in Austria, Paris, and Switzerland, government buildings, amusement parks, museums, mountains, beaches, castles, national parks, and UNESCO sites)

Thank you A-Z Challenge Participants

Thank you to everyone who joined me, read along, and commented during this challenge. It was truly a challenge (I had around 70 posts before starting, now I’m at 96!). Every day I highlighted a travel blogger participant. Here’s a complete list of those blogs. Some of them have kept up, some of them are still working on it, and some of them are finished at the moment, but at some point in this challenge they provided me with fun travel information and for that – thank you!

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One last thing. I’ve started a Triberr account for anyone who participated in the A-Z challenge and wants to continue to connect. I find it to be a really easy sharing tool, if you have any questions, feel free to ask. If you want to join the A-Z Travel Bloggers tribe, click here and let me know.

 

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Yucky food while traveling

Y

*** This may be a sensitive story for those with weaker stomachs***

Have you ever witnessed a pig being slaughtered? I’m not talking in movies, nor do I mean a slaughterhouse.

The first, and so far only, time I have “witnessed” a pig slaughter was when I was seven. We were two weeks into our 3 week family visit in the Philippines. It was a comfortably warm December and we were prepping for our Christmas feast. The pig on the farm, the one I had grown accustomed to seeing on my aunt’s property, was being prepared for the big roast.

As soon as the preparation of killing the pig started, I walked away. My aunt lived in was a bamboo hut, in the middle of a clearing, in the middle of a jungle. There was no way to escape the sound. That squeal. It was a sound I could never forget. It was the sound of death. I don’t know how long he squealed for, it felt like eternity, but I did know one thing. I knew I was never going to eat that pig.

So when his head showed up as the centerpiece on the Christmas Eve dinner table, surrounded by dishes that included other parts of him, I happily skipped my meal.

One week and two days later, it was my birthday. We were leaving the next day. My Filipino family threw a second feast. Instead of a pig, though, they killed a chicken.

I watched in mixed horror/fascination. With the head still hanging by a small piece of neck skin, that chicken ran all over the farm. I don’t even know if he made a sound. Whereas the pig made every other noise in the jungle disappear, this chicken made every other sight and sense disappear. An eternity later, he stopped.

I watched as my grandmother plucked its feathers and drained its blood.

And that night, the chicken was the star event on the dinner table. And that night, I happily ate it up.

Many, many years later I spoke with my dad about these two events. He told me he thought I would never eat the chicken. I told him I was starving.

So – what does this have to do with yucky food and travel? Well, seven-year old me was not an adventurous eater. I was definitely a burger and fries kind of girl. The only dishes I attempted to eat while in the Philippines were ones I was already slightly familiar with because my mom made them. I ate adobo, rice, pan de sol, and lumpia. The diversity in Filipino dishes goes well beyond those more famous dishes. It was not yucky, I just didn’t know it.

But, after 3 weeks of getting by with the minimum. I would eat anything.

These days, one of my favorite reasons to travel is to try the food. I’m still pretty picky. But, I remember my childhood experiences, I try to approach the subject differently with my kids. If I can eat that chicken – my kids can at least taste a food I’m also willing to eat.

How to get your kids past the” yucky” foods.

Whether traveling or not, there are foods kids don’t like and will automatically classify as “yucky food”. Most of the time, they haven’t even tried the food, they just don’t like that it looks different from what they are used to, or maybe it’s because they wanted tacos not fajitas, or maybe they’re just being negative.

Like all other things travel and/or kid related, preparation goes a long way. It starts at home. With some small adjustments willingness to at least try new foods while abroad should be ever-so-slightly easier – if the kids have had their naps, and had time to get the wiggles out, and aren’t mad at you for not buying them the souvenir paperweight they’ve always wanted.

Here are a few tips that will hopefully help  dealing with a pickier eater by slowly introducing new flavors and dishes to them.

  • Get them into the habit of trying new foods. If they’re always eating the same thing at home, it may be difficult for them to want to even open their mouth to a new food experience. But, by making it part of your normal routine, it’ll be something they expect. The best way for this to work is two-fold: always introduce and reintroduce new foods to them, but don’t pressure them into eating more if they don’t like it after they’ve tried it.
  • Make their favorite meals using some of the flavors of the new place they are visiting. Perhaps they really love chicken tenders, maybe add some curry to the ketchup if they’re visiting the UK or India. Or put some mediterranean spices in the coating if their trip will take them to Greece.
  • Go a little deeper with fusion meals. Combine the components of various culinary traditions to a meal that is more heavily influenced by another culture than just switching out the seasonings. A good example is a thai chicken pizza.
  • Try new recipes of the places they’re going. This kind of coincides with the first point – let them try new foods. But, this is specific to where they’re going so that they can get a sense of what the foreign dishes might look like. My favorite source for good recipes and international food is “Food by Country“. I’ve tried recipes on that site from Hungary, Brazil, and Germany and they’ve all been delicious. I’m not sure how authentic they all are, but it’s definitely a change from what’s in our normal rotation.
  • Let them help you cook. This is more of a general tip for picky eaters. Sometimes being part of the process helps the kid want to eat the meal.
  • Figure out the local foods, and what might most appeal to your kid. My son loves sausage and noodles. If I can find him a sausage or noodle dish while we’re on vacation, he’ll generally be happy.
  • As a last resort, go with old standbys. Pack a jar of peanut butter, and make some sandwiches. Get fruit and cheese at the grocery store. Go to chain restaurants that have made their way overseas where the kid is guaranteed to like something. Do so without shame or disappointment. As an adult I spent two weeks in China. Every meal was noodles, sautéed veggies, meats, rice, and a grand gesture. It was exhausting. On the 10th day, we ate at McDonald’s. It was so relaxing to have a different style meal – to eat without ceremony. It was a nice break that helped us all appreciate the last few days of Chinese meals we ate. Sometimes you just have to do what works with your family.

 Photo by Geoff Peters 604

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X Marks the Spot

If you’re doing an A-Z Challenge and your focus is family travel, it’s almost impossible to find a term more fitting for the letter “x” than “X marks the spot”.

Treasure maps and quest maps seem to be made for children and the adventurous at heart. I love them. I even made my son’s first birthday a pirate theme with a map to get to our living room to celebrate the day.

So here it is, a simple way to give your trips a little more excitement for the little ones. Turn it into a quest. How do you do it?

  1. Find an end goal (treasure) that will appeal to the whole family. Whether this is a trip to the top of the Eiffel Tower, or a cupcake at the city’s best cupcake place is up to you.
  2. Decide if the quest is going to be for just a part of your trip (a few hours or one day) or extend longer (over the course of several days or throughout the whole trip). The rest of the instructions will be based on making the quest a part of a day, but can be used to 
  3. Plot the sites you already wanted to see on a map (google is great for this).
  4.  See if any of these spots would make a good natural progression for your treasure map. Depending on how detailed you want to be, and the time you have, you may have to get creative and zoom in really close to find the perfect arrangement.
  5. Pick a few spots, including the starting point.  When picking your stops decide if you’re going to spend time inside, or if you are just going to stay outside. How much time will you need?
    • Just stopping to look, maybe take a few photos? Allow 10-15 minutes
    • Going to stop for a snack? Allow 30 minutes to an hour
    • Spending sometime inside the attraction? You’ll likely need between 1-3 hours – this type of itinerary is better suited for an all day or several day treasure hunt
  6. List these out. What kind of treasure map do you want it to be?
    • A map only
    • Map and clues
    • Clues only
  7. I think the clues are the fun part, so I would keep that in. Now decide how you want the clues given. Go with your strengths here
    • A rhyme
    • Street signs
    • A story
  8. Write something for each spot until they’re all down, make sure they’re in the right order, and keep the answers with you so you don’t forget once your on your trip.
  9. Package up the clues with the map.
  10. Have a great trip.

As you notice, most of these steps are true for any itinerary planning. The added features are a specific map and/or clues. It’s having an end goal that is intentionally highlighted. It’s a little more work for a bigger punch.

A sample map

I wanted to try it out, so I imagined a simple walk from the Eiffel Tower’s nearest metro stop to the top of the tower. A very typical trip people will make when they visit Paris. Will it win me any writing awards? No. Was it fun and easy? Mostly. Would my kids enjoy it? I hope so!

This would be the full map with the first clue:

X Marks the Spot

And here are the subsequent clues. Simple rhymes that aren’t really clues, but fun. Not really too researched because I just wanted to get it done. You can spend as much time or as little time on something like this. I think it’s cool.

 

The biggest feature, we have here to see,
Is the big old fountain between the small trees,
It is named the Fountain of Warsaw – that’s true,
There’s a bunch of different fountains, putting on a show for you,
Let’s count them together, how many could there be?
Let’s walk to the end – come on follow me!
————————————————————————————-

Ah the Eiffel, it’s getting close now,
There’s one little stop, a ride on a cow.
No, no, I’m kidding of course.
We’ll not ride a cow. Instead just a horse.
We’ll wait in a line, not talk on our cell.
To ride what I think’s the world’s greatest carousel.
————————————————————————————-
That was fun!
We’re almost done.
But before we go up.
I want a drink in a cup.
With a side of a crepe.
Doesn’t that sound great?
 ————————————————————————————-

We made it.
We made it.
All the way to the top!
We even managed, with more than one stop!
Let’s look out below, at the whole of the lot.
And be happy we played “X marks the spot”.

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Expat Liv writes about her life in India and is participating in this year’s A-Z Challenge. Though the challenge is almost over, you can still check out what she did and follow her as she completes the final letters.

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