Castles and Palaces

We stumbled across an article from a travel website naming the top 10 castles in the world. We’d only been to two on the list  – Neuschwanstein in Germany and Chateau de Chillon in Switzerland. But it got us thinking – what would our top-ten list be? And how many castles have we been to?

Coming from the United States, we tend to share in the idea pushed on us by Disney at an early age that castles are magical, beautiful, complete with Prince Charming and a beautiful Princess. In reality many of these castles have dark and bloody histories full of murder and mayhem. Both Heath and I are history buffs, though, and really love seeing castles and learning about the people who lived in them and the life they led.

In case you were curious, here are all the castles that we’ve been to, sorted by country and vaguely in the order we visited them. Continue reading

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Bugs in das haus!

We don’t have a central air system like in our house back home. Heat is provided by radiators, and we cool our home by leaving the windows open. Most of the time it isn’t bad at all, and we are high up enough in our building to get nice breezes.

What we don’t have are screens on the windows (most folks don’t). So, we get all manner of insect visitors in our home. At night, especially in the summer, I generally close the windows where we have the light on (living room) but leave the windows open in rooms where we’ve already turned off the lights (kitchen, dining room and bedrooms).

One thing I was surprised about is the size of some of these bugs. Living in humid Houston, I’ve seen some pretty big mosquitoes. Though nothing compares to these: Continue reading

Swiss Chocolate Review

I have a new favorite chocolate bar. I’m not normally one to eat milk chocolate – much prefer dark chocolate. But when the milk chocolate is absolutely packed to the gills with hazelnuts and raisins, that’s a different story. I’d show you pictures of how absolutely choc-full of goodies this bar is, but… erm… we ate it all already. Here’s what the label looks like, though:

I’m also enjoying Villars overall as a brand. Lindt – the king of Swiss chocolate production, imho, has gone downhill – poorer quality of chocolate and using things like fake vanilla (vanillin). Teuscher is still my favorite for truffles, and I love Callier for its chocolate bars. I even use the Callier Crémant when I make Nigella Lawson’s Zucchini Chocolate Bread.

Teuscher is located in Zurich and Geneva. My new-found favorite chocolate shop, however, is Schoggibox, located in Stein am Rhein. They boast having over 300 different Swiss chocolates. In this tiny shop is everything from the big companies like Toblerone, Lindt, and Callier, and handmade and gourmet chocolates. They have hundreds of kinds of chocolate bars, plus chocolate liquor, hot chocolate, and a small assortment of candies and caramels. If you are ever in Stein am Rhein, I highly recommend it.

Now that I’ve gone all over the board in my brief  chocolate update, I’ma gonna go nibble on some chocolate that has crepes in it. 😀

Rapperswil

Again, I’m still behind with posting update… In April, we took a day to visit Rapperwil, towards the southern end of Lake Zürich (Zürichsee). The train ride from Zürich to Rapperswil is really lovely, following the lake through most of the trip (there is an alternate train route that goes through the country-side).

We went a little early in the season, so not all of the trees were fully leafed-out yet, and it was a little cool, but it was still really pretty – we always love being on the water.

What’s most amazing about Rapperswil is the view of the mountains – incredible!

Our main reason for going to Rapperswil was to check out a Polish heritage museum that is located in the castle of the town. The castle itself is really beautiful, but only small portions of it are open to the public (a cafe in a courtyard and the Polish museums). You can’t take pictures inside the museum – except for in the tower (see below). I took this picture before we went in. Continue reading

Neftenbach Festival

Neftenbach was having a Renaissance Festival and celebrating their 800th year of being a town. They had lots of artisans there and a handful of patrons in costume as well. Having performed in the two largest Renaissance Festivals in Texas, we were curious. Our parents, who were visiting, enjoyed it as well.

One of the notable features was a really incredible hand-cranked Ferris wheel recreated from plans dating at around 1600. Only small children could ride it, but they looked like they were enjoying it.

Continue reading

Fasnacht Parade in Winterthur 2009

I know I’ve been really terrible in keeping up with this blog. You should see the list of drafts that I have lined up in my WordPress Dashboard! Anywho, as a follow up to the Opening Ceremonies of Fasnacht, there was also a parade a few days later, which is the highlight of the whole festival.

We went into the altstadt early in the day to get a good spot for the parade, as we heard it can get quite crowded. That was an understatement. It seemed like the entire 100,000 population of Winterthur turned out!

But first, as the crowds gathered, we wandered around, getting lunch and a bag of confetti, and I took tons of pictures of the different guilds gathering.

Children and adults not participating in the parade dressed up too.

And then the parade started! Continue reading

Polenta

I’d never cooked, much less eaten polenta before. I know – total foodie who’d not yet dined on polenta? Who’da thunk? Polenta is pretty popular here, so I thought I’d try it. I bought a package of polenta that had dried mushrooms in it. It sat at the back of my pantry for months on end because both myself and Yahoo!Babel Fish Translator failed miserably at translating the instructions on the label.

I realized I needed to just give up translating and try something else, so I hit the internet for ideas. As far as I could tell, the package only contained large-grain polenta and dried mushrooms, so I didn’t need to worry about any extra ingredients causing a disaster if I strayed from the package instructions.

I first stumbled across the following video that seemed promising. Continue reading