Mainau Island, Germany

A few weekends ago, we went to visit a good friend of ours who lives just across the border in Constance, Germany. It is only about a 45 minute train ride from Winterthur, and we can even take a direct train with no transfers.

We’d been to the city of Constance once before close to Christmas to see the spectacular Christmas market with our friends Stacy and Oliver. I’d always wanted to return to Constance, because it looked like such a pretty city, sitting on the shores of Lake Constance. While we didn’t really get to explore the city on this visit either, we got to check out some amazing gardens located on the Island of Mainau and the historic buildings. The island has a fascinating history, having been transferred between several different countries and families, and most recently owed by a Swedish Prince. It is mainly known for its expansive gardens, and it was pretty popular the day we were there.

We started by meeting up with Ayse, who is one of Heath’s coworkers, but a very good friend of ours as well. She’s even babysat Eddie on a few occasions. She helped us get our boat tickets, as we had decided to take the ferry there. You can also drive to a parking lot near the island on the mainland and take a footbridge across (the island isn’t very far out in the lake). We enjoyed the boat ride, and I hope that Heath and I might be able to take one of the dinner cruises sometime.

Ayse and Heath on the boat

Ayse and Heath on the boat

It was unfortunately a cloudy day for much of our visit, so a lot of my pictures didn’t come out all that well. The gardens were gorgeous. Thousands of plants, flowers, and trees, and even a small vineyard. We saw apples, plums, roses, and many other plants that I don’t know the name of.

A terraced part of the garden

Me and my guy!

Me and my guy!

There were horse-drawn carriage rides, a really neat miniature train set, an overly-crowded orchid-filled butterfly house, several huge playgrounds (one of which catering to really small kids like ours), and even a petting zoo:

Chasing goats in the petting zoo.

Chasing goats in the petting zoo.

We briefly toured the inside of several of the historic buildings, including a museum that had the wedding gown of one of the former residents of the island. I know all my costume nut friends would go ga-ga over the details of this gown, so I snapped a few pictures (more can be found on Flickr):

Embroidered Wedding Gown

Embroidered Wedding Gown

We took the footbridge off the island, and took a bus back to the city where we said good-bye to Asye and caught a train back home. I’d recommend the Island of Mainau to anyone, even if you have children. Just take your walking shoes!

To view a bunch more pictures of our visit to Mainau Island, click here.

To learn more about Mainau Island, Wikipedia has a great article in English here.

The official site for Mainau Island is here (German text only).

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