Thursday, September 29, 2016

When You've Had Enough Beer at Oktoberfest, Get Out of Munich and See Some Castles!

It's coming up on October, and that means one thing around the world.  It's time to have a beer and celebrate Oktoberfest.  And, there's no place quite like the origin of the festival to celebrate; Munich, Germany.  More than a million people visit this festival every fall however, and it gets a bit rowdy and crowded.  It's great to party, but sometimes it's good to take a break and go to see something else.  I mean, you've gone all the way to Germany, you should take in some sights.

There's a museum in Hohenschwangau that tells you what you need to know before you go out to see palaces and castles.  The Museum of Bavarian Kings tells you all about just that.  From Medieval times to the early 1900's the family Wittelsbach ruled Germany, and the most notorious of kings was Ludwig II.  Why might that name ring a bell?

Ludwig II was known by many nicknames, but the most famous one was the Mad King.  Ludwig II is infamous for building Neuschwanstein Castle.  The castle was designed to be something right out of a fairy tale.  He succeeded.

Neuschwanstein Castle is one of the most famous castles in the world.  There are more pictures of it on postcards and puzzles than any other castle.  It wasn't ever fully finished and it was still being built when Ludwig died.  Today it is a famous tourist attraction, and a great day trip from Munich.

Linderhof was another one of Ludwig's palaces.  I bet you didn't even know the guy had more than one.  This one is smaller than Neuschwanstein and easier to get to.  It has a fabulous fountain and a grotto.  What it isn't, is finished.  Ludwig was the last of the kings and the one who spent all the money.  So it goes.  But, the palace here looks finished.  It's just that the original design called for a much bigger palace.  You will enjoy the grandeur though and the elaborate decor as well.

Just like the French palaces, Ludwig made each room a showpiece, including the bedrooms.  Linderhof is another great day trip from Munich.

If the fact that Ludwig II had two palaces built isn't enough of a surprise for you, there is Herrenchiemsee or the new palace.  This one was modeled after Versailles.  The French set the standards in Europe for palace building up to and including the 1800's.  Ludwig II wanted to keep up.

Once again, this palace isn't quite finished, but what is is amazing.  The staircase is one of it's best features.  Once again, the bedrooms are also out of this world and the ballroom is outstanding.

So, Munich is home to the world's first and most famous Oktoberfest.  Second, you can only drink so much beer and endure so many crowds of rowdy people.  Third, Bavaria is home to some beautiful Alps and amazing people, so you should get out and see it all.  Fourth, Ludwig II aka the Mad King made some incredible castles and palaces.  Fifth, you can include a trip to Oberammergau while you're out and if you get to go on a decade year like 2020; you will have a chance to see the Passion.  That's the reenactment of some of the passion of the Christ.  They only do it every ten years, so if you aren't going in 2020, you won't get to see the play.

There are a ton of things to do in Bavaria.  It seems like a shame to miss it if you've come all that way to go to Oktoberfest.  So, make sure you save a little time to get out of Munich and see the countryside.  Europe is full of castles and palaces.  This is a really interesting cluster of them and their history is something that fairy tales come from.  So, take the time to check out the fairy castles of Ludwig II and the history of the kings of Bavaria.  Enjoy!|PB:M|TT:SN|CD:Locations|CS:Cities|PB:M|TT:SN|CD:Activities|CS:Cities

Pumpkintown USA

Welcome to East Hampton, CT and more of my travels throughout the state.  East Hampton is a small city on the east side of the Connecticut River.  It sits squarely on Route 66 east of Portland.  Yes, we in Connecticut have our own section of the famous highway, and it is scenic.  I highly recommend a drive on Connecticut's Route 66.  That being said, I traveled all the way over there to see this, because I was intrigued.  I'm glad I went.

Pumpkintown USA is an entire village of pumpkin people.  Sure, it appeals mostly to little kids, of which I saw many of them having a splendid time while I was there.  But, I came to see it for a reason.  This is one of the most inventive breast cancer fundraisers I've ever seen.

Sandy Peszynski was the creator of this fine fund raiser.  She was a breast cancer patient for 25 years.  She did die in 2007 after her long battle.  But, in 1993 she decided to do something to help the cause.  Pumpkintown USA has grown steadily since it's creation and the family keeps it going every year in Sandy's memory.  The price of admission is only $2 during the week and slightly more on the weekend.  They have a hayride every half hour for only $7 and slightly more on the weekend.  They also sell souvenirs in the shop.  All the proceeds from these things go to breast cancer research.  And what great timing.  They are open now through October, which also happens to be breast cancer awareness month.

Now, anyone who's ever met me knows that I don't do hay.  I'm so allergic.  Here's the great part.  When I told them that, I got to go see the part of Pumkintown that's in the woods on an ATV.  Very good hosts, these folks are.  I told them I was writing about it, so they wanted to make sure I saw it all.  Very gracious.  Much appreciated.

As I said, the attraction is geared towards young children, so the standies for pictures and the corn maze is for kids.  I can say, first hand, that the kids really like it.  There are also two shops on the property.  This is a working farm with a garden shop.  You can buy most things there that you could buy at a Tractor Supply Store, so they have great merchandise.  In the farm stand connected to Pumpkintown, they have all the produce and some really great pumpkin butter.  There are other great items for sale too.  They have scarecrows and painted pumpkins and all kinds of stuff for fall and Halloween.

Pumpkintown USA has a little something for everyone.  I am old, and I enjoyed my time there.  I believe it's not just for little kids.  It's for a great cause, and it's held in memoriam of a beloved family member.  It's a great way to spend some fall afternoon time and enjoy the season.  It's been voted Connecticut's best non-scary Halloween attraction and it's something that everyone should check out.  So come and see some cute pumpkin people, help out a great cause, and get out and enjoy the weather before it all goes wrong and winter is upon us.  Come to East Hampton and see Pumpkintown USA.  Enjoy!

There's Still Time for the Big E!

It's been 100 years and the Big E is still going strong.  You still have time to catch it.  But, it ends on October 2nd.  Should you bother?  Yes.  Here's what my day at the Big E with the 100th anniversary was like.  First thing that I did was to stop in the International Building and do some shopping like I always do, but this year they had an anniversary display.  It was informative and I loved some of the exhibits.  Being the only state fair in the country that encompasses six states in one fair; there's a lot going on in this place.  And there has been for the last 100 years.  What is it like today vs 100 years ago?  There's still lot's of live entertainment.  There's still great exhibits.  There's still rides and food.  There's still agricultural judgings.  What's the difference?  It's just bigger and better.

For one thing, you need to stop by Storrowton Village.  This is the historic district at the Big E.  These buildings have for the most part, been around since the beginning.  Here is where the shoppers in the crowd will find all the hand made arts and crafts and some of the best quality of other shopping goods.  They have it all from food to fine clothing, to great jewelry, and beyond.  The items that you find here will tend to be more expensive than some others at the fair, but they are probably better quality.  I do some of my Christmas shopping here.  It gets it done early and they are great gifts.

This year they have some special visitors at the Big E.  The Budweiser Clydesdales are there.  You can visit the horses in their stables at any time during fair hours.  The do have a schedule for showings where you can see the horses and even the Dalmatian in all their glory.  However, if you like shows, the coliseum has shows all day, all night.  They have everything from horse pulls to cars in there and it's always a good time.  It's also part of you $15 admission to the fair.

Then there are the state buildings.  Since the fair covers 6 states, each state has a building where they show off their unique features.  I stopped into all of them this year.  Connecticut, my home had lots of Pez, one of our biggest fan favorites of industry.  The selection was great.  Each building has a visitor's center.  This is a great place to pick up brochures about things to do in each individual state.  I got some great ideas that I'm sure I'll be writing about later on.  Other things that you find are food.  I love the Vermont building with all the cheese and maple stuff, and cider.  I could get really fat in Vermont's building.  Maine's building also has great food.  They have lobster and clam dishes as far as the eye can see.  They also have great decorator items from the shore and the north woods.  Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Hampshire also showed off great state icon items and fabulous food.  It is the north.  If you like things with a nautical theme, things with moose and bears on them, or really warm clothes from the likes of LL Bean and such; you need to visit all of these buildings.  Just so you know; Vermont has cider slushies and Horseradish cheddar cheese.  Just saying.

But, what can you see at the Big E?  As I said, any of a number of shows and competitions in the Coliseum.  Great exhibits, great food, great animals, and die hard New Englanders that don't care about a little rain.  I was right there with them.  The best part is that the weather in New England changes every 10 minutes, so after a little rain, it cleared up for the rest of the day.  The people who decided not to come out because of the weather made it less crowded for the rest of us.  You also find many stands here, with all kinds of things for sale.  There is an outdoor stage where the bands perform as well as an indoor arena. There is an arena with outdoor shows in the back.  That's where the stunt car show is every year.  That one is well worth the time.  Of course there is a giant midway where you can ride by the tickets or you can get a day pass for a reasonable price.  They also have a kiddie land for all of you with little ones who don't want to search through the rides to find the ones that the little kids can ride.  Overall, the Big E is one of the best organized fairs I've ever seen, and there are tons of things to do.

Every afternoon at 5 pm they have a parade, but right before that at 4 pm as well as other times throughout the day; they have a circus.  I was surprised to see elephants there.  They also had acrobats, jugglers, pigs, clowns, and a fabulous motorcycle cage act.  I love a good circus, and even though they call this a mini circus; it's well worth it to stop by.  It's also included in the price of admission.

Then there's the food.  Whether you're selling it, looking at it or eating it; it is all over at the Big E.  You can buy just about anything.  Being New England, the place is covered with stands, booths, and restaurants that sell pizza, sausage grinders, and clam chowder.  But, if you look around, you'll find pretty much anything in the world.  I had a Kangaroo burger, and I'm not ashamed to say so.  Be real, if you eat meat, it's all up for grabs.  The place I ate at also had Ostrich, Rattlesnake, Bison, and Camel.  It tasted like a burger, and it was pretty good.  The Big E is a great place to break your diet and try something different.  Just make sure you don't leave without your ice cream.  I saw over 75 different flavors throughout the many ice cream joints there.

You never know what you'll find at the Big E, but if you don't find it by Sunday, you will have to wait until next year.  Is it worth the $15?  That's a value, folks.  There's a lot of entertainment there for one small price.  So come and learn about six different states, ride some great rides, shop, eat, be entertained, see the circus, meet the Clydesdales, spend some time with your family and enjoy!*6pSO3*Lw-8491435068&utm_campaign=MA:+Massachusetts&utm_medium=cpc&utm_source=bing&utm_term=vqr_fVwFVLyN5*6pSO3*Lw

Thursday, September 22, 2016

It's Another Amazing City of Palaces...Potsdam!

I realize that I've been concentrating on Connecticut a lot lately, so I thought I would do something else for once.  There's a city that I've always been fond of just outside of Berlin that is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites that I love to visit.  It's full of palaces and historic buildings and comes with some wild tales of royalty from times gone by.  It's a stop on Berlin's public transportation and is one of the most popular day trips from the German capital.  It's been home to Prussian Kings, was visited by Tsars and Napoleon.  Welcome to Potsdam, Germany.

Potsdam is a historic city.  There are many old neighborhoods to visit, and one of the most popular is the old Dutch Town.  Back in the day, the Dutch did a lot of business here, and their empire was vast, so it was one of those areas that the Dutch used to keep people in the area and cement their empire.  This era was followed by the Prussians and the Fredericks made sure that the city remained a military stronghold for many decades.  There were palaces built to honor Tsars like Alexander, and the Potsdam Agreement was negotiated and signed there after WWII.

This place reminds me of St. Petersburg, Russia in a lot of ways.  The palaces being the first way.  Palaces were the way that leaders used to show their power.  This area was ruled for a long time by the Prussians, and they built the bulk of the palaces in this town.  But, out of towners who wielded a lot of power used to come and stay here with their armies.  The one that always comes to mind, is the one that I've been studying lately...Napoleon.  He used to come and winter with his troops in Potsdam and stay in one of the homes/palaces there.  Since the city was set up for military use, it was an obvious choice.  It became particularly important after Napoleon got into a power struggle with his old buddy Tsar Alexander and they started to fight on Russian soil.  Potsdam was closer to the war than France, so Napoleon put it to use.  Eventually the Prussians got uncomfortable with the situation and joined the coalition to dethrone Napoleon, and instead of palaces in Potsdam, Napoleon ended up on St. Helena in a rainforest.

Potsdam has an oriental palace, just like St. Petersburg, Russia.  It isn't an exact replica, but the sentiment is the same.  It comes from a time period where the Asian styles and art were popular, and all the royals had to have one.

These days Potsdam is a historical city and a university town.  There are several colleges and universities there, so you will find your museums and palaces coupled with bistros full of hippie styled students.  It's an odd combination of youth and history.  But, Potsdam has always kind of gone with the times.

The palaces date back to the kings, but during WWII, Hitler used it for military training and parades.  He held huge rallies there for his Third Reich.  It was one of the few places that escaped heavy damage in WWII, which is amazing, because it is just a stone's throw from Berlin.  And Berlin got bombed...heavily.  The Potsdam Agreement was just one of many treaties and official peacekeeping documents that came from WWII.  If only it would have kept this city open to the west during the Soviet times.  That's right, Potsdam was in the east for a few decades before being set free when the wall came down.  So, that kind of makes this a fairly new attraction full of ancient relics for those of us in the west.  We've only been able to come here for 25 years.

So, what I'm trying to say is that if you are visiting Berlin, Germany; this is a side trip that you should not miss.  If you love palaces, this is a spot for you.  You can book a day tour and just go and have fun.  You can also spend the night and see even more.  To be honest, I love the modernity of Berlin, but the contrast that you get by visiting Potsdam is wonderful.  It brings the past to life to go along with the present of Berlin.  It's part of the story of the Germans, and it's an important chapter.  So, don't miss out on Potsdam.  Enjoy!