(Positive Pic Of the Day) PPOD #73: The Castle on the Hill

Have you ever dreamed of living in a castle? Have you ever imagined yourself as a king or queen, prince or princess? I have.

When I was a little girl, I used to pretend I was a princess. I imagined that I lived in Fairy Tale land in a castle on top of a hill. I played with a golden ball in the courtyard and rode a white horse around the countryside. An evil witch kidnapped me and I was saved by Prince Charming. We got married and lived happily ever after. That was when I was six. Time has flown so fast. Now I’m in my forties and do not dream or imagine as much except every once in while. Every now and then, I remember my castle on the hill.

Maybe this is why I like Europe. There’s so much history here. Germany in particular has stolen my heart. I knew as soon as I saw its charming little towns, lush green forests, historic castles, and magical ruins. It’s hard not to let my imagination run wild.

My first experience of Germany was in 2010. It was an accidental visit. I didn’t come as a tourist but as a patient. I was deployed to Afghanistan in 2010 when I had a medical condition that required a MEDEVAC (medical evacuation). I was transported to Landstuhl and had to stay for 3 weeks after my surgery. I hated staying in bed. I would rather be in Afghanistan. Two weeks into my recovery and bored out of my mind, I signed up for a free tour offered to military members. It was to one of the towns near Landstuhl. I can’t remember the name of the place we toured. I was too busy taking in all of the surroundings.

When we reached the town, we walked around an old cemetery and the grounds of a small church. Then we had lunch at one of the restaurants. We walked down to the dimly lit cellar of the restaurant and I had my very first taste of German food. The tour guide recommended schnitzel. Cool I was familiar with it, or so I thought. When my food came, I asked if I got the right order. The waitress said I did and the tour guide agreed. What is this breaded flat meat? I didn’t say anything and just ate it. It was different from what I was used to but it was good. You see I’m from California. We have a fast food place called Wienerschnitzel. They sell hotdogs. I was expecting to eat a hotdog that day. Come to find out the schnitzel I had at this restaurant was the real deal. Wienerschnitzel you set me up to be a fool. Anyway, it makes for a good story. It just makes me smile every time I remember my first schnitzel and every time I eat one now.

After lunch we went to an old castle tower. Everybody climbed up for a view at the top. I was still in pain from my surgery but nothing was going to stop me from seeing the view from up there. I struggled with each step but got to the top of the tower. I looked out and saw the beauty below. I remembered my castle on top of the hill. At that moment, I imagined myself as a princess. This must be what it’s like to be a princess, looking out her window and waving to the townspeople below. I raised my arm and started waving. One of the other patients that came with the tour asked me what I was doing. I said “I’m just waving to my townspeople” and gave her a big smile. It’s at this moment that Germany had me hooked.

I returned to finish my tour in Afghanistan. It’s a weird thing to say but getting sick was the best thing that ever happened to me. I’ve never forgotten my experience in Germany. I never thought I would ever see this place again. But it must be fate for us to be together.

I’ve been living here for over two years. I feel like I haven’t even seen half of the towns in Germany. I love the town where we live and I like the directness of Germans. They’re not rude as some foreigners think. They’re just frank. I like it because I’m the same way. I don’t beat around the bush. Like my good friend used to say, “Ain’t nobody got time for that.” Exactly, let’s land the plane and get to the point.

I love traveling. I especially like places with castles and ruins. My favorite castle is Pels Castle in Romania. It’s not the biggest but the details inside are stunning. I look forward to our next trip because I know I can revisit a childhood fantasy. Once again, I can be a princess living in a beautiful castle on top of the hill.

Cochem Castle in Germany

(Positive Pic Of the Day) PPOD #72: The Art of Being Honest

We’re human and we lie. Even if we just tell a little white lie, it’s still a lie. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could trust anyone, and everyone told the truth?

Honesty is a quality sought after by many, achieved by most, hidden by some, and purposely lost by a few. There is an art to being honest. Too much becomes hurtful and too little leads to distrust. What is the right amount of honesty? What does it really mean to be honest with ourselves and with others?

Facing the truth even if it comes with pain

The rawness of true emotions are multiplied by honesty. Honesty forces us to face our fears and feelings. The fear of being betrayed, being alone, failing, growing old, and dying. Negative feelings such as hate for others, greed, disgust, guilt, inadequacy, sadness, and self loathing weigh us down. We have to confront our fears and negative feelings before we can overcome them. We have to be honest with ourselves first before we can become honest with others.

Being honest with our past to make changes in the present and create a better future

We’ve all done things in the past we’re not proud of. Some of us have even created false pasts in order to survive the present. No matter how much we want to forget them and leave them behind, we have to look back every once in a while to remember. We don’t have to wallow in misery and regret but we have to be honest about where we came from, what events happened in our past that shaped us, and the mistakes we’ve made. Regret has a purpose in our lives. It’s there to remind us of what WAS, and pushes us to change in preparation for what COULD BE. It prevents us from repeating our mistakes and ensuring a better future.

Honesty is a responsibility

Have you noticed the honesty of toddlers? They are unblemished by greed, malice, or opinion of others. They often remind us of what we lose in the process of growing up: innocence, joy in simple things, and honesty. They speak their minds without regard for what people would think, say, or do. We don’t have to act like toddlers and blurt out everything that comes to mind. We just need to appreciate their honesty. We need to encourage and foster it as they grow. It is our responsibility as adults to guide them in learning and maintaining the ability to be honest.

Keeping honesty a priority

As we grow older, we learn to filter and manipulate our words to mask our true intentions and feelings. We let the fear of being judged, disliked, and the loss of money dictate how honest we want to be with someone. We change our priorities in accordance with what we value as important at different points in our lives. Honesty gets lost in the mix of our ever changing priorities. How many times have we told a lie to our families or friends? We lie to family because we want to protect them or hide something from them. We want to spare them from grief or we want to spare ourselves from their contempt. We lie to friends for fear of losing their friendship. We lie in the workplace because we want to get ahead, get approval, obtain the promotion or avoid termination. Some people lie to hide their shortcomings and weaknesses. No matter what we currently deem number one on our list of priorities, honesty should be on top along with it. Any relationship without honesty is a falsity.

Honesty is synonymous with Integrity

Let’s say what we mean and mean what we say. Our word means nothing if we don’t back it up and follow through. It’s better to promise nothing than make promises we can’t keep.

Being honest and frank vs. being rude or crass

Honesty is great for building relationship and trust. Being frank is being sincere without being mean. It can save time, energy and unwanted emotions. A little bit of embarrassment and hurt now is better than a great deal of trouble later. Wouldn’t you want someone to tell you if you have something on your face or in between your teeth at a party, or that you’re walking around with your shirt inside out at work? Wouldn’t you want someone to give you an honest evaluation of your job performance in order to improve? Being honest and frank are good qualities to have as long as we know where to draw the line.

Being rude or crass goes beyond honesty and frankness. Being crass means making insensitive and thoughtless remarks. Being rude means making overly offensive remarks. Being honest still requires us to give some thought to what we’re going to say before we say it. We have to make a conscious decision to use kinder words. If someone asked an opinion about his/her new hairstyle. Instead of saying “You look like a 70’s loser,” opt for “I like your previous hairstyle better” or “I like your hair shorter.” Being kind is better and it’s free. We should give it generously.

Being brutally honest should be an exception and not the norm

A good friend once told me “If you have nothing good to say, don’t say it at all.” Some of us have been put in awkward positions in the past. An example is the feeling of being expected to comment on a new born baby’s appearance. It’s not stated but implied, the “ooohs and awwws” when a newborn is introduced to friends and family. I’ve observed this several times and it’s never failed. Someone will always say “Awww what a cute baby.” Every parent thinks their child is cute. Let’s face it, all babies are precious but not all babies are cute. Instead of saying something brutally honest that could hurt the parents’ feelings, we can say “How precious!” Better yet, don’t say anything at all.

The art of being honest takes effort and practice. We all start out honest, then it changes when we reach school age, especially during adolescence. Then it continues in adulthood. Our priorities and desires often influence the way we view honesty. But hope is not lost, we often re-acquire and refine it before we reach the prime of our lives. By that time, we would’ve realized that life is too short and we’re too old to lie about anything.

“If more people were honest, trust wouldn’t be so hard to come by, be given, or earned.” – TrinA, Life Lifter

(Positive Pic Of the Day) PPOD #71: Remembering Lloret de Mar

Lloret de Mar is a popular sea side destination in Costa Brava, Spain. It offers beaches, sunshine, great food and rows of stores for your shopping delight.

For more info: http://lloretdemar.org/en/

Sa Caleta Cove is right beside Lloret beach. The castle is a great background while having fun in the water. You can climb to the top and take beautiful pictures of the surrounding area.

The Parish Church Of Sant Romà is a must-see attraction in Lloret de Mar. What you see below is a side chapel in Modernista style.

The pic below is one of my favorite memories of Lloret de Mar. My daughters and I are relaxing and having fun at Voramar beach bar (this bar is not exclusively for adults. It’s for all ages, singles and families). You get a Lei with an order of a large drink. The glasses are LARGE. Great view of the beach and the street. Best music as far as beach bars go. They serve cocktails, smoothies and even milkshakes. We had such a good time we went back the next day.

For more info: http://www.voramarbeachbar.com/en

(Positive Pic Of the Day) PPOD #70: Ritter Sport Chocolate Factory in Waldenbuch

A quick trip to a famous chocolate factory is the perfect way to start the week. With a few hours to spare this morning, I decided to sweeten the day with a visit to the town of Waldenbuch. It’s only a 25 minute drive from Herrenberg.

Waldenbuch is a town in the Böblingen district of Baden Württemberg, Germany. It’s approximately 30 minutes by car from Stuttgart. This town is best known as the home base for the Ritter Sport Chocolate Factory.

History:

  • In 1912, Albert Eugene Ritter and his wife Clara Ritter made and sold the first Ritter chocolates in Stuttgart.
  • They moved their expanding business to Waldenbuch in 1930.
  • In 1932, Clara Ritter proposed the “Ritter Sport Chocolate.” Because chocolate bars kept breaking in people’s pockets, she introduced the square shaped bars that fit nicely into pockets of jackets. It weighs the same as a normal long bar of chocolate with the convenience of the square shape.
  • Ritter Sport mini (100 g square) chocolates were introduced in 1982.
  • In 2004, the smallest square, the chocolate cube was introduced.
  • Organic chocolate varieties were introduced in 2008.

Through the years, Ritter Sport has added an art museum, a chocolate museum, and a café.

The chocolate shop and museum are on the right side of the building as you walk towards the bright outdoor area of the café. The chocolate museum is free to visitors and is located on the second floor, above the chocolate shop.

The chocolate museum is not very big but has a lot of interesting information, images, and chocolate bars developed by the company over the years. It also features the different varieties of cacao used in their chocolates and where they come from.

The Center for Sustainable Corporate Leadership or Zentrum für Nachaltige Unternehmensführung (ZNU) developed standards to measure a company’s sustainability. Ritter Sport fulfilled the requirements of the ZNU.

For more info: https://www.ritter-sport.de/en/Family-business-values/sustainability/certification/

My favorite part is the Schoko Automat or Choco machine. All you have to do is press the flashing green button. The model factory shakes and releases a chocolate into a toy dump truck. The truck drives around the track and dumps the chocolate into the dispenser. It’s pretty entertaining to watch.

After visiting the chocolate museum, I walked down to the shop but unfortunately it was closed today due to the holiday. I’ve been to the chocolate shop a couple of times before. The store is filled with Ritter Sport chocolate bars of different flavors and sizes. There are also chocolates for different occasions such as Easter and Christmas, and special edition chocolates. Souvenirs of all kinds are also sold here such as shirts, bags, umbrellas, storage containers etc.

I walked to the art museum which is located on the left side of the building beside the cafè. It’s €6 for adults, and free for children. The artwork in this museum are simple but interesting. You can get an audio guide and choose the language you prefer. All you have to do is press the number that corresponds to your choice of artwork.

My favorite piece of art is the black and white diamond shaped object by Toni Costa (pic below). It’s titled Alternazione. The black and white patterns seem to change depending on where you stand. I swayed back and forth and I loved the way it moved with me. I stopped after a few curious glances from other visitors, but it was fun. Below is the picture of the artwork. It’s only one object taken from different positions.

I also had fun with the object below. I liked looking into the hole to view the object across the room and try to focus it in the center. I looked from both sides and picked this one.

I ended my visit by sitting outside the café and enjoying lunch under the bright blue skies. The Ritter-Sport Café is famous for its hot chocolate. Imagine your favorite chocolate in a cup mixed with creamy steamed milk. It makes my mouth water just thinking about it. I chose the panini with salad and the mousse au chocolat. The salad was light and the panini was delicious. And the best hot chocolate award goes to… drumroll please… Ritter Sport Café!

As I headed back to my car, I saw a lovely couple sitting on a bench underneath streams of different colored lights, reflecting down from the ceiling. What a nice image to end the visit!

A few tips:

  • Bring cash. The café doesn’t take credit cards.
  • The chocolate shop is closed during holidays but the art museum, café, and chocolate museum are open for business.
  • The art museum charges €6 for adults. They give a discount for students and groups of 10 or more. Kids are free.
  • Bring a bag for the chocolates you plan on buying. You can purchase a plastic bag at the checkout counter for €1 or more.
  • The chocolates are reasonably priced but the souvenirs are a little expensive.
  • There are chocolates sold in bulk located in the back of the store if you want to save a few euros.
  • They have parking available for visitors.
  • It’s worth the visit if you have a few hours to spare.

The more I walked around the grounds of Ritter Sport, the more I liked the company and their chocolates. The chocolate museum provided a lot of good information on the history, business practice and quality of their products. The café served the best hot chocolate I’ve ever tasted. The art museum made me feel like a kid full of wonder with its simple but fun and interesting works of art.

For more info: https://www.ritter-sport.de/en/Visit-RITTER-SPORT/

(Positive Pic Of the Day) PPOD #69: Reutlingen

Reutlingen, a city worth exploring in Baden-Württemberg, Germany. We spent the afternoon walking around its streets to get an initial feel for the city. Today is a Sunday and a holiday so we’ll probably have to visit again on a nicer, sunnier day when most of the stores and restaurants are open.

For more info: (copy and paste to google chrome for translation) https://www.reutlingen.de/willkommen

We parked in the parking structure closest to the Marienkirche or St. Mary’s church. It’s a Gothic style church built in 1247-1343.

The Marienkirche is known to be one of the most distinct Gothic architecture in Schwaben or Swabia. This is one of the times I wish I had a good camera to capture the size and details of this church. Marienkirche was so damaged during a fire in 1726 that it was rebuilt in the Neo-Gothic style in 1893.

Next to this church stands a fountain with the statue in the center. It’s a statue of Emperor Frederick II, king of Germany in 1212 who gave the city its charter.

Around the corner from this church is the Zunftbrunnen (translates to guild fountain) which reflects the 12 guilds or trades that have supported this city.

We walked around the town and discovered more interesting buildings and fountains.

This market fountain or Marktbrunnen was built in the 16th century. The statue is of Emperor Maximilian II. He played an important part in bringing back the independence of this city.

The building next to the fountain of Emperor Maximilian II is the the Spitalhof (pic above). The word Spital translates to hospital. This building was built as a hospital in the 14th century and rebuilt in the 18th century.

As we continued our walk, we came upon another fountain.

The Gerber und Farberbrunnen (Tanners’ and Dyers’ fountain) built in the 1920’s reflects two of the trades in this city. It sits next to a small chapel which is now Café Nikolai. Reutlingen currently has a textile and leather goods industry.

We continued to explore some of the big and narrow streets lined with stores and beautiful foliage.

The Spreuerhofstraße is also in this town. It’s one of the world’s narrowest street. Unfortunately, it’s so narrow we missed it. From reviews we’ve read, we’re not missing out on much. It will just be another reason to come back😉.

We ended our day with an early dinner at the Pancake House. We love having breakfast for dinner.

We had to try this place. It serves pancakes unlike the ones we’ve had before. Check out the menu.

Yes, you read it right. Pancakes with everything from Nutella, fruits, turkey, olives, cheese… all the way to tuna fish! My husband had the pancake with ham, olives, mushrooms, and cheese. I had the one with hot raspberries and a scoop of ice cream, and my daughter had Nutella and banana.

The pancakes were thick and soft. My daughter and I had regular tasting pancakes but a little on the bland side. My husband’s pancake smelled like pizza. It also tasted like pizza but with the consistency of a pancake. The flavor was good except it wasn’t on a pizza crust. The bill came to €31 for three pancakes and three drinks. I don’t think it’s worth it. We’ll stick to our homemade buttermilk pancakes.

Overall, we had a pleasant experience in Reutlingen even on a cloudy day. It’s definitely worth a half-day visit.

(Positive Pic Of the Day) PPOD #68: Saturday in Sindelfingen

Sindelfingen is a small town in Baden-Württemberg, Germany. It is better known for the Mercedes-Benz assembly plant. It’s approximately a 20 minute drive from Stuttgart. Sindelfingen is only a few train stops and a switch away from Herrenberg so we decided to visit the town today.

The Marktplatz or Market place is only a few minutes walk from the train station. This town has a lot more stores and restaurants than Herrenberg.

As we crossed the street and walked further, we came across a Greek festival. There were tents serving Greek food, people walked about the place while music played in the background. Kids played tag while adults sat down around fest tables and enjoyed their meals.

After walking around the festival, we walked back to one of the restaurants for schnitzel and beer. Schnitzel is a popular German meal. It’s made of pork, beef, chicken, or veal. It’s a thin cut of meat, breaded and fried. It’s absolutely delicious and filling. This is our first time at this restaurant. It’s called Aura. It has an outdoor seating area and a terrace for customers who want to enjoy the view and weather.

The picture you see below is called a Maypole or Maibaum. It is a tall wooden pole built as part of folk festivals. A Maypole dance often takes place around it. My daughter said she studied about it in school. According to her, this pole is usually erected on the 1st day of May to welcome Spring. It is sometimes left plain or decorated and painted, and a small part of the tree is usually left on the top. Maypoles are in danger of getting stolen by other rival towns in the region. It’s embarrassing to get your town’s Maibaum stolen. It can be traded back through a hefty ransom of food and beer. I found this story interesting and sort of fun.

Dunkelweizen is one our favorite beers. Dunkel means dark. It’s a darker version of Hefeweizen. It’s a wheat beer common in Southern Germany. It may look intimidating with its dark color but it has a complex taste and flavor. It also has a balanced bitterness. I was hesitant to try it at first but I’m glad I did because it’s now number one on my list of great tasting beers.

We ordered two schnitzels with fries on the side. My daughter and I planned on sharing one. We were surprised when our food came. It was much, much bigger than we expected. My daughter and I were only able to eat a third of the schnitzel. My husband only ate half of his.

It was a hearty meal. It was perfectly breaded and crispy on the outside and tender and moist, on the inside. It was also full of flavor. We’ve had our fair share of schnitzels in the past couple years living here but this tops everything. We took the rest home and plan on eating the leftovers for breakfast tomorrow (it’s so big it might even cover lunch too). We’ve found our new schnitzel spot.

The weather was cloudy and a bit chilly this morning. My family and I almost stayed home. We spent the morning relaxing and spending quality time watching movies. I’m glad the growling of our stomachs got us off the couch and sent us on a hunt for new food places.

It is our willingness to try new things that allows us to live more colorful and exciting lives. We need to be willing to try new experiences (as long as it doesn’t do us or anyone harm in anyway). We’ll never know what we’re missing until we try.

Time to head home. Have you tried something new today?

(Positive Pic Of the Day) PPOD #67: Rediscovering Rottenburg

Can you see the beginning of a beautiful day? The sun’s rays are peering through the early morning light. I just knew it was going to be a nice day. I kept stopping to take pictures on our way to the bus stop. I knew I was slowing down my daughter this morning. No matter, I can always drive her to school.

We made it to the bus stop and off she went. As I walked to the parking lot, the sweet smell of the white flowers growing on the trees filled the air up and down this little street. I’m walking at a fast pace to get to my car as if the sunshine would disappear. I plan on going to Horb am Neckar.

I was five minutes on the autobahn when the sky turned gray. Okay, minor setback. For some reason, I decided to move towards the Rottenburg exit. I believe that things happen for a reason so I just went with it and changed my GPS settings for Rottenburg.

As I got closer to the town of Rottenburg, the fog got thicker. This wasn’t enough to dampen my spirit. I continued on and found a public parking garage right off the main roundabout. I took the staircase down to the street and found a sign for a museum and some Roman ruins. Cool!

I didn’t find any museum and figured it’s in the main square. I asked a lady for directions and she was nice enough to walk with me towards the street that will take me to the center of town. She works for the bishop of the town. They organized projects for all the churches in the area. She works at this building. I thought it was a museum or a church but it’s neither. It’s basically a workplace for all 30 staff members that worked for the bishop.

She recommended the restaurant across the street for lunch. She said it gets packed because the food is good and affordable. I thanked her for the info and went on my way.

It’s still foggy but I thought I’d try to get some pictures. It didn’t turn out as clear as I wanted.

I walked back and decided to grab some breakfast. I hoped the sky would clear up while I enjoyed some grub. I saw a bakery that looked interesting. It had American license plates hanging on the wall.

I ordered a cappuccino and a pretzel bread with cheese and sausage. Who doesn’t like sausage at 8 in the morning? After eating, I asked the guy behind the counter if the owner traveled to all the places named on the license plates. He said No, and that he was the owner. He said he collects them and some were given by customers and friends. While I bothered the man for info, the sky cleared up a bit and the day just got brighter. I decided to go back to the main square and re-take some photos.

The Marktbrunnen or Market Fountain is said to be the most beautiful gothic fountain column in Southwest Germany. As I passed the small farmer’s market, I heard a familiar sound so I followed it. I was surprised to find some familiar faces. It’s the musicians I took a picture of last month in Herrenberg. I sat with them for a few minutes and showed them their picture.

I kept walking down the street with no clue to where I was heading. I saw a tower sticking out on the street to my right so I decided to head towards it. I loved what I saw when I reached the tower. The view going back through it was even better.

I went back down the street and saw a bridge across a small roundabout. This peaked my interest so I decided to find out what was on the other side.

I followed the path alongside the river. I loved seeing the reflection of the buildings on the water to my left and the churches that sat side by side each other to my right.

I took my time walking to the other bridge that led back to the main square. The air is warming up, the sun is shining bright and the sights around me are wonderful. I’m savoring everything just like a delicious dish I never want to finish eating.

I’m almost done with my tour of the town. Or so I thought.

I’ve always liked the walk going back. Even the pictures turn our better. Catching the same image from a different perspective makes me feel like I didn’t miss anything. I couldn’t help checking out the library.

I was drawn this place. I loved the quietness and the feeling of being surrounded by books. So much knowledge just an arm’s reach away. I also liked that this library had a cafe. This is the second library I’ve been to with a cafe. I have to check out other town’s libraries to see if this is a common feature here in Germany.

Each floor had a nice seating area and there were oversized windows that showcased the view of the town outside. I started with the 4th floor and worked my way down. I sat at one of the comfy chairs on each floor and enjoyed the image on the windows. I could’ve sat here all day.

I had been sightseeing for over three hours. Time went by too fast. I had to head back soon to pick up my daughter. As I walked back to the parking lot, I noticed an open door below the deck I parked at. I found the museum. I parked right above it! I guess I didn’t notice it this morning because I was too focused on the ruins on the other side. Icing on the cake. I went in to scope it out.

The Sumolocenna Museum presented the city’s Roman past. It included a collection of Roman sculpture and monuments. The place wasn’t very big, but it had a lot of interesting artifacts. The atmosphere was peaceful. There were reconstructed objects, pictures, models, and diagrams.

After signing the guest book I walked out feeling good. For under €16 (€5.80 for breakfast, €2.50 for museum visit, €5 for parking, and €2 for the musicians) I feel like I just accomplished something worthwhile. I walked for over 3 hours, ate some good food, and got some fab pics. Who says you have to pay a lot to have fun?

I just rediscovered a town I didn’t like the first time I visited. My family and I just drove through the town the first time and we didn’t see half of the places I saw today. I’m glad I came back. This visit left me with different images and a more pleasurable experience. I guess places deserve second chances just like people. I would’ve missed out on something special had I denied this place a second try.

I hope you have a great weekend!