Jousting at the Kaltenberg Knight’s Tournament (Ritterturnier)

Thrifty Travel Mama | Jousting at the Kaltenberg Castle Knight's Tournament (Kaltenberger Ritterturnier)I know, I know, you want to hear about Croatia. I really will write about Croatia soon, I promise! BUT, we went to the most amazing knight’s tournament last weekend, and I wanted to post about it sooner rather than later, just in case anyone randomly happens to be hanging out in Europe and able to go.

The Kaltenberg Knight’s Tournament (Kaltenberger Ritterturnier) is held every summer at Kaltenberg Castle outside Munich in the Bavarian countryside. For three weekends, visitors step back into the Middle Ages while feasting on period food, browsing handmade wares, and being dazzled by sword fights and jousting. (Jousting!!)

Seriously, wow.. this was one of the most fun events our family has been to while living in Germany!

But instead of me yapping on and on about it, let me just show you a bit of the awesomeness that awaits you. Sword and stein optional.. but highly recommended.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Jousting at the Kaltenberg Castle Knight's Tournament (Kaltenberger Ritterturnier)

The first thing you should know about the Kaltenberger Ritterturnier is that it’s sponsored by a brewery. Beer, beer, beer. It’s everywhere. We tried the honey beer. It smells like honey and tastes like.. beer.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Jousting at the Kaltenberg Castle Knight's Tournament (Kaltenberger Ritterturnier)

If beer is not your thing, you can get all kinds of fruity wine and other drinks.. but no Coca Cola or Pepsi since I guess they’re trying to be all historically accurate.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Jousting at the Kaltenberg Castle Knight's Tournament (Kaltenberger Ritterturnier)

The market is filled with trinket stalls and artisans like these women who are spinning wool into thread.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Jousting at the Kaltenberg Castle Knight's Tournament (Kaltenberger Ritterturnier)

Sprinkled throughout the grounds are these “exhibits” where actors show how life was lived in the Middle Ages.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Jousting at the Kaltenberg Castle Knight's Tournament (Kaltenberger Ritterturnier)

Okay, enough of the tame stuff. Let’s move on to weapons and armor. They’re strapped to actors..  and available for purchase, of course.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Jousting at the Kaltenberg Castle Knight's Tournament (Kaltenberger Ritterturnier)

Speaking of weapons, these knights did an excellent job of using them. Especially the fire. Who doesn’t love a good flame-throwing sword fight?

Thrifty Travel Mama | Jousting at the Kaltenberg Castle Knight's Tournament (Kaltenberger Ritterturnier)

If you lose in battle or are an unlucky passerby, you might wind up tarred ‘n feathered like this poor bloke who, uh, looks like he is actually digging it.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Jousting at the Kaltenberg Castle Knight's Tournament (Kaltenberger Ritterturnier)

Just to show that it’s not all about violence, here’s Bravo watching some Italian flag twirlers. Yes, they really were from Italy.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Jousting at the Kaltenberg Castle Knight's Tournament (Kaltenberger Ritterturnier)

The two main events of the day were the tournament and the parade. If you snag a good spot for the parade, you can see all the characters up close.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Jousting at the Kaltenberg Castle Knight's Tournament (Kaltenberger Ritterturnier)

Check out the punk in a kilt. He’s part of the band Corvus Corax that seriously knows how to rock out with bagpipes (video here).

Thrifty Travel Mama | Jousting at the Kaltenberg Castle Knight's Tournament (Kaltenberger Ritterturnier)

After the parade, it’s time to head to the arena for the jousting! But first, some of the other acts take the main stage. This man herds his geese with the help of his extremely talented dog. Definitely something you don’t see every day.. or, like, ever.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Jousting at the Kaltenberg Castle Knight's Tournament (Kaltenberger Ritterturnier)

All day long, people were lighting up. Here it’s breath.. later, it’s a body.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Jousting at the Kaltenberg Castle Knight's Tournament (Kaltenberger Ritterturnier)

And now, let the jousting begin! All the knights line up in front of the royalty. You might not be able to see the horses behind the king and queen – but, they rode straight up into the box!

Thrifty Travel Mama | Jousting at the Kaltenberg Castle Knight's Tournament (Kaltenberger Ritterturnier)

Here’s the black knight. He’s (obviously) the bad guy. But his costume is arguably on the awesome side.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Jousting at the Kaltenberg Castle Knight's Tournament (Kaltenberger Ritterturnier)

Ready, set, joust! Yes, the lances really broke, and the riders really fell off the horses. Some were even dragged a while on the ground. It felt like stepping into A Knight’s Tale, right down to the audience doing the wave.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Jousting at the Kaltenberg Castle Knight's Tournament (Kaltenberger Ritterturnier)

The arena show is a story about a king and his two sons. Spoiler alert: the king dies (don’t hate me too much – it happens in the first few minutes). Remember I said more fire to come? Here they are burning the body of the king.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Jousting at the Kaltenberg Castle Knight's Tournament (Kaltenberger Ritterturnier)

Epic sword fight that filled the entire arena. No blood, but plenty of staged death.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Jousting at the Kaltenberg Castle Knight's Tournament (Kaltenberger Ritterturnier)

And, one more time, here are the knights that jousted. (psst.. one of them is a woman – yeah!)

Thrifty Travel Mama | Jousting at the Kaltenberg Castle Knight's Tournament (Kaltenberger Ritterturnier)

As if all of that were not enough, after the stray lance shards were collected, the gigantic jester invited the children (6+) into the arena for some kid-friendly fun, including pony rides, stationary (padded) jousting, and other medieval-themed activities. Awesome.

Booking your tickets yet? Dreaming of a visit next year? Check out my tips below. And, if you’ve been to a similar knight’s tournament, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

Practical tips for visiting the Kaltenberger Ritterturnier:

  • Buy your tickets in advance online. They are NOT cheap, but both Doc Sci and I felt that the main jousting event alone was worth the price of admission. Sunday is family day. We took advantage of a 15% family discount, but that special had to be booked over the phone.
  • Should you buy a seat or choose standing room? If you have kids with you, I’d highly recommend purchasing seats. The show runs about 2 hours, and that is just too long for my boys to stand in one place. Children under 6 do not need to buy a seat to sit with you, but they will have to sit on your lap. Seats in C, B, F, and G are obviously the best because you get the best view of the jousting.
  • Parking cost 3,50 euro per car (more for trailers). This is a massive event – arrive early so you do not have to park miles away.
  • Bring your own water. Drinks are very expensive at the festival. You can refill water bottles in the bathrooms.
  • As for meals, pork, pretzels, and corn on the cob are the main fare for sale, but other treats can be had as well. We brought our own snacks and sandwiches for lunch so we only had to buy dinner. If you’re vegetarian, again, BYO.
  • Wear sunscreen, and be prepared for any kind of weather. Umbrellas are prohibited in the arena, so bring rain jackets or ponchos.
  • You could bring a stroller, but you’ll have to leave it outside the arena for the main show.
  • The seats in the arena are wooden slats. Your bum will be hanging out in the same spot for at least two hours. If you have portable cushions, bring those.
  • The show is in German, of course, and you won’t understand everything if you don’t speak the language (I understood about 60-70% because it was so loud and the announcer and actors talked so fast), but without any German skills, you’ll get enough to know what is going on and, let’s face it, you’re there for the stunts, not the story, right?
  • Bring pocket money because the kids are going to beg for princess hats, costumes, and fake swords.

Note: This is not a sponsored review, and our family paid for our own admission.

Signature Thrifty Travel Mama

Where to Find the Best FREE View in Edinburgh

Thrifty Travel Mama | Where to Find the Best View with Your Kids in EdinburghIn most cases, I prefer to write and post about our travels right after we’ve finished them. The details are fresh in my mind; the information is current, relevant. But I also think there’s value in revisiting a trip months (even years) later.

In looking back, it’s much easier to see the places, the people, the moments (the burrito) that made the most impact.

For our family, it’s usually all about the view… and the burritos. But that’s a post for another day.

In my I’m-sorry-I-love-you-but-I-need-to-take-a-break post, I teased you with a shot from our trip. Now, I finally have time to tell all, and I’m starting with that breathtaking view.

Arthur’s Seat

Edinburgh – okay, the whole of Scotland – is notorious for its crappy weather. So, you can imagine my surprise at our good fortune when we stepped off the plane in early November and the sun was shining. Oh, the horror!

We stashed our stuff at the vacation rental and dashed off in the direction of Holyrood Park. We waved hello to the Queen’s Scottish residence, Holyrood Palace, and continued on toward the massive rock behind it.

As we got closer, however, we saw that there were actually several peaks in Holyrood Park. We wanted to climb Arthur’s Seat, not Arthur’s footstool. We asked around but couldn’t get a clear answer from anyone. Since we didn’t have much daylight left, we gambled on the highest of the bunch and went for it.Thrifty Travel Mama | Where to Find the Best View with Your Kids in Edinburgh

All roads might lead to Rome, but only half of the footpaths in Holyrood Park lead to Arthur’s Seat. The most direct is from the east near Dunsapie Loch (more on that below). The kids scampered up the wide path until slippery rock slopes slowed them down. Little ones will (literally) need a hand to reach the top safely.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Where to Find the Best View with Your Kids in Edinburgh

The summit at Arthur’s Seat.

Once we rounded the last craggy bend, we were rewarded with an astonishing panorama. From Arthur’s Seat (on a clear day, duh), one can see Portobello Beach, Meadowbank Stadium, Calton Hill, Waverly Station, Cramond Island, and even the amazing Firth of Forth Bridge.

Oh, right, and of course you could also see the city’s crown jewel, Edinburgh Castle.Thrifty Travel Mama | Where to Find the Best View with Your Kids in Edinburgh

Edinburgh Castle is a must-see, and the views from the castle are (usually) wonderful. But, just as the best view in Paris is not from the Eiffel Tower itself, so the best view in Edinburgh is not from the castle. Well, at least not when it looks like this…

Thrifty Travel Mama | Where to Find the Best View with Your Kids in Edinburgh

Completely fogged up view from Edinburgh Castle.

The wind at the top of Arthur’s Seat is somethin’ fierce, and the weather up there can change rapidly. Luckily, we had brought decent outdoor clothing, but we still shuddered in the waning afternoon sun that set the whole of Edinburgh ablaze in brilliant orange.Thrifty Travel Mama | Expat Life: The English Speaking Bubble, Edinburgh

When our eyes could take it no more, we picked our way carefully back down the same way we’d come just an hour earlier. We could’ve gone a different route back, but I wanted to see Dunsapie Loch.

A friend of mine that lived in Edinburgh for a year told me that this was her kids’ favorite spot. They’d often go to the loch to feed the swans. When we walked up, there were the swans, just as she said, floating under the pink clouds of sunset and guarded by a hilltop ruin that hovered over their watery home.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Where to Find the Best View with Your Kids in Edinburgh

The swans of Dunsapie Loch, flocking to their next crusty handout.

Edinburgh, you were beginning to get to me. I actually started to imagine that was our family’s favorite spot. But then I pinched myself and sobered up – not all days in Edinburgh are as gorgeous as this one.

Honorable Mention – Calton Hill

While Arthur’s Seat was an easy walk from our vacation rental in Abbeyhill, it might be more of a bus ride for those staying closer to the city center. (Not that riding buses in Edinburgh is a problem – in fact, the city’s transportation system is excellent.) But if you’d like to take a stroll somewhere closer to the castle, say, then a mighty fine view can also be had from Calton Hill.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Where to Find the Best View with Your Kids in Edinburgh

The view OF Arthur’s Seat from Calton Hill.

Wind is a theme that can’t be shaken whenever one goes to great heights in Edinburgh. If you can keep the hair out of your mouth long enough to open your eyes, you’ll be treated to a closer view of Edinburgh Castle, the Firth of Forth, and Cramond Island.Thrifty Travel Mama | Where to Find the Best View with Your Kids in Edinburgh

The climb up to Calton Hill is easier and less treacherous than the ascent to Arthur’s Seat. I think my boys enjoyed Calton Hill more because there’s plenty of space to run around without fear of toppling over a rocky cliff. Plus, there’s an old canon in the park which always makes for a good time in their book.

Thrifty Travel Mama | Where to Find the Best View with Your Kids in Edinburgh

The unfinished National Monument of Scotland in the park atop Calton Hill.

Whether you choose Calton, Arthur, or both is up to you – they’re both completely free and worth the physical effort required. Just consider yourself warned: the views from these summits are intoxicating. Brace yourself; you’re about to fall in love with Scotland, grey skies and all.

Do you love a good view? Would you rather pay for a panoramic view in physical exertion or paper money?Signature Thrifty Travel Mama

This post is part of the Sunday Traveler series at Chasing the Donkey. Please head here to get the best of this week’s travel-related blog posts!

 

Peaceful Paris: A Morning at Château de Vincennes with Kids

Thrifty Travel Mama | Peaceful Paris: A Morning at Château de Vincennes with KidsAfter a rather frustrating week where it seemed our plans were thwarted by gobs of tourists at nearly every turn, we finally found our stride outside Paris at the Château de Vincennes.

Why didn’t we trek out to Versailles instead?

Well, other than the aforementioned hordes of holiday travelers, Versailles in winter is mediocre at best. The musical fountains are turned off, many statues are covered, and bike rentals are impossible.

Perhaps if the palace grounds had been crowned with a fresh layer of fluffy snowflakes, I might’ve felt differently.Thrifty Travel Mama | Peaceful Paris: A Morning at Château de Vincennes with Kids

The lesser known Château de Vincennes guards the town of the same name to the east of Paris. From the castle’s website..

Dating back to the 12th century, a little before the Louvre, Vincennes is one of the few castles which, from the Middle Ages to our time, has consistently found itself at the centre of French History.

Now that the City of Light is a sprawling metropolis, Vincennes is a mere suburb easily reached by metro, RER, or bus. Bonus: our apartment was within walking distance.

When taking the kiddos to the castle, check out the Donjon, the enceinte, and the Sainte-Chapelle before letting them roam around.  But, keep off the grass – this is France, of course.Thrifty Travel Mama | Peaceful Paris: A Morning at Château de Vincennes with Kids

The Donjon & the Enceinte

The Donjon (an eclectic mix of Don Juan and dungeon?) happens to be the highest medieval fortified structure in Europe.. which says a lot when one considers the sheer amount of castles on this continent.

Home of the royal family, the fortress was kept safe by incredibly thick walls (the enceinte) and a deep moat. More on the history and architecture of the donjon can be found here.

The enceinte, or fortified wall, impressed my boys immediately. More than a kilometer in length, the wall is armed with nine towers and a moat nearly as large as an Olympic swimming pool.

Practical Tip: The only restrooms at Château de Vincennes are located inside the Donjon, and visitors are required to purchase a ticket. Thrifty Travel Mama | Peaceful Paris: A Morning at Château de Vincennes with Kids

The Sainte-Chapelle

Started in the 14th century, the Sainte-Chapelle of Vincennes (see first photo in this post) is an elaborate Gothic chapel, albeit smaller than the more famous Paris version.

At one time, it housed the crown of thorns relics. The interior was destroyed during the French Revolution but has since been restored. For further reading on the history of the holy chapel, click here.

The Gift Shop

Okay, okay, you want find the Château de Vincennes gift shop on any list of French national treasures. But, I actually enjoyed browsing the wares here. Compared to the rest of Paris, prices weren’t astronomical and the selection of goods was exceptional.

Doc Sci ended up with a small yet sturdy knight’s helmet, and the boys both picked out medieval action figures.

Parc Floral de Paris

With purchases pocketed, we went once more around the perimeter of the castle before heading back to the apartment. Along the way, we discovered the gigantic sign for Parc Floral de Paris which lies just beyond the château.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to explore the park (which I hear has an excellent playground for kids), but we did have a little fun with our cameras.Thrifty Travel Mama | Peaceful Paris: A Morning at Château de Vincennes with KidsThrifty Travel Mama | Peaceful Paris: A Morning at Château de Vincennes with Kids

Thrifty Travel Mama | Peaceful Paris: A Morning at Château de Vincennes with KidsThe Verdict

After nearly suffocating from the sheer mass of people all week, our morning at the Château de Vincennes was a breath of clean forest air. We all needed a bit of quiet and a lot of space to stretch out, and a walk to the castle was an ideal ending to our last day in Paris.

I’m sorry to say that before our time at Château de Vincennes, I had never even heard of the place. I’d love to know – have you heard of or visited this castle before?

For more Paris with Kids posts, click here.Signature-Marigold

Snapshot: The Swiss Castles of Bellinzona with Kids

Thrifty Travel Mama | Snapshot: Bellinzona Castles with Kids (Switzerland)On Tuesday, I told you all about our time in Vaduz, Liechtenstein, on our way back to Germany from a totally rad two weeks in Italy last summer.  Apparently, order isn’t very important to me this week because I’m sharing today about our very first stop on that road trip before we even made it to the Italian border – Bellinzona, Switzerland.

Never heard of it?

Honestly, I hadn’t either. But that’s what you get when you start randomly grabbing names off a map.

How do I come up with these places?  Well, my pit stop selection process usually goes a little something like this…

  • Chart the route in Google maps.
  • Decide how many segments we’ll need to complete the trip.  My kids can usually handle 3 hours if awake and offered food, 4 if asleep and forced to wear eye masks.
  • Search for a city or attraction in the targeted area that we’re interested in seeing anyway, or…
  • Find a park, hiking trail, vista, or other outdoor wonder to explore.

Sometimes the second option is the best because it ensures that the wiggly males from the back seat can just run around and be loud, obnoxious boys for a while instead of having to sit quietly in the back seat like little girls.Thrifty Travel Mama | Snapshot: Bellinzona Castles with Kids (Switzerland)

When I found Bellizona, I hit the jackpot.  This small city is big time famous for its three castles (Castelgrande, Montebello, and Sasso Corbaro) that have together been an UNESCO World Heritage site since 2000.

Check out this blurb from Bellizona’s tourism website (emphasis theirs):

These fortresses number among the finest examples of medieval fortification architecture in the alpine region. As they appear today, Bellinzona’s fortifications, whose origins actually go much further back to a prehistoric settlement on Castelgrande hill, are mainly the result of intensive and complex building activity undertaken by the Dukes of Milan in the 15th century… These battlements, towers and gateway, included in the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2000, are still a source of wonder today.

For more history, lore, and practical visitor information click here and here.

Since we could only spend a few hours in Bellinzona, I decided we should concentrate our time at only one of the castles.  Our options:

  • Castelgrande: the largest and the oldest.  Located in the city center, access is via a steep set of stairs, a long and winding path, or an elevator.
  • Montebello: smaller, and stands guard 90m above Bellinzona.  Access is via a footpath from Piazza Collegiata in the center or by car/bus on the Via Artore.
  • Sasso Corbaro: austere yet solid new kid on the block.  Only possible to visit by car.
Thrifty Travel Mama | Snapshot: Bellinzona Castles with Kids (Switzerland)

Castelgrande

While the Catelgrande might be the first choice of many (check out Urban Bliss Life’s visit with kids), we opted for Montebello instead for two reasons (1) ease of access by car, and (2) it’s possible to see the other castles from Montebello.

The GPS took us right to the parking lot of the castle (free).  While we cleaned up the poo explosion from the birthday boy‘s car seat, the older boys discovered a decent playground adjacent to the parking lot (score!) with a typically Swiss fresh water fountain.  Once all the muck had been removed, I strapped Big Foot to my back, and we all went to have a look see.Thrifty Travel Mama | Snapshot: Bellinzona Castles with Kids (Switzerland)

Doc Sci was about to go all gaga on me about the drawbridges when I reminded him that the purpose of this visit was for him to nap.  We’d been up since 3:30am, and he still had another five hours of driving to do.  Safety first, boys & girls!Thrifty Travel Mama | Snapshot: Bellinzona Castles with Kids (Switzerland)

I was instantly enchanted by this castle.  It had everything you could ask for in an old fortress – walls to walk, bridges to cross, heavy doors to heave, and absolutely marvelous views.

Plus, it was deserted.  I love having the place to ourselves.Thrifty Travel Mama | Snapshot: Bellinzona Castles with Kids (Switzerland)

Thrifty Travel Mama | Snapshot: Bellinzona Castles with Kids (Switzerland)The boys and I scrambled up and down stairs, scurried in and out of every available doorway, and burst out into the meadow in front of the castle.  I was surprised at how close the Castelgrande seemed from Montebello and that I could see the Sasso Corbaro peeking out from the trees further up.

But, T-Rex?  He was just surprised at how fun it was to tumble down the grassy hill.Thrifty Travel Mama | Snapshot: Bellinzona Castles with Kids (Switzerland)

Thrifty Travel Mama | Snapshot: Bellinzona Castles with Kids (Switzerland)

See the Sasso Corbaro up there?

The walls belonging to the actual castle of Montebello are rigged with modern metal walkways and railings for visitors to traipse about as they please.  Unfortunately, the outer walls are not… or at least I couldn’t find a way up.  I might’ve tried harder if I didn’t have a baby on my back.Thrifty Travel Mama | Snapshot: Bellinzona Castles with Kids (Switzerland)

In short, these little-known castles are gems.  They’re brilliant for boys, history nerds, and weary-on-the-way to Italy travelers.  I only wish we’d had more time to fully appreciate all three castles at Bellinzona!

My snapshot of the castles at Bellinzona: silent, ancient, fantastic, and worthy of all the time you can spare to explore.

Have you been to Bellinzona?  I’d love to hear about your visit or why you might add it to your own bucket list!Signature-MarigoldBe sure to check out What to See in Zadar from Chasing the Donkey as well as all the other fine Sunday Traveler posts!

Snapshot: Vaduz, Liechtenstein with Kids

Thrifty Travel Mama | Snapshot: Vaduz, Liechtenstein with KidsWay back in September (light years ago it seems), I rambled on and on about our family adventures in Tuscany, ticking things off the bucket list.  I was afraid I might have bored or inundated you, and neither was my intended goal.  So, I waited and saved our pit stop stories for another time.  Ladies and gentlemen, that time is now – get ready to hear a little bit about Vaduz, Liechtenstein!

I’ve always wanted to visit Liechtenstein since it’s oh-so obscure.  And, I’ll admit Doc Sci and I wanted to see the real place associated with the fake character, Sir Ulrich von Liechtenstein.

Well, as it turns out, the name isn’t actually fake, only the movie character.  The real Sir Ulrich was both a fighter and a writer.  Once again, Google saves the day!

Liechtenstein is one of the smallest and one of the richest countries in the world.  It’s completely landlocked, and it’s still ruled by a prince (more on that in a minute).

You might also guess that things in little ol’ Liechtenstein are very expensive.  In fact, costs are so outrageous that Swiss prices start to look like bargains.  Thanks to a tip from my friend Ann at Travel Turtle who also stopped off in Vaduz, we didn’t refuel the car or refresh ourselves at a cafe. 

The Journey

After twice being caught in maddening Italian Saturday traffic, we vowed to not let it get the best of us a third time.  We rose at 3:30am and sailed all the way up the Italian Autostrada from Pistoia to the border near Como.

Past Lugano, the road took us east on a winding Alpine highway.  The rising sun lit the peaks on fire while the sleepy valleys stayed asleep in shadow.  The fuel gauge flirted with the empty line, and the game of chicken ended only a few kilometers from the Liechtenstein border at Bad Ragaz.

As Doc Sci filled the tank (at those bargain Swiss prices), I rummaged around the trunk on a desperate search for buried sweatshirts.  Weren’t we just sweating it out in Italy?  Now, we’re shivering in Switzerland. 

We slipped into Liechtenstein without fanfare of any type – no flashing neon You Are Now in The Sixth Smallest Country on the Planet sign, no sober-faced border guards with weapons and questions, nothing.  Only the license plates proclaim Dorothy, we’re not in Switzerland anymore.

Seeing as we’re self-confessed cheapskates, we searched high and low for a free parking spot in Vaduz.  No dice.  Only when we decided to pay for parking did we realize it’s free on the weekends!

The Gist

Hands down, the best fun, family-friendly, and free thing to do in Vaduz is climb up to the castle.  You could drive up to the Schloss (and fellow freeloaders – the parking is gratis up there).  But, when in doubt, I always vote for the scenic route.

It’s rather easy to find the footpath if you keep a look out for the Schlossweg or Haldenweg signs.  The route dead ends at Fürst-Franz-Josef-Strasse.  Hang a right, and you’ll be at the castle in a jiffy.  Actually, I’m informed that official name is The Princely House of Liechtenstein in case precision is your thing..

Thrifty Travel Mama | Snapshot: Vaduz, Liechtenstein with Kids

The winding way up…

Thrifty Travel Mama | Snapshot: Vaduz, Liechtenstein with Kids

Stop to catch your breath…

Thrifty Travel Mama | Snapshot: Vaduz, Liechtenstein with Kids

Storm the castle!

Expert Tip: Make a great effort to explain to the wee ones (especially those quite accustomed to conquering castles) that this particular palace is still in use by real royalty.  Unfortunately, that means we can’t go traipsing about the yard or snooping in the cellar.  Snap a few photos, inhale the crisp Alpine air, and feast on the view.

Back down the hill, it’s time for a stroll on the main pedestrian street known as the Städtle.  Here you’ll find swanky hotels, pricey bistros, and several museums meant for those who aren’t in the possession of small children who can neither read nor force themselves to be interested in wine, fine art, or postage stamps.

However if I was to bribe encourage such an interest, I’d be more likely to herd said children in the direction of the Liechtenstein National Museum.

If you’re a passport stamp enthusiast, take your little book and a fistful of euros to the Liechtenstein Center.  It won’t be an official impression, but hey, it’s better than nothing, right?Thrifty Travel Mama | Snapshot: Vaduz, Liechtenstein with Kids

As we continued south on the Städtle, I was awed by the juxtaposition of old (Regierungsgebäude) and new (Liechtenstein Parliament building).  The two architectural styles right next to each other made for some fascinating food for thought.

I entertained the thought that perhaps this was a picture of how Liechtenstein held on to its traditions (like being ruled by a prince) while embracing the future.  However, I can’t vouch for the accuracy of such fanciful notions especially since our pal Wikipedia informs us that Liechtenstein was the last country in Europe to allow women to vote.  Doh!Thrifty Travel Mama | Snapshot: Vaduz, Liechtenstein with Kids

At the end of the Städtle, we continued on to see the gorgeous little Vaduz Cathedral If you had the dough, this stately chapel would be a picture-perfect place to get married.

Right next to the cathedral stands the Royal Vault.  Silly Americans – the boys thought there were crown jewels in the vaults instead of the actual contents which are a bit more, uh, morbid than that.  No wonder the place was completely unguarded…

Thrifty Travel Mama | Snapshot: Vaduz, Liechtenstein with Kids

I was doing this…

Thrifty Travel Mama | Snapshot: Vaduz, Liechtenstein with Kids

…while the boys were doing this.

One Last Look

With as many jitters shaken out of little legs as possible, we piled back into the car and headed out of town.  But, I had one more stop to make – the covered bridge located at the entrance to Vaduz.  Thrifty Travel Mama | Snapshot: Vaduz, Liechtenstein with Kids

Not only is the bridge heavily photogenic and slightly nostalgic, it also sports an off-the-charts cool factor for travel nerds… one end of the bridge is in Liechtenstein and the other end is in Switzerland.  Um yes, I will make of fool of myself by quite literally hopping the border and planting myself in two countries at once, thankyouverymuch.

Practical tip: There’s no place to park nearby the Liechtenstein side of the bridge.  You’ll need to put on your polite face and break out the pretty please (uh, in German, if possible) when asking to temporarily park at one of the businesses along the Zollstrasse.

My snapshot of Vaduz, Liechtenstein: isolated, reserved, historic, and very expensive.

Have you been to Liechtenstein?  I’d love to hear about your visit or plans to do so in the comments!Signature-Marigold

Rhein Falls with Kids

Thrifty Travel Mama - Rhein FallsI have to admit, I’ve never been one to go gaga over rushing water.  The sight of water falling doesn’t thrill me as much as, say, castle ruins.  Victoria Falls is on my lifetime bucket list, but Niagara strikes me as total kitsch.  But, after checking out the Rhein Falls in Switzerland, I think I may have changed my mind.  There’s something elusive, even alluring about the formidable power of an imposing waterfall.

Just south of Schaffhausen in northern Switzerland lies Neuhasen, the closest city to the falls.  The Rhein Falls are an easy drive from Stein am Rhein, Hohentwiel, Konstanz, Mainau, or even Basel or Zurich.

Visitors can access the falls on both sides of the river either through Schloss Laufen or Schlössli Wörth The Schloss Laufen side charges 5 CHF per adult for admission, but parking is free.  Schlössli Wörth, on the other hand, does not levy entrance fees but the car park costs 6 CHF for 2 hours.  We voted Schloss Laufen; well, okay, the GPS chose for us.

Schloss Laufen - not much to see in this castle except the inside of your empty wallet.

Schloss Laufen – not much to see in this castle except the inside of your empty wallet.

View old photographs of the falls while walking through Schloss Laufen.

View old artistic interpretations of the falls.

Part with your Swiss francs or euros at the ticket office.  Take advantage of the free, clean bathrooms around the corner.  Gaggle at the exorbitant food prices as you make your way to the castle.  A cinnamon sugar crepe for 6 CHF ($6.50) or a bratwurst for 7 CHF ($7.50) anyone?  Hey, at least parking is free!Thrifty Travel Mama - Rhein FallsSpeaking of free, cheapskates should know that it’s impossible to see anything from the castle without an entrance ticket.  However, Doc Sci and I theorized that it is entirely probable that one could take advantage of a decent view from the boat ramp.

From Schloss Laufen, follow the signs for the train/boat.  Walk all the way out on the dock, but don’t board.  You should be able to catch a glimpse of the falls from there… but you didn’t hear that from me!

A stained glass turret at the beginning of the descent.

A stained glass turret at the beginning of the descent.

After scanning our tickets and walking through the turnstile, we descended via stairs to the first of several platformsWikipedia described the way as “steep and narrow.”  In my experience, they were neither… at least not to the point of annoyance.

Screech kept saying wow, wow, wow.

Screech kept saying wow, wow, wow.

However, families with babies will find the steps a point of contention.  Though an elevator exists, it does little good for those who wish to experience the various platform views.  I noticed one or two parents with prams.  Frustrated, they had folded up their strollers and were lugging them around while the children walked.

Psssst!  If you haven’t caught on by now, I’m a huge fan of backpack carriers for little ones!

The elevator - all visitors exit the falls this way, but those with wheelchairs or strollers can enter here, too.

The elevator – all visitors exit the falls this way, but those with wheelchairs or strollers can enter here, too.

As you climb lower, the falls’ force and your fascination increases.  At one point, the water seems to be rushing straight at your face.  In a small cave near the bottom, you can even stick your hand in the stream.Thrifty Travel Mama - Rhein FallsThrifty Travel Mama - Rhein Falls

Thrifty Travel Mama - Rhein FallsThrifty Travel Mama - Rhein FallsFor serious thrill seekers, a boat ferries visitors from the Schlössli Wörth shore to an observation platform sticking straight up from the center of the falls.  Hats off to the skippers who must maneuver the torrid waters several times per hour.  I personally wouldn’t take small children on this excursion; but, if you’re interested, more information can be found here.

That yellow thing is the boat that takes visitors to the rock in the middle of the falls.  The only thing between you and the water is a thin, metal railing!

That yellow thing is the boat that takes visitors to the rock in the middle of the falls. The only thing between you and the water is a thin, metal railing!

Thrifty Travel Mama - Rhein FallsAfter you’ve had your fill observing the force of nature, head back up to the schloss and have a look around.  Kids can amuse themselves for a few minutes on the small playground; parents can decide if they’d like to splurge on an expensive fancy meal at the restaurant.

I can’t say I’ve been converted to a waterfall chaser, but I will admit that my interest in them has somewhat increased.  One thing Doc Sci and I have come to learn about ourselves in this expat experiment is that we love exploring all that the natural world has to offer.  So whether it be water or wind or forest or fjord, you can bet we’ll investigate anything once.. kids in tow.

Taking the family to Switzerland?  Check our adventures in Stein am Rhein and Schilthorn with kids!Signature-Marigold

Hohentwiel – AWESOME Castle Ruins for Kids

Thrifty Travel Mama | Hohentwiel - AWESOME Castle Ruins for KidsIf you decide to visit only one smashed up castle in Germany, make it Hohentwiel.  In a nutshell, this place is absolutely stunning!  The extensive grounds dwarf the other ruins we have explored.  But, bring a picnic – you’ll be here a while!Thrifty Travel Mama | Hohentwiel - AWESOME Castle Ruins for KidsFirst built in 914, the fortress at Hohentwiel (near Singen) at different times housed both a monastery and a prison.  During its heyday, it was considered unconquerable.  It’s no wonder that Napoleon ordered Hohentwiel destroyed in 1801.  Today, it’s the largest castle ruin complex in Germany, a claim verified by our good friend Wikipedia.Thrifty Travel Mama | Hohentwiel - AWESOME Castle Ruins for KidsWe arrived by car, but it’s also possible to come by public transport.  Stop half way up the mountain at the barn-like welcome center, and purchase your tickets (3,50 adults / kids free / family rate available).  It’d be a shame to hack it up the hill, just to be stuck outside the iron gates!

Speaking of that “hill”… it’s a brutal one.  It might look innocent enough at first; hey, it’s even paved most of the way.  But the climb is quite steep. That’s not to say kids can’t or shouldn’t attempt it.  We survived with a minimal amount of whining and, on the descent, observed a considerable number of senior citizens making the trek.  So, buck up!  You can do it!

Leave your pram at home unless you want to keep your arms in line with your ears the whole way.  Even if you did muscle a stroller up the mountain, it’s rather useless inside the complex.

Don't let this benign-looking path fool you...

Don’t let this benign-looking path fool you…

At least you can feast your eyes while your feet are screaming.

At least you can feast your eyes while your legs are screaming.

Screech thought he'd try a horizontal ascent, inching along parallel to the stone path.

Screech thought he’d try a horizontal ascent, inching along parallel to the stone path.  Yeah, that lasted about 3 seconds.

Descending was equally as challenging.  Time to get some walking poles and make life easy on the knees.

Descending was equally as challenging. Time to get some walking poles and make life easy on the knees.

Please do yourself a favor and leave the stroller at home!  I can only imagine what was running through that dad's head...

I can only imagine what was running through this dad’s head… and his kid isn’t even in the stroller!

While we were walking up to the ruins, Doc Sci noticed cords and lights strung up along the path.  When we reached the entrance, we found a stage and loads of equipment littering the fortress.  Boo.  Nothing like a bunch of techies and sound equipment to make a mess of your photographs.

Ugh, look at all this junk!

Ugh, look at all this junk!  And to the right you can see a stage.  We found at least 10 of these around the complex.  No bueno.

Visitors to Hohentwiel have several levels of ruins to conquer.  We didn’t look around the lower part on account of it being chock full of kegs and beer advertisements.  After a quick gander over the wall, we carried on up the steep, rocky path.

On the main level, we found the tower.  It’s not very pretty to photograph due to the cell phone antennae bolted to the side.  The view, however, goes beyond amazing.  On a clear day, you can see the Alps!

Whoa, Nelly!

Obviously, our day was not clear enough for the Alps…

The boys and I decided to investigate the tunnels underneath the original castle structure.  They giggled with delight as their shoes slid around on the slimy stones.  I couldn’t get over how much cooler the air felt; my non-scientific self estimated a 20F difference.  Nothing like free, natural air conditioning!

Deep, dark, and cool.

Deep, dark, and cool.

The best discovery for me lay in a smallish circular tower (real technical, I know) on the south side of the fortress.  Initially, we climbed down to it in order to snap a photo of the view, sans crowd control barriers.  We were delighted to find that we could, in fact, go on the tower.

Down, down, down, we picked our way carefully on the stone steps of the circular staircase.  We found ourselves in a cool, quiet recess.  The boys climbed up the rock in several places.  From here, we could watch the festival worker bees scurrying to set up their ugly equipment.

Don't miss this!!

Don’t miss this!!

Gah, just can't even get over that view.

Gah, just can’t even get over that view.

Keep the kids close; no railings here!

Keep the kids close; no railings here!

We passed this as we climbed down the stairs - a clue as to this area's former purpose, perhaps?

We passed this as we climbed down the stairs – a clue as to this area’s former purpose, perhaps?

Casing the joint.

Casing the joint.

Hello, pretty.

Hello, pretty.

If you want to know how my kids feel about traveling all the time, this picture says it all.

By the way, if you want to know how my kids feel about traveling all the time, this picture says it all.

We spent roughly two hours at the Hohentwiel ruins, and we would’ve stayed longer if we had not made plans to visit a few places in Switzerland later in the day.  As I mentioned earlier, I highly recommend bringing a sack lunch.  I noticed several proper picnic tables as well as benches.  Even the most boring salami sandwich can be turned into a memorable meal when this is your backdrop!Thrifty Travel Mama | Hohentwiel - AWESOME Castle Ruins for KidsIf you’re within day trip distance of Singen, add these ruins to the top of your “must see” list.  Unfortunately for us, no ruin in Germany will ever impress as much as the Hohentwiel.  Fortunately, we don’t care – we’ll never stop exploring!

Visiting the Bodensee / Lake Constance area?  You won’t want to miss Mainau, Stein am Rhein, or the city of Konstanz.  What are your favorite smashed up castles, German or otherwise?Signature-MarigoldYou can find this post and loads of absolutely fascinating travel-related posts at the Sunday Traveler hosted by my friend Chasing the Donkey. Check this week’s list out here!

Mainau – The Flower Island

Thrifty Travel Mama | Mainau - The Flower IslandAt the urging of several friends, we finally (FINALLY!) visited the beautiful island of Mainau.  It’s an amazing place full of flowers, gardens, butterflies, and more.  But, be warned: you won’t want to leave!

Mainau is located close to Konstanz on the Bodensee in southern Germany.  For some reason, my GPS couldn’t find Mainau.  I just set it to Konstanz and followed the well-posted signs once we got close.  Of course, I found the coordinates after I returned home here – ha!  The island is accessible either by parking in the lot on the mainland and walking over a bridge or by ferry from a port closer to Konstanz.

Here we go!

Here we go!

Though the island does have a few hills here and there, it’s relatively flat and pram-friendly.  Bikes are prohibited, but children can bring balance bikes or scooters.  In the summer, wagons (handcars) are available free of charge from the main entrance.

The "handcars" are complimentary during the summer season.

The “handcars” are complimentary during the summer season.

For the little ones, the best part of Mainau is the gigantic water playground.  I knew this in advance, so we saved it for last.  I never would have been able to convince boys to look at the lilies when they knew barges and bathing suits were waiting for them!

Don't miss the butterfly house!

Don’t miss the butterfly house!

Instead, we hit up the Butterfly House first.  The building is shaped like a – wait for it – butterfly, and visitors enter through a gigantic caterpillar.  The inside is jungle-like with high humidity, tropical fruits, and densely packed greenery.  If you’re gentle and patient, you might even be able to get a butterfly to rest on your hand!

Beautiful butterflies.

Beautiful butterflies.

We then trudged on past some ginormous trees to the castle on the far end of the island.  A cafe and small chapel are accessible to the public, but the rest of the palace is still the private residence of the Bernadotte family.

A real redwood!

A real redwood!

Here's the inside of the small chapel.  A music festival was taking place during our visit; these children were about to sing in this lovely space.

Here’s the inside of the small chapel. A music festival was taking place during our visit; these children were about to sing in this lovely space.

A lovely rose garden sprawls out next to the castle.  I asked the boys if they wanted to explore the roses or not – I was surprised to hear an enthusiastic, “yes!”

The Italian rose garden.

The Italian rose garden.

Some serious QC going on.

Some serious QC going on.

After a satisfactory amount of sniffing, we moved on to the Italian and Mediterranean gardens.  I was lost in dreamy anticipation of our upcoming Italy trip, wondering if the landscape looked at all similar to Tuscany.  Their interest waning, the boys just wanted to watch people jumping off their boats for a swim in the Bodensee.

The Italian step water garden.

The Italian step water garden.

As I was reassuring them that lunch would come “soon,” we happened upon the petting zoo and pony rides.  T-Rex and Screech went in with Doc Sci to pet the goats, shrieking with delight when they found a baby one.

Side note: I noticed lots of children playing inside the goat pen without shoes.  Um, seriously!?  I get that Europeans want to be all earthy in the summer, but poop pellets between your toes?  G-ROSS!!

Pony rides!  The cost is 2 euros for 3 times around the paddock.

Pony rides! The cost is 2 euros for 3 times around the paddock.

Unfortunately, both boys chickened out when it came time to ride the ponies.  I knew they would like it, but neither would.. pony up.Thrifty Travel Mama | Mainau - The Flower IslandJust as a major hunger meltdown threatened to bring down the house, we made it to the playground.  This area of the island is THE point of Mainau’s existence according to little boys, the entire reason they will put up with flowers, butterflies and other girly things.

The kids can maneuver this raft back and forth by pulling on the thick rope.

The kids can maneuver this raft by pulling on the thick rope.

Back and forth.

Back and forth and back again.

Though the playground is quite extensive and features many fun playthings for children of all ages, the main draw is the water area, complete with wooden rafts that children can pilot around the murky green water (let’s not think about where those children’s feet have been…).

More barges!

More barges!

More of the playground - without water.  An area for toddlers is just on the other side of these climbing structures.

More of the playground – without water. An area for toddlers is just on the other side of these climbing structures.

Screech's favorite thing about the island (even over the water features) was this train.  Put a euro in and the ICE train goes 'round and 'round.

Screech’s favorite thing about the island (even over the water features) was this train. Put a euro in and the ICE train goes ’round and ’round.

I highly recommend bringing a bathing suit, towels, a sack lunch, and a large picnic blanket.  Spread out, and relax!  If not for the two hour drive home, we would’ve lounged ’til sundown.

I had high hopes for relaxing after lunch.  But keeping track of 3 kids near water is a two-parent job.  Maybe next year?

I had high hopes for relaxing after lunch. But keeping track of 3 kids near water is a two-parent job. Maybe next year?

Speaking of sunset, admission is half off starting at 5pm.  Prices are not cheap for adults, but children 12 and under are free!  Along with the privilege of enjoying the beautiful gardens, I was pleased to see that ticket sales went toward maintaining plentiful, clean bathrooms throughout island. I saw several baby changing rooms stocked with complimentary diapers and wipes. Though we didn’t use them, clothes dryers are provided free of charge for those families who forgot to bring swimsuits.Thrifty Travel Mama | Mainau - The Flower IslandAfter I got over the initial sticker shock, I thought the price was fair, considering the amount of upkeep that is required for the extensive grounds.  Of course, it’s best to stay the entire day to get your money’s worth!

If forced to find something negative about our experience at Mainau, I’d have to admit that since the island is so beautiful it’s naturally very crowded.  Expect to share your day with hordes of other eager visitors.

Our whole family loved Mainau, and we hope to return again some day with friends.  Who’s in??Signature-Marigold

Hornberg – Castle Ruins For Kids

Thrifty Travel Mama | Hornberg - Castle Ruins for KidsMy weekend usually goes a little something like this.  Learn about something interesting to see within a 1-2 hour drive.  Do a little research, get that familiar travel itch.  Pack a lunch the night before, and rush out the door Saturday morning.  If I can ignore the whining from the back seat (which thankfully has nothing to do with the adventure at hand), I start to get excited.  This is going to be… fun! great! amazing!

But every once in a while, I arrive at a place and think, eh… it’s.. okay.  Thrifty Travel Mama | Hornberg - Castle Ruins for KidsI felt that way about our recent excursion to Hornberg in the Black Forest (Schwarzwald).  We love ruins, even small ones like we found in Staufen.  But the draw, the whole point is to be able to explore them, right?  Unfortunately, the hands-on factor at Hornberg is rather low.  So, why am I writing about it?  Because – impenetrable ruins aside – it’s an amazing picnic spot.  If you find yourself in the Schwarzwald with a sandwich in hand, this is where you should eat it. Thrifty Travel Mama | Hornberg - Castle Ruins for KidsAlso, for little legs, injured legs, or lazy legs, Hornberg is ideal.  A hotel with a restaurant and a biergarten sits atop the hill adjacent to the ruins.  This means you can conveniently drive up the mountain, bypassing the crazy steep trail that would otherwise be your only option.  Inside the building you’ll find restrooms, and kids will quickly discover the playground outside.

We didn’t see any signs stating that the parking was solely for hotel or restaurant guests.  But, with less than 10 spaces, you might need a bit of luck to nab one.  For those willing to make the trek up the road on foot, another parking lot is located at the base of the hill.

Here’s a look at our time at Hornberg in pictures.

First stop - the playground next to the biergarten.  We had the run of the place and felt like kings feasting above the subjects below.  In reality, we were just a couple of foreigners digging into PB&J at a picnic table.  Hey, at least we had some shade.

First stop – the playground next to the biergarten. We had the run of the place and felt like kings feasting above the subjects below. Okay really, we were just a couple of foreigners digging into PB&J at a picnic table. Hey, at least we had some shade and a REALLY awesome view.

Next stop - storm the tower!  We approached the ruins from the back side which is rather unimpressive.  As you can see, we're in backpack carrier territory.

Next stop – storm the tower! We approached the ruins from the back side near the playground which is not as picturesque as the front path. As you can see, we’re in backpack carrier territory.

This locked cage should've been our first clue...

This locked cage should’ve been our first clue…

The tower is locked!  Bummer.  Not only could we not climb up inside, the excessive shrubbery made taking even one decent panorama shot impossible.

The tower is locked!  Not only could we not climb up inside, the excessive shrubbery made taking even one decent panorama shot impossible.  Boo!

Coming back down the steps, I snapped this.  Okay, Hornberg, you might be starting to redeem yourself.

Coming back down the steps, I snapped this. Okay, Hornberg, you might be starting to redeem yourself.

The only other remaining structure besides the tower is the armory.  Again, nice to take a look, but locked up tight.

The only other remaining structure besides the tower is the armory. Again, nice to take a gander, but locked up tight.

The boys did like the "guns" inside once I explained what they actually were.

The boys did like the “guns” inside once I explained what they actually were.

The thrill factor increased for the young crowd once this cave was discovered.

The thrill factor increased for the young crowd once this cave was discovered.

More attempted bouldering ensued.

More attempted bouldering ensued.

On the front side of the ruins, you'll find a secluded bench which would be lovely for a proposal.

On the front side of the ruins, you’ll find a secluded bench with this backdrop which would be lovely for a proposal.

As you can see, visiting Hornberg isn’t completely a waste of time.  But, I would definitely recommend this being a stop along your Black Forest journey, rather than the final destination.  Combine it with a visit to the Triberg Waterfalls for an easy Saturday excursion.Signature-Marigold
More ruins!!

Kastelburg Castle Ruins for Kids in Germany

Kastelburg

Badenweiler Castle Ruins and Spa Town

Badenweiler

Chateau de St Ulrich France - Hiking with Kids

Château de Saint-Ulrich

Badenweiler – A Family Friendly Spa Town

Thrifty Travel Mama - Badenweiler, A Family Friendly Spa TownI’m sure I’ve said it before, but holidays can be the hardest times to be an expat.  Beyond missing family and friends, sometimes the celebrations just don’t exist in another country.  American Independence Day is one such holiday.

While we have been to a Fourth of July party in Germany before, it’s still not quite the same.  So, this year, a friend and I decided we would have our own little picnic and try to keep the tradition alive for our kiddos.  She suggested we let the little ones explore the German spa town of Badenweiler before gorging ourselves on an as-American-as-you-can-get buffet.  Thrifty Travel Mama - Badenweiler, A Family Friendly Spa TownBadenweiler is a poser-free spa and resort town and an easy jaunt from the A5 in the southwest corner of Germany.  While most people come for the Cassiopeia thermal baths, I’d recommend staying for the scenery.  The area is simply charming.

So Sound of Music...

So Sound of Music…

Parking is a cinch at any of the designated lots.  We chose the parking garage in between the Schlosspark and Kurpark on Friedrichstr.  However, if you’re looking to save some cash, drive up the hill behind the Schlosspark and leave the car at the (free) south lot.

After loading up our backpacks, we wandered around in the Schlosspark, an area chock full of dozens of different tree species (all labeled).  The boys discovered a small playground completely with funky baby swings.  Should you find yourself in need of some coffee and cake, visit the Kunst Palais Cafe ARTig on the grounds.  Prices seemed reasonable here as opposed to the posh and expensive restaurants on the main drag.

Ruined Roman.

Ruined Roman.

The boys splashed a bit in the fountain on the Schlossplatz before heading up the hill to the ruins in the Kurpark.  You can push a pram up the hill here (and we did), but as always, a backpack carrier is best.  If this kind of crazy workout is your thing, stick to the paved path.  Thrifty Travel Mama - Badenweiler, A Family Friendly Spa TownWe climbed up in turrets and scrambled around inside the nearly intact walls.  We feasted our eyes on the fantastic view, and soaked in the sunshine warming the entire valley.  When the tummies started to rumble, we headed back down the hill and found a shady picnic spot close to the concert house.  Thrifty Travel Mama - Badenweiler, A Family Friendly Spa TownThrifty Travel Mama - Badenweiler, A Family Friendly Spa TownThrifty Travel Mama - Badenweiler, A Family Friendly Spa TownThrifty Travel Mama - Badenweiler, A Family Friendly Spa TownWe smoothed out blankets and spread a feast of hot dogs, baked beans, potato chips, chicken tenders, pasta salad, and apple pie.  At least if we couldn’t have fireworks, we were going to have us some darn good American food!Thrifty Travel Mama - Badenweiler, A Family Friendly Spa TownThrifty Travel Mama - Badenweiler, A Family Friendly Spa TownThe kids frolicked around the meadow and painted themselves silly with red and blue watercolors while the parents sipped sweet tea.

After lunch, we meandered on down to the Roman bath ruins.  While contemplating whether or not to fork over the five euro family admission fee, the curator offered to let us in for free.  Score!  Thrifty Travel Mama - Badenweiler, A Family Friendly Spa TownThe small exhibit is well done, though signs are only in German.  I really appreciated how the raised walkway allowed us a unique view of the ancient baths.  Doc Sci tried to explain to the boys what they were looking at, but all they really understood was that these old pools look quite similar to our pools today.

Since we needed to let Big Foot take a nap, we skipped the Cassiopeia thermal baths this time.  Unlike the facilities Baden-Baden, this spa is family-friendly, and there is a discount for two adults visiting with up to three children.

On our next trip to Badenweiler (and we hope to return soon!), we’ll make sure to visit the Park der Sinne, a park of the senses.  This free outdoor experience seems like a great place for families to explore.

While I can’t say our kids really learned much about American Independence or why the Fourth of July is a holiday, we did teach them about the importance of embracing and celebrating our American heritage while we live in this beautiful foreign land.

For some decidedly German holidays, read about their Labor Day, Epiphany, and Carnival.Signature-Marigold