Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Germany Part 3 - Stuttgart, the Mercedes Museum

Our Stuttgart portion of the trip was pretty much all about the car museums, Mercedes and Porsche to be exact.  After a tasty little breakfast at the inn we were staying in, we slogged through the rain and drove first to the Mercedes Museum (since we were only going to Museums, the rain really didn't bother us much.  Better then than one of our outdoor hiking days!), which is situated much like the Guggenheim Museum in NY where you start at the top of the museum and spiral down.  Surprisingly to us, this was by far one of our favorite museums of the trip as the format of the museum combined the beautiful Mercedes cars with the timeline of major events happening in the world and how the company adjusted to the times.  It was very well done!

Here is the trip to the top floor in a very sci-fi design elevator with our extremely informative English headsets on - you just pointed at a designator symbol and could get extended history on the technologies/designs.

The first part of the exhibit detailed the history of the invention and evolution of the motor as well as vehicles in which the motor was used including flying contraptions.  The early motors used a fuel called Benzinum (see 3rd picture in the set above) which could only be obtained at local hotels, grocery markets, and restaurants in small glass bottles.
And here's the money shot - the first model named a "Mercedes".  She was a beaut!

The early models were actually quite complex and large for such a new technology.  And boy were they pretty!  I'm sure the actuality of driving on dirt roads didn't leave them looking so pretty after a trip or two...  The museum also had these also side rooms that had "off topic" vehicles, if you will - some were filled with modes of Mercedes Benz built mass/work transportation while others had "famous" Mercedes cars like the popemobile.

Being fairly non-religious and a Jew to boot, I had no clue there was even a vehicle made called the "pope-mobile" and I was rather entertained by it. The second floor down along the spiral was my favorite:

Check out those gorgeous cars from the roaring 20s!  That first red one makes my heart flutter a bit - so gorgeous.

The next floor down was pretty impressive too - you know I love me some 50's/60's mid century design!  S was having a crush moment himself when he saw that silver 300 series model with the gull wing doors.

The floor with the modern cars wasn't all that exciting (what happened to beautifully designed mostly-affordable cars?? They're so boring now....) but the bottom floor had S's racing adrenaline going again and he was in his element - nearly a century of race cars!!!
We finished off our Mercedes Museum trip with a quick stop at their cafe for some lunch, my favorite part being the rather large raspberry linzer cookies with a Mercedes logo in the center.  I was probably bit too obsessed (tasted good too!)  And then we made the obligatory stop in the gift shop.  It was also one of the better gift shops we were in (though naturally pricy) and we got some great souvenirs.  Coming up next: the Porsche Museum!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Germany Part 2 - The Rhine Valley, Mainz

On day 3 in the Rhine Valley we packed up our rental car with our bags and growing numbers of souveniers and headed south toward the small city of Mainz.  We had some musts on our list there and were anxious to hit the road.  On the way however, S requested that we stop off at another castle along the river.  Our initial intent was just to take some pictures from the bottom, but S insisted on running up "real quick" and wound up giving himself a half hour tour.  I'm kind of bummed I missed it, the castle was simple, but complete and furnished, but I was all about "the schedule" and so all I have to go on are S's pictures.

Once we got back on the road, it was a fairly easy drive to Mainz (and my first time officially behind the wheel in Germany, which was pretty much just like driving in the US, but some different street signs to interpret).  We got there and discovered a delightful little city with a mix of old and modern buildings, tiny cobbled streets, and fun art installations.

We made our way first to St. Stephens Cathedral, home to the AMAZING stained glass windows by one of my favorite artists, Marc Chagall.  I was blown away by their beauty and the cathedral was also home to a very impressive modern organ as well.  I could have stayed in there all day...

I actually bought an art book with close up pictures of the windows and also a detailed explanation of how he created them.  It's amazing how he managed to translate his very distinct painting style into the art of stained glass.  After S and K dragged me away from the windows, we headed over to the Gutenberg Museum detailing the history of the printing press and the first mass produced books.  We weren't allowed to use cameras inside, but I snuck a couple of pictures anyway, including a photo of an old religious text that was translated to Greek, Latin, and Hebrew as well as one of the original Gutenberg bibles.

After the museum we were all ravenous and so we found an awesome Italian restaurant that appeared to be built within an old cathedral.  It was probably one of the best meals I ate on the trip and one I'm totally planning on recreating one of these days - an appetizer of avocado and goat cheese with a lemon vinegarette followed by a main dish of penne pasta coated in an insanely delicious orange basil butter sauce and topped with tomatoes, parsley, and crab meat.  I'm drooling just thinking about it again.  We then hopped back into the car and drove down to Stuttgart for part 3 of our tour-de-Germany.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Happy 15th Birthday ISS!

Today marks 15 years of the International Space Station's presence in space!  15 years - can you believe it?!?  Here is an awesome NASA generated infographic to give you all of the details of this amazing piece of technology, facts, milestones and all!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Germany Part 2 - the Rhine Valley, Burg Eltz and the River Tour

We got off to an earlier start on Day 2 in the Rhine Valley since we had a lot planned.  We had snagged some delicious German pastries in downtown St. Goar the previous day and noshed on those for breakfast before heading out.  We drove back north (downstream actually) and to the west, across the Mosel River, and finally into a heavily wooded area.  We parked in the lot and decided that the crisp cool air was perfect for taking the walking trail to Burg Eltz.  We walked through some incredibly gorgeous, green hiking trails flanked by beautifully forested valleys.

With the fog hovering over the trees it was almost unreal.  And finally we come to a bend in the trail, turn the corner and all let out a loud gasp at the completely gorgeous sight that met our eyes:
Burg Eltz is one of the only privately owned castles still inexistance in German.  It never fell in a battle and as such it is one of the most well preserved castles in the region.  The family that owns the castle actually still maintains a vacation residence in one wing of the castle.  Could you imagine - vacationing in a castle surrounded by rolling hills and the trickling of the River Eltz flowing below?  It was magical.

We signed up for the English tour and then proceeded to use up our 30 minute wait time in the "Treasury" where the family stores all of their old trinkets museum style - it was the only interior portion of the castle where we were permitted to take pictures.
This is one of the family tree of crests that was on display.  Our tour was not very long, but VERY detailed - the tour guides could tell you the history of every painting and piece of furniture in there.  After tour we ate our lunch at the outdoor cafe overlooking the beautiful valley and it was actually rated amongst all three of us as one of the best meals we ate on the trip.  S got some beer that he deemed quite delicous along with a big soft pretzel (he got these EVERYWHERE that he possibly could) and a garlic-y German style pizza, K got a super delicious venison goulash served over spaetzel, and I got some pea soup with German sausage and a glass of hot mulled wine.  Yum!
We then hopped back in the car and made our way back to St. Goar through the vineyard covered hills that surround both the Rhine and Mosel rivers.  We actually parked along the Rhine in St. Goar in order to board a nearby river boat to take a Rhine River cruise.  We spent about 2 hours on the river heading upstream to Bacharach, taking pictures of castles, and small towns, and vineyards along the way.  The view was lovely.

I got a little filter-happy, I know.  I love the way those pictures turned out, though, since the weather was kind of grey and gloomy and didn't do much to enhance the natural pictures I took.  Another feature of this area is the Lorelei rock, basically a huge cliff.  We didn't really get the appeal, but it is plays a huge role in the history of the area as this rock was known to be the most dangerous point along the river and caused many boating accidents over the years.  At one point its danger was mythically linked to mermaids and sirens...
Not too exciting to look at, but the legends make it fun.  Once we arrived in Bacharach we had about 45 minutes to explore.  After making our way under the highway bridge and into the completely adorable town we kind of kicked ourselves for not giving ourselves more time.

We managed to tear ourselves away in time to catch our boat back to St. Goar.  The trip back was with the flow of the current and so it went quite a bit faster.  When we returned, we headed to another of our favorite restaurants from the trip, Philipps Muhle, a small restaurant owned by a local vineyard.  We'd heard that vineyards had establishments where they served dinners and were determined to try one, Wolfgang and Gabi recommended this one and we'd highly do so as well!
We had a crazy good cheese dip for an appetizer (similar to a liptauer dip I made for our Oktoberfest party), cold cut and cheese platters with homemade sausage slices for dinner, and of course the vineyards wine - probably the best wine we had the entire trip.  I bought 2 bottles to take home, though one was consumed over the course of our trip and only 1 actually made it home!

Day 3  of the Rhine Valley coming up next week!  Have a lovely weekend!