Last week Kyle and I headed north to visit Bacharach on the Rhine river valley. Bacharach's cute factor makes Rothenburg ob der Tauber look like an industrial zone. The tiny town (which boasts a population of just over 2,000 people) once sustained itself with a prosperous wine trade. Now, however, the residents of Bacharach flourish thanks to a steady stream of tourists.
Though the town's castle, Burg Stahleck, has a tumultuous history, and once played a role in monitoring trade traffic on the Rhine, its only purpose now is to welcome weary travelers. The castle underwent extensive repairs and was transformed into a youth hostel in the 1920s. It's open to visitors, but come prepared! You have to storm the mountain to reach Burg Stahleck. It's a 15-20 minute hike from Bacharach to the castle gate. Don't worry, the view is most definitely worth the climb.
Summer is my absolute favorite time of year. I love the way the world slips into a new, bold color scheme. I love the soft, heavy blanket of heat. I love the persistant buzzing of bees, and the way lightning bugs paint the night in neon polka dots. Almost all my best memories are from hot summer days or lazy summer nights. Summers in Germany are no exception.
We passed this field of gorgeous flowers a couple weeks back, and I had Kyle pull our Jeep onto a bike path for about 90 seconds so I could jump out and snap these photos. What I love about them is that they are a perfect example of how magical summertime can be... how there is beauty in the most random, unexpected places.
What better way is there to say "Happy 236th birthday, America," than by gathering together to blow things up?
None, I tell you!
Whatever deranged daredevil first decided to launch explosives into the air for fun was a genius.
But anyway. I hope all my fellow American readers had a blast (pun intended), and managed not to set anything on fire. As for Kyle and I, a long day of work for the husband threatened to spoil our fun, but he managed to arrive just in time for the fireworks. I'll never know how everything manages to fall into place at the last possible minute for us, so I'll just keep thanking my lucky stars that it does.
My first visit to Schlossgarten Schwetzingen (Schwetzingen Palace Gardens) was in January of this year. There wasn't much greenery back then, but I could tell these gardens were a special place, and I promised myself I'd go back to see them again in warmer weather. A couple weeks ago, Kyle and I rounded up some friends and went to see what I missed the first time. I am so very glad we did, because it was fantastic! The gardens are massive, much larger than I originally thought. Hidden behind endless rows of perfectly pruned trees, shrubs and flowers are incredible sculptures, two temples, and a stunning mosque.
After poking around the palace website, I discovered that the gardens were created under the direction of Elector Carl Theodor, and were inspired by the gardens of Versailles. The gardens are made up of two parts, the symmetrical French baroque gardens centered around a large fountain (pictured above), and the English style garden which lies around a large pond at the back of the complex.
(sculptures in the central fountain)
Constructed between 1779 and 1791, the mosque at Schwetzingen's garden complex is the oldest in Germany. It was built at a time when the Turkish style was popular in Germany, and was never intended to serve religous purposes. The first real, practicing mosque wasn't built until the 1920s in Berlin. [source] Whatever its purpose, Schwetzingen's mosque is stunning. It glows a warm pink in the evening sunlight, and is particularly beautiful when viewed from behind, where it reflects in a small, calm lake.
We spent three hours wandering through these lovely gardens and still didn't manage to cover the whole complex. I hope we can take at least one more trip to Schwetzingen to see what else this magical place has to offer. I am going to miss having such wonderful sights within my reach, for sure, but I feel so very lucky to have experienced the beauty of the Schlossgarten at its peak.