Τρίτη, 22 Αυγούστου 2017

Summer in the alps with kids (part1)

This year’s summer trip in Europe was probably the best trip i ever had in my life, the reason for this is that it was the first time i brought our kids with us and showed them what i love in life. Back in 2009 we did Europe road trip with a friendly couple Antonis and Ioanna, we had just found out my wife was pregnant to my first son. After several drinks a night we promised we will return one day in the Alps when we will have our own kids. So there we were 8 years later with 4 kids and 2 cars packed with baggages for our first kid travel experience!

On Friday 16th June we took Anek lines ferry from Patras to Venice on a 33 hour trip and arrived in Venice early in the morning of June 18th. The outward trip with the boat was a really beautiful experience and kids loved spending time in it. With airfare prices in the summer period out of Athens going crazy it’s certainly a cheap alternative when you want to travel in Europe, although this kind of equalizes with the money you end up spending on board for food and beverages. The biggest advantage though is that you get to travel with your own car and not rely on rent a car with all the risks that it comes with.

After an almost 6 hour drive, there was lots of traffic on the highway, we arrived at the beautiful stubaital valley. First things first we checked in at Jedlerhof house.

A house with familiar atmosphere, unique views, located right in the middle of nature.
The Jedlerhof stems originally from the 16th century and, over the course of the centuries, have been farmed the owner’s ancestors.  In 1965, their grandparents began to rent out rooms to hikers and mountain climbers. Jedlerhof is a 200sq meters old farm house located on a hill of Stubaital with breathtaking views. The house was split in 2 floors, the upper floor had 4 huge bedrooms and the down floor and giant fully equipped kitchen and and a small, cozy stuba style restaurant hall for our own use! The back part of the house hosted an animal farm and you could actually see cows and goats outside our window, I almost pissed my pants of joy.
There was not much time for exploring the house as we were dead hungry and the plan was to visit the closeby village of neustift for the first beer and schnitzel of the trip. 

The traditional “shopping therapy” in super market came shortly after and we loaded the house with all the Austrian delicacies for cooking and breakfast. Since we had our own stuba style restaurant there was no need to go out at night as I can prepare most traditional Austrian recipes.

Second day found me waking up to paradise on earth. Nothing in the world can beat the morning walk when everything is silent and the views of the mountains make you want to cry. After a short hiking we decided to go meat shopping to a local butchery I had found online. It was a boutique store and mainly local meat with really friendly and educated staff, they even had a 24h vending machine where you could grab a  rib eye and wine at 4:00 am lol. 

Once everyone was up and prepared, not an easy task with 4 kids believe me, we headed to Innsbruck. Tirol's capital is scenically squeezed between two impressive mountain chains. Past and future meet in the heart of the Alps, where Innsbruck’s world-famous sights, which testify to the Tirol province’s great past, stand alongside post-modern international architecture to create a fascinating blend.

After long walk in the pedetrian roads we had a delicious ice cream in the city center, visited city's landmark "golden roof" and then headed to the city zoo. Not only does the zoo offer its visitors a spectacular view of Innsbruck and the surrounding mountains it is also home to over 2000 animals (150 species) which are or have been typical for the Alps. It is the only zoo in the world to devote itself specifically to this topic which is one of the reasons for its success. Their animals are housed in modern enclosures, going through aviaries, exiting outdoor terrariums and a large cold water aquarium. No need to say how much the kids loved the experience of the alpine zoo!

Third day in the beautiful stubaital found us taking the lift to our first ever hiking.  On the way up the scenery was breathtaking with cows chewing grass in the meadows and the nature at its best with blossom flowers everywhere. 

What could ruin such a great day were children complaining they are bored, but not here. I have never seen a place like this where they respect families so much, every little place we gone had children playground in the middle of nowhere of the mountain. 

The first stop of the lift had a small lake and a hut but we decided to follow a forest route and reach a nearby hut. After 30 minutes of walking in the forest suddenly appeared in front of our eyes Ochsenhütte mieders at 1592 m with beauty difficult to be described we felt like finding an oasis to the desert. The rustic Ochsenhütte is right next to the Ochsen lift and the winter hiking trail. We enjoyed home-style cooking with local products and cold beers.

Right after we finished our lunch a touristic train appeared out of nowhere that was doing circles in the forest and we decided to join the ride. 

The end of the ride took us to Maria Waldrast Monastery. It is located at the junction between Stubai and Wipptal. Herdsmen used to stop here for a rest, hence the name “Waldrast”. The pilgrimage site is one of Europe’s highest monasteries and a spiritual place, therefore a highly popular day-trip destination. 
Maria Waldrast has a rich history. According to legend, in 1407 two shepherd boys found an image of Our Lady grown into a tree trunk. A chapel was soon erected on the clearing where they had found the image, marking today’s church site. The first pilgrimage was held in 1429 when Our Lady Mary was returned to the mountain. In 1621 the construction of the Servite Monastery started. The Monastery was abandoned twice over the centuries. In 1945 the monks returned and with them the image of Mary. In the 16th century a spring which is said to have healing qualities was tapped near the monastery.
To be contnued...

Πέμπτη, 19 Ιανουαρίου 2017

Best of Wine in 2016

Hi there everyone and happy new year! Here i am again making a blog post after a  long long time. 2016 was a very succesfull and busy year for me that included lots of travelling with my bands but unfortunately it was very difficult for me to find time and write down my experiences and thoughts. On the wine side of life things were great so here is my top 10 wines i enjoyed alone or with friends in 2016. All wines were blind tasted.

2011 Argyros Assyrtiko 93/100
2013 La tour Melas 92/100
2014 Papargyriou Syrah Le Roi des Montagnes 91/100
2013 Aivalis Agiorgitiko Monopati 91/100
2010 Estate Papaioannou Agiorgitiko Old Vines 91/100
2006 Château Talbot 90/100
2012 Château Julia Merlot 90/100
2004 Antonopoulos Vineyards Cabernet Nea Drys 90/100
2010 Antinori Villa Antinori Toscana IGT 90/100
2014 Arthur Metz Gewurztraminer 89/100

Σάββατο, 2 Ιανουαρίου 2016

Fairytale on the Bavarian alps

Hi there my friends and happy new year!

What a better way to start 2016 in a positive mood then make a blog post for my recent trip from 5 to 9 December December in the Bavarian Alps!
Germany's most picturesque corner lies two hours south of Munich, a timeless land of fairy-tale castles, painted buildings shared by cows and farmers, and locals who still yodel when they're happy. Out trip included lots amazing food and beers, lots of driving in picturesque roads, gluhwein and Christmas atmosphere everywhere. It reminded me again that the best way to invest your money in life is on good memories. We spend 5 full days away from everyday problems with only concern "where to go next".
Day 1
Arrive in Munich airport, picked up out rented car and off to Oberammergau! After 1:30 of driving we found our lovely villa assih that was going to host us for the coming days. The house was an amazing find in the area. 112 sq. meters of a newly renovated and spotlessly clean typical Bavarian house only a few minutes’ walk to the town center. It consists of three bedrooms, two bathrooms, big dining/living room area, kitchen and your own private parking space. Priced 100 euro per night you would call this a bargain.

We had lunch at the maximilian hotel in Oberammergau and it was probably the best meal during our whole stay. All dishes were delicious and their own Christmas holiday beer one of the best beers I ever tried.

Later in the evening we visited Garmisch for the first gluhwein of the day in one of the Christmas markets of this beautiful town. The city was decorated with Christmas lights with a festive mood in the air, it was so nice to walk on the pedestrian roads and look at happy people everywhere.

We also visited the nearby city of panterkirchen looking for a suggested restaurant ,but unfortunately it was closed that night, so we drove back to Garmisch and had dinner in a trip advisor high rated restaurant called wolpentinger. If you are looking for huge portions and cozy decoration this is your place, if the factor of taste is a matter for you then the problems start. I wanted so much to write a good review due to the amazing service we had from the lovely Greek waitress but the restaurant didn’t help at all. 

The mix platter had average taste and the meat was like it was frozen and defrosted 5 minutes ago. Schnitzel and the sausages were ok but overall it failed to deliver what we expected.
We returned back to our house for a glass of wine and some cheese to relax after a full first day.
Day 2
I still can’t explain what makes the sleep in Germany so good. I woke up really fresh and opened our balcony to see the amazing view of the nearby mountains. What a glorious way to start a day!

After a short drive we crossed the borders with Austria and saw the sign to the magical resort of Seefeld. We had a quick sightseeing in the lovely pedestrian roads, coffee, kaiserschmarrn and off to the other famous resort in Austria named Kitzbuhel! 

The route there was very scenic which made driving a real joy. On our way there we saw the take off of an air balloon in a green meadow.
 I wish I didn’t have such big fear of heights and make it one day on one of them. Kitzbuhel is a small medieval town with lots of “high class” visitors each year. It was amazing to walk in its cobblestone roads and see the colorful buildings.  I still remember the day we had tried to reach it again back in 2009 but a snowstorm made us return back to Zell am see. The plan was to have lunch there but unfortunately it was a time all restaurants are closing their kitchen for noon so we decided to drive back to Innsbruck and eat there.

This was certainly not a good day to visit Innsbruck as the whole city was packed with people waiting to celebrate Saint Nicklaus day. It was impossible even to get near the golden roof through the pedestrian road. We were hungry and tired and all restaurants were full of people so after a short visit we decided to return to Germany and visit the, way more relaxed, village of Mittenwald for dinner.
We found a quite restaurant with only few locals inside wearing traditional clothes, hats, discussing and drinking beer. This was the best dinner we could imagine after a full day of travelling and sightseeing.The onnion soup warmed my body and my soul.
Day 3
This was the most adventurous day of the trip. We started by visiting the nearby Alpine coaster but unfortunately it was closed for winter. The surrounding view of Oberammergau though made the visit worth. We had a few pictures and moved directly to the Zugspitze!
So that is what it feels like to have Germany at your feet: At precisely 2,962 metres above sea level, the Zugspitze is the highest mountain in the country and home to three glaciers and Germany’s highest ski resort. The Zugspitze is also an attractive destination for non-skiers like us: Right at the top, an impressive 360° panorama opens up to reveal extensive views over 400 mountain peaks in four countries. The Zugspitze-Exhibition enhances visitors’ awareness of the historical developments of Germany’s most famous mountain. Two toboggan runs, Germany’s highest church, an igloo village and excellent mountain restaurants are reason enough for smiling faces. We had a cappuccino on top of Germany overlooking the glacier which was divine. Note that we used the Cable car to climb the 2000m required with breathtaking views of lake eibsee and the surrounding mountains which was a  challenge for me since, as i mentioned before, i have huge fear for heights. It was highly important that the weather so was really clean that day and we had the chance to see as far as our eyes could reach.

On our way back from Zugspitze we saw a little village called Grainau that was hidden from the sun all day due to the surrounding mountains. The snow that had fallen few days ago was still there so decided to drive through it and have lunch as it was our only chance to see snow covered landscapes. We found a really cozy bistro to add some more calories to the whole trip. I really can’t describe enough how much I love those little non touristic restaurants in the middle of nowhere. 

On our way back we stopped again at Garmsich for some needed shopping therapy and see the city at daylight. 

At night we finally visited the city our house was located, Oberammergau. The town is famous for its production of a passion play, the murals on most of its buildings, its woodcarvers, and the Nato school. We were tired from driving, so thoroughly enjoyed the day strolling through Oberammergau and exploring the various alleys and side streets.

Day 4
The plan for today was to visit Schongau and do the last 33km on the Romantic road of Germany. Unfortunately the choice of schongau was not really successful as the city is in an industrial area and despite the fortified walls that surrounded  the old town it was kind of deserted. We even had troubles to find a place drink coffee. We didn’t really care though as the most exciting part of the trip was about to begin.

Romantic Road expresses what many guests from home and abroad feel on seeing medieval towns or the fairy-tale castle at Neuschwanstein: fascination and the sense of being transported back in time. The landscape changes from river valleys, fertile agricultural land, forests and meadows to dramatic mountain scenery as you approach the Fairytale castle. Ludwig was just 19 when he became king of Bavaria in 1864. Rather than live with the frustrations of a modern constitution and a feisty parliament reining him in, he spent his years lost in Romantic literature and operas. From his bedroom in Hohenschwangau, Ludwig trained a telescope on a ridge to keep an eye on Neuschwanstein as it was being constructed. With towering turrets in a striking setting, these castles are a huge hit with sightseers. Every tour bus in Bavaria converges on Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau, while tourists flush in each morning by train from Munich, two hours away. Like the wave of a magic wand, a handy reservation system with set admission times sorts out the chaos for smart travelers. Be sure you book your tickets in advance to avoid the huge waiting lines!

Our day included visit to the castles, Capuccino in nearby Füssen, a town that’s a mix of real-world and cutesy-cobbled, plus an amazing lunch on the foothills of the mad kings castle.

Day 5
All good things come to end and for us this was a day we had to wake up early, pack and drive back to Munich. Travel is the perfect catalyst for happiness, as it has allowed me to experience the natural, cultural and man-made wonders of the world. Being in foreign lands, it also continuously forces me to step out of my comfort zone - a great confidence-builder. In my book, travel is the best school there is: I've learned so much about the world and, most importantly, about myself.