The Glockenspiel figurines represent Bavarian history.

Germany Points of Interest

Germany Tips and Surprising Facts

Nudity in Munich’s English Garden or Englische Garten

Leave the city behind and enter Munich’s English Garden that rates as one of the largest parks in the world. You can walk, jog, or bike on the pedestrian path, stop in the Japanese teahouse, catch a football game or watch the surfers ride the river.

If the weather is warm, don’t be surprised if you see nudists in the park. Nudity is cultural and welcomed at designated public parks, swimming pools, beaches, and saunas. If you are clothed in a “textile free” location, an authority figure may ask you to undress.

Three-Story Slide in the University of Technology in Munich

Stop by Munich’s University of Technology on a weekday where the efficient-savvy Germans had developed a functional piece of art. It’s a sliding board that transports students from the third floor to the first within seconds. Visitors are welcome to give it a try.

Car loyalty is a lifestyle in Germany, and it’s not uncommon for adult children to choose the same make of car as their parents. The Mercedes-Benz Museum capitalizes on this loyalty by offering hands-on-design opportunities and activities for children and their families.

Camouflaged Prototype Car in Munich, Germany

Manufacturers hide a prototype car design with camouflage.

Car competition is stiff, and some car brands made in Germany include Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Opel, Porsche, BMW, and Volkswagen. While traveling, look for cars covered in camouflage. When manufacturers test prototypes, they disguise their design from the competition.

Also, when you climb in a taxicab, chances are it’s a Mercedes-Benz.

Marienplatz or Mary’s Square


Marienplatz Town Square in Munich, Germany

Marienplatz means Mary’s Place in honor of the Virgin Mary.

Marienplatz Town Square, named after the Virgin Mary, offers an excellent place to shop or drop by a cafe for a bite. The golden sculpture of Mary was created in 1590 and rises in front of the New Town Hall.

 New Town Hall or Neues Rathaus

While in Marienplatz, note the famous glockenspiel on New Town Hall. The bells chime reminiscent of a xylophone while figurines, emblematic of Bavarian historic figures, revolve around balconies marking the time at 11 a.m. and 12 p.m. daily, and 5 p.m. from March to October.


Beer is considered food in Germany. In worldwide beer consumption, Germany is ranked number three and tied with Austria.

Try the local beer and tour a brewery like Hofbrau. The beer that we had sampled at various locations was not too filling though robust brew was available.

Beer Halls

Zum Augustiner Restaurant and Beer Hall Munich

One of the dishes served at Zum Augustiner was sliced pork with a dumpling steeped in gravy.

For an authentic Bavarian experience, try Zum Augustiner and dine with the locals. It’s a social event where tables can seat 20 plus patrons. Though the food was substantial,  we chose a beer that lightened the meal.


Customers dine and socialize with the locals at Zum Augustiner in Munich, Germany


Maypoles date back to the 13th century when illiteracy was prevalent. Each maypole is unique and portrays the borough’s trades and crafts.


Viktualienmarkt Maypole in Munich Germany

Viktualienmarkt or Victuals Market is a market, a beer garden and an event venue.

Beer, produce, vegetables, dancing, music and a carousel decorate the maypole at Victualienmarkt indicating that it is a place for food and events. Peruse the outdoor market for local meat, cheese, sausage, condiments, flowers, herbs, and home decor, then stop in the beer garden for refreshment.

Bavaria  Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau Castles

Neuschwanstein castle overlooks Hohenschwangau and the Alpsee lake in Bavaria.

Explore Bavaria and tour Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau castles. On your drive, view red-roofed villages encased in the emerald scenery with the white-tipped Alps as a backdrop.

If you can take your eyes off the countryside, notice that many homes are attached to barns. Connecting the buildings enables the farmers to avoid Bavaria’s severe weather when they access the barn to work and feed the animals.

Bavaria Wies Church or Wieskirche 

Wies Church is designed in Bavarian Rococo.

The Scourged Savior statue in the Wies Church in Bavaria had allegedly shed tears.

Visit the Bavarian Rococo style Pilgrimage Church of Wies. In 1738, a relic of Jesus the Scourged Savior was reported to have shed tears, and pilgrims streamed to visit “the miracle of tears in the Wies.”

In 1745, to accommodate the crowds, construction had begun on the Wies pilgrimage church, and that same year the bishop established a commission to investigate the miracle. The group determined that they could not deny or confirm the event and concluded that it was a matter of opinion.

Today, pilgrims travel from across the world to pray to the statue of the Scourged Savior displayed in the Wies Church sanctuary.


While in Germany, drive the autobahn. In congested areas, signs post a recommended speed limit usually between 68 and 80 mph, though there are stretches where the driver chooses his speed.

The left or fast lane is for passing. If a car approaches in the left lane, the vehicle ahead moves over.

There is plenty to do in Munich from dining, shopping, visiting historic castles and buildings, and viewing the magnificent countryside. Germany, with its many points of interest, is an excellent destination.

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The Tower of London had a torture dungeon.

The Tower of London

The Tower of London History

The Tower of London, built in 1078, served as a royal residence and sanctuary. It was a fortress, armory, barracks, prison, and a place of torture and execution. It held exotic animals, and it secured the Crown Jewels and the Royal Mint.

The fortress offered its raven birds protection for hundreds of years because legend still dictates that if the Tower’s ravens leave, there will be dire consequences. The birds are nurtured on the grounds today.

Tampering with the Mint was considered treasonous.

The Tower of London protected the Mint that made coins for over five-hundred years.

Some of the sovereigns that were prisoners, depending on their crime, had full run of the fortress and enjoyed comfortable quarters and meals prepared to their liking.

Condemned Prisoners at the Tower of London

Edward I originally commissioned the Traitor's Gate for his own use.

Prisoners arrived by boat on the Thames River to the Tower of London.

Traitors’ Gate

Edward I initially commissioned a waterway, later called Traitors’ Gate, to enter the Tower by the Thames. Eventually, prisoners came through this gate after passing the heads of the executed displayed on London Bridge spikes.

Ironically, if a prisoner was condemned, execution at the Tower of London was almost a privilege because decapitation was usually quick and the convicted avoided the jeers of the crowd outside the walls.

Among the famous prisoners at the Tower was Anne Boleyn who was accused of infidelity when she couldn’t produce an heir for Henry VIII, and she was beheaded in 1536.

Another prisoner, Guy Fawkes, had planned to assassinate King James I and blow up the House of Lords. He was found in the basement of Westminster Palace, below Parliament, guarding a door to a room filled with gunpowder. He was tortured and ultimately found guilty of high treason. He was sentenced to death by hanging and then drawn and quartered. He avoided this death by jumping off the gallows and breaking his neck.

In 1483, two young princes aged twelve and ten years old arrived at the Tower after their father King Edward IV had died. The twelve-year-old was the rightful king until their uncle, the Duke of Gloucester who became King Richard III, had removed their titles and imprisoned them after finding them illegitimate. Eventually, the princes disappeared, and years later two children’s skeletons were found in the Tower, but their identity remained unconfirmed.

The White Tower

The White Tower was a royal residence.

The White Tower dates back to the 11th century.

The White Tower was built as a royal residence and intimidation for England’s enemies. Today, It houses the Royal Armour as well as replica torture tools like the rack, to stretch a prisoner; manacles, to hang him/her by the arms; and the scavenger’s daughter, a compression device. An executioners block and ax that may have been used in the last beheading in the 1700s is still on display.

Children of royalty dressed up in armor for play.

During the Middle Ages armor protected horse and rider.

Tower of London Royal Beasts

Collecting exotic animals began in the 1200s and continued for 600 years. The kings and queens had gathered and received animals as gifts. An example of these 60 species included bears, lions, monkeys, zebras, and alligators. Not only did these animals provide entertainment and status, but they instilled fear.

The Jewel House and The Crown Jewels

Guards protect the Royal Collection of Crown Jewels that hold strong cultural and religious significance for the British Monarchy. The Crown Jewels consist of 23,578 gemstones and are used today for the coronation that has taken place in Westminster Abbey since 1066. The Queen also wears the Crown Jewels at the State Opening of Parliament. Her crown alone weighs about three pounds and she practices wearing it in the privacy of her residence.

The guards change every two hours.

Guards protect the Crown Jewels and the Queen’s house.

 Tower of London Ravens

The ravens wings are clipped to ensure they never leave.

Erin and Rocky are among the raven bird residents at the Tower.


Ravens have resided at the Tower for centuries because legend states: “Should the ravens ever leave, the White Tower would crumble.” With clipped wings and a diet of carcasses and blood, most of them stay.

The Beefeaters or Yeomen Warders

Requirements for Beefeaters include 22 years of Armed Forces service.                                                                                                                                    Photo Credit: Kenneth Allen                   

The Tower of London is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a powerful symbol of England’s monarchy. The fortress walls could tell harrowing stories about torture and executions of the innocent and guilty, but they could also tell tales about majesty and honor.

The Yeomen Warders, or the Beefeaters, who have guarded the Tower since 1509, will transport you back to earlier times by bringing the fortress to life through their narratives and tours. If you like a good story, you won’t be disappointed.

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Queen Elizabeth Practices Wearing Imperial State Crown Before Ceremony



Old Town Salzburg is a UNESCO Worlds Heritage site.

Salzburg, Austria

 Six Hours in Salzburg

We had planned to explore Salzburg’s ancient buildings and cathedrals, and venues from The Sound of Music. We took the 10 a.m. train from Munich to Salzburg and arrived around 11:30. We left the train station and walked about 15 minutes then crossed the Salzach river bridge heading toward the shopping district Hagenauerplatz.

The Salzach River

The Salzach river winds through Salzburg.

The Salzach river was a transport route for salt.

Salzburg building remains date back to the 7th century.

The Salzach river winds through Salzburg, Austria

Old Town Salzburg is a UNESCO Worlds Heritage site.

Hohensalzburg Fortress perches on the Festungsberg and the Monchsberg Mountains.

What to do in Hagenauerplatz or Hagenau Square

St. Blasius Church is at the end of Getreidegasse.

St. Blaise is the”patron saint of throat ailments.”

We arrived in Hagenauerplatz and perused the shops, and as we neared the street’s end, the meticulous sculpture of Jesus on the cross caught our attention on St. Blasius or St. Blaise’s Church. Though it was September, a note posted on the church advertised an Advent music event. We knew that we were in a town that celebrated Catholicism.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born at Getreidegasse 9 in Hagneau Square.

Pandora is one of the shops that we had recognized in Hagenauer Square.

Getreidegasse and Mozart

We turned down Getreidegasse and spotted Amadeus Wolfgang Mozart’s birthplace and the home that he lived in for 17 years at Getreidegasse No. 9. Mozart’s house is one of many UNESCO World Heritage sites in historic Salzburg.

Hohensalzburg Fortress

Hohensalzburg Fortress was built in 1077 to protect the archbishops and their land from attacks.

Cobblestones pave an alley in Old Town Salzburg.

Old Town Salzburg, Austria preserves their ancient remnants.

We then walked toward the Hohensalzburg Fortress, and instead of taking the cable railway up to the fortress, we began our climb up the steep hill. We stopped about halfway at Stieglkeller beer garden for lunch. After lunch, we continued our trek up and toured the castle.

Churches and spires dot the Salzburg skyline.

The best view of Salzburg is from Festung Hohensalzburg.

Salzburg, Austria

Festung Hohensalzburg offers a view of the Alps and the Salzburg countryside.

Nonnberg Nunnery “Abbey”

Nonnberg Nunnery and Abbey in Salzburg

By Andrew Bossi (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (, via Wikimedia Commons 2163_-_Salzburg_-_Stift_Nonnberg

After the tour, we directed our path down the hill to the Nonnberg Convent that was founded between the years 712 to 715 and is known as the oldest working nunnery in the world. To this day, you can still hear the nuns sing every morning at 6:45. The real Maria von Kutscher who had inspired The Sound of Music had lived at the abbey, and scenes from the musical were filmed at Nonnberg.

Residenzplatz Square

Next, we entered the square where horse and carriages are available for hire for The Sound of Music tours, or dinner tours, and more. In one of the scenes in Residenzplatz Square, Maria had splashed in the Residenz Fountain on her way to the von Trapp home.

Visitors can take horse and carriage tours in Salzburg, Austria.

Salzburg Cathedral or Dom zu Salzburg

The cathedral was rebuilt and consecrated three times

The original Salzburg Cathedral was constructed in the year 767.

Salzburg Cathedral in Austria

The three dates, 774, 1628 and 1959 represent the consecration times after it was rebuilt from fires and a bombing during WWII.

We passed Salzburg’s holiest and most famous Cathedral, Dom zu Salzburg where 370 years ago someone marred the marble entranceway with graffiti. We proceeded west to Mirabell Palace and Gardens where Maria and the von Trapp children had sung “Do Re Mi.”

Mirabell Palace and Gardens

Maria and the children finished the song on the gaited steps.

Hohensalzburg Fortress and the Salzburg Cathedral are visible from Mirabell Gardens.

We enjoyed the gardens and the view of the cathedral and fortress, but today the palace is used for municipal government business, so we entered the foyer only. With time to spare, we relaxed at a cafe and sipped some Austrian wine paired with a selection of cheese.

One day, we hope to return and stay longer. Salzburg, entrenched in history, classical music, and religion, seems like the perfect place to celebrate the Christmas season.

Two Traveling Texans
Belmond El Encanto is a beautiful wedding venue.

Belmond El Encanto, Santa Barbara, California, Hotel Review

Belmond El Encanto, “Santa Barbara’s only Forbes Five-Star resort,” comprises 92 suites or rooms that huddle in the hills below the Santa Ynez mountains and overlook Santa Barbara and the Pacific Ocean like sentinels. Though it opened in 1918, the resort was sold to Orient-Express Hotels Ltd. in 2004 and had undergone a seven-year refurbishment.

The gardens at Belmond El Encanto are filled with palm trees and succulents.

The Belmond El Encanto gardens are rich with greenery.

Rates start at $525 per night and hotel packages are available. A $35 per night resort fee gave us access to WI-FI, motorized bikes, the El Encanto spa and gym, the daily local paper, an in-room Nespresso coffee machine, bottled water, garden tours, backyard games, shoe shining, and shuttle transportation. We used all of the amenities except for the motorized bikes, garden tours, backyard games, and shoe shining. We especially enjoyed making espresso in our room.

Belmond El Encanto is a luxury hotel in Santa Barbara.

Belmond El Encanto in Santa Barbara, California, offers luxury and serenity.

I had booked late for a Memorial Day weekend wedding, and I was initially disappointed that I wasn’t able to reserve a room in town within walking distance of bars and restaurants. That changed when we arrived at this hillside oasis. We entered the expansive lobby, located in the main building, through a flower-covered arbor. The receptionist welcomed us with a smile and ensured us that the staff was available to assist us.

Belmond El Encanto is a luxury resort.

Flower-filled gardens line the walkway at Belmond El Encanto.

We followed the bellman along curved brick walkways lined with gardens brimming with succulents, purple lilies, ferns, and canopied palms. We passed a pond where orange fish darted among water lilies, turtles sunned themselves on rocks, and a pair of ducks waddled. This was the perfect venue for a Belmond El Encanto wedding.

An arbor surrounds the pond at Belmond El Encanto

The Arbor and Lily Pond pond at Belmond El Encanto is a beautiful venue for an outdoor wedding.

We approached our bungalow covered with a red tile roof and equipped with a patio decked with two chairs and a table. We entered the living room furnished with a sofa, tables, a few chairs, a widescreen TV, and a desk. The living room led to a short hallway with closets on the left and a marble bathroom with a heated floor on the right. The hallway ended at our bedroom outfitted with a king-size bed and a few tables. With the addition of a cot for our daughter who joined us for a night, the suite accommodated our family of four, it felt cozy but elegant.

The infinity pool at Belmond El Encanto is the perfect place to relax.

Belmond El Encanto infinity pool overlooks Santa Barbara, California.

We unpacked and donned light-weight jackets and strolled down the hill to the El Encanto restaurant for lunch. We dined outside on crisp Caesar salad hearts topped with moist Scottish salmon while overlooking Santa Barbara. We lingered sipping wine from their extensive wine list while absorbing the panorama. The scenery and food enticed us to return to explore their other menus.

Belmond El Encanto Restaurant

View of Santa Barbara, California and the Pacific Ocean is spectacular from the Belmond El Encanto Restaurant.


Belmond El Encanto’s ambiance left a lasting impression on me, and I hope to return. As we headed to the airport, we felt restored and refreshed. I suspect that was their plan.


The White Marlin Open Tournament draws crowds.

White Marlin Open: Highest Bar Tab

The White Marlin Open on 14 St. in Ocean City Maryland

Spectators flock to the White Marlin Open in Ocean City, Md.

I had sidestepped through throngs of spectators to attend the White Marlin Open, in Ocean City, Maryland, labeled the “World’s Largest and Richest Billfish Tournament.” As I stood on the pier breathing pungent bay air, I was hoping to spot the qualifying White Marlin, Blue Marlin, Tuna, Dolphin, Wahoo, or Shark that could win big bucks.

A White Marlin Open boat

A fishing boat enters Harbour Island in Ocean City, Md. with their catch.

The boats churned in the harbor after a day of fishing, and I watched for flags flying from the outrigger that indicated the crew had boarded a fish. Boats that had caught fish docked and handed their catch over to the White Marlin staff that measured it and attached a rope below the tail fin and used a pulley to hoist the fish up in the air to weigh it.  The spokesman announced the length and weight, and if it was a contender.

Spectators watch the arriving boats in the White Marlin Open.

A boat entered in the White Marlin Open motors in the harbor.

By the end of this year’s tournament, the White Marlin Open had paid out over $4.7 million with over $3.3 million won by the three boats that hooked the qualifying White Marlins. The tournament drew visitors that supported the local businesses, and one of the bars ran an unusual contest that capitalized on the event.

Sunset Grille hosted the Teasers Cup. Participants, often White Marlin Open winners, competed in running up the highest bar tab, and they invited other customers to join in and drink on their tab. They bought champagne to drink and spray. Partiers shook champagne bottles, popped corks, and showered anyone close by.

During the week of the White Marlin Open, the boat, Goin’ In Deep, ran up a $20,550.05 bar tab and some say that they added a $6,200 tip. They drank champagne, that retailed for thousands, and liquor, beer, and wine. This crew had won the Teasers Cup five years in a row. Ironically, they were not among the 2017 White Marlin Open winners, but they ensured that the owners of Sunset Grille were.