Hotel Nesslerhof, Grossarl, Austria

Hotel Nesslerhof in Grossarl, Austria is less than fifty miles south of Salzburg yet it is surprising that most tourist have never heard about either the hotel or this village in the southern part of Salzburgerland. The small Austrian village and hotel seem to be a well guarded secret except among Austrians and their neighbors from Switzerland and Germany who visit seeking outdoor adventures or just want to relax and enjoy Hotel Nesslerhof’s amenities and its highly rated wellness spa.

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Grossarl is located at three thousand feet above sea level in one of Austria’s most beautiful mountain valleys near the Hohe Tauern National Park which is the country’s largest national park. Visitors travel to this alpine region to enjoy its unspoiled natural beauty…hiking and cycling during the spring, summer and fall and then skiing in the winter.

The Nesslerhof is a four star superior hotel owned and managed by the Neudegger family, Hermann and Tina, who are always present and very helpful. Hermann, owner and former chef, oversees a team who are behind the wonderful culinary creations that feature Austrian cuisine based on local products. Tina, his wife and partner, runs the front of the house operation as well as marketing. She is also the sommelier and introduced us to some fine Austria wines during our stay. We had a chance to chat with each of them and they are a genuinely friendly couple and made us feel comfortable and welcomed from the beginning to the end of our stay at the Nesslerhof.

The bright and modern alpine hotel has a contemporary style and is decorated with natural stone and wood from the region. The large open rooms are furnished with a blend of traditional and modern furniture all covered in fine fabrics. Large glass windows provide wonderful views of the great outdoors and let in lots of natural light throughout the hotel. The modern hotel has a stylish sense of sophistication without loosing any of its Austrian charm. There is also a touch of whimsy which can be found in the fun artwork in various areas of the dining rooms.

The hotel has 71 very comfortable rooms and suites. We reserved the Suite Weitblick, one of the new, spacious suites on the top floor with breathtaking views of the mountains through a large wall of floor to ceiling windows. The amazing room was done in light woods with contemporary lighting and furniture. It had a kingsize bed, fireplace, sitting area, an open bathroom with a rain shower, bathtub, double sinks, its own combination of infrared/sauna cabin and a separate toilet with its own sink. There was a wonderful loggia where you could relax and enjoy the splendid views of the snow capped mountains and the hotel’s beautiful gardens.

After a long day of outdoor activities or touring, it is nice to come back to the hotel’s  extensive wellness complex with indoor and outdoor pools, a spa with panoramic views of the outdoor gardens and surrounding mountains as well as a gym. My husband and I had a couples massage twice during our stay…probably the best we have ever had. The hotel also has a delightful terrace that can be reached by stairs from the spa area where you can go in your bathrobe to sit and enjoy a snack while admiring the surrounding view of the mountains.

Each evening, we would head down to the bar for an apéritif then on to the dining room for our evening meal. You could start with selections from the buffet, then order an excellent five course dinner from the menu. There was always an option to choose a seafood dish, a vegetarian dish as well as delicious Austrian specialties. Each and every item the kitchen served, was imaginative and featured products from the region.

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Hohe Tauern National Park

Although my husband and I are not outdoor adventurers, we are enchanted with the beautiful mountain landscapes of Austria, the charming village of Grossarl and the Hotel Nesslerhof was a nice discovery. This area with its green mountains topped  with glistening white peaks is a destination that we hope to return to, it is nature at its finest. With very good mountain roads leading  into this alpine valley of lush  pastures, the Nesslerhof makes a good base for day trips. You might want to visit the beautiful lake town of  Zell am See and then drive the famous Grossglockner Road in the heart of the Hohe Tauern National Park, both very memorable outings.

Our stay at the Nesslerhof was one of the highlights of our European trip last year. The region is beautiful, the hotel and its staff were wonderful and the food was delicious, what more could one ask for.

 

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Shrimp Cocktail Phyllo Bites

Serve these super easy Shrimp Cocktail Phyllo Bites at your next cocktail party, at the beginning of a small dinner party or at any festive celebration and they will be an instant hit. What could be better than a crispy phyllo cup filled with creamy cheese, cocktail sauce and a bite size shrimp sitting on top.

Shrimp Cocktail Phyllo Bites

Everyone loves a shrimp cocktail but unless you are sitting at a table, you might think twice about dipping a large shrimp into cocktail sauce while dressed in your best outfit at a party. Finger food is always nice as it can be eaten in one or two bites and these little shrimp cocktail phyllo bites make a great party appetizer.

Shrimp Cocktail Phyllo Bites

Serves 4, adjust the recipe accordingly

  • 1 box of (15) frozen phyllo cups*
  • 1/2 of an 8 oz. container of whipped cream cheese
  • 2 – 3 Tbsp. sour cream, crème fraîche or yogurt
  • 1/2 tsp. more or less, fresh lemon juice
  • a drop or two of Worcestershire sauce
  • a pinch of garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper
  • 1/4 c. cocktail sauce
  • 15 small fully cooked shrimp
  • 1 or 2 romaine leaves, finely chopped (optional)

*The phyllo cups are fully cooked but I like to bake them in a 350 degree oven for about 5 minutes for extra crispness.

In a small bowl, stir together 4 oz. of whipped cream cheese, the sour cream, lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce. Season with the garlic powder, onion power, salt and pepper and mix well. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Spoon the mixture into a ziplock bag and seal. Cut off a small tip of the bag and pipe into the phyllo cups (about 2/3 full). Drizzle the cheese mixture with cocktail sauce and top with a shrimp. Sprinkle a little finely chopped lettuce leaves on top, if desired.

Serve immediately or refrigerate for 30 minutes. You can make your cheese spread and seal in a ziplock bag the day before serving. Do not fill the phyllo cups until right before serving so that they keep their crunch.

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Crunchy, creamy, and a little spicy from the cocktail sauce, these shrimp cocktail phyllo bites are delicious and the nice thing about them is that they take less than 15 minutes to put together. I brought them to a friend’s dinner party and the shrimp bites also  travel well. After filling the cups completely, I placed them back into the plastic holder they originally came in and then put them in a plastic storage container to take to the party. I do hope that you get a chance to serve the mini shrimp cocktail phyllo bites to your friends and family over the course of the next year as I believe they will be a hit with everyone who tries them.

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Shrimp Cocktail Phyllo Bites And Champagne

As this year comes to a close, I’m always reminded that when people gather together at midnight on New Year’s Eve and sing Auld Lang Syne, they pledge that whatever may change in their lives, that old friends will not be forgotten. You, my friends, are what makes writing Back Road Journal such a pleasure and you will always have a place in my heart. May the coming year be a healthy and happy one and I look forward to your next visit.

 

 

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Christmas Wishes

CHRISTMAS WISHES

I Wish You A Moment Of Peace

I wish you

a moment of peace, a moment of silence,

a moment of serenity.

I wish you 

a magical holiday season 

with family and friends.

I wish you

a joyous Merry Christmas

and a New Year full of happiness

and good health.

With Warm Wishes, Karen

 

 

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Hotel Spa Der Steirerhof, Bad Waltersdorf

Hotel And Spa Der Steirerhof is perhaps the most welcoming hotel I’ve had the pleasure to stay at during my many years of traveling.

Der Steirerhof, Bad Waltersdorf   Photo: Courtesy of the hotel

Located an easy 75 mile drive south from Vienna in the Austrian state of Styria, this lovely region is filled with historic towns, beautiful landscapes, numerous castles, orchards and vineyards. All in all, this picturesque hilly landscape has a rather Mediterranean feel that is far different from the Tirol region that my husband and I often visit.

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Der Steirerhof is located on a hilltop just outside the village of Bad Waltersdorf. The village is known for its healing thermal waters and has been voted one of the most beautiful flower villages in Europe. As you drive through the gates of the resort you see that it is surrounded by acres of gardens. Walk inside the stylish, traditional hotel and you see that Frau Gunda Unterweter, the gracious owner of Der Steirerhof, carries her love of plants and flowers indoors as well.

Upon arrival, we were greeted by Frau Unterweter and her lovely daughter Anna with a  glass of sparkling wine and shown to the hotel’s restaurant for a light lunch while our luggage was placed in our room and our car parked in the hotel’s garage.

All meals are included in the room rate and you can’t help but be impressed with the restaurant’s food. In the morning, you can enjoy is fresh coffee and pastries by the pool. Freshly prepared eggs as well as meats, fish, cheese, cereals, and freshly baked breads can be had from the breakfast buffet. There is even a specially cooled fresh fruit room where you can select fruits to juice yourself or take a piece as a snack anytime during the day.

At lunchtime, there are a variety of salads, soups and a hot dish available from the buffet. In the afternoon, you can enjoy strudel and cake in the dining area or at the poolside bistro. Dinner features salads from the buffet and then you have a choice from four different five course dinners. The ingredients are natural, organic and come from the region which has led to the restaurant being awarded the Grünen Haube (Green Toque) designation.

After lunch and getting settled in our room, we headed down to check out the pool and spa area and it is lovely. Der Steirerhof is ranked as one of the best 5 star hotels in Austria and has been awarded the best possible rating of 4 lilies and 20 points in the Relax Guide, the most respected wellness (spa) guide for Austria and Germany. The hotel’s spa area is the perfect place to relax in one of the seven indoor and outdoor pools or ten saunas. There is even a separate lady’s spa.

Each day after breakfast, we went out for a drive to explore different areas of Styria which is called the “green heart of Austria”. Fields were filled with pumpkins and sunflowers, orchards had trees loaded with apples and many of the vineyards had  grapes just waiting to be harvested. Absolutely beautiful scenery was around every curve in the road as we explored the region.

One day we drove a portion of the “castle route” and visited Castle Riegersburg, an impressive medieval castle perched on a steep volcanic rock hill. It was interesting and had magnificent views in all directions. If you visit the town of Riegersburg, you might also want to stop by the Zotter chocolate factory which is considered one of Austria’s best chocolates. In the same region there are also wine and apple routes to explore and if you are more adventurous then we were, there are hot air balloon rides to see this region from a bird’s eye view.

Another scenic drive took us to the pretty market town of Pollau. The town’s main attraction is  Schloss Pollau, a former Augustinian monastery. The huge St. Veit’s church, which was built in the early 1700’s, is part of the complex and is decorated with wonderful trompe l’oeil frescoes.

At the end of a day’s explorations, it was always nice to return to the hotel. You could enjoy a drink or snack on the beautiful terrace or by the fire, play a game or read a book in the lounge or change into your bathrobe and relax out in the spa garden or at the pool and watch a hot air balloon drift on the horizon just as the sun set. It doesn’t get much better than that as far as I’m concerned.

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Der Steirerhof, with its tradition of warm hospitality and high level service, is a hotel that creates an environment that makes you want to return to year after year. I do hope that my husband and I will be fortunate enough to return, perhaps next year.

 

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Vienna Will Steal Your Heart

It doesn’t take long for Vienna to steal your heart. It is a fabulous city with a rich heritage and is one of the top tourist destinations in Europe. While my husband and I were happy to wander Vienna’s elegant streets and admire the beautiful buildings, others come to attend a performance at the famous State Opera House or at one of the concert halls to listen to the music of Mozart, Strauss and Beethoven. During the celebrated three month ball season, many come to Vienna to attend one of the extravagant formal balls. My husband and I may not have waltzed the night away but we had a great visit. We especially enjoyed the incredible Imperial palaces of the Habsburg Emperors  that have been transformed into wonderful museums.

The Gloriette At The Schoenbrunn Palace

We arrived in Vienna late in the afternoon after a beautiful drive along the Danube River that runs through the Wachau valley a little more than an hour outside the city. Vienna is divided into different districts with many good hotels in each but for our first visit to the city we wanted to stay in the Innere Stadt (1st district). This historic district in the very heart of the city has a wonderful amount of palaces, museums, and churches to visit. This is also where you will find lots of restaurants and cafes, many on pedestrian only streets, to enjoy after a full day of sightseeing.

We decided on the Bristol Hotel. The hotel is located just across the street from the Vienna State Opera House. The doorman quickly greeted us, took our car and had the luggage delivered to our room while we registered at the front desk. The Bristol Hotel has a nice mix of history and modern comfort and felt very welcoming.

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When making our reservation, I able to choose between staying in one of their classically designed rooms or one of their new Art Nouveau rooms which was my choice. Upon being shown to our Bristol Suite, I was thrilled. Our corner room was filled with light from floor to ceiling wrap around windows that looked out at the Opera House. The living area was not only beautifully designed but was very comfortable with a seating area in front of a bookcase wall with a fireplace and TV, a desk behind the sofa and a small dining table set up with an Italian coffee maker.

The separate kingsize  bedroom also had a floor to ceiling window looking out at the Opera as well. I guess you could say that staying in this beautiful suite made me feel like Cinderella…all I needed was to be able to go to one of Vienna’s famous balls.

The hotel’s location was great as most everything we wanted to see was within walking distance.

On a rainy day…yes, the clouds and rain continued to follow us from Berlin, Prague, the Bavarian Forest and now Vienna, we bought tickets through the hotel’s concierge for the hop on, hop off bus tour. One of the bus stops was right in front of the Opera. The bus tour was a good introduction for our first visit to this beautiful city.

The Karlsplatz tram and U-bahn interchange was just steps outside the Bristol Hotel and was very useful for going to the sites that were not within walking distance, such as the impressive Schoenbrunn Palace.

After a full day of traveling, we wanted to find a cozy little restaurant where we could relax and have a good dinner on our first night in Vienna. I asked the concierge at our hotel and he recommended an Italian restaurant called Sole just off the main shopping avenue that was within walking distance of the hotel.

We were warmly greeted and shown to one of the last available tables in the tiny restaurant. After a delicious meal, the owner, Aki Nuredini stopped by to make sure that we enjoyed our meal and offered us after dinner drinks. Aki, such a warm  and sincere gentlemen, treated us as kindly as the famous opera singer who was dining at a nearby table. His restaurant is a favorite with singers, conductors and musicians that perform in Vienna as well as politicians and actors. I can certainly see why it is a favorite, it feels like your home away from home.

The fine food and the personal attention shown at the restaurant had us returning on our last evening in Vienna for another meal. This was the first time in all the years of traveling that my husband and I returned for a second meal in a city we were visiting so that lets you know how much we enjoyed Sole. At the end of the evening, Aki walked us out and wished us safe travels.

While Vienna is both an elegant cultural and musical destination with fine restaurants, it is also is known for its traditional coffee houses, pastries such as apple strudel and a famous chocolate cake called Sachertorte and Wiener schnitzel. You can have a good meal in a Michelin rated restaurant or at a simple café, there is surely by something on the menu to please your taste.

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My husband and I have traveled to Austria many times spending days in the Tirol and the Lake District. We enjoyed the cities of Salzburg and Innsbruck as well as many small villages but we never visited Vienna. Why did we wait so long…I can’t really say. We only had two full days to visit this beautiful cosmopolitan city and the weather was not ideal yet Vienna captured our hearts. I hope that we get the chance to visit this delightful city again on a future visit to Austria.

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The Bavarian Forest, Jagdhof Röhrnbach And The Danube

The Bavarian Forest, Hotel Jagdhof Röhrnbach And The Danube. While most everyone has heard of the Danube River and tens of thousands of people take river cruises on it every year, the nearby Bavarian Forest is almost an unknown region to most of those same travelers. The beautiful and uncrowded outdoor hiking area of Bayerischer Wald as it is called in German is located in the southeast corner of Germany between the Danube River and the border with the Czech Republic and Austria.

Bavarian Forest   Photo Courtesy of: Tourism-marketing-bayerischer-wald.de

Within a two to three hour drive from Munich, Prague and Vienna, my husband and I decided to visit this region and chose the Wellness Hotel Jagdhof in Röhrnbach as one of ten hotels we would be staying at during this year’s five week European holiday. We knew the hotel would make an ideal base from which to explore the Danube and the well known German towns of Regensburg (73 km), Passau (25 km) and other towns nearby.

The Jagdhof is the only five star spa hotel in the Bavarian Forest and what a nice hotel it is. Located in the center of the small town of Röhrnbach, the hotel is designed with a nice mix of trendy modern comfort and German traditional style. The large lobby is decorated in warm colors with white columns, marble floors and a huge chandelier.

While not the largest room at the hotel, our very large Wellness suite (60 sq. meters) had everything you could possibly want and then some. Decorated in a contemporary country style, the suite had an entrance foyer with a large walk in closet. The living room had a large flat screen TV, a Nespresso machine and a mini bar. The separate  kingsize bedroom had a flat screen TV as well. The large bathroom had a soaking tub, walk in shower, and separate toilet. There were two an outdoor terraces, one from the living room as well as one from the bedroom. This was a room you could definitely call home. Add the wonderful restaurant and modern spa and you might never want to leave the Jagdhof.

In our case, that is exactly what we did for our two nights at the Jagdhof as the weather ended up being rainy during our entire stay. Instead of day trips to explore the nearby towns on the Danube, we ended up spending each day in the hotel’s outstanding spa, the largest in Bavaria. We had walked many a mile visiting the historic cities of Berlin and Prague before arriving at the Jagdhof and it actually felt very nice to just relax for two days.

The spa area is huge and includes both indoor and outdoor pools, six different saunas, a separate ladies spa and large relaxing areas both inside and out.

Jagdhof Buffet

The hotel’s restaurant serves an outstanding buffet breakfast and a buffet lunch with sweet treats.In the evening there is a six course dinner menu with an appetizer buffet and a dessert and cheese buffet that  is included in the room rate. There is a nice bar area where you can enjoy cocktails, wine and beer and there is evening entertainment.

We were sorry that we didn’t get to explore the Bavarian Forest because of the rain during our time in the region but you can’t do anything about the weather when you travel. The sun finally broke through the clouds after leaving Germany. Glorious sunshine appeared just as we neared the Wachau Valley on our drive to Vienna.

The entire region, with terraced vineyards and apricot orchards that slope down to the Danube River, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is known for its beautiful scenery, picturesque villages and medieval castle ruins.  The 22 mile stretch of the Danube from Melk to Krems is considered one of the most scenic areas in this part of Lower Austria.

Danube River

We stopped briefly in Melk, a small town along the banks of the Danube. It’s famous for its 18th century Benedictine abbey which is the largest Baroque structure in Austria where monks have lived and worked for 900 years.

We stopped in the small town of Spitz for lunch at the Gasthaus Prankl. On a rocky ridge high above the restaurant is the ruins of the Hinterhaus Castle. The guesthouse offers a choice of dining on the outside stone terrace or inside the restaurant. At either spot, you can enjoy a glass of wine or beer and have a traditional  meal made from local ingredients.

After lunch, we continued our drive, passing through sweet little villages like Weissenkirchen and Durnstein. On a hill high above Durnstein there are the ruins of a castle where King Richard the Lionheart was held prisoner by an Austrian Duke until a ransom was paid for his release.

Durnstein With Castle Ruins High Above The Danube

The town of Krems makes a good start for a Danube river cruise of the area. While in the valley, you can also do a wine connoisseur’s tour of Wachau vineyards for tastings of Grüner Veltliner and Riesling that are famous in Austria.

Terraced Vineyards In Along The Danube

Perhaps you might even want to take one of the very popular guided bike tours of the area stopping at some of the small growers for a wine tasting.  After leaving Krems, it was  just a short hour’s drive into Vienna, our next stop on our holiday.

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As many times as my husband and I have visited both Germany and Austria, this year’s trip took us to new areas. The Bavarian Forest is popular with Germans but almost unknown to foreign tourists. The Wachau Valley, on the other hand, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and popular with tourists from around the world. With lots of quaint towns along this area of Danube, the Wachau Valley is a very popular day trip from Vienna.

Would I return to visit the Bavarian Forest or spend time along the Danube River in the Wachau Valley again, absolutely…perhaps next year.

 

 

 

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Prague, A Hot Travel Destination

Just hours away from Berlin and Vienna, Prague has become a hot travel destination in Central Europe. Ask most travelers that haven’t been to Prague already and they will say that it is on their bucket list. This beautiful city is filled with Baroque architecture, soaring church spires, cobblestone streets, interesting  neighborhoods filled with art galleries and museums, and has delicious food and great beer and wine, what more could a traveler ask for.

A stroll across the famous Charles Bridge is one of the first things that every visitor who goes to Prague wants to do but that is just the beginning of what this fascinating city has to offer. I would say, put Prague on your bucket list of places to visit and let me show you why.

Click on any photo in the story to enlarge and see a slide show. 

Charles Bridge is perhaps the most photographed sight in the city. The famous  stone bridge, with Gothic towers at both ends and lined with 30 statues of saints, spans the Vltava river which divides the town into two parts. Old Town is on one side of the river and Lesser Town, with its castle high on the hill, lies on the river’s other bank. The views from the pedestrian only bridge are wonderful but be warned, it is swarming  with tourists unless you visit at dawn’s first light.

Old Town Square with the Jan Hus Memorial at its center is home to many of the major sites. The two Gothic towers of Tyn Church can be seen as you enter the square from almost any of the narrow cobblestone streets that radiate off the square. Just before the hour, large crowds gather at the Astronomical Clock which is part of old town hall,  to watch it come to action for 45 seconds. (The clock tower is under restoration until the summer of 2018 but the clock is still visible.)

Prague Castle, the largest ancient castle complex in the world with its many courtyards, palaces, gardens and sweeping views of the town, has been used by kings and emperors and is the official home of the President of the Czech Republic.

The most dominant feature of Prague Castle is St. Vitus Cathedral. It is the final resting place for not only Bohemian kings and Holy Roman Emperors but important saints as well. Perhaps the most well known tomb being that of St. Wenceslas, the patron saint of the Czech Republic and  who so many of us associate with the Christmas carol “Good King Wenceslas”.

Another feature at the castle is a tiny lane next to the ramparts called the Golden Lane. The lane has very small, almost fairytale size houses where servants, guards and goldsmiths among others once lived. Later they were homes to writers such as Franz Kafka who once lived at number twenty-two.

If the weather is nice, be sure to visit the castle’s many beautiful gardens. Unfortunately, the day of our visit, it was rainy and cold.

John Lennon Wall, a graffiti filled landmark is one of the many unusual public art displays in the city. On your walks throughout the city go in search of some of the works of Czech artist David Cerny, Czech sculptor Jaroslav Rona, and others.

There is a debate on where you should stay in Prague. During this visit, we stayed at the Mandarin Oriental which is in Lesser Town where the castle is located. Proponents call this the quiet side and I would have to agree. While the hotel was very nice, my husband and I would probably stay in Old Town next time as it is very convenient to most attractions whereas we had to take a taxi to many of the places we wanted to visit.

When it comes to restaurants that we thought were very good and would return to, I can recommend three.

U Modré Kachničky (“The Little Blue Duck” in Czech), serves traditional everyday Czech food that has been recreated into sophisticated Bohemian cuisine. It has two locations, one in Old Town and the original one right next to our hotel, the Mandarin Oriental, in Lesser Town. It’s a cozy little restaurant that specializes in duck and wild game. We had a delicious meal there on our first night in Prague.

Divinis, owned by Czech celebrity chef Zdeněk Pohlreich prepares refined Italian cuisine with the finest of Italian products. The restaurant has an excellent all Italian wine list. From beginning to end, the food we had was outstanding.

Aromi, considered one of the top restaurants in Prague. It’s a very nice, modern Italian restaurant where the emphasis is on incredibly fresh fish and seafood simply prepared so the fresh ingredients really shine. Our waiter brought out a huge tray of fresh fish and described each one and how the chef suggested they should each be served. We decided on a whole halibut cooked with a light lemon sauce that was absolutely delicious.

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Whether you want to sit and have a drink at a sidewalk café on the square after exploring Old Town, spend a day visiting Prague castle and its gardens, take a stroll over Charles Bridge to have dinner at one of the waterfront restaurants or go in search of Bohemian crystal to take home as a souvenir, Prague is bound to charm even the most jaded of travelers.

Yes, after my visit to this interesting city, I can see why Prague is a hot destination in Central Europe and I would definitely recommend that you put it on your travel bucket list.

 

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Restaurant Heimlich Treu, A Berlin Hidden Gem

Restaurant Heimlich Treu, a Berlin hidden gem, is definitely worth seeking out. The restaurant’s name, which translates to something like “remain faithful to us but don’t tell anybody” is definitely a delicious secret. With basically no advertising, learning about the restaurant is strictly by word of mouth from those in the know.

With no sign out front on a nondescript street in Berlin-Mitte, unless someone gives you explicit directions, you would never dream that a trendy restaurant lies a short walk ahead. Luckily, we were told by the concierge at the Adlon Kempinski hotel that you have to walk through two courtyards to get to the hidden restaurant. If it wasn’t for the small brass letters spelling Heimlich Treu beside the open door, you might think you were walking into someone’s home.

The restaurant is a large, open room with white washed brick walls accented with  warm earth tones, exposed beams, dark wood floors and modern lighting. Leather sofas, metal chairs, wooden tables and bold art all combine to give it a cozy, casual atmosphere. At the back of the restaurant, there is also a lovely garden in a third courtyard for drinks and dining in nice weather.

The front of the restaurant features the bar where bartenders prepare cocktails that are inventive twists on classics. And what delicious cocktails they are. Arnd Heissen, head bartender at the Ritz Carlton and one of the top mixologists in Germany, created some of the restaurant’s cocktails. He believes that about sixty percent of what you taste comes from what you smell and he’s known for his unusual syrups, infusions and blends he uses when creating a drink.

The Tempting Mule Cocktail

After being greeted by the welcoming staff, we were shown to our table and given menus. While looking over the dinner menu, I ordered “The Tempting Mule”, a cocktail made with sandalwood infused syrup, Cointreau, lime and Grey Goose vodka. It was very good and reminded me of the sweet spicy aromas of Christmas back in New England. My husband had the “Fern Tree” cocktail made with mint, cedar infused syrup, lemon and Bombay Sapphire East, equally good.

The menu, written in German on one side and English on the other, features tapas size appetizers and main courses that are all meant for sharing. The dishes are modern twists on German food as well as some of the newest food trends. The menu only lists the main ingredients (popular in many restaurants now) but that was not a problem as our waiter explained how each of the items we were interested in was prepared.

We ordered four appetizers…scallops, octopus, pork belly and beets. We also ordered the Ibérico pork main as well as sides of rice fries and spicy cold cucumbers. We enjoyed a tasting of four lemon deserts to finish our meal. Each dish was very good but if I had to pick a favorite it would be the octopus (pulpo), perfectly cooked with an emulsion of chorizo and black garlic. It appears that others agree as it is the one dish that stays on the menu, the other dishes regularly change.

Mike Krause, the very personable owner of Heimlich Treu, joined us at our table after dinner. We talked about his restaurant, his creative cuisine and about Berlin in general. He told us about growing up in East Berlin before the wall came down and how different it is today. During our five weeks of travel in Europe, I would say that spending time with Mike and dining in his restaurant was one of the most enjoyable evenings of our trip.

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When thinking back on our experience at Heimlich Treu, it was a very pleasurable experience. With handcrafted cocktails and very tasty dishes that any foodie would  enjoy, what more could one ask for. If an American foodie like myself found out about the Heimlich Treu, I don’t think the restaurant will remain a secret too long. Yes, I’ll “remain faithful” to the restaurant and return if I am in Berlin again. I’m having a little problem with “not telling anyone” so it will just be our little delicious  secret.

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Hip And Trendy Berlin

Berlin, often called “the most hip city in Europe” is also one of the world’s great cultural centers. It’s eclectic neighborhoods are filled with trendy cafés for foodies, it’s bars and legendary clubs attract a young group for all night parties and there are art galleries and vintage boutiques for the artistic and creative crowd. In Berlin’s historic district of Mitte, you’ll find luxury hotels, gourmet restaurants, exclusive high end shops, beautiful parks, endless museums, theaters, and cultural events that attract a chic European crowd, all of which makes Berlin one of the most talked about, vibrant and fascinating cities in Europe today.

Brandenburg Gate, One Of Berlin’s Most Important Monuments

As many times that my husband and I have visited Germany, Berlin was never on our radar as it was further north and east from where we usually travel. When our travel plans to Prague had to be altered because of Hurricane Irma, Berlin ended up becoming the first stop on this year’s trip to Europe.

The legendary Adlon Kempinski Hotel, on the famous Unter den Linden  boulevard, and just steps away from the famous Brandenburg Gate, became our home for four nights. We loved its central location in the heart of the historic district of Berlin. We could easily walk to many of the city’s main cultural and historical sites such as the Reichstag and the Museum Island, which is a collection of five truly outstanding  museums that would take days, if not weeks, to throughly explore.

We had a wonderful junior suite located just a couple of doors down from the hotel’s famous Presidential suite. After two days of traveling to get to Berlin, this very spacious and beautifully decorated room was one we didn’t want to leave. That was until we opened the balcony door and saw Berlin’s famous landmarks all around us .

Normally I do a lot of research before we visit a city and know all the sights and restaurants that I want to visit. Since Berlin was an unplanned stop, I relied on the  team at the Adlon’s concierge desk for help and they were terrific. Since this was our first time in Berlin, they recommended we take a hop on, hop off bus tour to get a feel of the city.

We did take the bus tour for our introduction to this famous capital and I would definitely suggest it to any first time visitor to Berlin.

Berlin has 175 museums and during our stay we visited three. The Deutsches Historisches Museum is incredibly interesting, covering 2,000 years of German history. Upstairs covers a period from the 1st century to the end of WWI while the bottom floor covers the 20th century all the way through to the German reunification. The Neues Museum has outstanding pieces from the Egyptian Museum, the showpiece being the famous bust of the Egyptian Queen Nefertiti.

The third museum we visited was the Pergamon Museum which happens to be Berlin’s most popular museum. Because of long waits at the Pergamon Museum, the concierge at the Adlon highly recommended booking time slot tickets. That enabled us to skip the ticket lines and believe me, the lines were very long.

We saw the famous Ishtar Gate of Babylon with tiles painted in brilliant blues with reliefs of dragons and lions.

Ishtar Gate of Babylon At The Pergamon Museum

There is also the impressive Roman Market Gate of Miletus.

Roman Gate At Pergamon Museum

The museum also has a huge stone Mschatta Façade from one of the Jordanian desert castles as well as an interesting collection in the Museum of Islamic Art. Each room is filled with long buried treasures 2000 years old or more  gathered from Iran, Asia Minor, Egypt and the Caucasus.

We had wonderful meals during our short stay in Berlin. The Adlon has three different restaurants in the hotel. The Lorenz Adlon Esszimmer which has a two star Michelin rating was fully booked during our stay. The Sra Bua, a modern Pan Asian restaurant was closed during our stay but has since reopened. Their more casual restaurant is the Quarré and we had an early dinner there one  evening at a table looking out at the boulevard and the Brandenburg Gate. On our other two evenings, we left the hotel and enjoyed two very different restaurants that the concierge recommended.  Il Punto, which is within walking distance of the hotel, is  an excellent Italian restaurant and Heimlich Treu, a fairly new restaurant, is a true hidden gem. I’ll be writing about it in my next post, I think you will enjoy learning about the restaurant.

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The Brandenburg Gate At Night

Berlin was a fascinating city to visit and if it hadn’t been for Hurricane Irma, it is a city  we probably wouldn’t have visited. I do hope you get a chance to visit Berlin some day. It really is one of Europe’s most interesting capitols and yes, I would agree with all that call it “the most hip city in Europe” as well as being one of the world’s cultural centers.

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Wanted: Apple Technician, Must Love To Travel

Apple Technician, Must Love To Travel…that is what I would love to have at the moment. Social media has changed how we connect with our family and friends while traveling. Years back, souvenir stands and museum gift shops had lines of people buying post cards. In the small space on the back, we would write, “Having a great time, wish you were here”, mail it and hope the recipient received it before we returned home. Once we got home, we subjected our friends to an after dinner slide show of our wonderful holiday.

Writing A Travel Post During One Of My Previous Travel Adventures

Now everyone is sending selfies to their friends on Facebook, instagram, or twitter. I haven’t sent a post card or bought a roll of film in years, my computer and digital camera making all that unnecessary. I even started a blog where I could share my travels with not only my family and closest friends but also with thousands of others here on Back Road Journal.

Sharing Another Travel Adventure A Few Years Back

When I travel, I have a small carry on suitcase that is filled with electronic equipment…charging cords, battery charges, digital camera, extra camera batteries,  two iPhones, an iPad and an Apple MacBook Pro computer so that I can share my traveling adventures with my readers. At each town I stay in, the first thing I ask for is the hotel’s access codes to their internet and where their hotspots are located.

I Never Travel Without My Computer

I Never Travel Without My Computer

During this year’s almost five week trip to Europe, I found out that the one thing I really needed besides all the electronic gadgets I was hauling around, was an apple technician. Perhaps I need to place a help wanted add, “Apple technician, must love to travel”.

Shortly before my husband and I left for Europe, I was locked out of my WordPress Administration page on my blog. I learned that my operating system was too old and was no longer compatible with WordPress so I couldn’t write a post or answer comments. Off to a computer repair shop where my MacBook Pro was updated with MacOS Sierra. Fast forward to the present and I am in Europe trying to share my travel adventures. A new problem developed, my Safari browser wouldn’t work. Luckily a few days ago Apple came out with MacOS High Sierra so I downloaded it into my computer hoping that all would be well.

As you can see from this latest post, my computer is up and running again with this latest operating system but now I have another problem. I can’t use any of the 1000 or so photos I’ve taken on this trip and downloaded into my Mac with my WordPress blog. Thus, I’m writing the short post and using old photos from previous year’s of writing while I’m traveling.

Social Media is driving me crazy…I wish I had about 4000 post cards to let all of my readers know that “I’m having a great time, wish you were here”.

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My husband and I have another week left on this year’s trip to Europe. When I return home to Florida, I’ll be taking lessons on how to use MacOS High Sierra and perhaps then I’ll be able to share all the wonderful sights we have seen on our travels to Berlin, Prague, Vienna, and Munich as well as spa and mountain resorts in Austria and Germany and a short hop over the border into the Alsace region of France.

 

 

 

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