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Castle illumination in Heidelberg

If you ever lived in the Rhein-Neckar region, then you know that one of the summer highlights is the Heidelberg castle illumination. Three times every year during the summer months (June, July and September, right after nightfall), the spectacle attracts thousands of viewers annually and countless of boats and ships that sit on the Neckar to watch the fireworks.

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Advent time is Christmas market time in Germany

The official start to the Christmas season here in Germany has to be the lighting of the first candle on the Advent wreath, which is usually also the time that most of the big Christmas markets open up. The Christmas markets have to be one of the most anticipated attractions for tourists during the season and there are just so many of them. With there being only 4 weekends to hit the further out markets and evenings to visit the markets close by, it is useful to have a battle plan, so you can hit as many markets as possible. In our Christmas markets recommendations, you can find some of the most popular markets in Germany and some great tips and tricks.

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Located right on the French-German border is the picturesque town of Wissembourg. Wissembourg is only 45 miles away from Kaiserslautern or 75 miles away from Stuttgart.
Founded in the 7th century as an Abbey, the town had grown into a fortified city by the 13th century and is now a modern city with a rather big hospital complex and big wholesale places like the sparkling wine store.

The main street that takes you into the city will lead you along a beautiful drive along parts of the city’s outer walls and old watermills running into the many streams and canals that run through the town. There are plenty of dedicated parking spots in city center, and during the weekend parking may even be free, just check on the next ticket machine for prices and times.

Entering the old town is like getting out of a time machine; most of the buildings inside the city walls date back from the 11th to 17th centuries and are breathtaking. The charming old buildings with their crooked roofs and ancient timbers will take you back to a different place. Tucked in between the old houses are many side roads inviting you to explore.

The old town is built around many streams where little bridges and roads used to guide the horse carts and people to mills and storehouses.

The Abbey in the center of town should be on your “must see” places in Wissembourg and is absolutely stunning. Most of the old houses are outfitted with plaques that will tell you about the building in French, German and English. Many of them house stores and restaurants. For longer visits there are also several hotels located inside the city.

When we decided to visit Wissembourg last weekend, we actually were really lucky and came at an open shopping Sunday. When we hit town, we saw a little fair with rides and booths. Heading further into town I noticed that, to my delight, places like bakeries were stocked and selling wonderful treats. We strolled through the well visited streets and past busy bistros and cafes. One of the more impressive buildings is the Kugelhupf bakery; that we had to check out. Shelves of fresh croissants and pastries greeted us behind glass counters, and on the other side of the small sales area were glass counters with heaps of chocolates and pralines.

We also found a tiny antique shop that displayed some lovely old furniture and knick-knacks. The store also had several shelves with homemade soaps and scrubs.

Another place offered fresh cheeses, salami and wine. The aroma was overwhelming! We did lots of sampling and walked out of the store as proud owners of a large boar salami.

Most of the store owners did speak some English and German so it was not really an issue to communicate; people where friendly and made us feel very welcome.

If you head there during the week, be sure to check out the French grocery stores for some great food, or stop at the sparkling wine store “Caves de Wissembourg” to stock up for you next party. And instead of taking the car, they also have a train station; the walk to the old town is not too far.

We really enjoyed our day in Wissembourg and will be back for sure.

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Traveling to London on a Budget

As I've mentioned before, living in Germany makes traveling throughout Europe just a little bit easier and a lot more affordable. Ryanair almost always has cheap tickets to London Stansted from Frankfurt-Hahn or Baden-Baden, and neither of those airports are terribly far away from Stuttgart, Wiesbaden or Ramstein. Parking at the airport isn't super cheap, so it's always best to get a ride. However, since you probably saved a ton on the plane tickets, dishing out 50 Euro for parking (for a week) isn't all that bad. A friend of mine had an extra ticket to Harry Potter and the Cursed Child last September, so I convinced my husband to let me plan a last minute, five day trip around the play (and on the cheap). The trip was a success, and so here are my tips for traveling to London this year!

First off, let me just say that you can find plane tickets to London for as low as 20 Euro round-trip if you go during the off season (Ryanair). The flight isn't terribly long either, and you can then catch a bus or a train into the city from London Stansted airport. I'd suggest buying your tickets for the bus or train online in advance, but it isn't too difficult to get them at the airport either. It's about a 45 minute trip. Personally, I'd recommend taking the train or the Stansted Express. Also, there is a money exchange at the airport that has a pretty good currency conversion rate. You can also use an ATM to withdraw British Pounds right away. 

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