02 April, 2016

Back in the South: Beilstein and Löwenstein

Unlike in the U.S., Easter is a long weekend in Germany: the Sunday of Easter as well as the Monday after are both official holidays. Maxim and I took full advantage of the holiday weekend by taking the Friday before and the Tuesday after Easter off, too (well, Maxim took time off from work, I'm on break from university so I would have been free regardless).

For the long weekend we traveled down to southern Germany to visit Maxim's aunt, who lives about six hours south of Hamburg by car. (With Germany being the size it is, that means we drove basically from one end of the country to the other.) We spent a good amount of the weekend socializing with Maxim's aunt, and then with his parents and sister when they got there, and doing some sightseeing in the area. We took the first of our day trips the day before Easter and visited the towns of Beilstein and Löwenstein.

First up was lunch at Mayers Burgrestaurant in Beilstein, located on the grounds of an old castle called Hohenbeilstein. Since this was a typical German restaurant, the menu was very meat-heavy and didn't play well with my mainly-vegan diet. But with some slight compromising and rationalization I was able to get something yummy ;)

After lunch we wandered around the small but charming castle grounds. The castle and restaurant sit directly on top of a hill, and a trip to the top of the tower provides great views over the town and the surrounding vineyards.

The orange roofs are very typical of Germany.

It's hard to see but the hillside is covered in grape vines. This region of Germany is well known for wine. You can also see part of the castle walls in the foreground.

View of the restaurant from the top of the tower.

The "window" in the photo above was apparently the original entrance to the tower, which is pretty high off the ground. This entrance could be used if the castle was under attack to bring people to safety and then be closed so that attackers couldn't get inside.

There were also plenty of cool things to see once we came down from the tower. As you can see, the views from the ground are still pretty cool.

Part of the outer castle wall. This is my favorite picture of the day.

The tower on the right and the restaurant on the left.

The front of the restaurant. I love this style of building, it's so German!

The main entrance

We didn't see much of the town, but the typical German flavor was also clearly visible during our drive to and from the castle.

Downtown Beilstein

On the drive back we also stopped in a tiny town called Löwenstein for more beautiful views. The overlook where we stopped was flanked by more charming German buildings and was decorated adorably for Easter.

And then there was this adorable picture of Maxim and me taken by Maxim's dad. Just so you know, I'm not actually that short, I was just sitting while Maxim was standing.

The exploring continued on Easter Sunday when we visited the charming little city of Schwäbisch Hall, but that will get its own post because I have a zillion more pictures to show you!

Something I notice when I visit southern Germany after living in the north is how differently people speak. Southern Germany has some of the most distinctive dialects of German that I've heard, with some being so different from Hochdeutsch, or standard German, that I can barely understand them (and sometimes can't understand them at all). Even though Schwäbisch, the dialect spoken in the area where Maxim's family lives, is familiar to me, hearing it again over Easter took me aback. I started getting used to it in the few days that Maxim and I were visiting his family, but it was still hard for me to understand sometimes. German dialects are a fascinating topic and one that I will someday devote an entire post to, so I won't go into too much detail here. But a post about a trip to the south wouldn't be complete without at least a mention of the linguistic differences between there and my new home in the north.

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for part two of my Easter weekend travels!

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