Europe For The Senses

Author/Photographer Vicki Liston blogs on her book and some interesting places she's traveled. "Europe for the Senses - A Photographic Journal" was published under the name 'Vicki Landes'.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Time Off?? I Don't Think So...

It’s Friday. I’ve been looking forward to today for about 3 weeks now. Why? It’s the end of the fiscal year. I’ve worked like a crazy woman for the last month to get all my projects closed out and to reconcile a $2.5 million dollar budget. Not fun, let me tell you. I’ve taken off this coming Monday and Tuesday as not only a celebration for getting through September but to write some book reviews and to just get out! Here are my options for my time off:

Option 1: It’s Oktoberfest time! Tourists flock to Munich but Germans come to Stuttgart for festivities, food, and beer. Frankly, I don’t drink beer – it tastes like feet (no, I haven’t had feet but if I did, that’s how it would taste). Oktoberfest isn’t all beer, though. We go for the chicken and a chance to see our German neighbors break out of their quiet shells. The rotisserie half-chickens they serve in the big fest tents are not your everyday meal – exploding with flavor right down to the drippings left on the plate (use the hearty French fries to mop those up!). With the deafening oom-pa-pa band going on in the background, it’s an experience to remember!

Option 2: Fall Foliage Viewing. It makes me sad to see the leaves turn colors because I know winter’s just around the corner…and we’d finally shaken him only a short time ago! If it’s sunny this weekend, I’ll drive out of Stuttgart on Autobahn 8 and take in the colors. Lake Starnberg is about 1.5 hours away and is where ‘Mad’ King Ludwig and his physician were both found dead…and the circumstances are still considered ‘mysterious’. There’s an iron cross in the lake where their bodies were found. Yes, a little morbid but I don’t think there’s a better time to photograph this spot – dying leaves, cool fall day, and a silent remembrance of Germany’s most eccentric king.

Option 3: Veg. If the weather isn’t good, I was planning on holing up at home with some books and homemade bruschetta. I’ll have some Enya going in the background and light all the candles in the house. Maybe take a nap, too…

So what will it be, you ask?? None of the above, actually! An option 4 has presented itself:

Option 4: My husband goes to the hospital in an ambulance where they find three kidney stones. During a second x-ray session, one of the stones starts moving and he gets whisked off to surgery. I get to eat a cold flammkuchen (kind of like pizza bread) I bought from the main train station’s bakery while the pizza pocket I bought for my ailing husband gets colder on the table. And that book I brought to keep occupied? I finished that hours ago…

Option 4 it is. Surgery took an hour and they were able to remove one of the stones. Rob will stay at the hospital for observation and pain meds. They’ll do another ultrasound session on Monday to try and break up the remaining stones into smaller pieces. I spent six grueling hours at the hospital today and foresee some very long days ahead…

So, the moral of the story is: when life hands you kidney stones, bring along a deck of cards and have some laughs. You can always plan again.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

One Big Happy Travelin' Family

So what do you do when you like to travel to places that your significant other doesn’t? And what about the kids? They don’t want to travel at all. Traveling is one of those times where you DO need to make everyone happy.

Take my family for example. I could hit every castle, cathedral, church, monastery, and ruins in the entire country of Germany and never get bored (I actually have hit them all in the greater Stuttgart area). But if I start to mention a potential trip to my husband, “hey, I was thinking about visiting this cas…” Right there, his eyes are already rolling. My son, although a great sport about being dragged to every location I’m interested in, would much rather sit and watch Toon Disney all afternoon. Here’s where a little research will pay off big time.

Know (or get to know) what your other family members are into. Rob will salivate at any war-related history site and Brady’s fine with the kid-friendly spots. So, before we set off for that castle, I’ll look for anything and everything related to WWI or II – concentration camp, museum, monument, tour, etc. I’ll also look for parks, playgrounds, botanical gardens (those usually have animals), animal museums (Germany’s full of petting zoos, reptile or spider museums), lakes with paddleboats, whatever might give Brady the opportunity to run around and burn some energy or see something creepy crawly.

Once you have something for everyone, plan your time. When we went to Ulm, my goal was to see the cathedral and climb to the top of the spire. Rob and Brady came along and explored the sanctuary with me but I took on the hundreds of spiraling stairs by myself. After I got to the bottom, we all continued to an old concentration camp. Rob spent time studying the pictures in the museum while I kept Brady occupied. After lunch, we visited a bird aviary where lush plants grew in large, domed cages. We found ourselves nose-to-beak with all kinds of exotic species of birds (watch out for aerial bombs, though :)

Another option is to split up. When we visited Berlin, Rob hopped a tour to the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp while Brady and I took a train to Castle Sanssouci and Gardens. We met up later that afternoon to share what we’d seen. This way, nobody had to sit and wait for ‘the boring stuff’ to be over with. Everybody’s happy!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Church or Cathedral??

Did you know that there’s a difference between a ‘church’ and a ‘cathedral’? When you travel throughout Europe, you’ll run into them in all sizes – from the rural, humble ones that are content to be nestled next to a mountain to the majestic ‘I dare you to not feel in awed when you step inside’ ones. How do you tell which boast the title of ‘cathedral’? I’ll give you a hint…it’s not in the architecture…

I didn’t learn the answer to this question until I visited Cologne, Germany last year. Cologne (or Köln) is home to Germany’s second tallest cathedral (515 feet). Archbishop Konrad von Hochstaden began construction in 1248 and it took on 14 aerial bombs during WWII yet stood its ground. My Grandpa Krape remembers seeing it after the bombing. He says, “when I went through [the cathedral] during the war, there was mounds of rubble inside on the floor. Several priests were walking around the rubble on paths through it, saying their prayers. One could see daylight through the roof in spots. The 3 doorways lined with statues had been defaced and some beheaded. Someone obviously stood outside with a machine gun - the bullet knick marks rose as he turned due to the gun climbing as it’s fired.”

Wandering through the Cologne Cathedral leaves you taken aback by its sheer magnitude. Stand at the very end of the center aisle and watch the sanctuary almost grow in front of you, higher and higher. The walls are almost covered in stunning stained glass windows which let a rainbow of light in and make the stone pillars glow. Study each glass panel, which is a work of art in and of itself. I recommend the tour…normally I don’t take these but this one was very good…and you learn the answer to nagging questions such as ‘what’s the difference between a church and a cathedral?’ Have you guessed it yet (I gave a tiny hint in the second paragraph :) It’s actually very simple…much more than I would have guessed. A ‘church’ is a building where religious services are held. A ‘cathedral’ is that AND enjoys the presence of a bishop or archbishop. So even if a building is monstrously gothic-sized, if there’s no bishop it’s only a ‘church’.

The Cologne Cathedral will also let visitors climb up into her spires. The staircase will give your legs a hearty work-out and when you get to the top, look straight up through the pinnacle as the sun casts interlacing shadows all around you. Leave the spire for a walk around the top while enjoying the almost limitless view of the surrounding area. Make sure you rest before heading down – my legs felt like jello by the time I got back down to the bottom!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Can't cook? So travel!

Europe can be daunting for the first-time tourist…it can be down right terrifying as a matter of fact. When I first learned that we’d be moving to Europe, I was livid. We’d just bought a house, I’d just graduated from college, AND I’d just had a baby…I definitely didn’t want anymore life changes! Yet, the Army doesn’t exactly sympathize with that so off we went. I didn’t know anything about my surroundings or the language and my husband was deployed about a month after we got moved in. Talk about being scared...

If you are interested in seeing a certain area of Europe but are a little scared to do so on your own, why not check out a cooking school? My absolute favorite has been Faye Hess’ “Cucina Casalinga” in Italy. Faye is a NY chef who spends her time cooking up a storm (and an upcoming book) in Long Island City as well as teaching Umbrian cooking in the heart of Tuscany. Faye’s school feeds the hearts of both tourists and aspiring chefs – the mornings and early afternoons are spent exploring the countryside, tasting Italian wines and cheeses, and visiting ancient cities while the late afternoon and evenings have her students cooking tasty Italian delicacies. She cooks with all the love of a true Italian and her kitchen is always full of laughter and friendship.

I have to admit, I’ve been to Faye’s school more than once…but it’s addicting! My heart craves Italy, especially during the chilly winter months when the sun ignores Germany. When I do get to Tuscany, I actually cry. It sings to me. Couple that with a week worth of learning new recipes, making new friends, and savoring the relaxed Italian atmosphere...I’ve found my bliss.

Find out about Faye Hess’ cooking school at

Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Best-Kept Secret of Garmisch, Germany

Garmisch, Germany boasts of many things – the breathtaking Bavarian Alps, perfectly-carved wooden houses with flowerboxes that spill over with color, the delicate edelweiss alpine blossoms, mouth-watering schnitzel, stout German beer, and a myriad of talented local craftsmen. But did you know that at the edge of this quaint, picture-perfect town lies a violent display of Mother Nature? Known in German as the ‘Partnachklamm’, it hides behind the old Olympic Stadium and attracts hundreds of hikers each year.

So what exactly is the Partnachklamm? In a nutshell, it’s a struggle to the death – a knock-down, drag-out brawl between the Partnach River and a limestone gorge. The river peacefully runs through the trees until it hits the 262-foot tall gorge. From there the river’s personality turns to fury as it slams into the rock walls, throwing its temper tantrum for over 2,300 feet before calming down again and continuing to flow through the Bavarian countryside. Visitors follow a carved-out rock path from the entrance to the gorge and up a gradual incline to experience firsthand what nature is capable of. Don’t forget your raincoat, though! You may be able to avoid the mist from the tumbling cascades but the spray from the waterfalls above will most definitely christen you!

There are several ways to experience the Partnachklamm, each holding its own delight for the visitor. Late spring through summer will provide a green backdrop on the limestone rocks while the chilly alpine waters almost deafen its company. In colder months, the gorge becomes an enchanting world of icicles and snow. Check first before showing up during the winter, though…too much snow and ice will force the gorge to close for safety reasons. It’s also possible to visit during the day or the night – daytime offers better views while the warming sunbeams force their way through the foliage. After dark, torch-lit tours are offered, giving the gorge a mystical quality. Regardless of season or time of day, once you’ve made your way through this hidden natural treasure, continue up the mountain for a robust hike and then relax at the Forsthaus Graseck’s restaurant. The food is excellent and the views are breathtaking. While indulging in their cuisine, ponder how you’ll get back down – take the same path through the gorge or a restful two-minute ride down in the cable car. Either way, a trip to the Partnachklamm is well worth it!

As Featured On Ezine Articles

Monday, September 18, 2006

I'm Blogging!

I feel so far behind! The first time I'd even heard of a 'blog' was when my friend and former piano instructor, Kristin, got to Iceland a couple of years ago and started one. I had no idea what it was (and you've got to admit, the word itself is goofy) but it kept me updated on what she was up to and how great Iceland was. Now, hopefully, I'm catching up with the rest of the world...

So, I'm starting this blog to not only get the word out on my book but to write about some fantastic places in Europe that most travelers haven't even heard of. So many people come to Europe with a 'checklist' of sites that they rush the end of their 'vacation', they are worn out and remember the two or three week blur through their destination countries. Don't get me wrong, I'm not dissuading going to the major sites at all. I'm simply suggesting a mixture of the popular sites that all tourists hoard to and those that you can experience almost all by yourself. You definitely can't see everything in one trip so the things you do get to see should be relished. Savor each sight - from larger-than-life Big Ben to the little perturbed-looking water fountain man in Karlsruhe Gardens (Germany). Each one holds a special memory for you to look back on for years to come.

With that, I'm announcing the release of my book, "Europe For The Senses - A Photographic Journal":

Penny C. Sansevieri (858) 560-0121

A Photographic Taste of Europe: ‘Europe for the Senses’ explores the far reaches of Europe--in sight and prose

GERMANY - "Tourists come to Europe and try to cram in as much as they can in a short amount of time, but the unfortunate thing is they often overlook the best part of Europe: the splendor of a small German village at dawn, the ruins of a once grand castle, and the rows upon rows of tulips bursting with color," says Vicki Landes, creator of 'Europe for the Senses - A Photographic Journal'. Landes, who lives in Germany with her military husband, has been able to travel extensively and shares her most personal photographs of a more intimate Europe than tourists ever get to see. 'Europe for the Senses' captures the essence of the quaint villages, majestic castles, and narrow roads that weave their way through Europe. Landes, who has a self-proclaimed photography addiction, has traveled to 45 countries during her husband's time in Stuttgart, Germany.

'Europe for the Senses' is a collection of photography and creative writing meant to transport the reader to each respective destination with stimulating sensory imagery. Experience the sights, smells, sounds, and touch that make Europe so remarkable. Whether you've traveled to Europe many times or hope to visit there someday, this wonderful gift book will invoke a craving for these far-away countries and all the small and remarkable details waiting to be discovered.

"Landes' new book takes a different approach. Rather than offering readers just gorgeous photographs, she provides a personal narrative of what it would be like for someone viewing the particular scene." --Ellen Tanner Marsh, New York Times Best Selling Author

"I feel like I'm there! Vicki's photography coupled with her descriptive writing instantly transports the reader to the most intriguing parts of Europe." --Faye Hess, Italian cuisine and culture expert, author of upcoming book, "Kitchen Sister"