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'.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Thanksgiving's over...ready for Christmas cooking?

I am still stuffed from Thanksgiving! The leftovers continue to call me from the fridge and I'm now saving time by drinking the eggnog straight out of the carton (ok, nobody else at my house drinks eggnog). To tell you the truth, I'm excited about cooking at Christmas already. Remember that fabulous Italian cooking school in Tuscany that I keep raving about? The chef, Faye Hess, has just released her very first book! It's called FAYEFOOD and it's going to get me through the Christmas holidays. Just go to and type FAYEFOOD in the search box. You can even preview it (I love the cover - it's TOTALLY Faye :) She also writes a blog at

If you ask my husband about our first Thanksgiving as a married couple, he will tell you about the pie I made. We were as broke as you could get but we managed to scrape enough money together for turkey sandwiches from Boston Market. In an admirable effort, I made the very first homemade pie I'd ever attempted with flour and cherry pie filling. It even had the criss-crosses on the top. My husband took a bite of that pie and put on the most convincing 'mmmm' face he could - which convinced me until I took a bite. Somehow the pie crust tasted more like playdoh. I gagged and told him to stop eating the playdoh pie and that was that. It wasn't until I met Faye two years ago did I start to enjoy cooking - and now I rule in that kitchen! Bring on Christmas!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Mainau - Germany's Garden Island

Mainau is Germany's garden island, hording seven kilometers worth of space from the Bodensee. Bursting with radiant color and exotic fragrance, this little oasis on the lake beckons anyone looking for quiet tranquility. Although only royalty live on this isle, all are welcome to visit for the day.

Easily reached from Meersburg, Germany or other ferry ports along the Bodensee (also called Lake Constance), Mainau is a relaxing thrill. Each visit offers beautifully manicured gardens that beg to be leisurely strolled through, the Palm House which protects the tropical trees from the elements while little chirping birds hide in the coarse leaves, every imaginable – and unimaginable - species of roses, and a view of the stately castle that overlooks the grounds. The castle itself cannot be toured but its adjoining chapel is accessible to the public. It's even possible to enjoy live musical performances among the serenely perfect surroundings.

Mainau's one of the highlighted destinations in my book. Here's an excerpt—

“Get lost in the gardens to truly appreciate every single detail waiting patiently to be discovered. Explore the Butterfly House, a simulated paradise for hundreds of silent winged bugs in all stages of life. With its high temperatures, almost stifling humidity, waterfalls, brilliant flowers and exotic plants – step through a curtain of bamboo and you are immediately transported into a rainforest! Study the hanging cocoons where caterpillars await their rebirth or sneak up on a six-inch butterfly feasting on a dish of plump orange slices. Slip behind a waterfall for a cool break from the humidity or rest on a bench and wait for something to land nearby!”

Since it's not possible to stay at Mainau overnight (there are no hotels!), I recommend Meersburg. Meersburg is an adorable old town, complete with medieval castle and lakeside promenade. The old castle is worth the tour but I found that the newer castle to be much less interesting. It's used as a museum for an eclectic collection of modern art (which I’m not really into) but the grand staircase is impressive (I bought a ticket just to see the staircase). The town itself is fascinating just to walk through. Take the 20-30 minute ferry from Meersburg to Mainau and you'll get dropped off at the entrance (those 20-30 minutes can either be spent on deck enjoying the view or inside enjoying a cup of something warm!). Once there, simply purchase your ticket and wander wherever your heart takes you!

Couple misc points of interest:
• This is one of the few places I've been in Germany that's incredibly accommodating to handicapped guests – smooth walkways, gentle slopes, wheelchairs at the entrance, etc.
• There's only one ATM on the entire island – it's in the Gatehouse.
• The sit-down restaurants are insanely expensive. I normally eat at the cafe in the Butterfly House which is much cheaper.
• Playgrounds, petting zoo, and pony rides! This is a fabulous place for kids of all ages. There are also plenty of benches for the parents to collapse within eyeshot.
• There are gorgeous flowers and bulbs at the shops near the entrance. Remember that you can't ship these items back to the states (my husband worked in Customs for six years so I got these rules drilled into my head :) It might be possible for the shop to ship them directly on your behalf, though (some places can).

Website resources:
• – Mainau's official website (click on 'english'). View pictures and get information such as prices, times, and concert information. You can even take a virtual tour here!
• – ferry times and prices
• – Hotel Seehof website. It's RIGHT on the water, right next door to the pier, and the perfect location for exploring the pedestrian zone. Only one hangup – you have to park your car at the garage at the other end of the pedestrian zone (about a 5-10 minute walk). You are allowed to drive up to the hotel to load/off-load but you can’t park on their premises.
• – Another hotel in Meersburg (and on the water). It's nicer and pricier than Seehof but it's right next to a parking lot.
• – Meersburg's official website (click on the UK flag).

Monday, November 20, 2006

American War Memorial Gallery open!

It's up and running! Click on the ImageKind link below or type in to visit the American War Memorial Gallery to view and purchase prints of American war memorials. Please remember that every single penny - 100% - of the profits I receive from this gallery are donated to the American Battle Monument Commission for the maintenance and upkeep of these sacred sites! God bless the troops!

Print & frame my art at Imagekind...

Friday, November 17, 2006

Follow-up: France on Veterans Day

For Veterans Day weekend (which coincidentally is my husband’s birthday so this doubled as a birthday present), we went to France to see as many war memorials as we could. I’ve said this before but it doesn’t matter how many of these cemeteries or memorials I go to, they always strike me as profound. We started at the Lorraine Cemetery in St. Avold, which is the largest WWII cemetery in Europe. Dripping with the morning’s melting frost, the stark white marble crosses seemed to go on forever as the turning leaves dropped gently around them. The Visitors Center employs a very hospitable older gentlemen that was not only excited to see Americans but to share his extensive knowledge on this and other war memorials in France (my husband, who can’t get enough of WWII history, was more than happy to listen to everything). Once outside the center, we visited the chapel – tall and foreboding, it seems to stand watch over the sleeping troops while providing a silent place for reflection. At the other end of the cemetery, a tall stone wall topped with a proud eagle gives the visitor a beautiful view of the grounds. From this point, we watched the groundsmen respectfully place flowers and rub dirt onto the crosses, making the letters more visible in the marble. The silence was only broken when the chimes in the chapel spoke up to play each service’s song. Otherwise, even the birds held their tongues.

We continued on to more memorials, including the Sommepy Memorial, St. Mihiel Cemetery and Memorial, and Meuse-Argonne Cemetery and Memorial. Sommepy is a World War I memorial that still has trenches zigzagging through the area. It’s surreal to stand in the trenches, knowing that the ground below once held crouched men that bled so I could freely stand there many years later. St. Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne are also cemeteries near Verdun. We visited in the pouring rain on Veterans Day and I kept thinking of the song “Holes in the Floor of Heaven”, which alludes to rain actually being tears of those in heaven.

I’ve always loved the word ‘liberty’ – I think it’s one of the most beautiful words in the English language. Seeing it firsthand in these memorials and cemeteries, though, takes the concept of liberty to a whole new level. In order to share these shots of liberty, I’m posting my photography from this trip into a new Imagekind online gallery called ‘American War Memorial Gallery’ (to be up and running next week!). Although these can be purchased just like the ‘Europe For the Senses’ gallery, 100% - every single penny - of the profits from this American War Memorial Gallery will be donated to the American Battle Monument Commission for the continued maintenance of these sacred sites.

God bless the U.S. troops!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Accents Magazine and Book Trailer!

I have two bits of good news today!

First, I got my very first magazine exposure at the beginning of this month! Have you seen Accents Magazine? It’s the English Language Journal for Baden-Wuerttemburg, Germany. They did a very nice piece on my book for their Nov/Dec issue – click on the link and then scroll down to page 5 (of course, be sure to read the rest of the mag – it’s always very interesting!) You can also pick up your own copy at many of the distribution points around the state of Baden-Wuerttemburg for free or subscribe to get your own copy delivered to your mailbox for a very small fee.

Second, I have a book trailer! Like a movie trailer, book trailers give readers a taste of its subject and mood. It's currently uploaded on Google, Yahoo, and YouTube although I've found that YouTube has the best resolution.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Remembering Veterans Day in Europe

One of the benefits of being in Europe during November is the option of witnessing a Veterans Day ceremony at a number of different memorial sites. Somber, respectful, and eerily silent, these occasions provide a moment to pause and remember those that willingly endured the hellish environment of war, many of whom paid the ultimate price.

Beautifully manicured and decorated with American flags, the memorials stand tall and proud as those they honor once did. The cemeteries rest in perfect rows where the meticulously groomed brave lay in formation, in death as they were in life. To visit profoundly reminds us that although so many were cut down in the prime of their lives and left behind those that loved them deeply, they believed the adage that ‘freedom is not free’ and rose to the world’s call for help. These brave men and women instead chose to resist the terrorists of their time and fought for what they felt was right while knowing they might not make it back alive.

Europe holds a number of possibilities for Veterans Day 2006, whether in France, England, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg, or The Netherlands. The American Battle Monuments Commission ( provides a myriad of information on the memorial sites themselves as well as planned services on the holiday. It also offers a search option for locating family members and friends buried on these sacred grounds.

This year, remember Veterans Day the way it’s supposed to be remembered. War has been a difficult part of almost every generation’s legacy – from the earliest battles in our country’s history to those souls recently joining their deceased brethren of war from the scorching Middle East, to those enduring veterans still with us today – and they don’t deserve to be forgotten.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Bodenmais - Germany's Crystal Town

When pondering European crystal, the Czech Republic or Austria normally comes to mind. Germany, however, holds its own when it comes to the crystal and glass market. Its sleepy town of Bodenmais, near the German/Czech border, snuggles in among the surrounding Bavarian Forest and promises more than just delightfully sparkling treasures.

Scenery fit for a postcard, Bodenmais is as breathtaking as it is full of fun. The little village, which traces its history as far back as 1300, is chock full of crystal and glass shops along its quiet streets. The Joska factory is the highlight – an enormous complex of shops for watching demonstrations, blowing your own glass, savoring a delicious meal, and of course – purchasing exquisite crystal. Joska has a family-friendly atmosphere about it – little hands and feet can explore its Kinderland. Full of activities, education, and a grand playground, children play safe while the crystal lovers of the family enjoy the delicate wares that the factory has to offer. Not ending its premium customer service at the checkout counter, Joska packs its customer’s finds in cushioning packing paper and study boxes and will even ship internationally, if needed.

There are plenty of other activities in Bodenmais besides those involving glass. What’s crystal without candles to heighten the ambiance? Joska stocks a selection and there are several candle outlets throughout the town. Or handmade wood accents for the home? Bodenmais is home to talented craftsmen. Shopped out? Cross-country skiing is avidly enjoyed in the countryside of Bodenmais. Stores offer ski rentals for visitors before skiing and more offer hearty meals after enjoying the sport. For a more relaxing experience, explore the Silberburg (Silver Mountain). The mines are not only interesting but provide special therapeutic results to those suffering from respiratory disorders. A myriad of other recommendations can also come from one of many friendly families that run the adorable mountainside bed-and-breakfast homes throughout the town.

Full of dazzling crystal, Bodenmais welcomes both local and international visitors to its quaint paradise. Whether in a ‘shop-til-you-drop’ or ‘just let me relax’ mood, Bodenmais beckons you to just breath in the crisp alpine air and enjoy all that awaits.

Want more information? Check these sites:
• – the website doesn’t do the Joska factory justice, to be honest…there’s SO much to see. For those military families in Germany, bring your VAT form! You can shop at all of Joska’s different shops, then take all of your receipts to the Customer Service counter and get then all put on one VAT form – as long as all your shopping occurs on the same day.
• – official town website. Click on the British flag in the upper right corner for the English version.
• -- Weinfurtner das Glasdorf – another crystal/glass factory about 20 minutes outside Bodenmais (straight down the road in Arnbruck, so it’s easy to find).
• - adorable bed and breakfast that I’ve stayed at several times. The family is really nice and it’s only 18 euros per night per person, breakfast included!
• Bodenmais is on the ‘Glasstrasse’ (glass road) – if you are feeling a little adventurous, just follow the brown ‘glasstrasse’ signs and you’ll make your way through town after charming town full of glass shops.