The Lost Tradition of Sending a Postcard

 

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Once upon a time, maybe only ten years ago, sending a postcard from Italy (for example) was a well thought out undertaking designed to share your experiences and to mischievously remind your friends and family that you were “here” and they were “there”.

It was a time tested ritual that has unfortunately gone out of fashion due to the advances in technology.

Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

In the “Old Days” the postcard process went something like this…..

Imagine you are strolling through a piazza in Rome and the scene before you triggers a desire to send a postcard of this view to your best friend back home in the States.

Inspired, you wander around searching for a cartoleria (paper goods store) and find one soon enough.

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You twirl the stand and ultimately select a rather commercial card, but it illustrates the image of your piazza.  You make your purchase and set out looking for a nice café to sit and write a few lines.

You order a Campari and Soda with its complimentary bowl of nuts or potato chips.

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You rummage through your backpack to find a pen that works and your little address book and write a brief note… “Having a wonderful time!  Wish you were here!”  Add your friend’s address and you are ready for the next step…. mailing the card.

After finishing your Campari, you set off to find the nearest Post Office or a Tabacchino (a small convenience store that sells candy, cigarettes and stamps).  You ask the clerk for “francoboli per la cartolina al Stati Uniti” (postage stamps for a postcard being sent to the United States) and fish out the correct coins.

After this brief exchange, you lick the stamps, find the nearest post box and say goodbye to your postcard, hoping it gets to your friend before you get back home.

Back Home… On the receiving end:

Imagine walking out to your home mailbox and there amongst all those bills and junk mail lies a hand written, hand stamped postcard!  It’s from your best friend who is in Italy!  How far it has traveled?  A treasure to behold… hmmm, looks like a stain from Campari on the back.

How cool is that?

 

Postcard Apps Changed the Process

Along with the explosion of “Smartphone” usage came applications for pretty much everything imaginable…. even postcard creating and sending apps from companies such as Postgram, Postino, Postcardly and Touchnote.  Just like the buggy whip, the old fashion postcard of yore is on its way out of fashion.

This scenario goes something like this…

Imagine you are strolling through a piazza in Rome and the scene before you triggers a desire to send a postcard of this view to your best friend back home in the States.

You take out your smartphone and snap a photo of the sight or maybe even a selfie!  You find a nice place (with Wi-Fi) to sit down and order a Compari and Soda and a small bowl of potato chips.  You fire up your smart phone and find your favorite “Postcard” application.

After several frustrating attempts at your correct password, you finally get onto the site.  You can use the photo you just took or use one from your camera roll.  Click and follow the prompts… type your message and pick the address that hopefully you have already entered on their contact list.

Click “send” and your postcard will be printed, stamped and sent from the U.S. arriving in your friend’s mailbox in a couple of days.

Back Home… On the receiving end:

Imagine walking out to your home mailbox and there amongst all those bills and junk mail lays a type written, stamped postcard!  It’s from your best friend who is in Italy… but the postmark is from the states.

How did she do that?

How cool is that?

 

Me and My Selfie

Today the “postcard” process goes something like this…merlin_selfie_stick_1

Imagine you are strolling through a piazza in Rome and the scene before you triggers a desire to send a postcard of this view to your best friend back home in the States.

But that is too much trouble and takes too long… Just snap a quick photo… a selfie for sure and post it on Facebook… you can’t wait to count how many “LIKES” you get!

How cool is that?

Back Home… On the receiving end:

“Oh, another Facebook post from what’s-her-name… she must be in Italy again… ho hum… guess I better give her an obligatory LIKE”… and on to the next post.

 Summary

In a few short years we have come so far.

The simple but elegant gift of a handwritten postcard has given way to see it, click  it, send it.

Are we going too fast?

After all, what is the hurry… be inspired… write a postcard

 

© 2016 Inspired Travel Itineraries with Bob and Janice Kollar

© 2016 Picture Credits Bob & Janice Kollar, http://www.alamy.com, http://www.itsorcestudio.com

 

EzineArticles Diamond Author

 

 

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Visiting Another Side of Mexico: the Yucatan Peninsula

There is Mexico and there is the Mexican state of Yucatan. The former gets a lot of negative (and often unfair) press and the latter hardly gets mentioned (unlike the resorts of next-door state Quintana Roo, Cancun and the Riviera Maya).  Being inquisitive slow-travelers who prefer the “unusual,” we did a lot of research and discovered the essence of a fascinating destination.

 Why the Yucatan Peninsula?

 The Mayan Culture

The Yucatan Peninsula has a mystical vibe due to the ancient Mayan civilization that was founded here about 2600 BC.  These ingenious people developed astronomy, calendrical systems, hieroglyphic writing and built magnificent ceremonial architecture.

The Mexican State of Yucatan promotes dozens of well-maintained Mayan temples/pyramids with palaces surrounded by intact ancient villages that have been carved out of the dense jungles… picturesque and dramatic vistas in every direction.

The Gastronomical Oasis

As slow-travelers always searching for culinary adventures we learned that this part of Mexico has a unique epicurean history… it is not “Mexican” it is “Yucatan” (yucateco) cooking.
We uncovered a hands-on cooking class being offered by the renowned chef David Sterling. His “Los Dos” school, which is located in Merida, tilted the scales in favor of taking this journey.

Getting to Merida

We flew into the modern Cancun airport and were greeted by the normal hoard of sales types promoting “free” timeshares, hotel and villa rentals as we walked through the “welcoming area”.  As we stepped out of the terminal area we were rewarded by a warm, lush, tropical atmosphere fragrant with flowers and palm trees.

We booked the Westin Lagunamar Ocean Resort Villas and Spa and arranged beforehand for their transportation service.  Our good fortune was to be met by Rafael who proved to be a perfect “Ambassador of Goodwill” with his welcoming personality, charm, national pride and simply being an endearing person.

We were greeted at the Westin by an efficient and pleasant desk staff and were soon settled into our spacious room overlooking the immaculately maintained grounds, bordered by a bright, white sandy beach that fades into multiple shades of azure ocean water…

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Our day at the beach left an indelible memory.  Envision warm sugar granules of beige and white sand that traces each squeaky footstep as you walk into the 80+ degree opaque, electric blue water…tranquility.

Dinner Recommendations

Now ready for a good meal, we headed to the front desk for dining suggestions. The concierge produced a few tourist menus that offered Americanized Mexican” fare just like we can get back home.

We had something different in mind and asked for the local favorites and where she would take her family or friends… a new set of menus appeared offering real Yucatan dining and we selected the “La Habichuela Sunset” restaurant for our first night in Cancun.

The weather was perfect and we were seated at an outdoor, secluded and candle lit table overlooking the lagoon … the cuisine was exceptional with tastes that we never had before.  A great way to get introduced to the Yucatan food scene.

img_1962Soft-shell crab taco appetizer

img_1971Seafood empanxonostle – fish fillet, shrimp and sea scallops prepared with aromatic herbs and vegetables

img_1981Xtabentun (made of fermented honey from the flowers of the Xtabentun plant)

 

Cancun to Merida Decision Time – Fly…. Bus.… Rental Car

 What is the best way to get there?

 Option A – The flight from Cancun to the regional airport in Merida was less than an hour but cost considerably more than the flight from Los Angeles to Cancun.

Option B – There is a bus system with a decent schedule offering local and express travel with different classes of service.

Option C – Rent a car from Hertz… a jeep would be appropriate in case we had to go off-road for any reason.

We made our decision and with a bit of trepidation, mixed with a sense of adventure and a strong desire to explore this unique part of our world, we booked the car.

The Drive to Merida

The drive was 196 miles and took about 3 hours with a rest stop at the toll booth at the halfway point.  The facilities were immaculate and they offered a food service with fresh, reasonably priced options and plenty of variety.

The toll was 355 pesos (about $30 USD) and we were glad we had pesos since credit cards were not accepted.

img_2088Toll booth at the midway point

img_2082Nothing in front of us

img_2083Nothing in back of us 

bluebutterflyBanditos….we don’t see any stinking banditos… only butterflies.

After all the negative hype about the “bad guys”, the only attack that we experienced was from a swarm of beautiful blue butterflies that cropped up a few times during our pleasant drive…. so much for media drama.

Arrival in Merida

Casa del Balam (The House of the Jaguar)

We selected a small, old world hotel that was once a colonial mansion and is situated in the historic town center.  The management maintained the charm and have kept some the original furnishings in the rooms and the open lobby area.

Such a welcoming oasis after the drive.

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The long day was topped off with a delicious meal of local favorites.

img_2123Guacamole with fresh made chips

img_2125Sopa de Lima (lime soup)

img_2131Yucatan sample platter:  Cochinita Pibil, Tamales Colados, Flan

Tomorrow we will explore the city and uncover the hidden gems that await the adventurous traveler. 

Summary

Our first impressions of the Yucatan have been excellent and reassuring.  All of the negative hype proved to just that…hype.  The people are amazing and the beauty of this region is remarkable.

We are looking forward to exploring Merida and the surrounding area…. But most of all the Los Dos cooking school which is why we are here in the first place.

Please follow our journey into the wonderful world the Yucatan Peninsula.

 

 

After all, what is the hurry… be inspired.

 

© 2016 Inspired Travel Itineraries with Bob and Janice Kollar

© 2016 Picture Credits Bob & Janice Kollar, Mark S. Cox

 

EzineArticles Diamond Author

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two Ways to Explore Walled Medieval Lucca in Tuscany, Italy

 Lucca is a captivating medieval walled city located in Tuscany, one of Italy’s most visited regions.  The selection of a destination city can be either measured in hours or in days… day tripper versus slow traveler.

We encourage the latter whenever possible… so stop and smell the pizza!

The Day Tripper’s View of Lucca

With a relatively tight timeframe, the challenge is to see as many highlights” as possible during a brisk march through town and checking off the must-see sites within the city’s walls such as…

puccini-n-houseStatue of Puccini and his home/museum  

img_8308Church of San Michele in Foro

img_8335Cathedral of St. Martin

amfatherPiazza dell’Anfiteatro (Roman Amphitheater)

89331264Torre delle Ore (Clock Tower)

flickr_3142234250_4985a2195fTorre Guinigi (Tower)

OK… you have just “seen” Lucca!

If time permits the day trippers may add a brief walk (up one ramp and down the next) on the tree lined pedestrian promenade known as the city walls… yep, been there done that…check the box and take a few pictures with your cell phone.

You can see them all in a one day visit… but have you?

 The Slow Traveler’s View of Lucca

Lucca is a fascinating city with a history dating back into the Etruscan and Ancient Roman times.

On our first visit to a destination, in addition to the normal research, one of our go-to options is to arrange for a private orientation tour.

We were fortunate to find Wanda Martinelli (www.luccatours.com) who met us on our first day and set our tourist compass for the rest of our visit.

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We enjoyed a four hour walking history lesson which was enhanced by this talented storyteller who loves her work and is very proud of her ancestral roots.

Through Wanda, we were immersed in the real vibe of this area and were now armed with a list of the best restaurants, shopping, museums, concerts, must-see churches (there are nearly 100!), and sources for survival provisions such as wine, bread, pasta, cheese, and deli.

Views along the Walls of Lucca

Bicycles are the preferred mode of transportation inside and on the walls and, fortunately for us, our apartment rental included two bicycles.

We rode numerous times on the 2 ½ miles long, flat, garden-like pedestrian promenade situated on top of the ancient defensive walls that were actually designed by…. Leonardo di Vinci no less!

Run, walk, ride or simply stroll along this elevated structure with amazing views of the entire city below… very much worth the time and effort… and a little exercise doesn’t hurt. 

img_8787 Pedestrian Promenade on the City Walls

path-traffic-peopleWalk – Peddle – Ride along the Walls

parklikkebikesOur “Wheels” and One of Many Playground Areas

path-with-towerPrivate Gardens along the city wall promenade

priv-gardenPalatial Residences All along the Path

refreshmentsRefreshments after a “strenuous” Bike Ride  

 A Few Colorful Local Scenes Along the Way

 carosaulA Carousel in the park for all ages to enjoy

funghi-girlsThe Local Porcini Funghi Sales Team 

local-colorWhat is a town without — The Dude

A Surprise Find….An Exceptional Photography Exhibit

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Sculpture Installations Displayed Throughout the City – created by Rabarama 

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 Pizzas We Have Known and Loved

As a slow traveler you can simply…. stop and smell the pizza!

chickpea-pizzaPizza da Felice – specializing in chickpea crusts

pro-pizza-feliceThe Perfect Prosciutto Pizza
img_8539Artichokes and Porcini Mushrooms Pizza

tunna-onionsOnion and Tuna Pizza

A Few of the Amazing Meals

The Gli Orti di  Vialisa is a renowned sidewalk café and has been a staple of Lucca for over three generations…

img_8579Bruschetta Lucchese

img_8576Polpette di Nonna Bianco (traditional fried meat balls)

img_8577Sformatino  di  Verdue con salsa di Fegatini (vegetables pudding/chicken liver sauce). 

Lunch at Ristorante Giglio

giglioapptomatoTortino ai Funghi in crosta su vellutato di cecci

 (ricotta cheese and mushrooms in a pastry crust with chickpea sauce)

octopus-appPolpo Croccante sedano  il Olive Nere (grilled octopus with celery and black olives)

 

risotto-musselsRisotto Zafferano e Cozze (saffron risotto with mussels)

porcini-parpaMaccheroni Lucchesi ai Funghi Porcini (squares of fresh pasta with porcini mushrooms)

Lucca’s Favorite Native Son – Giacomo Puccini

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Giacomo Antonio Domenico Michele Secondo Maria Puccini was born in Lucca on December 22, 1858 into a very well-established musical dynasty dating back to his great-great grandfather.

He grew up in Lucca and developed into what has been noted to be “the greatest composer of Italian opera after Verdi”… and that is saying a lot!

His birth home has been restored and turned into a small museum, but more importantly, his musical legacy is presented throughout the area in venues ranging from the Annual Summer Opera Festival to daily recital concerts held in various locations in the city.

We were fortunate to enjoy an intimate recital of “Madame Butterfly” in the Church of San Giovanni which was also the church where he was baptized.  The setting was stunning and the acoustics were perfect.

The performances are varied from day-to-day and best of all the tickets are reasonably priced and readily available.

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The Cathedral of Saint Martin

The legend goes something like this… in the 14th century the powers-to-be held a “contest” among a group of well-known artists tasking each of them to sculpt a support pillar for this Romanesque cathedral with its elaborate marble exterior.

When they were finished  no winner was  declared and no one was even paid for their efforts…and the powers-to-be got away with it, too.

img_8583Cathedral of St. Martin (note the different pillar designs)

img_8584Breathtakingly Beautiful Workmanship

The Cathedral also contains the most precious relic in Lucca…Volto Santo di Lucca is a wood crucifix with the image of Christ and was carved by Nicodemus, a disciple of Christ.


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Volto Santo di Lucca (Holy Face of Lucca)

 

Summary

The medieval walled city of Lucca can be seen in one quick day but the essence and warmth of Lucca requires the investment of days rather than hours. Think of it like consuming a special meal or a good bottle of wine… savoring rather than gulping makes the difference between a memory and a digital image.

 After all, what is the hurry… be inspired.

© 2016 Inspired Travel Itineraries with Bob and Janice Kollar

© 2016 Picture Credits Bob & Janice Kollar, tourisminitaly.info, armchairtravelogue, tripomatic.com, lucca-italy.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

Road Trip’s End: Road Weary & Homesick in Stuttgart

 

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Our “ultimate European road trip” terminated in Stuttgart, Germany where we dropped off our once brand-new Macan S, named Max, at the Porsche Factory for its shipment home.

After being on-the-road for almost thirty days driving through Germany, Austria, Italy and Switzerland there comes the time when you realize… enough is enough… it’s time to go home!

And on this vacation, we brought back quite an unusual souvenir!

The Last Drive Segment and the Factory Drop Off

Autobahn to Stuttgart 

Leaves Turning to the Fall Colors

The drive from Konstanz to Stuttgart was smooth and everything went as planned.  But as we drove into the parking area in front of the Zuffenhausen complex the stark reality hit us… this was the official end of the trip and we will be going home tomorrow.

We were greeted by the same Porsche Delivery Consultant that we initially met a month ago but this time we gave him the keys and he gave us a folder of paperwork.

Saying goodbye to Max was strange after all the time we spent together and especially not knowing exactly when we would be reunited.

Our reflections as we enter the Factory Collection Building

Red Temporary Registration Tag    

We Logged 2,150 Adventure Miles

 As we walked through the building we glanced into the Delivery Hall and observed a collection of new Porsches all lined up, awaiting their owners and reflected on how excited we had been the night before we picked up our new vehicle.

Waiting for their New Owners

 Last Night in Stuttgart

Our journey began and ended at the Althoff Hotel am Schlossgarten which is an excellent hotel with a warm and welcoming staff.  Upon checking in, they upgraded us to a magnificent suite with two balconies.  The views were outstanding and added a fitting end to our visit.

Scenes  of Stuttgart

You Know it’s Time to Go Home When…..

In spite of a lot of pre-trip planning at home there was still a great deal of “local” logistics to work out every day…which gets old after a while.

Simple things become taxing…. Sightseeing and side trip decisions versus staying put and taking in the local vibe at a small café.  Even the question of what to eat and where becomes challenging.

As we neared the end of the trip, packing became a stuffing event… just roll it up and keep the clothes for the last few days separate and neat.

Craving a Steak and Baked Potato

We actually had a weird craving for basic, plain-old American food… like a steak and baked potato of all things.  Finding a steakhouse proved to be a bit of a challenge as there were not a lot of choices, but we found one with decent reviews and it was in easy walking distance.

The street scene was very different from a month ago when we appreciated warm summer-like weather with hordes of festive people enjoying the Stuttgart Wine Village Festival with over 150 wine arbors and food vendors.

Now we are experiencing a cool, early Fall evening with a light throng of locals in the vast pedestrian plazas.  This new perspective had us slightly lost so we asked directions from what turned out to be a patient, friendly woman.

“Could you direct us to the Block House Steak Restaurant?”

She replied, with a slightly puzzled look and said, “Why would you go there when we have exceptional Swabian restaurants for you to enjoy?

“We know, and we have enjoyed, but we’ve been here for almost 30 days and are going home tomorrow.”

With a smile of understanding and said… “Oh, okay, then go three blocks that way and turn right.”

Comfort Food of Steak and Baked Potato and a Glass of Wine 

Max’s Journey Home

We dropped Max off on September 29th, emptied everything out of the car down to the owner’s manuals and maps, and he went on to the German port city of Emden on a transport truck where he was then loaded onto the Goliath Leader a car carrier vessel which holds over 18,000 vehicles.

Goliath Leader Car Transport Ship

 View of the VAST storage capacity of the Goliath Leader

 The ship stopped at a few more ports before heading out to sea.  We were able to keep track of it as it crossed the Atlantic, passing through the Panama Canal and making its way to the port of San Diego where it went through customs and a final check over by Porsche.

We were finally reunited at our local dealer on December 3rd…. just over two months later.

So Would We Do It Again?

Taking delivery of a new car is exciting and punctuates a significant financial decision, but when you add a European delivery to the chemistry it results in a totally different and amplified experience.

Driving a performance vehicle, that you custom built, for a month long vacation through breathtakingly beautiful European countryside and the freedom to go anywhere with no rental car restrictions or expenses has an enormous upside.

On the flip side…. Driving a new car in a totally foreign environment, coupled with the associated paranoia about dents and dings as well as finding “perfect” parking spots adds a little stress to the once-in-a-lifetime euphoric undertaking.

Add to the equation the fact that…you will be paying for a car that you will not even see for over 2 months while it is in transit to your home port.

But you know….you only go around once and if you were going to purchase it anyway, why not step out of your comfort zone.

The whole thing makes for a great and unique story that gets enhanced each time we tell it!

As outlined in our “ultimate European road trip” series we had an amazing adventure and exceptional memories to reflect on in the years ahead.

Summary

In retrospect we had a vacation in Europe, were catered to by Porsche with reduced airfares and hotel rates, special meals, personal guided tours of the factory and world class museum, and a lot of personal, as well as, very thoughtful touches.

The driving experiences and the freedom to pick your own destinations and timeframes cannot be assigned a numeric dollar value… priceless comes close!

All we have to do is look at all of our pictures, read our travel article series and look in our garage at Max….

  

After all, what is the hurry… be inspired.

 

© 2016 Inspired Travel Itineraries with Bob and Janice Kollar

© 2016 Picture Credits Bob & Janice Kollar, Clyde Dickens, W.v.d.Waal, fleetmon.com, expedia.com

 

 

Grounded in Konstanz, Germany

Our “ultimate European road trip” started in Stuttgart, Germany after we picked up our brand-new Porsche Macan S from the factory, now heads back north to Stuttgart as we conclude our extended vacation.  Our car named Max will be prepped for his long boat ride home where he trades in his lederhosen for a surfboard rack.

Our adventure continues as we explore this beautiful and historic lakeside village.

Mother Nature Deflated Our Zeppelin Adventure

All the planning in the world is no match for Mother Nature and the fickle winds on Lake Konstanz.  Months ago we had booked and paid for a ride on a real Zeppelin airship which departed from the city of Friedrichshafen, the birthplace of the Zeppelin.

The email the night before warned us of the conditions and we awoke to tree bending winds and a lake full of whitecaps…. clear skies but blown out, cold conditions.

So we now have an unplanned, open day to explore the town… Plan B.

Lakeside Elegance

We selected the Steigenberger Inselhotel because of its location (and the ever important private, gated parking facilities).  Situated on a small private island (albeit a small canal constitutes its “island” status) on Lake Konstanz, the hotel is a short walking distance to the “old town area”, the train station and the ferry docks for trips to other lakeside cities and sites.

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What makes an island…. water

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The hotel was originally a Dominican monastery and fortunately the management maintained the legacy of the property and incorporated updated décor throughout their 100 guest rooms and 2 suites hotel.

interior wallA touch of the Dominican monastery past

lake view bLakeside vista 

lake w railing

 Wandering Around Town…. The Backup Plan:


courtyardCourtyard entrance

bakery       One of many village bakeries

building sceneTown Hall buildings

 cathedral

Cathedral of the Diocese of Konstanz

 statue in park“Karl Steuer Brunnen” fountain dedicated to a popular and cherished local humorist

street artWhimsical street installation, “Unbridled Thinking” 

imperia02-mendeThe Most Visited Landmark – the Statue of Imperia in Konstanz Harbor 

Council of Konstanz

In 1414 the Roman Catholic Church had three popes and no unity so the most dominant King in Europe got the powers-to-be together and said…pick one… which is why we have only one pope today.

Courtesans and the Papal Elite

During the 15th Century the courtiers of the Papal court were clerics and were not allowed to marry, but at the same time they had the habit of hiring well educated, intelligent and sophisticated female escorts to accompany them at formal court assemblies and to add an element of femininity to the gatherings.

Imperia was a famous representative of this new class of courtesan.

Fanning the Flames of Notoriety

Around 1830, Honore de Balzac wrote a fictional short story entitled “La Belle Imperia” which was a satirical swipe at the Catholic clergy’s morals and, as his story goes, our girl Imperia seduces the cardinals and assorted royalty that attended the Council of Konstanz and ultimately had them all under her… um, power, shall we say.

Peter Lenk, Joins in the Fun in 1993

Peter Lenk is a German sculptor who is based in Bodman-Ludwigshafen on Lake Konstanz and is well known for the controversial sexual content of his public art such as a relief sculpture in the town square that depicts various German politicians engaged in sexual play… Angela Merkel being one of the nude caricatures.

He was inspired by the Balzac short story and created the Imperia statue which portrays a voluptuous woman, scandalously attired, holding a nude man in each of her hands… the right hand holds King Sigismund (the power broker of the council) and the left hand holds Pope Martin V (the “true” pope selected by the council).

Needless to say, there was a lot of media hysteria, with major pushback from the town council because of the way the pope and king were portrayed and the bishop of Freiburg was quoted to have said it was “without taste and could disturb the religious peace”.

But stimulating tourism prevailed over the church and the town council.

According to the promoted “legend” the 30 foot tall 18 ton statue was clandestinely (supposedly in the middle of the night) erected on a revolving pedestal, on land owned by the German Rail company… pretty good trick but once again the show must go on!

Imperia revolves in three minute cycles

In Search of a Casual, Authentic Meal

After exploring the village we had a craving for some “comfort food” in the form of authentic German cooking and excellent German wine.

winebar sign

TripAdvisor suggested the Weinstube Zum Guten Hirten which translates to the “Wine Bar of the Good Shepherd“ and indeed it more than lived up to its name. Stepping off a cobblestoned street we entered a wine bar cellar alive with the buzz of happy people with a buzz on from the wine… of course.

So here we are with weak German language skills trying to navigate the crowded entrance in search of a table and it must have been obvious to the wait staff because out of nowhere Janine (also noted in the TripAdvisor review) comes to our rescue.

Our “famous” American waitress took over and cold wine and hot, delicious food showed up… all is good.  Coincidentally we shared a communal table with a traveler from our hometown of Los Angeles who was with his German relatives that live in Konstanz. Great conversation and a memorable dining experience.

wine glasses big pourLarge wine goblets with a generous pour

menuThe evening menu, written on a paper plate

 pizzaDunnele (German pizza) with sour cream, speck and onions (no cheese)

 pork plateSchautele Mit Kartotffelsalat (pork shoulder slices and potato salad)

In Summary

Our planned visit to Constance was rearranged by Mother Nature and resulted in an exposure to a picturesque city with many historical sites, museums, and a collection of  vibrant shopping all along its cobblestone streets.

Definitely could be worth a three night visit… when you have three diverse countries making up the shoreline of this lake the options are wide open for a fun and interesting adventure.

Please follow us as we complete our “ultimate European road trip” by returning to Stuttgart and dropping off Max of for his boat ride to his new home.

 

After all, what is the hurry… be inspired.

 

© 2016 Inspired Travel Itineraries with Bob and Janice Kollar

© 2016 Picture Credits Bob & Janice Kollar, katatonia82/Shutterstock, Achim Mend

 

To Konstanz, Germany – Both Under & Over the Alps

 

zeppelin 2

Our “ultimate European road trip”, started in Stuttgart, Germany after we picked up our brand-new Porsche Macan S from the factory, now heads north from Lake Lugano (Italy/Switzerland) back to Germany, at Lake Konstanz.

The lake has many attractions, but the two most important to us were that the city of Konstanz is an excellent jumping off point for the final leg of our journey, and the city of Friedrichshafen is the birthplace of the Zeppelin airship as well as the base camp for Zeppelin sightseeing tours.

The adventure continues with planes, trains, automobiles and now a Zeppelin!

Getting There Proved to Be, Shall We Say, Interesting!

Getting out of the city of Lugano was challenging due to the narrow, twisty roads and the somewhat cryptic signage making us more dependent on our GPS to navigate the maze… eventually it overloaded both our GPS and ourselves… and we wound up on a service road to the A2 North and an hour delay added to the drive.

IMG_8597Clear Roads and Sunny Skies on the A2 Motorway

The GPS also warned us of a 45 minute delay somewhere ahead and advised that we needed to exit the roadway and take a different course.  After the last experience we opted to ignore it and stayed on the A2.

Several miles further the traffic came to a dead stop and we watched people actually turn off their motors, get out of their cars and casually walk around like this was an everyday occurrence.  We had no idea what the problem could be.

 The Everyday Traffic Delay Known as the Gotthard Road Tunnel

About 45 minutes later we edged our way up to a TRAFFIC LIGHT right in the middle of the roadway which was two lanes in each direction, now merging down to one north and one south… creating a classic bottleneck.

Unbeknownst to us we were about to enter the second longest tunnel in Europe which measures over 10 miles.

The Gotthard Road Tunnel was certainly an engineering feat for Switzerland when it was completed in 1980 significantly reducing the travel time over the Alps.

Unfortunately in October 2001 a collision of two trucks caused a fire inside the tunnel and the smoke and resulting gases killed eleven and injured 128 people.

After this horrific tragedy multiple safety standards were introduced as well as a number of “flow” measures such as limiting the number of trucks to no more than three per minute with about 500 feet between each vehicle.

So when you have a classic bottleneck, combined with flow controls and heavy traffic patterns, especially in the tourist season, you have a recipe for a mess and two to four plus hour delays become the norm.

For us it was a very intense drive along a roadway with emergency exit doors every few hundred feet … going where was a question we opted to ignore… just get us out of this tube under the Alps!

gotthard tunnel

The southern entrance to the Gotthard Road Tunnel under the Alps (photo: Wikimedia)

The Alternate Route Being the St. Gotthard Pass

st gotthard pass

The St. Gotthard Pass over the Alps (photo: Wikimeida)

The GPS suggested the Pass Road which is about 16 miles long and peaks just under 7,000 feet above sea level.  This option is passable only seasonally and would be fun for adventurous drivers that like hairpin turns and lots of great alpine scenery.

But, and there always is a but… if anything causes a delay (breakdowns or traffic) on this road you are stuck with limited options.  Playing it safe on the tunnel versus the pass comes down to the weather, length of the traffic delay and making sure you had a pit-stop before you got close to the area.

 Through the Alps and Onward to Lake Konstanz, Germanylake constance

An interesting thing about Lake Konstanz is that this is the only area in Europe where no formal / legal border agreements have been established between Switzerland, Germany and Austria.

The Swiss believe the border runs through the middle of the lake, while Austria believes the borders are along each of their respective shorelines and of course Germany has its own variant of what makes up a border.

It all seems to work…. so leave it alone.

 Arriving in Konstanz, Germany

We selected the Steigenberger Inselhotel because of its location on the lake, being close to the “old town area” and the proximity to the ferry docks and, of course, their private gated parking facilities.

IMG_8787A well-deserved glass of wine after a long drive

IMG_8602Weiner Schnitzel…we are back in Germany!

The planned four hour drive turned into a grueling six plus hour endurance experience but as we settled in to the Steigenberger with a beautiful lake view room, a cold bottle of wine and a good meal… all is well that ends well.

 In Summary

We had booked and paid for the Zeppelin tour months earlier in order to reserve two seats for the second day of our visit. The plan was to take the ferry over in the morning to Friedrichshafen, tour the factory and museum and go aloft in a real zeppelin around noon and return to Konstanz in the afternoon.

Uh-oh… just got an email from Zeppelin NT… need to reschedule the flight due to high winds projected for tomorrow… we did not have the extra day in our schedule and had to cancel… well that was deflating!

Please follow us as we continue our “Ultimate European Road Trip Series”, exploring Konstanz, the drive to back to Stuttgart and dropping off our car – which we named Max – for his boat ride home to the States.

After all, what is the hurry… be inspired.

© 2016 Inspired Travel Itineraries with Bob and Janice Kollar

© 2016 Picture Credits Bob & Janice Kollar

Exquisite Lake Lugano, the “Little Lake in the Middle”

Our “Ultimate European Road Trip” heads north through Italy’s lake country, stopping in Lake Lugano between Garda and Maggiore.

About two thirds of this lake’s shoreline is in Switzerland and about one third with Italy, resulting in a blending of their respective cultures which creates a unique as well as charming destination.

Flanked by two much larger lakes, the lake in the middle still outshines both with an intimate, private setting surrounded by majestic mountains and many picturesque and inviting villages for you to explore.

 

 lugano map

 

Why Lake Lugano?

When we planned this trip in our brand-new Porsche Macan S the routing was a round trip from Germany: into Austria, then Italy, a short romp in Switzerland, back into Italy and returning to Germany.  We added as many new destinations as possible while still having acceptable driving distances with lots of breaks along the way.

Logistically Lugano was a good fit with a pretty much straight shot from Sestri Levante and lined up with one more stop before returning to Stuttgart, Germany and the Porsche factory drop off point.  This was our first time to the lake and what a surprise it turned out to be.

Why the village Porlezza?

The city of Lugano is in southern Switzerland in the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino bordering Italy.  The many hotel options range from simple to luxurious, but we were fussy about location and the always important parking options.

We were also focused on driving time and the ease of continuing our northern route back to Germany. So we chose a hotel for a two night stay on the northern end of the lake, near the village of Porlezza.

Porlezza is a commune in the Province of Como in the Italian region of Lombardy with a population of only 4,400 people with 43 hotels ranging from understated to elegant.  Being more remote from the “big” city and at the upper, less touristy end of the lake we found the amenities were more generous and the prices more reasonable.

     IMG_8535 Parco San Marco Lifestyle Beach Resort – a destination hotel

As soon as we arrived we realized that we made a mistake as this property could easily be a one week destination… two nights was not enough!

Parco San Marco Lifestyle Beach Resort has everything… contemporary architecture, large suites, unrestricted lake views, four excellent restaurants ranging from casual to fine dining, inviting indoor pool,  three outdoor pools and a lake-side beach/dock area, excellent, secure underground parking, and the list goes on and on – check out their website at http://www.parco-san-marco.com/en/resort/.

Best of all was their staff of sincerely friendly, courteous, and pleasant people that actually enjoyed working at this outstanding resort.  We did a short TripAdvisor review and ranked it the overall best hotel of our vacation.

Again, our only regret was that we only spent two nights… maybe next time.

IMG_8262Welcome to Parco San Marco

IMG_8269A Full Suite… lake view and large balcony included

IMG_8356A Happy Anniversary Gift from the Hotel with a hand written note… Classy Touch

IMG_8324Balcony View of Lake Lugano

IMG_8313Private Beach Area

IMG_8257 - CopySecure Spacious Parking

Village Porlezza Market Day

With only one full day to explore this area we opted to stay close to the hotel and utilize their bicycle rental to ride along a flat, paved bike path into the village. Slow travel at its best and the scenery was spectacular and a little exercise goes a long way.

 

IMG_8523 - CopyBike Path Tunnel

Shoreline Views

IMG_8511 - Copy Creating a Memory on Lake Lugano

IMG_8435This ain’t Macy’s but it works

IMG_8424Sweets

IMG_8414Gastronomic Delicacies

Flower Markets

IMG_8489Porlezza Shopping Area

Street Art Installations

So much to see and do if only……

Cable cars, funiculars, lake cruises, mountain top panoramic vistas, grand mansions and museums, Swiss history, Italian history, add a little gambling casino activity for an adrenaline rush and top it all off with chocolate from the largest chocolate manufacturer in Switzerland at the Alprose Chocolate Factory.

Hiking enthusiasts can check out Monte San Salvatore and the village of Carona and on to Morcote and Monte Bre’. The UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Monte San Giorgio is also worth the time and effort.

EU VAT Free Shopping

We missed the fine print when we did our research and were unaware that the Italian waters of the lake and specifically the commune of “Campione d’Italia” are considered, by Italian law, as “non-territorial” and enjoy a special tax status as a duty free area and are exempt from EU VAT tax (19% sales tax on everything).  Happy shopping!

 

In Summary

Our visit to Lake Lugano was simply too short.  Convenient to our road trip logistics… yes… but vacation travel is more than logistics and the lesson was learned.

Onward to Germany and Lake Constance for a few nights before we drop off the car.

Please follow us as we continue our “Ultimate European Road Trip Series”.

 

After all, what is the hurry… be inspired.

 

© 2016 Inspired Travel Itineraries with Bob and Janice Kollar

© 2016 Picture Credits Bob & Janice Kollar