By , September 4, 2012 10:55 am

I don’t know much about my family history, but I do know that I come from primarily German stock (on my dad’s side) and British stock (on my mother’s side). Today, it was that German heritage that I was most interested in.

A few years ago, thanks to my younger sister, I became aware of a small town in Germany, complete with its own castle that goes by the same name we do – LENZEN.

My sister made what I suppose could be termed a pilgrimage to the town of Lenzen and returned home to tell us all about it. Ever since, I’ve been mildly obsessed with visiting for myself. It even made it onto our Bucket List – which I now see is in dire need of updating (look for this soon).

It wasn’t exactly on the way to or from the Deichbrand Rock Festival but it was close enough that I was going to have a really hard time leaving Germany without having seen it. Our whole trip from Salzburg to Deichbrand and back required us to drive an epic 21 hours at a minimum, so the addition of 3 hours to swing through Lenzen seemed like a comparative drop in the bucket.

Over the years, my mind had separated from reality a bit where my town was concerned. I had often imagined that the residents of the town would be overjoyed by the glorious return of the Lenzen family, namely me and Ashley.

Naturally I expected nothing short of a week of feasting, the finest room in the castle, and several new born babies named after us that year.

Surprisingly, for nobody but myself, the welcoming we received was somewhat milder than I had imagined. Nobody really reacted in any special way at all. Some were perhaps mildly amused, others perhaps not.

So no feasts, not even a free beer. But it didn’t matter much. There was something magical about that town that kept me wearing this huge smile the whole time I was there.

I was having grand ol’ time.

We had a bit of fun walking around town, and photographing ourselves at the conspicuous landmarks, like this information sign.

I’m like a reference library on the subject.

The castle was still impressive. There was a plaque on the outside wall which detailed the impressive history of Lenzen Castle. After having it translated from German to English, it became apparent that Lenzen had not really been a place of any historical significance, though once, some papers were signed there.  Exciting stuff, huh?

The famous Lenzen castle, notorious for being the location where certain important documents were once signed.

We were still given a chance to feel a bit like kings. The castle has been turned into a restaurant, and they didn’t mind serving us as though we were royalty (so long as we paid…)

Since the famous “signing of documents” the castle has been turned into a restaurant.

Having a non-local German beer at Lenzen Castle.

The town church.

The organ my sister played on her pilgrimage. They were tuning it while we were there. Not the most pleasant of sounds.

Typical buildings in town.

I love our town (and the fact that some papers were signed there). I can also see how we came to a place like Saskatchewan. Lenzen, like the province of Saskatchewan, is fairly flat and very rural.

By , August 28, 2012 1:49 pm

We’ve been nominated by the great folks over at LivingIf to participate in a photography competition for travel bloggers. The competition called Capture the Colour is put on by the Travel Supermarket and showcases travel photos showing off the colours – blue, green, yellow, white, and red. In true Traveled Earth fashion, we’ve left it until the last minute… the deadline is tomorrow…yikes!


Blue Window

Camino de Santiago, Spain

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the beautiful scenery you encounter while walking the 800 km Camino de Santiago across northern Spain. This window, located in a tiny village we walked through, stopped us in our tracks. The crumbling blue paint and brightly painted flowerpots popped against the beautiful brickwork and iron railing of this house.



Green Gardens in Paris

Paris, France

There’s something in the air in Paris. Maybe it was the fact that Paris was the first city we’ve visited that we’ve always wanted to see, or maybe it’s just the city itself, but the atmosphere is downright magical. While visiting the free Musee Carnavaet, we wandered into the courtyard and snapped this fairytale-worthy picture. The lighting left it looking like something between a photo and a painting… a perfect image to represent how Paris made us feel.



Yellow Sunset

Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua

It may be a little (okay, a lot) cliche to choose a sunset as our yellow shot, but we couldn’t resist. This shot literally captures liquid sunshine and reminds us of the hot, peaceful evenings spent on the beaches of Central America.



White Swan

St. Wolfgang, Austria

A spur-of-the-moment roadtrip with friends we originally met in Honduras, to St. Wolfgang Lake started as a potential diving trip. Deciding that the prices were a little steep for a lake dive, we hung out on the diving shop’s dock for the rest of the afternoon, unable to leave the beauty around us. The air was clean, crisp and clear and the mountains reflected in the surface of the lake took our breath away. We couldn’t imagine a more picture-perfect scene… at least until this swan showed up and Mike captured his favourite photo of the trip.



Red Poppies

Camino de Santiago, Spain

It’s not a surprise to either of us that two of our final photos came from the Camino de Santiago (I believe we had Camino candidates for all five colours on our short list of shots). I was mesmerized by the millions of blood red poppies we passed between St. Jean Pied de Port, France and Santiago de Compostela, Spain and (to Mike’s chagrin) couldn’t stop photographing them. I had just snapped a shot of some poppies along the roadside when Mike told me to turn around. That’s when I got this gem. To me, it captures the spirit of the Camino… the rising sun streaming out over the road, the beautiful scenery, the companionship of our fellow pilgrims in the distance, the peace and joy of the journey.


Now, it’s the part of the contest where we need to nominate five fellow travel bloggers. We realize that with a deadline of tomorrow, entering the contest would be an almost superhuman feat. If you’re willing to attempt it, good on ya… if not, I promise none of that “breaking the chain letter” misfortune will befall you. Really, it won’t.

Skott and Shawna of Get Up and Globe – Fellow Saskatchewanian travel bloggers, these guys have been all over the globe in the past year.

Carlo and Geneva of Travel Budget Couple – We met this couple in our hostel in San Pedro Sula, Honduras and bonded over Chinese food in the “murder capital of the world.” We’ve been following their blog ever since and their photos never cease to amaze us.

Talon and Tigger of 1 Dad, 1 Kid – Via a Twitter meetup, Talon became our first scuba diving instructor in Utila, Honduras.  We became fast friends and have followed his travels ever since.  His (and his son Tigger’s) photos are a highlight of his blog and we fully expect a strong entry from these guys.

Samuel at Nomadic Samuel – A Canadian who’s spent six years abroad, we’ve no doubt that Samuel has a wealth of unique travel photos to share.

Jack and Jill at Jack & Jill Travel the World – This was one of the first travel blogs we followed, and we’ve always admired their photos.  They are first-class photographers and storytellers.

By , August 19, 2012 10:45 am

After Hamburg, we (Jutta, Pedro, Ashley, and I) headed on to the Deichbrand Rock Festival on the North Sea between Denmark, and the Netherlands. All that day and the day before, there had been a lot of rain. And it showed. As we approached the festival grounds, the traffic slowed to a halt. The mud parking lots were doing everything they could to swallow up each and every vehicle that tried to cross them.

By the time we were stopped became stuck, it was dark out. The rain had more or less let up. We spent Thursday night discussing the prospects of a cancelled festival over a few wobbly pops, after learning that the main stage had partly collapsed. It sounded like the same thing had happened in years past, and then it had meant the end of the festival.

A bit ‘o’ mud

Come late Friday morning, we went out to survey the damage. Already, crews were hard at work putting the stage back together, and covering the ground with wood chips. The festival was delayed, by a few hours, but by 5:00pm the gates were open, and the show was on!

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this somewhere before, but for our new readers, our friends Jutta and Pedro are working the festival circuit in Germany this summer – running a piercing stand. They were completely awesome and invited us along with them to take advantage of their free entry passes. They even gave us a lift from Salzburg!

Jutta and Pedro in the piercing tent that doubled as our hotel room

We really had a blast at the festival. We went out and watched just about every band, none of which we had heard of before. Each day the ground was a bit dryer than the last. By the thrid day, the ground was dry, and the sun shining. The only complaint, as we’ve said before was the lack of toilet facilities. At least these ones were free.

The twin main stages

Concert T-Shirts

By , August 15, 2012 12:58 pm

Note: Before we get started, why does the title say kind of like a local??? Easy… we’re vegetarians and I’m fairly confident in declaring that most of the locals in Austria are not. But I digress…

There’s nothing better than making new friends abroad and then visiting them in their home country.  Except maybe visiting them at their parents’ house where their mom fills you full of all sorts of delicious local foods.  And then teaches you how to make them.

That’s exactly what happened to us.  As we’ve mentioned before, we met Jutta (from Austria) and Pedro (from Argentina) while we were diving in Utila, Honduras.  We all did our divemaster’s together.  We left Utila at the end of January and kept in touch through Facebook… we actually missed a reunion with Jutta in Antigua, Guatemala by about 12 hours in April.

So when we ended up booking an apartment in Austria, Jutta’s home country, there was no question about us getting together.  We hopped on the train in Loosdorf and, 5 hours and 3 trains later (we were too cheap for the fast, direct train), we were in Salzburg, hugging Jutta and Pedro.

Salzburg Train Station

Jutta showed us in and around her home city, while we sampled some of the obvious local fare… Austrian beer, Radlers, and Mozartkugeln (chocolate balls named after Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart).

The view’s not so shabby from this biergarten

Downtown Salzburg

We looked into diving together here at St. Wolfgang (about 30 minutes from Salzburg), but decided that this lake was probably a place where you can see more above the waterline than below it

She took us to one of her favourite restaurants at the top of the mountain, and even managed to think of a delicious vegetarian friendly meal to order for us (not an easy task in the meat-rich cuisine of Austria).  We followed up the meal with Austrian schnapps, which you “simply must have” after dinner out.


A little post-schnapps conversation

The meal was great, but it was just the start of our introduction to Austrian food.  Jutta’s mom (a professional cook), made us a delicious lunch of knudeln with mushroom sauce the following day and proceeded to cook and then recook (with us helping and jotting down the recipes) some fantastic desserts.  Even though she didn’t speak any English and we didn’t speak any German, the language of food got us past the communication barrier.

Learning to make the dough for apfelstrudel – this is the most important part.  Apparently having a recipe only goes so far… you need to understand how the dough should feel.

The finished product

Sachertorte – We were sworn to secrecy on this one… we’ve got the recipe, but you can’t have it!

There’s no better way to experience a culture’s food than to have a local guide.  Thanks Jutta!  And thanks Jutta’s mom for the food and the cooking classes… we’ll send you a postcard next time we attempt the strudel!

By , August 11, 2012 8:35 am

We took a week long road trip from our apartment in Loosdorf, Austria with two friends, Jutta and Pedro (whom we previously met while diving in Honduras) from the bottom of Germany right through to the top and then back again. Our first stop was the port city of Hamburg, way up on the northern shore of Germany.

Half the fun was getting there

We drove all the way from Salzburg, Austria. Most of the 10 hours was fortunately spent on the famous German Autobahn. The Autobahn, of course, is famous for its lack of speed limits. However, it should probably be equally famous for its summertime construction which frequently imposes speed limits of 60 km/hr, which seems really, really, really, slow after cruising at 170 km/hr. It was fun, fast, slow and frustrating all at the same time, but with three eligible drivers in the car it was really no problem at all.

City tour

We spent two nights in Hamburg, and really didn’t accomplish much outside of the “free” (as in – you don’t have to pay, but you will be guilted into leaving a tip for the unpaid guide) city tour. It was actually a really good tour. We learned about the two major disasters that the city has faced: the great fire of 1842 and the destructive allied bombings during WWII. We saw many, many brick buildings that actually look good, and toured the harbour which is apparently a “free port” meaning tax-free (no wonder that shipping is the major industry of this city).

The tour ended with a pirate story about the famous German Pirate named Klaus Störtebeker. He makes for an entertaining story, his name essentially means “down in one” and refers to his legendary ability to down a 4L mug of beer in one gulp. When he was eventually captured, it was in Hamburg that he was executed. Again the story grows interesting. During his execution, he is said to have struck a bargain with the mayor, to the effect that, the mayor would free any of his men that he could walk past after being beheaded. According to legend, after his head was removed, his body got up and walked past 11 of his men before being tripped by the executioner, who was being paid on a per-head basis. In the end the mayor reneged on the deal and executed everyone anyways, but what a story!

City Hall

Fancy Brick Building

Building shaped like a cruise ship

Old Port Buildings

Churches made a good target for bombers during WWII

These “Stumbling Stones” are a reminder of the holocaust. Each one has the name of a Jew who was killed inscribed upon it.

By , August 4, 2012 1:00 pm

What do you do with yourself when you’re living in a small industrial/farming town of 4000 people in Lower Austria?  You borrow a bike (preferably for free from your landlord), cycle the famous Donauradweg trail along the Danube (in the UNESCO World Heritage Wachau region), and explore all the nearby castles and abbeys.

Cycling the Danube

While you would be hard pressed to find more than a few tourists in Loosdorf at one time, nearby Melk (only 5 km away) is swamped with them.  Melk is located on the Danube River and was our starting point for our explorations.


Schloss Schallaburg

Schloss means “castle” in German.  Schloss Schallaburg is located between and to the south of Loosdorf and Melk.  While it’s not on the Danube River, it’s close enough to deserve mention.  Schallaburg Renaissance Castle dates back to the 11th century.  Originally a defensive stronghold, it was later redesigned as an artistic seat of power.

Schloss Schallaburg

Only a 7 km walk from Loosdorf, Schallaburg gardens were the perfect place for picnic lunches!  The entrace fee for the castle is 10 Euro (12,50 with guided tour).  The gardens are free.

Not a shabby place for a picnic!

Castle, seen from gardens

Schallaburg forest trails

Melk Abbey

Dominating the skyline of Melk, the impressive Stift Melk (or Melk Abbey) sits atop a hill overlooking the Danube River.  It has been run uninterrupted by Benedictine monks since 1089.  The Baroque building you see today was constructed between 1702 and 1736.  With 500 rooms and 1365 windows, it is impressive to look at.  While much of the Abbey is private – housing about 20 monks and a school of over 500 students – you can still walk through the museum, marble hall, library, and church for a fee of 9,50 Euro, (11,50 Euro with guided tour).

Stift Melk

Stift Melk


View of Melk from Abbey window

Outside corridor

Inside the Chapel

Staircase in Abbey

The Library – no photos were allowed, but my finger slipped

Cafe in Abbey Park

Snail in Abbey gardens

Schloss Schönbühel

Schloss Schönbühel, a private castle on the Danube River.

Burgruine Aggstein

The ruins of Castle Aggstein are located on the top of a steep hill on the right bank of the Danube.  Originally built in the 12th century, the castle fell into ruins over the years.  Today, the ruins can be rented for weddings and medieval banquets.  Entrance fee: 6,50 Euro.

Burgruine Aggstein

View from Aggstein

By , July 31, 2012 11:51 am

An apartment of our very own. One place. One bed. One whole month. As we neared the end of the Camino, we knew that this was exactly what we needed. We were tired of being tourists – after constantly being on the move and having to orient ourselves in a new town or city every day, we were ready for a break from it all.

Enter Loosdorf, Austria. Population: 4000.

Why Loosdorf? Our access to internet was limited and unpredictable on the Camino, so when we decided halfway through to rent an apartment somewhere when we finished, we didn’t have a lot of time for searching and negotiations. We spent a couple of evenings searching for non-shared accommodations in our price range on sites like AirBnB, Roomorama, and some other subletting sites. Ultimately, AirBnb had the most options in our price range ($750 CAD per month or less). Using that site, we short listed our favourites from Germany, Austria, Spain, and Portugal and contacted all the owners. The owner has to approve your stay, even if the place is available, and we had been burnt on getting this done in time before. So we went with the first one that pre-approved us – Hohe Schule, in Loosdorf, Austria. And we couldn’t have picked better.

The apartment building

Loosdorf is a smallish town by Austrian standards (but large enough for us. We come from small towns of 200 and 650 people in Saskatchewan, and happily spent 3 month on the tiny island of Jewel Cay, population approx. 400, in Honduras). While Loosdorf itself doesn’t offer much in the way of activities, it is surrounded by walking paths, bike paths, forests, castles and abbeys. Vienna is only an hour away by train and Salzburg is two hours away (if you fork over the cash for an express train). So basically it makes the perfect home base for an extended stay. Originally, we planned to make small trips into Germany, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic, but there was just too much to see where we were.

We felt at home immediately upon arriving. Our landlord, Wenny, was amazing. The apartment we wanted to rent wasn’t available for the entire month, so she gave us a free upgrade to a larger apartment for the first two weeks. We didn’t want to pay two cleaning fees for the two apartments, so she let us clean the first one ourselves. She invited us over for beer and supper on several occasions and we had a lot of interesting conversations about Austria, South Africa (where she and her husband live), and the Phillipines (where she’s originally from). She even offered us a few odd jobs around the place – like grass-cutting, assembling end tables for another room, and cleaning), generously compensating us for our work.

Mike cutting grass at the apartment

As we’ve mentioned before, we like to travel slow. Renting an apartment for a month is a great way to reduce costs (monthly rental rates usually work out to less than half the cost of weekly rates) and get to know an area. There are so many great things about staying put for a while, like:

1. Pickles. This may sound kind of silly, but I have really missed pickles while travelling. Although you can pretty much find them anywhere, small jars are expensive and big jars are, well, too big. An apartment means a fridge to store your pickle jar. Of course, this concept applies to all food items – you can buy in bulk, which allows for more variety and lower food costs.

2. Spices. We have pretty much carried salt, pepper, and curry powder around since we left home. But variety is the spice of life. So now we have a few more flavours we’ve been missing… dill, basil, oregano, cumin, coriander, and a pizza blend.

3. Dressers and Closets. My clothes were nicely folded on a shelf or hanging up, not rolled up in packing cubes. ‘Nuf said.

4. Bikes. Our apartment included bicycles that we could use without restriction. While we know we can walk 30 km in a day, we’d rather take a bike.

Cycling along the Danube

5. Board Games. In anticipation of some free time and table space, we bought a board game in Vienna. It doesn’t actually have a board, which makes it perfect to pack up and carry with us. It’s hard to say if we had more fun picking it out or playing it.

Mike, in the board game shop.  Talk about kid in the candy store!

Playing the new board game

6. Privacy & Space. It’s just plain satisfying to have a couch to sprawl out on, comfy chairs, a computer desk, and the ability to fry some breaded zucchini in the nude. While I wouldn’t recommend the last one, it sure is nice to know the possibility is there.

Our living room/bedroom…. so much space!

7. An Oven. Unlike Honduras, we didn’t spend all our baking time making baked goods full of sugar and butter. This time we opted to make such healthy and delicious items as homemade wholewheat pizza and baked stuffed peppers.

8. Hot Showers and Real Towels. I don’t ask much from a shower… the ability to control the temperature, not having to push a button every 5 seconds to restart the flow, and hot water… that’s about it. After over a month of semi-private to public showering in less than ideal conditions, I was happy to have a hot shower every day! And while light-weight, ultra-absorbant travel towels are amazing little creations, nothing feels so good as to wrap a soft, fluffy towel around yourself after a nice hot shower.

9. A Washing Machine! This is a luxury we hadn’t had yet on this trip. While I don’t mind handwashing our clothes, a month-long break from it was definitely a bonus!