May 30, 2014

The Marienberg Fortress in Würzburg

Marienberg Fortress, Würzburg, Germany
(c) Thrifty Gypsy
Würzburg was one of many places we visited while honeymooning in Germany for 23 days in 2010, and it's a city I would definitely recommend seeing.  It's located on the Main River in the northwest corner of Bayern about an hour east of Frankfurt.  We spent only the better part of the day there, but managed to see the Residenz, the Marienberg Fortress, the Alte Mainbrücke (the Saints' Bridge), and the Würzburg Cathedral -- arguably the four main attractions of the city!
View of the Marienberg Fortress from the Alte Mainbrücke
(c) Thrifty Gypsy

My husband's cousin drove us to Würzburg from Dinkelsbühl early one morning on the second week of our trip.  There we met up with a friend of hers, proceeded to make our way to a bakery for some pastries, then upward to the Marienburg Fortress!  Even by modern standards, it is a formidable and impressive fortress.  The earliest record of its existence dates to 704A, when it was just a small fort and church built by the Franconian-Thuringian rulers.  By the 13th century, however, the fortress had evolved into a massive castle.  In the 1630s, the castle was rebuilt and more bastions were added after King Gustaf Adolph captured and destroyed it during the Thirty Years' War.  After the long climb up to the fortress, I had a healthy respect for the soldiers who captured this fortress; it can't have been an easy feat to accomplish!

During World War II, the Marienberg Fortress sustained considerable damage from American and British bombers, and the fortress you see today is primarily a reconstruction of the original buildings and walls.

Can you imagine trying to run up this hill, lugging your weapons and gear while sustaining fire from the defenders, and manage to capture that fort?  It's not a pleasant scenario to think about!
(c) Thrifty Gypsy

View from the top.
(c) Thrifty Gypsy

Wow.  Those are some thick walls!
(c) Thrifty Gypsy

Walls within walls...
(c) Thrifty Gypsy

(c) Thrifty Gypsy

The Princes' Garden
(c) Thrifty Gypsy

From there we went on to visit the other three sites in Würzburg -- the Residenz, the Alte Mainbrücke, and the Cathedral -- but more about those in a future post!

The Marienberg Fortress is open from 9a-6p from mid-March to October.  It is closed Mondays and on certain holidays.  It is 4.50 euros per person entrance fee.

Have you visited the Marienberg Fortress or Würzburg in general?

Roman Holiday


Joe Bradley: Where do you live?
Princess Ann: [mumbles drunkenly] ... Colosseum...
Joe Bradley: [to taxi driver] She lives in the Colosseum.
Cab Driver: Is wrong address! 


You should know that I absolutely adore Audrey Hepburn.  Few actresses can compare to her grace, poise, and gentle elegance.  I love all her movies, but one of my all-time favorites is Roman Holiday, in which she plays a runaway princess turned "rebel" alongside a (very young and attractive!) Gregory Peck.  As our trip to Italy draws closer, I will be finding time this weekend to pop in this classic film for some visual inspiration and to make sure I've not overlooked any sites that we must see while on our own Roman Holiday!

The itinerary for the Italian part of our trip is all but set.  Although not listed in the itinerary to the right, I will definitely be reenacting several scenes from the movie: placing my hand into the La Bocca della Verità (Mouth of Truth), nibbling some gelato on the Spanish Steps, and maybe nabbing a Vespa for a quick spin around the Colosseum!

I've looked forward to this trip for so long (two years, to be precise) that I almost can't bear to think about it any longer.  I just want it to be here right now!  We still need to make a few more arrangements and start ticking things off our final countdown list of things to do, but I'm too impatient to deal with the minutiae of the trip at the moment!

Maybe I'll rediscover my project manager attitude after a little bit of Audrey!

Have you ever seen Roman Holiday?  Do you "reenact" scenes from your favorite movies when you're at its filming location?

May 29, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Atlantic City

(c) Thrifty Gypsy

Sometimes called the Las Vegas of the East Coast, Atlantic City in New Jersey boasts waterfront casinos, restaurants and hotels on a Boardwalk which inspired the classic Monopoly board game.  In this picture we're standing in front of Caesar's casino!

May 27, 2014

Das Ist Mir Wurst; Or My Love/Hate Relationship with German

 Q:  What do you call a person who speaks three languages?
A:  Trilingual.
Q:  What do you call a person who speaks two languages?
A:  Bilingual.
Q:  What do you call a person who speaks one language?
A:  An American!


Now before you think I missed my calling as a stand-up comedian (my wit is undeniable, I know), I have to admit that joke is actually quite old.  Sadly, it is also quite true.  And I'm somewhat embarrassed to admit that I fit the stereotype!

It's not for lack of exposure or education.  I studied Latin for eight years (two in middle school, four in high school, and two in university), but not much remains in my noggin besides the unforgettable amo, amas, amat drills.  I also had two years of Spanish in university, but after one scarring semester with a septuagenarian megalomaniac, I retained nothing beyond ¿Dónde está el bañoWhile I can imagine this will be a very important phrase to know whenever I'm in a Spanish-speaking country, more's the pity that I can't remember anything else since I come into contact with a lot of Spanish-speakers in my current job.

Watching the World Cup match in 2010 while in Germany
(c) Thrifty Gypsy
Then I met my husband in 2006, which brings me to my current foreign language attempt.  (Cue dramatic music)  The language fraught with multi-syllabic, impossible-to-correctly-pronounce words:  GERMAN.

My husband is half-German, you see, and his mother's side of the family actually lives in Bavaria.  He spent every other summer growing up in a medieval, fully-walled town in the heart of Germany, and even now as an adult, the American intonation fades after a few days in country and his natural Frankish accent takes over.  From what I gather, the Frankish accent has about the same reputation as a strong southern accent in America.  I find that factoid rather amusing!

But I digress.  Currently, I am the only one on that side of the family who can't sprechen die deutsch even a little bit, a fact which saddens me every time we visit his family.  It's frustrating to not be able to have direct conversations with Oma, who does not speak any English, or have more than a halting, short conversation with his aunt and uncle.  Mind you, I know enough words now to understand most of what's being said even if I can't fully participate (so no talking behind my back!), but one-sided conversations are not really conversations.  After having four of our German friends visit us last summer, I resolved that I was finally going to put my nose to the grindstone and learn German.

So my husband bought the Rosetta Stone: German edition as a birthday present for moi last summer.  And between working full-time, taking university classes part-time, the holidays, social life, and everything else, my progress has been painfully slow.  With less than 40 days until our Italy/Germany trip this summer, I've had to kick things into high gear the past few weeks.

I'm finding that German is easy and yet difficult.  English derives many words from German, which makes recognition of many words easy, but grammatically, German is difficult for an English-speaker to learn.  Der, die, das - gah, those gender specific articles will be the death of me!  And pronunciation?  I feel like I'm coughing up a lung every time I try to correctly pronounce the -ch sound, and my tongue ties into knots trying to trill an r or two.  But there are some things about German that I really, really like.  In many ways English lacks words to describe an exact idea, which is why we've stolen such German words as wanderlust and schadenfreude to make up for it.  And there's no denying that German just sounds, well, cool!  It's guttural, commanding, and earthy.  (See the light-hearted video above if you actually have never heard German before!)

Thankfully most Germans speak a fair amount of English (especially those under the age of 40), and with my interpreter-husband in tow, I've never had any problems communicating with Germans.  But as I don't want my future children to end up monolingual, I hope that the Rosetta Stone lessons will continue to help me learn German.  I may not learn enough to carry on deep, philosophical conversations with Oma in July, but at the very least I'll be able to point out that meine Schuhe sind blau, or die schwartze Katze ist unter dem Tisch.  Be impressed, y'all.

Mmmmm, sausage!
(c) Thrifty Gypsy
In closing, I'll explain the title of this post as another illustration of why I love German so much.  In English, if something isn't important or we don't have a preference about something, we merely say "I don't care" or "it doesn't matter to me."  Fairly straight-forward, yes?  Well, Germans have a more interesting way of expressing their non-preference.  Das ist mir Wurst.  It literally means "it is sausage to me."  Start using that in your everyday conversations to elicit some funny looks!

Do you speak more than one language or are you learning a new language now?  Have you ever had difficulties communicating in another country when you don't know the native language?

Linking up with Bonnie and Van every Tuesday!

May 26, 2014

Memorial Day

The following piece is a guest post by my dear friend, Calah D.  Memorial Day falls on the third Monday of May here in the United States and is set aside to honor our war dead.  Governments, schools, and most businesses are closed so that people can spend the day with their loved ones as they ponder the significance of our servicemen and women's sacrifice.  However, in recent years many Americans have begun to view the day more as a barbequing holiday than as a commemoration of those who paid the ultimate price for their country.  This post serves as a reminder of what this day truly stands for and how we should observe it.


Timothy G. Robinson
April 14, 1968-  "Remember when we were kids on Easter the girls would be all dressed up in new hats, pretty dresses... and us boys with new shoes and shirts and off to church we would go and after come home to look for our Easter baskets. What good times. I hope God will bring me back home so that I may marry the girl I love, which will be in March if things go OK. Then I can watch my kids get all dressed up and head for church and live that day over again. Holidays are no different than any other day. Every day is Monday in Vietnam."
Five days after writing this letter, Robinson caught his foot on a trip wire, setting off a mine that killed him instantly.

Today we observe Memorial Day, established in 1858 as Decoration Day. This day was set aside to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers.  In 1971, Memorial Day was established as a national holiday to honor all Americans who have died in our wars.

Many Americans, including myself, enjoy a day off work—the opportunity to spend some leisure time with family and friends, to (hopefully) enjoy spring weather, to BBQ, perhaps enjoy the beach or lake if we’re lucky enough to be near one, generally relax with a three day weekend. And there is absolutely nothing intrinsically wrong with that.  No one should feel guilty for enjoying a day to relax and eat and have fun with those they love. It’s a free country!

Fort Logan Nat'l Cemetery
(c) Calah D.
This is a free country because of those such as Timothy Robinson. He never came home to marry the girl he loved, to watch his kids get all dressed up and look for Easter baskets after church, to enjoy a holiday, to live a life where every day was not a Monday.  There were no more BBQs and swims in the lake or Memorial Day gatherings with family and friends for him.

Isn’t the least we can do to remember him…. and the thousands of others who have given everything for our country…. for us?

I realize that not everyone can easily attend a Memorial Day ceremony. Perhaps there isn’t one nearby; maybe the kids are a little too young to be patient throughout a long service....absolutely understandable. But I do think that the majority of Americans, including me, should make an effort to walk through a national cemetery (if there is one nearby) or attend a ceremony at the local VFW post. Taking one hour out of our day isn’t a significant sacrifice and it definitely is not a waste of time.

In the past, Decoration Day was an opportunity to lay flowers on the graves of our war dead….to show honor, respect, remembrance….it was not an obligation, it was a labor of love. It was not a unique or special or “pat on the back” type of service….it was something the community did together.  I think we are equal to that in 2014. I think it is our duty, as citizens, to be faithful to the dedication our ancestors had in honoring those who have died in our wars.

(c) Calah D.
Being an American citizen is a birthright to some, naturalization for others.  It is a gift to all and not something to consider lightly. Our responsibility as citizens is to honor and remember those who have died for our country, regardless of what our personal political opinions might be.  Memorial Day gives us this opportunity.

In 1884, Oliver Wendall Holmes, Jr, gave a speech replying to the question “Why do people still keep up Memorial Day.” This is what he said….
But as surely as this day comes round we are in the presence of the dead. For one hour, twice a year at least--at the regimental dinner, where the ghosts sit at table more numerous than the living, and on this day when we decorate their graves--the dead come back and live with us. 

Regardless of what you do on Monday....boat or swim or BBQ or work or hike…remember this.

Remember them.
(c) Calah D.
This is dedicated to my Mother, who faithfully took us
to Memorial and Veterans Day services every year.
She taught me the importance of honor, respect, and patriotism.
She and my Father have given me many gifts, including the opportunity to
be an American citizen.
I am proud of that.

May 25, 2014

Destination: Boston, MA

City skyline as seen from the U.S.S. Constitution
(C) Thrifty Gypsy
"When you think about Boston, Harvard and MIT are the brains of the city, and its soul might be Faneuil Hall or the State House or the Old Church.  But I think the pulsing, pounding heart of Boston is Fenway Park." 
-John Williams, composer


There's just something about Boston.  Compared to other major cities of the world, it's on the smaller side (London's population is three times that of Boston), but its appeal is undeniably global.  Maybe it's because Boston can offer a little of everything.  History buff?  Take your pick of places, whether it be Faneuil Hall, the State House, the Old North Church, or the area around Bunker Hill.  Sports more your thing?  Well, you better be rooting for the Sox, Celtics, Bruins and Patriots, or buddy, you're in for a few dirty looks!  Or how about culture?  From the Boston pops to Harvard to the Museum of Fine Arts, Beantown can keep you classy indefinitely.

(c) Thrifty Gypsy
But more than its attractions or good food, Boston has attitude, and that is what really fascinates me!  It's the combination of suited men toting briefcases with die-hard fans decked head-to-toe in their team's paraphernalia.  It's the gritty, stand-offish personalities you encounter on the metro system juxtaposed against the friendly bartender offering you another Sam Adams brew.  It's the familiarity of historical sites standing side-by-side with a vibrant, eclectic city.  It's the solidarity of its citizens in the face of tragedy or the irony of seeing a Gadsden flag, currently a symbol for conservative politics, hanging in the sanctuary of a church that leans liberal.

And for me, it's even more than that.  My father's family hails from New England (from Foxboro, to be precise), and I was born up there.  Although most of my formative years and all of my adulthood have been spent in Virginia, my roots are in Massachusetts, and I'll always return for a fix of the dramatic, rocky coastline and crazy drivers!

We visited Boston just three weeks ago for my uncle's wedding.  It was the first time I'd been up there in three years, and it was the first time I could show Mr. Gypsy some of the wonderful sights Boston has to offer!  In one morning alone we followed the Freedom Trail from the Old State House to Faneuil Hall, past Paul Revere's house, to the Old North Church, Bunker Hill and the U.S.S. Constitution!  We even managed to squeeze in a lunch at The Green Dragon Tavern, which was frequented by the likes of Paul Revere and John Hancock back in the day! 

Faneuil Hall
(C) Thrifty Gypsy

Even after wearing out our shoes on the Freedom Trail, we still had plenty of energy left to laugh and dance with my family all afternoon and evening at the Willowdale Estate in Topsfield for my uncle's wedding.  More than the sightseeing or the excitement of being away in a new place, celebrating with my uncle and new aunt on their wedding day, surrounded by family, and making new memories with them is what made the weekend, hands down.  My dad's side of the family is scattered all down the East Coast from Massachusetts to Charleston, SC, and it's a rare occasion for so many of us to be under one roof.  It's certainly a highlight of my year!

Sights along the Freedom Trail
(c) Thrifty Gypsy
We rounded out our weekend with an excursion to Plimoth Plantation, south of Boston by about an hour, to learn about the settlers who arrived there in 1620 on the Mayflower and the Native American people who lived in Massachusetts at that time.  But before we knew it, we were boarding our flight back to Richmond, sad that the weekend was over and anxious for a repeat.  With great flight deals between the River City and Beantown, hopefully it won't be another three years before we can go back to explore more of what Boston has to offer!

Have you been to Boston?  What were your favorite things to see or do?

Location of the Boston Massacre
(c) Thrifty Gypsy
Paul Revere's house
(c) Thrifty Gypsy
Interior of the Old North Church
(c) Thrifty Gypsy

Old North Church
(c) Thrifty Gypsy
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The U.S.S. Constitution!
(c) Thrifty Gypsy
That's Captain Gypsy to you, bub!
(c) Thrifty Gypsy

Formidable artillery
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Bunker Hill Monument
(c) Thrifty Gypsy
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Black cat in a cemetery...
(c) Thrifty Gypsy
Boston Strong.
(c) Thrifty Gypsy

Making a friend outside the Green Dragon Tavern!
(c) Thrifty Gypsy

Joining up with Chase the Donkey for #SundayTraveler!

May 22, 2014

Throwback Thursday: The Nile

Photo taken August 2007
(c) Thrifty Gypsy
Murchison Falls is a waterfall of the Nile in northern Uganda.  The Nile forces its way through a 23-foot wide gap to crash 141-feet below - truly a stunning sight!  This view is from downriver, and you can read a little bit about my experience on the Nile here.

May 20, 2014

Passport to the U.S. National Parks

Oh, the thrill of a new stamp in the passport.  It's a gratifying part of international travel that is sadly absent when touring domestically.  Yet when you take into account how large the United States is, it often feels that crossing into another state is like going into another country!

For you passport-stamp-hoarders out there, did you know that there is a passport for domestic travel in the United States?  Well, sort of.  The National Park Service has a "Passport to Your National Parks" program in which you can collect a stamp for every national park you visit!

(c) Thrifty Gypsy
The program originated in 1986, and I personally have participated (off and on) since 1995 when my parents purchased my first passport book.  The national park passport mimics a real passport book in shape and organizes the various U.S. national parks into nine different regions: North Atlantic, Mid-Atlantic, National Capital Region, Southeast, Midwest, Southwest, Rocky Mountain, Western, and Pacific Northwest/Alaska.  At each national park you visit, you can get a stamp "cancellation" in the corresponding section for the region - similar to what you receive at passport control when entering another country!  These stamps are usually located at the visitor center of the park, although sometimes it's found within the attraction itself (like at Fort Sumter, SC).  You can also purchase commemorate stamps (like the one of Appomattox and Gettysburg as seen in my own passport book, right) as additional bling for your passport book!

So far I've taken my passport book up and down the East Coast, but sadly forgot to bring it with me when we visited the Alamo in 2011.  (If anyone feels up to going there, changing the stamp's date back to June 11, 2011, stamping a random piece of paper and mailing it to me, that would be AWESOME!)  Like stamps in an actual passport, these stamps represent far more than a little bit of ink placed strategically on a page - it evokes memories and experiences that you will treasure for a lifetime.

The program is a great way for kids and adults alike to get excited about all the wonderful national parks in the U.S.  Next time you're visiting one, you should pick up your own passport book and start collecting your own memories!

Do you have a U.S. National Parks Passport Book?  Had you heard of this program before? 
It's Travel Tuesday!  I've joined up with Van and Bonnie to link up with other travel bloggers!  Check out their sites for other travel bloggers or find others on Twitter with #TravelTuesday!

May 18, 2014

Hardywood Park Craft Brewery


I think I have the makings of becoming a beer snob, and Hardywood Park Craft Brewery may be to blame (or thank!).  This brewery, located in the heart of Richmond near Hermitage Road, opened in 2011 as the craft brewery scene in the River City first began to blossom.  Currently there are around 2,768 breweries operating in the United States, and of those breweries, 60 are in Virginia.

When we visited the brewery last Saturday, they had 10 to 12 beers on tap, including their signature Hardywood Cream Ale and their Hardywood Bohemian Pils.  The Cream Ale caught my eye immediately, and after a generous (free) taste, I was sold.  The Cream Ale is crisp and has a light finish.  I'm not partial to very bitter beers, and the Cream Ale suited me exactly.  Recalling his love for Czech beers during our time in Prague, Mr. Gypsy ordered the Bohemian Pils.  Unfortunately, the beer was rather flat (hopefully the result of a bad batch and not an indication of all their Bohemian Pils).  However, we are definitely willing to give this beer another try on our next visit.

Our third beer of the day was the HYPE Kristallweiss, a German-style beer with a decent-sized head (for American beers, that is) and a glorious, wheaty finish.  This beer did not disappoint, especially for those of you partial to hefeweizen.  This beer would be an excellent pairing to a generous portion of German sausage and sauerkraut!

We will definitely return to Hardywood.  They have a good selection, prices are reasonable for craft breweries ($5-7 per 12oz serving), their tasting rooms are large and airy, and the outdoor picnic bench seating was relaxing.  And you can even see their brew tanks for yourself!  Hardywood certainly has opportunity to grow, but their foundation is solid, and I look forward to seeing how they will improve upon themselves in the future.

Hardywood Cream Ale: 4/5
Hardywood Bohemian Pils: 1/5 (flat, willing to try again though)
HYPE Kristallweiss: 3/5

Join up with other travel bloggers on #SundayTraveler hosted by!

May 15, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Amsterdam

Photo taken August 2007.
(c) Thrifty Gypsy
One of the many beautiful canals that crisscross through Amsterdam.

May 13, 2014

A Shamu Spring Break (2009)

The Gulf of Mexico near Tampa, FL - March 2009
(c) Thrifty Gypsy
I hate the sea.  I love the sea.

My bipolar relationship with the ocean is a tale of two movies: Jaws and Free Willy.  The former scarred my six-year old self to such a degree that to this day I will not go into water deeper than my height.  However, the latter instilled in me an abiding love of other marine wildlife, particularly orcas, dolphins, seals, seahorses, and rays, and I relish any opportunity to see these animals up-close and in-person.

The bestie & me at SeaWorld
(c) Thrifty Gypsy
So my trip to Orlando's SeaWorld in 2009 for the spring break of my college fourth year (UVa lingo for "senior year") was of particular enjoyment and excitement for me.  The week had started with no grand plans; my roommate had to work at her ski patrol job at Wintergreen, and I was scheduled for a few shifts at Barnes & Noble.  Spring break had coincided with the last week of February into March, but the weather was a far cry from spring with temperatures hovering in the 30s and 40s with overnight snow storms.  Last minute, my work shifts were canceled, and at 6pm on a Monday night, I called up my roommate to see if she could get off work the rest of the week.  Within two hours, we'd cleared our schedules, loaded up my beat-up Altima, and headed south - Shamu, here we come!

(c) Thrifty Gypsy
We had a rather epic drive through the night, losing my car's muffler somewhere along 95 in North Carolina during white-out conditions and being told by a friendly trooper to "say it only just happened" if we were pulled over for any noise violations.  Bless him.  On top of the muffler incident, my roommate couldn't get the hang of going from a stop to first gear, so I'd have to get the car going while in the parking lot of a rest area, and swap seats between second and third gear so that she didn't stall and I could get a bit of sleep!

In spite of all this and some rather nasty roadwork traffic in Georgia, we made it to Daytona Beach (Florida) around daybreak and enjoyed a Waffle House breakfast with dozens of bikers in town for bike week (talk about a very stereotypical American experience!).  Whereas we'd been bundled up like Eskimos up in Virginia, the day promised to be beautiful - sunny with a high of 75°.  From there we headed west to Orlando and arrived in time to be among the first visitors at SeaWorld for the day.  Childish squeals and giddy shrieks ensued:

Ooooo, barracuda...
(c) Thrifty Gypsy

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So beautiful
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You never know what lurks in murky waters...
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Manatees are some of the funniest looking animals on earth, in my opinion!
(c) Thrifty Gypsy

Happy feet!
(c) Thrifty Gypsy

I'm thinking that Navy SEALS were not named after these lazy guys.
(c) Thrifty Gypsy

Not even the smell of fish woke these fellas up.
(c) Thrifty Gypsy

Facing my fear.
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Finally got to touch one!
(c) Thrifty Gypsy
SHAMU!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And Willy, too!
(c) Thrifty Gypsy
Having finally seen Shamu and Willy (as I dubbed the other orca), we set our sights on making Tampa by nightfall in order to visit with a friend and her family.  We were thoroughly exhausted after our drive through the night, and Calah was the perfect hostess.  The next morning I got my first (and so far, only) look at the Gulf of Mexico, talked for a few hours on Calah's verandah, and managed to lock my keys in the car - all before noon!  After shelling out $300 to a locksmith to get back into my car, we spent a few hours at Busch Garden's Tampa theme park before heading north to Charleston, SC, to crash my cousin's house.

All in all, it was a properly epic spring break, and one that I will always cherish in memory.  It was one of the few times I traveled with my roommate before she jetted off to roam the world, but we made it a trip I'll never forget!

What's your favorite spring break trip?  Have you ever been to any of the SeaWorld locations?

Linking up with Bonnie and Van Berry for Travel Tuesday!