Author: thealternativeatlas

Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival!

What’s the best thing about fall?  Pumpkins of course!  You know this, we know this, even Starbucks knows this… so what happens when an entire town of people know this?  The Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival! Ludwigsburg is a charming little city that knows how to throw a serious pumpkin-themed party.  To enjoy all the fall festivities we took a quick day trip here from Frankfurt.. a journey which took about 2 hours each way by train. The festival is held each year at Blühendes Barock in the city center of Ludwigsburg.  The grounds are stunning; this paradise of pumpkins is located directly behind the Ludwigsburg Palace.  Finally, pumpkins are getting the royal recognition they deserve! Sculptures made completely of pumpkins are scattered across the festival grounds!  The theme this year was “pumpkins take flight” (because that’s not random at all) and many of the massive sculptures reflect the concept. And let’s not forget about the festive fall treats!  Pumpkin pie, anyone? There is an annual pumpkin carving contest, and some of the entries are insanely detailed …

A Portrait of Oktoberfest

The most popular attractions at Oktoberfest are undoubtedly the beer tents.  We had so much fun walking around and exploring each one; they all have their own unique decorations and beer brewed specifically for the festival. ^^^Chris gets excited to have a drink in his favorite tent: the Hofbräu Festzelt. Upon leaving the tents you are met by the massive fairgrounds.  Here you find yourself in the midst of a maze of carnival rides and games which are shared by children and extremely drunk people alike. ^^^This animatronic skeleton is a brilliant feature in one of the carnival rides; it pops out and sprays a stream of pee on people as they walk by.  Needless to say, this ride usually has a huge line of people waiting to be urinated on by the living dead. When we first visited Oktoberfest a few years ago, it was difficult to find a decent vegetarian snack other than a pretzel… but now the festival has several stands offering vegetarian and vegan foods!  Veggie schnitzel?  Yes please! ^^^The veggie schnitzel …

Get Festive at Oktoberfest!

The world’s largest beer festival is held annually in Munich, Germany during the end of September/beginning of October.  This gathering of six million people is called Oktoberfest; a 16 day Bavarian extravaganza including hotdes of visitors sporting their finest lederhosen and dirndls.  The festival is overwhelmingly Bavarian, so there are some fine examples of the traditional Southern German dress on display.  We were feeling quite festive as we joined in on the fun. ^^^The lederhosen worn by the man and dirndl worn by the woman are common examples of the outfits worn to the festival.  I feel festive just looking at that guy! ^^^Jaime wore her hair in milkbraids, a popular Oktoberfest style.  After all, you can’t have your hair getting in your beer! ^^^Of course you need to accessorize to complete the look, and what better accessory than Lebkuchen, a gingerbread cookie necklace?  Jaime’s necklace says Ich Leibe Dich, or I Love You. ^^^Now that everyone’s all dolled up, it’s time to celebrate! Dressing up is a major part of the fun at Oktoberfest, and next …

Amsterdam’s Crooked Canal Houses

The canal houses in Amsterdam are an iconic feature of the city.  These tall (and often very crooked) buildings lean precariously over the narrow streets and canals, bestowing a magical and elementary fun-house quality into the cozy neighborhoods.  At first glance it seems like the entire city is a bit tipsy! The houses are often very narrow, as property was assigned value based on width during the early days of the city.  Also, the roofs of the houses are often adorned with a hook for lifing furniture into the top floors, as staircases in the city are infamously steep. Having a house that leans forward a little bit would be beneficial if you are using the hook to hoist up furniture from the ground, but why do some of the buildings lean so dramatically? The city is built below sea-level and the ground is very soft.  Most houses will shift a bit after being built (our Dutch host refered to this process as settling), and once a house has settled it will stay put for …

Antwerp in 100 Words or Less

This charming port city is truly a hidden gem in Europe.  When visiting Belgium, many people choose Bruges (a medieval tourist destination) or Brussels (the capital and headquarters of the European Union).  Off the beaten track is Antwerp; it possesses the perfect combination of fairy-tale beauty and gritty urban charm, and offers visitors a rare glimpse into the golden age of Belgium.  All this, plus the corner stores sell world-class beer at a fraction of the price you would pay in the states at a specialty shop.  Boon Oude Gueze Mariage Parfait for €2?  I’m sold! The Grote Markt, or main square, is a beautiful example of the city’s rich cultual heritage. ^^^The Flemish baroque master painter Peter Paul Rubens called Antwerp home during the golden age in Belgium, and his influence is everywhere. Now a museum, the Rubenshuis is the former home and studio of Peter Paul Rubens. ^^^It’s like a 16th century version of MTV Cribs! ^^^Little known fact: Antwerp is also home to the sassiest statue in Europe! ^^^A few geuzes that we bought from …

3 Must-See Churches in Antwerp

Belgium at last!  We have been traveling without a chance for updates during the last few weeks and we are a few countries behind, but it’s time to take a short break to share these three stunning displays of Belgian heritage and pride.  We were only in Belgium for four days, but during that short time we got the priveledge of seeing the city through the eyes of a lifelong Antwerp resident, philanthopist, and friend: Kamiel.  He took us on a tour of each of these iconic buildings which dominate the city skyline and explained their part within the history of the city and their various restorations. 1) St. Paul’s Church  Located in the old city-center of Antwerp, the interior of this church epitomizes Baroque design and sensibility. ^^^Of the countless works of art displayed inside the church (including works by famous Antwerp residents Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony van Dyck), the wooden Baroque confessionals are the most unique.  These sculptures line the enitre building and include meticulously detailed life-size wooden figures carved by generations of …

Best Art Museum in Paris: Centre Pompidou

The Centre Georges Pompidou contemporary art museum is a must-see while visiting Paris.  The stunning views from the museum alone are worth every cent of the €11 admission fee (we can thank Jaime’s old student ID for the discounted rate, usually €14).  This museum is a world-class contemporary art venue and holds revolving exhibitions of the highest caliber.  Who’s down to check out the Mona Hatoum show and soak up some sun on the decks of this postmodern steel superstructure in the center of Paris?  I am!  Let’s go! ^^^The Mona Hatoum exhibition on the top floor of the museum. ^^^Centre Pompidou has an amazing permanent collection as well, as evidenced by this mind-blowing piece by Jean-Michel Basquiat. ^^^The museum lobby.  The entire building has an interestingly inside-out quality. ^^^Thank you Centre Pompidou!  Long live love!!!