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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 Pumpkin Festival | The Alternative Atlas

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.

Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival | The Alternative Atlas

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!

Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival | The Alternative Atlas

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.

Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival | The Alternative Atlas

Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival | The Alternative Atlas

Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival | The Alternative Atlas

And let’s not forget about the festive fall treats!  Pumpkin pie, anyone?

Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival | The Alternative Atlas

Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival | The Alternative Atlas

There is an annual pumpkin carving contest, and some of the entries are insanely detailed and lifelike…

Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival | The Alternative Atlas

Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival | The Alternative Atlas

Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival | The Alternative Atlas

…and others are just massive testaments to the festivity of this tiny German city.

Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival | The Alternative Atlas

Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival | The Alternative Atlas

Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival | The Alternative Atlas

We love how seriously Germans take their festivities. We may have been the only couple in the entire park that did not have children with them, but it didn’t matter because we were in pumpkin heaven! After getting our fill of pumpkin sculptures, we indulged in various treats including pumpkin prosecco, pumpkin veggie burgers, pumpkin soup and pumpkin cookies. I only wish I had room to eat more of the delicious pumpkin treats!Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival | The Alternative Atlas

^^^Pumpkin condiments?  Yes!!  Long live love!

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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.

A Portrait of Oktoberfest | The Alternative Atlas

A Portrait of Oktoberfest | The Alternative Atlas

A Portrait of Oktoberfest | The Alternative Atlas

^^^Chris gets excited to have a drink in his favorite tent: the Hofbräu Festzelt.

A Portrait of Oktoberfest | The Alternative Atlas

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.

A Portrait of Oktoberfest | The Alternative Atlas

A Portrait of Oktoberfest | The Alternative Atlas

A Portrait of Oktoberfest | The Alternative Atlas

A Portrait of Oktoberfest | The Alternative Atlas

^^^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.

A Portrait of Oktoberfest | The Alternative Atlas

A Portrait of Oktoberfest | The Alternative Atlas

A Portrait of Oktoberfest | The Alternative Atlas

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!

A Portrait of Oktoberfest | The Alternative Atlas

A Portrait of Oktoberfest | The Alternative Atlas

^^^The veggie schnitzel probably isn’t as good as the real thing, but after a few steins of beer who can tell the difference?  And since we’re talking about beer, it’s worth mentioning that there is a special German word for people who drink too much of it at Oktoberfest: bierleiche, which literally means “beer corpse”… and there are a lot of these around at the festival.

A Portrait of Oktoberfest | The Alternative Atlas

A Portrait of Oktoberfest | The Alternative Atlas

^^^Most Bavarians have a good laugh at the visitors who get too drunk.  Apparently they can’t relate to the predicament of this completely non-verbal drunk dude stumbling around trying to get more beer.  Take note of the pants.  But enough of these depressing reminders of the past which I’m still trying to repress… it’s time to get back to the festivities!

A Portrait of Oktoberfest | The Alternative Atlas

As the sun sets, the rides show their dazzling neon colors.

A Portrait of Oktoberfest | The Alternative Atlas

A Portrait of Oktoberfest | The Alternative Atlas

A Portrait of Oktoberfest | The Alternative Atlas

A Portrait of Oktoberfest | The Alternative Atlas

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.

Get Festive at Oktoberfest | The Alternative Atlas

^^^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!

Get Festive at Oktoberfest | The Alternative Atlas

Get Festive at Oktoberfest | The Alternative Atlas

^^^Jaime wore her hair in milkbraids, a popular Oktoberfest style.  After all, you can’t have your hair getting in your beer!

Get Festive at Oktoberfest | The Alternative Atlas

^^^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.

Get Festive at Oktoberfest | The Alternative Atlas

Get Festive at Oktoberfest | The Alternative Atlas

Get Festive at Oktoberfest | The Alternative Atlas

^^^Now that everyone’s all dolled up, it’s time to celebrate!

Get Festive at Oktoberfest | The Alternative Atlas

Get Festive at Oktoberfest | The Alternative Atlas

Get Festive at Oktoberfest | The Alternative Atlas

Get Festive at Oktoberfest | The Alternative Atlas

Dressing up is a major part of the fun at Oktoberfest, and next time we vow to wear the traditional costumes! Many places around Munich rent or sell the costumes, but unfortunately that wasn’t in the budget for this trip. We had to save some Euros for beer! Prost!

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!

Amsterdam Crooked Canal Houses | The Alternative Atlas

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.

Amsterdam Crooked Canal Houses | The Alternative Atlas

Amsterdam Crooked Canal Houses | The Alternative Atlas

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?

Amsterdam Crooked Canal Houses | The Alternative Atlas

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 centuries… but perhaps look a little wonky.

Amsterdam Crooked Canal Houses | The Alternative Atlas

Amsterdam Crooked Canal Houses | The Alternative Atlas

Amsterdam Crooked Canal Houses | The Alternative Atlas

^^^Boat-houses also line the many canals throughout the city.  Check out the gardens on top!

Amsterdam Crooked Canal Houses | The Alternative Atlas

We really could not get enough of these magical streets!

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!

Antwerp in 100 Words or Less | The Alternative Atlas

The Grote Markt, or main square, is a beautiful example of the city’s rich cultual heritage.

Antwerp in 100 Words or Less | The Alternative Atlas

Antwerp in 100 Words or Less | The Alternative Atlas

Antwerp in 100 Words or Less | The Alternative Atlas

Antwerp in 100 Words or Less | The Alternative Atlas

Antwerp in 100 Words or Less | The Alternative Atlas

Antwerp in 100 Words or Less | The Alternative Atlas

Antwerp in 100 Words or Less | The Alternative Atlas

Antwerp in 100 Words or Less | The Alternative Atlas

Antwerp in 100 Words or Less | The Alternative Atlas

Antwerp in 100 Words or Less | The Alternative Atlas

^^^The Flemish baroque master painter Peter Paul Rubens called Antwerp home during the golden age in Belgium, and his influence is everywhere.

Antwerp in 100 Words or Less | The Alternative Atlas

Now a museum, the Rubenshuis is the former home and studio of Peter Paul Rubens.

Antwerp in 100 Words or Less | The Alternative Atlas

Antwerp in 100 Words or Less | The Alternative Atlas

Antwerp in 100 Words or Less | The Alternative Atlas

^^^It’s like a 16th century version of MTV Cribs!

Antwerp in 100 Words or Less | The Alternative Atlas

Antwerp in 100 Words or Less | The Alternative Atlas

Antwerp in 100 Words or Less | The Alternative Atlas

^^^Little known fact: Antwerp is also home to the sassiest statue in Europe!

Antwerp in 100 Words or Less | The Alternative Atlas

Antwerp in 100 Words or Less | The Alternative Atlas

Antwerp in 100 Words or Less | The Alternative Atlas

^^^A few geuzes that we bought from a small grocery store in our neighborhood… each of these bottles are rare if not impossible to find in the US, and we bought all five for less than €10.  Whoa, is that the Duchesse?  And Mariage Parfait?!

Antwerp in 100 Words or Less | The Alternative Atlas

Thank you Antwerp!  I can’t wait to visit again… long live love!

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 

3 Must-See Churches in Antwerp | The Alternative Atlas

Located in the old city-center of Antwerp, the interior of this church epitomizes Baroque design and sensibility.

3 Must-See Churches in Antwerp | The Alternative Atlas

^^^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 Belgian sculptors.

3 Must-See Churches in Antwerp | The Alternative Atlas

This installation was started by Pieter Verbrugghen I in 1700, and the surface of the wood has a beautfiul ebony sheen from over 300 years of careful preservation.

3 Must-See Churches in Antwerp | The Alternative Atlas

3 Must-See Churches in Antwerp | The Alternative Atlas

3 Must-See Churches in Antwerp | The Alternative Atlas

^^^Outside of the church is the Cavalry; a garden containing several large rough sculptures and surrounded by residential homes.  Who wouldn’t want to look out their back window and see this?

2) Cathedral of Our Lady

3 Must-See Churches in Antwerp | The Alternative Atlas

As well as being one of Antwerps most iconic monuments, this Roman Catholic cathedral is also listed as a World Heritage Site.

3 Must-See Churches in Antwerp | The Alternative Atlas

The cathedral contains several major works by the most famous artist from Antwerp: Peter Paul Rubens.

3 Must-See Churches in Antwerp | The Alternative Atlas

^^^I studied The Raising of the Cross altarpiece in college, it was a major work in my art history textbooks.  I could never have imagined that I would get to see it in person.

3 Must-See Churches in Antwerp | The Alternative Atlas

This incredible contemporary installation accompanies the famous relics.  A darkened room is lined with shaped mirrors reflecting projections of singers performing Gregorian chants.

3 Must-See Churches in Antwerp | The Alternative Atlas

3 Must-See Churches in Antwerp | The Alternative Atlas

3 Must-See Churches in Antwerp | The Alternative Atlas

3 Must-See Churches in Antwerp | The Alternative Atlas

3) Saint Carolus Borromeus Church

3 Must-See Churches in Antwerp | The Alternative Atlas

This church was restored during the 1980s and wins the hidden gem award.  Tucked away in a small square in the Old Town, we visited three times during our four-day stay in Antwerp (church opening hours are sporatic) before managing to sneak in for a look.

3 Must-See Churches in Antwerp | The Alternative Atlas

3 Must-See Churches in Antwerp | The Alternative Atlas

3 Must-See Churches in Antwerp | The Alternative Atlas

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!

Best Paris Art Museum: Centre Pompidou | The Alternative Atlas

Best Paris Art Museum: Centre Pompidou | The Alternative Atlas

Best Paris Art Museum: Centre Pompidou | The Alternative Atlas

Best Paris Art Museum: Centre Pompidou | The Alternative Atlas

Best Paris Art Museum: Centre Pompidou | The Alternative Atlas

Best Paris Art Museum: Centre Pompidou | The Alternative Atlas

Best Paris Art Museum: Centre Pompidou | The Alternative Atlas

^^^The Mona Hatoum exhibition on the top floor of the museum.

Best Paris Art Museum: Centre Pompidou | The Alternative Atlas

Best Paris Art Museum: Centre Pompidou | The Alternative Atlas

Best Paris Art Museum: Centre Pompidou | The Alternative Atlas

Best Paris Art Museum: Centre Pompidou | The Alternative Atlas

Best Paris Art Museum: Centre Pompidou | The Alternative Atlas

^^^Centre Pompidou has an amazing permanent collection as well, as evidenced by this mind-blowing piece by Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Best Paris Art Museum: Centre Pompidou | The Alternative Atlas

Best Paris Art Museum: Centre Pompidou | The Alternative Atlas

Best Paris Art Museum: Centre Pompidou | The Alternative Atlas

Best Paris Art Museum: Centre Pompidou | The Alternative Atlas

Best Paris Art Museum: Centre Pompidou | The Alternative Atlas

Best Paris Art Museum: Centre Pompidou | The Alternative Atlas

Best Paris Art Museum: Centre Pompidou | The Alternative Atlas

Best Paris Art Museum: Centre Pompidou | The Alternative Atlas

Best Paris Art Museum: Centre Pompidou | The Alternative Atlas

Best Paris Art Museum: Centre Pompidou | The Alternative Atlas

Best Paris Art Museum: Centre Pompidou | The Alternative Atlas

^^^The museum lobby.  The entire building has an interestingly inside-out quality.

Best Paris Art Museum: Centre Pompidou | The Alternative Atlas

^^^Thank you Centre Pompidou!  Long live love!!!