4 Countries in 1 Day?!

As we were wrapping up our family vacation in Switzerland, we were headed to Neuschwanstein in Germany. This was part of Laine’s birthday present – we promised to take our “princess” to THE castle. If you are unfamiliar with this particular castle, I’ll let you in on a secret. This castle was the basis for Cinderella’s castle (a la Walt Disney). It is stunning. But I digress. Let’s start at the beginning, m’kay?

Country #1: Switzerland. We woke up in Switzerland! Still every bit as beautiful as it was in the last post, but quite a bit foggier and cloudier. I’m thankful I took a bazillion pictures my first couple of days there.

Country #2: Lichtenstein. We watched a delightful video on Lichtenstein before we left: link here to get an idea of what to expect. It is the 4th smallest country at only 63-square miles! (I’ll give you the opportunity to Google which 3 countries are smaller. But, yes, I know what they are because we’ve looked it up. Twice. Because we forgot what the 3rd smallest was). The great thing about touring such a small country is that even though we only walked through the capital, Vaduz, for a short time, we got to get a feel for the country as we covered a reasonable portion of it. The people were friendly, the tourists were abundant, and the architecture was fascinating.

We stopped in this lovely church for a moment. It was so nice to be in a beautiful church building again. It even smelled of old incense, which is something I appreciate.
The view from that lovely old church: traditional buildings mixed with much newer architecture
The kids were given free flags at the information office.
You can see the Prince’s house at the top of this photo. Public tours are not available to his private residence.

As we finished our brief tour of Lichtenstein, we headed to…

Country #3: Austria. We stopped only briefly in Austria to grab lunch and have a quick walk. We stopped in the city of Bregenz, on the eastern side of Lake Constance. This lake is bordered by 3 of the countries we visited that day (all but Lichtenstein).

Exploring and looking for lunch

We weren’t in Austria long as we were eager to get to…

Country #4: Germany. The day we told the kids we would be moving to Europe, their primary concern was their birthdays. Laine was disappointed that she wouldn’t be able to have her annual birthday party. So, in our panic, we said “we’ll take you to a castle for your birthday!” And then she learned Belgium is known for its chocolate and, remembering those 2 ideas, she was packing her bags within seconds. She asked if she could have a carriage ride up to see the castle. We were able to ride in a large horse cart to the top – one of the other American passengers even bought hot chocolate for our 2 kids when he learned that it was Laine’s birthday.

Ready to go up the mountain!
We walked the rest of the way up to the castle.

I wasn’t able to get any really great photos of the whole castle because while we were there, a huge snowstorm started! It felt like being in a blizzard. It was incredibly windy and the snow was blowing all around us. Thankfully, my sweet friend Mo sent me a photo of our visit to the castle back in 2006!

View from the Marienbrucke (bridge)
Isaac and I did our best to recreate the shot

We headed back down the mountain in the mini-blizzard and had a great time throwing snowballs at one another most of the way down. We were on one of the last castle tours of the day, so we had a quiet walk back down on our own. We even were able to trek the last bit down through the woods instead of along the road. We went back into the town, Schwangau, to our rooms for the night. We had a lovely large suite to ourselves and the kids even had their own room! The view from our porch included a glimpse of the castle! But it was too tiny to be captured in a photo. Ha!

We walked about 2 blocks to dinner and the snow resumed while we were there. We walked back to our suite through beautiful snow! It stuck to everything except the streets and it made the trees lovely.

Patterns in the snow
All of the greenery was coated in snow

The next day, we again were in 4 countries: Germany, Austria, Switzerland (to the airport), and finally back to Belgium. Just to give you an idea of how interesting the directions are here, the most direct route (as suggested by both our car and Google maps) included passing through this bridge.

Sorry for the smudgy window shot. If this had sound, you would hear a lot of hysterical laughter.

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