Experience Germany Like a Local

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A Frigid Day at the Nuremberg Zoo in Germany

The zoo was huge, and mostly empty. Only die-hard animal fans visit when it's below freezing. We bundled, layered, and kept warm the best we could. Admittedly, if it was sleeting ice we may have hesitated, but it would have taken that and more to keep me from the zoo. We had a hearty, but jealous laugh at the meerkats who huddled under heat lamps.

Meerkats keeping warm under heat lamps in the Nuremberg Zoo, Germany

Wear your walking shoes! It was a long, long trek to the polar bear exhibit, they were completely on the opposite side of the entrance. The Nuremberg Zoo is nestled in 49,000 acres of former sandstone quarry and forest that once belonged to the Holy Roman Empire. When we were there, we noticed several visitors were there solely for the exercise! And sure enough, the Nuremberg Zoo offers a specific guide pamphlet for various tours and whether or not it's a smooth trail or very steep. Click here for more information on the trails in the zoo in English.

Mother Vera and daughter Charlotte, polar bears in the Nuremberg Zoo, Germany

When we finally made it to the polar bears I had to do a double take, the bears were brown! We watched as Charlotte and her mom Vera rolled around in the dead leaves from the fall, and then dig up a poor pine tree. I wondered if Vera was trying to make a den for winter? I was lucky and captured a shot of Vera stretched out on a tree and looking at me.

Sea Lion & Harbor Seal Feeding Presentation at the Nuremberg Zoo, Germany

Sea Lion Feeding & Polar Bear Feeding
Review the scheduled feedings and dolphin presentations for the day you’re attending. One mistake I made was thinking that all of the feedings were handled to the same standard. The sea lions and the polar bears are neighboring exhibits at the Nuremberg Zoo, and when we visited their feeding presentations were scheduled about 30 minutes apart. The sea lions had a very lengthy, detail-oriented feeding presentation where the zookeeper was interacting with them and worked with them individually. After such a performance at the sea lions, I was really excited to see the polar bears feeding and hear what the zookeeper had to say, although I knew it would be secondhand through Sebastian’s translating.

However, when it was the polar bears time to be fed, the zoo keeper literally emptied their bucket of food over the wall, turned around and fled. I stood there speechless with my camera. Left alone, some birds stole some of the polar bear food, which was haphazardly thrown into the exhibit, while other pieces fell into the water. It was a sad sight for me, and a let down after just watching the sea lion feeding. However, the bears didn’t seem bothered by the feeding and ate their dinner without complaints. They weren’t even bothered by the thieving birds.

Mother Vera and daughter Charlotte, polar bears in the Nuremberg Zoo, Germany | Feeding time

Plan to make time to see the dolphin presentation. I was impressed by how well-polished it was. The dolphins loved to perform and seemed to have a positive relationship with the keepers. They did several tricks with a basketball that I’d never seen before at Sea World or at the state of the art St. Vincent Dolphin Pavilion at the Indianapolis Zoo.

Before You Leave
We visited the zoo cafe beside the dolphin lagoon, appropriately named Bistro Lagunenblick, which means Lagoon View. There isn’t any information on this cafe or their larger restaurant in English on their website or the brochure, but there should be. It was a nice surprise to find it on our own though. We chose the Nuremberg sausages and potatoes, plus an apple cake, and all of it was delicious. I was impressed with the self-serve espresso machine that created whatever espresso-based beverage you wanted at the touch of a button. In better weather, you could enjoy Kaffee und Kuchen while watching the dolphins in the lagoon!

Visiting the polar bears in the Nuremberg Zoo, Germany

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Otters in the Nuremberg Zoo, Germany

German Discount Grocery Store LIDL Now Open in the USA

German Discount Grocery Store LIDL Now Open in the USA

While some American grocery stores are filing bankruptcy and closing for good, German grocery stores ALDI, and recently LIDL are trying to fill the void with their low-cost concepts. You can now get a “German Shopping Experience” before ever travelling to Germany! Several weeks ago we had our spotlight on ALDI, the German discount grocery store. Here is a link in case you missed it.

At the time of this article ALDI has over 1,600 stores in the United States and is still growing. Another German discounter named LIDL wants to be part of this too and is expected to open its first 150 stores by 2018 in the United States.

The first 9 LIDL stores in the United States opened a few days ago on June 15, 2017. Is one of them near you? Here they are:

North Carolina: Greenville, Kinston, Rocky Mount, Sanford, Winston-Salem
South Carolina: Greenville, Spartanburg
Virginia: Hampton, Virginia Beach

More stores are coming to Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania in 2017 and 2018.

ALDI and LIDL are both considered “discount stores”, which only stock about 1,000 products on their shelves. This low inventory means, that you will only find one package of sliced Swiss cheese, but at a lower price point. About 90% of the products sold are their own brands, which enables these discount stores to sell items at a lower price point and pass the savings on to the consumer. Also, a lot of the products are pushed into the store on pallets, which saves time compared to setting them on shelves and, again, saves the discount stores money by having less staff.

For more reading on LIDL coming to the United States, read the story by Nandita Bose for Reuters, "Germany's Lidl to price groceries up to 50 percent below U.S. rivals," or visit LIDL'S Home page.

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My 10 Favorite German Castles

My 10 Favorite German Castles

After pointedly seeking out as many castles as we could visit every year on our annual vacation for ten years, here are our top ten favorite German Castles & Palaces.


#10 Neues Schloss Meersburg | Meersburg, Germany
This beautiful palace overlooks Lake Constance, has beautiful gardens below, and I learned what a Prince-Bishop is. For more details on our experience, read our earlier article 'Crash Course in Prince-Bishops at the Neues Schloss Meersburg'.

Crash Course in Prince-Bishops at the Neues Schloss Meersburg


#9 Schloss Buedingen | Buedingen, Germany
An intimate family castle where the residing Princess is listed as the emergency contact on the ticket office door. For more details on our experience, read our earlier article 'Buedingen Castle: Family Photos Beside Medieval Murals'.

Buedingen Castle: Family Photos Beside Medieval Murals


#8 Burg Meersburg | Meersburg, Germany
As the oldest castle in Germany, this one already has bragging rights, but they’re well earned. This is a very approachable, relaxed castle experience with authentic furnishings and interesting ties to a famous German poet, Annette von Droste-Huelshoff. For more details on our experience, read our earlier article 'Germany's Oldest Inhabited Castle'.

Germany's Oldest Inhabited Castle


#7 Nuernberger Burg | Nuremberg, Germany
A great castle to learn about the King Elector system of Germany, while it wasn’t a home base for any certain dynasty, the Deep Well demonstration is definitely worth the add-on cost and was Sebastian’s favorite part. For more details on our experience, read our earlier article 'What You'll See at the Imperial Castle of Nuremberg'.

What You'll See at the Imperial Castle of Nuremberg


#6 Schloss Neuschwanstein | Schwangau, Germany
This castle isn’t for the faint of heart as the tourist crowds are oppressive. Although the castle is unfinished and was barely lived in, what is complete is equally stunning as it is fascinating. Seeing the castle from the Marienbrücke (Queen Mary’s bridge) is a must. For more details on our experience, read our earlier article 'Touring Neuschwanstein Castle'.

Touring Neuschwanstein Castle


#5 Residenzschloss Ludwigsburg | Ludwigsburg, Germany
During a time period when most courts wanted to emulate Versailles in France, this palace gets pretty close to the original. The guided tour experience was unique in that we saw hidden passageways used by the servants. This palace also boasts the oldest preserved theater in Europe. For more details on our experience, read our earlier article 'Touring Residenzschloss Ludwigsburg'.

Touring Residenzschloss Ludwigsburg


#4 Burg Hohenzollern | Bisingen, Germany
I was intrigued by this monumental castle that looms dramatically above the surrounding area on its hill, cloaked in dense fog for dramatic effect. It has links to Prussian Queen Luise, my favorite monarch. She visited the castle and they have a few items of hers including a stunning gown in the treasury. This castle has survived battle and been rebuilt three times. For more details on our experience, read our earlier article 'Burg Hohenzollern, Inside and Out'.

Burg Hohenzollern, Inside and Out


#3 Burg Eltz | Wierschem, Germany
Like the castle in the opening scene of Beauty and the Beast, Burg Eltz sits nestled in a forested valley and will take your breath away at first glance. Guided tour only, and yet you still don’t feel like a tourist while visiting the intimate family rooms of this castle. Be on the lookout for the oldest Renaissance-period bed on display. For more details on our experience, read our earlier article 'Burg Eltz: Where Medieval Castle Fantasies are Fulfilled'.

Burg Eltz: Where Medieval Castle Fantasies are Fulfilled


#2 Wartburg | Eisenach, Germany
The most German of the German castles! What I really love about Wartburg is how much devotion to medieval architecture is in this castle. Where many cities tore down medieval buildings to replace it with the hipper styles of the day, the Wartburg’s medieval style was honored and even recreated in new buildings. The castle’s ties to the legend of St. Elizabeth, Martin Luther, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and German Unification makes it a must-see whether you fancy medieval castles or not. For more details on our experience, read our earlier article 'What You Need to Know Before Visiting Wartburg Castle'.

What You Need to Know Before Visiting Wartburg Castle


#1 Schloss Nymphenburg | Munich, Germany
This one really has it all for me; family feel and history, stunning interiors (bonus points for Rococo, my favorite), and sprawling gardens to get lost in. It was not overrun with tourist groups like Versailles (France) or Neuschwanstein (see #6 above), and we visited during Oktoberfest when the city of Munich was full of tourists. The final bonus that sealed Schloss Nymphenburg as my all time favorite German castle is the peculiar and fascinating Gallery of Beauties commissioned by King Ludwig the I. For more details on our experience, read our earlier article 'Schloss Nymphenburg and the Generations of Stories'.

Schloss Nymphenburg and the Generations of Stories

Jump-Start Your Travel Plotting
Since you've made it this far, here's a bonus! We plotted our top ten favorite castles on a custom Google Map that you can use to start planning your trip.

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If you enjoyed this article, or these topics sound interesting to you, you'll love our weekly newsletter. You'll receive the newest posts each week and exclusive access to free planning resources like ‘Packing List & Tips for 2 Weeks in Germany’ and ‘Everything You Need to Rent a Car in Germany’.

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Thank you For Reading! Denise & Sebastian | Photo by Irene Fiedler