Germany is home to 146 castles and I toured three of them on Monday. First, though, there was the exquisite breakfast spread at the Le Meridien Grand Hotel Nuremberg. Omelets and proscuitto and brie and fruits and breads and even champagne–truly a breakfast of champions. Thanks to her worldwide travels, Ella is a Starwood Preferred Guest
Platinum Member, which allowed me to stay in the nicest hotel room I’ve ever experienced–a suite that was larger than my past two apartments combined! I was also personally greeted by the hotel’s manager Daniela. She presented me with a special gift, the Grand Hotel Nuremberg bellboy teddy bear. (I’m becoming really famous in Bavaria.)
Once we had finished breakfast we set out for the Nuremberg castle. Like most European castles it’s set up high on a hill overlooking the entire city. We enjoyed the views of Nuremberg, even though it was quite overcast. On the way back through town we stopped at the famous Christmas Market. Sure, it’s a few months past December 25th, but there were plenty of Christmas ornaments and treats to buy. We stopped at one of the stalls that was set up in the center of the square. It had a red-and-white awning where a friendly woman was selling the famous Nuremberg Christmas gingerbread. I popped one of the sample morsels in my mouth and was sold, buying a box of the sweet stuff immediately. Jo explained that Ella is 103 years old. Turns out that the gingerbread woman also works with the elderly. Jo showed her a video of Ella owning the catwalk during the Dirndl Queen competition and the woman teared up. “I have so much respect for both of you,” she said to the grandmother and grandson duo. We all posed for a picture and exchanged hugs.
From there it was on to Ella’s hometown of Amberg. On the way we stopped at two more castles, Castle Pfaffenhofen, a very old fortification overlooking the small village of the same name, and then the monastery castle called, ironically,
Kastl. After touring the castle in Pfaffenhofen we stopped at the home of Ella’s lovely friends Peter and Ingrid. Jo, a budding travel agent and tour organizer, has planned several trips for the couple. Their house was beautiful. It reminded me of my aunt and uncle’s place in Farmington, Connecticut. Both houses are from the 1700’s. How interesting to see such a familiar house so far, far away!
By the time we were done with the castles it was dark. Oma Ella was tired and I was hungry. We arrived in Amberg around 9 p.m. Jo dropped Andreas and me at a local pizzeria. I was skeptical about the taste of pizza in Germany. Look, I’ve lived in New York City and I’ve had plenty of Chicago deep dish pies; I know my pizza. But I was pleasantly surprised by this German variety. (It probably helps that the pizzeria is owned by an
Italian-German family.) Satiated from the pizza, Jo dropped me off at Ella’s old apartment. The family still owns it. It is a time capsule of family memories and, before bed, I spent time admiring all of the old family pictures and heirlooms.