European Travel

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Austria - October 2009

Austria, or Osterreich - the kingdom of the east, as the Germans call it, is breaktaking!  Traveling southeastly on the autobahn, you begin the climb towards those definingly high Alps once you've pasted Munich.   Our plan to see Dachau, Salzburg, Berchtesgaden and a tour of the SalzZeit Reise (Salt-Time Journey) begins. 

Our first stop is Dachau.  As the rain falls from the gray autum sky above the city, it mingles in the gray pebbley earth spread throughout the concentration camp memorial reflecting the gray faces of its curious visitors.  I've been to Dachau twice -- it rained both times.
Leaving Dachau and it's hauting images behind, we continue our journey southeasterly towards the Austrian border.  We are greeted by the impressive Alps as we leave the autobahn and head to Salzburg.  The GPS is an indespensible travelling tool.  It makes life so easy; perhaps too easy sometimes.  We blinding follow "her" directions, at times, without thought.  In Salzburg, the GPS lead us through streets so narrow, I had to get out of the minivan, push in the sideview mirrors, say a little prayer, and direct Joe through the passage way!!  To make it more fun, we had Joe's parents in the backseat, literally praying aloud. 
The van made it through the passage, we all let out our breath, and agreed Joe was such a good driver, blah,blah blah... Once through however, we cannot find the D#$M hotel.  Sooooo, you guessed it, here we go again!! Argh!  This entire stressful time, the boys are completely oblivious becasue if it doesn't happen the Mario World, then it just doesn't seem to matter!  The good news is we found the hotel, of course, we had to park five blocks away, walk down dark streets at night, and almost lose a peice of luggage with all Ryan's clothes for the week, but we made it!!  Three cheers for the Gallaghers! 
Chiemsee Hotel claims century old steps leading up to some beautiful Bavarian painted schrank (shrunk) and a gorgeous family room ideal for a family of 4 to 5.  Reasonable priced and located walking distance from all the major tourist attractions in Salzburg.  It just challenged our GPS a bit. 

In Salzburg we begin our tour in Salzburg Cathedral.  In side you'll find the font where Mozart was baptized.  Outside you'll find a statue of Mary in the courtyard, where if you stand in just the right place, you can "place" her holy golden crown.
Next we took the Festungbahn funicular up to Hohensalzburg Fortress.  It was snowing at the top. 
There is a nice little resturant here where we stopped for lunch before heading across town to Bob's Sound of Music Tour. 
The tour begins in downtown Salzburg, in "Maria's gardens" where she and the von Trappe children sang that happy afternoon.  Well, the Gallaghers sang a bit of a different tune than "Doe a deer"; more like "Snow a dear"  Freezing rain is just not quite the same experience. 

Then on to the other famous stops.  Our tour guide burst the Hollywood bubble telling us the "von Trappe Home" is really two different buildings.  The back of the home is now an Educational Center of Harvard University 

Tourist's noise and constant clammering forced the Garden Gazebo, once found on this property to a different garden.  The Gazebo is no longer accessible from the inside due to tourist "leaping" from bench to bench;  with apparently many broken legs! 

Our tour included a serenade during our van ride through the Alps, where as a back seat occupant, I felt quite ill!!  But boy, those hills were alive with music.  After the tour, we sampled the local Austrian fair at a romatic little resturant on the main pedestrian area.  It was lovely.

Our next stop brings us back into Germany as we head towards Routte.  The car sets our on the A8 towards Germany.  But what's this?  A white van ahead of us pull in front of our car.  In the rear window a electronic light displays the words, "FOLLOW ME".  We are all puzzled and terrified.  Joe does as he's told and "follows" the white van (hopefully not down the rabbit hole!)  The German Police get out of the van, start walking back towards Joe, we roll down the window, and he says, "Passports".  Thankfully, we all had them!!  Then, they find out Joe's in the USAF, so they wave us on down the road.  Phew!  But this journey isn't over yet....because its started to snow again; in earnest now.  Once again our GPS has plans.  We find ourselves going up and down, dark, snowy mountain passages; all the while our GPS assures us we are going the right way.  I think Joe really deserves some props for driving that night and having us all arrive safe.   The next day we drove that same road in the daytime, and literally the slippery slides the night before would have lead us down 100 meter ravines!!  I am so glad we couldn't see the drop off the previous night. 
We are off to visit Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau Castles.  The carriage rides and castle tour are a must for travelers to Deuchland. 

These two castle tours involve a brisk almost 45 degree hike/walk up the mountain side to gain access.  We choose the carriage ride for the second uphill climb, but that put us a bit late for our entrance time!  So we sprinted the last 30 meters and made it just in time.  The blue skies made for a nice winter day outside (but remember it's only October!)
Next, stop is the Salt Mines!!  WOW!  The Salt Mine "time travel" is a highlight for our family.  It starts with each of us doning a very nasty blue set of cover alls.  I guess, it's to keep us warm, because deep into the mountain we will travel to see the place that holds the salt.  After suiting up, we enter the train which whisks us down, down, down into the mine.  It is so cold!!  You sit a stride, and hold on to the person seated in front of you.  Our next destination, is at the end of a slide.  Well, what the German's call a side.  Americans would call it a bannister.  It's a 1foot across smooth slanted poll at a 45degree angle.  You sit astride it as well and hold on to the person seated in front of you.  This seems to be a theme!  Anyway, you can imagine how much the kids LOVED IT!!  Sandy and Joe were excellent sports about being out of their comfort zone.  The grand finale takes you on a quasi light show featuring salt crystals.  An exciting element is the boat you ride to during the show. 

Here's a group of my favorite pictures from the trip.

Our first trip to Bavaria filled with sights, sounds of music, and fairy tale castles is sure to be a place we'll continue to explore! 

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