Reflections

We have been back in Alberta for a week now, the jet lag has faded and I have had time to look over our pictures and think about the trip. So some final reflections on the places we visited….

Berlin
Berlin is full of history – with such significant 20th century events – and museums abound, telling those stories and those of more distant history, as well as featuring an abundance of art treasures. It is a gritty city; outside the tourist centre, graffiti covers almost any reachable surface and in the early morning, you encounter litter of bottles and fast food wrappers. But it gives the impression of a livable city – unpretentious and vibrant, full of new construction as the former East Berlin still grows, 24 years after the fall of the wall. Also, the local people were so helpful – offering assistance when we hadn’t even asked!

Having visited Berlin, would I return? It’s not on the top of the list, but given the opportunity, I wouldn’t pass it by. I would like to delve a bit more into the history, by taking a walking tour and spending more time on Museum Island. I would also like to visit Potsdam and take a boat ride on the Spree.
20131029-140424.jpgDresden
We arrived in Dresden in the early afternoon and departed the next morning, so my impressions are fleeting. The central core we visited was an interesting mix of the old and new – or perhaps the new and the new made to look old, as 75% of the Old Town was destroyed by WWII bombing and many of the historical sights have been reconstructed. We were in Dresden on the Day of German Unity, a national holiday commemorating the reunification in 1990, so my impression is of a busy, fun area, full of local German families enjoying their day. Probably not the scene every day, but it made for a fun day for us as we mingled with the locals, enjoying wurst and Gluwein (hot mulled wine).

On another visit to Dresden (again, not topping the list, but worth consideration if in the area) , I would take the time to actually know what I was looking at, rather than just admiring the fine Baroque architecture. I would like to visit the interior of the Frauenkirche – this church from 1743 was completely destroyed by bombing, but was painstakingly rebuilt with international donations and reopened recently. Unfortunately, due to the holiday, the line-up was prohibitive when we were there. Other sights to include on a possible future visit are the Historic Green Vault, which houses a glittering Baroque treasury, and Volkswagon’s Transparent Factory where the Phaeton is produced.
20131029-140549.jpgPrague
Ah, Prague – what a beautiful city! I would describe ‘Praha’ as charming, historic and so unique. The architecture is amazing – the city of spires and an eclectic mix of architecture, ranging from Gothic and Renaissance to Baroque and Art Nouveau. All of the people we encountered were so friendly and made us feel welcome in their city. The opportunities for entertainment are many and varied – street performers, classical concerts, black light theatre…… And the food – we ate in small, local restaurants that rival some of the best I have encountered anywhere.

I would love to return to Prague – to wander the streets, to try more small restaurants and to further explore the sights – more time in the Castle and Jewish Quarters, a concert at the Opera House and a paddle boat on the river.
20131029-162451.jpgCesky Krumlov
Cesky Krumlov is a well-preserved fairy tale town. The narrow streets are fun to stroll through and the castle gardens are beautiful. The small town is probably crazy during the height of tourist season, but on an October afternoon and evening, it was delightful.

If passing by Krumlov in the future, I would probably stop in for a night at the wonderful Penzion Delanta and enjoy the ambiance of the town again.
20131029-162828.jpgVienna
Vienna is an elegant, opulent city, with wide boulevards, beautiful architecture, grand classical music and shopping for the rich and famous. But away from the central area, it is home to small excellent restaurants and coffee shops, concerts in historic venues and everyday people enjoying their lives.

I can’t quite put my finger on why, but Vienna captivated my interest and I would love to return. I would visit the Opera House, attend another concert and a church service in one of the beautiful churches, watch the Lipizaner Stallions practice or perform and spend an evening at a wine tavern. I would love to take a day cruise through the Danube Valley or return to visit the Christmas market in December!
20131029-163430.jpg Salzburg
The hills really are alive in Austria. Travelling through the countryside, especially with the fall foliage, was awe-inspiring – similar, and yet very different, from travelling through the wonder of our Rocky Mountains.

Salzburg shows a different side of Austria from Vienna. It has a well preserved old town, a foreboding fortress, beautiful gardens, pride in Mozart everywhere and the Sound of Music! But it also seems fresh, outdoorsy and fun!

We didn’t have enough time in Salzburg and I would love to return to visit the Fortress, Hellbrunn Castle, spend another evening at the Augustiner Braustubl and travel to the lakes district.
20131029-170157.jpg Rothenburg ob der Tauber
It was a treat to visit Rothenburg. This well-preserved medieval walled town is visited by 2.5 million tourists per year, and there is a reason why! It is magical, transporting you to the Middle Ages when it was a free imperial city and a major trading stop. There are sights to see, and we enjoyed visiting some of them, but it was such fun to just explore the many small narrow streets, walk the wall, wander through the beautiful countryside outside the wall and snap photos at every turn. The Nightwatchman’s Tour is a must, again accentuating the feeling of being in the Middle Ages while outlining the history of the town.

I think we covered most every street inside the walls of old Rothenburg, so as much as we loved Rothenburg, we probably wouldn’t return – unless it was to share this fabulous experience with someone who hadn’t previously visited.
20131029-170637.jpg Wurzburg
Wurzburg wasn’t even on our trip itinerary, but we had some time to kill enroute from Rothenburg to Frankfurt, so we stopped in and were pleased that we did. We only spent a few hours, so again my impressions are from a quick look. As we drove in and out of the city, it could have been most any large city anywhere – there appeared to be urban sprawl and we could see a city skyline of tall buildings (not something we had typically seen on this trip). The Old Town that we visited was a lively, downtown area with a mix of old and new and we enjoyed wandering there.

If I were to have some time to spare on a future trip beginning or ending in Frankfurt, I might again stop in Wurzburg and further explore the Residenz Palace and the Marienberg Fortress.
20131029-170951.jpgIt was a marvellous trip – we saw so many wonderful sights, learned so much history, ate great food, drank great beer, wine & coffee and walked many kilometres. We are so lucky to be able to take trips like this and I can hardly wait for next time! Stay tuned for the next stops along our long and winding journey!

Cheers,

Bev & Harvey

Why is there a shoe in the fountain?

The hills are alive – with the sounds of music – with songs that have been sung for a thousand years (or at least since 1960)….

After a lovely breakfast at the pension, Harvey and I were picked up by Panorama Tours for the Original Sound of Music Tour. As this had been my favourite movie forever, I was naturally very excited.
20131016-190118.jpgThe tour started through the streets of Salzburg as Peter, the guide, told us some history of the city and the movie. Our first stop was at Leopoldskron Palace. This man- made lake was where the lake and backyard scenes were filmed. However, the actual facade of the back of the mansion was never shown – another location was used for all exterior shots of the “Von Trapp mansion”.
20131016-192813.jpgNext we travelled to Hellbrunn Castle, a palace built in 1610 by Prince Archbishop Sittikus. In the gardens sits the gazebo used for the ‘Sixteen Going on Seventeen’ film sequence. The gazebo was actually not here for filming – it was moved here later as a gift. The gardens also contain a long tree-lined lane similar to the one where Maria and the children hung from the trees.
20131016-193331.jpgFrom a distance, we saw the mansion used for the exterior shots and the actual tree-lined drive. All of the interior scenes were filmed on sound-stages in Hollywood.
20131016-193654.jpg. Our tour took us past Nonnberg Abby, where the real Maria served as a novitiate, and which was very realistically created in Hollywood for the movie.
20131016-193929.jpgLeaving Salzburg, we travelled to the Salzkammergut Lake District. The scenery – mountains, alpine meadows and blue, glacial lakes – was breathtaking and the warm, sunny day was phenomenal. The photos really don’t do justice to the beauty.
20131016-194328.jpgWe stopped briefly in St. Gilgen and then continued to the town of Mondsee. Here the Mondsee Cathedral was used for the wedding scene in the movie. The cathedral is beautiful, although the wonder of film makes it seem much larger in the movie.
20131016-195710.jpgWe had 1.25 hours in Monsee so after seeing the cathedral, we picked up sandwiches at the local Spar supermarket and enjoyed lunch sitting next to the lake.
20131016-200126.jpgSorry, Kris, for the shot of the swan family – they really were quite majestic!

The drive to and from the lakes district included great commentary from Peter, music from the movie soundtrack and video excerpts from a documentary on the making of the film. We thoroughly enjoyed the tour, both the movie aspect and the area scenery and historical information. Peter was animated, informative and very friendly (and also said that Harvey looks like a young Sean Connery?), as was the coach driver.

Our tour brought us back to Mirabell Gardens and Palace, where we met up with Deb & Larry. They had spent the morning hiking around the area. First, they made their way up to Hohensalzburg Fortress, where they explored the grounds of this imposing castle that overlooks the town. They chose to go via foot rather than the funicular.They then travelled along the Monchaberg Cliff Face along a tangle of paths, roughly following the foreboding stone wall that was built on 1634 to protect the city from the 30 Year War. They enjoyed incredible views of the valley below and the mountains in the distance before arriving at the Modern Art Museum and descending by our favorite Augustiner beer hall.
20131016-200542.jpg Making their way across town, after a coffee break, D & L took on the challenge of climbing the other side of the river valley, Kapuzinerberg. This daunting trek was of course no challenge for our hiking duo and they were rewarded with interesting sights and a well-deserved feeling of accomplishment. The server in the coffee shop had said that the walk was very steep but “wonderful”, and she was right. The ‘walk’ began with slow progress up a very steep road to a 17th century monastery. The road was lined with frescos of Catholicism. Given the steepness, Deb wondered if this was where the great European cyclists train because she would not have been able to turn a wheel on a bicycle! Then, there were old stone steps built all along the stone wall (again built to protect the city), and this route was much steeper than the narrow road through the forest that could be taken to Frankchlossel. Interestingly, there appeared to be two squatters who had taken up residence in one of the old guard stations along the route, high above the city. The hike was a tease for a much longer visit to Salzburg when they will bring hiking boots and bicycles!
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20131016-201333.jpgThe Mirabelle Palace is now used as a government office building but the beautiful gardens are open to the public. The red roses were in fragrant bloom, and a number of people were seated enjoying this area. Pansies were colourful and were the flower of choice for this time of the year.
20131016-201658.jpg The garden is of course the spot where the famous Do-re-mi frolicking took place. Deb & I tried to recreate some of the action – perhaps not too successfully and to the amusement – or not – of some of the on-lookers.
20131016-202137.jpgWe spent part of the afternoon doing a bit of shopping, picking up a few souvenirs. Our afternoon coffee break was at the Manner Cafe and store. It was delightful, although Debbie could not enjoy the Mozartball that accompanied the coffee. The 17% hasslnuss (hazelnut) content would not have had a delightful result for her!
20131016-202426.jpg A look at the statue of Mozart in Mozartplatz (he really is everywhere here) and we made our way back to Haus Katrin for a short break.
20131016-202801.jpgFor dinner, we chose SOG, a restaurant recommended by Sandra at the pension. Our pizza, spaghetti and salads were just great, and perfect portions.
20131016-203050.jpgSalzburg is a great city – we know there is so much more to see and do here and we would love to return.

Cheers,

B,H,D&L

How many Canadians does it take to open a gas cap?

Happy Thanksgiving to all of our Canadian readers! We hope that you have had a wonderful weekend!

We left Vienna this morning, feeling that we had seen so much and understand the city, but would love to return to become even better acquainted with it.

First job – retrieve the car from the car park where it had rested peacefully for several days, mixed in with rows of BMWs, Mercedes, Peugots, etc. – oh and this morning an Alfa Romeo that Deb quite liked. She was very interested when Harv told her they will be for sale in Canada soon.

Then luggage in, a stop for fuel and off we went on the autobahn. We detoured off for a bit to travel alongside the mighty blue Danube. It is easy to see why it is one of the world’s truly great rivers!
20131015-204105.jpg We arrived at the pension we had booked in Salzburg mid-afternoon and were very pleased to find the Haus Katrin is just delightful. The proprietress, Sandra, was very welcoming and informative.
20131015-213004.jpgAfter depositing our luggage, we headed into the old town area of Salzburg. The Hohensalzburg Fortress sits 400 feet above the Salzach River and it is easy to see why the town was not attacked for nearly a thousand years – it is so formidable.
20131015-204853.jpg Salzburg did however surrender when Napoleon stopped in.

Domplatz is dominated by the Salzburg Dom.. This cathedral was consecrated in 1628, built on the sight of the previous church founded in 774. A partial reconstruction of the cathedral was completed in 1959 due to damage by a WWII bomb. This Baroque church is very beautiful, in a different way from some of the others we have seen on this trip. We marvelled at the detail of the interior sculpturing and paintings.
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20131015-210651.jpg Also in Domplatz were a giant chess set and some men that are really on the ball.
20131015-211241.jpg We enjoyed walking through the streets, looking at the buildings and statues we encountered.
20131015-212132.jpgThe Getreidegasse was old Salzburg’s Main Street and continues as such today. It’s famous for the old wrought- iron signs – the stores today are required to follow this same tradition. Oh – and I found a treat I had been wanting for our whole trip!
20131015-212834.jpg As it became time to think about dinner, we headed along the river and up the hill, encountering some great views along the way.
20131015-213555.jpg Our choice for dinner tonight came from a Rick Steve’s recommendation. The Augustiner Braustubl is a 1000 seat beer hall (well actually several halls), located in the monastery where the Augustiner beer is made. It was such a fun time. First, you pick up a mug, rinse it, and give it to the keg master to fill. Then you head to the various food kiosks to purchase whatever you desire. We picked a huge pork knuckle, potato & beet salads, sauerkraut & buns, which we all shared, family style.
20131015-214256.jpg What a great Thanksgiving Dinner!!

We walked back along the river, marvelling at Salzburg by moonlight, and contemplating how much we have to be thankful for.
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20131015-215119.jpgWe miss our families on this Thanksgiving Day and send them our love!!

Cheers,

B,H,D&L