And that’s a wrap…

Countries visited:5

Miles walked: 171.94

Pictures taken: 3718

Money spent: Too much

Memories made: Priceless!!!

 

Thirty days flew by, I can’t believe after nearly a year of planning my trip has come and gone.  And what a wonderful trip it was! There is really nothing I would have changed about this trip.  My hotels were all really nice, all of my transportation worked out without any problems and the weather was some of the best I have ever had while in Europe. I came home with some great pictures, a bag full of souvenirs and a head cold!

I can’t thank everyone enough for following my journey and for all the caring thoughts and comments throughout the month. I definitely can’t thank my mom enough for driving 3000 miles to care for my fur-babies while I traipsed around Europe. She went above and beyond by not only caring for Daisy and Neena but she also painted my porch, pruned all the bushes in my front yard and did other little things around my house, Thanks Mom!

I have already begun daydreaming about my next trip(watching the Olympics is making me want to go to Rio) .  The next big one won’t be for a few more years but in the mean time I will take a few smaller/shorter trips.  San Antonio is in the pipeline for the spring.  Just because my journey is over my blog is not, I will continue to blog at least monthly if not more often so stay tuned for future blog entries!

 

Bratislava

Aug 1- Aug 3
Mon-Wed

There were a few options available to go from Vienna to Bratislava, bus, train or boat. Bus was the cheapest by far but the boat was the most convenient. The hi-speed catamaran boat was a two minute walk from my hotel in Vienna and a half mile walk to my hotel in Bratislava. Plus, it’s probably the most fun way to travel! So, Monday at 12:30 I set sail for Bratislava. The Danube is a busy river, during the little over an hour trip we passed two or three river cruises and half dozen barges. It was a relaxing journey. Upon arriving in Bratislava I figured it would be an easy half mile up one street, unbeknownst to me my hotel was half way up the hill that the castle is located on. I had to walk up three large sets of stairs, across a pedestrian bridge and further up hill, all while dragging my siutcase over cobblestones! Finally arriving at the hotel I was given a room on the fifth floor(there was an elevator) with a beautiful view of the medieval city. I settled into my room and then went out for a walk. Since I was half way up the hill to the castle already, I decided to go there.  Because it was monday nothing was open at the castle(I don’t know if there was anything to see inside of it anyways) so I explored the grounds around it. There was a great view of the city and the river from there, as well there was a very pretty garden that looked like they had recently redone. After a little while there I headed down the hill, had some dinner and went back to the hotel.
Tuesday was my full day in Bratislava. I learned that there is not much to see or do and that if you want to go to Bratislava you could see everything in a morning or afternoon visit. To take up some time I did a two part bus tour. One was of the castle and periphery of the city and the other was of the old town. Neither was that interesting. Total they took 90 minutes. Then I wandered around the streets of the old town of which most are pedestrian only. There was few museums and none of them of any substance, a couple of churches but none were spectacular and lots of touristy shops. By early afternoon I was bored. I sat on a bench and read and people watched, then I walked to another area and found a bench and did the same thing again. By 4pm I decided to eat dinner and then head back to my hotel.  It may sound like I didn’t like Bratislava but that is far from the truth.  I actually really liked the city and it reminded me of Tallinn. I love the old medieval walled cities, they are very charming. The problem sign Bratislava is that it is a fairly new capital, compared to other European capitals and it doesn’t have a ton of its own history. A lot of its history belongs to Hungary, Austria or the Czechs.

Today I leave Bratislava for Paris by way of the Vienna airport; where I am currently sitting waiting for my delayed flight.

Vienna, Austria

July 29-Aug 1
Friday-Monday

On Friday I had an open train ticket from Salzburg to Vienna, meaning I could leave whenever I wanted. I chose a 10:50 train that would get me into Vienna around 1:30. I got to the station a bit early and as I walked through the station all of a sudden as I approached an elderly couple the woman starts yelling(in german), grabbing her husbands arm and has a look of sheer panic on her face. I thought there was something behind me frightening her. Then suddenly her husband begins to fall, I dropped my bags and with the help of two other women we caught the husband and helped lay him down on the ground. Not knowing the language made it hard for me to understand her, luckily the others spoken German and one called their equivalent of 911. Some station security showed up and I moved away from the action, finally an ambulance showed up and they took him away. I have no idea what was wrong with the guy, hopefully everything turned out okay for him.

The train ride from Salzburg was just over two hours and upon arriving in Vienna I was easily able to figure out the subway system in order to get to my hotel. My hotel was about 100 yards from the Danube and barely a ten minute walk to historic sites. After checking in, I decided I would go to the Sigmund Freud museum at Bergasse 19. I have seen the A&E Freud Biography probably close to 40 times, not by choice, so I know his address and life history pretty well already but I still needed to visit the museum. It was about a 25 minute walk to get there and once there I walked up the stairs to the museum only to face a sign that said “temporarily closed”…then I read the rest of the sign, “due to overcrowding”. So as people left other people were allowed to enter. I think I had to wait about ten minutes. In those ten minutes I witnessed a guy from NY ask everyone waiting where they were from, the couple next to me told him Toulouse, France. He then said, because he didn’t understand their accent, “oh, you’re jews from France”. Fortunately, I don’t think the couple completely understood what he said and I clarified for him what they said. Shortly after that we were allowed to enter the museum. It was so small buy then again it was in the apartment where he lived in worked. The entry and waiting room for his office were similarly set up from when he lived there, but his office was more museum like and the famous couch was not there(I think it is in a museum in London, where he and some of his family moved to escape the Nazis). It was pretty cool to think I was walking around his office and apartment where some of the most famous and maybe controversial psychology work was done. Historically, I like Freud, psychologically I think his work is a bit wacko!  After my visit there I walked back towards my hotel stopping in a church and a few shops along the way.
Saturday was hot, in the low 90s, so I started my day by walking around some of the old historic city center.  Then I went to the old library, which was absolutely amazing. It was books upon books, two floors with shelves of old books and ladders to get to the books. There were some old globes and an exhibit on one of the kings(I wasn’t there for that, it took away from the experience because it was in front of some of the books). This sounds so nerdy, I am sure, but really it was  beautiful room. From there I walked to the art museum and bought a ticket to walk around there. It was was pretty big, not Louvre big, but still big. They had art from Egypt through the early 1800s. They had a few paintings by artists I really like, the had a handful of Bruegel’s and even had a Vermeer(I love Vermeer)! I spent a couple of hours there before walking around the city some more. One thing they have in the city is places to fill your water bottle with cold water, not your basic water bubbler, but nice clean booth like stand that has a bubbler on each side. It was great to see that since it was so hot.
Sunday, again it was hot, hi 90s. So I thought I would be a little lazy and buy a subway ticket for the day and use the subways and trolleys to get around. Turns out I still walked 7 miles even using the subway! First, I went to Praetor, which is a park and amusement park on the opposite side of the Danube from the old city. Here they have a old fashion ferris wheel, I really just wanted to see it because it was suppose to be pretty cool. I got there and quickly bought a ticket to go on it….then I thought to myself, “what did you just do? You hate heights and rides like this, you must be crazy”.  This is the same thing that I did when I was in London and bought a ticket for the London Eye. I got into a car, they kind of looked like old, small trolley cars, with six strangers. I was okay for the first few minutes but the higher we went the more nervous I got, my hands and feet were sweating! As we neared the top the car was creaking and I was trying so hard to look like I was enjoying it, I took some pictures but when everyone was on one side of the car it would tilt and I wanted out! After about 20 minutes it was over and I survived! Part of the reason I wanted to see and ride it was because I recently finished the book Devil in the White City about the worlds fair in Chicago and there was detailed information of the first ferris wheel built there and this one in Vienna was similar to the description they gave in the book, so I figured this might be my only chance to ride something similar to the one built in the 1890s. After that I walked around the amusement park, think old time Salem Willows on a much grander scale. Lots of old time kids rides and also many new modern ones as well. It was fun just walking around and I had no desire to go on any other rides. From there I took the subway back to the old city and went to see the architecture of the city hall and walked through the park there. While walking through the park there they had food booths and beer, so later in the day I went back and had dinner and a couple of drinks. Then I got on a trolley and went to the Belvedere Palace. It was a good thing I bought the subway pass because every where I wanted to go was pretty spaced out. The Belvedere is a former palace and has beautiful gardens and an art museum. This museum has art from the Middle Ages through early 20th century. The reason most go is to see the Klimt pieces. They have his famous piece “the kiss” as well as a handful of others. The cool thing about this museum is that it was like a 2 for 1 deal, pay to see the art but the building itself was really amazing and in most rooms they had a sign telling you what the room was orginally used for. After a couple hours there I stopped at a fountain in a park where lots of people were sitting and putting their feet in to cool off, so I did the same thing…it actually cooled me down. I think I said this before but the sun seems much stronger and hotter here than it does at home, so not only was it hot but the sun just makes it way worse.  Following a rest at the fountain, I went back and to the park by city hall and had some dinner.
That pretty much wraps up my visit to Vienna.  I think Vienna and Salzburg were probably two of my favorite places I visited on this trip. Something about Vienna I really liked, of course it was one of the most expensive places I visited as well!

Salzburg, Austria

July 27 – 29 Wednesday to Friday

On Wednesday 7/27, I left Munich for Slazburg. I had a 9 am bus that was to get me into Salzburg by 11 am, again we hit traffic and then border control which slowed down the trip and got me into Salzburg an hour late. Border control was interesting, the bus driver announced that we needed to have our passports out for inspection(or I assume that is what he said because he said it in German) and we pulled into what looked more like a rest/gas area. First one guy got on, he was wearing pants, button up shirt and a tie and he began checking passports on one side of the bus, then a second gun got on and he was wearing jeans and a t-shirt(he didn’t exactly look like a border agent!) he was checking passports on the other side of the bus. Some passports they looked at very closely, other passports they took with them off the bus(don’t know why) and US passports they didn’t even look at. The guy walked right past me and a few other Americans without even a glance. He looked in one girls bag and took out her cigarettes and looked in the package then gave it all back to her. This is the first time I have seen passport control so strict when going from one Schengen country to another, typically there is no passport control when traveling between Schengen countries.
I made it to Salzburg and found my hotel easily, it was only two blocks from the train station. I checked in, changed and relaxed for about an hour, then I walked to where I was meeting the Sound of Music tour. The tour was a bit corny and maybe not really worth the money but if I hadn’t done it I would have regretted not doing it. They stuffed a huge amount of people on a bus(less legroom than in coach on an airplane) and off we went to see where they filmed parts of the movie and where the real von Trapp family lived. First we went to the man made lake that they used to film the scene when Maria and the kids are in a canoe and capsize. Then we drove by the real home and the site where the filled a bunch of scenes of the von Trapp family, except we couldn’t get close or even stop the bus to see it. Then to the gazebo and then a long ride out to the town of Mondsee to the church where they filmed the wedding scene, here we had a forty minute break to do what we wanted, I just walked around the town. Then we got back on the bus back to Salzburg. When we got back and the bus dropped us off the guide took some of us to the Mirabel gardens to see the fountain, steps, dwarf statues and ivy covered tunnel where they filmed the Do re me scenes. It was pretty funny to see the amount of women on the tour versus men….I think the men were only there because of their wives!
The next day I was scheduled to go on a half day tour to Hitler’s Eagles Nest and the town of Berchesgaden. I got to the bus, the bus loaded up with close to fifty or sixty people, then the guide got on and said he had bad news – the Eagles Nest was closed! At first, I think everyone thought he was joking, but he wasn’t. He gave everyone on the tour a few options, 1. Rebook for the next day(I couldn’t bc I was leaving for Vienna), 2. Get a refund, 3. Go on the tour but not go to the Eagles Nest, go another mountain and see it from a distance and still go to the town. Needless to say, people got angry and stormed off the bus and yelled at the guide(mainly americans). I sat there and decided that if the tour was still going to go then I would go. After all was said and done more than 60% of the people got off and chose option 1 or 2. There was less than 20 of us left on the bus but that was okay. The guide was great. We went up a very narrow road to the top of the mountain next to the one the Eagles Nest is on, then we stopped at the visitor center for the Eagles Nest, then into Berchesgaden for an hour of free time then we returned to Salzburg. Oh, and the reason it was closed was because their ticket office was broken into during the night and 100k euros were stolen! They had to be closed so the police could investigate. I was a little bummed about not getting to see the Eagles Nest but there was nothing anyone could do about it and it wasn’t worth getting angry or upset about, like many others did. After returnng to Salzburg I walked to the old city and went up to the castle and toured through some of the musems. Then I walked around the old city and eventually ended up at the Augustiner Monastery and brewery where they have a beer garden. I had some chicken and potatoes as well as a beer. It was the best of the beers I have had, people in Munich said Augustiner was the best of the Munich beers and I have to agree.
That ended my stay in Salzburg, the next day, Friday I left for Vienna. I really liked Salzburg, it was small but had plenty to do.

Munich

July 22-26
I spent four days/5 nights in Munich. It wasn’t my favorite place that I have visited on this trip. My first impression, even before the shooting, was that the city was dirty, crowded and didn’t feel that safe to me. This impression was mainly based on the location of my hotel. While the hotel itself was nice, the street it was on was a bit, to borrow a word from the English and Aussies, dodgy. There were small hotels in almost every building, which would make one think the area would have been nicer. But there was also at least a half dozen strip clubs in a two block area, more cell phone resellers to count, jewelery stores that looked like pawn shops and other sketchy stores. It was obvious that this area was where many refugees and immigrants flocked to. But I soon realized when you got away from this neighborhood things felt different. I felt a bit safer in other areas of the city and other areas were cleaner and even less crowded.
Two out of my four days I spent doing tours, which I already posted about. The other two days, Sunday and Tuesday, I spent in the city. On Sunday my plan was to go to some of the museums, it didn’t happen. I started out for Marienplatz to see the Glockenspiel do its thing, then was going to go to the museums, instead when I got to Marienplatz there was a free walking tour about to begin so I did that instead. The guide wasn’t that good, he told lots of stories and jokes but didn’t share that much history or significant info. The tour highlighted some of the important places in the old city and lasted approx. 2.5 hrs. It ended at one of the popular beer gardens, so I stayed there and had a beer. I ended up sitting at a table where a mother and her adult daughter were sitting and they are from CA. We talked and drank our beers and before I knew it, an hour and a half had gone by. I spent the rest of the afternoon walking around that area of the city.
On Tuesday I went to one of the art museums that had planned to go to on Sunday. This museum is being renovated so only part of the collection is actual available to see. Because of the renovations they even reduced the price, so it was only 4 euros for admission. They mostly had renaissance art on display, that is okay with me since that is one of my favorite periods of art. This museum focuses mainly on art before the 19th C, while their other museum across the street has 19th-mid 20th C. I was disappointed when I went across the sreet and found that musdum is closed on tuesdays. From there I went to the English gardens, similar in idea as Central Park in NY, but more beautiful. There were people sunbathing, playing sports, and walking their dogs. It was so peaceful. There is a beer garden in the park, so I took a break and had a beer and pretzel.  After about an hour I started back towards the old town. It began thundering, lightening and eventually pouring rain, but I continued on with my sightseeing.

I really like the laid back Bavarian culture, I especially like the beer garden. We really don’t have anything like this in the states. It is such a friendly way to have a beer and some food. I like that you can bring your own food or buy some there and then you sit where ever you can find an open seat. You never feel rushed because there is no waiters/esses waiting for you to leave so they can get another tipping customer. It really is a great tradition.

I have also realized I really do prefer the small city over the big ones. I really like Leipzig and Heidelberg more than Berlin and Munich. The smaller cities feel less crowded and more peaceful.

Linderhof, Oberammergau and Neuschwanstein & Pictures

July 25 – Monday
Since most museums, etc. in European cities are closed on mondays I decided to book at tour and go to the castles of Ludwig II. The tour bus left at 8am and we didn’t return until almost 7pm. A little more than half of the 11 hrs was spent on the bus travelling to and fro. The first stop was at Linderhof, King Ludwig’s hunting lodge. The grounds were beautiful and had many similarities to Versailles. The tour of the castle was approx. 20 minutes and the guide sounded like he learned the script word for word from a tape, he was pretty bad. We had barely an hour there including the tour. It would have been nice to wander through the gardens(it was raining pretty good so maybe wandering on this day woudn’t have been a good idea!). Then it was back on the bus for a short ride to the town of Oberammergau. This town is known for it’s houses that have scenes painted on them from fairy tales and other things as well and for it’s passion play(from the bible) that it puts on once every ten years. We had about 40 minutes to walk around the town, shop, eat or do whatever we wanted. Finally it was on to Neuschwanstein, the main reason most of us were on the tour. This is the famous castle in the mountains that Walt Disney based Cinderella’s castle on. Ludwig II built it to isolate himself from pretty much everyone, but before it could be completed he died. It is pretty high up on a mountain, I took a bus up most of the way and then walked to it from where the bus drops you off.  It is beautiful on the outside, takes your breath away when you catch the first glimpse of it through the trees. Our group all went on a tour of the inside. It is done with a handheld audio guide. You only get to see about 10 rooms. Some rooms were very basic and others were typical for a royal castle. He had a grotto room which was cool and the kitchen was enormous. The tour lasted about 25 minutes. After the tour I walked down the mountain and back to the meeting place. The reason all of Ludwig II’s palaces are open to the public is that when he was ruling, late 19th century, he nearly bankrupted the royal treasury with all of his building projects and craziness, so within years of his death opened up all of his palaces in order to make money.

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