Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Switzerland & Liechtenstein

Lynda at the Eagle's Nest overlooking the Alps

The Eagle's Nest

Gasthaus in Davos - those must have been some BIG cows!


The Alps addendum

Basel, August 5, 2015

We must be in a bit of a fog this morning. It is 3:00 a.m. in Mason.  We totally left Lichtenstein out of the last posting.  We left Davos and drove to Lichtenstein, the last monarcy in the Alps. Lichtenstein is one of the five smallest countries in the world along with Monacco, Andorra, San Marino, and Vatican City; all of which we have visited.  We stopped in Vaduz and walked around a bit.  We think Vaduz is the capital of Lichtenstein but don't know that for a fact.  What we do know is that Valduz is a beautiful town. There is a lovely pedestrian area with shops but most noteworthy is the art.  All along the street there were wonderful statues and objects d' art.  It was great to see a city so committed to art.  We left Lichtenstein and went on our merry way towards Basel.

The Alps

Basel, Switzerland, August 5, 2015

Monday morning we were up bright and early, bright and early being a relative term.  Actually, we were checked out of our hotel, and on the road back to Eagles Nest by 8:30 a.m.  Eagles Nest in Obersalzburg was where Hitler had all of his meetings and planning sessions when he was not in Berlin.  It sits atop an Alp at 2750 meters which in feet is.....
A lot. Visitors park at a bus station about half way up the mountain.  A bus takes you the rest of the way up the only  road the leads the rest of the way up to Eagles Nest.  At the end of WWII the British air force bombed Eagles Nest destroying all but one building.  That building is now a restaurant.  However, there were still vestiges of the oppulance that Hitler had created.  It was a sunny, spectacular day so we were rewarded with spectacular views of the Alps in all directions.  We could easly see Salzburg 30 miles away.  In addition to Eagles Nest, a series of bunkers were built into the mountain.  These bunkers were where many of the meetings took place and also provided Hitler with a haven in case of bombing.  (Historical note: Hitler was not at Ealges Nest when the British bombed it.)  The bunkers remain but are basically empty, concrete hallways and rooms.  We visited them but saw little of interest.

Upon leaving Obersalzburg, the plan was to spend Monday night in Davos, Switzerland.  Lynda mapped out our route that took us on small, two lane (most of the time) roads through the mountains towards Davos.  We drove through miles of spectacular scenery which Lynda thoroughly enjoyed.  It was very difficult driving for Tim.  But you all know the rule:  Happy Wife, Happy Life. We did arrive in Davos where we stayed in a typical Swiss Gasthaus, think Tyrolean B 'n B.  We picked Davos because it is in the news regularly for all sorts of important international meetings. There is a large, very contemporary Intercontinental Hotel in Davos as well as an impressive conference center.  Otherwise, Davos looks like any other Swiss town.

Tuesday morning we continued to drive through seemingly unending beauty before finally hitting a four lane divided highway.  After Tim's brief prayer of Thanksgiving for finally finding this highway we drove onto Basel, our destination for Tuesday night.  A former student of Tim's lives with his family in Basel and we joined them for an evening of good food and delightful conversation.

This will be our last blog posting on this trip as today, Wednesday, we will visit friends in Luzcern and tomorrow fly home.  As always, it has been a pleasure to report to you on our many adventures.  We have enjoyed and appreciated your comments both on the blog site and on facebook.  Until we see you back home.

Guten Tag

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Sites of Salzburg

Easter eggs in Salzburg

Salzburg Dom Cemetery

Us at Mozart Dinner Concert Salzburg, Austria

Musicians at Mozart Dinner Concert

More Salzburg

Salzburg, Austria  August 1, 2015

There is a lovely pedestrian only street in the old town of Salzburg with lots of wonderful shops. This is where we started our Saturday.  We did some souvenier/gift shopping and lots of browsing as well as people watching.  We found one shop that was filled with nothing but eggs.  Real eggs that had been blown out.  We assume some ingenious Austrian came up with a way to do this with a machine.  Half of the shop contained eggs decorated in all manners for Easter and the other half for Christmas.  There were the old fashion heavy cardboard egg cartons all over the store so you could pick out your eggs, place them in the egg carton and be assured that the eggs would arrive home safely, in one piece. The salespeople were adamant that this really does happen.

Our first sightseeing stop was the Salzburg Dom (Cathedral).  This Cathedral was built in a baroque style as oppossed to the gothic style of the other great Cathedrals we have visited. It was refreshing for us to see a different style.  We made another great find outside of the Cathedral.  Regular readers of our blog are aware of Lynda's fascination with cemeteries.  Even Tim finds it interesting to see how different cemeteries are from one country to the next.  Well, the cemetery outside of the Salzburg Dom moved very quickly to the top of our list of favorite cemeteries. It really is beautiful and it is still a working cemetery.  We saw several grave sites where a dearly departed had been buried this year.  To add to the beauty, there were contempary wooden sculptures interspersed among the gravesites throughout. The sculptures were all done by the same artist and there was a small display of his work in the chapel on the grounds.  This was one of those lovely surprises we encounter while traveling that keeps us coming back for more.

Our next stop was the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.  This was the first of two lhomes he and his family lived in in Salzburg.  Mozart was a true child protigy.  By the age of  5 he could play both the piano and violin and by 8 was already composing.  This first house had only five rooms with both of Mozarts parents and his sister sharing a bedroom along with young Wolfgang.  We experienced a new wrinkle in the travel industry at this site. Immediately after purchasing tickets, there were instructions for downloading a free app to your phone that was your guide through the house/museum.  The second Mozart house we visited also did this with an audio app.  Mozart's father took  young Amadeus on grand tours of Europe showing off his son to the royality of Europe. By all accounts Mozart was a happy child, albiet, an extremely precocious one.  As Mozart grew older, his father realized that Amadeus and his sister could not continue to sleep in the same room so the family moved across the river to a larger apartment.   We visited both houses and the second home was much grander then the first.  We heard no explanation that would indicate if the home had been significantly upgraded after the Mozarts left it or if, in fact, it was that much nicer then their first. While not wealthy, Mozart's father as well as Amadeus himself were well to do.  We won't bore you with further facts.  If any of you by chance have seen the movie, Amadeus, keep in mind that much of whats in the movie is not true to fact. Shocking, we know.

The Mozart theme for the day continued into the evening as we attended a Dinner/Concert of Mozart music. The dinner/concert took place in a beautiful second floor room of a local restaurant. The concert was presented by 5 string players and a soprano and a bass. They opened the evening with selected arias from Mozart's opera, "Don Giovanni". After our first course of a lemon chicken soup with a cheese curd dumpling, the musicians performed selections from Mozart's, "The Marriage of Figaro". The main course followed consisting of breast of Capon on a wine reductions sauce, potato gratin and carrots. The concert portion of the evening finished with selections from "The Magic Flute".  Dessert followed.  It was a fun evening. The musicians were top rate and entertaining and the food was excellent.

This morning, Sunday, we awoke to rain and fog.  The plan had been to drive south out of Salzburg to the Eagle's Nest, a home on top of a mountain that Hitler occupied during the war. This home is at 6000 feet and has spectacular views which we were sure would be hidden in the clouds. Instead, we visited the Salt Works at Brechtesgaden.  This is the oldest  salt mine in Europe if not the world. The mine was begun in 1220.  Sometime in the distant past this area south of Salzburg was flooded and contained a huge salt lake. Later, as the Alps were formed, the rising mountains covered the lake.  When it was finally discovered it was salt deposits. The tour took us by train deep into the mountain where the whole mining procedure was explained.  From the 1200's through to the 1900's miners used pick axes to extract the salt from the mine.  With the introduction of machinery a system of injecting spring water into the salt deposits is used now to bring the salt to the surface. A brine is formed with the introduction of water.  This brine is eventually pumped to the surface where the water is evaporated leaving the salt.  Visiting the salt mines was a good plan B for a rainy day.  After the tour we went into Brechtesgaden, another delightful Alpine village where we sat with a drink and watched the world go by.

Tomorrow's weather is suppose to be much nicer so we will head back to Eagles Nest first thing in the morning and then start winding our way back towards Switzerland.

Until the next posting, Guten Tag.

Friday, July 31, 2015

The Hills are Alive and Look Beautiful!

The back of the Von Trapp's"house"
The wedding church

Interior of the wedding church

Salzburg: Special "The Hills are alive" edition

Salzburg, July 31, 2015

After Jocey was safely off the ground, happily headed back to family and friends in Hartland, we went to check into our flight to Zurich, Switzerland by way of Dusseldorf, Germany.  Don't ask.  As we were checking in there was a major power outage throughout the airport. Computer terminals still functioned, but conveyor belts did not, so none of the luggage could be moved.  Everything came to a stand still.  It was hot, and tempers were on edge.  We were flying a German airline which meant that a few of the German passengers were convinced that the whole thing was an Italian conspiracy.  Bottom line is that we ended up in Zurich about 30 minutes later then planned but the good news was our luggage arrived with us.  We collected our rental car and headed for Salzburg.  Before the trip Tim had done a calculation on mapquest and determined it would take about 4 hours to drive from Zurich to Salzburg.  It took closer to 5 and a half. It was probably a breathtaking drive, but as most of it was done after dark we will never know.  The fun started when we arrived in Salzburg as our rental car did not have GPS.  Have you ever looked at a German map? Ever tried pronouncing German street names. It's like talking with your mouth full of Weiner Schnitzel! At 1:00 in the morning we are stopping people on the street for help in finding our hotel.  We are lucky we weren't arrested.  Like much of our travel, we just kept blundering along and finally found the hotel. The hotel and area around it certainly looked better in the daylight then at 1:30 in the morning.

Today's major event, and why we are blogging tonight, was "The Sound of Music" Tour. Tim  picked this one out.  Lynda was happy to go along because, 1. she does like "The Sound of Music" and 2. the brouchure promised a bus ride into the Austrian country side.  She did say she refused to do any of the "sing-a-longs" on the bus.  What a party pooper.  Actually, she did get into the spirit of things, eventually, and joined in enthusiastically on "Do, Re, Me". The tour visited several of the sights where filming for the movie took place. This may shock you, but none of the filming was done in the home where the Von Trapp's lived or the church where the Captain and Maria were married. The Abbey in the movie is actually the Abbey that Maria was in, but, of course, we did not go there.  Two different castles were used to represent the Von Trapp estate, one for front exterior views and one for back exterior views. Robert Wise, the movie's producer, actually wanted to use the original house but at the time of filming the house was owned by a religious sect and they were not happy to have the film crew there, hence, plan B: two houses.  Our first stop was the rear exterior house.  It is a private residence now, owned by Harvard University believe it or not, so we had stand on the other side of the small lake you may remember from the movie to view the house. But still.  Maria and the kids fell out of the boat into the lake there.  Leisl and Friedrick kissed in the gazebo there. An aside: in 1991, the owners of the home donated the gazebo to the city of Salzburg and it was moved to a public park.  Our second stop was the public park to view the gazebo.  We did gather round our guide and sing the first line of "You are 16 going on 17".  At least, most of us did. More inside movie stuff. The gazebo we saw was used only for exterior shots.  It was too small for the choreography of the song. Leisl actually injured her ankle during rehearsal. So an exact replica, one and a half times larger, was built on the sound stage in Hollywood for the gazebo scenes.  Next, we did a drive by of the front exterior house.  It is also a private residence and there was no where for us to park a bus and walk up to get a picture.  It looks a rather bit less imposing in person then on the silver screen.  Our last stop was the church where the Captain and Maria's wedding took place.  It is in this lovely village about 45 minutes outside of Salzburg.  Along the way there was a stop for pictures of some drop dead beautiful scenery.  Once again, it was exciting to immediately recognize the outside of the church as well as the inside once we entered.  It really is a beautiful church. Lynda was so caught up in the moment that she walked down the entire length of the main aisle, holding her book like a bouquet of flowers. We were given extra time in Mondsee, the name of the village, to visit a local souvenier shop for "Sound of Music" cd's and dvd's, plus copies of the books that the real Maria Von Trapp wrote. Ugh!  We did take time to sample a famous Austrian apple strudel. On the way back to Salzburg we watched an interesting video of behind the scenes stuff about the movie with the women who played Leisl as the narrator. This video was unfortunately interupted for a couple of more sing-a-longs. Once back in Salzburg, our guide gave us a quick bonus tour. Next to our drop off point were located the Mirabel Gardens, supposedly world famous gardens, but maybe not so much as Lynda had never heard of  them.  At any rate, these gardens were used for part of the famous "Do, Re, Me" scene in the movie. We saw the fountain where the children walked around on the edge and the steps featured at the very end of the song.

We hope this quick, bonus edition of the blog hasn't bored you. Tim, in particular, found the tour to be exciting and great fun and was anxious to share it with you.  Tomorrow we will get back to more mundane travel news about Salzburg and include a review of our dinner/concert tomorrow evening featuring Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.  Maybe the "Sound of Music" Tour looks better now.

Guten Tag