Friday, October 29, 2010

More Fun in Bavaria

Our Alpine tour took us back into Bavaria at the beginning of week two. We spent a couple of days with Fuessen as our home base. We got up on Monday and headed out for Linderhoff Castle. This is the second of crazy King Ludwig II's castles that we visited. The grounds were beautiful and we enjoyed seeing the grotto in the back with a lake and swan boat that the crazy king had his servants row him around in -- indoors. It was also a venue for concerts and parts of Wagner operas. That guy really was crazy, but he built some beautiful places.
From there we headed to Oberamergau. This city is famous for it's Passion Play that is put on every ten years. It was put on this year, but we decided against going considering that it's five hours long and in German. I just couldn't see this group sitting through that. We did see the large theater that the play is performed in and quite a bit of religious art in the area.
The town was also very quaint and we enjoyed lunch there and some window shopping.From there, we went to Garmish-Partenkirchen. I think I just wanted to go there because the town name is a tongue twister. It had lovely architecture and we enjoyed yummy gelato there too.

The next day, we headed back to Austria to enjoy the lovely Tirol.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Three Countries in One Day and Mission Memories

From Luzern, we went to Dornbirn, Austria. It wasn't in our original plan, but road took us through Liechtenstein, so we decided to stop in the capital city of Vaduz to check things out.
The first thing we noticed about the city was the pervasiveness of public art. It was quite wonderful. We also found out that stamps are a big deal there. Apparently, a lot of people come to the city only to get the stamps. I also found out that people really like to put those stamps on postcards and send them from Vaduz so they have the stamps with the Liechtenstein post mark on them. If I were a philatelist, I would have done that. But I'm not.We walked around and found a spot for lunch. I had the wurst, but apparently Bop and Beep had the worst -- worst hamburgers that is. I'm glad I didn't go for the hamburger. We all got a kick out of the menu though. One of the burgers was called the "BURG Burger" and was described as being a "beefburger mc burg." We're not entirely sure what that means, but we weren't sold on it.We enjoyed walking around town a little more and saw the parliament building. It had a cool modern feel.We also walked to a church in the middle of town, but it was closed for renovations.From Vaduz, we went on to Dornbirn. I didn't actually live in Dornbirn on my mission. I lived in Bregenz, just a bit North of Dornbirn, but we attended the ward in Dornbirn. While I served in that area, there were two women who were baptized. I really wanted to find out if they were still there. I was so happy to be back in Austria. I think if I lived in a foreign country, it would be Austria.We arrived in Dornbirn in the late afternoon and checked into our hotel. This was a great hotel with a wonderful design aesthetic. I thought the beds were even extra comfy. Once we were settled in the hotel, we went to explore the city. We walked to the walking zone in the middle of town and found that they were having a pumpkin festival. The coolest part of that was that there was a jack-o-lantern parade with kids lighting their pumpkins and pulling them around in wagons. It was so fun to see.We also had one of my favorite dinners at a super old restaurant called Das Rotes Haus. The house was amazing (and very old) and the dinner was wonderful in every way.The next morning, we got up and went to church at the Dornbirn ward. There was no one there that I knew, but I was able to find out where a few people were. I was disappointed to learn that one woman had quit coming to church, the the other woman's husband and two of her three children also joined the church and they were still active and living in a different town now.After church, we checked out of the hotel in Dornbirn and looked around town just a bit more before heading out. We also stopped in at a Rolls-Royce Museum just outside of town. Word on the street was that it was the largest collection of Rolls-Royce cars in the world. It was pretty cool.Then we drove back into Germany and went to Neuschwanstein castle. We parked the car and bought our tickets and had almost two hours before our tour would start. We looked in all the shops and at lunch before climbing up the hill to the castle. While we hiked and waited, the skies were completely overcast and it was a bit dreary looking outside.
We went on the tour and learned quite a bit about crazy King Ludwig II. He was an interesting character and built an amazing castle.When we came out of the castle, the clouds had completely lifted and the view of the castle was amazing. As we hiked back down to town, we saw the view of the castle on the hill and it was just wonderful. We had a great time visiting the castle and enjoying the scenery.
After leaving the castle, we headed to Fuessen, Germany and checked into our next hotel. It was a small guest house in a small suburb of a small town. The adjoining restaurant was our only choice for a dinner destination, so we tried it out. We all had to laugh when they asked us if we had a reservation when we showed up. It was just funny in such a small town like that. The dinner was fantastic though and we all enjoyed our evening.

Mishap One of Two on the Alpine Tour

Actually, I should qualify "mishap" as nothing really too bad. I'm so grateful for a trip that was blessedly free of any major problems.

On our drive from Luzern, Switzerland to Dornbirn, Austria, we drove on the Swiss Autobahn. It was delightful to drive on the fast open road. On our way, we stopped for gas at a rest stop right off the Autobahn. After getting gas, I moved the car to wait for the rest of our friends. That's when the Swiss police officer knocked on the window.

I tried not to panic, but that was a tall order. The officer asked me in German if I was driving my car. I answered that it was a rental car. I'll admit now that I was a bit wicked and also spoke with my worst American accent. That's when he asked me if I spoke German and I answered "a little" again with a bad American accent. Then he proceeded in English to tell us that we were driving without paying the toll for the Autobahn. The fine is $120 for not having the sticker. I had heard that police officers expect you to pay fines on the spot and they're not very nice about it. I was very concerned, but tried to play it cool.

We were talking to this officer on one of his good days. He told me to go into the gas station and buy the toll sticker (for $40) and told us that we would need one for Austria as well. And we didn't have to pay the fine. The man that sold me the toll sticker seemed to think I lived the charmed life. He couldn't get over the fact that I didn't get the fine. That made me even happier for the situation.

Once I got back in the car and put the sticker in the window, all was well. We all breathed a sigh of relief and were very vigilant to find a place to buy a sticker for Austria so we wouldn't have the same problem there. As nice as the police officer ended up being, I didn't want to talk to any more.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

And We're Off to the Alps

After a couple of days in Munich, we headed Southwest toward Switzerland. Beep found this wonderful design museum just outside of Basel, Switzerland in Weil am Rhein, Germany. The Vitra Design Museum really was a highlight for two reasons. First, the buildings and displays were fantastic. I loved the way they created rooms to show the furniture and other things.
At every turn, I felt like there was something new and interesting to see.
Second, because of the amazing weather that day, the views from the museum windows were some of the best I've seen. Like Beep, I was interested in finding something in the museum shop to take home. Alas, everything was far beyond my means, so I didn't buy anything there.
From Weil am Rhein, we continued South into Switzerland and to Bern. We had a lovely, centrally located hotel in the city and we were able to go explore a little our first evening there. We had dinner at an outdoor cafe, where we were reminded how very many people in Europe smoke. It was anything but delightful when our waiter sat at the next table over from us smoking.The next day, we headed out to Zollikofen, just outside of Bern, and visited the temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. There was a little stress in finding the temple because the street it was on is a private street and didn't show up on the GPS. This turned into another "opportunity" for me to practice my German as I had to ask for directions from someone I stopped on the street. Fun times! Once we were there, though, it was wonderful. All the people were so nice and I got to see a couple that lived across the hall from me when I was a missionary there.After we got back to Bern, we did a bit of a walking tour of the city. We visited a beautiful church. I loved the decoration on the doors.
We also went to the bear pits that didn't have the bears in them. The pit was being cleaned, so the bears were in another more open area next to the river. It looked like fun for the bears, so we didn't mind too much.We also saw the Bern landmark, the Zytglogge.Then we went to the botanical gardens. It was interesting, but somewhere along the day I had twisted my knee and it hurt really bad, so I wasn't too interested in climbing the hills of the garden. Everyone else saw a lot more interesting things than I did, but that's the breaks. The good news was that the hurt knee went away the same way is showed up -- mysteriously and for no reason.The next day, we headed out of town to the Berner Oberland. This is perhaps some of the most beautiful land on earth. We went to Interlaken where we looked around a bit, then headed for the mountains.
We got on one gondola that took us up, up, up. That took us to a train that wound us around the mountain and up some more.Then we had to walk through one of the cutest towns ever to get to another gondola. It was fun to pass a group that looked like an alphorn band, but they were all Chinese.
Then we rode our second gondola and then a third one to get to the top of Shilthorn, featured in the movie On Her Majesties' Secret Service. Fortunately, we didn't really get our Bond on. That would have been a little much, especially as thin as the air was up there.
From there, we headed down the mountain and on to Luzern. Again, we had a perfectly located hotel. It was right on the river, just a quick walk to the middle of town. This was the one place that I think we didn't stay long enough in. It felt rushed to see the sights of the lovely town before we had to move on.We did enjoy the farmers market, especially the bread and produce.And we went to see the Luzern Lion Monument.
From there, we had a whirlwind trip to the tree museum. It was hard to find, but well worth it once we found the right place.The outdoor garden displays were so unique and beautiful.And that's where the Swiss portion of our tour ended.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Bavarian Fun

Once we got settled in our apartment in Munich, our next order of business was to go into town to look around and have our first authentically German meal. First, we had to figure out how to pay for U-Bahn (underground train, a.k.a. subway). The instructions were all in German, but we found out that you could buy a day ticket for a group, so that's the route we took. Our apartment was a quick walk from the U3 station that could take us directly to Marienplatz in the heart of the city.
Once we got to Marienplatz, we took a fair number of pictures of the Rathaus, then walked around the walking zone and were shocked at the number of people in lederhosen and dirndles (those clothes that look like Oktoberfest costumes). I assumed that most of the folks we saw must be going to or from work in a restaurant, but there were far too many to attribute to that. They simply were everywhere. It was surprising, but kind of fun, too.
After our walk, we went to a restaurant in the basement of the Rathaus right on Marienplatz in the middle of town. They had a traditional Bavarian menu, so we all got the traditional meals. I had schnitzel and the DH had wurst. It's about as Bavarian as it gets. The meal was good and we enjoyed our first foray into the traditional. After that, we were pretty pooped and headed back to the apartment for some sleep.

The next day, we started at the Viktualien Markt. We bought fresh meat, pasta, bread, and produce to have for dinner that night. The shops were delightful and had all kinds of fresh local fare. I think the DH's favorite was the greek shop with a large variety of olives, marinated garlics, and marinated peppers. It looked amazing and the few things we bought lived up to the anticipation. They were fantastic. We also got a couple of Greek spreads that were wonderful on the fresh bread we had.
After the market, we headed out in the car to the BMW museum. We had to check out the actual showroom first. It was wonderful to see all those beautiful cars. It almost made me want to buy one -- almost! I guess I'm just too practical to have a BMW here, but in Germany they're considered regular cars, not just luxury cars. They were everywhere. We then visited the museam and got to see the history of BMW and many of the engines, motorcycles, airplane engines, and cars that they've manufactured over the years. I loved the BMW Isetta. It's the smallest car I've ever seen, even making the new Smart Cars look big in comparison. It reminded me of a cartoon car. I had to have one of my own, so I bought one that's two inches long. It's cute as a bug.
After the BMW museum, we made our way farther out of town to visit the Dachau Memorial. We did the self-guided walking tour and spent time on the grounds as well. The only rain we had on the trip was while we were visiting Dachau. I guess that's fairly appropriate. It was a stark reminder of what hatred and fear can create and had me thinking about current events regarding Muslims. I was glad we went there, but also glad to leave those painful reminders behind.
We spent the evening at the apartment eating dinner that we prepared ourselves. We had way too much after wanting to try a little bit of everything that looked good at the market. We had also made our first trip to the grocery store and the boys had a great time with that. They loved all the crazy new brands and products that they were unfamiliar with, and seeing the German take on brands they did know. We also played some cards (a great new game to the DH and I called Nerts). The next day we would be moving on to our next destination.