Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Okay, PB wins.

I guess Blogger doesn't have much of a desire for me to put up pictures, so another Photobucket album it is. Hey, it was super-easy, so it was no problem. Enjoy!


We walked a lot today.

Another glorious day, weather-wise, in Munich today: another huge breakfast in the hotel started us off well, and we left our bags to venture out to two major museums. The Deutsches Museum is kind of like the Smithsonian, and we had done so many art museums that we thought this would be a nice change of pace. It was also only 3 Euros each, which made it a REALLY nice change. :) Anyway, it took us 45 minutes to walk there, but we didn't mind because the sun was out and there was a nice breeze. We perused the main branch for about two hours, taking in exhibits about mining, boats, airplanes, time pieces, astronomy, calculating, farming, etc. It got a little boring by the end, but overall it was pretty interesting.

After this, we hiked back across town to the best collection of paintings in Bavaria, Munich's Alte Pinakothek. It wasn't very big, but it had some impressive stuff: Durer, Rembrandt, Rubens, Titian, Raphael, da Vinci, and a few more names of note. Also very interesting were the "cartoons" by Rubens - little paintings he had made so his workshop could produce the massive-scale paintings he was known for.

We didn't have a lot of time today, as our train to Fussen was to leave at 5:20, so after the art museum we headed back towards our hotel. We decided on our way to stop by the basement grocery store of a department store and get a picnic to eat while waiting at the station, and this turned out quite well. A quick stop at the hotel to get our bags and we were off to the train station, where we spread out our dinner in the lounge and chowed down.

We took two small-ish trains to Fussen with a change in Kaufbeuren. They were almost like commuter trains, and the second one was like a hometown train, with stops in almost non-existent towns and lots of whistle blowing while going across roads. The countryside was beautiful, and as the mountains came into view, we got excited. :)

When we got into Fussen, we hiked to our hostel/pension and found an overwrought girl trying to work out rooms with "the boss" with whom she was on the phone. This resulted in a bit of standing around with heavy bags, but finally the two guys who had come right before us got a room and then it was our turn. When we finally got to the room, we asked for towels, and the girl handed us one (that looked used, by the way) and said, sorry! We were, of course, a little grossed out by this, and decided to walk around the town in search of - well - anything. It was a lovely walk with a scenic view by the river, but of course everything was closed, so no towels could be bought.

We got back to the room and two kind ladies next door gave us an extra towel they happened to have gotten, and we felt a little better about the whole situation... and then as we were getting things around for tomorrow, the overwrought girl brought us clean towels! Huzzah! Now we just have to hope everyone with whom we're sharing the bathroom takes a shower tonight and won't need in there in the morning. Yes, we're sharing a bathroom with a couple of other rooms - we had to cheap-out somewhere!

I'm going to attempt another picture post back on here, as the internet seems to be responding better here than in Munich. We head to mad ol' Ludwig's castles in the morning - we're braving the (supposedly, from what another lady here said) beautiful walking/bike trail up instead of taking the bus. We might as well. Of course, if it's raining, we'll take the bus - here's hoping for another lovely day.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Pictures, finally.

After about 123 years and much frustration, I got a couple of pictures from the last day in Salzburg and the first in Munich into a Photobucket album. Check it out here: http://s91.photobucket.com/albums/k298/blamont77/

Much love to you all!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sunny Munich!

What a difference a day and a few miles can make! Today we had a gorgeous day in Munich. We started with a giant breakfast at the hotel which ended up holding us over until right around dinner - our hotel's owner is quite generous with her spread. We headed out to the pedestrian zones, stopping at St. Michael's church and the Frauenkirche on the way to the Marienplatz. These two churches, along with St. Peter's a bit farther along, had been heavily damaged in WWII and had been completely reconstructed. St. Mike's was gorgeous, with a huge, barrel vault ceiling; the Frauenkirche was more sparse, with Gothic arches and spare furnishings. This is where Pope Benedict was archbishop before he was pope.

The street leading toward Marienplatz (which is the home of the old and new town halls) is filled with shopping and people strolling. The sun was dazzling and it was a lovely walk. We got to the square and looked around the neo-Gothic new town hall a bit, and decided to have a peek inside St. Peter's to kill the half-hour we had before the Glockenspiel was to play. However, they were having an 11 o'clock service, so we went back out to the square, found a place to park with a good view, and waited for the "performance." It was... okay. At least we got some sun.

Back into St. Peter's, which was pretty, and had some pretty creepy reliquaries, including one with an entire skeleton with eyes in the eye sockets. Brrr. Just got another chill. After this, we swung over to see what the Viktualienmarkt was all about, and it seemed pretty cool - lots of food stands and places to buy fresh meats and bread. We didn't need any food, however, so we headed out to the Residenz, where we toured the apartments and the treasury. This place wins the award for worst included audioguide EVER - it was so boring that we just gave up on it and used the plaques and some Rick Steves info to guide us.

We finally dragged ourselves out of there around 4:15 and decided it was finally time for early dinner, so we headed to the famous Hofbrauhaus. Of course it's touristy and all, but it wasn't crowded, the Radler was good, and the food was actually some of the best we've had on the trip thus far. Also, it was fairly cheap compared to a lot of the places we went, so score one for the Hof. :)

We decided to meander our way back to the hotel via the grocery store (in the basement of a department store, like Marks and Spencer in the UK) for some sweets and snacks for the train tomorrow, and have been taking it easy ever since. I can NOT get Blogger to upload any pictures for me, so I'm giving my old Photobucket account a try so I don't get behind in the posting. As soon as that is up and running, I'll post the link. Happy Monday to you all!


I guess Blogger doesn't want me to put up pics tonight - so I'll give it another go in the morning.

Today, we couldn't even SEE the hills...

...because it was raining too much! We decided to take advantage of the late check-out time to maybe let the rain let up a bit (which, of course, was a bad idea because then it started raining harder). We slogged through veritable rivers whilst it monsooned to try to at least get to the fortress on our last day in Salzburg, and it was certainly an escapade. By the time we made it over the river into the old town, it had thankfully started raining a bit less, so we walked around a little to get oriented. We then took a jaunt into the Neue Residenz to see the state rooms and the painting gallery - both of which were a little disappointing, but at least they were dry and warm! We then made the excellent decision to go back to the restaurant at which we had dinner last night because it was so good - and it didn't fail to please this time, either. The owner actually served us and he was incredibly nice (and recognized us from last night - ha!).

After lunch, we walked to the Salzburg Cathedral (pretty but very dark inside so hard to see everything - although they did have risers set up in the same place as when Chapel Choir sang there, which was cool to see), and made our way to the entrance to the tram to the fortress. The fortress isn't the most exciting thing ever, and there was still a lot of mist around when we got up there, but by the time we went through the marionette display (creepy - enjoy the pics from that!), the museums (boring), and used the WC, the weather had cleared and we could see the whole city. Lovely. You'll see a shot of the girls with umbrellas before we went inside the fortress, and then one after when it had cleared.

We had been planning on trying to get down to Nonnberg Abbey or hiking across the Monchberg to another elevator to street level, but we didn't want to risk breaking our necks, so we just took the tram back down to the street and headed back out. We popped into St. Peter's Cemetery and the church itself, got some ice cream, and picked up our bags at our hotel on our way to the train station. On our way, we found you a present, Calvin -which you'll see in the pictures, and re-enacted the scary fight we saw yesterday. :P While waiting for our train, we had our first complete cop-out meal of the trip: Burger King. You can see Becky modeling the delicious "country potatoes" we got in lieu of fries.

We got into Munich right before 9, easily found our hotel, which is inside an old building on two half-floors and run by a lady who likes to decorate with cherubs and who met us at the reception desk, and here we are! Hoping for some better weather tomorrow...

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Venice, Vienna, Salzburg pics

The hills are alive!

This morning we took a Sound of Music tour that was awesome - it was us, another family, and our guide in a beautiful little VW van thing. Our guide, Manfred, was informative and fun - he totally made fun of Becky's white legs in her shorts! Anyway, we started with a city tour and drove out to the lake country, which was absolutely gorgeous. The family we were with was a little nuts, but it didn't make the trip any less enjoyable. It was a morning well-spent.

For lunch we went to a street festival and had two rotisserie half-chickens and some awesome french fries, which we ate on the street. It was a crazy place, very crowded, and neat to see all the locals having fun. We spent the afternoon walking around, and on our way back to the hotel we saw two guys fighting and it was really scary - especially since it was between a guy with his family and a guy in a biking outfit... At the hotel we took a little nap, then walked back to the old town to eat at a recommended restaurant - it had Indian, Italian, and Austrian cuisine, was teeny and family-run, and the food was amazing. We had chicken curry with rice and a Salzburg sausage plate with kraut and potatoes - and it was all sooooooo good. The sweetened pancake with ice cream and chocolate sauce and Sachertorte we had for dessert were also good, although the Sachertorte was a little weird. We took a little stroll and made our way back to the hotel, where we were almost hit on by some guys in a terrible car...

Tomorrow we see the old town and the fortress, then leave for Munich in the evening. Pictures come next! Miss you!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Greetings from rainy Salzburg...

We've been through another day in Florence, two in Venice, and two in Vienna since the last post - and our feet still hurt. :P The weather here has been weird: it's usually sunny most of the day, but occasionally there are some random times of rainfall and/or overcast skies. We're not complaining, though - it means it hasn't been super-hot and that's good.

Venice was quite the excellent experience for us; none of us had been there before, and it was an adventure trying to navigate through alleyways that you think can't POSSIBLY lead anywhere, dead-ending at canals, and having a few peaceful minutes on a secluded bridge to rest.

We then had the - um - interesting experience of a sleeper train on the way to Vienna. We had to share with three random people, and let's just say it wasn't much fun. Cramped, rickety, weird, you name it - thankfully our overnight train from Munich to Paris involves a compartment that will be first class and only US.

Vienna was refreshing, grand, and beautiful. It's so weird to me that Italians have all of these awesome works of art and interesting food and neat history and they just don't care much about the "package" - their shops are small and run-down, some of the museums are run-down and don't seem to have much effort put into them, and the streets are small. Austrians like open spaces, lovely shop signs and windows, and really know how to showcase artwork. The Uffizi in Florence is supposed to be one of the greatest collections in the world, and there was nowhere to sit so it was very tiring. The Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna also had amazing art and amazing couches in each grand salon, along with a ridiculously beautiful interior. Strange.

Anyway, we're on our way out the door to go on the Sound of Music tour in Salzburg, and we're extremely excited. More later, with pictures!

(Austrian trains: AWESOME. Leather seats, automatic doors, yeah.)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

First round of pictures

Here are just a couple of the 3409840598 pics I've taken so far... also, Happy Father's Day, Dad! Give the dogs snuggles for us!

30 miles? No wonder my feet hurt...

Well, gang, here we are on the evening of day five, and we're completely exhausted. We've completed four days of sightseeing - 3 in Rome and one in Florence. Liz has been wearing her pedometer and we've walked approximately 30 miles in those past 4 days. Let me tell you, our dogs are barking very loudly.

Although we are tired, we're seeing some amazing things and are having lots of fun. We're determined to see as many museums and churches as we can, so we just walk as much as we can and give our legs a rest every once in a while.

Just a quick overview of what has happened so far: we got into Rome on Thursday morning, checked our bags at the train station, and spent a long, hot, sweaty day at the Roman Forum and the Colosseum. Even though we know you're "not supposed to take a nap" the first day, we needed showers badly, so we checked in at the hotel, showered, took a quick nap, and headed back out for a stroll. The next day was Vatican City day, with trips to St. Peter's and the Vatican Museum, a night stroll, and some gelato. The last day in Rome started with an appointment at the Borghese Gallery, continued with lunch on the go and a run around the National Museum, and ended with a hike and a wait at the Pantheon and our first endeavor on the European rails. We had a lovely 1.5 hour train ride to Florence and checked in at our cute hotel (our room is right on the street so Liz and I didn't sleep much). We had an 8:30 appointment at the Accademia to see the David and some other cool things this morning, then we filled in with a stroll around, a good lunch, and some yummy gelato until our 2 pm appointment at the Uffizi Gallery. We proceeded to spend 3.5 hours there looking at the amazing masterpieces, then began a search for some dinner and fruit. We're now resting in the room, hoping that giving the tootsies more time to recoup will be beneficial.

There are soooooooo many Americans here - it's kind of nice to hear a familiar language every now and then and to be able to say, "They're having mass" to explain to someone why we can't get into the Pantheon, but mostly it's annoying. Tour groups, teenagers, and parents who let their kids run around and scream suck. :P

We miss you all, and will be posting more as we can!

Barb :)