Switzerland, Austria, and Germany 2004
Labor Day, 4th of July, and Memorial Day are good times to evacuate Shore points, leaving them to the hordes of tourists. We were lucky enough to be invited on a 12 day adventure to Switzerland, Austria, and Germany with our daughter Katie and husband Tom and two of their "Hokie" friends, Matt and Paul, which included the Labor Day weekend in its time span. Katie and Tom did a great job planning the trip and Tom prepared an outstanding itinerary for us. We had previously traveled with them in Spain and the Florida Keys so we knew that we were in for an energetic trip filled with adventures. We had learned from them about traveling light; they encouraged us by giving Bill a slick backpack as a Fathers Day/Birthday present at the beginning of summer. We trained for the trip with 20 mile bike rides and 6 mile walks and spent the weeks before the trip gathering and organizing gear, including a pair of Gore-Tex trail runners for Cathy as her hiking/walking footwear (Bill had purchased a good pair of Gore-Tex hiking boots the previous fall in Bar Harbor). Thanks to the detailed information on Tom's itinerary, Bill was able to set waypoints for our hotels using his MapSource Europe CD and to download the waypoints and many of our route maps into his etrex Vista GPS unit. Bill also bought a pair of walkie-talkies and registered for an FCC license so that we would be able to communicate between our two rental cars in Europe. In addition, Bill packed a AA battery charger and electrical adapters.
Day 1 (Thursday, 9/2/04)
We packed our XTerra and left Cape May Beach at 10:00 AM. We ate lunch and ramped up our caffeine levels at the Commodore Coffee Shop along US 322 and then arrived at Katie and Tom's home in Doylestown at 1:00 PM. We were very early because we provided lots of time for any problems, but had none. Al, Tom's sister's friend, was visiting and let us in to the house. Katie and Tom arrived home, finished packing, and were ready to depart at 3:45 PM for Princeton Junction, where we took the 5:15 PM train to Newark Airport. We had dinner in a pub that was about to close its kitchen for the day; we figured it was because they were running out of food. The service was unusual to be kind, but the food was tolerable. Our Swiss Flight 19 took off at 9:41 PM while the President was addressing the Republican Convention in nearby NYC. We flew on an Airbus 330 with a confused set of in-flight movie selections.
Day 2 (Friday, 9/3/04)
We landed in Zurich at 10:30 AM with the sun shining brightly in a clear blue sky. We cleared customs without a hitch and found Matt and Paul waiting for us near the baggage claim area. Although the others had no problems, Bill and Cathy's debit cards refused to work in two different ATMs in the airport. This was a worrisome issue and left them with no Swiss Francs to spend. We picked up our two rental cars, a Peugeot and a VW Polo and ascertained that Bill and Paul would be the drivers with Tom and Matt supplying the navigation. Bill handed the walkie-talkies to the navigators, we loaded the cars, and headed toward the mountains. We quickly discovered that the roads were very clean and in great shape with excellent signage in German and English. The traffic was light, so driving was easy. There were many long tunnels which allowed us to avoid drastic elevation changes as we drove through the valleys. As would be the case for the whole trip, navigation was much more challenging. The GPS, walkie-talkies, and maps aided Tom and Matt as they directed us to a lunch stop in the village of Wilderwil, beautifully situated in the Alps. This village is the terminus of the cog railway that traverses the Eiger mountain and ends at the "Top of Europe" on the Jungfrau peak. After discovering that most of the restaurants in the village adhered to a strict policy of when food could be purchased and that we were not in an appropriate time window, we found a restaurant that would serve us food, but not show us a menu (which would break some kind of Swiss rule, we figured). Without a menu and with a waitress who barely spoke English, we all ended up with cheese or ham and cheese sandwiches which were very tasty. After lunch, we pushed on to the village of Stechelberg, where we parked our cars in a lot across the valley from a long and slender waterfall and took a gondola 2000 feet up to Murren (pics: 1,2,3) via Gimmelwald. Our luggage took another cable car for cargo only. We were overcome with the beauty (pics: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10) of the mountains surrounding us and the valley floor below. We checked in to our Hotel Alpina and discovered that we were perched on the edge of the cliff with an awesome view across the valley to the Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau. Bill and Cathy discovered that their ATM cards still were non-functional and began to be resigned to using credit cards more frequently than usual. The guys took a short hike (pics: 1,2,3,4,5,6) up the slopes above Murren. We saw and heard a man playing an alphorn. Meanwhile, Cathy and Katie took a walk around the village and also hiked a bit above Murren. We had pizza for dinner at the Edelweiss Restaurant near our hotel. A surprisingly heavy downpour occurred as we were eating. Needless to say, we were all pretty tired and turned in early, 2300 feet above the valley and 5300 feet above sea level.
Day 3 (Saturday, 9/4/04)
We awoke at 7:00 AM to a beautiful view of the mountains across the valley. The day was gorgeous - sunny and cloudless. We met for a hearty breakfast in the hotel at 8:00 AM. We shopped for lunch items and then began a hike up to the Schilthorn which presides over this side of the valley at an altitude of 9843 feet. This is a popular but strenuous hike of about 8 miles and about 5 hours duration. At first, it looks as though one is heading for the Birg Cable Car Station, but that intermediate location is only at 8780 feet and not nearly as far away from Murren as Schilthorn. Cathy scrambled up like a mountain goat while the rest of us took a more leisurely pace. We saw several paragliders soaring gracefully above. We ate lunch with a view (including a thundering avalanche on Mönch) part way up and then climbed the steepest parts (pics: 1,2,3,4,5,6) of the trail past a mountain lake (pics: 1,2) to the summit (pics: 1,2) where we enjoyed ice cream and drinks at the revolving restaurant, Piz Gloria, at the top. We took the gondola back down (pics: 1,2) to Murren at a cost of about $32 each. Upon return to the hotel, Bill spotted the Kleine Scheidegg railway station and hotel complex at the base of the Eiger across the valley. This complex was used in the movie, "Eiger Sanction" as a key site. After cleaning up, we enjoyed a cheese fondue dinner (pics: 1,2) at the Bellevue Restaurant in Murren. After dinner, Cathy, Bill, Tom, and Matt played half of a very competitive game of Hearts. We were all too tired to complete the game and put off the second half for another night.
Day 4 (Sunday, 9/5/04)
Another great day began with sun rays over the mountains across the valley. After breakfast in the hotel, we bought lunch items at the Murren bakery. We all hiked, past herds of cows ringing their bells, to the Sprutz waterfall (pics: 1,2,3), where we saw a Steinbock, which wanted to run under the waterfall, but was stopped by Cathy's scream as she and Katie were already under there. The Steinbock took a shorter route to the foliage on the other side of the gorge as we watched in awe. We hiked on to a small restaurant at the base of a ridge passing alongside and under Schilthorn. At that point, Cathy, Katie, and Matt decided to hike back to Murren and stay around there and the village of Gimmelwald. Tom, Paul, and Bill decided to hike up onto the ridge and then make further plans. It was clear to Bill that Tom and Paul intended to do an epic hike this day; he hoped that he could keep up somewhat with the younger guys. It was a hard climb up to the ridge, but then the views (pics: 1,2,3,4) were very worthwhile.We had a scenic lunch looking toward Rotstockhutte on the other side of a very musical herd of cows. We noted three waterfalls at the end of the valley and, immediately, we had the quest for the day: the waterfalls. We saw a lot of mountain bikers and some other hikers as we neared Rotstockhutte and also passed a formation that looked like a sand castle. In order to reach the end of the valley, we had to descend to the river at the valley floor. This was a long, steep, painful descent. We were very happy to finally reach the river, but when we turned upstream we found ourselves ascending once more. We discovered a hidden waterfall feeding one of the two rivers running down the valley. We had quite a long hike to get to the end of the valley, but we persevered. The temperature was cool, almost cold as we entered the shadow caused by the cliff walls which blocked the sunlight. We had to ford a very quick moving (and probably very cold) river to reach the twin waterfalls to the left of the third waterfall at the valley end. The last bit of hiking was very steep over loose gravel and stones and some snow banks. Bill's legs didn't have enough strength to go the final distance, so he had to be satisfied with the spray of the waterfalls. Tom and Paul reached the falls and went under the frigid water for a moment. The celebration was brief since we realized that we had a long hike back down the valley followed by the climb up to Gimmelwald and then the climb up to Murren. We were hiking on tired legs, but we were still game and determined to complete the journey with our heads up. Unfortunately, when we began the climb up to Gimmelwald and Murren, we had our heads down and were just moving one foot in front of the other. We finally made it up to Murren about 6:15 PM, bought some coke and water at the Chinese restaurant, and headed to the hotel. The final insult for our legs was the climb up the flights of stairs to our rooms. Bill awarded his rarely given "You're crazy as hell!" accolade to both Tom and Paul for their performance during the day; the last time Bill gave that award was for the Delaware Bay Doublecross. Perhaps Tom and Paul would like to try the "Mystery Inferno" next year. We quickly showered and magically were recovered from the long hike of the day. We ate dinner at "La Grotte" Restaurant. We spent about $24 on mineral water as we tried to rehydrate as we enjoyed our meals. Bill's "Wild Garlic Spaghetti" had an amazing garlicky aura which transferred to Bill and persisted overnight. On our last night in Switzerland, we reflected on the beauty of this area and our joint desire to return someday.
Day 5 (Monday, 9/6/04)
We had another beautiful day for our drive to Salzburg, Austria. We began with an early breakfast in the hotel and took the gondola back down to Stechelberg at 9:30 AM. This cable system from Stechelberg to Gimmelwald to Murren to Birg to Schilthorn is the longest in the Alps. After paying for parking and loading the cars, we began a long drive up and down and through the Alps. We began at a straight-line distance of 250 miles from our Salzburg hotel and an estimated time of 6.5 hours. The ascents and descents and curves and switchbacks made for exciting and scenic driving (pics: 1,2,3,4,5), but we didn't make much headway into the trip. We stopped for lunch at an alpine restaurant with a very sunny outside deck. We were collectively short of cash and had to order very carefully to avoid a stint of dishwashing. We were all a bit weary of mountain driving by this time, but we had a lot more to do before coming to our first autobahn. Although time was passing faster than the miles, we left the autobahn for a drive-by in Lichtenstein. We joined a slow moving line of traffic for about 30 minutes and then resumed driving on the autobahn. At a gas stop in Austria, Cathy and Bill were finally successful at an ATM machine and loaded up with Euros. We stopped for dinner in the surprisingly large city of Innsbruck at a beer garden in the central district. We had some great food and drink. Bill had eggs and dumplings which was reminiscent of the Spanish tortillas that he had enjoyed in Spain, but grossed out the waiter when he ordered a cappuccino to accompany the meal. The other folks enjoyed sausage and wienerschnitzel When dinner was over, we realized that we had 200 kilometers (120 miles) to go; would this drive ever end? We entered the most interesting part of all of our driving on autobahns as the sun went down. We quickly discovered that the trucks come out at night and form a conga line in the right lane, traveling far slower than desirable. The number of lanes varies from 2 to 3. Where there are 3 lanes, cars can cruise in the middle; otherwise, cars have to fit in with the trucks in the right lane. Meanwhile, there are a few cars acting like cruise missiles, speeding by in the left lane at around 120 mph. The rule of thumb quickly became: if you can see headlights behind in the left lane, no matter how far away, don't dare enter that lane because in a matter of seconds a car will zoom by. Tom later told Bill that the GPS showed a disappointing top speed of 88 mph, so the driving would have to improve. Tom's navigational skills were very challenged as he worked by flashlight with GPS and maps to get us to our hotel in Salzburg. As we made the final turns toward the hotel, the streets began to narrow and we had a flashback to Toledo, Spain a couple of years ago. We saw our hotel, Pension Trumer-Stube, at about 9:40 PM, but there didn't seem to be anywhere to park on the very narrow street. There were a pair of flower baskets in the road in front of the hotel which seemed to indicate that no parking was allowed in front. We continued to drive past and turned onto a pedestrian walkway mostly covered with people sitting at outdoor cafes staring at the cars violating their evening. At the next corner, a pair of Polizei officers stared at us from their car and wondered why a pair of cars were doing such stupid driving. Paul and Matt found a parking spot on the road, while our car headed into a parking garage a few blocks away. We needed help from the person on duty in the garage to go up the lift and out the back gate of the garage across the street from the river bank. A few homeless men were stirring and one of them did his best to use every curse and slur in his limited English vocabulary as we trudged by with our backpacks - welcome to Salzburg! We finally arrived at the locked front door of the hotel a bit after 10:00 PM. We quickly discovered that there was no one on duty at the desk. Lucky for us, a hotel guest came by, admitted us to the lobby and called the hotel owner on her cell phone. The owner had left keys for our rooms at the desk, so we were able to get into our rooms. Our long day was finally at an end.
Day 6 (Tuesday, 9/7/04)
We all discovered that we had a neighboring set of church bells that acted as an alarm clock beginning at 6:00 AM and continuing with 15 minute updates until the serious bell ringing at 7:00 AM. Bill went down to the desk and found Paul registering; Bill did the same. The owner explained that she had put out the flower baskets the night before to give us a place to park in front of the hotel. We had a good breakfast at the hotel, served by the co-owner. Cathy got in trouble by getting an inappropriate piece of bread stuck in the toaster and then trying to remove it with a metal fork; apparently, the hotel's insurance doesn't include electrocution of guests. Katie took us on a walking tour of old Salzburg (pics: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13). During the tour, we bought tickets for the front row of a string quartet concert in the high fortress for after dinner. We also toured the catacombs (pics: 1,2,3,4) within the base of the high fortress. We have seen McDonalds restaurants in several countries, but never with as low-key a sign as that on the main shopping street of old Salzburg. In spite of the nice sign, we bought food in the bustling market and picnicked under the trees in the Mirabel Gardens (pics: 1,2,3). After lunch, Bill, Tom, and Paul rented bikes and rode upstream along the Salzach River to the town of Hallein. There were well-maintained bike paths on both banks of the river. We wondered why there weren't any kayaks or rafts on this beautiful, fast-moving body of water. The three cyclists were so worried about not being late for dinner that they cut their ride short. Meanwhile, Cathy, Katie, and Matt toured the two Mozart residences and did some shopping. During the late afternoon, Bill, Cathy, Matt, and Paul enjoyed coffee at a sidewalk cafe near our hotel. After everyone got cleaned up, we walked partway up to the fortress and ate dinner at a beer garden that Paul recommended to us. We enjoyed a good, but too leisurely dinner and had to rush to make the concert on time. It was quite a thrill to enjoy chamber music by Mozart and others while in the high fortress high above Salzburg. Some of the old geezers, including Bill, did some dozing, but maybe it was due to the enjoyment of the music and the peacefulness that it brings. The long walk down from the fortress in the dark was quite an adventure in itself, but none of us had any problem with it. The remainder of the audience took the funicular back down.
Day 7 (Wednesday, 9/8/04)
On this day, Bill vindicated himself and we lost Matt and Paul. We ate breakfast with no further toaster incidents. Bill made the mistake of trying to bail out the car from the parking garage with no assistance. First of all, he couldn't find the pedestrian entrance and had to walk down the driveway, dodging speeding cars as he went. Next, he couldn't find the parking machine. There was a woman working in a glass-walled office in the garage, so Bill thought that perhaps he could pay her. The woman had very little English and, of course, Bill had very little German, so the conversation was as coherent as that between two drunk Eagles fans. The woman was able to point to a door across the garage, so Bill went over and found the elusive machine. The instructions on the machine were all in German, so Bill had to struggle to figure out what to do. After going through the correct sequence of steps, Bill discovered that the parking fee was 40 Euros, but that the machine wouldn't accept a 50 Euro bill for payment. Bill went back to the woman and tried to explain the problem. He thought that she might pony up the change, but instead she said, "You must go to the bank.", and waved her hand in the general direction of the whole garage. Bill explored the garage for a while and found a door that looked like a walk-in freezer door. He opened the door with care, expecting to find a gnomish banker inside; instead, there was a doorless corridor with steps leading upwards. Bill climbed flight after flight of stairs, finding no doors and no signs. It was just like being lost in the wrong part of the maze in an adventure game. Bill returned to the garage and finally found a lift. The codes on the buttons were unintelligible, so Bill pushed each one in turn until he arrived at a floor which seemed to be occupied. Bill asked a man behind a desk for change, but he turned out to be a travel agent and told Bill to go up two more floors. The problem was that Bill didn't know which floor he was on, so he continued to push buttons until he finally found something that looked like a bank. Bill talked to two more people and finally received change from a man that treated him like a slow 2 year old, counting out the change very slowly and deliberately. Bill now had to find the correct floor in the parking garage, rediscover the parking machine and pay for parking. All of this took no longer than 10 minutes. Bill finally was able to drive out of the parking garage and pick up his passengers at the hotel. What a great way to start the drive! As we drove out of Salzburg, we soon were in a gridlock on a narrow street with a couple of abandoned delivery trucks queued up. Luckily, behind us was a cab driver who walked down the street and made all of the traffic clear out of our way. The entire drive to Vienna was on autobahns. Tom suggested that Bill get up to 100, so he sped up to 101 mph on the GPS and was vindicated. We stopped for lunch at a rest stop with a Rosenberger's buffet and enjoyed a wonderful lunch varying from salads to wienerschnitzel. Navigating into Vienna was an exciting blur of construction, heavy traffic, one-way streets, pedestrians, and trams. The maps and GPS were of limited value because we usually couldn't take the turns that we wanted. At one point after an illegal left turn from the right lane, a short traverse on the tram tracks and a bus lane, and a 4 lane right-to-left shift that would make one of Boston's Route 128 commuters proud, Bill made a U-turn across the tram tracks onto an access road; Matt reported on the radio that a Polizei car behind them had the blue lights on and that they couldn't make the turn. That was the last radio communication that we had, as Matt's battery died. We parked on top of a pedestrian plaza for a while waiting, but then decided to try to find our hotel. Meanwhile, we were on an access road intended only for "around the block" local traffic, but we managed to turn it into a thru road for a few blocks, by ignoring traffic lights and irate drivers. Next, we entered a web of construction and circuits around blocks until Tom was able to maneuver us to the hotel. We parked in a garage around the block and took a collective deep breath. Although we had lost Paul and Matt, we had arrived at our destination and had discovered that, in Vienna, there are equally large numbers of McDonalds and sex shops, a fact that might be valuable some day. We checked into the Pension Suzanne at 3:00 PM and took up residence in our very large family apartment on the 4th floor. We were very happy with the accommodations and the hotel's location right in the center of the city. We drowned our sorrow at the loss of Matt and Paul with Frappacinos at the Starbucks across the street and took a quick look at the pedestrian walkway, reminiscent of the Ramblas in Barcelona. Tom continually broadcast on the walkie-talkie, "Are you out there, Matt?", but we got no response. We developed two conflicting theories on the whereabouts of our missing comrades. The first theory had them in police custody, posing for demeaning photos (pics: 1,2) with grinning jailers. The second theory proposed that they had found some interesting places on their tour of Vienna and were just being tourists. Satisfied that we could do nothing, we put it out of our minds. Tom returned to our quarters and Bill, Cathy, and Katie shopped for water, wine, and crackers before returning to the hotel. At 6:00 PM, we received a phone call - Matt and Paul had arrived! It turns out that they circled the city on the ring road until they found someone to direct them to a parking area near the Opera House, which they knew was close to our hotel. Then, they went into a Hertz office and purchased a map of Vienna and located the hotel. Why had they not had a map while driving? Tom had borrowed their map to help us to navigate to the hotel. We celebrated the return of our prodigal sons and got on with our Vienna visit. We had a great outdoor dinner in a restaurant on the edge of the central city park. Bill had a delicious pumpkin stuffed with pumpkin ravioli. Except for the dog that kept its head posted near Cathy's arm, we enjoyed the meal. We stopped for coffee and the famous chocolate tort at the Sacher Cafe. This was the best cup of coffee that Bill had on the entire trip, perhaps due to the beverage traveling through a chocolate-coated mouth.
Day 8 (Thursday, 9/9/04)
After checking the state of the world on TV, we started with a good breakfast in the hotel where only English seemed to be spoken. Cathy led the group on a tour of the "ring" (a clockwise running road and trams) around the central city - Katie lent her a copy of one of Rick Steve's books. We covered many of the famous buildings and sights of Vienna on the ring and in its central core (pics: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12). At one point we touched on one of the River Danube's canals, near the OPEC building. Bill decided that he wanted to see the real thing during the afternoon. On the inside of the canal, we located the ancient church, St.Ruprecht (pics: 1,2,3), in the old Roman section of the city. After our tour, we each paid 2 Euros and climbed the steps up the St. Stephen's (pics: 1,2) tower. Construction obscured the views on some sides, but it was a worthwhile climb with some good views. We ate lunch at a very crowded Rosenberg's buffet, replete with some very pushy wide-bodies playing belly-bump with us as we tried to gather some food. The food, if not the atmosphere, was good. During the afternoon, Bill walked, past the Prater Park, to the Danube River, a trip of about 3.5 miles and asked a passerby to take a photo of him at the river. He also visited a beautiful old church near the river which had been visible from the tower we were on earlier in the day. On the way back, Bill stopped in at an Internet Cafe to catch up on hurricanes and other news of the USA. The others toured the huge palace. When Bill returned to the hotel, he was just in time to join Matt, Paul, and Tom for some postcard shopping and then coffee at the Hofburg Cafe in a courtyard (pics: 1,2) of the palace. The waiter acted like a bubble-boy greeting some lepers, but he did begrudgingly bring us our orders and kept us waiting a long time for our check. We went to dinner at an offbeat wine bar, Gigele, where we had good food and apple and cheese strudels for dessert. Afterward, we had coffee at an Italian cafe near our hotel.
Day 9 (Friday, 9/10/04)
After breakfast we got a big shock when we had to pay $78 for the parking garage. We had a sunny, clear, cool day for our drive to Munich, Germany, all on autobahns. Bill managed to nip 100 mph a couple of times during the drive. We found another buffet at a rest stop for our lunch. As we approached Munich, we were hindered by the construction (pics: 1,2,3) of a new tunnel and had some difficulties trying to get to our hotel. We stopped at a Hilton Hotel to ask the concierge for directions and subsequently were parked at our hotel, Englisher Garten Guesthouse, at about 3:00 PM. Matt and Paul were located at a nearby hotel and the rest of us were put in 2 rooms in the "annex", which seemed to be a converted apartment complex. Our rooms were pretty basic, but adequate. At 4:00 PM we took a walk through the nude-friendly Englisher Garten (pics: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7), the largest urban park in Europe, to the old center of Munich. We walked around the old city (pics: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9) for a while and then had dinner at the huge Hofbrau Haus beer hall (pics: 1,2,3). Bill was able to act like the big boys with a non-alcoholic beer on tap and also found a stuffed pepper meal on a carnivore-oriented menu. After dinner, we had coffees at the Connection Cafe, near Kaufinger Strasse, one of the two shopping streets in Europe with the highest rent for rental space. Katie and Tom returned to the hotel via subway; the rest of us walked along an interesting street of cafes to get back.
Day 10 (Saturday, 9/11/04)
Except for Tom, we had breakfast at our respective hotels. At Katie and Tom's suggestion, we had decided to join a professional walking tour and hence made our way to the nearest subway stop to travel to the Munich train station to register for the tour. We had a bit of rain as Stephanie, our guide, took us around old Munich (pics: 1,2,3,4). She was very informative about Munich's history and culture and very willing to answer questions; we found the tour very worthwhile. The tour ended at the former site of a memorial to the Nazi putsch of 9 November 1923 which came to an end there when Bavarian police fired on the marchers (click here for some history of this site). For lunch, we got to experience a real German beer garden, which is divided into two areas: an area of plain wooden tables and benches where people have to get their own food and drink and an area of tables with tablecloths which have table service by a waitstaff. We found a wooden table with some room for us and then some of us went out into the Viktualien Market to fetch food and drink. The weather had cleared and the day had become quite nice by this time. After lunch, Katie returned by subway to her room to rest, while the rest of us took public transportation to the Dachau Concentration Camp memorial; Katie and Tom had already toured this site on a previous trip to Munich. When we got to the Dachau memorial, we obtained equipment for the audio tour and then spent a couple of hours touring this site (pics: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17) of the most unbelievable atrocities. When the memorial closed, we took an extremely crowded bus back to the train station and then barely made the train back to Munich (Bill had to push the emergency button on the outside of a train door to get us in). In the city, we transferred to a subway back to the hotels. Later, we ate dinner at the Trattoria Delizia, a small Italian restaurant in the neighborhood near our hotels. We had to speak a mishmash of Italian, German, and English to communicate our orders, but the food was satisfactory.
Day 11 (Sunday, 9/12/04)
Matt and Paul had decided to drive on to Zurich later in the day because of an early flight back home on Monday, so they checked out of their hotel during the early morning while we stopped at a neighborhood McDonalds for coffee. At 9:00 AM we all got together for breakfast at Bobolovsky's, an intriguing bar/restaurant that we had been walking past on our trips to and from the old city. We all had great breakfasts at a very reasonable price. On this, our last full day in Europe, it rained all day long. We had been blessed with excellent weather when it counted, but today we were planning to visit the science museum, so bad weather was actually an advantage (so we wouldn't be distracted and tempted to go outside). We walked through Englisher Garten to the Deutsches Museum, the largest science museum in the world. On the way (pics: 1,2,3,4,5) , we saw surfers working a standing wave in one of the creeks in the park. To get to the museum, we crossed over the famous "Ludwig's Bridge" over the Isar River. This bridge was the beginning of Munich. We split up in the museum along gender lines and toured (pics: 1,2,3,4) until we met for lunch in one of the museum's cafeterias. Then, we spent another hour in the museum before reluctantly leaving this most interesting place. It would take a few days to fully visit all of the displays. We walked from the museum over to St. Peters church, which actually predates Munich. Bill, Matt, Paul, and Tom climbed up the stairs of the tower for some great views (pics: 1,2,3,4,5,6) of Munich, while Cathy and Katie toured the church's nave where there was an interesting set of photos of the bomb damage from WWII. Afterward, we took the subway back and had an early dinner at Bobolovsky's where we had an eclectic mix of meals including quesadillas, schnitzel, spaghetti, fajitas, huge hamburger, and tortellini. Besides having great food, the restaurant had self-cleaning toilet seats. After dinner, Matt and Paul said their farewells and left for Zurich. The rest of us went out for cake and mineral water at a nearby cafe.
Day 12 (Monday, 9/13/04)
We decided to eat at McDonalds in order to get an early start. We checked out at 7:00 AM and illegally parked on a corner across from McDonalds. As we were bolting down our breakfast, we spotted two Polizei at the car. Bill ran across the street and managed to act stupid enough to get us out of the already written parking ticket. Bill claimed that he didn't understand the "No Parking" signs, but that he saw a blue "P" sign nearby that seemed to indicate that it was OK to park here. The cops realized that it would shorten their day considerably to forget about the whole thing. The weather was perfect once again for our long day's travel. We drove autobahns to Zurich Airport and turned in our rental car. We checked-in for our Swiss Flight 18 and then ate lunch at a pub in the airport. We spent the rest of our Euros and some more on credit card at the duty-free shop. We were early, so we had a bit of a wait at the gate before we could board. The over 8 hour flight was jammed with an amazing number of crying kids and idiots. We wondered how all of these people could have converged on Zurich airport for this flight. After we landed at Newark Airport, we hustled to the train station to wait 30 minutes for a ride to Princeton Junction. We talked with our daughter Alex and son Bill and daughter-in-law Stacey at the station and on the train. As Bill drove the XTerra toward Doylestown, with Katie's navigation, he had about 1 brain cell working. The traffic was unusually heavy for the late hour, but the traffic, the many turns on the route, and a lot of honking helped to keep Bill awake. We arrived at Katie and Tom's home at around 10:00 PM. We viewed Tom's excellent set of photos on the TV before turning in.
Postscript (Tuesday, 9/14/04)
We all awoke early due to our jet lag. Katie and Tom dragged themselves to work, while Bill and Cathy drove to Starbucks for the usual Doylestown breakfast. We called Gallo Chevy/GMC in Vineland and arranged to pick up our RV on the way home. We did so, and arrived back in Cape May Beach at around noon.
BILL: This was a really great trip with an outstanding group of fellow travelers. Our companions were enthusiastic and cooperative the whole way. My favorite photo that I took was the one in Switzerland with the silhouettes of the hikers against the backdrop of the mountains.
CATHY: Much nagging from Bill has motivated me to record my memorable moments from our recent Europe 2004 trip. The first challenge I encountered was a hike up the Schilthorn Mountain in Switzerland. How happy I was to scramble to the top! I even celebrated with a Grand Marnier (ice cream) in the revolving restaurant. Another memorable Alp's hiking scene is Katie's trepidation as a huge bovine blocked her trail in a pasture. After our long day of driving through the Alps en route to Salzburg, Austria, I'll never forget the six of us after 10 p.m. that night standing tired and forlorn in front of our locked Pension's door, wondering where we would sleep that night. In Vienna, I'll remember being a tour leader as we followed Rick Steve's walk around the inner ring of the city. Finally, at our last supper in Munich, I noted that five travelers opted for Mexican, Italian, or a huge American cheeseburger. I was the only one to stick with wienerschnitzel, probably because I don't know when or if I'll have it again. To all of my fellow travelers, you have fine senses of humor which made you great traveling companions. Thanks for the memories. By the way, my favorite photo of ours is the one up near the summit of Schilthorn which shows the mountain lake seemingly ready to spill over the edge of the cliff.
KATIE: My fondest memories of the trip mainly focus around Switzerland. It was so incredible to stay in a hotel perched over the magnificent Lauterbrunnen Valley. It was truly awesome to sleep with the windows open under the down comforters and wake up and even from the bed to see the most breathtaking views of the snowcapped Alps. The hike to the top of the Schilthorn was the most memorable day for me. Seeing Mom scurry up the extremely steep trail ahead of all of us like a mountain goat was something to see. For the whole hike up you could turn around and see a panorama that was so beautiful that it looked unreal. The second most memorable day for me was the full day in Salzburg when we all got food from the market and ate in Mirabel gardens. The day ended with the Mozart concert high above the city in the fortress. The biggest adventures of course involved the traveling from place to place during which Dad really mastered the Autobahn and who could forget the day we lost Matt and Paul. I had a great time traveling with everyone! Thanks for sharing your vacation with us! I don't really have a favorite photo since they are all so great, but here is one that I like.
PAUL: A group of people who wanted to travel together (other than bus trips to VT football games) for quite some time. And it proved worth the wait. Great trip, great experiences, great memories. I have some quotes I recorded during the trip. Here are my favorites from each person:
- "Let's go up the steep way" Katie (on deciding between trails up the Shilthorn)
- "Well, I guess we should try and catch up to the pregnant lady and 60-something retirees" Tom (after taking a break for a Kodak moment in Switzerland).
- "Yep, those cattle gates are electrified" Matt (after receiving a little shock)
- "That was some very cold water!" Paul, Tom (after dunking under a waterfall fed by glacial run-off)
- "Vasser - normal" Kathy (trying to order plain tap water - however, normal is not a German word - a confused looking waiter brought her an empty glass. That's normal!)
- "A cappuccino - now, no, now, please, now" Bill (at a biergarten in Innsbruck, trying to order a coffee before the meal, which seemed to upset the waiter - why would you do that?!)
- "Wow!!" Everyone (on multiple occasions)
TOM: From beginning to end, traveling with Bill, Cathy, Matt, and Paul was a
terrific experience. This trip was a very special reminder of why I am so fond of these people, and I wouldn't trade it for anything. My favorite picture was taken during our 4500-foot climb to the Schilthorn. It shows Matt resting, Katie laughing, and Bill watching Paul and Cathy pick their way across the boulder field toward the summit above. Across the valley, you see the Eiger, Monch, and Jungfrau under the cloudless Alpine sky. I can think of no finer thing than an adventure where the path is somewhat hidden from view and the destination is not entirely known. These journeys with friends and family are some of life's greatest blessings, and I do cherish them. Travel safely, I look forward to seeing you all soon.
1. This report was written by Bill McArthur. The use of the term "we" generally indicates any grouping of people that Bill was with at the time.
2. Photos taken by or for Bill and Cathy McArthur have names such as "pic001.jpg", those taken by or for Tom and Katie have names such as "Tom_Leitch001.jpg", those taken by or for Matt Merkle have names such as "Matt_Merkle001", and those taken by or for Paul Robinson have names such as "Paul_Robinson001".