Germany and Austria 2017

This year we traveled to Germany and Austria to go on another RV vacation with Lothar, Monika, and Töönchen. The following is the blog that I posted each day during our trip.

Saturday June 10, 2017

Our good friend Jim took us to the airport Friday afternoon to catch a 7:30PM flight to Reykjavik, Iceland. That flight was 6 hours, plus a 5 hour time zone change. So that means we landed in Reykjavik at around 6:30AM Saturday morning. About one hour before landing, we flew over Greenland.

This time we made our connecting flight in Reykjavik, so no unscheduled detour in Iceland. With a one hour layover, a 3.5 hour flight to Munich, and a 2 hour time zone change, that means we landed a little past 1PM Munich time (5AM Minneapolis time).

We took a taxi to the Platzl Hotel, located in the old part of downtown Munich and within walking distance of many historical sites. However, after 2 days of travel with poor sleep on the plane, we went straight to bed after getting up to our room. We don't meet up with Lothar and Monika and Töönchen until Monday at noon at the RV rental place. So we have plenty of time to rest up and recover from jetlag before heading out for our RV trip.

We did run into one small problem....Sue turned on the TV in the hotel room with the remote and now we can't get it to turn off, and we are too tired to figure it out for now. Time to get some sleep....

Sunday June 11, 2017

The TV finally turned itself off around 4AM. I don't know how it did it. I don't care how it did it. I just know we are not touching that remote for the rest of our stay.

We got a good nights sleep. The hotel has a very nice breakfast buffet. A lot of variety. I had my typical American style breakfast with scrambled eggs and bacon and pancakes. Sue ate some weird stuff she said was good...I'm not sure what it was...

After breakfast we headed out on foot to see the town. We are only two blocks from the old city center (Marienplatz). The bell tower of the neo-gothic New Town Hall (Neues Rathaus) contains Germany's largest Glockenspiel. We got there just before 11AM for the show.

Then we found a rickshaw tour that lasted for one hour. It was great not having to walk. I know we would never have walked as far as this guy was able to take us. He took us to the English Garden (Englischer Garten), which was about one mile from our hotel. Once we got to the park he drove us another couple of miles through the park. It is one of the largest parks in the world and is based on English landscape architecture.

After the ride he dropped us off at the Hofbräuhaus, which is just on the other side of the block from our hotel. We went back to the hotel for the afternoon and took a nap before going out for dinner and beer. We had pizza at a nearby restaurant, then we walked over to the Hofbräuhaus for a beer and listened to an old time German polka band.

On Monday, we will check out of the hotel and take a taxi to the RV rental place where we meet up with Lothar, Monika, and Töönchen.

Monday June 12, 2017

This morning, we checked out of our hotel in Munich and took a taxi to Sulzemoos, which is a small town northwest of Munich where the RV rental place is located. We met up with Lothar, Monika, and Töönchen and had a nice reunion, visiting and catching up on things. We had to wait an hour or so when we got there before the RV was ready, so we went over to Lothar and Monika's RV in the parking lot across the street to visit.

When the RV was ready, they gave us a demonstration on how things worked. Too much information. Hopefully I can remember the important stuff. Once again I find myself driving a big vehicle in Europe on little tiny narrow roads. Hopefully, I didn't run that bicyclist off the road as I passed.

We stopped at a grocery store for food and supplies and beer. Then we drove to our first campsite at Schwangau which is within walking distance (a very long walk) of Neuschwanstein Castle, a nineteenth-century Romanesque Revival palace built on a hill by King Ludwig II of Bavaria. This is the Castle that served as a model for the Sleeping Beauty Castle of Disneyland. We are right at the foot of the German Alps, so the drive to this campsite was absolutely gorgeous.

The name of this campground is called Campingplatz Bannwaldsee.

After settling in at our campsite, Monika and Lothar made us a very nice dinner, plus beer. On Tuesday we plan on visiting the Castle, as we are staying at this campsite for two nights.

Tuesday June 13, 2017

It is nice that we planned to stay at our first campsite two days. This gave us time to spend an entire afternoon visiting the world famous Neuschwanstein Castle built by King Ludwig II of Bavaria. A benefit to staying at this campsite is we get a free bus ride into town and the location where you can take another bus ride up to the Castle entrance. There is no room for parking, so they do not allow cars to drive up to the Castle. The bus is the only way up, if you don't want to walk for 30 minutes climbing a hill.

We did not actually go inside the Castle. If you want to do that, plan on getting there early and perhaps make reservations ahead of time, as the tours are limited and on many days they are sold out. Once inside, there is a lot of climbing up and down stairs, which we didn't want to do. Instead, we took pictures up close from the outside. As it turned out, there was plenty of climbing up and down hills on the trails that lead to the Castle, so we were worn out just walking up to it.

Another trail took us to the Marienbrücke (Marien bridge), which stretches across a valley next to the Castle where you can get a good view. The picture above was taken from that bridge.

We also took a cable car ride (Tegelbergbahn) up a mountain, about 5,700 feet up, with spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and valley below. That ride also gave us a good view the the Castle as we were going up.

Lothar and Monika made another famous meal for us when we got back to the campsite. All and all, this was a very good day.

Wednesday June 14, 2017

Today we left the campground in Schwangau around 11AM and drove to the Pilgrimage Church of Wies (Wieskirche), designed in the 1740s by the Bavarian architect Dominikus Zimmermann. Lothar said we can't see Bavaria without seeing this Church with all of its ornate decorations and paintings on the ceiling.

Then we drove to our second campsite in Oberammergau, which is a famous village in the Bavarian Alps known for its once-a-decade performance of the Passion Play. All of the actors in the play are from this village. After setting up camp, Monika, Susan, and I walked into town to do some shopping and sight seeing.

Lothar and Monika made another famous meal for us in the evening.

Thursday June 15, 2017

We left the campground in Oberammergau around 11 AM. The plan was to stop and have lunch along the shores of Lake Walchen, but as we drove through the valley, every possible location to park was full, with people parking even in spots where you are not supposed to park. They are celebrating Corpus Christi this year on this date in Bavaria, so all of the stores are closed and everyone is on holiday.

We also made a brief stop at Garmisch-Partenkirchen for some pictures, the location where they held the 1936 Winter Olympics in Germany.

The rest of the day was spent driving to our third campsite in Bergen Bavaria. We had planned on camping next to Lake Chiemsee which is just a few miles away, but all of the campgrounds on the lake were full. Corpus Christi is a big holidy in Bavaria, like Christmas and Easter, so everybody has a long weekend holiday to head to the lakes. Lothar said that if you want to reserve a campsite ahead of time on a holiday like today, you have to reserve it for an entire week, not just for one or two days. So unless you arrive early in the day, you probably cannot get a spot on the lake. Our campground is not on the lake, but it is still in a nice location. We are right along the northern edge of the Alps with tall mountains right next to our campsite.

Friday June 16, 2017

Traveling Europe by RV has many advantages. The RV is your hotel room, kitchen, and transportation. You unpack your suitcase once, like staying in the same hotel for the entire trip. Once you get used to where things go and how things work, you get into a daily routine that takes some of the stress out of traveling.

But the RV is also work, having to set up and tear down camp at each location, service the camper by filling up on fresh water and dumping your waste tanks, and having to secure things inside the camper before moving so that things do not go airborne while driving down the highway.

Sometimes you have a tendency to over do it, trying to visit too many places and do too many things. We decided today would be a good time to take a break and not go anywhere or do anything. So we decided to spend a second day in Bergen and rest up. We had a very relaxing day sitting around visiting and telling jokes. Lothar has a sense of humor that had us laughing all day and evening. We also had another famous meal prepared by Monika and Lothar. It is good to have such good friends to travel with. But of course, that is after all the most important part of any journey...the people you are traveling with.

Saturday June 17, 2017

Today we are camping in a small village next to lake Königssee, a natural lake in the extreme southeast Berchtesgaden Land district of the German state of Bavaria. We are right next to the Austrian border and surrounded by tall mountains.

After setting up camp, we walked to the lake and took a boat ride. The lake looks very similar to a fjord in Norway, with vertical cliffs going straight up for thousands of feet. It looks like a glacier carved out the valley thousands of years ago.

The boat ride lets you off half way down the long narrow lake in a remote spot of the lake where you can buy tourist stuff and sit down for lunch and a beer. Then you can hop back on the next boat heading back to town. Numerous boats ferry people back and forth across the lake to this spot, where the picture above was taken.

After going back, Lothar and Monika prepared another famous meal while Sue and I did some shopping.

Sunday June 18, 2017

Two years ago, we took an RV vacation with Lothar, Monika, and Töönchen to Normandy France. Lothar and I made a video from the cliffs overlooking Omaha Beach about our father's experiences during World War II. Lothar's father served in the German Army, and my father served in the U.S. Army. They were enemies during that war, but now their sons are best friends. In that video, I included an interview with my father about his experiences during his time in the military. He talked about seeing combat in France. After the war ended, he was transferred to a unit in Austria where he delivered food to German prisoners of war. So we decided for this trip, we would drive the route through Austria that my father drove each day on his grocery run.

After leaving our campground near Königssee, we drove across the border from Germany into Austria. We then drove through the town of Hallein which was one of my father's first stops after picking up groceries in Salzburg. We then drove through Golling which had another prisoner of war camp. In that camp, my father traded a pack of cigarettes for a canteen that a German prisoner had painted for him.

His last stop was to drive up into the mountains to deliver food to smaller work camps, and then back to his base camp in the town of Abtenau. We are camped about one mile from Abtenau, surrounded by tall mountains. The town has changed since my father was here, but the mountains are the same. The picture above shows the mountain my father would have looked at each day while he was stationed in Abtenau.

Monday June 19, 2017

After leaving our campground in Abtenau, we headed up a mountain road which took us to an elevation of about 4,300 feet. We stopped for pictures along the way at a turn off in the road. I kept my eyes on the road and hugged the inside lane as much as I could so that I would not look over the edge and faint. It is strange that in Europe where the roads are already narrow, they get even narrower when you are climbing up a mountain.

There is a ski resort along this road called Postalm Wolfgangsee. We stopped there for an authentic Austrian lunch.

Then we headed down the other side of the mountain to a campground in St. Wolfgang, Austria. This campground is right on the lake. We plan on spending two days at this campground.

Tuesday June 20, 2017

Peter Alexander was an Austrian actor, singer, entertainer, and host of a number of television shows in the 1950s and 1960s. His fame and popularity in Germany and Austria was similar to how American audiences viewed someone like a Dean Martin or a Doris Day. He was multitalented and popular in music, movies, and television.

In 1960 he starred in Im weißen Rößl (The White Horse Inn), a German remake of a famous musical comedy about the head waiter of the White Horse Inn in St. Wolfgang Austria, who is desperately in love with the owner of the inn, a young woman who only has eyes for one of her regular guests. The film is to Germans and Austrians like the Sound of Music is to Americans.

The movie was filmed on location here in St. Wolfgang, and the White Horse Inn is less than one mile walking distance from our campground. So Lothar, Sue, and I walked into town to have lunch at an outdoor cafe across from the Inn where the picture above was taken. Lothar kept saying "I can't believe I am here," and kept looking over at the inn while we were having lunch. Lothar and Monika have seen the movie some 50 times and he wants to show it to us from the TV in his camper one of these evenings when we have time.

After lunch we took a 20 minute speedboat tour of the lake and then dropped Lothar off at the campground, while Sue and I took a train ride that climbs the mountain overlooking St. Wolfgang and the lake. The train took us up to a viewing platform at an elevation of 5,700 feet. After the ride, we headed back to the campground for the evening.

Wednesday June 21, 2017

Today is what I call a transfer day. A day where we tear down our camp, empty the RV's waste tanks and fill up on fresh water, drive to a store for groceries and supplies, and then drive to a new location and re-set up our camp. It is a bit of work to do this, even for short distances. By the time we are settled in at the new campground, it is mid-afternoon, with not much time to go anywhere or do anything other than take a nap and then prepare for the evening meal.

Today we are camped just outside of the city of Salzburg, Austria. This is the city where Mozart was born. This is also the location where they filmed the Sound of Music, the 1960's musical about the life of the Von Trapp Family, starring Julie Andrews. The campground is very nice and within walking distance of a bus stop that can take us downtown where all of the museums are located.

We were able to purchase special passes at the campground that gives us two days to ride any of the city buses, get into a number of museums, and go and do other tourist stuff. We plan on staying at this campground until Saturday morning, so that should give us plenty of time to take the bus into town and see the Mozart Museum, and possibly go on a Sound of Music tour, where they take you to the locations where they filmed the movie. We will see how much we are actually able to do in the next two days.

After dinner, we watched the movie Im weißen Rößl (The White Horse Inn) starring Peter Alexander on Lothar's TV from his camper.

Thursday June 22, 2017

For about 18 Euros a day, you can purchase a SalzburgCard, which allows you to ride any bus all day for as much as you want, plus a pass to get into a number of museums, plus a ride on the funicular that takes you up to the Festung Hohensalzburg, which is a fort on top of a hill overlooking the city.

We used our SalzburgCards to get from our campground on the edge of the city to downtown Salzburg by bus. We then walked over to the Mozart Museum to tour the house where Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born. The SalzburgCard got us into the museum without having to pay anything extra.

After the museum tour, we had pizza for lunch. Then we walked through the old part of the city to get to where the funicular takes you up to Hohensalzburg Castle.

The temperature got into the 90s today, which made it difficult to walk around in the hot sun. About 1:30PM, we decided to call it quits and took the bus back to our campsite. The Mozart museum was my primary goal for visiting Salzburg, so even though the day was cut short, it was still a success.

For Friday, we purchased tickets to go on the Sound of Music tour, which is a 4 hour bus ride to the various locations where they filmed the movie. The tour will pick us up at our campsite, so that will be convenient.

Friday June 23, 2017

In 1949, Maria von Trapp wrote a book about her life entitled "The Story of the Trapp Family Singers." The book was made into two German/Austrian films: "The Trapp Family" (1956) and "The Trapp Family in America" (1958). In 1959, Rodgers & Hammerstein wrote a Broadway Musical called The Sound of Music, loosely based upon the book, starring Mary Martin and Theodore Bikel. The Broadway Musical won 5 Tony Awards. Then in 1964, film director Robert Wise and 250 crew members traveled to Salzburg Austria to film a movie version of the Broadway Musical, starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer. The movie won 5 Oscars and became the highest grossing movie ever.

Today we took the Sound of Music Tour to visit some of the locations where they filmed the movie. The tour focused mainly on the production of the movie and how various scenes were shot. For example, the front of the Trapp Family home was filmed in one location at one house, while the courtyard scene around the back side of the house and the lake were filmed in another location at a palace across town.

The tour also noted some of the differences between the story portrayed in the movie and real life. For example, Maria von Trapp married Captain von Trapp in 1927, eleven years before the Nazi takover of Austria in 1938. They did not come home from their honeymoon to find Nazi flags flying at their house. They also did not climb the mountain overlooking Salzburg to escape to Switzerland, which is nowhere near Salzburg. Instead they took a train to Italy.

Our tour guide mentioned that some 300,000 tourists come to Salzburg each year to take the Sound of Music Tour. I would not give the tour 5 stars, but I think it is one of those things you must do if you are a Sound of Music fan and visit Salzburg. The highlight of the tour is being with people from all over the world singing Do Re Mi while riding in a bus traveling along a narrow country road in Austria. It is kind of corny, but it is something any Sound of Music fan must do.

Saturday June 24, 2017

Today was another transfer day. We left our campground in Salzburg and drove about 3 hours to a campground on lake Ammersee, which is close to Munich and the RV rental place. We will spend today and Sunday at this campground before returning the RV Monday morning.

This gives us a chance to pack our luggage and clean the RV before returning it. We can also use this time to relax and recover from our busy schedule these past two weeks. I think we got to do everything and see everything that we had planned.

Monday June 26, 2017

On Sunday we packed our luggage, cleaned the RV, and had one last famous meal prepared by Monika and Lothar. This morning, we got up early so that we could service the RV by emptying the waste tanks, fill up on gas, and take the RV to a car wash. Then we drove to the RV rental place to drop it off by 9AM. We said our last goodbyes to Lothar, Monika, and Töönchen, and took a taxi to the airport. Our flight left Munich at 2PM (Germany time zone). We made our connecting flight in Reykjavik and landed in Minneapolis at 6PM (US Central time zone). With a 7 hour time zone difference, that adds up to 11 hours to fly from Munich to Minneapolis with one stop in Iceland. Our good friend Jim picked us up at the airport, and we were home to re-unite with our cats by 8PM. Exhausted from our long day of hurry up and wait, we were glad to be home. Cheryl did a good job taking care of our cats while we were gone.

Reflecting back on our journey, for the most part, we got to do everything and see everything that we had planned on doing. Bavaria and Austria are absolutely gorgeous, surrounded by huge mountains. Every time I looked at the Alps, I wanted to take a picture.

We also got to do a number of touristy things. Visiting the world famous Hofbräuhaus in Munich, the Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, the boat ride on Lake Königssee, the White Horse Inn in St. Wolfgang, the Mozart Museum in Salzburg, and the Sound of Music tour.

Our campgrounds were also very nice. Traveling Europe in an RV is very popular with Europeans, and the campgrounds are set up very nicely to accommodate all of the campers.

But I think the highlight of the trip was being able to spend another two weeks visiting with Lothar and Monika. I noticed at the various campgrounds that Europeans are very much into socializing with each other. Family and friends sitting around the dinner table visiting without a TV as a crutch. Every hotel and restaurant likewise has outdoor seating with people spending hours eating and socializing, drinking beer, and watching all of the people walk by. I did not miss the TV one bit. Sitting around talking and laughing with friends is entertaining and very satisfying. It draws people together. It creates bonds. We are social beings, and Europeans know how to be social. If there is any one noticeable difference between Americans and Europeans, it is this. Europeans know how to socialize. Americans know how to watch TV.

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