Untours Cafe

The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, and Austria - August 2013 - Part 6

August 22 - Thursday


After breakfast we packed up and headed east. We will definitely have fond memories of the family and Hotel Maximillian in Ehbenichl, Austria.  The first part of the drive took us back along the same road we had traveled yesterday, past Lake Plansee, until finally we were in new territory. 




Our first stop was the Ettal Monastery and Pilgrimage Church. It was founded in 1328 as a Benedictine abbey.











It truly is a lovely Church decorated in the Baroque style.







The Church is the centerpiece of the 1,000 square foot courtyard which is surrounded on all four sides with buildings. Today the abbey survives, with 50-60 monks and remains a self-contained community, with living quarters for the monks, workshops, and guests' quarters.  Along with the religious responsibilities, the brothers make their famous liqueur, brew beer, run a hotel, and educate 380 students in a private high school.




Moving on we got on a freeway towards Salzburg. About 1:30 we stopped at a rest area on the freeway for lunch. They had a cafeteria type restaurant and we both took a bowl and filled it with various salads.  It was all mixed together, but turned out ok. I think you paid by the weight.  If you are bothered by restroom stories then skip this part, but it fascinated me.  It cost me .75 euros (which always irritates me), but it was almost worth it.  When you flushed an arm came out and squirted disinfectant all around the underside.  Then the toilet seat actually moved around. The circle became oblong and then back to a circle. It was fascinating!  I should have flushed again just to get my monies worth, but I didn't.



We are staying at the Motel One Salzburg-Mirabell and Agnes brought us right to the hotel. The hotel is very modern and actually has air conditioning. It is located right on the Salzach River and has a large veranda across the front of the building overlooking the river. It will hopefully be close to where we want to walk.  While we are in Salzburg we are planning to connect with a high school friend of our daughter, Vicki. Tina has lived in Austria for over 20 years and she seemed happy to visit with us. Tina and her family live in Linz and when we were chatting by email she indicated that they would love to meet us on the weekend.  We hadn't made specific time plans, so once we got to our room I emailed her again, telling her that we had arrived and were looking forward to seeing her and her family on Friday evening. I had already given her the name of the hotel, the phone number and our plans for this evening and tomorrow day. Hopefully, she will call the hotel or email me with specific times for tomorrow night.


Tonight we are attending a Mozart concert at the Mirabell Palace.  After cleaning up and putting on dressier clothes then our usual travel duds, we headed out to find a little place close by for dinner.  After crossing a bridge we located a little restaurant with a perfect view of the river. We weren't real hungry so we shared a couple appetizers; a hot meat dish of some sort and a cold salami, ham, cheese and breads.  Beer for Dick and water for me and then we just enjoyed the sights and warm weather.




We were early, but decided to walk on to the Mirabell Palace. The adjoining gardens were first laid out in 1730 and opened to the public since 1850. We wandered around here for some time before entering the Palace itself. I think we were here an hour early, which is unusual for me.













Just in front of the Palace is the rearing Pegasus statue. It is the site of a famous Sound of Music scene where the kids all danced.









The Archbishop of Salzburg was the first to build a palace here in 1606. It was completely renovated between the years 1721-1727 in Baroque style. After a large fire in 1818, the Palace was rebuilt in its present form. Only the Marble Staircase and the Marble Hall show its former elegance. Mozart used to play concerts here with his children.  Today it serves as classical concert venue and as a municipal office and seat of the Mayor of Salzburg.





Eventually, they opened the doors to the concert room where we took our seats and waited for the violinist and pianist. Here you can see the elegance of the room.  There were perhaps 50 people in the audience.  The music was wonderful.  However, at intermission we decided we'd had enough culture.  It was very hot, with no air conditioning, and the straight backed chairs were killing our backs. Creature comfort folks that we are, we headed back to the hotel and sat on the veranda with an after dinner drink.





August 23 - Friday


I'm glad I checked my email before we left this morning or I might not have known what time Tina and her family were coming this evening.  The hotel was very remiss in delivering phone messages left by her, so it was good we had a computer. 


We had made reservations from home for the Eagle's Nest Historical Tour for today.  We were to meet at the TI in Berchtesgaden at 1:15 pm.  Berchtesgaden is only a 12 mile drive from Salzburg and we had no trouble finding it. We parked in the parking lot across the street and walked around the area a bit before deciding to eat lunch at the restaurant directly across the street from the TI. We ate outside in a pleasant patio area. I made no note of what we ate, so it must not have been memorable - either positive or negative.


The tour takes you first to Obersalzberg where you enter the small but modern Nazi Documentation Center. It is built on the remains of what was the second seat of Nazi administration.  There are few actual artifacts, but rather many documents and pictures.  Everything is in German, but our tour came with an English speaking guide who did an excellent job of explaining what we were seeing.  The Center was divided into sections which dealt with the subjects of Racial Policy (persecution and genocide of the Jewish population), National Community (describing the view of keeping the bloodlines pure and eliminating those who did not conform), Foreign Policy (describing Hitler's Foreign Policy and the path towards war), and Terror Apparatus (the instruments of terror such as the SS, the police force, the SD, the concentration camps, and the political judiciary). The Center is designed primarily for Germans to learn and understand their history, but is obviously open to tourists. You do need an English speaking guide, though, if you do not read German.


From inside the Center we followed stairs that led down to a bunker system that was built from 1943-1945. There were four miles of bunkers, but we did not walk through them all.  The system originally housed lavish quarters for Hitler, as well as quarters for Bormann, Goring, the SS, guests, and a command center tunnel. It was stripped bare after the war, but you can see the remnants and get a clear idea of their plan to carry on the war in the event that buildings on the surface were destroyed or Obersalzberg fell into enemy hands. Each of these areas was associated with a building above ground. The subsystems were connected with each other by corridors or staircases, except for that of the Goring bunker (house and aides) as he and Bormann did not get along. Plans included a supply tunnel, an archive area, a garage to accommodate 100 vehicles, a recreation room and storage rooms for food, weapons, and ammunition. These areas were never completed as the Royal Air Force attacked Obersalzberg on April 25, 1945 and only a few buildings, including the Eagle's Nest, survived.



Back above ground, we boarded buses to take us up to the mountain top chalet that was built in 1938-1939 for Hitler as a 50th birthday present. In order to reach the chalet you must walk through a long tunnel (Hitler was driven by limousine when he visited) until you reach the end where there is a very large shiny brass elevator that takes you to the top. According to our guide the chalet was not designed as a home to live in, but rather as place to get-away and enjoy the scenery. Even though a boatload of money was spent on the chalet, Hitler, himself, only made 14 official visits.


In this picture you can see the chalet directly above the tunnel.










Hitler's girlfriend, Eva Braun, often stayed at Hitler's house, Berghof, which was located near Berchtesgaden. While there she also enjoyed The Eagle's Nest mountain top chalet and would spend hours on this veranda.







The chalet itself is rather small.  Again, it was not meant to be lived in.  There is no bedroom. Leftover from Hitler's time there is, however, a large fancy dining room where leaders of the Reich could meet. In this room is a very big marble fireplace that troops chipped away in order to take home souvenirs in 1945.







Today there is an indoor restaurant and an outdoor terrace where you can get outstanding views. We enjoyed a beverage on the terrace and some photos from the top of the mountain before it was time to return to our bus. As you can see on the day of our visit, the mountain was surrounded by fog.














Up close to the chalet wildflowers grew in abundance.







Following our visit we returned back down the mountain via the huge elevator, boarded the bus, rode back to the TI in Berchtesgaden, claimed our car from the parking lot and drove back to our hotel in Salzburg. As I had read Tina's email message in the morning I knew they would come by around 7:30 and that she had called the hotel and left a message with them also. I went to the desk to retrieve the message.  I was very disappointed in the hotel in that they couldn't find the message, but when I insisted that I knew one was there they went to the back room and finally found one.  Of course, it was written in German, which I could not read, and they weren't eager to translate it for me.  They do not have any phones in the rooms and so there was no "blinking light" indicating a message.  I asked them how they delivered messages to their guests and they couldn't give me an answer.  Their only response was "everyone has their own mobiles." I found this unacceptable as I told them we did not have a mobile and asked what they would do in case of an emergency call from our family in the States. Again they had no answer. Tina later told me she had actually left them three messages and felt that they were not the least bit interested in ensuring that we got them.  For this reason only, I would not recommend this hotel, even though the facility itself was quite satisfactory.


We went to our room, freshened up and went downstairs at 7:30 where Tina, her husband, Bernard, and their daughter, Elaine, were waiting for us on the veranda. We walked to a restaurant several blocks away. This was clearly a local restaurant that Bernard was familiar with.  We ate outside, under the trees, in very pleasant surroundings. The menu was in German so Tina and Bernard translated for us.  I picked something that they said was a local dish, but to me it was much like macaroni and cheese. Dick had wiener schnitzel. We had a fun time discussing their lives in Austria and bringing Tina up to date on her hometown.  Tina is a sweet girl and it was wonderful to meet her family.


This is Tina and Elaine.


Following dinner Bernard wanted to take us to the local beer garden, Augustiner Braustubl. We did not go into the building but rather stayed outside under the chestnut trees. After paying the lady the self service price, Dick and Bernard went to the shelves where they picked out a mug. Then they washed the mug at a fountain and then took it over to "Mr. Keg" who filled up their mugs.  What a fun experience and so different from anything we would have ever done without Tina and Bernard showing us the way!










As an interesting side note, years ago our daughter Vicki and her husband, Jeff, went to Austria for Tina and Bernard's wedding. They brought us back a beer mug. When we got home we discovered it was from Augustiner Braustubl. It's just a guess, but I'm guessing they spent more time there then we did!

After visiting some more we walked back to our hotel. It was about 11:30 and we were tired.  They are picking us up tomorrow at 9:30 am and showing us their Salzburg.


August 24 - Saturday


Although Tina and Bernard now live in Linz, Salzburg is Bernard's hometown and his mother still lives here. I believe they also had lived here at one time.  They offered to take us anywhere we wanted to go today, but we suggested that they make the choices and show us "their" Salzburg.


Bernard drove us all to the old town where we parked and began walking down the picturesque Getreidegasse. It is known for its wrought-iron signs on all the buildings. McDonalds is here too, but they did have to tone down the "golden arches."














Mozart's birthplace is on this street also, and, of course, the shops can't help but to capitalize on his name. I think these goofy looking ducks were soap, but I'm not sure. I didn't check them out other then to chuckle at them.









At the end of the street Tina pointed out the old pharmacy, Alte F. E. Hofapotheke. We ducked in to look at the old-fashioned drawers and cabinets that were still in use, but left quickly as people were standing in line to get their pharmaceutical supplies.







As we walked down this street and later another lane, we spotted a few people who were dressed in traditional Austrian clothes. I found myself fascinated by this and Tina just walked up to these strangers and spoke to them.  As she was speaking German, I have no idea what she said; but, can only assume it went something like "could you please allow my crazy American friend to take your picture?"











Is this family not worthy of a picture, though? Those kids are adorable, right down to the little lederhosen. The little boy with the sunglasses has a huge smile, as if he knows he is looking sharp!










As we left this street on our way to the old fort, we passed through the Residenzplatz. This square was originally laid out with important buildings such as a palace and a cathedral surrounding it and served in ancient days as a Roman forum. Salzburg was located on a busy trade route to Rome and took on many Italian attributes. The large fountain in the center of the square is a prime example of Italian influences.












Nearby in the Kapitelplatz is an interesting structure in front of a pond which was originally used as a horse bath. The artist who designed this structure actually wove the date into its façade.  In gold letters above the statue is the phrase "Leopold the Prince Built Me." He made the letters LLDVICMXVXI big and bold in the phrase.  If you know your Roman numerals it equals 1732 - the year the structure was built.







At this point we were staring up at the Hohensalzburg Fortress. Built on a rock 400 feet above the Salzach River, this fortress was never used. No one attacked the fortress for 1000 years, but when Napoleon entered the city, Salzburg surrendered. It was used briefly as a military barracks, but was opened to the public in the 1860s.


Bernard did tell us a fun local fable that one time the city thought they were going to be attacked by the Turks.  They only had a few cows, but they kept painting them different colors and parading them back and forth until the invaders finally left, thinking that the people had lots of supplies available to them and could hold out indefinitely.




Bernard and Elaine walked up to the fortress, but Tina, Dick and I took the funicular. From the top of this vantage point we had an outstanding view of the city. We did not go into the Palace Museum, Castle Courtyard or the Kuenburg Bastion. We figured our hosts had been there often and didn't want to take advantage of their time. We did wander around the rim of the fortress for awesome views.





After leaving the fortress Bernard and Elaine went to get the car while Tina, Dick and I wandered our way back to a main street where Bernard picked us up. What a guy! Next up was the Helbrunn Castle.




About four miles south of Salzburg is the Hellbrunn Castle. Around the year 1610, Prince-Archbishop Sittikus decided to build a lavish palace with a large and ornate garden, just as a fun place to bring his friends to. He outfitted part of the garden with trick fountains that would spray people as they walked by. After we got here and bought our tickets we had to wait awhile for the English tour.  At this point we strolled through some of the lovely gardens. Soon it was our turn to maneuver our way through the clever fountains.





Elaine has been here several times and Tina and I kept asking her to warn us of the places we would get wet.  For the most part she complied, but she also laughed a lot when we did get caught. First up was the King's table.  Elaine warned us not to sit on the seats around the table so we chose seats looking down on them. Thank you, Elaine.  The folks sitting on the seats didn't just get wet from the water you can see, but also water came up from the seats themselves. From the picture on the right, you can see the Castle in the background.













The tour is about 45 minutes long and we managed to avoid most of the drenching water.  I didn't mind getting sprinkled, but I really didn't want to get soaked.  We worked out way past deer head with water spurting out their antlers, water arches (from which you couldn't avoid getting a little damp, even if you moved quickly), and even a little cave that you entered not knowing when or where the water was going to spring from. The picture shown here was one of the last fountains. By then I had figured out where the water was going to come from and as Elaine and I stood just waiting for someone to step in the wrong place she giggled and we all joined her when the critters in the fountain squirted water at an unsuspecting person.




After we exited the fountain part of the grounds, we walked more into the park where they have placed the actual gazebo from the Sound of Music.  This is the scene where the teenagers sing "Sixteen Going on Seventeen."  This seems like an odd place to me for them to put this gazebo, but there it is. The von Trapp family did come from Salzburg and did leave during WWII (by train, not hiking over the mountain) so much of the essential story of the family is correct; but, Hollywood did change some details.  Interestingly, many native folks from Salzburg don’t know much about the movie or the story. They find the American interest in it to be odd.  Bernard has never seen the movie.




At this point we got back into the car and drove further into the countryside where Bernard found a little country restaurant for lunch. I followed Tina's suggestion and had a traditional bowl of goulash with a big roll.  It was tasty.  Dick had a pasta dish.


Bernard then wanted to take us up to the top of one of their mountains. There was a little refreshment stand up there that served desserts and coffee.  We got a couple of apple strudels to share and Tina and Dick both had cappuccino, Bernard had regular coffee and I had water.  Bernard hadn't known it at the time he chose this place to come to, but there was a group of men who liked to paraglide and they had come to test their sails and take flight this afternoon. This turned out to be a special treat for all of us.






This fellow was testing the wind.














This man was suiting up for a flight. Dick talked to him before his flight and then later saw him again after he had flown and was back on the mountain top.  Dick asked him if he had had a good flight and he told Dick, "It's always a good flight when your feet touch the ground."












Here he goes running off the mountain.  They start off running backwards, to make sure their sails are up and open, and then they turn around and run forwards off the edge.







                         There goes our flyer. 










And here is another flyer off the mountain. One of them told Dick they do have to clear things with air controllers at the airport and get permission to fly; as they are actually higher then the planes are when the planes take off from the Salzburg airport.


This is clearly not a hobby I would enjoy, but they all seemed to be having great fun and we all enjoyed watching them.




This brought our fun day with Tina, Bernard and Elaine to a close.  They had to get home to Linz and they dropped us at our hotel about 6:00 pm. It's always memorable to have people who live in a place share with you what is important about their homeland. Knowing Tina since she was in high school made this even more special. Tina and Bernard were so generous with their time and we were so very happy we were able to make a connection with them.


We have to return the car in Munich tomorrow morning by 11:00 am, and both Bernard and the hotel people were telling us that traffic may be extra slow due to some holiday and possible rain. Therefore, I needed to check out breakfast arrangements for the morning.  It appears we will have to leave before they begin serving breakfast and since we had to pay for it, I wanted a refund. It wasn't a problem. Back in our room, I checked email and sent our grandson, Alex, a happy birthday message on Facebook. He turned 18 today. Where does the time go??


About 8:00 pm Dick and I took a taxi to old town and found an Italian restaurant. Dick had pizza and I had something very different.  It was salmon and spinach wrapped in a crust with a gorgonzola sauce around it. It was very tasty. A couple glasses of wine each plus some water and we were ready to call it a night.


Coming up: Munich and Dachau



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