Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Munich, Salzburg and Zurich

There’s a big difference between VACATIONING and TRAVELING.  My dad pointed this out as I told him I had a bit of a bout with boredom going from amazing fun and adventure on the beach and in the rainforest to visiting another city.  Not that I’m not having a great time and loving every minute because I am, and really, who am I to talk??  I had a beer and a large pretzel in Germany, an apple streudel and a bratwurst in Austria and fondue in Switzerland.  I soaked up as much as I could of these places in my limited time there.

I had been to Munich, Germany, Salzburg, Austria and Zurich, Switzerland before, but I was 10 years old and don’t remember much.  I think Munich was my favorite of the three as there was so much to see and do.  I watched the Glockenspiel’s performance at 11am - the giant clock tower’s clock starts chiming and playing a little tune as painted characters dance around to commemorate the celebration that the plague was over in 1517 and then the painted characters have a jousting match.  The chiming was tuned out however by the Italian soccer fans that filled Marienplatz, drunkenly chanting about their team.

No trip to Munich is complete without a visit to the famous Hofbrauhaus!  An interesting tidbit about those traditional German leather pants with the flap in the front - that derived from the olden days when men would be drinking at the Hobrauhaus, where they didn’t have a bathroom, and when they needed to relieve themselves they would do it right there while still sitting at the table.  At the end of the evening they would hose down the place with water washing away the day’s urine and beer.  Imagine the stench!  Yeech!  I visited the Vikrualienmarket which is filled with booths of people selling food, crafts, flowers and more.  They have a seating area outside of one of the booths that is filled with people sitting shoulder to shoulder with a liter of beer in front of each one of them.
I wandered over to the English Gardens which is a huge park, similar in size to Central Park in NYC, complete with a river running all the way through.  There were people everywhere enjoying the 60 degree sunny day, playing Frisbee, riding a bike, reading a book, or just laying out soaking up the sun and ALL of them were drinking beer.  This really is a beer city!  There’s even a part of the river where a natural wave is created and there are surfers, yes surfers in the middle of Germany, hanging ten. 
I visited the Dachau Concentration Camp in Germany, not because it’s a fun tourist activity, but because I felt I had to.  The tour I took was chilling, leaving me sickened and depressed as I learned of the torture and psychological warfare that was inflicted on thousands of innocent people.   
 Salzburg was beautiful!  It was cool and rainy the entire time I was there but it was still beautiful.  I can only imagine what it would look like with the sun shining down on it!  I climbed up to the Hohensalzburg Fortress which is the highest point of the city.  This fortress, built in the Middle Ages, is now a complex of 55 connected buildings which are old and mysterious looking.  There are 3 museums, a short film about its history, various rooms that appear as they did in the Middle Ages, and various gift shops included in it.  When I went out on one of the verandas overlooking a part of town I hadn’t seen yet, I couldn’t help buy say out loud, “Wow!”  The scene was breathtaking with a combination of beautiful buildings, pastel colors, open grassy areas, old homes, mountains partially covered by low hanging clouds.  It was so pretty!  I wondered what the story is of this one farm house that is set on a plot of land with two long criss-crossing sidewalks.  It has a fence of trees around it and has one car parked out front.  Looks perfect to me!  The next day I went on The Sound of Music tour for which all external scenes were shot here in 1964.  Throughout the 4 hour tour we visited the terrace where the Von Trapp children met the new baroness; where the baroness tried to play ball with the children; where the children were confronted by the captain after coming back from “picking berries”; where the captain and Maria dance and fall in love; and the boat scene where Maria and all the children fall out of the boat.  We saw the gazebo where Liesel and Rolf sang “16 Going on 17” and where Maria and the captains first kiss was.  We went to Mirabell Gardens where Maria and children sang “Do Re Mi”, the pathway where Maria sang “I Have Confidence” and the mountains where Maria sang “The Hills Are Alive” and where the family escaped to Switzerland (which doesn’t really lead to Switzerland, by the way).  All the while we sang along to The Sound of Music soundtrack.  It may have been a little corny but it was fun!  In the afternoon I took a tour back into the Germany to explore the Bavarian mountains and a giant salt mine. 
My last stop was in Zurich, which sits just north of Lake Zurich, a stunning lake with water so clean you could drink it.  I found a nicely landscaped path that ran along much of the edge of the lake where I took a long, leisurely stroll as the sun set.  The Old Town is filled with historic churches with large clock towers, cobblestone streets and cozy little shops.  They have an extensive cable car tram system which is the only type of transportation allowed on some streets.  The river Limmat runs through town, splitting it into The Right Bank (Old Town) and The Left Bank, and ending up in Lake Zurich.  The quays along the river are some of the most beautiful anywhere! 
I love Europe’s train system that took me from Munich to Salzburg to Zurich and will take me to all my other destinations in Europe.  My trip from Salzburg to Zurich was especially nice as the 2nd class seat I sat in was as nice as a 1st class airplane seat.  Towards the end of the trip an announcement came on in German it went on for about 3 minutes, and expecting an equivalent announcement in English I was surprised when the conductor simply said in English, “Ladies and Gentlemen, Zurich is next.”  The tour I took at the salt mines in Salzburg was given in German but had a recorded English audio guide.  There were a number of times when the Germans would laugh and laugh at something that was said and I waited and waited and waited to hear the same joke in my headset but it never came.  I guess it pays to learn the language!

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