Monday, July 26, 2010


Mario, Maria and Michael


This was a odd stop on the trip. A very long day of travel with a 30 minute each way detour to deliver some Excedrin and Hot Sauce. There is a website for English speaking Expats in Germany called ToyTown. I spent quite a bit of time on it in preparation for the trip. I learned all about the Sunday closures, lack of credit cards, short shopping hours and where to find grocery stores and Wal-Mart type stores. On a whim I posted if anyone needed me to bring them something from Dallas. I know there are still things I can only get back in my old home area of New England, (diamond crystal salt, correct hot dog rolls, I was sure there might be things people missed) One guy, Mario asked for some Excedrin Migraine, Imodium and a specific Tapatio sauce. I didn't expect someone to respond, but hey why not. Let's meet some locals. We made our way to Mario's house. We had to park the camper at local park as it wouldn't fit in Mario's driveway. He had to meet us and shuttle us up the hill in a couple of trips in his tiny car. There we met Mario, his wife Maria and their adorable 2 year old son Michael. We were expecting a quick hi perhaps a piece of cake. Nope, Maria had a spread to die for. Homemade bread, sausages, pasta, salad, cheesecake...the works. We were so grateful. Such a nice couple. Mario was born in Mexico City and moved to the US when he was 16. In Miami he met Maria, who was on vacation from Germany. She had moved Germany from Poland when she was a teenager. The met, fell in love and moved back to Germany. We learned all about the true life of an expat. The challenges of becoming fluent in German so you can get a job. Learning the quirks of your new country. Like having to sweep your sidewalk on a certain day. Having your neighbors monitor you trash to make sure you are recycling properly. They'll turn you in for a fine if they find an error. Everything is silent after 10PM. German's are very direct and don't hesitate to tell you what they think. Mario said they went to a local festival and got chewed by a random German woman because their sun didn't have a hat on . She was worried he's get burned. Michael was fine, he was blessed with melanin.

We stayed for 2 hours chatting and eating, it was such a nice stop. This meant we had to skip Stuttgart and hustle to the next site. This part of the trip wasn't nearly as scripted. Originally I had wanted to head over the French border to do some genealogy research on my great great grandfather from Alsace. However in the year preceding I could never pin down the right town. Without this info we had to skip it. We read about a small museum in Luxembourg that was supposed to be a treasure trove of WWII memorabilia. It's in a small city of Diekirch. We found a campground nearby and headed that way. We were traversing the Mosel river valley and fighting the pending darkness. Luckily sunset wasn't till after 9PM this far north. The hills and valleys were awe inspiring. Our WWII troops really had their hands full making their way through this terrain. The tiny road up many switchbacks and harrowing cliffs to the campsite was a white knuckle ride. We were all very quiet as I guided Frederick along with the GPS, pointing out every bend in the road before he hit it. Remember the camper is a 6 speed manual transmission. Uphill, downhill, around the corner. But our excellent driver never panicked and we made it safely. The campground at Diekirch was a hoot. We got there kind of late and reception was in a bar. There were loads of rowdy Dutch playing bingo and doing the chicken dance in Dutch. We opted for the restaurant for dinner. Our waiter from Poland was so engaging, it made up for the very poor bisteak we ate that night. This was a campground with an indoor pool and a whole resort. It was really overkill for the night. These people were there for the duration.

We were too late to get the wifi code, but they had a computer you could use with one of their money loaded keys. The only hitch...a German keyboard. Where the hell is the @. I had to google email, search for that symbol and copy and pasted it to log into a website with my email address. Some of the letters are in in the wrong place...if you are touch typist, you will be cursing soon.

Next stop Luxembourg National Military Museum and Bastogne History Museum

Oberamergau, Nieuwenstein Castle, Munich

Niewswanstein Castle - Mad King Ludwig

Scenic Bavaria

Another Hansel and Gretel town..Oberammergau

Story of the Passion Play

From Salzburg we headed straight into the heart of Bavaria. We took the safe route from the northern freeway into a small town called Oberammergau. It looks like Hansel and Gretel lived in every house. The attraction here was the Passion Play the town performs every 10 years since the 1600's. It's one of those things you wouldn't know about unless you watch too much Rick Steves or Samantha Brown on the travel channel. Hundreds of years ago the town swore it would do a Passion Play every 10 years if the town was spared further deaths from the Plague. The story says that happened, so the play is on. 2010 is a play year. Our intention was to attend the play, until we learned it's 8 hours long and in German. So we visited the town, toured the theater and had some lunch. Luckily we found the bus parking. After taking the "big" roads up here in the Alps, we were pleased with our decision not to come up the southern mountain route from Innsbruck. The 2nd stop of the day is Nieuwenstein Castle. This is a story book castle from every one's child hood. It was build in the 1800's by the Bavarian King Ludwig. He basically drained the national treasury building castles all around. This one was never completed. He was removed from power and mysteriously was found dead in a local lake. Getting to the castle once you park your camper is a royal pain. It's nice mile walk uphill to the ticket center. From there you can take a smelly horse cart to the castle or take a bus about half way up the hill. We waited about 20 minutes in the heat for a bus and decided the hike to the castle wasn't worth it. We admired the castle from the stop and at scenic bridges a few hundred feet away. Cinderella would be happy here. From here we drove a decent distance to Munich. We made a stop at the local "Frys Electronics" to consider buying charger for Frederick's Dad's camera, since he forgot the charger, and a new camera for us. Yes, I killed 2 cameras on this trip. The first was from a spill on the Segway. The camera took pictures, but we couldn't get the view finder to work. The second was in Mauthausen. I fell in a hole with our other camera in hand. It was a grand spill. This time, this camera won't even turn on. I found a great camera, at a great price, but again they didn't take credit cards, so we decided to conserve our cash on hand. No sale for you Germany!

Eventually we were able to rig up a way to charge Frederick's Dad's 2nd camera with a universal battery charger I had brought with me. They let us use that one for the rest of the trip.

We arrived at the Munich campsite at 8PM. We intended to hit the local, famous main Biergarten, but the last bus returned at 9PM. No way we'd make it. We stayed at the campground and ate in their take away restaurant. I had a surprisingly yummy cheeseburger! One shower token here gave you a ton of hot water with great water pressure (hey, I've come to appreciate these things), however the campground required you bring our own toilet paper.

Germans seem to have an obsession with recycling and green. The only toilet paper we could find was very spartan, single ply brown paper towel material. Each German campsite had an elaborate system for recycling each color of glass, plastic, paper products, food waste and then everything else. We would learn just how far this obsession went on our next stop.

We spent the night and headed for Stuttgart the next morning, with our ultimate destination Diekirch, Luxembourg.

Special Edition - Camp Life

Alex having PB & J in the camper

Texas on the move in Europe
Alex's normal traveling position

Campground Restaurant
Hanging the Laundry

Had to represent!
Let me share with you the typical day in the campground. We had 5 in our traveling party. Frederick and I were in the back in a permanent bed, Frederick's parents used the convertible dining booth bed in the center and Alex took the bunk the pulled down over the drivers and passengers seat. The camper had a bathroom with a sink and shower, a 3 burner gas stove, a kitchen sink, freezer and refrigerator. There were plenty cabinets and cubbies, that locked for travel, to stash all our stuff. We also brought our over the door shoe holder. This is a lifesaver in small spaces. You can stash all those little things that never seem to have a place, like brushes, lotion, jewelry etc. We learned this from our cruise cabin days. We also went to Wal-Mart the night before we left and purchased 3 small plastic caddies. They were about 12 inches long and 6 inches wide, open at the top with smaller holes on the side. Mini versions of the ones they use on Clean House when they load out all the junk the hoarders keep in their houses. These were great to carry our toiletries back and forth to the showers. European campsites have many amenities. We stayed at 15 or so different sites. They break down into a few categories, smaller run family camps and mega resort camps. The camps can be out in the country or they can be in the heart of the city. In Prague.Budapest, Vienna. Salzburg, Munich and Frankfurt, we were within the city limits. As we wandered out to Belgium, Luxembourg and Holland we were more in the wilderness. The smaller camps will have 3-5 shower stalls per gender, washing up sinks, dishwashing sinks and laundry washing sinks. Larger camps may have 30 showers per gender in each of 3-5 locations across the camp. They will also have a washer and dryer. We had fun figuring out how to use the washer and dryer as the instructions were not in English. Frederick had the bright idea to copy the settings of the user next door. Turns out that was the "Bill O'Reilly" setting...No Spin Zone. In most places everything from hot water in the showers to the laundry operates with tokens you purchase at reception...except when reception isn't open. So we had a load of very wet laundry that we tried unsuccessfully to dry and then hang. We couldn't buy more tokens, reception was closed. We ended up taking the wet laundry with us on the next site to be dried.

The camper has a shower, but it's small and you then have to empty and refill your water, so we decided not to use it. Every day Frederick's mother would be the first up and come back with the shower report. They all had their own quirks. Some tokens were 6 minutes of stop time hot water, some were 4 minutes of run time. Some had no tokens, but required you to keep pushing a button every seconds. Some gave you 4 free minutes, then you had to wait, dripping wet for 3 minutes for the shower to reset. Some had key sensors that had purchased time loaded on the actual key. Some had a nice changing area before the actual shower, some did not and forced you to look at naked Europeans as they exited the shower and changed. Some had separate rooms to sit down and do your hair and makeup. My terry robe and turbie hair towel was a huge asset. The boys just put their stinky clothes back on for the trip back to the camper. For some reason, Alex always seemed to miss the morning shower report (still sleeping) and managed to fail on shower operations and was punished with cold showers. A 14 year old boy is not happy after a failed shower!

Your shower shoes were your best friends. I have always hated crocs until this trip. Most locations had very clean facilities and did their best to make you comfortable. For the price, about 35 to 40 Euros a night for 5 people, one cannot complain. We would have only been able to stay week if we needed a hotel room each night, plus we never had to pack and unpack while in the camper. The beds were moderately comfortable, I've slept on worse.

The kitchen was serviceable. Frederick's parents were in London the week before and made a large batch of spaghetti sauce and adobo (it's a Filipino pork dish) and rice. Many nights we just heated these up and ate in. We also managed to cook sausages and onions, potatoes, grilled cheese, ramen noodles, scrambled eggs and French toast. We survived with no microwave or oven. Most campsites had freshly baked bread you could purchase right on site. The smaller campsites had strict rules about silence after 10PM. In Prague, we were asked to shut off our air conditioner at midnight as it's reassuring hum was breaking the silence.

Some of the larger campsites had communal kitchens, pools, and restaurants. The sites near the Netherlands had karaoke, bingo, gambling and entertainment. Others had large playground for the kids. There were entertainers that were on the campground circuit. I imagine this is what upstate New York was like in the early 20th century. The Catskills, the borscht belt.

Each morning we'd all get up, and one by one or two by two head to the showers. Then I precede to find the coolest (not hip, cold) location to get ready. Sometimes this was outside. I'd set up the table, chairs and powerstrip and do my hair and makeup. At night when we returned, we might cook, but mostly we took out the 4 laptops we brought and searched for the wifi. Wifi was so frustrating! Sometimes it worked if you were close enough to reception. On 2 occasions we moved our campsite location to be closer to wifi. Sometimes in worked outside, but not inside. Sometimes it worked on one computer but not the other. In Munich they had no wifi, but they had a hard wired connection for 1 Euro an hour in a room next to the front office. We brought along our small portable router and made our own hotspot. Alex and I were inside the space next to the office, with our laptops, trying to conceal the router. Frederick and his parents were outside trying to look inconspicuous as they pulled down their email over the pirate wifi. For those you used the free, unsecured, Go Stars network that are welcome.

Other sites required you purchase wifi time and receive a code on a slip of paper. You had to do this at reception and reception was often closed when we arrived. Sometimes we'd log out and lose the paper. Basically just a pain! Most of the larger sites expected you to stay for a week or more. Some have people who keep their pitch all year round. So, missing one night of wifi, doesn't seem like a big deal if they think you are staying longer.

The pitches are very close together. This isn't like you get your plot of woods and your neighbor is unseen. Most times the next campsite was 20ft away from you. Like houses close together, you can maneuver the awning side of the camper so you have maximum privacy. It really wasn't a problem.

As I said some people stay for a month or more. They really go all out to deck out their space, especially in near Holland. They bring landscaping, flowers, paving stones, outdoor carpet, fences and real furniture from home. It's like they create a 2nd country home. We thought we brought creature comforts...we were amateurs.

We had to learn to dance in smaller spaces, say excuse me a lot, but we learned. We'd have our panic moments as we couldn't find this phone charger or that brush. With all the cubbies you'd forget where you put stuff. Sometimes we'd roll out in a hurry and things would get stuffed in odd spaces. Over time we developed a rhythm. All the powerstrips (4 of them and an extension cord...we had full electricity when we were parked at camp) eventually all went back into one Costco bag each night, the same with my blow dryer, hot rollers, curling iron and make up. Laptops found a regular home.

When we'd stop for a time, not a campsite, to see a site, Frederick would switch the refrigerator to gas power to keep things cold. We had an enormous storage area in the back. I'd say 5ft by 5ft by 8ft. All the extra water and drinks, stand fan, table and chairs would stow there along with our suitcases. Plenty of room!

Would I travel like this again? Absolutely! We'd get a smaller camper to save the hairaising driving on some of the tiny roads, but camping was not a problem. Take this from a creature loving Taurus. There's no way we would have seen as much or stayed for so long without an expensive tour or be forced to drag our luggage off each connecting train. It only rained a few nights and we stayed dry under the awning or inside.

It was a great way to travel.

Salzburg Day 3

This is where the Gondola took us...all the way to the top
Mozart House
Salzburg Cathedral

This was the day we were going to ascend the Alps to Innsbruck (former location of the Winter Olympics), camp in Innsbruck and take the back roads to Oberammergau and Mad King Ludwig's Nieuwenstein Castle. After some harrowing roads traversed already in the giant camper (28ft long) we felt it was best not to test our luck. Plus, the Alps here were perfectly beautiful and we were enjoying our campground. It was nice to stay put for a few days. This meant I missed my trip down a real Alpine Slide. Ah well. I can do that in the US.

Our third day was spent strolling the streets of Salzburg during a weekday when all the shops were open. Picture a giant Disney World Main Street. Every shop, down every street feels like that. We had 2 objectives, first visit the birthplace of Mozart. It's an interesting little museum with lots of Mozart artifacts. You can stand in the room where he was born. A few streets over is the apartment his family moved to when he was a boy. His father rented this apartment for 60+ years. How many rent increases is that? The jewel of this museum is Mozart's piano. This is where much magic happened, I wasn't allowed to take a photo of it, because of the Nazi in the room, but here is a pick from Google.

We didn't stay as long as I would have lingered had I not been melting. A few days earlier I lost my portable battery operated fan down the quarry in Mauthausen. Pissed as a I was, I couldn't lament long, given humans were tossed to their death from the same spot. It was just a fan. In the giftshop I was able to purchase a manual fan. So now I could spend the rest of my time looking like a throw back, save the petticoats. Surprising effective was the fan...for as long as your arm could keep it moving.

We walked through the Roman styled squares and made our way to the Cathedral. Such a huge church for what is now a relatively tiny town. We toured the museums inside and wandered up to the massive 5 station pipe organ. Mozart was the organist at this church for several years. As we peered down to the alter from the organ perch the loudspeakers began a mass in English. This was Monday afternoon in Austria and we heard a mass in English. Very, Very Odd.

It seemed like a sign that we should attend the mass. As we made our way downstairs, there was what appeared to be a Irish tour group situated on pews on either side of the alter. (Members of the group did the readings and it appears they brought their own priest to co officiate the mass..lovely accent the Irish). We sat in the first pew in the congregation. People milled about touring the cathedral and we proceeded to recite the Profession of Faith. When it came time to take communion we were hesitant. What if they only brought enough hosts for the tour group? Father motioned us forward and we completed the mass contract.

We had purchased the Salzburg Card as it gave us unlimited access to their train system and free entrance to all the museums. It also included a ride in a gondola up to the top of the highest local peek. Highest, they weren't kidding. Poor Alex was petrified of the height and is scared of large rooms suspended from cables ascending 6000+ ft at a steep angle. Hum...perhaps we are the crazy ones.

Once at the top of the peak, we had more indescribable views of the city of Salzburg. We had a nice lunch at the top and made our way down to the final stop. The fortress. As I mentioned before the fortress is fully intact and dominates over the city. You take a funicular up to the top. This little shuttle is hell. They cram 20 people into the little cab and leave you there while wait for more passengers. I was drenched by the time they let us out at the top.

Once I reached the top, I really could have cared less about the castle. One more castle in Europe. I just wanted to be cool. We walked around the grounds and called it a day.

We took the local bus to the main station. There we found a supermarket that was open. Inside we took our time, search for goodies to eat the following week. Alex was beside himself when we found Dr Pepper stocked on the shelves. He bought 3 12 oz bottles and savored them over the next few days like Willy Wonka and his final chocolate bar. As we wandered around the store (me in search of maple syrup for French toast) several employees came up to us and spoke to us in German. We didn't understand what they said and just nodded as we always did. Soon they became more persistent. Alex finally heard them and translated that the store was already closed. We looked at our watch and it was 7:15PM....turns out the store closes at 7PM. Yikes, sorry about that. We didn't intend to be rude. We hurried to the cash register. Just as we were checking out I located the maple syrup and tossed it in our basket. Success! It was only after checking out did we notice that the 8oz bottle of syrup was 8 Euros! It was grade A Maple Syrup imported from Canada. It was in the specialty foods section. Ah well, it sure tasted good the next morning!

German grocery stores are a bit different. The cashier sits down on high raised comfy chair with a back and moves each item across the scanner onto a tiny platform next to her. You better be quick to grab the item and put it in your self provided bags or you will anger Hilda. Again as I mentioned, forget credit!

Back at the campsite we ate in. It was really a money saver not to have to eat every meal out.

Salzburg Day 2

Entrance to The Eagle's Nest
Famed Fireplace
Alex at the top
That's Band of Brother's on the Zune, paused at the part that was shot in this hall
View from the top, from the bus on the way up
View from the bus to the Eagle's Nest
Inside the tunnels/bunker
The French Army leaves its mark
The inn that is still run by the decendants who refused to sell to the Nazis
Snarky Waitress Here!

Our second day in Salzburg was spent touring the Obersalzburg and the Berchtesgaden. If you saw Band of Brothers, there was a whole episode dedicated to the 101st Airborne taking this area. This was Hitler's 2nd Nixon's Western Whitehouse. Before becoming Chancellor of Germany he lived in this area. He liked it so much that he purchased the home he was renting. There is much to like, you are at the foot of the Alps, ready to ascend. We took a bus to the main station and had a lunch on an outdoor patio while we waited for our tour guide to arrive. Oh, did we have the snarkest waitress. We don't expect American service here and in most cases, we have been treated very well, but this girl was having a really bad day.

Frederick had booked a 1/2 day tour with a professional guide. This was one of those areas that where I wanted to understand and absorb the history. Simply beautiful scenery was not enough.

We proceeded to board a large comfy motorcoach for the trip up the mountain to our first destination Hitler's bunkers. Turns out they were mainly built to provide a secure location for the many workers of the local hotel and other homes on the Berchtesgaden. By the end of the war, there were no private homes left in this area. All the homes were purchased by the Nazi party. Those who wouldn't sell were sent to work camps. They sold. There is a small inn that is still in operation by the family of the original owner. The owner would not sell to Hitler and he was one of those sent to the work camps and then later sold his inn. After the war, since the family could prove they resisted Hitler, they were allowed to have they inn back, once they repaid the money they were given. The others were not so lucky.

The bunkers are a massive structure. Deep underground they are a constant temperature, I guess around 60 degrees, a welcome respite from the 90+ degree heat. At one time they were lavish. Everything you could want, save sunlight. They are fairly barren now, as after the war the local population was allowed to strip the bunkers of materials to repair their own war damaged homes.

From the bunkers, we board specially equipped busses. These have more powerful motors and stronger brakes, AND hopefully extremely skilled drivers. Alex and I were in the front seat and had a first hand few of the death that would await us if the bus veered off the tiny mountain ,one way, switchback laden, road to the top. The Eagle's Nest was build as a teahouse and a gift for Hitler's 50th birthday. He only visited the Eagle's Nest a few times. It's now a restaurant. The views from the very top of this mountain are spectacular. The Nazi's had abandoned the location when the French and Americans first took the Eagle's Nest. You can still see the massive fireplace, a gift from Mussolini, with it's chipped corners. Americans shot at the fireplace to dislodge pieces as souvenirs.

We sat outside and snacked on some ice cream. So ironic for Americans be eating sundaes in Hitler's lair. Take that Furer! Quite creepy to walk where he walked. Bastard. After spending time at Terezin and Mauthausen, I found myself full of rage. How could people be so stupid? (Hum, I guess this blog isn't the best place to rant about the dangers of charismatic Emily says, nevermind) Oh and on a separate note, Hitler was Austrian....Beethoven was German, not the other way around.

Saturday, July 24, 2010


Between Vienna and Salzburg we stopped at a concentration camp called Mauthausen. It had special meaning for me as my Grandfather was part of the 11th Armored division that liberated this camp at the end of WWII. He had pictures that he took when he was there. I only saw them once as a child and they were frightening.

It was peaceful, terrifying and sad all at the same time. It's almost unimaginable how humans can treat other humans. It was difficult not to cry when you are standing in a gas chamber. This camp was especially heinous as it was a forced labor camp. The prisoners were made to work in a quarry and carry 50 pound stones up hundreds of stairs out of the quary. If you stumbled, you were shot or pushed off the edge of a cliff to your death. If you made it up the stairs, they gave you the choice of getting shot, or pushing the prisoner next to you off the cliff. Grandpapa, I know you were away from your family, but your time away was not in vain. Spending time following the path of my Grandfather's division makes me so proud of the work those men and women did. We are a great country and we do intend to do good.
Check out the Wikipedia page for Mauthausen, the details are chilling.


Friday, July 23, 2010


Looks like Rome...nope it's on!
The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music.
Salzburg from the Hohensalzburg Castle
Hohensalzburg Castle

City of Salt

My kind of town. Since I was old enough to have memory, I have craved salt. Rock Salt, Sea Salt, Kosher Salt, Salt Lick, Table Salt, Diamond Crystal Salt and now my favorite crystal flake salt. I chalk it up to some kind of chemical imbalance. I’m never without it. You never know when you’ll need more salt.

It’s a good thing I didn’t live in the middle ages or earlier. Prior to the availability of ice and refrigeration, salt was a very valuable commodity. It was THE way to preserve food. The city of Salzburg owes its wealth to the salt mines nearby. It would be like craving gold today!

Salzburg has an impressive intact middle ages castle/fortress, which has never been attacked. It's a quaint city at the base of the Alps. It has an amazing cathedral and beautiful squares. The Prince/Archbishops who held the seat of power for many years were both sacred and secular rulers. One of them was enamored with Rome and designed much of the city and squares with fountains and such to match the eternal city. Its 16th and 17th century homes and buildings are well preserved. However, if two fortuitous events had not happened in its vicinity than its unlikely we tourists would put it on the map. The Sound of Music story begins here and much of the movie were shot here. Maria Von Trapp’s story draws many, many visitors to follow in her footsteps. I wonder how many are shocked to find out that Fraulein Maria looks more like a haggard laundress than Julie Andrews. Truly the scenery is spectacular. The movie does not do it justice. As a former Liesl one feels the need to see the famous gazebo. However, since an old woman, several years back, fell and broke something trying to skip around the inside, it has been shut down. No need to pay the $$ if I can't skip. I did get to see the hills that are alive with the sound of music and the lake.

The 2nd event and the reason for my visit is this is the birthplace of Mozart. On our 3rd day here I was able to tour the house he was born in and see the house he grew up in. I viewed his piano. So from death to birth I have made my pilgrimage to bear witness to his genius. Now, I can go home and have personal images every time I listen to Nachtmusik or Don Giovanni.

These days Salzburg treats Mozart like Orlando treats the mouse. He's a mascot. Every shop hawks its Mozart connection. I know he loves this! Mozart sings, Hey, Hey I wanna be rock star.

We arrived in Salzburg on Sunday and after moving our camper to the most advantageous location, we promptly hit the campground pool. It's hotter than hell here. one has heard of air conditioning or ice...of course people die when it hits above 90.

I take that back, they have heard of ice when it comes to filling their pools. As hot as it was outside the pool was equally as cold. It was rather small and Europeans wear speedos and have no sense of personal space. As soon as we were cooled off, we made our exit. Everyone hit the showers and we headed off by bus in to the “old town” on the correct side of the river. Not much going on for a Sunday night. We searched for a place to eat. Alex was caught by a menu hawking spaghetti and we decided to have Italian for the night. Upstairs in another ancient building we went. Again..even at 7pm this place was brutally hot.

Luckily the food was good, because the rest of the dining experience was subpar. Americans are not used to nursing their 2.50 euro 8 ounce glass of water or soda through an entire meal. Free refills..haha! Ice haha! Food coming out at the same time? Ha ha

Credit card machine working and being able to pay the bill in 20 minutes after you give them your credit card....ha ha.

Again we were dripping hot and we took the bus back to the campground. The pool closed at 8PM. We arrived at the campsite at 7:55PM. I made my way to the camper, donned my bathing suit and hit the pool in 5 minutes flat. A quick ice bath and I was human again.

An hour or so fighting the ultra slow internet and we were ready to head in for the night.

Tomorrow.....Hitler's Eagle's Nest. Alex is in bed watching the Eagle's Nest, Band of Brothers episode and is getting psyched!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Vienna Day 2

St Stephen's Cathedral

Reflection of the Cathedral in a the modern building next door

Schonbrunn Palace

I spent the evening working on reports for work. If I had more reliable internet access, I could work anywhere. Our first stop of the day was Schonbrunn Palace. This is the “summer home” of the Habsburgs. History is such an immense subject. What was 2 days in Western Civ course in high school took place over 600 years. Frankly Austria, let alone Hungary were just a small footnote. Hardly even real places. It was in this palace that a 5 year old prodigy Mozart gave a concert to the Empress Maria Teresa. This is the next step on my Mozart tour. We also took in an apple strudel baking show and Frederick’s Mom got to participate. We’ve seen palaces and castles of this size before, but this one, for all its opulence still looked like someone’s home. It was a refreshing change. After the palace tour we took the subway into town and walked around the main tourist area. Vienna is a large and vibrant city, new and old stand side by side. Growing up in the US when you think about the workings of a city in our earliest days, say 1790, you don’t picture a huge metropolis. European cities were as big and busy as NYC is today in the 1600’s and so much of the architecture survives. As we walked through the main square, Alex and I saw the same guy who sold us the tickets to the concert the night before. We wanted to keep telling all his new “victims” not to buy the tickets, until he gave us our money back…but we were thwarted by the rest of our traveling party. Something about not wanting to make scene or get arrested. Whatever! A stop at St. Stephen’s cathedral and a stop at Momma’s for Schnitzel (loving the Schnitzel) and we were ready to head back to the camp ground. It’s the middle of World Cup Mania and all the campers are huddled around TV’s watching the matches. Ultimately, as you know, Spain won, but the Netherlands and Germany advanced far…it would have been fun to be in the country that won it all, just to see the spectacle.

Next up is Salzburg for 3 days. We were going to head down to Innsbruck, but the roads are pretty twisty and we are losing a day in Salzburg because it’s Sunday. Everything in Germany is closed on Sunday except gas stations, restaurants and stores at the train stations. So, it just a useless day when you travel. Also during the week, the stores all close at 7PM…what a pain! And…hardly anyone takes credit cards. Even IKEA is cash only….yes I’ll have a NAASKSIK book case and a IHFAAAKD desk and here is my wad of CASH. Eughhh!!!!

We’ll make a quick stop at Mauthausen. This is a concentration camp my grandfather help liberate in 1945. I didn’t mention it before, but we also went to Terezin prior to heading to Budapest. This was another work camp run by the Nazi’s. Alex did a play called, I Never Saw Another Butterfly where he portrayed a 17 year old boy who actually was housed in Terezin and eventually died in Auschwitz. It’ was really moving for him to see the actual place where this person spent his final years.

Salzburg….what’s not to like….it’s the city of SALT!!!! It’s named for the Salt mines nearby that brought the city all it’s wealth. It’s also the city where Mozart was born and lived as a child when he was not traveling as a musical sideshow. Oddly, I find so many parallels between Mozart and Michael Jackson. Both were child prodigies exploited by their fathers, both never grew up and tried to recapture the childhoods they lost and both died early.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


The drive from Budapest to Vienna was rather smooth and fairly short, perhaps 2 hours. We found Camping Wien (Vienna) and set up shop in spot directly across from the facilities. Again the internet was slow and sketchy, but it was available on Frederick's computer. Just enough to look at email, but not enough to upload pictures. What do I miss about home? FIOS!

We woke up early and took a bus to the subway station. I had one goal for Vienna, to seek the agreed on location of Mozart's grave. Contrary to popular opinion Mozart wasn't dumped in a pauper's grave, he was buried with others as was the custom of the day. He died at just 35 years old from “military fever”. What that is, no one is really sure. He was working on a requiem mass when he died. It ha been said that he feared working on it as he felt he might be writing it for his own death. I had the joy of watching the entire requiem mass performed at the Meyerson Symphony Hall in Dallas last year. You truly feel like you are hearing the voice of God when it is performed. What a way to honor a departed beloved than to have this requiem mass sung in their honor. About 20 years after Mozart's death, his widow could not remember exactly where he was buried. Mozart had become even more famous. I assume they decided he needed his own stone. The current marked location is a guess, but it can't be too far off as it isn't a huge cemetery. Many years later the memorial was moved to the Central cemetery to be with the actual graves of Bach, Beethoven, etc. I wanted to be at the actual site. The current site is marked with a headstone that was put together with broken pieces from other sites. It must not be visited very often as the directions to get to it are sketchy at best. We knew where the cemetery was located on a map, but getting there via subway and walking was tricky. We ended up asking the attendant the subway station, but she gave us the wrong stop. It was soooooo hot when we exited the station. In fact it has been hot since we left Frankfurt. 90 degrees plus. The path to the site was up hill and surrounded with trees, all of he older headstones, from the 1800’s were quite grown over. You can imagine the carriage carrying the coffin making its way up the path. Then out of nowhere a clearing appears to the right and there is Mozart’s grave. Step 1 of the journey is complete.

We make our way out of the cemetery and head for the city center to visit the apartment that Mozart lived in when he was in Vienna. Step 2 These are the apartments portrayed in Amadeus. Again, to be standing in the room where The Magic Flute was composed was quite the thrill for me.

We spend about an hour here and then headed back to the main square. We had intended to enter St. Stephen's cathedral, however we found that Frederick was being chatted up by one of the many concert hucksters in the square. When you go to Vienna, you really do want to hear live classical music. The ticket salesperson took credit cards and was offering us 2 free tickets for our party of 5 to see a Mozart and Stauss live concert. So we decided it was a good deal and headed over to the venue. was exactly has described, however it was all much smaller. It was a quartet, including piano, with one singer and 2 ballet dancers. The room was a small salon and quite crowded and hot. The people in front of us were from Montreal and were quite upset as they had paid full price, for what we all thought was a theater. A small vacation indulgence. The performers were quite good and we were able to say we heard Mozart in Vienna. The leader of the group kept continuing to take bows….it’s was quite funny. Each time the audience clapped, he brought the group back for an encore. I think they were clapping more because the concert was over, as it was quite warm in the room. This brought our first day in Vienna to an end. More tomorrow.