Europe – Part III

***Continued from previous post.

{October 12 – 8:20 pm – Salzburg, Austria}
Another long, productive day. We haven’t spent much time in our little hotel room; too busy exploring! This morning I got up at 7 am to get ready. Ate breakfast a little after 8 o’ clock. After food, I purchased for each of us a 24 hour “Salzburg Card” (50€ total). This is a great card for the price – free bus rides and entry to a whole bunch of attractions in the city. This is a great website with lots of information about the city and the “Salzburg Card”. So, we walked down Linzer-Gasse, crossed the bridge to Old Town (Altstadt), and waited for the #25 bus in front of the police station. It came at 10:20 am. The #25 bus goes to the Untersberg cable car in Grödig / St. Leonhard and even though the bus ride is outside of the city, we were still allowed to get on for free when we flashed the “Card”. We reached our destination sometime after 11 am if I recall correctly. Inside the station we showed our cards and were given tickets for the cable car. We waited for the next car and climbed in with a huge group of people – it was quite packed! I’m afraid of heights, so I was apprehensive about going up the mountain, but there was no way I could go to Salzburg and not go to the top of the Untersberg! Luckily it was really foggy so I didn’t see much of the ascent. Jordan took pictures for me. Once we reached the top at 1776 m in altitude and went outside to the trails, I noticed it was much warmer than down at ground level.



We walked up the trail to the first peak marked with a huge cross and took some photos. Then we decided to walk the trail to the next peak, which was quite a hike! Probably took us a good 30-45 minutes to get there. I got so warm I removed my light jacket, and I had to constantly stop to drink water and catch my breath due to the altitude. But it was a wonderful walk and I’m so glad we did it. Around noon we climbed back down the trails to the station and hopped on the cable car for the next descent. At the main station we bought apple & cheese danishes for a snack. What a morning!



Our next stop on the #25 bus (free with the cards) was Schloss Hellbrunn. We got off at the right spot and walked down the long road to the palace grounds. Remembered this place from the “Sound of Music” tour from the other day, although this time we can explore on our own and spend as much time here as we want. First stop: souvenir shop! I bought a “Sound of Music” book, a book about Hellbrunn Palace, a postcard, and an Austria flag patch for 26€. Then we went into the palace and picked up two English audio-guides for the self-guided tour. I found the audio-guides were a little boring; I enjoyed just walking around and inspecting the rooms without it. Next we found the booth for getting tickets to the Trick Fountains show (included with the “Salzburg Card”). The next show was at 2:20 pm so we had a bit of a wait. The Trick Fountains were pretty cool. Had to keep my camera tucked away when I wasn’t using it so that it wouldn’t get wet. First we were led to see the stone table and seats that were the brainchild of Markus Sittikus. He got a kick out of his guests being sprayed in the bum by water jets when they were sitting down to dinner! The guide led us through the grottoes to see the statues, etc. As we walked through many of us got a little wet from the hidden water-jets spurting water at us – usually when we were stepping through a doorway or some other inopportune moment! The mechanical theatre was cool, too. It was fun, though, and worth the 40 minute stroll.



After that little adventure, Jordan decided to wander down a path that looked like it went into the woods, but actually led us to the Folklore Museum on the grounds. Free entry with our cards. Neat to poke around in there for a bit. Left there and found ourselves near the Salzburg Zoo so we used our cards for free tickets and had a great time exploring the zoo. The animals are so close and easy to spot for the most part. Took lots of photos, of course. The highlight of the zoo, however, was definitely when I came around the corner of the lemur pen and suddenly about four or five lemurs started jumping over and running around the path in front of me – way cool! For a light snack we ate some delicious French fries at the buffet. In the souvenir shop I purchased a miniature snow leopard stuffed animal for my sister (2.60€). We spent a long time at the zoo but finally returned to the palace grounds to take some pictures in front of the “Sound of Music” gazebo (no crowds this time). Then back to the bus stop to catch the #25 back to town around 5:30 pm. Transferred at the bus terminal to the #3 and got off in Old Town. We walked over to the elevator that takes you to the top of the Mönchsberg at the “Museum of Moderne” and got tickets to go up because they were included in the cards. (We discovered the elevator after our trek up the mountain on that first day.) However, once we reached the top we were told that the museum was closed for a special event so back down we went – good thing we didn’t pay for the tickets!



Found a “McCafe” while looking for dinner. Bought a caramel macchiato for myself and a slice of chocolate cake for the husband. Kept walking and stopped at “Spaghetti & Co” around 7:30 pm for dinner. We always have a difficult time deciding on restaurants, even here in Canada. By now I am starving! Jordan ordered Hawaiian pizza and beer, and I had the carbonara pasta with ham and bacon. Our dinner only cost 16€! And finally, back to the hotel after that amazing meal. So tired!



{October 13 – 4:30 pm – Salzburg, Austria}
We tried for another early day but we’re still so tired that we slept past 8 am. After eating breakfast at the buffet, we headed out into the grey, foggy streets through town to the funicular (cable railway) for Hohensalzburg Fortress. If we’d had time to go to the fortress yesterday, it would have been included in our “Salzburg Card”. Use of the funicular cost 10.50€ each. Once in the fortress we explored the grounds, checked out the panorama views, even though it was cold. Definitely the worst day for weather, our first yucky Europe day. We walked into the fortress and inspected the state rooms, etc. Signed up for audio-guide tour of the inner rooms to see things like the torture chamber, which was actually used to hold convicted prisoners. All in all, we spent a couple hours at the fortress and then took the cable railway back down in the afternoon.



Next we ended up at St. Peter’s Cemetery & Catacombs. For 1€ each we were allowed to walk up the steep stone steps into the catacombs and explore. It wasn’t that interesting. The view from the windows on the way up is pretty nice, though. After finishing there, I bought a yummy pretzel for a snack (2.50€). Went looking for lunch and by 3 pm we finally found a place that looked alright, “Il Centro”, an Italian restaurant. Very cozy inside, great to warm up the hands. I ordered black tea, Jordan had a beer. For food I had tortellini in a creamy tomato sauce with mushrooms, ham, and salami (divine), while Jordan ate a bowl of vegetable soup and pizza bread, all for 20€. I’m quite pleased with the cost of food here in Salzburg. Back at the hotel to drop off the days purchases (water, snacks, etc). Shortly we’ll need to catch a bus to the train station to buy our tickets for tomorrow’s journey to Munich Airport.

{October 13 – 7:15 pm – Salzburg, Austria}
Went out around 5 pm to catch the #2 bus to train station. Purchased our tickets to Munich Airport (66€ for both of us) and caught the next bus going to Altstadt. Found a toy store and decided to check it out. Bought a Disney Princesses sticker book for Jeena (9€) and a small notebook for myself. Then to the grocery store for Sprite and some Lindt chocolate. Next, we found the store “Interio” and I bought a whole bunch of small glass Christmas ornaments in my colour scheme (dark purple, red, and silver) all for 34€. Time to head back to the hotel to make sure everything is packed!

***Continued in next post.

Europe – Part II

***Continued from previous post.

{October 9 – 11:30 am – Düsseldorf, Germany}
We are on the Air Berlin flight heading to Salzburg, Austria at the moment. This morning I woke up at 5:15 am to shower and make sure our luggage was ready. Cereal for breakfast. Tyler drove Jordan and I to the train station in Geilenkirchen to catch the 7:37 am train to Düsseldorf Airport. Our train was a double-decker and we sat up top. At the hauptbahnhof in Düsseldorf, we transferred to another train going to the terminal. Finally we reached the airport just after 9 am and checked ourselves in. Both of us set off the alarm going through security, which is funny since I wore the same outfit I’d had on going through Toronto security and nothing happened. Once our flight was announced, we boarded a bus which took us onto the tarmac to the plane. On the plane we were given a snack but I just had water and ate my Nutri-Grain bar because I didn’t like the apple biscuits that were served.



{October 9 – 3:10 pm – Salzburg, Austria}
After disembarking from the plane and finding our luggage, we hopped on Bus #2 heading toward downtown. We got off at Wolf-Dietrich-Strasse (as advised by someone on Trip Advisor) and with the help of a map printed off Google, we managed to find the Goldenes Theaterhotel (in New Town). The bus ride cost 2.10€ each. Checked in and collected some brochures, and came up to our room. Probably going to book a couple Panarama tours through the hotel for the next couple days. We’re going to head out in a few minutes to explore the city on foot and hopefully find some dinner.



{October 9 – 10:15 pm – Salzburg, Austria}
Our afternoon consisted of a LOT of walking. We never stopped after leaving the hotel. First we walked down Linzer-Gasse, looking at all the shops. Popped into a stationary store and bought a pop-up baby card for Michelle (3.50€). Then we veered off the main road under an archway and found ourselves going up a very steep street that has a magnificent view of the city and the Salzach River. There’s a church of some kind at the top, and a Mozart statue, and other Christian statues in niches on the way up. I think the building is Kapuzinerkloster on Kapuzinerberg. After taking pictures, we made our way back down to the bottom of the Kapuziner mountain and crossed over to the Altstadt (Old Town) on one of the pedestrian bridges. Found a grocery store and bought some rolls, cheese, fresh slices of ham, a bottle of water, and two juices for under 10€. We ate this yummy lunch down by the Salzach on the grass, on the New Town side, with Hohensalzburg Fortress slightly to our left. Beautiful!



After lunch we wandered back across the bridge to Altstadt. I don’t know how we did it, but we managed to find ourselves on the Mönchsberg (another mountain across from Kapuzinerberg). We walked past churches and a big fancy hotel, and through trails in the woods, not really knowing where we were. Saw a sign showing the kilometers to the fortress’s funicular (cable railway). Found the “Museum of Moderne”. We wandered so far into the evening that we ended up 300 metres from the funicular site. Finally we turned around, not having a clue where we were, stopped for a beer at a little shack selling snacks (by now it’s dark and cold), and then returned to ground level after another long walk. On the way back to our hotel we ate pizza at “Saboron”. We ordered a large pizza to split and black tea. The waitress must not have liked the idea of us splitting the food because she gave us one plate, one fork, one knife, and a single napkin! I used tissue from my purse to wipe my hands. lol The pizza was delicious, though, for 14€. Back to the hotel to write this entry and then bed.



{October 10 – 10:45 am – Salzburg, Austria}
Our wake-up call didn’t happen this morning so we woke up at 9:30 am. That meant we had to rush to get ready and go down for breakfast (closes at 10:30 am). We’d also planned to book a full-day tour, but without the wake-up call we were too late. Instead we’ve bought tickets to go on Panarama’s “Sound of Music” tour this afternoon at 2 pm. The tickets are 37€ per person. I’m pretty excited! Jordan and I both love this movie and are looking forward to seeing the locations where the movie was filmed. Hopefully tomorrow we’ll be up early enough for a full-day tour. So, breakfast was alright: lots of breads, rolls, croissants, fruit, yogurt, cereal, milk, cheeses, tea, coffee, etc. I found the grapefruit juice too bitter. Breakfast and wireless internet is included in the room price.



{October 10 – 8:00 pm – Salzburg, Austria}
Back at the hotel for the evening. This morning after breakfast we walked to Mirabel Gardens for a stroll through the grounds. Stopped at a few souvenir shops along the way. I picked up a couple postcards and a cloth Salzburg bag for 12€. Mirabel Gardens is free to enter and the flowers were absolutely beautiful! What beautiful weather for October! After our walk, we returned to the hotel to drop off my shopping and have a snack (leftover apfelstrudel from yesterday). Went down to the lobby at 1:45 pm to catch the Panarama shuttle. Time for “Sound of Music”! At St-Ändra Kirche we boarded a tour bus and drove through the city. The guide pointed out different areas that were in the movie. We stopped to take pictures of Leopoldskron, which was used as the back of the Von Trapp villa (canoe scene, etc). Also stopped at Schloss Hellbrunn to visit the gazebo from the film. Next we drove out to Mondsee in the Lake District (Salzkammergut) where we had an hour of free time to eat, view the cathedral that Maria and Captain Von Trapp were married in in the movie, and drink in the lovely scenery. Spent most of the hour trying to find a bathroom! Before boarding the bus to go back to Salzburg, we bought some truffles. Returned for 6 pm to St-Ändra Kirche.



The guide suggested we walk through Mirabel Gardens again and told us where to find the pegasus fountain, the “Do-Rei-Mi” steps, etc before he said goodbye. Jordan and I decided to take another walk through and realized we had missed an entire section earlier that day! We found the pegasus fountain, took pictures on the steps from the “Do-Rei-Mi” scene, walked through the arbor. Magical! It was getting late and a bit chilly so Jordan and I decided to walk back to Old Town to find something for dinner. We ended up buying chicken shawarma sandwiches from a vendor and brought them back to the hotel to eat. That sandwich was the best I have ever eaten! Time to relax and watch “Burn After Reading” on our Netbook.



{October 11 – 6:30 pm – Salzburg, Austria}
Started the day early with a 6 am wake-up call. I hopped in the shower and we were down to breakfast by 7:45 am. After eating quickly, we booked the full-day Panarama “Bavarian Mountains / Hitler’s Eagles’s Nest / Salt Mines” tour. We were picked up at the hotel at 8:20 am by the shuttle and brought to St-Ändra Kirche where the tour bus was waiting. The tour cost 180€ for both of us.



First we drove out of Salzburg to the Obersalzburg mountain area. Beautiful scenery and mountain views along the way. Because we were on a special combination tour, first the bus had to drop some people off at the salt mines before continuing on to Berchtesgaden, Germany across the border. Up, up some crazy hills and finally we reached the base of the “Eagle’s Nest” where we had to switch to a special bus that would take us on switchback roads the rest of the way up to Hitler’s teahouse. Once we reached the top, we walked down a long dark tunnel to the original brass elevator. A bunch of us all squished inside. There was a sign that I accidentally took a picture of before getting inside; I think it meant I wasn’t supposed to take photos of or in the elevator. The ascent took 45 seconds. Inside the teahouse, or Kehlsteinhaus, that was given to Adolf Hitler for his 50th birthday, our group was shown a brief video, as well as the fireplace from 1938. Then we were given just over an hour to wander around the mountain. Jordan and I went outside and it was very cold but the sun was bright. I realized that I had left my mittens on the tour bus! We could see Hohensalzburg Fortress from our vantage point – that was amazing! We took quite a few photos of the breath-taking landscape and then met back at the elevator for the 11 o’ clock descent. By noon we were in the picturesque town of Berchtesgaden. Jordan and I spent the hour of free-time eating lunch (cheeseburger and fries in a cone) and poking into a few souvenir shops.



Next stop, our turn for the salt mines. Only three of us got off the bus for this part of the combination tour. We introduced ourselves to Hussein, a friendly young man from Bahrain, and we stuck together for the rest of the tour. We dressed in large overalls (mine were absolutely huge) and waited around for the next underground tour at 1:30 pm. Hopped on the underground train, started the audio guides, and away we went! Even with fluorescent lights on the walls, it was still pretty dark. Flash photography is not allowed (although some people still used flash). At the end of the track, we could either go down the walkway or slide down the original slides that the workers used back in the day. Jordan decided to slide, while I just walked down. We were shown all sorts of equipment, there were little videos to watch along the way, and we even got onto a boat and slid across the salt lake – it glittered and sparkled and was really neat to see. Came across a second slide and I went down with Jordan; it’s very quick but takes your breath away! At the end we were given miniature shakers of salt from the mine.



Back to the tour bus for 3 o’ clock. Drove to Königssee, just south of Berchtesgaden, which is the cleanest lake in Germany. A bit of a hike from where the bus parked to the lake itself, but it was worth it. The weather was just perfect. We had 45 minutes to explore and most of us walked all the way to the look-out point and then back, all the while chatting with the tour guide who was very knowledgeable and friendly. He took good care of those of us who were doing the combo tour so that we wouldn’t get off the bus at the wrong time. After this enjoyable but exhausting day, we returned to Salzburg for 6 pm. Now I’m starving – leftover pizza for dinner. We watched “Bangkok Dangerous” on the Netbook before falling asleep.

***Continued in next post.

Europe – Part I

Jordan returned home from his deployment the evening of November 4th, almost a month early. I am overjoyed to have him home and I hope that he won’t be sent away again for a good long while. As I mentioned many times before, we planned a trip to Europe during his vacation days: October 6th – 23rd. It was just a fluke that he came home only a couple weeks after this! Just as I did during our trip to Thailand, I wrote in a journal each day of our Europe adventure. And once again I’ll re-create that journal here, for myself and for anyone else who wants to read about our trip. Except for the first entry in Toronto, all of the times I have listed are local for the cities we are in.

With only two and a half weeks for traveling together, we had to narrow down the cities we wanted to visit. After much thought, we decided on the following: Tüddern, Germany (basing ourselves at our friends’ home); Salzburg, Austria; Bruges, Belgium; and Amsterdam, The Netherlands. By choosing only a few destinations, we allowed ourselves to spend a good amount of time in each city to relax as well as explore.

{October 5 – 7:00 pm EST – Toronto Pearson Airport}
Dad picked me up at 3:30 pm and we drove in the pouring rain to the Toronto Airport. I think we arrived around 6:30 pm. Dad dropped me off and I brought my baggage inside: one large suitcase (filled with autumn-weather clothing for Jordan), one carry-on suitcase (filled with my own clothes and toiletries), and a big pink zippered purse crammed with two cameras, a book, notebook and pens, snack foods, passport, Euros, etc. Dad had parked at the entrance closest to the KLM counters, so once I went inside it was easy to spot where I needed to go. My flight was scheduled for 10:35 pm and I was four hours early. A woman with an Air France uniform showed me how to check in at a kiosk and print my boarding passes. Then I waited another half an hour until we were allowed to line up to check our baggage. After that it was a quick trip through security. My boarding pass says I need to be at my gate at 9:20 pm. Bought an over-priced bottle of water to drink during my wait. I seem to be the only person in the waiting area of my gate. This first flight to Amsterdam should be about 7 hours; then a quick flight to Düsseldorf, Germany, where I will be reunited with my husband! I guess I will read for awhile.

{October 6 – 12:30 pm – Amsterdam Schiphol Airport}
The flight out of Toronto left 10 minutes late. The flight itself was uneventful; minimal turbulence. I had an aisle seat. The food was alright, nothing fancy. I drank a lot of water and attempted to sleep most of the journey. The late departure meant a late arrival in Amsterdam. I was in a rush to get through Passport Control (huge lines), security, and then to my gate which seemed to be at the far reaches of the airport! The man who stamped my passport asked me if there was anything else Dutch about me besides my last name. I explained that my father was born in The Netherlands but I wasn’t taught to speak Dutch. The lines through security took forever as well but here I am, at the gate, with 15 minutes to spare before boarding! I am starving and so tired. This airport is very stuffy and warm, my throat feels very dry but there’s no point buying water when I can’t bring it onto the plane with me. All I can think is that I will see Jordan this afternoon!



{October 7 – 9:30 am – Tüddern, Germany}
Very long day yesterday and I didn’t have time to write, but here’s what went on. Once my flight was called for boarding, we were herded onto a bus and driven to our “City Hopper” plane that would be flying us to Düsseldorf. During the short 30 minute flight I was asked to complete a survey. We were served orange juice and a cookie for snack. I hate orange juice but I was so thirsty I drank it anyway. Now, this plane was very small and us passengers were crammed in together. The landing just about turned my stomach because I could feel every drop in altitude. I much prefer the bigger planes for their smooth landings! Anyway, we disembarked onto the tarmac and headed into the “Schengen” building (no passport control), away from the gloomy overcast sky. I could hardly believe I was finally in Germany! Proceeded to Baggage Claim (sometime after 2 pm), collected my big suitcase, and headed to the Arrivals hall. And there they are, Jordan and his friend Tyler, waiting for me! During the journey from the airport to the little town of Tüddern (lots of farmland, wind turbines, and sugar beets), we got pulled over by the police. Apparently there was a sign indicating “no over-taking”, and Tyler didn’t see it. I’m not sure what that even means. Anyway, Tyler ended up with a ticket, but he wasn’t really bothered by it. He and his wife have lived there for over a year now (military posting) and it was their suggestion that we stay with them for a few days. At some point, before or after that little incident, we stopped at a gas station to buy something to drink for Jordan and myself. I used the washroom as well, which cost 0.50€, but a machine issued me a ticket that offered the same amount off any purchase. Finally we arrived at their house and were shown around. The toilet is weird and I couldn’t figure out how to flush it the first time, haha! While Tyler & Tammy went out to pick up groceries for dinner, Jordan and I showered and changed. Later, while Tammy prepared dinner, Tyler, Jordan, and I sat outside around the firepit in their backyard. The weather was cloudy but not really cold, and the warmth from the fire was perfect. For dinner we had garlic chicken, mashed sweet potatoes, garlic potatoes, salad, and fresh rolls. The food was delicious, especially after all that airplane food! Rest of the night was spent around the fire. Around 11 pm, utterly exhausted, we finally went to bed. Now it’s the morning of our first full day in Germany and time to shower and change!

{October 7 – 11:10 pm – Tüddern, Germany}
Yet another long day! After getting ready and eating breakfast (cereal for me, fried egg on toast for Jordan), the four of us drove to Monschau, a quaint town untouched by the ravages of WWII. We parked outside the town and walked in. Cobbled stone streets, canals, picturesque houses and shops, but very touristy. We spent the whole afternoon walking around without realizing it. The weather was absolutely perfect, with only a few clouds, bright blue sky, and a warm sun, definitely better weather for October than back home in Ontario! We wandered through a flea market, walked down the narrow lanes, window-shopped – I ended up buying a postcard for 0.40€. In the square we sat down at an outdoor table; everyone ordered a tall glass of beer, while I had a tall glass of water. Then we moved to another table whose associated restaurant actually served food and we ordered lunch: personal pizzas for each of us. Tyler helped to translate the menu. My three years of German courses back in university helped a little bit, as well. Pizza mit Käse und Schinken seemed to be the best option and it was delicious. Jordan also ordered a side of fries. I love fries and was not disappointed in these; they were certainly better than any I’ve ever eaten. Maybe it’s because they were German? I believe the pizzas each cost 7€ and Tyler insisted on paying for the meal.



We decided to walk around some more after lunch. Found a free public toilet. Walked up some steep stone steps that eventually brought us to the ruins of an ancient castle. All this time Jordan had been munching on the fries that he stuffed into his pocket from lunch, because he didn’t want to throw them out. These came to be delightfully known as “pocket fries”, yum! Fries are always better when they’re from somebody’s pocket. lol By 4:30 pm we made it back to the truck and drove back home, stopping at the train station in Geilenkirchen first (closed). We sat outside by the fire again, drinking Caesars (which I tried for the first time) and hot chocolate. Leftover chicken sandwiches for dinner. Now it’s bedtime and tomorrow’s adventure is Maastricht, Holland!



{October 8 – 6:00 pm – Tüddern, Germany}
Woke up early this morning. First we headed over to the train station in Geilenkirchen so that we could purchase our tickets for tomorrow. Then we were on our way to Maastricht! It wasn’t a very long drive and once again we lucked out with beautiful weather. The streets are very narrow with other cars, buses, and cyclists coming at us from every direction. I’m glad I wasn’t the one to parallel park the big truck Tyler was driving! We walked around and explored the streets and shops, and stepped into the “VVV” (tourist information) to buy a map of the city. Took some photos of the ancient Third Wall of the city, walked up the Helpoort (donation of 5€), and walked down by the water looking at boats. Everything was so lovely, I didn’t want to leave! But we only had parking until 2:30 pm, so we eventually had to walk back to the truck.



We decided to drive over to see Fort Sint Pieter but it was closed. Although we couldn’t go inside, we did climb the steep hill for a great view of the fort. Very hot after this uphill walk. Getting hungry, so goodbye Maastricht, we are heading over to Sittard for some food and easier parking! Once in Sittard we sat down at a restaurant called “Luna” in the square. Ordered beer and water, of course. Jordan tried a Hoegaarden “Rose”, which looks like a girly cocktail when poured in a glass. For lunch I had a ham and cheese panini, with salad; Jordan ordered a Hawaiian panini with twister frites on the side. Our meal cost 25€ including tip. After this delicious food, the four of us walked over to the grocery store “Albert Heijn”. I picked out some salty black licorice candy, Belgian waffles, and milk chocolate sprinkles to bring home to Canada. Now we’re back at the house, with laundry on the go, and watching a movie. We’ll have to pack tonight because our train is at 7 am tomorrow morning!



***Continued in next post.