Europe Trip - Spring 1999
This time the Mrs. is taking the honor of writing the story.
We split up our flight to Europe by flying to Boston first and then the next morning flying out to France. It really helped to break up the time on the plane. On our flight over to Paris we had a stop at Heathrow and then a flight 45 minutes later to Paris. Unfortunately, we arrived into London Heathrow 10 minutes late and had to rush to meet our connection. We made our connection but our luggage did not. The flight we took was the last for the night so we were without our luggage our first night in Paris. We had already booked a hotel close to the airport because of the late flight, so the airline said it would deliver our luggage the next morning to our hotel. The next morning we waited and waited for our luggage. At about 11:00 we decided to find our luggage on our own. We ended up finding it at the airport.
Paris - Eiffel Tower
Needless to say, we were disappointed at the delay since we had only planned to be in Paris for two days and there was so much to see and do. Over the next day and a half we walked and walked and saw lots of art and beautiful churches. My favorite spot in Paris was the view from the Arc de Triumphe (although we had to climb a lot of stairs). We were planning on taking the train the next day to Germany, and we decided to instead take the night train. This bought us another full day in Paris for sightseeing. We visited the Louvre museum where there was so much art it was almost overwhelming. We ended up visiting only a part of the museum. It must take days to go through the entire museum.
Paris - Arc de Triumphe
That night we ended up spending a few hours at the train station. Unfortunately, there was a labor strike, so garbage had been piling up at the train station. I guess there is always some sort of strike going on in Paris. That night on the train we were unable to get sleeping couches so we ended up in a train compartment with six seats to ourselves so we were able to lie down across the seats.
When we arrived in Frankfurt we rented a car and drove along the Rhine River. We stayed in a cute hotel in Bachrach overlooking the river. Along the river are all sort of old castles. In earlier times the castles were created to collect tolls from the boats going down the river. We ended up touring one of these old castles and took it easy, since all the shops were closed on Sunday. We ate dinner at the hotel and ran across some other Americans. It was funny because there was a family from San Diego, another couple from San Francisco and some others from the Los Angeles area. (What a coincidence!) We started talking and they were just finishing their trips so they gave us tips on good places to stay in Europe. We had used a tour book by Rick Steves to plan our itinerary, and they were also using this same book.
Brian overlooking the Rhine River in Germany
The next morning we took off for a city called Rothenburg. To get to Rothenburg we drove on a road called the "Romantic Road", which gave us some very pretty sights of the German countryside. (Here's link to a bike tour of the Romantic Road.... - Brian) We arrived at Rothenburg and really enjoyed this town. This town is surrounded on all sides by walls, which they used in earlier times for protection. So you can actually walk around the city by walking on top of this square mile wall. This town also had some nice stores (whenever I could convince Brian that I wanted to shop).
Top photo: the wall around Rothenburg
After visiting Rothenburg we drove down to Munich. On our way to Munich we stopped at Dachau, a site of one of the former concentration camps. The experience of the concentration camp is very moving and makes the events seem more real. After visiting Dachau we went into Munich. Our friend Denise had warned us that it would be very difficult to find the old downtown Munich, but with Brian in the car, driving and navigating, we had no problems whatsoever. When we arrived Brian, who didn't bring enough clothes, wanted to do some laundry so we found the nearest laundry facility in town. [Editorial Comment: Just because I only pack a week's worth of clothes doesn't mean that it's not enough. We do laundry once a week at home - why should that change on the road? - Brian] Well it turned out to be next to a great big Bicycle Shop. So while I sat and watched the laundry he got to be in his glory at the shop. (Was this pure coincidence?) [Hey, you can't buy generator parts in the US! And yes, it was coincidence, albeit a perfectly timed one.] That night we toured downtown Munich. In the old downtown it is a marketplace where there are no cars, so you can walk and look at all the shops.
Top photo: the glockenspiel in Munich
The next day we took off for Salzburg, Austria. Salzburg was beautiful. It was not a large city but it also had a great big marketplace where you can walk and look at the shops. We decided to spend a couple of days in Salzburg. We went to Mozart's residence and saw some old churches. We also were able to go to a castle at the top of Salzburg where you can see the entire city.
Panorama of the outskirts of Salzburg with a view of the Alps
The next day we went on The Sound of Music tour. The tour was a lot of fun. We learned about the real Trapp family and got to see some of the actual sights from the movie. I now want to rent the movie to see what I recognize from our trip. Brian was a little confused since he had never seen the movie before.
The gazebo in The Sound of Music movie
On the tour the bus stopped at one of the ski slopes. In the spring and summer they run bobsleds and so we got to ride down on the sleds. I finally got the nerve to go down on the bobsled with Brian, and so we went to the top. Unfortunately there was an older Japanese couple going down the slide before us. When we started we had to quickly put on our brakes because they were going down the hill at such a slow speed!!! The best part of the tour was seeing the beautiful lakes, green hills and mountains covered with snow. What a sight that was!
Full speed ahead down the "luge"
After spending a few days in Salzburg, we drove to a little town called Hallstatt. Our friend Denise had recommended this to us from when she was there and it was a beautiful town. The town was nestled between a lake and a large mountain. We ended up getting a room overlooking the lake. We decided to tour the Salt mines and knew that there was one located in Hallstatt. Well there was a salt mine but it would not open until the next week, so tourist information suggested we drive to another town close by and visit their salt mine. The next tour would start at 2:00 so we had just enough time to get there. We drove to this town but could not find any signs for the salt mines, so we found Tourist Information. Well tourist information is closed from 11:00 to 2:00 for lunch so we tried to find someone to help us find the mines but there were not many people around the town and they didn't speak English. Finally we ended up finding a telephone number and called and they helped us to find the mines. What I found interesting about the mines was the fact that during WW2 they stored all the paintings in them to protect them from the bombings. The salt mines preserved the paintings as well because of the temperature and the salt. After touring the salt mines we headed back and ended up eating at a restaurant that served some kind of fish from the lake (the name was in German). It was delicious.
We then headed back to Germany to visit some more castles. We visited two castles. One was the model used to create the Disneyland castle (including the ropes for the long lines - ha ha). The insides of these castles were stunning. I was amazed at the amount of painting that was involved. That night we stayed at a farm in a very small town right across the border in Austria. This place was wonderful. We ended up eating at the restaurant downstairs and the owner didn't have an English version of the menu so he sat down and read the menu to us. (There were not many guests staying there.) We had a wonderful meal of asparagus soup and a local fish with an asparagus cream sauce. (White asparagus was in season.)
Top photo: Tera and Brian
The next day we had a lot of driving to do so we headed toward the Black Forest. We stayed in Staufen, a very small town that the tour book recommended, and it was wonderful. This place had relatively few overseas tourists and is a place where people from nearby came to visit. We arrived on a Sunday and walked through the streets. The sun was out so there were people drinking coffee and violinists playing to the crowds. It was a very relaxing place. (I would have liked to visit the shops, but they were closed.)
We had some more driving to do in order to get back to Frankfurt to take the train that night. We drove through the Black Forest and stopped at some pretty waterfalls. We ended up in Frankfurt prior to dinner. We returned our rental car and walked into town to eat dinner. We ended up walking back to the train station around 8:00 P.M. and we knew that the area around the train station was not that great. As we were approaching the train station, we noticed a guy in a trench coat and a baseball cap coming up behind us. We kept walking to the train station and decided that instead of going toward our luggage in the lockers we would walk the other direction. We ended up walking into a bookstore and he continued to follow us. When we finally saw that he left we went to get our luggage. Once we had our luggage we went up to a waiting lounge. Up in the waiting lounge this same guy was sitting down at a table, looking like he was reading a newspaper. We decided to stay there since there were people around us and pulled out our books (We still had a 2 hour wait for our train) After a while he got up went to the bathroom and came back to sit at a table closer to ours. We kept our cool and continued to sit. Finally he ended up leaving. (Boy did that scare us!) We took the train out that night.
Now we were back in Paris and had a full day to continue looking around. We went to the Royal Palace and visited some more churches. After that we couldn't figure out what we wanted to do next so we ended up sitting at the local park enjoying the weather. It was a beautiful day. We ate dinner and found a hotel room next to the airport.
The Royal Palace in Versailles, France