Thursday, May 30, 2013

May 30, 2012 – Backtrack to Salzburg, Austria - May 12 -14, 2013
Bill and I went to Salzburg with great purpose.  We were there together in 2002 for our 19th wedding anniversary.  We stayed at the Hotel Mozart and went to the Mozart Concert at St. Peter’s Restaurant.  This year, we are celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary, and we again stayed at the Hotel Mozart and attended the St. Peters Restaurant Mozart Concert.  The concert is in a beautiful Baroque Hall done in white and gold.  A five piece orchestra accompanies opera singers between authentic Austrian courses.  We were seated with two couples from Ohio – one was wrapping up a tour through Hungary and Austria; the other was leaving for a bike tour of Italy the next day.  Two ladies from England were also at our table and they shared a cab with us on the way back to the hotel.

We really love Salzburg.  It is such a pretty city; definitely in our all time top 5.  One of my favorite views of Europe is of the Pegasus Fountain in the Mirabell Gardens with the church and the castle rising in the background.  We were a little early for the gardens.  Normally there are begonias everywhere, but it looked like they had just been planted and weren’t in full flower.  When we went with our friends the Wiechecs in June of  2010, there were flowers and brides everywhere.  But we still loved it this time.  In retrospect, I wish I had given us another day or two. We were only there two nights and one full day. We would still love to visit Berchtesgaden and the salt mines.  I guess that means we will return to Salzburg at another time. 

On our one full day, we took what I call the Hokey American Sound of Music Tour.  We got on a bus with scenes from the movie splashed on the sides and went to all the areas in Salzburg where the movie was filmed while the soundtrack played and some of us sang. 

Note our picture by the gazebo.  Another, larger gazebo was created in Hollywood, but some of the scenes were filmed in this one.  Our guide left us after a 4-hour tour to go back again for another tour.  We asked him if he ever got tired of it.  He said not really but when he wakes up in the middle of the night, Julie Andrews is often standing in the corner of his bedroom. 

Bill and Sound of Music Guide.  No, Bill hasn't shrunk.  Our guide was very tall. 
Bill found a friend in Monchburg, Austria, where the Sound of Music wedding church is located,
We also had Apfel Strudel and Coffee here.  If you know Bill well, you will know that he once had a
Saint Bernard named Heidi. 
Mozart Concert in St. Peter's Restaurant in Salzburg. 
Our Favorite View from the Mirabell Gardens
Sound of Music is mostly ignored by Austrians, but our hotel played it every night on the hotel channel at 8 p.m.

View Across the Lake from the House in Sound of Music.
We're wearing our new German Jackets - purchased in Rudesheim.

View from Our Hotel Room in Salzburg

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Mona Duck from Duckomenta
May 29, 2013 –  Day 58      Stolzenau, Germany – May 24 - 27
It’s amazing what happens when you open yourself to the world.  Three years ago I began studying languages through – a free language learning website out of Madrid. It’s a great site and some of its elements are similar to Facebook and e-mail.  One day I got a message from a woman who identified herself as engel1.  She asked if we could correspond through busuu e-mail.  She is learning English, and, of course, I am learning German (also Spanish and French).  I said yes and as Internet buddies do, we didn’t share a lot of information in the beginning except first names – hers is Linda.  One day, I asked her where she lived in Deutschland and she told me that it was a very small town that I would never have heard of: Stolzenau. 

Amazing - Bill and I had been to Stolzenau in 2002, and it was in the neighborhood of where his Dad grew up.  From then on, we knew we were meant to be friends. When I was planning this trip, Linda and I began wondering about the possibility of actually meeting in Germany.  This past weekend, we pulled it off.  Bill and I took the train from Berlin to Hannover and then another, much smaller train to Nienberg-Weser.  Linda met us at the train station and took us to her home – a leap of faith on both our parts. As soon as I walked in the door, I knew we were soulmates.  My favorite color is purple – her home is a testament to the color purple.  We both love angels – there were angels everywhere, and she also has lots and lots of candles – something that Bill is passionate about. 

After traditional Kaffee und Kuche (coffee and cake which German people have like Englishmen have high tea), she asked if we would like to go with her to her English speaking club.  Of course we said yes, and we met some of the people she is learning English with.  None of us were allowed to speak German, and they asked us many questions about the United States.  Everyone in the club spoke better English than I spoke German.  My German is improving, but I don’t know if I will ever be able to have a whole conversation or follow a TV program on TV.  Even people who say they don’t speak English speak better English than I speak German.  In ways it’s frustrating, but it cements my determination to learn more. 

The next day was Bill’s day:  Linda took us to his grandmother’s church in Nendorf, drove us through Grossenheerse where his father lived, and took us to his father’s church in Buchholtz.  When we were last there, we tried to visit his father’s church, but since it is on the national registry, we couldn’t get in.  This time, the side door was open, and we were able to set foot on the same ground that his father did until the time he was 13.  History:  Bill’s maternal grandfather was killed in Prussia in World War I – we have his beautiful death certificate framed and hung in our hallway. Bill’s grandmother came to the states with Bill’s Dad age 13 and his aunt age 11.  Bill’s grandmother remarried and had another son who did much of the research that allowed us to find this area of the country. We also went into the cemetery at Nendorf which was full of Meyers and Oettings (grandmother’s maiden name).  You would expect the graves to be very old in this part of Germany, but when someone is buried in Germany, their grave is only good for 25 – 30 years.  After that, someone else can be buried in the same place.  I believe that you can buy a family plot or extend the time for the graves, but if you are an ordinary person with little money, the graves go away. 

The unfortunate part of the weekend is that it was cold and rainy and things I think we could have done outside had to be cancelled, although we did visit a museum that remembered some famous Baths -Bad Rehburg -  in the area.  Also in the Museum was a very amusing art gallery.  Some artists have taken all the great art of Europe and put the faces and bodies of ducks on them in an exhibit called Duckomenta – why? We don’t know.  But Mona Duck was quite funny. In spite of the rain, we had a wonderful time meeting Linda’s friends and talking to her 24 year old son Rick.  Linda was born in Indonesia but her family relocated to Holland.  She has lived in Germany much of her life in places like Koblenz and Stolzenau.  Her mother still lives in The Netherlands so Linda speaks English, Dutch, and German.  We got to eat some really wonderful Indonesian food at Linda’s hands.
The English Speaking Club - Linda is second from right in the back.

Plaque in front of Buchholtz Church - dating to 1200 BC
Bill in front of Nendorf War Memorial
Meyer Cemetery Plot in Nendorf
Bill in front of Buchholtz Church Sign
We were planning to come home on Sunday but decided to stay another day. On Monday, we said goodbye to our new friend-for-life and got back on the train in Nienberg-Weser and then took another train from Berlin, then we took the S-Bahn and then a bus to our doorstep. Yesterday, it rained so much in Berlin that we did nothing, but we are out of groceries so we need to make our weekly trek to the mall.
Bill and Linda in Linda's purple kitchen.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

May 20, 2013 – Day 49 – Berlin, Germany Karneval der Kulturen (Carnival of Cultures)

May 20, 2013 – Day 49 – Berlin, Germany  Karneval der Kulturen (Carnival of Cultures)
Berliner Baar - One of many that can be seen around Berlin when you least expect them.
Claudia, our lovely and oh-so-nice landlady, told us about the Karneval der Kulturen in Kreuzberg long before we reached Berlin.  It is a green and multi-cultural carnival.  On Sunday, we went to a very colorful parade that included floats and bands (heavy on drums) from a variety of ethnic cultures.  It was a beautiful day, and we went early to get a good place on the parade route.  We ended up at the beginning of the parade which meant we got to see a performance from every group that came by.  At about 38 of 79 floats, we bailed and went to get a beer and a doner (you will remember doner sandwiches from Munich, I think).  Kreuzberg is part of East Berlin and is home to the largest Turkish population outside of Turkey; as such there are Turkish restaurants everywhere.  By the time we finished our meal and went back to the parade route, the U-bahn had regurgitated thousands of people – fueled no doubt by the weather forecast for the rest of the weekend and the lousy weather of the previous day.  We couldn’t get out fast enough. 

For some reason, we opted to go back again the next day.  It was Whit Monday, the day after Pentecost Sunday and a national holiday in Germany. We, of course, did not realize that until we tried to go to the mall on the way home – closed!  We have had at least five holidays since we left home. The Europeans could teach Americans a thing or two about time off.  We had a great time at the Strassenfest.  There were booths from many countries with an emphasis on the Middle East and Africa. Great music and lots of ethnic food, but I jumped at the chance to have good old corn-on-the-cob.  I have had exactly one hamburger since leaving the states, but lots of pizza and Italian food interspersed with Schnitzel and Bratwurst.  We went back to the apartment after several hours at the carnival and watched Avatar in German.  Then we went out to the nearby Italian restaurant which we have made our go-to place when we want food and don’t want to either cook or go too far.  We are becoming quite friendly with the staff.  They tell me I speak very good German, but I have been disappointed in my inability to understand what people are saying.  I have always been good at writing and speaking other languages, but I can’t hear what people are saying to me.  I’m really hoping to work on that in the 25 days we have left in Germany. 

I would have had lots more pictures to choose from at the carnival parade, but my camera battery died. 

Whenever we see frogs, we think of our friend Cindy Lindsey - the word for frog is Frosch in German.
Add caption

One of many showgirl-type outfits in the parade.
The Devil 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

May 18, 2013 – Day 47 – Berlin, Germany

May 18, 2013 – Day 47 – Berlin, Germany
I am writing to you from our cozy apartment in Berlin, Germany.  It is in an area that was once on the other side of the wall in East Berlin and is across the river from Treptower Park.  Our view is beautiful.  We can walk alongside the river from the back of our apartment.  We have learned how to take the bus and bring groceries back, walk to the park, go to the mall, use a German washing machine, and take the S-Bahn.  Bill got his haircut in the mall today.  That was a really good thing because he was beginning to look like Albert Einstein.  Shopping for groceries at the mall was quite interesting.  I went while Bill was getting his hair cut.  When I entered the store, I thought I had goofed because all I could see were clothing and furniture.  Then I saw the sign for Lebensmittel (groceries) pointing downward.  I already had some things in my cart and I was confused, but then I realized that people were riding down the escalator with their grocery carts. 

Berlin is a huge city with many interesting areas to see.  We will be here a month and hope to see them all.  With luck, I will catch up on our blog and show you all the interesting things I have neglected to tell you about: Paris, Amsterdam, Cologne, Salzburg.  And hopefully, I can continue with my thoughts about Europe.  Here are some pictures of our lovely apartment on the River Spree. 

Kitchen - Kuche

Living Room - Wohnzimmer

Bedroom - Schlafzimmer

View from the back of the Apartment

Even Double Sinks in the Bathroom

View of the River from Our Apartment

Friday, May 10, 2013

More Pictures

Kathie on the Cable Car on the Way to see Germania
Statue of Germania

Statue in Rudesheim Square - Our New Mascot

Bill and Our Innkeeper and Friend Ellen in front of Hotel Rose

Bill and a really great Munich dentist

Even the rain won't keep Munich (or us) down

The Rain and the Dentist Won't Stop Us

May 10, 2013 –Day39- Munich, Germany
The Rain and the Dentist Won't Stop Us
We always said that this would be a great adventure – not a vacation – and it has been.  After nearly 40 days of being totally inseparable, we have had our little /big spats, but we are still glad that we decided to do this.  This past week has been a week of challenges.  When we last posted, we were in Koln, Germany, eating bratwurst.  Sunday night, May 5, neither of us slept well.  We have discovered that even though the hotels have been perfect about wake-up calls, we still don’t sleep well if we have to get up early to make a connection.  We walked to the train station at 7:15 a.m. so that we could catch the 7:53 train to Koblenz where we planned to take the 11:00 am Rhein River Cruise.  The cruise was fabulous.  Five and a half hours of castle after castle on a picture perfect sunny day.  We drank wine and ate lunch on the top deck as the KD Rhine Schiff lazily sailed down the river until we got off the boat in Rudesheim – a postcard village of a town where we had planned to stay the night before heading to Heidelberg.

Then things went a little south.  We couldn’t find a taxi or a TI (Tourist Information), so we had to rely
on asking people.  They got us to Wilhelmstrasse where the Hotel Rose was located, and we were staring at a straight up hill that we had to climb with our luggage.  Bill and I both do ok on straight pavement – we can walk for several hours.  Downhill doesn’t bother us a bit – but stairs and uphill climbs do us in. 

We both have back trouble; I have a bad left knee; and Bill has asthma.  We did it anyway, but by the time we opened the door to the hotel, we both looked pretty bad.  Ellen and Joseph Bertram took one look at us – poured us water and started waiting on us hand and foot.  Unbeknownst to us, if we had e-mailed them and told them we were arriving by boat, they would have met us at the dock in their car. 
New lesson – always e-mail the hotel and ask them the best way to get there. 

I was tired and Bill was exhausted and neither one of us was in the mood to think about going to Heidelberg the next day.  We decided to stay in Rudesheim for three days before going on to Munich.  It was a great decision.  We had dinner at a nice restaurant that Ellen recommended and then, the next day, we went by cable car to the Niederwald Monument with its 114 foot high statue of Germania.  Rudesheim is also wine country so we sampled some great Riesling.  The high point of the trip for me, however, was when I went downstairs on our second evening to check e-mail (sometimes wifi is available in the rooms, and sometimes it’s not).  Ellen, who doesn’t speak much English, and I, whose German is passable at best, started talking and had the most wonderful conversation.  We talked for a couple of hours using gestures and Google translator until Bill had to come and find me.  In those few short moments, I felt like I made a friend for life.  

The next day, we just walked around Rudesheim and did some shopping, had lunch, and talked to a lovely British tour guide who has our dream job.  That night – Bill had a bad case of stomach something or other, and it was not a pleasant night. 

The Hotel Rose is lovely, and we were sorry to leave.  The next morning, we began our trek to Munich:
Joseph drove us to the train station where we took a train to Frankfurt, then another train to the airport, then a plane to the Munich airport, than another train to the Munich train station, and then we walked four blocks to the hotel.  I goofed on this hotel.  When making hotel reservations in Europe, you have to be careful to be sure of what you are getting.  In this case, I mistakenly booked a room with a private shower, but with the toilet across the hall.  Not good for someone recovering from Montezuma’s revenge.  Luckily, Bill’s tummy has settled down, and he feels much better.

I forgot to mention our other challenge – on the plane from Frankfurt to Munich, Bill lost a crown.  We were able to recover it, but we were terrified.  We had heard some really bad tales of German dentists, and we didn’t know what to expect.  Our first day in Munich was a bank holiday (Europe has lots of those – I think this is the third one since we left on April 2).  The next day we went to the dentist with fear and trembling.  Wonder of wonders – we had the most wonderful dentist.  He spoke excellent English; he was funny; and our invoice came to 60.70 Euros.  We thought we would be spending hundreds of dollars.  Then we went to buy a cell phone (they call them Handys in Germany), and we are now figuring out how to use it so that we can call our German friends when we go to Berlin next week. 

Munich has been wet, cold, and rainy.  We would hate it if it weren’t one of our all- time favorite cities (my fifth visit, Bill’s third).  We went shopping to get new tennis shoes for me since I already have worn a hole in the ones that I brought, and then stopped at one of our all- time favorite restaurants – the Rathskeller on Marienplatz.  All in all, not a bad day – and hopefully, an end to a challenging week.  It will probably rain all day tomorrow, but we will walk to the Munich Hauptbahnhof ( Main Train Station) – decide when to travel to Salzburg on Sunday and eat a Turkish Doner – a sandwich that our good friend Denise introduced us to when we visited her in Berlin.  Still owe you stuff from Paris and Amsterdam, but we hope you enjoy our latest pictures of the Rhein, Rudesheim, and our Munich dentist.
By the way, even in the rain, there are people everywhere having a good time.  And that includes us – a little rain and a tooth emergency isn’t enough to slow us down.

First Group of Pictures - The Amazing Rhein

Statue of the Loreley - The real Loreley are the cliffs around the bend. 

Sunday, May 5, 2013

 April 25, 2013 – The Keukenhof Gardens Outside of Amsterdam

This is obviously out of order, but there are some days when there is just no time to blog.  Bill and I booked a trip to the Keukenhof Gardens about an hour and a half outside of Amsterdam for April 25.  This Park is only open in April and May when the flowers are blooming.  We thought it was going to rain, but it turned out to be cloudy but dry!  It was really beautiful!  We walked and walked and didn’t even realize how tired we were until about an hour before we had to be back at the bus.  By that time, all we could do was shuffle our way back to the meeting place and sit.  The only things we have lost so far on this trip have been our second umbrella and my camera case, and we lost them both on the bus ride back. 

An observation on Amsterdam and probably The Netherlands in general - they seem to know how to take care of the weakest among them.  This is the only country where we didn't see beggars on the street.  In the Keukenhof, there were processions of people in wheelchairs with their caretakers.  We saw a group of Downs Syndrome kids being gently herded by folks who obviously loved them.  They are a liberal country - legalized prostitution and legalized weed, but a genuine caring for people.

  I think I will stop typing now and let the pictures speak for themselves. 

Tulips in the flower fields outside of Keukenhof

The Flower Fields Outside of Keukenhof

More Flower Fields Outside of Keukenhof

Bill and his new shoes

Entrance to Keukenhof

One of the sculptures in the Keukenhof Gardens

Kathie at the Entrance to Keukenhof

Another Sculpture 

Flower Beds in the Keukenhof

Windmill in the Keukenhof

May 5, 2013 – Day 34 – Debunking a Myth!

May 5, 2013 – Day 34 – Debunking a Myth!

It is a complete falsehood that Americans are fatter than Europeans because their portions are out of control.  Please note the picture of what we were served for lunch today.  Granted – it was lunch for two, but definitely more than two normal people needed. It was delicious – house made bratwurst with fried potatoes, sauerkraut, salad, and more Kolsch beer.  When I get back to talking about Amsterdam, check out the picture of the Dutch pancake and you’ll see more of what I mean.  By the way, I think we are fatter because we don’t walk or ride bikes everywhere like the Europeans do.  Bill and I will have trouble getting in car when we get home.

Today we didn’t do much – it was a lazy day in Cologne – at our ages, we have to pace ourselves or they would be sending us home in a box.  We walked to the Hauptbahnhof (main train station) to check out trains to Koblenz for tomorrow.  We are going there to get on a KD boat for what we hear will be a memorable cruise along the River Rhine.  We will stay the night at the Gasthaus Rose in Rudesheim and then head for Heidelberg.  We will be using a Eurail pass for the first time for all of this including the River Cruise.  We didn’t know that we had to have the pass validated with our passports in order to use it, so we’re glad we walked to the station to find out.  Then we walked down to the River for the huge lunch we showed you.  As I am typing this, the bells of the Cologne Cathedral are ringing; a few minutes ago, a street musician was playing “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean” on a flute.  That song brings me many memories: my Mom used to sing it to me when I was little and it was played at her funeral.  My Mom and Dad are responsible for this trip for us - thanks.    I think I’ll close down this little blog and do some backtracking.  My friend Cathy True Nyberg wanted to see the flowers of Amsterdam so I think I will return there before taking you back to Paris and Normandy and then through Brussels and Brugge.