Saturday, June 21, 2008

Days 26-31: The Last Road Trip

Note: The pictures are small to help with the load time of this page, but just click on them to enlarge them to their high resolution glory. Oh, and the normal tech news commentary will return after my vacation.

Our European vacation is coming to a close very soon, and we're not going to be making any big trips before we leave on Tuesday so this will be my last major round-up of pictures. I took less than 400 pictures, but still only whittled it down to 40 pictures to share with everyone.

On Sunday, we headed for Lucerne, Switzerland. The beauty of this small country was apparent quite quickly:

Lucerne had a really cool, old bridge from the 14th century that offered a great view of the city from right in the middle of it:

We went to a Jesuit church (Jesuitenkirche) that was very near the bridge (though not pictured above), and it had a really interesting style to it; different from any other European church we had seen. I believe it was built in the 17th century. This will give you an idea of the style they followed:

Our focus for the day, however, was on getting to the top of Mount Pilatus. I believe that we were up 2,132 meters by the time we reached the top. First, we had to take a boat across the water, which was quite scenic. The day was overcast and rainy so you'll have to excuse my pictures. Everywhere the boat went, you saw small towns on hills like this:

Here's a closer shot of some homes right on the water:

We then had to board a cogwheel railway car to go up the mountain!

It was hard to take pictures to really show how steep the tracks were, so this was the best I could do:

Basically, the train used cogwheels to pull itself up the mountain on the tracks. I think that this is a very new railway system. The problem, however, was that it was a nasty day outside so this is what we were treated to once we reached the top:

The real beauty was really during the train ride, during which taking pictures were hard. We did see the world's largest horn at the top though:

Can you say 'ricola'? We took a gondola to get back to the ground, and this should give you an idea of how far up we were:

Even from that high up though, you could still hear the cowbells that are so popular in Switzerland and Austria:

Despite being overcast, the view was still quite nice:

The hotel we stayed in was pretty cool, and when we took a walk before dinner we encountered some interesting-looking cows:

Anyone know the name of this breed of cattle? They were rather cute and they were really hairy!

The next day, we headed to Schloss ("Castle") Neuschwanstein (in Germany), which is what inspired the design of the Cinderella's castle that has become associated with the Disney brand. We took a carriage ride up the hill to get there because it would be a 40 minute uphill walk otherwise (or a bus ride plus a 15 minute uphill walk, which my mom didn't want to do).

It was hard to take a picture to capture that it really did seem like kind of a fairy tale castle (especially because it was overcast, again), but here's my best shot at it:

King Ludwig II definitely had a great view from the castle (though he spent less than a year there and only completed 1/3 of it):

We headed to Garmisch, Austria that night to stay at the Edelweiss Lodge (an armed forces resort, thanks to my cousin), but the weather was still overcast there as it remained the next day. On the way there, we stopped at a beautiful babbling brook:

The next day was still overcast and rainy, so we went briefly to Berchesgaden (in Germany) to check out a retreat that was given to Hitler for his 50th birthday at Obersalzberg, but couldn't see much from there. We went to Salzburg, Austria that night.

Several scenes from The Sound of Music were actually filmed in Salzburg, so we started out with the Mirabell Gardens. It was quite beautiful and you could see many rose bushes that looked like this:

Roses seem to grow so well in Germany and Austria, for some reason. If you're a big fan of the movie, you probably notice scenes from the "Do Re Mi" song as you walk around.

Something unique we saw as we walked around the city were these buildings that are pressed up against the mountains:

Inside the mountain, at one point, we actually encountered a museum. Another interesting fact about Salzburg is that it was the birthplace of Mozart, which they definitely take advantage of. He even has his very own chocolate there:

If you can get your hands on one, they're very delicious. The dominant piece of architecture in the middle of the city is the Salzburg Cathedral, which was definitely quite beautiful. In front of the altars along the sides of the church, you could see this on the ceilings:

The crazy thing is that each one is different! The baroque interior and exterior architecture of this church was just really incredible and impressive. After some searching, we came across the Nonnberg Abbey, which was also made famous by The Sound of Music. You may recognize the below gates as the one the children came across and where they talk to the Mother Superior. As the movie portrays, the walls of the abbey do make it rather difficult to find the entrance.

As we left the Abbey, we ran into some interesting graffiti:

On our way to the Fortress Hohensalzburg, which we ended up not going to, we got a pretty good view of the Salzburg Cathedral:

Euro Cup was going on and that banner being on the Cathedral should give you an idea of how serious the Europeans take their soccer. Scenes like this were not uncommon:

Spain was playing Greece that day (the Euro Cup was only being played in select cities in Austria and Switzerland and will continue for the next couple of weeks). There were definitely more Spanish fans around than Greek fans, or at least that's how it seemed. Cops are everywhere to keep the peace, but I even saw fans fanatic enough to dress up in full Bavarian garb but with Spanish colors on their outfit. Cars in the street everywhere were adorned with the flags of the countries they supported, and opposing countrymen would often honk at them. Also, Salzburg (and Vienna) had "fanzones" set up with enormous projections of games and plenty of street vendors. The energy was definitely tangible, and that was a fun experience, though it sometimes interfered with us seeing things.

We went to Vienna, Austria the next day and saw their Dom cathedral, but I liked the outside better than the inside:

The inside was dominated by an art display that was supposed to symbolize an angel, I think.

The streets in Vienna definitely had a different feel for Salzburg because it was a big city, and it had street performers and everything like Paris and Rome. People were everywhere though because of the Euro Cup and normal tourism. Fortunately, the public transit system there, like many other cities in Europe, was quite good so we had no trouble getting around.

We walked around the Stadtpark for a while and I thought this family of ducks was cute:

There was even a little duck bath:

We had lunch at a biergarten in the park where my dad ordered an actual Budweiser since it's an Austrian beer who's name was stolen by the American Anheuser-Busch company.

It was rather hot outside (a nice change of pace from the rain), but we still pressed on to the Hapburg Palace (Schloss Schönbrunner):

We tried to take in more of the city's architecture afterward, but were held back by the obtrusive fanzone for the Euro Cup. The Euro Cup did lead to this neat outdoor display though:

And finally, yesterday we went back to Berchtesgaden since the weather had cleared up. We went all the way up to Eagle's Nest ("Kehlsteinhaus"), which was the Hitler retreat I mentioned before (though he only went up there a few times). I know, it seems weird that they kept it, but they turned the Eagle's Nest into a restaurant and some other Nazi buildings that were up around Berchtesgaden were blown up over 60 years ago. It's not hard to see why this one was kept:

The best elevator we had been in the entire trip was the one going to the Eagle's Nest and traveled 124 stories! We had to take a bus up to a tunnel that led to the elevator. The name is apt because we did see eagles up there; it's 1,834 meters above sea level. The thinner air was tangible, though it wasn't immediately noticeable to me. We were able to walk to get a better panoramic view.

It was a little hazy up there, but still very beautiful:

On the side opposing the Austrian alps you could see Germany at its best:

We headed back to Stuttgart afterward and got some groceries for dinner. I have to end my slew of pictures with some puerile humor that I encountered at the store:

I hope you enjoyed the pictures! I've now shared over 140 pictures here, and I cherish the 1,000+ I've taken over the trip so I'll probably pick up a couple of digital frames in a few weeks and set them up with those pictures. If you want to see more of my pictures, you're going to have to find me in person. You must be pretty masochistic to submit yourself to even more pictures from this trip though after the ridiculous number I've put online as it is.

I'll probably make one more post here in a day or two before we head back with any leftovers pictures I may take between now and then, but I'll mainly be using that post to share lessons we've learned from our trip in case you're planning your own vacation in Europe. Have a great weekend everyone!

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