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Our visit to Germany and Austria took us from Frankfurt to Munich (and a side visit to Shloss (castle) Neuschwanstein) and then to Austria visiting Salzburg and Vienna. We had our travel expertly organized and managed to stay in the center of the old town in all of our city visits. Thank you Kayla! That was a real plus in seeing the cities on foot. We did take part in walking tours in every city except Salzburg, where we took a bus tour.
We expected the countryside in Germany and Austria to look like farmland and the towns and cities only to have old historic buildings.
We did not expect sand and surfing. We now think that parts of Germany and Austria want to live on a tropical island. In Frankfurt we visited the Palm tree (Palmen Garten) garden; in Vienna we noticed several biergartens along the Danube Canal had sand and beach chairs for their guests. In Munich we watched kids surf in the English Garden.
Frankfurt or as it calls itself, Frankfurt am Main
Frankfurt Germany was the first and last stop on our travels. We arrived early for our bike boat adventure and got acclimated to the time zone and the culture prior to the bike ride. We really enjoyed walking along the Main River and noticed that the people of Frankfurt do as well.
Our walking tour guide shared that apple cider was the drink of Frankfurt; the ones we tried were very good. I also had beer; it was Germany!
We were surprised to learn that many of the “old” buildings in Frankfurt were rebuilt in the 1980’s in the old style, replacing buildings destroyed in WWII. The buildings did not look new and we were happy they were rebuilt to look as we expected. Of course some of the buildings were modern; Frankfurt had many skyscrapers, in contrast to many of the cities we visited. Frankfurt is the financial capital of Germany so it was nice that as a part of the walking tour we stopped by the stock exchange, one of the largest in the world.
When we visited the Palmen Garten we were surprised to see an extensive palm garden inside the city known mostly for banking. We did not know that you could grow palm trees in Germany, let alone all of the uses for palm trees we learned about on our tour. We enjoyed the variety of trees and flowers in addition to the palm trees. It is worth a visit if you are in Frankfurt.
Munich or München
After our bike tour we took the train to Munich. For us, Munich had a “big city feel.” Of course we had just spent a week biking through small towns. We recalled our visit to Frankfurt, and the city of Munich appeared to us as a more urban setting. We loved the statues and the plazas. A lot of history in a small area.
We spent several hours walking around Munich and discovered the English Garden and did see people surfing. On our walk we visited the place where the Octoberfest takes place as well as taking in several great looking buildings and local scenery.
A big part of our being in Munich was the proximity (about 110 KM) to Schloss (castle) Neuschwanstein. Our bus included Neuschwanstein, a visit to the town of Oberammergau, and Linderhof Palace where King Ludwig II lived prior to moving into Neuschwanstein.
The view from a nearby footbridge on the way to the castle does not begin to tell of the beauty of castle Neuschwanstein. We enjoyed the hike up to the grounds, and even with scaffolding on the main entrance the castle was breathtaking.
Neuschwanstein was impressive on the inside as well. Of course the castle only housed the king, and he lived there for less than one year. The inside was impressive and well worth the visit. No photography was allowed inside the castle. I guess it takes a king to build a fairytale castle.
We enjoyed the surrounding property of the castle and had great views from the walk up as well as from inside the castle itself. The “old” castle that the king grew up at is also on the grounds.
We enjoyed the stop at Oberammergau. They have been putting on a Passion play for almost 400 years, with the next one coming in 2020. You can buy tickets now. The town began the plays in 1634. All of the actors and actresses are members of the town. The town puts on the play as a result of a vow made by the inhabitants of the village when they were spared from the effects of the plague. We had fun visiting this town and trying on some traditional head wear and, of course, eating some ice cream. We were pleased to walk around the theater. I am sure the Passion play will be a great production in 2020.
Linderhof Palace was our third stop on the tour. This was a smaller place than Neuschwanstein and almost as impressive. I am really glad we stopped here for a visit. I especially liked the magic table and the fountains outside. You will have to see it for yourselves. No photography was allowed inside; take my word for it, the inside was impressive.
Our international travel from Munich to Salzburg was just another train ride. There was no pre-check of passports prior to boarding or a checkpoint along the way. The Europen Union has no restrictions on travel between countries once you are in one of the countries. One of the tenets of the EU is people traveling freely throughout most of the continent.
We learned that Mozart was not Austrian; he was from Salzburg, which was an independent (non-EU member…) country when he was born. We enjoyed eating chocolate here; Mozart balls are a favorite. We also enjoyed staying in a 700-year-old hotel in old town Salzburg.
Yes, we did take the Sound of Music tour. We sang, we laughed and we loved it! Now that we are back home, we are watching the movie and excited to see the places we visited on our tour. We also noted that our tour guide in Austria was in one of the anniversary shots about the tour groups in Salzburg.
We left Salzburg all too quickly and headed by rail to Vienna.
As Vienna is so much bigger than Salzburg, with about 25% of the population of Austria in its borders, we rented bikes to explore more of the city. It did rain on us on the way back to the bike rental location, but we had a great time riding the streets anyway. There are over 1000 KM of bike trails in Vienna; as a result, it was easy to ride in the city. The highlight for me was riding along the Danube Canal and seeing the Danube River.
We enjoyed the music of Vienna, the churches, the palaces and the monuments. We enjoyed running across Mozart references as well as statutes of other composers.
Our hotel was centrally located in the heart of Vienna’s district 1 on the Stephansplatz. We could view the church and square during our breakfast. I miss that view.
We managed to walk to the Riesenrad (German for Giant Wheel), the 212 foot tall Ferris wheel at the entrance of the Prater amusement park in Leopoldstadt. We saw that it is one of Vienna’s most popular tourist attractions. It symbolises the second district in Vienna as well as the city for many people who live there. We did not take a ride on the Ferris wheel, although it looked like fun. When we walked by we noted several people riding in the wheel.
- I received my MBA from Webster University, way back when…seeing a Webster University building in Vienna was fun and not expected.
- We were impressed by the trains and the speeds. We noticed the one from Salzburg to Vienna went almost 200 KPH (124 MPH). Trains were a great way to get around.
- Learn to linger over dinner or any meal, especially when you are with someone. We enjoyed the Vienna coffee house and lingered as long as we could. This was the only spot we found you could get a “free water and refills.”
- Beer in Germany and Austria is less expensive than soda or water … lesson: drink beer with meals!
- When we went to Vienna we learned a lot about the ruling families. The one lesson that struck me was that the Habsburg dynasty won territory by winning hearts through intermarrying its family across Europe and not wars. A marriage to Napoleon was also accomplished by the dynasty. Unfortunately, they took more care with the Lipizzan stallion’s blood lines then their own. A visit to the stables housing the stallions was interesting as well.
- The city of Vienna earns money by renting rose bushes to inhabitants for five years in their beautiful Volksgarten (Peoples’ Garden). This sounded to me like a cool idea raising money for the city as well as keeping the gardens beautiful.
- Try the local favorites. I loved the Schnitzel.
- Pay attention to the train numbers and not the destination city. On one of our first train trips, we sat by the area that had the city of our final destination listed on the board. We discovered when the train left an “hour early,” that we needed to re-think what we focused on in order to board the correct train. All of the information we needed was on our tickets and the signboards, once we knew what information was important.
- Ask locals where to eat. Our walking tour guide in Vienna suggested we try Manner chocolate. We found it to be delicious. We also enjoyed eating the rich Demel chocolate.
We found the best place to have a sausage was at the “ Bitzinger Wurstelstand Albertina.” The sausage was awesome. We enjoyed the Käsekrainer sausage, which they assured us was the most popular and we agreed after we tasted it! We are thankful for our guide steering us to places we may have otherwise passed over.
Our travel followed these three simple rules:
- Move and exercise. Each day we hiked in the cities.
- Find peaceful, beautiful surroundings. We stopped and smelled the roses, admired artwork, enjoyed singing and watching the river flow by.
- Meet different, interesting people. We enjoyed all of the people we met and were amazed at how similar and different we all are. Singing with a group of strangers on the Sound of Music tour was a highlight.
- We rented bikes one afternoon. It was a great way to see more of Vienna. We rode about 11 miles.
- Hiking/walking totaled about 7-10 miles on most days around town. We managed over 25 in two days of walking in Vienna.
Our trip to Florida proved that there is nothing quite like a Florida sunset even when it is cold outside. Watching the sun set is something we rarely do at home. With the weather near a not “Florida like” 30+ degrees (0 C) we were joined in viewing the sunset by several other tourists, most of whom did not get out of their hotel or condo during the day. Of course for us, no matter how many times you witness the sun going down over the water, it’s always a magical experience. We managed to get out every night while we were in Florida to see the sun set over the water. Sometimes it was with a glass of wine and friends. Other times it was just a few of us brave souls watching the sun set in the west.
When it is cold, it sounds good to book flights to Florida. We imagined ourselves spending a week at the beach the first week of January, using plenty of sunscreen while walking on the beach and taking some bike rides nearby. When we looked at the local forecast and saw the highs at home would be cold, we congratulated ourselves on our planning, until we looked at the lows for the panhandle of Florida, in the high 20’s (-2 C). Okay, a few days it did warm up to almost 50 degrees (about 13 C), and it was generally 30 degrees warmer where we were staying in Florida than it was back home. We managed to walk for at least an hour every morning before lounging around and eating breakfast. Warm coffee was great after a cool walk on the beach. I even put my bare toes in the cool sand, although not for too long.
We did enjoy the sunrise in the early mornings. We did all the things on a trip to Seagrove Beach, Florida, we anticipated; we just had on more layers and never got to wear the shorts we packed. A good day on the beach was better than shoveling snow at home.
We saw several shells and some wild life while walking along the beach. The sand pipers were fun to watch scurrying along the beach. A sea cucumber and the crab were interesting to see—although it was too cold for them on the beach. We saw the sea turtle signs although we did not see any signs of the turtles. Please let me know your suggestions for the sea shell collection we took home with us. The beach was a beautiful white sandy beach that reminded us of snow. Of course, the cold weather may have influenced our thoughts.
We biked and hiked in the nearby Point Washington State Park. We were very impressed by the trails and the different plants that we encountered. We were pleased to be wearing long pants when we rode through all of the saw tooth palmetto bushes. I was amazed at the deer moss that was like a carpet. On our hikes we found a grove of cypress trees .
Kim and I are experienced road bike riders. We were able to borrow mountain bikes and ride in the state forest for several days. It was different for us to be on the mountain bikes, and riding in the sand is very hard. The state forest practices controlled burns; the sand is deep when trucks have been through in recent days. I am not sure who can ride on the deep sand-filled paths. I could not ride parts of this trail as the sand was over a foot deep for the width of the trail.
We did discover what we thought was a tree from Dr. Seus–the long leaf pine tree.
We enjoyed the aviation in the panhandle with a nearby air force base. We did stop at the fascinating Air Force Armament Museum and enjoyed our tour inside as well as outside. They have heat and air conditioning inside the building. It is a good place to go when you cannot go out on the beach.
- Being cold on the beach is better than not being on the beach at all.
- Bike riding in deep sand is just as hard as a tall hill; new respect for mountain biking.
- Air travel in January is tricky with snow covering places all up and down the east coast.
- Beach access is a consideration when renting or buying near the beach.
- A month or two near the beach is a great way to spend a month or two.
Trip by the numbers:
Mountain biking: 41 miles, longest 15 miles.
Hiking,walking on the beach: 14 miles, longest 3.75 miles in the forest.