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2011 Tour of Imperial Europe

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S: 2011 Tour of Imperial Europe

FC: Tour of Imperial Europe 2011

1: We began our Imperial Europe vacation by taking the train from the Munich airport to the Hilton Munich City Hotel, our home base for the next six days. The hotel was very nice and the buffet breakfasts were outstanding! | Because we arrived at the hotel too early to check in, we left our bags with the hotel's concierge and set out to explore Munich on foot. It didn't take us long to learn all sidewalks had separate lanes for pedestrians and bicycles. After several close calls with fast moving bikes we learned to stay on the pedestrian side of the sidewalks. | Munich, Germany

2: The Gasteig Building, located next door to the Hilton, is a cultural center in Munich and regularly hosts the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra. We learned the estate behind the Gasteig was, until its demolition in 1979, the location of the Bürgerbrukeller, site of the 1939 Hitler assassination attempt by Georg Elser. Because of fog that night, Hitler left earlier than originally planned to take a train back to Berlin. He missed being killed by 13 minutes. Amazing how the weather changed history that evening!

3: A little further down the street we came to the beautiful Müllersches Volksbad - translated as Mueller's Public Baths. It was recently renovated and guests will now find a "gentleman's" pool, a "ladies" pool, showers, individual baths, a sauna, and steam baths. Unfortunately, during the renovations they did away with the Zamperlbad, a "doggy" bath that was located in the basement!

4: Next stop on our walk was the Isartor Gate, the oldest of Munich's city gates. Built in 1337, it served as a fortification for the defense of the city under Kaiser Ludwig of Bavaria. It is the only gate to remain in its original form and is one of the few remaining landmarks from that period. It was restored between 1833-35. The frescos (above the arches) were painted in 1835 to depict the victorious return of Kaiser Ludwig after the Battle of Ampfing in 1322.

5: Just a block or two away from the Isartor Gate we came to the Marienplatz. It was once a salt and grain market but is now a main attraction in Munich for tourists who flock here to marvel at the Gothic facade of the town hall (photo to the right). The square's name was changed from Schrannen to Marienplatz (St. Mary's Square) as a way to ask the Virgin Mary to protect the town from a cholera epidemic. | The bells in the town hall tower peal at 11am, 12 and 5pm each day accompanied by a glockenspiel (photo on left) depicting a medieval dance and the wedding of Duke William V and Renata von Lothringen.

6: There is a large column located in the center of the square known as the column of St. Mary. It was erected in 1638 to celebrate the end of the Swedish invasion. The statue is topped by a gilded statue of the Virgin Mary sculpted in 1590 by Hubert Gerhard. At each corner of the column's pedestal is a statue of a putti. The four putti's (photos on next page) symbolize the city's overcoming of war, pestilence, hunger and heresy.

8: After thoroughly exploring the Marienplatz, we headed back to the hotel to get some much needed rest. On our way back we saw this very amusing display outside a dress shop. Very clever and effective. I love it!

9: By Monday (our 2nd day in Munich) we were pretty much acclimated to the time change and were ready to spend most of the remainder of this week seeing as much of Munich as possible. We began our sightseeing by walking from our hotel to the English Gardens. The fall colors were amazing!

10: It was about a two or three mile walk to the English Gardens from our hotel. It was so nice walking in the crisp morning air with the Isar River to our right and large government buildings, museums, and residences to our left. The first thing we saw when we got to the Gardens was a group of young people surfing the Isar River. Keep in mind the temperature at this time was in the 40's, thus the wet suits. This kept us entertained for quite some time.

12: The photos on this and the next page show the beauty of the English Gardens. We saw many joggers, bicyclists, and people walking their dogs in this huge (larger than New York's Central Park) and wonderful park. Our dog Boudreaux would love this park!

13: Above is a large lake in the park that is full of ducks and swans. Below left is the the Monopteros, a small Greek-style temple in the garden. Below right is the Chinesischer Turm, a 25-meter-high structure similar to the beautiful pagodas in the gardens of the Chinese emperors. It houses Munich's 2nd largest beer garden.

15: Following our English Garden adventure, we returned to the Marienplatz to climb the tower of St. Peter's Church (pictured on next page) to get great views of Munich. In the photo to the left you see the orange tile roof and twin towers of the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady), and to the lower right is City Hall with the tower and glockenspiel. The tall white tower, visable on the horizon between the Frauenkirche and the City Hall Tower, is the Olympic Tower, site of the 1972 Summer Olympic Games.

16: Photos on this and the opposite page are of the Peterskirche (St. Peter's Church). Originally built in 1180, it is the oldest church in Munich. Present church was built in 1328-1368 after fire destroyed the original church. Photo on the previous page and the one below this caption were shot from the top of the tower shown on the left. If you look closely, you can see people just below the top clock on the steeple.

18: Evidence that Marilyn and I made it up all 306 steps of St. Peter's Tower...well...at least that Marilyn made it. You'll just have to trust that I took the photo. What a pretty smile!

19: Finally, you get to see the inside of this magnificent church!

20: Ceiling of St. Peter's Church. By the way, the church was severely damaged in WWII and reconstruction was not completed until the year 2000. They did an outstanding job!

21: Aisle to the side of St. Peter's Church.

22: Rischart was a place Marilyn and I discovered in the Marienplatz that had terrific food. It was our favorite place to get sandwiches and pastries.....that is until we discovered the Viktualienmarkt.

23: The Viktualienmarkt! | This popular market is spread over more than 5 acres and has over 140 shops and stalls offering flowers and plants, vegetables, exotic fruit, venison, poultry, eggs, butter, honey, fish, meat, sausages and I don't know what else. It is really amazing and it became our favorite place to eat when we tasted the sausages shown in the photo below. UNBELIEVABLY GOOD FOOD!

24: More Photos From the Viktualienmarkt

25: Large crowds enjoy the market's fine food & beverages in spite of the cool air. | Note the market's Maypole in the photo above!

26: Marilyn and I used our train pass to visit Olympic Park, site of the 1972 Summer Olympic Games. What a beautifully maintained place (as was everyplace we visited in Munich).

27: This photo was taken from the Olympic Tower. Note the futuristic tent-like roof construction over the Olympic venue buildings, including the Olympic Stadium.

28: The photo above shows the BMW Museum (bowl looking building with the BMW logo on top), BMW World Headquarters (the building designed to look like 4 cylinders in upper right corner of photo), and BMW World (the very large modern looking building in the bottom left-hand corner of the photo). These buildings are located just a short distance (a few hundred yards) from the Olympic Stadium.

29: Even though we're not that into BMW's, we decided to visit BMW World. I've got to admit, BMW manufactures really well made and beautiful vehicles. Their products were beautifully displayed in this awesome building. | Currently going through her mid-life crisis (I guess), Marilyn was drawn to the powerful and sexy looking motorcycles. You go girl!!! She looks pretty good on that thing! Maybe someday? | Our level-headed friend Jackie leaned more toward the hot yellow convertible. Maybe her husband Jack will get her one of these for Christmas when he sees how happy she looks beside this fine automobile?

30: We broke up our week of exploring Munich by scheduling a day-long trip to visit two castles built by King Ludwig II in the Bavarian Alps. We asked the hotel's concierge where we were supposed to meet our tour bus and he said he would arrange for it to meet us at the hotel. The bus picked us up first thing in the morning and we were the first passengers on. Being first we naturally chose the front seats at the top of the bus for a great view as we drove into the Alps! | Castle Day Trip | We had the best seats on this bus and the scenery was spectacular! | We saw many businesses and homes decorated like the one above and on the next page.

32: L | Linderhof Castle was the first of the two castles we visited. It was also the smaller of the two. It was built by King Ludwig II between 1863 -1886 for a cost of almost 8.5 million marks! It is surrounded by 125 acres of world famous gardens. Unfortunately, due to winter setting in, the gardens were covered with wooden structures (protecting plants) and were not a good subject for a photograph.

33: Outside photos of the castle are about the only photos I've got to show since photos were not allowed inside the castle. I did however get the photo to the right before we were told not to take photos. Believe me, it seemed almost every inch of every room of the castle was covered with gold-leaf decorations. Talk about overkill! It is no wonder Ludwig was sometimes called "Mad King Ludwig".

34: From Linderhof Castle, we drove an hour or two to get to the small village of Schwangau. Here we climbed a long, steep path (probably should have taken the carriage) to get to Neuschwanstein Castle. To give you an idea of how high we climbed, the photo above of Schwangau was taken about two thirds of the way up the trail to the castle. Whew! By the way, that is a hotel in the upper right-hand corner of the photo, not a castle.

35: The bridge you see in the photo to the left is where I shot the photo you see on the next two pages. I saw the bridge from the castle and decided I had to get a photo of the castle from there. Marilyn was a good sport and made the long hike with me. Below, you see Marilyn and me on the bridge having a really bad hair day, thus the really tiny photo!

36: Neuschwanstein Castle, a 19th-century Romanesque Revival palace, was the second castle of our tour. It was built by Ludwig II of Bavaria with his own personal fortune and heavy borrowing. Sounds like what a lot of Americans were doing the last couple of decades.

37: This castle has appeared in many movies and was the inspiration for Disney's Sleeping Beauty Castle. Unfortunately for King Ludwig, he died before much of the interior of the castle was completed.

38: Above, if you look closely, you can see Marilyn and my sister Pat waving back to me after having completed the long, difficult climb up to the castle from the small village of Schwangau.

39: Pat and Marilyn approach the gatehouse of the castle. | View of the castle from the gatehouse entrance. | Closer look at the detail on the castle entrance. | Another view from within the walls of the castle.

40: Exploring Munich cont'd | Following our day trip to see the castles, we continued our exploration of Munich by visiting many spectacular monuments, museums, and buildings. The next few pages represent just a sampling of what we saw and are not necessarily in the order we saw them. (Hey, I'm retired and have other things I enjoy doing!) | Victory Gate - honors the Bavarian army that fought Napoleon. | General's Hall - honors two Bavarian generals, Count Tilly and Prince Wrede.

41: The Opera House | Glyptothek - houses a collection of 160 classical sculptures.

42: The Propylaen was built by Ludwig I with the aim of turning Munich into the "Athens on the Isar". | Octagonal Pavillion - central point of the Hofgarten (court garden) in front of the Residenz. | Max-Joseph Memorial | Obelisk at Karolinenplatz

43: Theatinerkirche - is a Catholic Church built from 1663 to 1690. The church was built in Italian high-Baroque style and contains the tombs of King Maximilian II and Queen Marie.

44: The Residenz (Munich Palace) is the former royal palace of the Bavarian monarchs in the center of the city of Munich. The Residenz is the largest city palace in Germany and is open to visitors for its architecture, room decorations, and displays from the former royal collections. This museum is as beautiful as any we saw on this trip. We practically raced through this museum and it still took us about two and a half hours to complete the tour! The next few pages will give you an idea of what we saw on our tour.

45: The Hall of Antiquities (Antiquarium) was built in 1568-1571 for the antique collection of Albert V (1550–1579). In addition to the rich accumulation of furniture, paintings, sculptures, the museum contains bronze work, clocks, tapestries, porcelain and several special collections. This tour can be made without a guide. You can see in the photo above we are using phone-like listening devices that describe each room we are visiting. Photo above includes our good friends Jack & Jackie Bennett and my sister Pat (seated to the right).

46: Marilyn studying a model of the Residenz. | Music room. | Look how high the bed is! | Pretty fancy doorway!

47: Fabulous wall coverings! | Beautiful door! | Another bedroom. | A spectacular room!

48: Examples of the Residenz royal collection displays.

50: We completed our tour of the Residenz Museum with a walk down this spectacular hallway!

51: We ended our visit to the Residenz by visiting the Treasury. Founded by Albert V, the house jewels of the Wittelsbach are today on display in the treasury. The collection is one of the most important in the world and spans 1000 years from the early Middle Ages to Classicism. On display are royal insignia, crowns, swords, goblets, goldsmith work, rock crystal, ivory work, icons and numerous other treasures like precious tableware and toiletries

52: Regensburg, Germany | Regensburg was the first stop on the first full day of our Imperial Europe Tour with Trafalgar. The stop was to give us a chance to stretch our legs, have a snack, and do a little sightseeing before we continued on to Prague. The photo to the right shows the bridge we crossed to enter into the medieval center of this beautiful city located where the Danube and Regen rivers converge. The large medieval center of Regensburg is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. One interesting note is the Stone Bridge in the photo was built between 1135–1146. It is a highlight of medieval bridge building. The knights of the 2nd and 3rd crusades used it to cross the Danube on their way to the Holy Land. Our bridges in the U. S. should last so long!

54: The cathedral, which dominates the skyline of Regensburg with its magnificent Gothic architecture, was naturally the first place we wanted to visit. Because of the low light levels in the church, I did not get any keeper photos of the inside of this beautiful church. Photos on the next page show some of the sights we saw in this city.

56: Prague, Czech Republic

59: Without a doubt, Prague is one of the cities I most wanted to see on this trip because of my mother's Czech heritage. I was not disappointed! The nighttime photo of Prague's Castle (largest ancient castle in the world) was taken from the beautiful Charles Bridge (photo to the left) which crosses the Vltava River. Note the many sculptures along the top of this famous bridge. Regarded as one of Europe's most beautiful cities, Prague is a city full of magnificent bridges, cathedrals, gold-tipped towers, museums, and church domes. I hope we can return someday and spend more time in this fascinating city.

60: Marilyn & Pat posing with a Prague Castle guard. | Front gate to the Castle (view is from inside the gates) | Our tour guide provides us with some historical information. | Changing of the guard ceremony at the castle gates.

61: St. George Church and Monastery. | St. Vitus Cathedral is the largest and most important church in Prague. | Courtyard and fountain inside the castle's entrance walls.

62: Tyn Church dominates the skyline of Old Town Prague. The square is a main gathering place for tourists who have grown tired from walking the narrow streets of Prague and want a little rest and maybe something to eat. Note the vendor stands in the above photo. Here you can purchase souvenirs or something to eat.

63: The clock tower (the photos above) is located across from the Tyn Church in Old Town Prague. The tower is famous for the medieval astronomical clock on its side. Installed in 1410, it is the third oldest astronomical clock in the world and the oldest one still working!

64: We had lunch on a river cruise boat, but this is where I really wanted to eat that afternoon! | It would be fun to see Prague in one of the tour cars above! | Our hotel, the Crowne Plaza, was used by Joseph Stalin and his officers. Note the star on the roof. | We enjoyed dinner at a nice restaurant on our final evening in Prague.

65: Bratislava, Slovakia | Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, was where we stopped to take a rest break on our way from Prague to Budapest. The city's most notable attraction is the castle on a hilltop overlooking the Danube River. An interesting note is the first culture (Boleraz Culture) known to have inhabited the castle hill settled here around 3500 BC.

66: To the left is one of Bratislava's town squares. There is a beautiful fountain just across from St. Martin's Cathedral. | The Novy Most Bridge, with its UFO restaurant, is the most famous modern landmark in Bratislava. The bridge spans the Danube River just below the Bratislava Castle.

67: I found several unique statues around Bratislava's shopping area. As the girls below found out, some were alive. I hope the girl on the top right was more careful with the guy posing as a statue below!

68: Budapest, Hungary | It's difficult to find a city as beautiful as Prague, but Budapest, the capital of Hungary, also ranks as one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The Hungarian Parliament Building (photo on right), located on the bank of the Danube, is one of many incredible landmarks in Budapest. Credit for this photo goes to my sister Pat! (note...good hair...big photo!)

70: Top Left - The impressive entrance to the Parliament building. Bottom Left - One of two assembly halls in the Parliament building, Top Right (next page) - The Chain Bridge spans the Danube River joining Buda and Pest, the western and eastern sides of Budapest. Built in 1849, it was the first permanent bridge across the Danube in Budapest. Bottom Right (next page) - The Fisherman's Bastion is beautifully located on Castle Hill providing a spectacular panoramic view of the city, the Danube River, and Parliament. Photo on previous page was shot from Fisherman's Bastion.

72: We also toured St. Stephen's Basilica, the largest church in Budapest. It houses Hungary's most sacred treasure, St. Stephen's mummified hand, the Holy Right Hand. St. Stephen was Hungary's first king and is remembered for having converted the nomad Hungarian tribes to Christianity. Though a little dark on the inside, it is a magnificent church as you can see from the photos on the next page.

74: Heroes' Square was another one of our tour stops in Budapest. This monument was built for the 1896 Millennium Celebrations. A thirty six meter high Corinthian column dominates the square with Archangel Gabriel on its top holding St. Stephen's Crown (see insert). According to the story, Gabriel appeared to St. Stephen in his dream and offered him the crown of Hungary. A semi-circled colonnade encompasses the column with statues of Hungarian kings and heroes.

75: Before leaving Budapest, we were treated to chocolate crepes at the very elegant Gundel Restaurant. Below is a photo display in their lobby showing famous dignitaries that had dined here including The Pope, Pres. George H. W. Bush, and Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip.

76: Vienna, Austria | The Schonbrunn Palace (the Habsburg monarchs' summer residence) was the first stop of our tour on our first full day in Vienna. Construction of this palace began in 1692 and was completed during the reign of Empress Maria Theresa. We toured many rooms of this magnificent palace, but not nearly all of its 1,441 rooms! Unfortunately, photographs were not allowed inside the palace. The interior did remind me of the Residenz in Munich, in other words, it was spectacular! Since the 1960's this has been one of Vienna's major tourist attractions. | Above is the Schonbrunn Palace.

77: Bottom left photo shows the immense size of the imperial gardens of Schonbrunn Palace. Below right is closer-up view of the Gloriette, a monument to the Imperial Army.

78: On the evening of our arrival in Vienna, we were taken to the historic Kursalon Wien for a "feast for all senses". It started with candlelight dinner in the "Johann" restaurant and was followed by a "Sound of Vienna" concert which included an excellent orchestra and wonderful singers and dancers! It was a night to remember!

79: Mozart (Above left), Beethoven (Top right), and Strauss (Bottom right) are honored with memorials in Vienna, the world capital of music.

80: Our tour also took us to the Imperial Crypt which lies beneath the Capuchin Church. Since 1633, it has been the principal place of entombment for members of the Habsburg dynasty. The bodies of 145 Habsburg royalty are buried here, including 12 emperors and 18 empresses. Top right is the tomb of Franz Joseph I flanked by the tombs of his wife & son. Bottom left is the double tomb for Empress Marie Theresa and her husband.

81: We ended our stay in Vienna with a walking tour that included many famous and beautiful buildings. | Austrian Parliament | Museum of Natural History

82: State Opera House | Stables of the Royal Lipizzan Stallions | Vienna Peoples' Theater | Outstanding cakes!!

83: St. Peter's Church | St. Stephen's Cathedral

84: The Hofburg Imperial Palace has housed some of the most powerful people in Austrian history, including the Habsburg dynasty, rulers of the Austro-Hungarian empire.

85: The palace is currently the official residence of the President of Austria. It was the Habsburgs' principal winter residence, as the Schonbrunn Palace was their preferred summer residence.

86: Sights Along the Way From Vienna to Salzburg | Top photo is the Abbey Church of Melk, an Austrian Benedictine abbey and one of the world's most famous monastic sites. It is located above the town of Melk on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Danube River in Lower Austria. | Bottom photo was taken from a mountain top in the Berchtesgaden National Park. We were driven here for a view of Hitler's Eagle's Nest (barely visible in this photo). It was given to Hitler for his 50th birthday and was meant to be a retreat and place to entertain dignitaries. What a beautiful view looking down at the clouds. | <--- Hitler's Eagle's Nest

88: Salzburg, Austria | The fortress on the hill (Festung Hohensalzburg) dominates the skyline of Salzburg. We arrived at our hotel near dusk but I was able to take the photo on the right from our hotel room overlooking the city of Salzburg. Unfortunately, I never really got a good photo of the fortress while in Salzburg because the sun was always shining brightly behind and just above the fortress. I guess we'll have to come back in the future for better lighting.

90: Above is the bridge we crossed to get to Old Town Salzburg (below). Note the padlocks on the fence along the side of the bridge. People have written of their love for one another on the locks, fastened the locks to the chain link fence, and then tossed the keys in the river! Next time Marilyn and I will bring a padlock!

91: Photos on this page are of Mozart's birthplace. Below, Marilyn and Jackie are about to ring doorbells to this building. Note how the cords run up the walls to the various apartments.

92: These are random photos I shot while wandering around in Old Town Salzburg. It seemed there were musicians around every corner...very good musicians I might add! There were also many monuments and markets.

93: Above is a very interesting and beautiful three-sided weather station in Old Town. Each side had operational instruments and/or graphs. Below is a market set up beside a picturesque church where Marilyn and I saw chestnuts for the first time in our lives!

94: Doppler radar is named after Christian Doppler. He lived in the house pictured above. Note the tunnel though the mountain pictured below. We all met at a restaurant near the tunnel to enjoy coffee and delicious Austrian pastries before leaving Salzburg to return to Munich.

95: You can't come to Salzburg without being reminded that this is where the "Sound of Music" was filmed. In photo at top left is the gazebo where the song "Sixteen Going of Seventeen" was filmed. Top right is where the Von Trapp family hid from the Nazis. Below are photos from Mirabel Gardens where the "Do Re Mi" song was filmed.

96: Innsbruck, Austria | Since Marilyn and I stayed in Munich three additional days following our Imperial Europe Tour, we had time to take a day trip to Innsbruck by train. We visited the 1976 Olympic Ski Jump venue and Grassmayr Bell Foundry. Panoramic photo of Innsbruck was taken as we walked down the mountain from the ski jump.

98: Photo of our tour group at Fisherman's Bastion in Budapest.

99: Final Thoughts | I feel so blessed to be able to take trips to explore other countries, experience other cultures, see history come alive, and meet interesting people from other parts of the world. What a great trip! Our tour group was a fantastic bunch of people from all over the world including Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Dubai, and the United States. Everyone was so nice and got along so well. Our tour guide Uli was very professional, informative, and entertaining. All of this made our tour a very special experience. Marilyn and I also did a lot of exploring on our own in Munich and had a great time doing so. This has given us the confidence to explore on our own the next time we travel to Europe. I can hardly wait!

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  • By: Phil H.
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  • Title: 2011 Tour of Imperial Europe
  • Photos and memories of our visit to Munich, Germany and our tour to Prague, Bratislava, Budapest, Vienna, and Salzburg.
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  • Published: almost 8 years ago