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S: Germany, Austria & Switzerland - Tour with Rick Steves' Europe Through the Back Door - September 2010

BC: Germany, Austria and Switzerland charmed us and stole our hearts! We're very grateful to Rick Steves' Europe Through the Back Door for all it did to make this trip such a fabulous one.. We loved our return trip to Switzerland and our first visit to Germany and Austria. We did a lot of good living in those two weeks! We enjoyed strolling cobbled streets, browsing in museums, hiking on wooded paths. It was fun to journey not just on planes, trains and automobiles, but also on boats, subways, buses, cable cars and funiculars. We loved exploring the nooks and crannies of castles. We were awe-struck by beautiful cathedrals, captivated by pristine lakes, and dazzled by majestic mountains. We feasted our eyes on the art and architecture and our stomachs on the sausage, rosti, raclette, strudel, tortes and chocolate. I will so miss all the pretty flowers in all the sweet flower boxes on all the cute chalets in all the charming towns! The music was alluring, from the haunting, mellow sound of a single alphorn to the rich resonance of an orchestral ensemble. We had fun learning about the the lifestyles and quirks of kings, queens, dukes, and countesses. It was great drinking liters of beer in the most famous beer hall in the world, served by waiters and waitresses clad in leiderhosen and dirndls. It was an equally special treat sipping Riesling wine in an outdoor cafe at the foot of the hillside vineyard where the Riesling grapes were bathed in sunlight. We had a just-right mix of free time and planned activities. The world-class big cities wowed us, the adorable little villages enchanted us.. Our 30th anniversary trip was, in a word, perfect. | All too soon, the trip was over. As much as we would have liked to spend that final day, September 17, with our new friends, seeing more of Vienna, we needed to leave the hotel at 4:45 a.m. for our early flight home. Departing was sad, but we left with many treasured memories and we know, for sure, we'll be back!

FC: Germany, Austria and Switzerland in 14 Days | Tour with Rick Steves' Europe Through the Back Door September 2010

1: This is me, Vickie, and my husband, Gary, in Switzerland. Well, this was us, 30 years ago! We were fortunate to spend our honeymoon in | one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Fresh out of school, and without much in the bank, we booked that trip when we realized we could afford the airfare and hotel. We'd figure out the rest when we got there! The Alps were spectacular! We vowed to try to return for our 10th anniversary. That didn't happen. The next 25 years were pretty busy raising our four children. Our travel adventures took us to places like Disney World and the national parks. We did get to Europe for a few week-long trips in the years 2005 to 2009, but decided to save Switzerland for a time when we'd be able to go for two weeks and combine it with Germany and Austria. In September 2010, this dream became a reality! You are invited to browse this scrapbook, seeing what we experienced as we | (Here's what we looked like on this 30th anniversary trip.) | our journey! | Guten Tag! | yodeled through Switzerland, waltzed around Austria, and strudeled our way across Germany on a Rick Steves' Europe Through the Back Door tour!

2: My husband and I have completely different styles when it comes to vacation planning. I get started months in advance. I buy guide books, maps and language phrase books. I'm on the internet reading reviews by other travelers and making reservations. I create lists: must-do attractions, not-to-be-missed restaurants, the most quaint and friendly hotels. Gary, on the other hand, will turn to me as he's buckling his seat belt on the plane and say, "So, tell me where we're going and what we'll see." He's done that . . . honest! I love all the planning. Learning about an area we're going to visit, and anticipating the trip, is half the fun. Of course, with a Rick Steves' Europe Through the Back Dour tour, there's no need for intense planning because the company has attended to all the details. Their experts have booked wonderful hotels and restaurants and made plans for the group to sneak through some back doors and enjoy a series of magic moments. For this trip in September of 2010, we just had to show up! It was great fun to make 25 new friends and share this adventure with them. Fully guided group travel is completely different from independent travel. I love both. | The actual vacation always goes way too quickly, but the fun isn't over when we get home because I get to re-live the memories while making a scrapbook! My sweet husband never complains that for weeks, he's tripping over scrapbook clutter all over the house--mounds of paper, photos, brochures, ticket stubs, postcards, tape, and more. But now I've discovered digital scrapbooking! This book was my very first effort. I've had great fun creating this book. It was pretty easy. If I can do this, anyone can. If you don't believe me, just ask my 18-year-old daughter. I'm surprised her eyeballs aren't permanently stuck up in her eye sockets from the amount of time she's spent rolling them at me because I've needed some help doing something on the computer. I didn't have to ask for any help with this project, even though I was clueless to start. | Some introductory comments about this trip and this book . . . | . | . | . | I wonder what she's got in store for me this time? | ctoria hroeder | Gary Schroeder

3: The pictures in this book were taken with our new Nikon D-90 camera. We didn't want to have to change lenses while on the go, so we got a versatile "walk around" lens that zooms from 18 to 200 mm. I've never been a light packer, but my desire to take this camera on the trip was the incentive to cut way down on everything else I might have wanted to pack. The camera turned out to be well worth its weight. I never missed the couple pairs of shoes that got left out to make room for it.! Now that I have traveled in Europe for two weeks with just what I can fit into a carry-on-sized bag that straps onto my back, I swear I'll never travel any other way! | On the pages that follow, when you see a star like this one, you're reading about a WOW moment! | . | . | . | Mom made this book all by herself?? No way! | Why did we pick ETBD? Our first return trip to Europe after our honeymoon was a week-long stay in Paris in 2005. Prior to the trip, I'd purchased a guide book so I could start planning. I'd selected Rick Steves' Paris book. (I'll admit I used the eeny-meeny-miney-moe method. There were so many choices!) Rick's description of Rue Cler sounded pretty enticing so we'd booked an apartment on that street. When that recommendation turned out to be spot on, we followed many of Rick's other suggestions in the book, and it was a fabulous trip! We were hooked! The way Rick likes to travel is the way we like to travel! We used his London book on a 2008 trip and his Italy book in 2009 for a week-long trip to Venice, Florence and Rome. I eagerly looked forward to the day when we might try a fully guided tour with the Rick Steves' Europe Through the Back Door tour company.

4: Bacharach, Germany (pre-tour stay) | Trier, Germany | Baden-Baden, Germany | Murren, Switzerland | Munich, Germany | Salzburg, Austria | Vienna, Austria | Hallstatt, Austria

5: Our flight from Chicago arrived in Amsterdam at about 7 a.m. on September 2nd. We had a seven hour layover before our flight to Frankfurt. With our bodies saying it was midnight., it was tempting to stretch out on a reclining chair in one of the comfort lounges (Schiphol is such a great airport!) but we know that the best way to adjust to being on Europe time is to just ignore the fact you've missed a night of sleep and stay active as long as possible that first day. We were excited to be in a European city we've never visited, with time to explore it a bit. There's a train station right in the airport. We rode into the city and went on a tour of Amsterdam's wonderful canals. | Arrival in Amsterdam

6: Pre-tour stay in Bacharach | We chose a bed and breakfast in the town of Bacharach, on the Rhine River, for a two-night stay prior to the start of our tour. It took two hours, and four trains, to get to Bacharach from the airport in Frankfurt. It would have been just two trains, but in our sleep-deprived fog, we made a couple of mistakes. After we got to Bacharach we tried to tell ourselves we were now rail travel pros. We were immediately charmed by this lovely village of half-timbered buildings and cobbled streets.. | We woke to the beautiful chimes of St. Peter's church. | View of Stahleck Castle at the end of our street | We had a wonderful meal here at the Altes Haus, the oldest building in town, built in 1368.

7: Rhine River Cruise | We took a boat ride on the Rhine River from Bacharach to St. Goar, enjoying the views of the castles and learning the legend of the Loreley, a 450 ft. tall slate rock rising above the deepest, narrowest part of the Rhine..

8: In St. Goar, we had great fun exploring Rheinfels Castle, at one time the largest of all the Rhine castles. 28,000 French troops attacked in 1692, but it held strong. It was largely destroyed in the French Revolution and now stands in ruins. | This couple was married at the castle that day. | Gary, a pharmacist, is drawn to old apothecary displays like this one in the museum in Rhinefels castle. | Biggest cuckoo clock we've ever seen. | St. Goar

9: On our last morning in Bacharach, we took a nice hike up a path through dense woods to get to Stahleck Castle, where we enjoyed wonderful views of the town, some of the surviving city towers, the winding Rhine River, and the steep hillside vineyards. This area is well known for its wonderful Riesling wines. | I could have stayed in Bacharach a few more days enjoying the wine while gazing up at the hillside vineyards where the grapes are grown, but it was time to get to Trier for the start of our tour. The only other people on the tiny little train platform in this small town in Germany were a young couple who, like we, are University of Wisconsin alumni. We live in a small world! One train took us from Bacharach to Koblenz, and then we transferred to another train to complete the journey to Trier. | Stahleck Castle is now a youth hostel.

10: In Trier, Germany's oldest city, we met our Rick Steves' ETBD tour leader, Tara, and fellow travelers at a late afternoon gathering at our hotel, the Hotel Primavera. After introductions and a brief orientation, we each picked a "tour buddy," then we headed out for our first group activity: a tour of the Basilica. It was built by Constantine in the 4th Century and is the largest intact Roman structure outside of Rome. After the tour we had our welcome dinner at Zum Domstein, | a delicious meal enjoyed while getting to know each other better. The next morning, a local guide led us on a walking tour of the city. Trier had been bustling with activity when we'd arrived on Saturday but was quiet and peaceful for our Sunday stroll. The highlight of this tour was our visit to the Dom, Trier's cathedral, the oldest Christian church in Germany. | Trier | The Dom

11: Hauptmarket Square, a textbook of architectural styles, from Art Decco, to Gothic, to Romanesque, to French .Provincial. | In Roman times, there were four city gates. Porta Nigra is the only one left.. | House of the Three Magi, a 13th Cent. building with its door several feet above the ground, accessible by ladder. | St. Gangolf, church of the townspeople in medieval times. | Welcome dinner menu

12: After our walking tour of Trier, we met our driver, Richard, who is from The Netherlands, and boarded the coach bus that would provide our transportation for the next two weeks. We didn't know it yet, but in the bus driver lottery, we hit the jackpot! | We traveled along the meandering Mosel River, stopping in the quaint town of Bielstein, where we had lunch on a leafy terrace overlooking the river. | Riesling wine grapes in Bielstein | Our "diamond edition" Heidebloem bus, the pride and joy of Richard, easily the most charming bus driver in all of Europe. | Hitting the road!

13: Burg Eltz consists of three homes owned by three different families, with a shared courtyard. We were able to tour two of the homes, fully furnished the way they looked 500 years ago. The third home is still used by the family that has owned it for 33 generations.. | After the castle tour, we visited the treasury, containing some of Germany's finest gold and silver artifacts, suits of armor, weapons, dishes, candelabra, and much more. | Dear Countess of Eltz: Love your castle! The fresh flowers in every room are an especially nice touch. But regarding the exterior, i.e., that fixer-upper project you've got going on, do you think you might have it done by our next visit, so that I don't have to crop half of your fabulous home out of my photos along with the scaffolding?

14: Baden-Baden | Baden-Baden is a stylish, elegant city in the northern part of the Black Forest, a spa city for 2,000 years since the Romans discovered the healing power of the thermal spring water in the area. We had a tour of the opulent 200-year-old casino, known to be one of the most exclusive in the world. | With its marble fireplaces and statues, gilded fountains, heavy crystal chandeliers, and frescoed ceilings, it looks more like a royal palace than a casino..

15: Our room at the Hotel Heliopark Bad zum Hirsch | Gary and I had a lovely, relaxing afternoon and evening in Baden-Baden. After lunch in an arbor-covered biergarten, we took the funicular 2,000 ft. up to Merkur, a hilltop giving us a panoramic view of the city and surrounding countryside. I couldn't talk my husband into baring it all at the Roman baths, so we went to the Caracalla Spa where we were able to wear swimming suits while we relaxed in the indoor and outdoor thermal pools. With our bodies and souls soothed, we dined outdoors, enjoying the warm starry evening. We ended the day with a short visit to the casino. Alas, we did not win enough money to retire so we can take vacations like this more often. | Our guide, Tara, orients us to the city of Baden-Baden.

16: After leaving Baden-Baden, we visited the Vogtsbauernhof open-air museum, for a taste of traditional farm life in the Black Forest. The farmhouse was built in 1612 and occupied by generation after generation of the same family until 1965. | We had lunch here after the tour. Tara treated us to a Black Forest torte that was so huge, there was a lot left for her to finish off before re-boarding the bus. | Schnapps on the bus?? We've only known our tour leader three days but we love her already! | This 1609 water-powered flour mill still works. We got to watch it in action. The small photo shows the spout where the powdery fine ground flour comes out. | People and animals all lived under the same roof.

17: Our lodging for the next three nights was in Murren, a village in Switzerland's Bernese Oberland, located at 5,365 ft. elevation. It is a pedestrian-only ski resort village, accessible by cable car or train. We took one cable car from Stechelberg to Gimmelwald, then transferred to a second cable car to complete the journey to Murren. The views from the cable car were amazing. All of us were very excited to be arriving in Murren in such "high" style! | Arriving in Switzerland | Staubbach waterfall in the Lauterbrunnen valley

18: Holger, proprietor of the Hotel Jungfrau in Murren, was a warm and welcoming host with a great sense of humor. We felt like family in his inn. The first of our two group dinners here started with a delicious cheese fondue course and ended with folk entertainment. Everyone had a chance to join in the fun. By this time, we were all very comfortable with each other. This was a night to let down our hair and really start acting like we were on vacation!. | Bob, Jonathan, John and Pat get their five minutes of fame. | The yummy fondue was a mixture of Gruyere and Vacheron cheeses..

19: Gary's sound on the Alphorn was a a lot like the moose call he has at home. | These photos show Hanna, Ray and Emily trying to get a coin to spin around inside a glazed ceramic salad bowl. Done right, it would make a ringing tone to add to the music. The Swiss gent made it look so easy! | Group fun in Murren! | . | .

20: We went up an elevator shaft inside a mountain, then wandered down the trail, through caves, awed by the spectacular glacial waterfalls formed by the snow melting from the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau. Up to 52,000 gallons of water gush through the mountain per second. | Trummelbach Falls (a UNESCO world heritage site) | WOW! | . | .

21: Bern wasn't on the itinerary for this trip. But when it rained in Murren on | the day designated as our free day for hiking in the Alps, Tara pulled a trick out of her hat and got us to Switzerland's capital, where it was sunny and warm She arranged for us to have a guided walking tour by a local guide named Hector Ruebli. He was the best--so knowledgeable, enthusiastic and funny! We felt very lucky to have a tour leader like Tara, who went above-and-beyond to make sure it didn't rain on our parade! | Bern | A bonus!

22: Bern has had a bear pit since the 16th Century. | This medieval tower is one of the iconic images of Bern. The tower was built in the 13th Century. The astronomical clock was added in the 15th century. We watched the mechanical puppets perform a skit to announce the new hour. A cock crowed 3 times, bears paraded, a jester rang his bells, Father Time turned an hourglass, and a knight struck the bell with his hammer. | The gabled medieval architecture is beautiful. Local sandstone was used. | At one time the city was contained on a peninsula in a crook of the Aare River. Bridges were later built so the city could expand.

23: Einstein lived here from 1903 to 1905 | Although you wouldn't know it from the way I framed my photo (oops!), Munster Cathedral is the tallest cathedral in Switzerland. The sculpture over the main portal depicts the Last Judgment. Construction of this cathedral began in 1421. | Bern is a great city for pedestrians, with 6 km. of arcaded streets. | For a capital city, Bern is very small--only 130,000 people. In 1983, the historic old town in the center of Bern became a UNESCO world heritage site.

24: I opened our curtains early in the morning on our 2nd day in Murren, hoping I wouldn't see the same fog we'd had the day before. I know my gasp woke Gary up. It was going to be a glorious day! The Alps we'd barely been able to see were right there, crisply outlined against the pre-dawn sky, the snow showing up in varied shades of blue. It was breathtaking! We had coffee on the balcony of our room that day, watching the sun come up. Best view from a hotel room we've ever had! | Wow Moment!

25: Front of our hotel in Murren | The windows in our hotel's lounge had wonderful views of the Alps | I found our multi-talented bus driver playing the piano in the lounge one day. | At this tiny grocery store in town, we bought wine, cheese and chocolate. | Murren's two churches | We love places like this, friendly little villages with beautiful scenery, fresh air, and a slow-paced lifestyle. | Those are cowbells under the eaves

26: Tara posted a note for us each day to provide us with detailed information about the day's planned activities and some free time options. On this free full day to hike and explore in the Alps, she joined many of us on a spectacular hike from Mannlichen to Kleine Scheidegg. To get to Mannlichen, we started on a panoramic train then transferred to a cable car.

27: WOW!! | Favorite day of the whole trip!

28: It's easy to hike from Murren to the village of Gimmelwald. It's all downhill, on paved roads. We wanted to visit this tiny Alpine farm community, and are so glad we did. It was delightful. The town only has about 120 residents. You can walk from one end of town to the other in five minutes, but of course, you'd be missing the whole point. | Gimmelwald

29: This resident makes cheese for a living and sells it out of this tiny cheese hut.

30: Our long bus rides between our major destinations were always broken up with stops in interesting places. On the way to Munich from Murren, we had a long, leisurely lunch stop in Lindau, Germany. It was a beautiful day, and Gary and I enjoyed a lakeside meal with tour-mates Bob and Marianna. | Lindau

31: The Viktualienmarkt Hotel in Munich was in a perfect location, a block from the Viktualienmarkt., Munich's open-air market. Just beyond that was Marienplatz, the city's main square. The hotel felt brand-spanking new, having just undergone a complete remodeling.. | Our first night in Munich was a lovely, balmy evening, perfect for our group meal at Augustiner, where we had tables in the biergarten. Our driver, Richard, engaged in some friendly banter with a local flower peddler, offering to trade his delicious strudel for the whole bunch. | Munich

32: Munich is a fascinating city, and we covered a lot of territory on our half-day walking tour. Our great local guide, Kathleen, gave us a coffee and strudel break about halfway through, to fortify us for the sites left to see!

33: Munich's ornate buildings looked beautiful against the brilliant blue sky on this picture perfect September day.

34: After our walking tour in the central city of Munich and a guided visit to the Alte Pinakothek (art museum), we had the rest of the day free.. We had lunch with our tour buddies, Dallas and Mary Lou, and then spent a few hours just roaming, enjoying the sights, sounds, and smells of this lively city on a | beautiful, sunny Saturday. The shops selling dirndls were full of young women buying them in preparation for the upcoming Oktoberfest. Munich's biergartens were crowded with Germans and tourists alike. We hail from Wisconsin, where many German immigrants settled, including our own ancestors, so sausage, sauerkraut, and beer are staples to us. We felt right at home in Munich.!

35: Many Americans might have concern over how they'll be perceived by Europeans, but the people of Germany,, Austria and Switzerland couldn't have been more friendly and gracious. When we started the trip in northern Germany, which is mostly Protestant, strangers on the street would greet us with a cheery Guten Tag! ("Good day!") Here, in Bavaria, in southern Germany, where the Catholic faith is more prevalent, the greeting changed to Gruss Gott ("God be with you.")

36: The Hofbrauhaus | Our stay in Munich wouldn't have been complete without a liter of beer in the world's most famous beer hall..

37: Kathleen knew how to hit all the highlights in the Alte Pinakothek. This museum has works of art from the 14th to 19th Centuries. We saw paintings by such artists as Raphael, Botticelli, da Vinci, Rembrandt and Ruben. | Maypole and flower stand in the Viktualienmarkt

38: To get this photo of Neushwanstein, we stood on Mary's Bridge,. The views of the Bavarian countryside and the gorge below the bridge were stunning. | Ludwig's boyhood home, Hohenschwangau, can be seen from the windows of Neuschwanstein | Poor King Ludwig II, after he spent 17 years building his castle, he only lived there 172 days until his mysterious death.

39: Tara didn't tour the castle with us. I assumed it was because she's seen it many times. The real reason is that she was out getting food so that she could surprise us with a picnic.. She set out a beautiful array of fresh fruits and vegetables, cheese, crusty bread, meats, and chocolate. We had a picturesque setting for our repast, in a serene churchyard in the midst of a lush meadow, with a gorgeous mountain backdrop. | What a perfect day for a picnic!

40: (Believe me, Pat, Mary Lou and I were not exactly breaking any sound barriers here.) | Riding the luge after our picnic | Bus time passes quickly when you're riding through picturesque little towns or idyllic countryside like this. | Group dinner at the Gablerbrau Restaurant | The Trumer Stube, our wonderful, small hotel in Salzburg, is family-owned and run. The main hostess is owner Marianne. She and her parents cooked and served our breakfasts, provided free time suggestions, and greeted us at the door with warm smiles when we came and went. | Goodbye to Germany | Arrival in Salzburg | View of the street from our room. I love the fact that windows in Europe have no screens. Just throw open the window, lean right out, and check out the neighborhood!

41: It was lightly raining when we took our guided walking tour in Salzburg, but grey skies couldn't spoil the beauty of this delightful city. We started in Mirabell Gardens. (One of the Sound of Music scenes was filmed here. Can you see Maria and Von Trapp children dancing about, singing Do-Re-Mi?) | Salzburg's fortress, as seen from the Gardens

42: If you are buried here, your descendants pay rent and maintain your grave. | St Peter's Cemetery | This cemetery was the inspiration for the one in the Sound of Music, where the von Trapps hid.

43: Our Salzburg guide said that on Christmas Eve, the city's residents come here carrying lit candles. At midnight, they sing Silent Night. That beautiful Christmas hymn was written in Salzburg. A few of us in the group decided that we need to come back in three months to experience this lovely tradition. | Tara stayed dry while watching over her charges.

44: There are four organs on balconies around the dome. The balcony shown below is the one Mozart played from for two years. | Salzburg's Dom | Two angels high on the facade of the cathedral are holding a gold crown. A statue of Mary is in the center of Domplatz, perfectly positioned so that when you are standing directly under the middle arch that leads into the square, it looks like the angels are crowning Mary. | Under the dome, you're surrounded by the tombs of 10 archbishops from the 17th Century.

45: Tara provided us with a map in each city, helpfully marked so we could find our hotel and the major sites we might want to visit. As much as I enjoyed the group walking tours led by local guides, (we experienced and learned so much!), I was glad we had a nice amount of free time in Salzburg. Even on an overcast day, this photogenic city was beckoning me and my camera! | 250+ years after his birth here, Mozart is still the talk of the town. These photos show the front and rear of the home where he was born. Gary and I didn't go inside but instead toured the home where Mozart lived from the age of 17 until he moved to Vienna. It has been turned into a museum with instruments, music scores and other wonderful artifacts. | There is a patron saint of salt? Who would have guessed! Here he is, St. Rupert. | This waterwheel is part of a system that brought water into Salzburg from 16 miles away. It provided fire protection, flushed out the streets, and powered factories.

47: Salzburg is a city for strolling. We loved the arched passageways that connect the streets, the merchants' wrought iron signs, and all the clock towers.

48: Hohensalzburg Fortress | There is a funicular that goes to the fortress, but we made the 400 foot ascent by foot. | Part of our free time was spent visiting the fortress and taking in the views from up there.

49: The canon operator's view of the city. | The mere sight of this imposing fortress, towering over Salzburg, seems to have kept the city safe and sound. The fortress never had to be used to defend Salzburg against an enemy attack.

50: After walking around Salzburg on this overcast day, exploring the whitewashed fortress, built on a grey rock, we stepped into Universitatsplatz, a public square with a huge | open market. The vibrant colors of the fresh produce and pungent smells of the cheese and sausage were a wonderful assault on our senses!

51: You can't be on a diet when you travel. To fully immerse yourself in the culture of a new place, you must indulge in the local cuisine! Fortunately, when you're on a ETBD tour, there's plenty of activity, so at the end of the trip, your belt is still in the same notch!

53: I loved dining by candlelight in Salzburg, in a beautiful Baroque hall, enjoying the company of wonderful new friends, while a five piece chamber ensemble played Eine Kleine Nacht Muzik. The talented young string musicians and opera singers were in period costumes and the menu was from Mozart's time. It may be schmaltzy to some, but for this Midwesterner who loves classical music, the Mozart Dinner at Stiftskeller St. Peter in Salzburg (a restaurant that's been in business for over 1,000 years) was a Wow Moment!

54: Traveling from Salzburg to Hallstadt, the bus dropped us off in St. Gilgen where we boarded a boat for a scenic ride across Wolfgang Lake.

55: The boat ride ended at a dock in St. Wolfgang, where we were met by Richard and our bus. These towns, St. Gilgen and St. Wolfgang, are two of the pretty little villages in Austria's Salzkammergut Lake District.

56: Hallstatt | WOW

57: After a couple of days of city life, we were once again ready to kick back and smell the roses. Hallstatt was just what the doctor ordered. Villages don't come any prettier. Some of us talked about staging a sit-down strike here.

58: Walking to our hotel | The Gruner Baum was my favorite hotel. It had such stately grandeur. I didn't mind not having an elevator, with staircases like these.. | The hotel's lakeside terrace | We had a lakeside lunch with Dallas and Mary Lou. (Some white swans also graced us with their presence.) The tour buddy system is great. | Spoiled forever . . . we had a two bedroom suite with two flower-boxed balconies, looking over the village square. | The only real requirement is that you make sure your buddy is there when the group is ready to depart to a new place. But on an ETBD tour, your buddies are likely to become much more than the tour leader's attendance aides. These tours seem to draw extroverts. The many social opportunities on this trip really enhanced our whole experience. By this time, our tour buddies from Fort Collins, CO felt like comfortable old friends we'd known forever.

59: The town's Catholic church is at the left, and the steeple of the Protestant church is above. | Hall is a Celtic word for salt. Salt was "white gold" before refrigeration. The world's first known salt mine is here. Hallstatt goes back about 7,000 years, one of the earliest places of human settlement on Earth.

60: Some of the free time options in Hallstatt included boating, visiting the museum, touring the salt mine, or just relaxing by the lake. Gary and I, Anne and Bill, and a few others in the group opted to ride the funicular up to the salt mine, way above the town, then hike back down. The views from up there were great. The steep path provided an excuse to take our time. We had the trail all to ourselves and enjoyed the serenity of this nature hike. | Old salt mine entrances

61: The cemetery is so small that a body could only remain buried for 12 years. It then had to be exhumed to make room for someone else. The unearthed skeletal remains were | The Catholic church, chapel, cemetery and bone chapel | cleaned, labeled with names and dates, painted with ivy garlands or flowers, and placed in the bone chapel.. This practice ended in the 1960's, when the Catholic church began allowing cremation.

62: There was a lot of time to relax and socialize in Hallstatt. Our group dinner that evening in the hotel's dining room was a wonderful meal of fresh-caught fish. We were sad. though, that it was our last dinner with Richard. He'd be leaving us after dropping us off in Vienna the next day. We shared some last laughs with him, then presented him with some gifts. | Prost! | Thank you to our friend, Richard! We loved the ride! | Champion Bus Driver

63: I got up early to have one more chance to stroll around this lovely town, to get it permanently imprinted in my memory. | Hallstatt at dawn

64: Mauthausen Concentration Camp | Mauthausen was one of a few "category III" Nazi camps. Those had the harshest conditions within the concentration camp system. This site was chosen for the camp because there was a huge granite quarry here that would provide stone for Nazi building projects. First, though, the prisoners had to haul the stone to build their own camp. From 1938 until the camp was liberated by the U.S. Army in 1945, almost 200,000 people were inmates here. More than half died. | Our group was somber for our visit here. Our guide walked us along the wailing wall and into the shower room, barracks, gas chamber and crematorium, all while presenting this history in a most sensitive and appropriate way.

65: A memorial garden adjoins the camp. The tens of thousands of men, women and children who were worked to death or murdered at Mauthausen came from over 40 nations. Many of these countries have designed and erected a memorial in remembrance of those citizens. It is a very poignant garden of monuments, sculptures and plaques overlooking the stone quarry where so many of those people--weak, sick and starving--died while struggling to carry huge slabs of granite on their backs up to the camp. The 186 stairs that they were forced to climb have come to be known as the "stairs of death." | It is so important that this camp was preserved and it is so necessary that we and other people are asked to visit. The innocent victims who were brutalized and murdered here deserve to be paid homage. The mistakes of the past must never be forgotten, lest they be repeated.

66: We arrived at our Vienna hotel, the Hotel Post, in the evening. We wanted a romantic dinner for two in this beautiful, world-class city on this last free evening of our 30th anniversary trip. We found Ofenloch, a wonderful 300-year-old restaurant on a narrow, cobbled pedestrian street. After dining under the awning in the golden glow of street lamps, we tried a different route to get back, but of course got lost.. We actually didn't mind the extra time it took to find our hotel. Vienna is very safe and has such a lovely, romantic ambiance at night. I loved the beautifully lit buildings, the lively outdoor cafes that spilled into the car-free streets, and the clippety-clop sound that echoed through the still evening air as the horses pulled their carriages. | Vienna after dusk

67: It was our last full day of the trip, and we had our final city walking tour this morning. As we headed to the spot where we were to meet up with our Vienna local guide, I worried that my brain was on information overload. But then Wolfgang showed up on his bicycle, wearing an aqua t-shirt, red cargo pants, and orange suede sneakers. He was charmingly irreverent, lightly peppering his talk with political commentary. He threw in plenty of humor. We enjoyed this free-spirited guide and loved the city he brought to life for us!

68: The Hofburg Palace Treasury is a mind-boggling collection of crowns, robes, jewels, portraits, tapestries, scepters, crucifixes, chalices, swords, orbs . . . you name it. If it's a glittering artifact that was worn or used by an important person in Vienna's history, it's probably here. | Imperial Crown of the Holy Roman Emperor in the 10th Cent.ury | The Vienna Boys' Choir sings at Sunday Mass from the balcony at the back of the Hofburg Imperial Music Chapel

69: Vienna is well known for its coffeehouses. Wolfgang gave us a coffee break in the morning in an area where we had several from which to choose. Gary and I went to the elegant coffee shop inside the Sacher Hotel. Along with our coffee, we ordered a slice of the famous Sacher torte from our tuxedo-clad waiter. | Fabulous cakes and pastries in the display case at Demel, a renowned Viennese chocolate shop. | After the city tour, we wandered out of the central city area into the Spittelberg Quarter, a quiet neighborhood of narrow, pedestrian-only cobblestone streets, and had lunch in the courtyard of Witwe Bolte. | Eating in Vienna

70: We'd been in some fabulous cathedrals on this trip, but we agreed there was room for one more. The beautiful, Gothic St. Stephen's did not disappoint. The 450 foot South tower took 65 years to build. Mozart was married here and | two of his children were baptized here. He was not the | the organist, though. He would have listened to Beethoven's teacher on the organ in this balcony.

71: Vienna is a feast for the eyes. In our short time, we barely scratched the surface of this classy city. I'm glad we left things undone so that a return trip is in order. Next time I need a dose of gracious living, Vienna will be high on my list.

72: Hector in Bern | Wolfgang in Vienna | Kathleen in Munich | Bridgette in Salzburg | Our wonderful local guides

73: Martin. at Mauthausen | Elvira at the outdoor museum in Germany | Brigette in Trier | Our guide at Baden-Baden's casino | These are the dedicated people who enriched our experience with their passionate, lively presentations of the history, people and culture of the places we visited.

74: Our driver Richard The Netherlands | Mary & Roger, Alberta | Ray & Charlotte Washington | Laura & Donn Ohio | Mary Lou & Dallas, Colorado | Jonathan, California | Gee & Brian, Maryland | Denise & Anthony Virginia | Anne & Bill, Washington | The trip wouldn't have been the same without this great group of travel companions.!

75: Marianna & Bob British Columbia | Vickie & Gary, Wisconsin, with our leader, Tara, Washington | John & Pat, Arizona | Emily & Judy, California | Fra Na & Bill, Washington | Greg & Hanna, Alberta

76: Tara was such a fabulous leader! So knowledgeable, full of energy and enthusiasm, eager to help, quick to laugh! She obviously loves Germany, Austria and Switzerland with all her heart. We felt there was nothing she wouldn't do for us to ensure that we'd leave with the same feelings. She treated us to many extras. | She had great free time suggestions in each destination and never stayed back at the hotel to get a well earned rest during those times. She was out and about with us, just one of the group. At our farewell dinner, Tara touched us by sharing copies of her German grandmother's treasured Old World recipes. Our leader was a sparkling gem!

77: The whole gang!

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  • By: Victoria S.
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  • Title: Germany, Austria and Switzerland (Copy)
  • 9/1/10 to 9/17/10 trip
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  • Started: over 5 years ago
  • Updated: over 5 years ago

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