Europe Forums

Post New Topic

Recent Activity

  • Announcement:
  • Recent Spam Attacks
    by mkataoka Fodor's Editor | Posted on Nov 28, 16 at 01:31 PM
View all Europe activity »
  1. 1 Hotels for 6 25 year old guys - Paris and London
  2. 2 Scandinavia - By land or by sea?
  3. 3 Are St. Chapelle concerts just for tourists?
  4. 4 Scotland-Looking for itinerary advice for 9 day trip
  5. 5 Germany train help!
  6. 6 Spain in July
  7. 7 4 Days in Amalfi in April - Without a car??
  8. 8 Article on assistance for US citizens with difficulties abroad
  9. 9 Renaissance Paris Vendome
  10. 10 Meteora for older folk
  11. 11 Bridging the gap between US and Europe
  12. 12 Liverpool & Beatles port tour
  13. 13 Train help for Prague
  14. 14 Input desired concerning my Sicily itinerary
  15. 15 Athens
  16. 16 Trip Report We're here!
  17. 17 Cote d'Azur--Having Second Thoughts...
  18. 18 Petrol in Greece
  19. 19 Last minute (next week) London GTG?
  20. 20 Trip Report FOCUS ON FRANCE: Paris and South of France
  21. 21 12 Day Central Europe Itinerary
  22. 22 Budapest & Prague
  23. 23 Please critique my itinerary in Italy
  24. 24 Traveling Greece without reservations
  25. 25 Paris day trips August
View next 25 » Back to the top

Trip Report 27-DAY ODYSSEY IN THE ALPS with 3 FINAL DAYS IN PARIS

Jump to last reply

BAVARIA, AUSTRIA, ITALY, SWITZERLAND, ending in PARIS
August 20-September 18, 2014

BACKGROUND:
For several years we’ve been wanting to do a driving trip to explore parts of the Alps during a season when we’d have good chances for favorable weather. We are a couple of warm-weather-loving Midwesterners, who had visited a few of these areas on previous trips, and had inclement weather. Although late summer wouldn’t ordinarily be our choice for traveling, since that is a warm weather season at home, we decided that this was the year to pursue our journey through the Alps
.
We’d been saving our Delta FF miles, and this spring were feeling fortunate to be able to cash them in for a desirable itinerary: Cincinnati through Atlanta to Munich, and returning from Munich, with a 3-day stopover in Paris, and then a non-stop flight back home
.
Following are some of the background steps in our planning which we detailed for three reasons. First, we want an account for ourselves of the process and time required to plan such a trip. Secondly, since we began getting input from friends on Fodors early on, and wanted to share how their ideas helped the process. And, finally, for those planning an independent driving trip, we hoped that sharing some of the experience might prove beneficial.

Since flights had been booked, we researched car rentals, and with some information from Fodorites, decided to go with Auto Europe, based in Maine. Our car in Munich would be through Europcar, VW Golf or comparable model. That seemed adequate for our needs.
With our flights lined up, and car booked, we began the preliminary work of mapping our travel route. Lots of time was spent perusing guidebooks, combing through new and older TRs from Fodorites, and map study. The task seemed awesome and, at times, overwhelming! Much more challenging than signing up with a tour, but much more rewarding! We knew from some experience in the past that it’s a step-by-step process.
Narrowing down our areas of travel proved to be a challenge. Even with 27 days in the Alps, we really had to tighten our itinerary, passing up some desirable sights, with a promise to re-visit them at a later date
.
We purchased maps of each country, and relied upon Google, Michelin, Bing etc. for printing maps getting us from Point A to Point B along our journey, being careful to limit our travel distances. We didn’t want to rely solely on technology as we feared that “connectivity” and “reception” might be spotty.

Our finalized driving “loop” included Munich to Berchtesgaden, Salzburg and some towns in western Austria. Then the Dolomites in Italy, followed by Switzerland: a bit of the Engadine, Locarno, Brig (to access Zermatt, weather-permitting), the Berner Oberland, and completing our loop back to Munich via a detour to Montreux and Lucerne. From Munich we would fly to Paris for three nights and from Paris non-stop home.

With our itinerary fairly well-established, we began the researching of hotels, planning length of stays, etc., This was begun a few months before travel, interrupted at times with a couple of shorter trips in the US and some local events. We attempted to book most hotels in a mid-price range, but did splurge a bit in a few locations. We made a few of our bookings directly with the hotels, but found using “booking.com” to be a convenient and satisfactory option. In fact, when we wanted to make a couple of changes of dates, they handled it very efficiently and promptly for us
.
With flights, car, itinerary, and hotels locked in, we began the organization of stuff to take. In planning to pack, our goal was having enough clothes/shoes for differing kinds of weather and occasions, but no more than needed. We knew that we’d need rain-proof jackets and layers. And toiletries, OTC meds, practical items like scissors, etc. etc. for 30 “living-out -of-luggage” days. CHOICES! CHOICES! CHOICES!

Then there were issues with Sim cards for our unlocked Vodafone, DACH+maps to research, purchase, and download into GPS. Also, money decisions: getting EUR’s to start with, bank ATM card hassles, etc. We tried to get “Chip and Pin” credit cards, but apparently US companies haven’t as yet gone with the “Pin”. So with chip only, we knew we would have to patronize only “attended” fuel stations.

Then other details: bills, paying and pre-paying; lawn-cutting and gardening needs, and arranging for cuts & watering while gone, itineraries and contact info for family, etc. And, naturally, right before leaving, Murphy’s law is in effect: a problem with water from R/O water filter raised its nasty head, and needed attention.

At times, we questioned our decision to do a trip of this length. The news that central Europe had been having a chilly, rainy summer had us hoping that this would subside before our arrival. We would be leaving home with beautiful, sunny weather and our garden in its glory. But with all the plans in place, we chose to focus on the positives and had confidence that we would have a wonderful trip!

A final comment about our TR: We habitually mark or annotate things at home as “TK” (DH) and “MK” (DW), our initials, so we kept those designations in our journal. We made notes on our Surface as we traveled, thinking that the daily details of a month could easily escape us. Each evening, we’d work together to make plans for the following day: study the maps, get the pertinent ones ready, plug addresses into the GPS, get tech stuff plugged in, and organize clothes. Either one of us would write some notes on the Surface. So two writing styles are interwoven. This TR is a tweaking and expansion of those notes
.
So. . .here we go! We hope that some of you will come along for the journey.


WEDNESDAY-THURSDAY AUGUST 20 and 21, 2014:
DEPARTURE DAY/ARRIVAL IN MUNICH

The airport shuttle was in our driveway at 8:30AM sharp; a good feeling using a home-airport service. As is our habit, we planned for an early arrival at the airport. The driver handled our two medium-sized luggages, dropping them off at the Sky Cap desk. We were off to security with just our small roll-aboards (Costco purchases; $29.99). Security went smoothly, so we had plenty of time for coffee and a bite to eat before our flight to Atlanta, where we would catch our to flight to Munich, Germany.

So far, this day was such a huge contrast from our busy, overwhelmed, daily preparations that had gone on for weeks, but more so during the final week, where a couple of unexpected events popped up. After a smooth flight to Atlanta, we had time to enjoy a light lunch before boarding our flight to Munich.

ON TIME! ALL BOARDED! SET TO GO! Then an hour and half delay on the tarmac, due to lightning and rainstorms in the area, resulting in a long line of jets awaiting take-off. Then 9+ more hours of flying (probably 11+ hours in the 767 counting the hour early boarding). Sleeping is a tough thing to accomplish. Fortunately, we did not have a full plane and we each able have an empty seat next to us. Even with eye masks and a dark plane…it’s tough to be sitting mostly fully upright with poor back support (lumbar, ugh!). But not to feel too sorry for ourselves, we thought about folks from Australia, NZ, and Asia, and elsewhere whose flights are much longer than ours.

Upon landing in Munich, we were impressed with the very modern, large airport. Quite a bit of walking from de-planing to baggage. All went well. Then on to car rental. We passed several restaurants, and were surprised to see people having beer with their meals so early in the morning. Maybe it’s just the enthusiasm for tasting that good German beer? We experienced our first airport conveyor belt with a downhill pitch. Hang on to your luggage!

Eurocar went smoothly; a silver Opel hatchback. ($836.72 pre-paid). Regular gas, no diesels available. In fact, the agent said that the Opel was the only available car in our category. OK with us. We were given directions to the car park, the keys, and a parking spot number for the car.

Our plan was for TK to be the driver, and MK have the role of navigator. (We decided that it wasn’t worth the daily charge for a second driver.)

As we arrived in the area of car pick-up, there were no personnel around. We had our first experience with “non-attended” service. Just find the car. . .no matter that the signs and instruction manual were in German. ..figure it out, and exit the garage. So far, so good.

Now the fun began! We didn’t think the adage “Expect the unexpected!” would apply so soon. Frustration exiting the parking garage because the “pass” given to us would not activate the gate. We noticed another guy having the same problem. Still no personnel in sight. Round and round and round we went! The inside of a parking garage wasn’t quite the scenery we were hoping to enjoy! What to do?

Just as we were wracking our brains to come up with a plan (like park the car; one of us wait, the other try to find a way to return to the floor of the car rental desk). . .an additional try luckily triggered the gate.

Garmin, aka “Gilda” would not/could not find the satellite. But we had our trusty map, so we were on our way to our destination for the first night, the Marriott in Freising. We found Freising, a small city about fifteen minutes away, with no problem. However, the directions from the Marriott website to their hotel weren’t accurate. We circled around the downtown area of this little town; made a couple of stops to ask locals. No one had heard of the Marriott or the street named on the map. Finally, at a restaurant stop which, conveniently, had a restroom, a lady gave us directions (without street names), and hope rebounded. Just then, wonderful Greta came alive, found the satellite, and quickly we were at the Marriott Munich Hotel.

Our room was not quite ready, so we ate a not-so-tasty lunch at their outdoor restaurant. We revved up the Surface, and after a short time, we could check-in. At the front desk, we purchased an S-Bahn ticket (21 euros), valid for one day. which would get us to Marienplatz and back via train S-1.

We were grateful to have a partly sunny day for our trip into downtown Munich. During our forty-minute ride, it was interesting to observe that the terrain was flat, with mostly farmland dotted with clusters of houses. It didn’t appear much different than some areas of the US Midwest.

The station in downtown couldn’t be any more convenient to Marienplatz. As expected, the walking street outside the station and the whole area around Marienplatz was filled with tourists. But this venture proved to be a good thing to do when stricken with “jet lag”. We milled around the square for a while, had our first German beer at the RATHAUS KANTENE (self-serve), and were present on the square at 5 PM when the little statues of the Glockenspiel rotate for five minutes telling the story of the city’s history. Interesting that in the entrance to the Rathaus beneath the Glockenspiel, was a concrete plaque with several city names, among them our city “Cincinnati”. Upon reading the inscription, we learned that these were the cities which have a “Hofbrauhaus”.

Following the “Glockenspiel” show, we had our first German dinner at the outdoor RESTAURANT CAFE AM MARIENPLATZ on the square: a tasty 9 EUR weisswurst and sauerkraut dinner with another beer. Our waiter was a fun guy, and we enjoyed our meal amidst the tourist buzz
.
To walk off our dinners, we strolled around the square and surrounding streets, admiring the church and other buildings, making our way to the HOFBRAUHAUS, known to be the largest beer garden in the world. It is said to date back to 1589. The story goes that Wilhelm V, the emperor at the time, did not like the beer which was brewed in nearby towns, so he began the project of building this brewery to serve the Royal Residence. Over the years, many famous people, like Mozart, and more recently JFK, Gorbachov, GW Bush, and other world leaders, visited the Hofbrauhaus. There were also the infamous, like Hitler, who used the Hofbrauhaus for political events and for declaring policies.

Upon entering the packed hall, it was evident that there was little room at the tables among the jovial visitors, enjoying their steins of beer and good food. We stayed only long enough to hear the band for a few minutes. Since we had visited the Hofbrauhaus on a former trip, we felt no need to add to the crowd
.
We returned to Marienplatz where a four-piece chamber music group had begun to entertain. Quite a different vibe than the Hofbrauhaus! Conveniently, we found a seat at a café right on the square. . .a great place for dessert, and enjoyed listening to the music, while observing the world of tourists of every size, manner of dress and language pass by. We were aware of the many other things to be experienced in Munich, but this trip our main goal was to focus on the Alps.

Before heading back to the station to catch the train for our return to the Marriott, we picked up some pastries for the morning. Once inside the station, we recall the hassle of finding the proper side of the train track. Also, of not sitting in a train car that was toward the rear, as part of the train would separate and go to the airport…gads. Thankfully, we were aware of this separation of the train cars to Freising and the Airport, thanks to Dukey1 and Cowboy1968, who early on provided good info to us. But even with this awareness, finding the correct train presented our first possible travel dilemma. After seeing a train marked only “Airport”, we decided to wait for one more train on that line, and fortunately, it did list “Freising”.

Soon we were on our way back to the Marriott.
Home via a 10 EUR taxi from the Freising Train Station. It’s about 10:15 when we reach our room. Time to organize our luggage for day-to-day travel, and get a good night’s sleep, something almost assured in the comfort of those Marriott beds.

Friday, August 22, 2014: OFF TO BERCHTESGADEN

Up around 8AM; we enjoyed the Marienplatz pastries with coffee right in the comfort of our room. TK made a couple of trips to the garage with the luggage while MK checked out. We were on our way to the mountains.

In preparing for our trip, we had looked up the German “rules of the road”, which helped our confidence as we approached our first day of driving on the highways. We felt good that the trucks all stayed in the right lane, and abided by their lower speed limit. Speed limits for other lanes were clearly posted in neon signs. As we traveled east, we were thrilled to see the mountains appearing in the distance.

We had our first experience with a “rastplatz” or rest area. We needed to purchase a vignette for driving on Austrian highways. We were “out of luck” at a previous fuel station stop. Perhaps it was too far from Austria?

MK went inside the restroom and realized that they were not free. There were turnstiles requiring 1.70 EUR to activate. Luckily, TK had coins. Following the restroom experience, we headed to the convenience store to purchase the vignette, and cappuccinos. We didn’t realize that our ticket from the restroom had a small credit toward store purchases. More new learning
!
As we traveled another stretch on the Autobahn, TK began to feel sleepy, so we looked for a lunch stop in a small town, Rosenheim, which others have described as a nice stop-off en route to Berchtesgaden. Rosenheim is a charming place. It’s our first experience with parking: learning the meaning of the signs “P1”, “P2”, and automatic pay machines. “Park-cheiner”, we learn, means you pre-pay and put the receipt on your dash. More new learning!

We found a garage which was convenient to a walkway leading to a little platz area. Here we were attracted to the outdoor deck of a restaurant WIRSTHAUS ZUM JOHANN AUER. The owner Tony (Anton) and his wife, who waitressed us, were delightful. The daily special, Rindsgulasch and Knodel (dumpling), suited TK more than MK who shared her knodel with TK. Both of us had a refreshing beer. MK later ordered a side salad; very fresh.

As we were finishing our meal, Tony came to our table and seemed eager to share his knowledge of English and the US. He described his visits to New York and Las Vegas and shared pictures taken with Siegfried (Tony’s friend from the area) and Roy. The tragic incident with the tiger during their Las Vegas Show caused Roy to lose most of his physical well-being. Roy told family and friends that he is no longer Roy, but his real name Uber, which was his given name growing up. Tony had pictures of himself with Pope John Paul II, who is from Bavaria, and other famous people. All of these were displayed in an inside hallway. He enjoyed telling stories about these experiences and a lot about the history of the Tyrol area.

Our interaction with Tony proved to be a highlight of the day so far. Our conversation lasted so long that we determined that we did not have time to do justice to the Herrenchiemsee Palace of Mad Ludwig in nearby Prien. Oh well! Maybe next trip!

Onward to Berchtesgaden by way of Prien, where we find the signage is sparse and the ability to go places with a map and Garmin is challenging. We consumed some time with wrong turns onto minor highways, which, on the positive side, led us through some charming towns set in beautiful mountain scenery. There are always stops for cappuccino. In one town, we saw a large white billboard or banner with our last name in gold letters. Too bad we didn’t snap a picture!

After our leisurely drive on the scenic back highways, it was getting to be later in the afternoon, so we settled on taking the Autobahn to the highway turnoff toward Berchtesgaden. We were awed by the surrounding mountains! We were initially alerted to the beauty of this area by the Fodorite pja1. We would discover that Berchtesgaden, tucked against the sheer wall of the Bavarian Alps, was surrounded on three sides by Austria.

Since it’s approaching 5PM, we decide that we best take care of hotel check-in. Our Hotel Krone is high up on the mountainside of Berchtesgaden, an area called Nonntal. Given its location on a narrow, steep road requiring a sharp hairpin turn, we were pleasantly surprised that Gilda could find it! With its position, the Hotel Krone has a great view of the town of Berchtesgaden. In fact, that was our reason for choosing it, and we weren’t disappointed
.
The hotel décor is typical Tyrolean style, with light pine wood and carved trim. Quaint and clean and pleasant. Our room has a corner niche with a bench and table, convenient for organizing maps and making use of their Wi-Fi. The bed is very low, actually two single beds pushed together, designed with a shallow frame and narrow mattress. Each side has a single duvet. Another new experience for us. We think Hotel Krone will probably take the prize for the smallest bathroom of our travels. The door opening was less than 2 ft. But all the fixtures were new. Our coordination skills will be tested! Since the room has a small balcony, and a pretty view, we know it will be fine for us. We were glad that we had booked three nights in this surprisingly beautiful area
.
We used our couple hours of daylight to take in the gorgeous mountain surroundings. Wow! Just walking the property of Hotel Krone, plus the surrounding streets, gave us a wide view in several directions. We overlooked the valley of Berchtesgaden town, the salt mine, and the impressive mountains surrounding. This area was much more beautiful than we had anticipated and we were only into the first day of our trip!

We learned that the Berchtesgaden area forms a National Park with numerous alpine lakes and is dominated by the third highest peak in Germany, Mt. Watzman, which is the highest rock face in the Alps. Mt. Watzmann faces Hitler’s Kelsteinhaus, all in view from our hotel. So much to take in, but the sun was fast fading. It was getting to be dinnertime.

At dark, we drove down the mountain road to the city center and found a great beer garden, BrauStuberl. The oom-pa-pa band was a bit loud for our taste; but the locals were thoroughly their Friday evening, and the dance floor was packed. Luckily, there were several rooms where we could enjoy a meal with the music as a backdrop. Our Romanian waiter was very pleasant and offered to snap a picture of us. He said that he was living in Berchtesgaden because he could not find work in Romania. The weisswurst, sauerkraut and potatoes meal for 8.60 EUR was excellent. Back up the hill to Hotel Krone by 10:30, the last guests to return.

Saturday, August 23, 2014 KELSTEINHAUS and the
DOKUMENTATION MUSEUM

Up about 8AM and off to continental breakfast, included with room fare. Average, low key breakfast, not fancy, but satisfactory. The atmosphere is stiff; we seem to be the only Americans. We later learned that the lady taking care of the breakfast is the owner’s wife, and that she speaks very little English.

So today our plan was to make the trip to Adolph Hitler’s Kehlsteinhaus (or Eagle’s Nest). The skies were overcast, and we had hopes that it would clear a bit later in the morning. Our Surface did fire up, so we used the time after breakfast to double-check our credit card and bank balances, and look up some local info. And hope for a clearing in the skies.

As the morning wore on, it seemed evident that we were in for an overcast, rainy day. We initially came to Berchtesgaden wanting to learn more about the life and activities of Hitler. If our goal had been only a beautiful, mountaintop view, we would, no doubt, have changed our plans for visiting Kelsteinhaus. But given our interest, we decided to just go ahead with the trip.

We bought tickets at the Kasse for the twenty-minute bus ride to the top of Kelstein. This was all very organized in that your ticket indicated the number of your bus. For us, Bus #4, leaving at 11:50. Only enough tickets were sold so that all passengers were seated. As we had assumed, it would be rainy and cloudy the whole day…@$#!

The road up the mountain is impressive, rising 2275 ft. with only one switchback. It is said that 3000 men, German, Swiss, and Italian, worked day and night, winter and summer, blasting five tunnels, at times carrying heavy boulders on their backs to reach places where machinery could not go, to make the deadline of Hitler’s 50th birthday. Kelsteinhaus was to be a birthday present for him from some of his party leaders.

As we arrived at the end of the bus ride in a hard driving rain, we were glad that we had purchased good rain gear. As we departed the bus, we were informed that we had to declare our time to descend the mountain and have our ticket stamped. Given the rainy conditions, we decided to give ourselves 1 ½ hours.

To begin the approach to the Kelsteinhaus, there is first a long walk through a dimly-lit dark tunnel lined with rough marble sides. It is said that Hitler was driven through this tunnel. At the end of the tunnel, the line forms for the gold-plated elevator ride to the top at 6000 ft. We probably waited about twenty minutes for the elevator.

The Kehlsteinhaus has thick granite walls and heavy beamed ceilings. Upon entering, the first room is a smallish, paneled dining room with the original sideboard. Apparently, Hitler used a long dining table, which is no longer there, to host a few banquets. This room is now a restaurant. Through this room, and down a few steps, is a large room which was used for conferences, and a few parties. This room had the red marble fireplace given to Hitler by Mussolini, but none of the other original furnishings. Now the room felt like a large beer hall. In the corner to the left of the fireplace, there were counters of Kehlsteinhaus memorabilia for sale. The former sunporch area is now a hallway of pictures of the construction process back in the 30’s. This area would be a gorgeous viewing location but for the foggy weather. Standing outside on the large patio, hoping for a break in the clouds, we did get a feeling for why this location was chosen by the Nazi leaders.

We had a beer and pretzels in the large hall, and bought a book illustrating the outrageous tactics and cruelties created by Hitler. Later, when driven back down the mountain, we bought a DVD about the construction of road and the Kelsteinhaus, along with a German-made beer stein. Had it been a clear day, the view would have been amazing into Austria. We could only imagine!

Even though the weather did not cooperate, the experience gave us a reality base for understanding the lengths to which Hitler and his party men went to build a secretive and protected haven. Later, in the Dokumentation Museum, we would learn how the Nazi Party had, one by one, forced the people from their homes in Obersalzburg, so that they could establish their own homes in this protected area.

We found it interesting to learn even though Eva Braun spent a lot of time at Kelsteinhaus, Hitler visited fewer than twenty times. Apparently, he was claustrophobic and feared heights. He spent most of his time at his home, Berghof, located in the woods along the Obersalzburg Road. He had had the original home reconstructed into a presidential palace. After Berlin, the Berghof served as the secondary headquarters for the Nazi Party. This home was finally demolished. Only a rock wall and the underground bunkers remain.

There are so many other fascinating facts about the area and Kelsteinhaus, Eva Braun, and the activities at this location which could consume hours of study.

After returning to the bus depot, it was past time for lunch. We enjoyed a “special of the day” lunch at the BERGESTAURANT AT KELSTEIN. The delicious meatloaf and great potatoes were complemented by the beer and a dessert of apple strudel. A much larger meal than usual for us, but so tasty!

Next stop was the Dokumentation Museum, located just down the hill from the restaurant. We had only two hours, as it closed at 5PM. Had we known the volume of displays, we would have planned for a much longer time. The English audio was invaluable, as all the exhibits were in German. The experience was sad and depressing, yet so revealing of the drive of the Nazis to make the Aryan race superior and get rid of (kill) those Jews, Gypsies, Polish, etc. etc. and others whom he considered not able to contribute to his great plan, (like elderly, disabled, etc.) After euthanizing many, letters were sent to the families with a false cause of death. Only much later did they find out the true fate of their loved ones.

The gradual rise of Hitler’s National Socialist Political Party was detailed; the annihilation of all opposition by fear of punishment, including the concentration camps. Jews were blamed for all the problems of the time. Intelligent and ruthless leaders were appointed for control of the various divisions of the Socialist Party. On display was a huge flow chart of Party personnel, all part of Hitler’s plan to exert control throughout the whole country. The fate of these leaders was also detailed. Many of them committed suicide or fled.
There were videos of older people describing the horrors they or their families endured, and actual letters from the Nazis that individuals had saved and subsequently shared.

There were old movies showing the frenzy that Hitler could whip up among the crowds; as one historian said, their use of religious symbolism to “raise the emotions but minimize the intellect.” Through his personal photographer, and his handlers, Hitler was promoted as paternalistic and a friend of children, as well as the powerful political leader that should be worshipped.

This museum was chilling and left a deep impression upon us! We were glad that we went, but now it was time to concentrate on more uplifting things.

Since the time is still early (5:30), we decided to drive a couple miles south of Berchtesgaden to Konigssee, a crystal- clear alpine lake, described as Germany’s deepest. It’s about 8 miles long and very narrow, flanked on each side by vertical rock walls. The calmness of the silky lake waters would be appreciated in contrast to the experiences of the day!

We had read about the small electric boats for rent at Konigssee, and the large electric boats for tours of the lake. But with the still overcast skies, we knew either of those would have to wait until tomorrow.

After figuring out the parking pay system, with help from a local who could read the German sign, we took the long paved walkway to the lake. This path was lined with restaurants and shops. We stopped by one shop where MK bought two scarves (needed to keep comfortable in this chilly, damp weather). We had a great discussion about traveling with the owners, a German couple, who own the shop and close it for four months to travel Hawaii, Bali, New Zealand, Australia, etc.

We milled around the lake’s edge and the boat dock area, and had a beer at an outdoor restaurant overlooking the lake, where blankets were provided for comfort. (In Germany, the beer tastes good at any temp!) As we wandered back to the car, via the long row of shops, we were attracted to the restaurant of the HOTEL KONIGSSEE, which had candle-lit tables and seemed a welcome respite from the chilly weather.

We were seated next to a couple from the Netherlands. Very recently, an airliner was shot down over Ukraine, with many Netherland citizens on board. We discussed the seriousness of this situation, and even though they spoke only limited English, it was enough (with effort) to have a pleasant exchange. After a satisfying dinner, we returned to Hotel Krone, hoping for a better weather day tomorrow.

Sunday, August 24, 2014 KONIGSSEE DAY

Up around 7:30, dressed, and then the average continental breakfast. Rainy and cloudy again this AM, but we remain hopeful. Jorg, the owner, assures us, with his limited English, that in a couple of hours we should see the sun.

We decided to return to Konigssee, hoping that a boat tour would be possible. Again, parking is awkward because of our ignorance of German and uncertainty regarding the rules. TK assumed that he could pay the same amount as he had the last two days. Wrong! We returned to a 30 EUR fine! But on the bright side, the sun did come out for much of the day.

As we walked down the path to the lake, we stopped by a little café for some warm coffee cake and cappuccinos. “Cash only.” This energized us for the boat ride; 16.90 EUR each for a 55 minute ride up and back. The sign at the ticket window indicated “English commentary”, but when we heard no English on the trip, and asked the guide, he brusquely let us know that he didn’t speak English. So we just enjoyed the gorgeous scenery. About mid-point on the ride, the boat stopped and a guy with a trumpet played some measures and the sound echoed back from the rock walls. Very interesting!

We got off half-way at St. Bartholoma’s church, (now a souvenir/restaurant area), once a monastery and the site of a hunting lodge for the Bavarian royal family. With pretzels in hand, we took in the long views of the smooth waters, looked inside the old church, and walked around the grounds where the east face of Mt. Watzman is impressive!

Next, we boarded another boat to the terminus of the lake, Salat, and took time out for a beer as we stared at more dramatic scenery. It’s difficult to describe the surrounding beauty of the long, narrow lake ensconced in moutains. Just to the side of the café was a crude shrine of the crucified Christ, decorated with artificial flowers. We began to observe these shrines or crucifixes all over the Tyrol area, even in public businesses.

The boat ride back to the dock was so relaxing that we were almost lulled to sleep as we reached the end. Earlier in the day, we had discussed taking the cablecar to Mt. Jenner to enjoy the mountaintop view. But, by now, the clouds were appearing, so we decided a ride up to Mt. Jenner wasn’t going to happen. Next visit, perhaps!

We hadn’t had lunch, and needed another fix of Bavarian food…this time at the SEEHAUS RESTAURANT, located along the walkway. TK ordered a pork roast and “house made” dumpling with another bier; Mk had 2 weisswurst with a pretzel & salad. We shared the tasty meals. Again “Cash Only”…gads! We could have, maybe should have, planned our cash/credit cards differently.

Back to the car and that damn parking ticket!!! Since it is early, 5:30 ish, we decided to visit the Intercontinental Hotel which we had spotted yesterday on our bus ride to Keltsteinhaus. It is an attractive structure and has a wonderful setting. The hotel doorman invited us in. We had a nice chat with one of the cooks at the Stube Restaurant who filled us in about their opening in ’06. When we commented that, as yet, we had met no Americans, he said that Americans usually visit for one day, and just go up to Kelsteinhaus ; maybe visit Konigssee, and leave. He suggested that we could pay our ticket at the police station, and gave us directions.

En route to Hotel Krone, we decided to let the GPS lead us to the police station and show us the way back to our hotel. Well done Gilda! The police station was not in the town center, as we would have expected, so we were happy to discover a back road and alternate route back to our hotel. Very beautiful scenery! We did pause long enough to have an ice cream, just making it before they closed the shop. Back “home” by 8:30 or so…need to pack and be on our way to Salzburg tomorrow morning . . . after our attempt to pay our fine.

122 Replies | Jump to bottom Add a Reply
  • Report Abuse

    Looking forward to more, especially the dinner in Paris with that dazzling couple from Southern California. Great report. I'm sure this will spur us on to another Germany, Austria, Switzerland trip in the future.

    ((H))

  • Report Abuse

    Maitaitom, great to hear from you! Yes, we thought seriously about disregarding chronological order in our TR to recount the story of that gastronomic event in Paris with the dashing couple from Southern California. We may find an opportunity to sneak in a preview of that delightful occasion. All kidding aside, we really enjoyed meeting you guys.

    Stay tuned!

  • Report Abuse

    You know I am waiting for the Paris part!!! I certainly can appreciate the historical significance and horror of the Hitler part---tough part of a vacation. (Reading The Paris Architect now--incredibly sad and horrifying.

  • Report Abuse

    Hi denisea, so happy you've jumped on our TR thread. As noted above, we really had a fun dinner with Maitaitom and Tracy in Paris.

    You're, no doubt, getting more and more excited about your Xmas trip. And we're excited for you! (We'll have to look up "The Paris Architect.")

    Hope you stay aboard!

  • Report Abuse

    Woo-hoo, I've been waiting for this report!

    <<<<<But not to feel too sorry for ourselves, we thought about folks from Australia, NZ, and Asia, and elsewhere whose flights are much longer than ours.>>>>

    Yeah, I'll be dealing with that myself in a few weeks. Already dreading the flights!

    <<surprised to see people having beer with their meals so early in the morning.>>>

    You haven't lived until you've had beer for breakfast. We used to fly overnight from pork and alcohol-free Kuwait to Frankfurt - we'd immediately make a beeline to the nearest café for a pork and beer fix. And I don't even like beer all that much.

    I'm looking forward to the next installment.

  • Report Abuse

    Hmmmm....I think pork & beer for breakfast are in my immediate future. We have an early, long layover in the Frankfurt airport coming back from our Paris trip (leaving in 2 days!)

    Tomarkot, enjoying your report so far - I love the Alps theme, very unique. And thanks for bringing back memories of Marienplatz. I forced my college friends to go there for a bit of "culture" while in Munich for an Oktoberfest weekend. I somehow timed it perfectly as we immediately saw the Glockenspiel show, enjoyed it, and then promptly went back to the beer halls (what can I say? I was 22. ;-))

  • Report Abuse

    Tomarkot, this trip sounds great, and similar to the trips I'd like to do in a few years as time and finances allow. Intesting about the cook saying that most Americans just visit for the day in the Konigsee area. So often Americans are on a rush on their trips I think.
    A couple or ironies about the Munich/Upper Bavaria Nazi connection. While the Nazi Party started in the Munich region in the beginning of the Weimar Republic, it was actually weaker electorally in Munich by the early 1930's than it was in most of Germany. This was because the Catholic vote in Bavaria stayed loyal to the Bavarian Peoples Party, the local affiliate of the Catholic Centre Party.
    I would guess that in the Garmish area the Nazis were nowhere near the strongest party either as that was probably a stronghold of the Bavarian Peoples Party as well.

  • Report Abuse

    YankyGal, thanks for your comments. We did have our share of that good German beer. We'll have to try it with pork sausage.
    Have a wonderful time in Paris, our fave city!


    Robincal, we are interested in learning about the Nazi Party, and there is so much we don't know. What you described about the Bavarian vote is really interesting. Thanks for the info.
    If one can ignore the heinous actions which were planned in Berchtesgaden, the area has outstanding beauty. Being relatively close to Munich and Salzburg makes it possible to visit again.


    Digbydog, we think you will love the Dolomites! The mountains in that area have a unique character. Good luck planning!

  • Report Abuse

    Monday, August 25, 2014 FROM OOM-PA-PA BAVARIA
    TO CLASSICAL SALZBURG

    Our same routine, but up at 6:30; packed a bit more; plain breakfast; hotel check out (318.60 EUR; a good price for three nights). Jorg, the Hotel Krone owner, also reinforced that we could pay the parking ticket at the police station and showed us on the map where it was. (Of course, we already knew from our “dry run” last night).

    A mass of traffic slowed us down; surprised that this little city could generate so much traffic. The police station was well-fortified and we waited behind one other guy, who seemed to have lengthy business. When our turn came, the police officer at the desk told us emphatically that we could not pay at the police station but had to pay at the bank listed on the ticket. OK! We get it!

    We set Gilda to take us the alternative, very scenic backroad to by-pass traffic on our way to Salzburg. It was a beautiful, clear day, and driving on this backroad, Watzman and Kelsteinhaus were in perfect view. Incredible! We stopped several times along the way and had a last opportunity for some great pictures.

    Gilda did a fine job getting us out of Berchtesgaden and on our way to Salzburg. We had one glitch on the 19 km. drive on 305…Gilda got mixed up and directed us to make a turn. So we stopped at a bakery, used the restroom, bought a snack and cappuccino and easily got ourselves back on track en route to Austria.

    It was an easy drive along a nice highway. Before entering Salzburg proper, we decided to get gas, and had our first experience of “unattended” pumps, requiring a “chip and pin” card. It wasn’t a wasted stop, however. It had entertainment value. Fueling up at that place was a motorcycle couple with outfits to outdo Dolly Parton’s described “Coat of Many Colors”. Among their many colors was metallic silver. Certainly, unique among bikers!

    Across the street was an “attended” BP station, so we had our first fill-up and saved about 15 EUR per gallon. Awareness: tank is on passenger side; correct gas is the green-colored 95 nozzle; pay inside after you fill-up. Gas tank was just less than half; paid 45 EUR…Wow! But the saying goes “Tank up in Austria” where gas is cheaper than in Germany, and for sure, than in Switzerland.

    Thanks again to Gilda, the arrival at the HOTEL MOZART was smooth. The hotel lobby was very welcoming with a vase of tall white gladiolas. The owner greeted us, helped with our luggage, and parked our car in the small private lot behind the hotel. We were glad to get one of the few spots available (15 EUR per day); very convenient, where we had access to our car for getting jackets, etc. Very shortly, the owner’s wife appeared, and showed us the breakfast room and the sitting room. We were happy to get checked into our spacious corner room, newly-updated with attractive decor, and a view toward the mountains.

    The owners, Arthur and Bettina, spoke excellent English, and gave us a good orientation to Salzburg. They gave us a coupon for a free beer at the Stiegl Keller Restaurant, and described its beautiful view. So we kept that in mind for dinner.

    We’re still plagued with that German parking ticket! The couple read the instructions on the ticket and told us that we could pay it at any bank; that there was one nearby on the walking street that leads to the old city where we were headed. The bank was closed from 12:30 to 2 PM (1 ½ hour lunch breaks in Austria!). No problem. We made use of the time to have our first Austrian lunch.

    A block down from the Hotel Mozart is the walking street, Linzer Gasse. A nice sidewalk patio at ALTER FUCHS(Fox), serving typical Austrian dishes, was perfect for some grilled weiner schnitzel and salad; beer for TK & rotwein for MK, a welcome change for her from beer. Since our bill was over their 20 EUR minimum, we could pay with a Visa credit card. After our very leisurely lunch, with our front row for people watching, we enjoyed checking out some of the shops along this pedestrian street.

    A little past 2 PM, we stopped in the bank to pay the fine. The young woman teller was very helpful. She read the German instructions and filled out a form for us to sign. For a small fee, the money would be transferred to the proper German bank. Since we had been dealing with more businesses which did not accept credit cards, we withdrew 400 EUR.

    Now it was time to discover more of Salzburg, the fourth largest city in Austria, and on the northern boundary of the Alps. And it was a great day for our exploration! Salzburg is a city of many churches, palaces, and gardens, surrounded by alpine scenery to its south and more gentle rolling terrain on the north.

    We followed the walking street, crossed a busy road, and over the Salzach River via the Staats-brucke, pausing a few times to take in the scenery. With the picture-perfect day, Salzburg looked beautiful in all directions. We felt very fortunate to have this great day. Salzburg was one of those places we really wanted to re-visit, as we had had pouring rain on a former trip.

    On the other side of the bridge was the “Altstadt” or Old Town, renowned for its baroque architecture. Within a couple of minutes, we were on one of the oldest and most important shopping streets, Getreidegasse, where Mozart’s birth house is located. The buildings, partly from the period of the 13th-16th centuries, have charming interior courtyards and passageways decorated with columns. We did some window shopping in the multitude of places selling jewelry, antiques, fine art, the latest fashions, leather goods. . .just about anything one might want. The elegant and intricate guild signs are still there on the restaurants and shops.

    With an eye for a cappuccino stop, we spotted an open “plaza”. And even in Old Town Salzburg. . .a Starbucks! The entrance to the platz was extremely crowded. While sitting at an outside table with the trademark green umbrellas, we realized that the crowds were all gathered in front of Mozart’s birthplace house, now a museum. Our seat was facing the museum. By the time we finished our cappuccinos, the tour groups had thinned out, so we decided to pay the combined entrance fee to the museum here and the more complete museum located in the home where the Mozart later moved. We would visit the second museum as part of our day tomorrow.

    We enjoyed the Mozart Museum, learning about his childhood, and the strong influence of his father, Leopold, a well-respected musician in Europe. The Mozart family was considered well-to-do. There was a display of pictures and documents of the family, and personal letters they had exchanged, showing their affection for one another. We especially enjoyed seeing the pint-size instruments which Mozart used as a very young child.

    Mozart was born in 1756 and lived only until the age of 35. But in that short life time, he is remembered as one of the greatest musical geniuses of all time. At a very young age, he became competent on the keyboard and violin. He composed works from the age of five; was sought after throughout Europe to perform for kings and queens. At seventeen, he was appointed court musician in Salzburg. It’s difficult to realize that in Mozart’s short life, he composed over 600 works: symphonic, chamber, operatic and choral.

    Following our museum visit, we walked over to the Dom/Cathedral. The spires of this cathedral dominate the city’s landscape. The original cathedral dates back to 767! However, through destruction by wars and fires, it has been rebuilt and reconstructed a number of times. Over time, it has evolved from a Romanesque to a Baroque structure. Apparently, Mozart composed many sacred works in this cathedral. We spent some time taking in the beauty of the inside, impressive with its cool white. The cathedral holds over 10,000 people, giving some indication of its size. After our visit, we were told that the baptismal font was the location of Mozart’s baptism.

    Salzburg is known to be a city of churches. As we continued our walk through the Old Town, we passed a few others, making only brief stops in each. It was August, and the Music Festival of Salzburg was in full force. As we crossed through a large open platz, we saw the Small and Large Festival Halls, and the horse drawn carriages awaiting customers. It was too early for the evening performances.

    We continued onward toward St.Peter’s Church, notable for its three aisles and sixteen graduated altars which lead to the main altar.

    St.Peter’s Cemetery is recognized as one of the oldest cemeteries in the world. It is well-known for the important people that are buried there, among them the composer Haydn, Mozart’s sister Nannerl, and famous artists, scholars, and merchants. When we reached the cemetery, we had been walking for quite a while, so we spent only a short amount of time there.

    We were tempted to give up our search for STIEGL KELLER, and try our luck at getting seated at St. Peter’s Stiftskeller, a restaurant supposedly dating back to 807. But that would entail a walk down the hill and no assurance of a seat. We had walked through the platz by St. Peter’s Stiftskeller before visiting St. Peter’s Church and Cemetery, and had observed quite a crowd gathered outside. We, especially MK, were getting weary after walking for so long, including uphill on cobblestones. Only a short way now to Stiegl Keller!

    The STIEGL KELLER was up one more cobblestone hill, built into the mountain at the base of the funicular to the Hohensalzburg Fortress. We continued our trek, and finding the entrance, were surprised to encounter quite a few more steps up to the restaurant. We were getting our day’s workout! But, as advertised, when reaching the top floor, we were treated to a spectacular view over the domes and spires of Salzburg.

    Since the weather was so delightful, there were quite a few people enjoying the outdoor beer garden. The tables with the best views were occupied, so we moved inside where we found a perfect window seat overlooking the city. At this point, the complementary Steigl beer was extra refreshing, even if the food was only mediocre. The surroundings made up for it. What a spectacular spot!

    We enjoyed a discussion with the 20-year-old waiter who described how all young Austrian men are required to serve six months of military duty. Service with hospital duty or another charity would require nine months. After that, they could pursue college which was less expensive with their social form of government (about 600 EUR per semester). So he will go to Vienna to study economics in college next year.

    Leaving the Stiegl Keller, the downhill walk on cobblestones was much easier. And we now knew, for tomorrow evening’s dinner and concert, the location of the funicular to the Hohensalzburg Fortress. A happy find on the way down the hill was the little shop of artist Yong Chen. We immediately liked his beautiful watercolors of Salzburg, so we purchased one on the spot, after assuring ourselves that it would fit in our luggage. Later, we were happy that we had bought the painting, as the following evening the shop was closed.

    Now off for our last venture...a free filming of an opera shown on a large screen each evening at 8PM in the Kapital Platz behind the Dom/Cathedral, sponsored by Siemens Corp. We’re ordinarily not big opera fans, but this outdoor viewing seemed like something interesting to do for the evening. Unfortunately, this particular evening it featured “Electra”, not especially appealing to us.

    We hesitatingly approached a classy-looking white tent, set with white cloths, red napkins, and candles on the tables. The tent was positioned behind the many rows of outdoor chairs. Perhaps because there were so many empty seats in the place, we were welcomed to have desserts and cappuccinos.

    Since we had decided against staying for the opera showing, we adroitly walked around the side of the outdoor seating, and out of view of the opera watchers. We were able to observe the fountain and sculpture in the platz. At this point, we were looking for a taxi, but none seemed to be around.

    It was dark, the streets were mostly deserted, and our street map was difficult to read. We needed to find our bridge, the Staats-brucke, over the River Salzach, to our walking street, Linzer Gasse. We had covered quite a bit of territory today, and the walk back to Hotel Mozart seemed extremely long. Luckily, we found the right bridge! Back by 9:30 or so. An attendant at the reception was there to welcome us.

    We really like our beautifully-appointed corner room at the Hotel Mozart, a great place to get refreshed for tomorrow. We can hardly believe that this was our first day in Salzburg; we experienced so much. And the weather was perfect! We feel very contented.


    Tuesday, August 26, 2014 ANOTHER SALZBURG DAY

    Up around 7:30; nice breakfast; attractive table settings and buffet arrangement. European cold cut meal, but included were brie and prosciutto. Fresh coffee cake was an added dimension. Great coffee!

    Today we’re off to Mirabell Gardens(used in filming “Sound of Music”)and the 2nd Mozart Museum. It had rained overnight, so we wore our raincoats and brought an umbrella for good luck.

    We had made an online booking of a dinner and concert at the Hohensalzburg Fortress before we left home. That would be the highlight of our day. The hotel desk attendant advised us that taxis might be hard to come by in the evening because of the Music Festival goers. So, before leaving for the day’s activities, we arranged for a taxi to the funicular for 5:15PM, so that we would arrive early enough to take in the views from the fortress, and be ready for the 6:30 meal, and the 8:30 concert.

    Mirabell Gardens, an easy walk from our hotel, had seemingly thousands of colorful flowers; predominantly pink begonias and yellow marigolds. Additionally, there were sculptures and fountains throughout. The Gardens were artistically-designed and well-groomed. The Mirabell Palace looked beautiful, with the stunning gardens as a foreground. It was easy to see how this would have been a perfect setting for a scene in "The Sound of Music".

    As we leisurely made our way through Mirabell Gardens, a background of harp music filled the air. The musician was Matthias Irschik, a Czech, who told us that he has studied the Celtic harp in different European locations, including Edinburgh, Scotland. After hearing the soft beautiful music he played, we bought his CD for 10 EUR.

    On our way to the Mozart Museum, we stopped for cappuccinos and a bakery goodie, as we are wont to do. We spoke with an friendly British couple who were traveling with a group. We discussed their travels with a tour vs.our independent travel. They said they wished that they were on their own. It was an enjoyable encounter.

    The Mozart Museum, on the site of the Mozart’s second home, was very interesting. With an audio guide, we learned many more details about this genius and his family. While proceeding through the rooms, Mozart’s music was played as descriptions were given regarding the background. Again, the influence of Léopold, Amadeus’ father, was emphasized.

    Museum activity gets tiring, as the standing gets long, and the strain to understand and comprehend so much info is fatiguing. It was 2:15 or so, and time to eat lunch, before heading back to Hotel Mozart. Next door to the museum was the CLASSIC CAFÉ where MK had a salad with chicken and TK had goulash and a dumpling; again, we shared them. Good old Stiegl beer for TK and rotwein for MK (28 EUR).

    After that satisfying lunch, as we returned to the hotel by way of Mirabell Gardens, we encountered a couple of musicians. But we didn't have time to stop and listen as we now needed to get back to the hotel to dress for the dinner and concert this evening. Also, we would try to organize a few things for our travel to Hallstatt tomorrow.

    The taxi was ready just before the requested 5:15 time…about 9 EUR to and 10 EUR back from the funicular to the Festung Hohensalzburg.

    Before our trip, we had purchased the tickets for the evening through Classictic.com. The total price of 144 EUR for two included the funicular ride roundtrip, the candlelight dinner, the concert, a glass of champagne at the beginning of the meal, plus wine at the concert intermission. We knew that the Salzburg Music Festival was on, and wanted to have tickets to a musical event assured.

    The Festung Hohensalzburg, location for the dinner and concert, dates from 1077. It is the biggest fortification in Europe and thought by many to be the most beautiful. Over the many years, it is substantially unaltered. The interior is richly decorated with intricate carvings and ornamental paintings in the Golden Hall. The Prince’s Chamber contains the most splendid rooms.

    We were very fortunate in that the sky had cleared and the late day sun cast a soft light on the surrounding mountains, as well on the city. The whole scene was gorgeous. We spent time enjoying the view from several locations.

    Near 6:30, we were invited into the PANORAMA RESTAURANT and shown to our candlelit table, which appeared to be the best in the house, with a mountain view in the distance and overlooking parts of the city below us. Once seated, and enjoying our wine, we were quite content to take in the view, which was so outstanding.

    However, soon it was time for the meal to be served-a beautiful presentation of three courses consisting of a creamy knoblauch soup, two veal chops perfectly prepared, veggies just right, and four small potatoes fried to perfection, The dessert was large and tasty; cheesecake with vanilla sauce, chocolate torte, and ice cream covered with berries. We did pay an extra 20 EUR for beer and wine at the meal, but it was well worth it.

    Now on to the concert hall, which would provide our workout for the day! Quite a climb-140 steps to the top floor venue where we had seats in the 2nd row. As we approached one set of steps, then another, and another, and another, many people were making remarks like: “Where is the top?“

    The four-piece ensemble, plus a pianist soloist, were excellent! The concert lasted almost two hours, with a fifteen minute break, just long enough to have our complementary glass of wine.

    As we left the concert hall, there was a light drizzle. The bottom sets of steps, which were outside, made the walk down a bit difficult. The cobblestone hill was slippery. Our attempt to call a cab proved unsuccessful because we didn’t have the phone-dialing in Salzburg fine-tuned. After negotiating the cobblestone hill, past the area of the outdoor screen showing another opera, we thankfully saw taxis.

    On the drive back to the hotel, the taxi driver gave us a lesson in phone usage; he explained that two zeros replace a “+” sign (use either 00 or +)something peculiar about the Salzburg code. We made a test call to his mobile phone.

    Interesting that when the driver asked us where we were from in the US, and we responded “Ohio”, he said that he knew of it; that he had once been in love with a girl from Ohio who was studying in Salzburg. The taxi ride back to the hotel was a welcome ending to a delightful evening.

    Back by 10:45. Great day! We judged that the meal tonight would be the best of our trip; that is, until we would meet Maitaitom and Tracy in Paris!

    Need to pack for Hallstatt tomorrow, via lakes in the Salzkammergut. Meantime, we look forward to another restful night in our comfortable room, with the satisfying feeling of having had a wonderful time in Salzburg.

  • Report Abuse

    Salzburg sounds wonderful. I would say I am disappointed that you frequented a Starbucks in Salzburg, but you well that Chaz woulda been right there with you (so who am I kidding)?

    Nice teaser for your "date" with MTTom and Tracy!

  • Report Abuse

    We think that you and Chaz would like Salzburg! One thing we neglected to check out, though, was the Starbucks near our Hotel Mozart! There must be one on Linzer Gasse!!!
    We left Salzburg with similar feelings to our Paris departures; there is so much more to experience. Of course, Salzburg is small when compared to Paris. But it is, nonetheless, a beautiful city. Paris still remains our fave!

  • Report Abuse

    ANOTHER DAY OF ADVENTURE:

    Wednesday, August 27, 2014 SALZKAMMERGUT/HALLSTATT

    Same routine: 6:45 AM up; final packing for Hallstatt which means limited amounts of everything to fit into a roll-aboard for a one-night stay. After a final breakfast at Hotel Mozart, check-out:(EUR 330)

    We really liked Hotel Mozart: the location right near the walking street to the old city, and in another direction to Mirabell Gardens and the Mozart Museum, our corner large room with its attractive furnishings and décor, and the owners, Arthur and Bettina, who were very hospitable. We appreciated their gift of a Mozart CD. The favorable weather enabled us to explore the beautiful city, and as we left, we felt that there is a lot more to see on a future visit.

    The morning was rainy. Weather sometimes dictates our travel and activity decisions. With the rainy day, we adjusted our plans and chose to have a brief exploration of the lake towns in the Salzkammergut, en route to Hallstatt. We were hoping for a clearing, and if so, would head more immediately to Hallstatt.

    Upon leaving Hotel Mozart, we found A-1 to Mondsee, thanks to Gilda. After driving just shy of thirty minutes, we spotted a “Tourist Information” near the edge of town. Sarah, the girl at the desk, was helpful with her maps and information about the Salzkammergut.

    Sarah discussed the Austrians’ seeming lack of interest in the movie “Sound of Music”, the prevalence of the Catholic religion, and the conservative values which prevailed in the country. She expressed that many people in Austria view “The Sound of Music” as a nice film, but that since it’s not on TV, there is not enough interest to search for it. She believes that the settings being different than the actual locations , contributed to the lack of interest. Also, some Austrians feel that there were many heroes who left Austria rather than succumb to Hitler; Trapp was only one.

    As we drove into Mondsee, the rain intensified. In addition, it was windy! As we walked up to the town, we paused under a café’s covered porch to get out of the driving, blowing rain. At this point, we really appreciated the hoods on our rainjackets! Once into the city center, we stopped in a little café for our mid-morning croissant and cappuccinos.

    From the café, it’s only a short walk to St. Michael’s Church, used for the filming of the wedding scene in “The Sound of Music". With its heavy Baroque style, the one very impressive feature is the high staircase which leads to the altar. We’ve never known a church to have such a high stairs!

    Following our visit to the “kirche” as the locals refer to it, we walked a bit in the town. The buildings were very colorfully painted, with many flower boxes displayed. The rain had lessened to a drizzle. But with the heavy overcast, there was no motivation to visit the lake, so we continue our trek to St. Gilgen, the home of Mozart’s mother.

    Again, the rain picked up. It was after 2 PM, and there were few choices for lunch in the town center of St. Gilgen. We chose NANNERL’S CAFÉ (named for Mozart’s talented sister), not realizing that there was a very limited menu with only one waiter. Our lunch was two foot-long wieners which were attached to one another and measured about 12-15” and about 1/2” in diameter. TK mistakenly took a mouthful of horse radish and needed to clear his palate with beer! We’d read that St. Gilgen is popular as a resort area, but with the rainy, chilly weather, its appeal could only be imagined.

    Had the day been sunny, we would have gone more immediately to Hallstatt. But with the continuing rain, we took our time. Since we hadn’t planned for a stop in Bad Ischl, we weren’t aware that it is the town where Franz Josef I and his wife Elizabeth, nicknamed Sissi, had a villa and where they spent sixty summers. The Kaiser Villa is a popular place to visit. Of real historical significance was the signing of the edict of the declaration of World War I in 1914.

    Bad Ischl is a very picturesque town set in a mountain valley with a river running through it. In addition to the Kaiser Villa, it has a popular museum, and is known as a spa resort. We walked along the river promenade, stopped at an apothecary, a shop where MK picked up another scarf, and then a bakerei for a chocolate croissant and a small coffee.
    Although there were things to be explored in Bad Ischl, the rain had stopped, so we were now eager to move on to our destination for the day; namely, the village of Hallstatt.

    This whole area of the Salzkammergut has rich salt resources which has given it historical importance and shaped its economy. In fact, salt is called “white gold” by some. Several towns have tours of their salt mines as tourist attractions. Hallstatt is known to have the oldest salt mine.

    The clearing weather made the drive from Bad Ischl to Hallstatt very beautiful. As we approached Hallstatt, with its long tunnel through the mountain, we knew to look for Parking Lot #1. From there, we would be driven with their shuttle to our hotel, as no visitor cars are permitted in the 7000-year-old village.

    Immediately after entering the parking lot, as described, a shuttle was immediately there to meet us. We grabbed our little roll-aboard and a backpack and were off to the SEEHOTEL GRUNER BAUM. It is late afternoon, and Johann, at the reception, efficiently checked us into room 210 which faces the main square and has a balcony. Great room! Classy décor and amenities, including luxury bedding!

    We still had some hours of daylight to enjoy the village. The day-trippers were gone, so the town was very quiet. We walked along the water and checked out the views. Stunning! Hallstatt’s crystal clear lake is surrounded by the Alps.

    We strolled down the narrow main street, and a couple little side alleys, doing a bit of window shopping, before finding the BRAUGASTHOF RESTAURANT, a recommendation of Johann. There we discovered a warm, inviting atmosphere with a comfortable amount of diners. Again, we must pay cash for our tasty split meal of pork, spaetzle (Austrian noodles), and veggies along with a small salad, plus beer & wine. (36 EUR)

    Arriving back at the hotel following a leisurely walk through the quiet streets, we were welcomed by the strains of the Austrian jazz artist Harri Stojka. Apparently, he is a big name at the Montreux Jazz Festival. He was performing in the lounge, and we enjoyed several numbers before heading up to our comfortable room. We were glad that we would have a good part of the day tomorrow to enjoy more of Hallstatt.

  • Report Abuse

    Great stuff. I went to Hallstatt only because I once saw it on a calendar page (pre Google). It did not disappoint. Do they still have the skulls? Have a great Thanksgiving, and the 2016 parade awaits.

    ((H))

  • Report Abuse

    More of Hallstatt to continue. Yes, the skulls are still there!

    We wish you guys a "Happy Thanksgiving"! And we're hoping to work that 2016 parade into our holiday schedule!

  • Report Abuse

    tomarkat: I'm enjoying your detailed report very much. We have a short list of possible FF tickets for next year, and Munich looks like a possibility. I've been studying the Alps and your report is just perfect. I'll continue to read along.

    Thanks

  • Report Abuse

    Thursday, August 28, 2014 HALLSTATT; on to ZELL AM SEE

    Up at 6:30; the church bell at 6 was a convenient alarm!

    The village of Hallstatt is less than a two-hour drive from Salzburg, and many people enjoy it as a daytrip. However, in view of the inclement weather we experienced for the better part of yesterday, we were happy that we had planned an overnight. Better weather had been predicted, so we would have a good part of the day to enjoy Hallstatt.

    We arrived for breakfast just a few minutes after the 8 AM opening, wanting to get an early start on the day. We were surprised to find that most of the tables were already occupied; no doubt by a couple of tour groups. But we were able to be seated and enjoyed the breakfast of many choices in the attractive restaurant with windows looking out to the lake.

    After finishing breakfast, packing was easy, given that we carried only a minimum amount on the shuttle from P-1 to the Seehotel Gruner Baum. Johann, the desk clerk whom we liked, was working again this morning. We checked out (178 EUR) and were able to store our luggage off the hotel reception area, allowing us to go out and explore. It was a beautiful day: blue skies and sunny.

    First off, we made the rather steep climb up rock steps to the dominant St. Michael Catholic Chapel, which dates back to 1181. Construction of this church high up on a rock with a steep drop-off was known to be quite a feat. The rocky ground of the parish church became the Hallstatt cemetery.

    There was some outdoor construction work on the walkways hampering our ability to get around the perimeter of the church or explore the total two stories of the chapel. The bottom section contains the much-storied painted skulls; however, we weren’t disappointed that the construction prevented us from seeing them! We were thrilled to take in the outstanding view from their cemetery and a walkway along the edge of the hill. The water on the lake at this early hour looked like a large mirror reflecting the surrounding mountains.

    Given the beautiful weather, we used our time to stroll around the village for a while longer, taking in some of the stores near the town square, purchasing a small bone china dish, and finally wending our way down to the dock in time for a 11 AM boat ride. The 50-minute ride cost 8.50 EUR each, collected as we boarded the boat. Our seat on the top deck placed us in a good position to enjoy the scenery and take many photos. Being up close to the lake, it still looked pristine and silky smooth.

    Hallstatt is a one-of-a-kind village with its location nestled among the mountains of the Dachstein range and fronted with the Hallstatt Lake. It was first mentioned around 1700, and over the years has been visited by many famous people, among them Empress Sisi and Agatha Christie. It’s easy to see why it would have served as the backdrop to several movies.

    Our SEEHOTEL GRUNER BAUM is the key building in the “centrum” of the town square. Our room facing the platz, with its nice balcony, was a great picture-taking spot. The stores and restaurants around the town square had balconies decorated with colorful flower boxes. Additionally, many flower pots were on the street level.

    In between the boat ride and our shuttle ride back to the parking area, we ate at the hotel’s LAKESIDE TERRACE RESTAURANT. The delightful lunch overlooking the lake was a memorable last experience before we bid farewell to this charming village.

    After retrieving our car, we drove to the other side of Hallstatt Lake. From that vantage point, we enjoyed another great view. The beauty of the lake, with the town in the background, is difficult to describe. We walked in the lakeside park, relaxed at a picnic table, and paused to take more pictures.

    Although we would have liked to stay around Hallstatt for a while longer, we decided that our drive to Zell am See was too long to stall much longer. But, as we left, we thought that the view of Hallstatt will rank up there among the most beautiful sights we’ll enjoy. (But as we’re writing this TR “post factum”, we know that we have so much beauty yet to come!)

    Along the drive to Zell Am See, we continued to experience the majestic mountains. A McDonald’s was the furthest thing from our minds! However, we were both feeling kind of lethargic. Coffee needed!!! As we came to an intersection to make a turn south, there it was! Big and inviting! A McD’s. (We would have preferred a Starbucks, but, hey, we’ll take it!) We both needed coffee, but the best perk of the
    Mc D’s was an order of chicken nuggets for TK which energized him to continue the drive into Zell Am See. This was one time when Gilda, our GPS, was most helpful in guiding our turns and directions. At this point, we appreciated it.

    Zell Am See, another impressive mountain location with a large beautiful lake, was easily negotiated with Gilda’s help. The hotel,DER SCHMITTENHOF, was quite a distance up a mountain road, right near the base of a chairlift; convenient if we were there in ski season. Due to the Ironman Triathlon being in town, hotel rooms were hard to come by. DER SCHMITTHOF was the only place we could find, so we didn’t expect too much. We were initially assigned a room in an “outbuilding”. When we asked if they might have a room in the main building, we were offered one which was an upgrade for 15 EUR (total was 163 EUR). So we took it. The room was pretty decent, with a view in the distance toward the town.

    We planned Zell am See to be a one-night stopover because of its location close to the entrance to the Grossglockner-hochalpenstrasse, the high road over the Alps. We wanted to get an early start to drive this gorgeous road. We needed the evening to reorganize our suitcases a bit and do some laundry on-our-own, after finding out that the laundry down the street that we had looked up ahead of our visit was no longer self-service.

    Dinner was at the KUPFERKESSEL (Copper Kettle) down on the main street of town, a good recommendation from the hotel desk clerk. We had a very large plate of pork schnitzel! Normally schnitzel is made from veal. Our double-helping with pomme frites cost only 12.90 EUR because, as the waitress explained, pork is less expensive. She said that it is now being used more often by Austrian families. Total with beer and wine was 23.80 EUR), one of our least expensive meals.

    Back to hotel by 9:30. Looking forward to a beautiful day in the morning to enjoy the Grosseglocknerstrasse. Guten Nacht!

  • Report Abuse

    Hi,

    Thoroughly enjoying your trip report. Was the McD's near a roundabout (traffic circle) in Saalfelden on the way to Zell am See? If so, we've stopped at that one a number of times for capuccino's to go. Looking forward to the Grossglockner and Dolomites, as we did a very similar trip to this, so far, in October 2006.

    Paul

  • Report Abuse

    Hi Paul, so glad to hear from you! Besides travel destinations, we seem to have shared that MC D's in Saalfelden!

    We really appreciated your input when we were in the planning stages of this trip! Both the Grossglockner and Dolomites were highlights.

    At this holiday time of year, we weren't sure how many of our Fodor friends might be following our travel ventures. Although it's a busy time, we're attempting to keep our TR rolling.

    Glad you're "on board", Paul! Thanks!


    And kleebat, thanks for following along!

  • Report Abuse

    Friday, August 29, 2014 GROSSGLOCKNER HIGH ALPINE ROAD
    In German: GROSSGLOCKNER-HOCHALPENSTRASSE

    Up at 6:30; we reorganized last night and so are ready to load the car, which, fortunately, is nearby. Parking here was tight, but we made it. A driver must back up carefully in this terrain!!!

    The breakfast buffet was typical, but with the additional offerings of hot eggs and bacon. It seems that each table is designated for a certain room, indicated by name cards on the tables. There was some mix-up with ours, possibly because our room had been changed. The language barrier presented a small challenge getting it resolved.

    It was another picture-perfect day! Off to Grossglockner-Hochalpenstrasse, the highest paved mountain pass road in Austria (8215 ft. at summit). Entrance to the Grossglockner Highway has a toll of 34 EUR per car, in keeping with its original purpose as a scenic tourist excursion to raise funds for Austria. The country had suffered catastrophic economic affects following World War I. Over the years it has undergone stage-by-stage improvements.

    The main high mountain highway is about 31 miles long with 36 switchbacks. At certain points, the road has the appearance of a giant serpent as it S’s back and forth. (MK notes that TK did a masterful job of negotiating the twists and turns, reminiscent of our many trips to the mountains in the west of the US and Canada.) Neither of us realized at this point that the switchbacks of the Grossglockner High Alpine Road are only a prelude to the passes we will encounter as our trip goes on.)

    The scenery along the highway is nothing but stunning. . .high mountains, glaciers, unique rock formations, forests, mountain meadows; in fact, the road travels through all vegetation zones. As we enjoyed the twists and turns toward the summit, we stopped many times to take in the tremendous views.

    The Grossglockner Mountain at 12,460 feet, is pyramid-shaped and the tallest in Austria. It is counted among the highest peaks in the Alps.

    As we wound around to the top, we passed a couple of choices for lunch. We chose to drive to the very summit and had lunch on the outside terrace facing the expansive view of the snow-capped mountains with the Grossglockner in the center. We were in the company of quite a few others who were taking advantage of this warm day. At the summit overlook, on a clear day such as we were lucky enough to have, we just felt fortunate to have a crystal clear view of many peaks.

    The highway crosses the Alpine divide through a tunnel. It then drops southward to another branch-off which leads to a panoramic view of the Pasterze Glacier and the Grossglockner Massif. We’re glad that we got an early enough start this morning so that we didn’t miss this arm of the Grossglockner.

    The road is also full of twists and turns. The overlook is named Kaiser-Franz-Josef following a visit by Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria and his wife Elisabeth in 1856. The Pasterze Glacier, 5.2 miles long and 400 ft. thick, is the largest glacier in Austria. It lies directly beneath the Grossglockner Mountain. We spent so much time taking in the awesome scenery, that by the time we walked to the Visitors’ Centre, it had just closed.

    Clouds started to descend, signaling that it was time to make our way back to the main artery of the Grossglockner Highway. Located on this twisty road to connect again with the main highway was another one of those delightful cafes, perfect for a cappuccino.

    This side road to the Franz Joseph Overlook was an added treat toward the end of the drive. Wow, what a glacier! Also on the drive were many waterfalls. The beauty was so great; we had taken so many shots that TK replaced the full SD card with another one!

    Along our travels over the main Grossglockner Highway, we stopped at several cafes for the WC and for cappuchinos and strudel. TK picked up another t-shirt. (With the dearth of self-service laundries, these memento t-shirts come in handy!)

    This day driving the Grossglockner Highway was an outstanding experience and well-worth planning a whole day for the enjoyment. The road was in great condition; well-graded. The parking was free, there were many pull-offs, all was well-groomed, the overlooks were plentiful. The views of the Alps are awesome!

    Now it was time to get serious about wending our way toward our stay for the night: Lienz, Austria. We had another 25 plus miles to drive on to Lienz. The views were terrific along the way as the Dolomites “showed up” and provided the interest and beauty for a wonderful day’s end.

    En route to Lienz, we had another example of how Gilda gets confused, and if it were not for the fact that we had a general idea of where we were heading, and had studied maps, she would have led us on a wild goose chase. But finally, when we drove into Lienz, Gilda was again oriented, and we found our hotel.

    We used our last evening in Austria to “tank up”, as their expression goes, with the less expensive gas, before heading to our hotel. The Haidenhof Hotel, our lodging for the night, is set back on higher road, parallel with the main road, which has an array of city buildings. A long green meadow fronted our hotel balcony. Given the view of the Dolomites, and the comfortable temperature, we decided to enjoy it with a rotwein and beer and on the balcony of our room, before a pizza dinner in the hotel restaurant.

    It’s been another highlight day! We commented that we are glad we started this venture in Bavaria, Germany, followed by travel into the more dramatic mountainous Austria. But how does one compare beauty? Each area seems to have its own special appeal.

    Every day seemed to be an adventure better than the previous. Tomorrow we will have the beauty of the Dolomites in Italy!

  • Report Abuse

    That's a drive I've always wanted to make (although it could be our last one the way I drive). Your report is moving Austria and Germany up in our travel queue. Great stuff so far.

    ((H))

  • Report Abuse

    Maitaitom, more challenging than the switchbacks and never-ending curves were some of the nerve-wracking motorcycles buzzing past, or coming up quickly onto the slower bicyclists who were slogging along. But given all that, we wouldn't trade the beauty and the excitement we experienced! We'd highly recommend it! More to come.

  • Report Abuse

    Saturday, August 30, 2014 ONWARD TO THE DOLOMITES

    7AM: rise ‘n shine! Rather likeable hotel in Lienz, with a great room view. The only negative was the lack of effective Wi-Fi that wouldn’t work even from the lobby. The reason given was that the walls of the building were too thick. So for today, no map look-up! But the Hotel Hartmann in Ortisei, our lodging in the Dolomites, had sent us a map with directions to their hotel. We were in good shape. . .so we thought!

    Breakfast was served in the main dining room; a nice atmosphere. A positive at breakfast was meeting a couple from Jefferson City, MO, the first English-speaking folks we had encountered so far in our trip. Both were educators; he a district administrator and she a teacher. We exchanged some shared experiences with travel, and found that we had other similar values.

    Today was our day to move to the incredible Dolomites, an area we’ve wanted to explore for a few years. Our enthusiasm was heightened through TR’s of several Fodorites, especially pja1, mr/ms_go and jamikins! Thanks to all of you.

    Leaving Lienz, we knew that we had a good 2-3 hour drive ahead to reach Ortisei, Italy, a small town in the Val Gardena. We left Lienz about 10AM, and after driving a while, stopped for our morning cappuccinos at a café just inside the Italian line. We enjoyed the laid-back, friendly attitude of the Italian bartender. Not too long after our cappuccino stop, we began to encounter very heavy traffic.

    After crawling for quite a stretch, we decided to stop for lunch at RESTAURANT HUBERTUS where we shared a tasty ravioli and mixed salad, really enjoying this switch to Italian dishes. In response to our question about the reason for the heavy traffic, the waiter said that it was from people returning home from their “holiday”. Today was August 30; the school year was starting in September. We guesstimated that we were about 8 miles from the Autostrada. The lunch stop turned out to be appreciated in view of the small directional frustration that would lie ahead.

    We started out from lunch with the hotel directions in hand, feeling no need for a map. However, we soon discovered that a “missing link” from the directions was the exit from the Autostrada. We passed an exit “Chiusa/Klausen”which we thought might be the one we needed, but it was too late to take it. Then it seemed that we were driving for quite a stretch farther until we reached the next exit, “Bolzano Nord”. We knew at this point that we had probably driven too far.

    We exited at “Bolzano Nord”, and by that time, had wondered if we could approach the Val Gardena by a back road going north, instead of re-tracing the distance on the Autostrada. The girl at the toll booth (3 EUR) where our sense of direction had told us that we needed to exit, described the highway north which would get us to Ortisei. The directions worked! Although it seemed long, the road led us up through a beautiful mountain valley, and we did find the town of Ortisei. We were immediately impressed with the beauty and charm of Ortisei, nestled into another gorgeous valley.

    To reach our hotel, HOTEL HARTMANN, we drove one small block off the main highway and through the little town of Ortisei, and about a mile up the hill. Check in went smoothly. We discovered that our “room” was actually a bedroom with a balcony, as well as a living room, also with a balcony. Both had a view of lush, green mountains, but a very large fir tree partially blocked the view of the rocky Dolomite spires. However, overall, the room was very nice. And we felt happy to be settled.

    Having traveled over the past two weeks to so many new and exciting places, we made use of the late afternoon and evening to re-group, re-charge and prepare for a wonderful day of Dolomite exploration in the morning. By this time, the skies were overcast. Finding no self-service laundry, we needed to do a little ‘catch up” in that department.

    About 5:30 PM, we drove down to the town center. The town was alive; a band was playing; surprisingly, American music. We strolled around for quite a while, checking out the church, a few side streets, and many of the nice shops. We encountered a great little wine store, and purchased some “St.Magdalener” vino rosa for later enjoyment in our room.

    TK luckily found us a parking space, and figured out how to play the game of feeding the pay machine for one hour at a time, maximum allowable. We were able to have dinner at a nearby place recommended by the girl at the desk of our hotel: RISTORANTE VEDL MULIN. After all the brats, goulash, and schnitzel (not all veal, but pork) in Bavaria and Austria, it was great to have spaghetti with meat sauce. We returned to our hotel by about 8:30, happy to be in this outstandingly beautiful location where we would be staying for three nights.

    Sunday, August 31, 2014 EXPLORING THE DOLOMITES!

    Up at 7:15. The breakfast buffet at Hotel Hartmann was one of nicest we have experienced so far. We took pics of the room for future memory’s sake. Elegant china! High-end silver! Table setting with roses! Beautiful spread! Waitress service with refills of delicious cappuccinos!

    It’s a dreary, cloudy day; the forecast is poor. What to do? We think that mountain forecasts are often “ify”. So we decided to venture down the lush valley highway and visit the two other “sister” cities next to Ortisei, namely: Santa Cristina and Selva. These are separated by only a few kilometers with Ortisei being the largest.

    As we began our drive from Ortisei to Santa Cristina, the reason for visiting the Dolomites became immediately apparent. The grandeur of the Dolomites opens up! Both towns are surrounded by the spires and peaks of the limestone mountains. After exploring these two little towns, we would let the weather be our guide as to the remainder of the day.

    Although the Dolomites are part of Italy, we were surprised by the heavy German influence. In fact, there are three languages spoken in the area: German, Italian, and Ladin. We learned that the northern part of the Dolomites were part of the Austro-Hungarian empire until the early 20th century, following World War I. Although the region became part of Italy, the majority of the area of remained primarily German-speaking. Italian, being the official national language of Italy, is spoken more in some areas of the Dolomites than in the Val Gardena area. And finally, Ladin, which is an ancient Romance language, was spoken by the first inhabitants of the Dolomites. It was later influenced by the Latin-speaking Romans. Today, Ladin is heavily spoken in Val Gardena and surrounding valleys and is taught in the schools.

    So traveling through the area, one sees signs in three languages. For example: Ortisei/Sankt Ulrich/Urtijei. And one hears greetings “Guten Morgen” or “Buon Giorno”. An awareness of the differing languages is helpful in interacting with people and in getting around.

    Our experience was that we mostly encountered German-speaking folks; secondarily, Italian. Most Ladin-speaking also spoke one of the other two languages. Our attempts to learn some basics of the language when we travel proved to be a challenge when trying to switch gears from German, of which we have only rudimentary knowledge, to Italian, with which we are more familiar, and toward the end of our trip, French, with which we are most comfortable. But we’re fluent in none. It’s difficult to gain comfort in any one language when having to constantly change.

    In Santa Cristina, we drove up a couple of streets off the main road to a high point above the church and found parking. We stopped in Santa Cristina Church…the Sunday liturgy was just at the end of communion. It seems that it was the only service. We slipped inside for the conclusion of the Mass, and afterward walked around the interior of the church. As we exited the church, the piazza (or platz) outside the church was crowded with people. Apparently, this is a popular social gathering spot after Mass; a chance for the people who live in the mountains of the surrounding areas to get together. Santa Cristina is known to be a vibrant community which has many cultural festivals honoring ancient traditions and customs.

    Although we’ve only been in the Val Gardena a short time, we know that woodcarving is a highly-developed art in the area. In Santa Cristina Church, we admired a beautifully carved, life-size statue of Mother Teresa. It merited a picture. And we learned that the largest hand wood-carved Nativity is in Santa Cristina.

    The graveyards at the churches we’ve encountered in the South Tyrol were impressive with their fresh and healthy flowers in front of a metal crucifix or some metal stand, often with a picture of the deceased on it. As we traveled more in the Alps region, we would see many of these and learn a bit more about the origins of this custom.

    As we dropped down the hill to the main road through town, we discovered that the streets are narrow and have huge turns that require skill and attention, especially with many people walking and milling about in the street.

    We continued our drive to Selva/Waldstein, and the outstanding beauty of the Dolomites continued. Arriving in Selva, we parked in their garage, taking advantage of the one-hour free parking. What else but stop a for our favorite cappuccinos and a croissant to share? Mountains surround the town. What a setting!

    It wasn’t raining; just overcast. So we decided to drive to Corvara for lunch, hoping that we’d see some sun. The lady in the café, plus a man in a shop across the street, both described the drive to Corvara as “straight down the main road”. Off we went! We had intended to enjoy lunch in Corvara and return, unsure of the weather. Both had neglected to mention that there was one critical 90 degree turn in the road.

    So we began our scenic drive, encountering many switchbacks, and enjoying more of the humongous rock monoliths, many fronted by lush valleys, some dotted with grazing cows and purple wildflowers. Many stops to walk around, or just feast our eyes on the beauty.

    Because it was about noon and we normally like to have lunch about 1:30 or so, we thought we’d arrive in Corvara at a good time. Guess what? Unknowingly, we missed that critical turn to Corvara!

    We were mesmerized with the majestic peaks and lush meadows. Without realizing it, we had begun ascending the Passo de Sella, one of the favorite passes in the Dolomites. We had planned to travel the Passo de Sella; just not today! Continuing on, enjoying the hairpin turns, stopping often to soak in the beauty, we observed a sign indicating that we were headed to Canazei!

    Not Corvara? Oh well! Fortunately, we had read about these towns in the Dolomites in preparation for our trip, so we knew we hadn’t gone astray. And, actually, landing in Canazei proved to be a real positive. We found a great little restaurant, LA CANTINETTA, sharing one of our fave meals: parpardelli bolognese, plus a salad, and ¼ liter of vina rosa. Excellent! (17 EUR) And we appreciated the interesting architecture against the stunning mountain backdrop. One hotel’s design was very reminiscent of Austro-Hungarian days.

    Leaving Canazei, with the weather improving, we turned onto the Passo di Pordoi for the first few miles to connect back with the Passo di Sella to begin our return adventure to the Val Gardena. The dizzyingly high Sella Massif ahead gave the feeling that there must be a tunnel through the rock, when suddenly the road made a sharp turn and continued to twist and turn through a pine forest to the Sella Pass. We’ve been lucky to have had breaks in the clouds, with patches of blue sky and sun. But now thicker clouds were gathering.

    We had passed gondolas and lifts that were closed. No phone booth lift for us!!! Not sure if it was the inclement weather, or if the end of August signified a “rest” at the end of the summer season for the employees.

    On our return, we stopped at the top of Passo di Sella and purchased a 12 EUR Dolomite calendar. MK, who had begun to be anxious about our return route, especially in view of the late afternoon hour and the darkening clouds, felt better when the lady at the shop confirmed that we would come to a “Y” in the road, and would turn left toward Val Gardena. (We’ve had our share of experiences being caught on wet, even icy roads in the mountains, an experience we weren’t eager to repeat!)

    We knew that the café at the summit had great cappuccino. We'd been here before! But it’s now cold at the top of the mountain pass, the wind is whipping, and they expect snow here in the evening. So we didn’t tarry for long. Dropping down the mountain, heading for home, several more beautiful granite dolomite peaks “showed off” for us as the soft sun lit up areas that the clouds did not hide. What a grand show! We took the correct turn at the “Y” and were headed into the Val Gardena.

    When passing through the charming towns of Selva and Santa Cristina, we agreed that they, too, would have been good locations for a hotel. However, we were happy that we had chosen Ortisei, which is somewhat larger, and has more shops and restaurants.

    After returning to Hotel Hartmann, we took advantage of the snacks in the bar/lounge, which has a great view of the valley and downtown Ortisei. We headed to our room 107 to savor some St. Magdalener Classico vino rosa.

    As we were relaxing comfortably in our room, it began to rain. Within a short time, it was pouring down. By about 7PM we decided to brave the weather and drove off to eat. Again, following a suggestion from a hotel clerk, we headed to the main highway to the TUBLADEL (“Barn”) RESTAURANT. By now, the rain was intense, so we were happy to park right next to the restaurant entrance.

    We seemed to begin the parade of guests, as no one was present when we arrived. By about 7:30, the place was filling quickly. We shared the house special of macaroni with angus/lamb topped with cheese and some vegetable we never heard of; beer, wine, large salad, bread (40 EUR). The meal was delicious, the service great, the ambiance pleasant, and the parking was free in the restaurant lot. The rain continued; home by 8:30.

    As we prepared to turn in, the rain was still pounding. “Let it rain tonight”! We still had hopes for decent weather tomorrow to enjoy more of the impressive “Dolomiti”, as the Italians refer to the mountains! Considering the earlier unfavorable forecast for today, we felt fortunate to have had a wonderful introduction to the Dolomites.

    Monday, September 1, 2014 SPECTACULAR "DOLOMITI" DAY!

    Woke up spontaneously close to 7 AM; TK expressed as he looked out the window that it “looks promising”; and indeed the weather got better as the day advanced. Same morning routine, but off earlier than usual.

    Today we were “armed” with our more detailed maps of the mountain passes. We set off to explore several passes as we made a circle that was recommended by other Fodorites and the locals who know the roads around this area.

    We were aware of that missed turn from yesterday, and set out over the pass for Corvara, a charming little mountain town with many nice shops and restaurants. Traveling over the impressive terrain, stopping many times, it took us a while to reach Corvara. We found a nice little café for our standard cappuccinos, and stopped in the pharmacie where a small travel-size shaving cream was 6.90 EU! We passed on this one!

    We had encountered regional buses which traveled over some of these mountain passes, with drivers masterfully handling the switchbacks. Later we learned that these buses do not run in the winter; that the only way to get from one town to the other is by skiing!

    So onward over more switchbacks to Passo di Campolongo and down into Arraba, a small town right in the heart of the central Dolomites. We stopped for a lunch of lasagna bolognese, and you guessed it, “mixed salad” (15.20 E.). We’re really loving these Italian dishes! We had a nice chat with the Romanian waitress who has a brother who studied in Chicago, took a job there, and never returned home.

    Onward to Pordoi Pass as the weather continued to get nicer and nicer. We knew that we were in for a lot of scenic switchbacks on this route.

    We were hoping that the gondola was open. It was suggested to us by a hotel clerk as one of the more impactful lifts in the area. To our delight, the gondola left from this “most impressive” site every 10 minutes. We got our arsenal of layers from the trunk, paid our 32 EUR, and soon after were enjoying the scenic ride to the top. As was suggested, great views of the Dolomites! As we ascended, we had the sensation that we would crash right into a solid rock monolith ahead!

    A stiff wind plus snow and ice curtailed our walking around the summit. After a few minutes outside, we gave in and continued to view the impressive scenery from inside where we appreciated a hot drink! We really needed our layers topped by our rain-proof jackets!

    After the descent on the gondola, still enthralled with the magnificent spires and peaks, the sun felt warm and we could remove our layers. Then it was onward to enjoy again the impressive switchbacks of the Passa de Sella. At the summit, we re-visited that cafe which we had previously patronized. Today the weather was much more favorable! As the sun was getting lower in the sky, it appeared that a soft spotlight was cast on the mountains.

    Leaving the summit, we traveled the same path of switchbacks home as yesterday, but it was even more beautiful today given the great weather. From the Passo di Sella to the Gardena Pass, again passing through Selva and Santa Cristina, we reached our hotel in Ortesei by about 5:30PM or so, in time to enjoy the snacks in the lounge area, and relax with some vino rosa.

    MK had wanted a woodcarving as a memento, as this skill is really an art form of this area. Unfortunately, stores closed down at 5PM in this town. We found out that parking is free after 8PM. Making our way into town for dinner, we found a convenient spot near our favorite Italian restaurant RISTORANTE VEDL MULIN.

    The town was very quiet this evening; the shops were all closed. But we did spend some time milling around and checking out the store windows. Time to head back to the restaurant! For our dinner, we split the “pastoral” meal of penne with some great tasting tomato and meat sauce, our typical mixed salad, and vina rosa (22 E.). We’re tired, but had a super day! Given the outstanding weather, we had the opportunity to experience the Dolomites in all their splendor.

    So how to describe the specialness of the Dolomites? We read that a French architect described them as “the finest example of natural architecture in the world!” In comparison with the many other mountain areas we’ve visited, the Dolomites have a distinct appearance: bare, craggy vertical limestone peaks emerging from the forest below. And the color is distinctive: a distinct white cast caused by the composition of the rocks. Some refer to them as the “Pale Mountains”. Pinkish hues arise in the late afternoon as the sun is lower. And we have read that later in the evening, the colors go from pinkish to fiery red, referred to as the “Alpenglow”. Unfortunately, we did not witness this phenomena.

    We’ll remember the "Dolomiti" as walls of beautifully sculpted rock, with high spires and pinnacles. fronted by lush meadows.

    Driving the mountain passes, with their numerous tight and steep hairpin turns, requiring careful watching around switchbacks for oncoming traffic, including motorcycles, bikes, and occasionally buses is a challenge. But TK says there is an adrenaline rush that accompanies the experience! For the most part, the motorcyclists and bicycle riders were skilled and careful. And the flexibility of having a car enabled us to make many stops and take short walks in a lot of areas.

    Overall, this area of the Dolomiti is definitely a place on our list for a repeat visit!

    Tomorrow we look forward to a beautiful travel day wending an outstanding route to the Engadine area of Switzerland!

  • Report Abuse

    Your report is getting me excited for the Dolomites! I have been wondering whether I should purchase some maps before I leave. Reading about your missing the turn to Corvara reinforces my concern, as I'm sure I would not be as lucky to have my day turn out so well. Was it easy to find good maps once you had arrived?

  • Report Abuse

    Thanks for your very good and detailed account - especially of the Dolomites (as I am currently planning a trip there for next summer). I will be interested to read about your experience in Switzerland. My most recent trip to Switzerland I told myself my next Alps trip would be to Italy where I would (hopefully) find the mountains just as good but the prices lower and the food better.

  • Report Abuse

    Isabel,

    I hope tomarkot won't mind me butting in. Having been to the Swiss alps (Wengen, Zermatt, St. Moritz, etc.), the Austrian and Bavarian alps many times and the Dolomites a few times, I think you'll find the Dolomites completely different and yes, less expensive overall, than Switzerland. The scenery in the Dolomites is nothing like what you've seen in the Swiss alps (or the Austrian or Bavarian alpine regions). Truly awe inspiring. Towering limestone peaks, as vividly described in this trip report by tomarkot. As for food, a choice of excellent Austrian and Italian, so what's not to like? I have to say, we never had a bad, or even a mediocre dinner in the Dolomites.

  • Report Abuse

    The pinkish hues of the Dolomiti are in part the result of the fact that they are actually enormous coral reefs, thrust upward from a long ago era when the area was actually under an ocean.

    I think it is certainly possible to take a cheaper trip to the Dolomiti than the Swiss Alps but it needs to be planned with that focus. There is more than one part of the Dolomiti area that is very much a luxury or expensive stay when it comes to food and lodging, and many of the gondolas or other attractions of the Dolomiti don't fall under any kind of umbrella pass, plus public transportation is nowhere near as good as it is in Switzerland, making a good rental car pretty much a necessity unless you plan to stay for a week or more. All that said, it is not hard to plan and execute a trip that gives you the very best of the Dolomiti scenery and local food without a lot of compromises.

  • Report Abuse

    Thanks to all for following along with us!

    Pja1,thanks for jumping in regarding the Dolomites/Jungfrau. We haven't gotten to the Switzerland portion of our TR as yet; we're working on it! We enjoyed the beauty of all of these areas, but the Dolomites are distinctive. We share the observations you expressed. We appreciate all of your input, Paul.

    Sandralist, glad you added the detail about the rock composition. The geologic history of the Dolomites is fascinating! When writing a TR, we always wonder how much detail to include.


    Digbydog, regarding maps and preparation. Months before our trip, we purchased maps of each country. As we planned our itinerary, we printed maps from Michelin and Bing for all of our movement: Point A to Point B. We found, as you, that most tour books don't contain good maps of the Dolomite mountain passes. However, we found good info on line. Bikers sites are very helpful.

    We did so much preparation that we practically had mental maps of many locations. The experience we described about Corvara was because we just followed what two locals had told us; that it was straight down the main road. But we pretty well knew the "quad" loop of passes and towns. Sometimes, it's nice to travel without having your head in a map.

    When time permits, I'll send a link to a couple of sites we used.

    Isabel and Nonconformist, glad to have you along!

  • Report Abuse

    Enjoying your report tomarkot. We've been to many of the places you traveled.

    In fact, we spent 16 nights in Austria from 2-18 September, 10 of them in St. Gilgen and 6 in Vienna.

    When you mentioned the Café Nannerl, it reminded me that while in St. Gilgen, we came upon a wedding in the town square. It was raining, although not too hard at the moment. The bride was a beautiful blond and she looked radiant in her beaded white gown. The groom was very tall and handsome and they looked like the perfect couple. The wedding was a very big production with two bands playing and the mayor of the town greeting them. Later that evening from our balcony we saw an awesome fireworks display over the lake and decided we'd ask the owner of our hotel about it the next morning.

    Well, we found out from Frau Eisl, the lovely owner of Hotel Schernthaner, that the groom was the son of the owner of the Café Nannerl and the fireworks were in celebration of the TWO weddings in the town that Saturday! I guess the other wedding had been held later in the afternoon.

    We've also spent a lot of time in Hallstatt and agree that the views are stunning. We had lunch at the Hotel Zauner during our trip in September. On our first visit to Hallstatt back in 1999, we stayed at the Gruner Baum and had the same room you had overlooking the market square. They have since done a lot of remodeling to the hotel and it is much nicer than it was then.

  • Report Abuse

    Bettyk, thanks for reading our TR. It's nice to know that folks are interested.

    The Salzkammergut area is very beautiful, as you expressed. We can understand why you might spend an extended time there.

  • Report Abuse

    Digbydog, we trust that you're still following along. We "dug into" our trip info and found this website: www.gardenacard.it , and we did find www.alpineroads.com/dolomites to have helpful info, as mentioned above.

    You might want to begin a thread as you're planning your trip. We found Fodorites to be very helpful.

  • Report Abuse

    Tuesday, September 2, 2014 DRAMATIC SCENERY EN ROUTE
    TO SWITZERLAND, ST. MORITZ

    Today was departure day from the Dolomiti and a scenic travel day to the Engadine area of Switzerland.

    We arose about 6 AM, eager to get an early start on our journey, especially energized by the blue skies and sun. We enjoyed that last morning meal in the beautiful breakfast room, finished packing, and by about 9:30 were ready to check out and enjoy the beautiful drive through more dramatic scenery. (436 EUR)

    As we were leaving, we met the owner Itzio. We engaged in a delightful discussion with him about the history of the area, the effect of WWI on the culture and languages of the area, and other current political and economic conditions. Itzio’s 17-year-old son is studying in Colorado Springs, so that provided another common topic. This conversation was a delightful ending to our wonderful three days in the Dolomiti.

    We made a last leisurely drive down to the town center, stopping in one shop, hoping to purchase a wood-carved piece. However, we decided that we couldn’t find just the right piece in a hurried manner. And we wanted to make best use of this beautiful day for driving.

    As we began our day’s journey, we thought we’d follow the same highway that had successfully led us into Ortisei from the Autostrada. We were enjoying the drive down through the mountain valley when we abruptly encountered a sign in Italian, “Strada Chiusa”. . .“Road closed”! We were as disappointed as a trio of bikers we met at the same point.

    There was no other choice than to turn around and travel north quite a distance to another entrance to the Autostrada. Once on the highway heading down the mountain, we enjoyed the drive, glancing up at the beautiful mountainside with a castle and and small towns with their typical churches in the center.

    This detour cost us about 45 minutes. We exited at “Bolzano Sud” and successfully negotiated the many turns and roundabouts and reached Merano. From here, we considered our options for our route to St. Moritz.

    We had read about the Passo dello Stelvio, and knew that it would be longer route, but promised very dramatic scenery. Also, we had learned that once over the pass, we could turn off and take a route through the mountain town of Livigno. Then we could connect with the upper portion of the Passo del Bernina, and take that north to St. Moritz. Today was Tuesday, not the weekend, when we knew that the pass gets very crowded with bikers. So we decided on that route, with the idea that “getting there is half the fun”!

    On the outskirts of Merano we had a nice meal at a HOTEL RESTAURANT HANSWIRT. After pulling off the highway, we noticed the white tablecloths, and uniformed waiters, normally not our style for lunch. But the lovely outdoor patio, well-shaded from the intense sun, seemed like the perfect stop. We weren’t sure of what other opportunites might lie ahead. A shared meal of a tasty pasta and salad energized us for more dramatic scenery and the challenging road ahead.

    We had read that the Stelvio Pass, or Passo della Stelvio in Italian, is the second highest paved road in the Alps. At 9,045 ft., it’s just 43 ft. below France’s Col de l’Useran, which we’ll save for a future trip. We learned that the original road was built in the 1820’s by the Austrian Empire, and that the route has changed very little.

    Driving the roads over passes in the Dolomites, with their many hairpin turns, prepared us for the challenge of what we had read were 76 switchbacks and steep terrain of the Passo dello Stelvio. Whether the number 76 is accurate, we experienced that there were very many switchbacks. As we made our trek up the steep, twisty terrain, we stopped often to absorb the stunning scenery.

    Our mid-afternoon cappuccino stop was at a hotel/restaurant aptly named “Bella Vista” at the SCHONE AUSSICHT HOTEL which was perched on a mountainside. The lush grassy knoll in the rear was an incredible place to sip cappuccino. One notable feature was the over-sized wooden chaise-lounge rockers, which accommodated two. The waitress brought our drinks outside to our lounger! Unbelievably relaxing! With the intense sun, sunscreen was definitely called for! This setting was so incredibly beautiful that we could have stayed here for quite a while longer; but time was passing and we thought we had better move on.

    We continued on our way, tackling the many sharp serpentine switchbacks, being very careful to crook our necks at each turn to check for oncoming traffic. (MK says that TK has really gotten into this mountain driving!!!) Gazing high up the mountainside ahead of us, with its many long steep Z’s, it was hard to believe that we would be climbing so high. We find ourselves out of vocabulary to describe the beauty we’ve experienced all along this trip.

    The climb was a series of “Oohs and Ahs” and superlatives! The phenomenal scenery just didn’t quit!

    In contrast to the incredible natural beauty en route to the top, near the pass was a collection of souvenir shops and food stalls. We met many of the bikers with whom we shared those steep switchbacks. We especially admired the bicyclists who made it to the summit! Smiling faces, but, no doubt, exhausted bodies!

    Once we passed the shops, the actual Passo dello Stelvio summit was a perfect place to drink in the layers of beauty before beginning the descent of continuing scenery. It was now getting later in the afternoon, but the views along the way, including waterfalls, gave us no concern. We were winding down the mountain.

    We eventually saw the sign indicating “Livigno” and said, “Here’s our turn!” The route through the pretty ski town, Livigno, connecting us with an upper portion of the Passo del Bernina, would lead us to our destination: St. Moritz. Our estimate was about 1 ½ hours, with stops being additional. We met two bicyclists from Munich, who with their large, detailed map, confirmed the plan.

    That is where all the “fun” began. The shadows were getting longer, and the scenery in the soft sun was beautiful and relaxing. Until. . . suddenly, we were abruptly greeted with another one of those now familiar signs, “Strada Chiusa” What to do???

    No choice but to follow the arrows leading us down the mountain quite a way and dropping us to a highway intersection. We were fairly sure of the correct direction in which to head. Very shortly, we found ourselves feeling “shot” into a long, long, lo-o-o-ong seemingly never-ending tunnel- (Michelin map estimate: 20+ km); having no assurance of where we were heading, and, as it turned out, neither did Gilda, as there was no satellite reception. Our sense of direction told us that we were heading in the correct direction. So we hoped! The tunnel was really a series of tunnels, with very short breaks from one to the other. We were driving mostly in a dark or very dimly-lit atmosphere, making map-reading impossible.

    After finally emerging from that nerve-wracking drive through the tunnel, we pulled off at the first sign of anything that seemed like it might be a town. . .across a railroad track. We think it was “Valtellina”. There we were fortunate to find a pizza café with a waitress whose boyfriend worked in St. Moritz. Even though her English was very limited, matching our poor Italian, she was able to confirm that, “Yes, we were headed the correct direction of Tirano, and then would travel north up the Passo del Bernina. She apparently drove it often.

    Although we had planned to travel this gorgeous Passo del Bernina road, we hadn’t thought of beginning it close to 6PM! We hurriedly ate a pizza, which gave us energy for the drive. We had the confirmation of knowing that, though our drive would be longer than anticipated, we would make it to St Moritz by dark. (Thank heavens for those longer daylight hours!) Driving through the town of Tirano, we easily found the Passo del Bernina road. When crossing the border into Switzerland, there were no personnel at the Passport Control, and so we went right on through.

    We told ourselves that witnessing the soft colors of the setting sun on the mountain vistas was a special treat that we wouldn’t have witnessed had it not been for our travel blockade. At least, we liked the positive spin!

    The scenery on Passo del Bernina is very different from what we’ve been experiencing so far. Poschiavo, with its beautiful lake; the mountains very green and seemingly more gentle, and large glaciated valleys. As we negotiated the twists and turns, more lakes were visible. The pass is above timber line, so the landscape appears a bit desolate with ice worn rocks.

    After making a few stops along our way, we thought we had better get serious about finding our hotel. We would return tomorrow to explore more of the Bernina Pass.

    Gilda was alert as we approached St. Moritz, and we easily found the HOTEL STEFFANI, located right in the main circle of the town. And, to our surprise, parking was directly next to the hotel, and “free”. Check-in went very smoothly with Anna, who spoke excellent English.

    It was so comforting to walk into a large, attractive room, with a well-appointed bathroom to match. It wasn’t until the morning when we would enjoy our view of a water cascade out of our bedroom window.

    After settling in, we went downstairs to have a drink. We entered their bar, but it was so smoke-filled that we quickly exited. Upon asking at the desk, the receptionist told us that there was also a bar in the restaurant, non-smoking. We promptly went there, and that beer tasted so refreshing!

    We chatted with Marco the bartender who really likes America, and was excited telling us about all the places he had visited. We turned in for the evening tired, but very contented, hoping for a repeat of a sunny day to explore the surrounding area of the Upper Engadine.

    For information regarding Switzerland, including the Engadine, we want to especially thank Ingo, Neckervd, Melnq8, and PalenQ.


    Wednesday, September 3, 2014 ENGADINE EXPLORATION

    Slept in until 7:45; long day yesterday deserves an easy day today. Fruhstuck was good here, as the same buffet pattern is now familiar to us: lots of cold cuts, cheeses, soft boiled eggs, croissants, etc. A waitress delivers coffee to your table. We were finished about 10 AM, and before going out for the day, spent some time planning our route to Locarno tomorrow.

    A bonus for staying two nights at the hotel in St. Moritz was a free pass to local transportation and the mountain lifts. A girl at the hotel desk suggested that the Muottas Muragl cable railway would be a good choice for us; the summit has a beautiful view of the surrounding mountains, valleys, and lakes of this Engadine region, including the St. Moritz area.

    We wasted some time in finding Muottas Muragl. Being used to ski areas in the US, we thought we would see a large parking lot with an obvious sign, and a cable railway area in full view. But there was only a small road sign on the road pointing to a parking lot of maybe 12 cars, and somewhat hidden behind some trees was a pink building: the ticket window and the cable railway “station”. Our tickets were free (66 CHF value), thanks to the hotel pass.

    We boarded the train which left within ten minutes; and within another ten minutes, we arrived on top of the mountain. We were ready for lunch, so before walking around the summit, we ate at the HOTEL ROMANTIK; shared a macaroni meal with a beer/wine and bread.(37 CHF). Temperature was moderate and we took lots of pics; views of the valley and lakes of St. Moritz and surrounding mountains, including the towns in the area. We had cappuccinos in the café on top. (10.40 CHF)

    When we first arrived at the top, there were quite a few people around. But, by the time we had walked around the summit to take in the vistas, and had our cappuccinos, there was only a handful left.

    After descending on the cable railway, we were eager to again enjoy the Bernina Pass to Poschiavo. We stopped often to soak in the views and paused for a while at the summit to walk around. We continued on to the beautiful valleys ahead.
    This drive may have been the highlight of the day!

    One observation: the Bernina Express train is well-heralded, but we think the road, which often parallels the train track, was even more favorable for us this trip, given our ability to stop and stare and take pics.

    Back to St. Steffani Hotel by about 7:30, when it was getting dark. We freshened up, and walked across the street to the HOTEL HAUSER for dinner. We enjoyed a delicious meal capped off by sharing one of their wonderful desserts. Melanie was our 19-year old waitress and shared info with us about the area, some famous guests of the restaurant, like Will Smith, and the education system requiring 9 years of school followed by 3 years of a work/study program in their field of interest. Melanie told us that she made only about 300 EUR per month working in Italy, but 2800 CHF in Suisse. So people want to work in Suisse and live cheaply in Italy. We heard this repeated by other workers we met as we continued our travels.

    Returning to our hotel, we talked about our enjoyment of this Upper Engadine area. We readied a few things for the morning when we would have a travel day to Locarno.

  • Report Abuse

    Also following your trip report and enjoying it - thanks for taking the time to post. Glad to read you hade a great time.

    All these closed roads and detours certainly must have been annoying. Quite an adventure to drive all these passes!

    Too bad you didn't see the most scenic parts of the Bernina pass area around Alp Grüm, which is only accessible by train.

  • Report Abuse

    Melnq8, thanks for continuing to follow along. We know that there's so much more to explore in the Engadine. . .on a future trip!
    Your trip is coming up very soon, right? We wish you "Happy Travels"!

    Pja1, another shared experience: Hotel Hauser. Our meal there was one of the better dinners we had. Thanks for your continued interest in our TR.

    Ingo, so glad to have you following along with our TR. Yes, as mentioned to Melnq8 above, we know that there is so much more to explore in the Engadine. The Bernina Express will be something to incorporate into a future trip.

  • Report Abuse

    I am loving all the details of this adventure. Looking forward to reliving some great memories of Montreaux, and then there's PARIS---can't get enough of Paris and I'm sure you'll have a good tale to tell.
    Bravo! =D>

  • Report Abuse

    Melnq8, Hope your flights(very long in comparison with ours!) and all your travel plans work out smoothly.

    We wish you a "Merry Christmas" and a ""Happy Holiday Season!

    Looking forward to hearing all about your trip.

  • Report Abuse

    TPAYT, thanks for your encouragement regarding our TR! We experienced so much beauty on this trip, and Montreux toward the end just added to it. And then Paris!

    In between all the holiday "goings-on", we're trying to keep our TR rolling. Glad to have you along!

  • Report Abuse

    I was also noticing your "get out of bed" times for most days. While we're usually up around 7am and go have breakfast, we rarely leave our "hotel" for the day before 10am.

    CQ

  • Report Abuse

    Maitaitom, great to hear from you! We've been thinking about you and hope that your "souvenir" bronchial infection is totally gone!

    As far as our "rise 'n shine" times, (TK's expression!): normally, Tom is a fairly early riser; a "morning person", while MK is definitely not. However, while traveling, it's a different story. We're both eager to take full advantage of our days. So we let the ol' alarm clock get us going!




    Coffeequeen, although we're up and have a relaxed breakfast earlier, we often stay and enjoy a bit more of the area we're in before leaving on our travels. IAD on where we're headed.

  • Report Abuse

    Thursday, September 4, 2014 TRAVEL TO LOCARNO,
    ON LAGO MAGGIORE

    Enjoyed our last Fruhstuck at Hotel Steffani with a window seat overlooking the main St.Moritz circle. TK learned how to eat a soft-boiled egg the “European” way!

    Following breakfast, MK did last minute packing while TK walked to the Inter-Discount store nearby to buy an 8 GB card for about 13 CHF, a fair price. We traded 400 USD for 348 CHF at the hotel which had better rates than the bank. Go figure!

    An early start enabled us to have a couple of hours to enjoy St. Moritz before leaving for Locarno. We walked around the town center and shopped at a little “souvenir” store across the street. (Kiddie souvenir t-shirts, etc.) We did some window-shopping at the high-end shops along the main street. and enjoyed some last views of Lake Moritz. Finally, we checked out of Hotel Steffani (572 CHF), more expensive than other locations, but well worth it.

    It’s a beautiful day and we were glad that we had a couple of hours for some final enjoyment of St. Moritz, but felt that the time had come to be off to Locarno. We would be transitioning from a German part of Switzerland to the canton of Ticino, which is Italian-speaking, with Italian influence on architecture, culture, and food.

    Why Locarno? In planning our itinerary several months before leaving home, we thought that we might want/need a break from the mountains, where we feared it might be chilly weather, and we’d be missing seeing colorful gardens. Remembering our delightful experience around the Italian lakes a few years back, we couldn’t resist the chance to enjoy a more Mediterrean climate, palm trees, and colorful flowers. We had previously been to Lugano; this trip we decided to book two nights at the smaller Locarno. We could enjoy Lago Maggiore and the little town of Ascona where we had stayed a few years back. From there, we would be in a good location to move on toward Brig.

    It’s about 11AM. Several routes will lead to Locarno. Gilda was indicating the Julier Pass, which is actually an old Roman Road, so we decided to follow her lead. Although the day started out sunny, gradually a few clouds gathered…still beautiful though.

    In contrast to the steep, twisty mountain roads filled with tight hairpin turns that we have been traveling, the drive up to the Julier Pass today seemed gentler. The summit was in an alpine environment strewn with rock fields. Only a tourist kiosk with a little novelty shop was located at the summit; enough for cappuccino. This seemed to be a popular biker stop.

    Leaving the summit and descending, we experienced a well-maintained road, though it had its share of twists and curves, but nothing so dramatic as we had been experiencing prior to the Engadine.

    About 1 ½ hours into our drive, we stopped for lunch at HOTEL ALBULA & JULIER in Tiefencastel. The location of this hotel/restaurant was at a pass-through intersection at the foot of the Julier Pass and the Albula Pass. The River Albula runs next to the restaurant. The owner told us that the only thing that keeps them profitable are the tour groups which pass by, as the location is somewhat remote from any popular destination. We split a swineschinzel, fries and vegies. (23CHF).

    After that nice lunch stop, we continued for about another half-hour before TK began to feel that “after-lunch lull”. So we exited the highway in Sufer, another very small town, situated on a beautiful lake. We had our typical cappuccinos and a pastry, followed by a lakeside stroll, all of which served to ready us for the remainder of the drive to Locarno.

    Proceeding ahead, we had the choice of driving over the San Bernardino Pass or taking the tunnel. We decided on the tunnel as a time-saver. The San Bernadino tunnel, almost 7 km. long, was a twisty, steep descent into the area of Bellinzona. However, after driving that extra-long tunnel before Tirano, this tunnel did not seem that long.

    An unwelcome surprise greeted us as we exited the tunnel and joined an extremely heavy traffic flow into Locarno from about 10 km out…roundabouts galore. Locarno is a small city; the traffic was caused by much construction being done in the area.

    In booking hotels before our trip, MK thought it would be easy to locate HOTEL GARNI DU LAC, since it was described as one block back from the lake. As we approached the city center, Gilda was in her repeat mode of “Re-calculating! “Re-calculating!” as she had us going round and round. Gilda seemed to be chasing her tail…we knew she couldn’t find the location. After “touring” the small city center a few times, we spotted a “TI” (Tourist Information) center, so MK went in while TK was successful in finding a parking spot in their lot. When we asked the girl at the desk, who, fortunately, spoke excellent English, if she knew HOTEL GARNI DU LAC, she told us to look over our shoulders to the piazza as she pointed to our hotel…Who knew? We had a good laugh! So close and yet so far!!!

    Our hotel faced a piazza. . .a pedestrian-only area! A nice lady explained the parking situation outside the TI which required 3 CHF for 90 minutes. Since the TI was closed, we were able to leave our car for the night

    It was not possible to drop off our luggage at the hotel. So. . .our first experience at pulling our luggage on the street! Luckily, the parking spot next to the TI center, was not that far from our hotel, and we needed only one of our 26” suitcases plus one roll-aboard!

    The hotel web site indicated “We speak your language!” When we checked in, we expected to hear “Buon Giorno!” being in the Italian speaking area of Switzerland. Instead, the hotel receptionist asked us, in German, if we could speak German…hmmm! “Sprecken Sie Englisch”??? She shook her head. We think we may be in for communication troubles!!! But we did get a room key!

    The room is small and rather tired-looking, but has a great view of Lago Maggiore. . . a nice balcony overlooking a beautiful park and the embarcadero. This room in no way compares to the ambience of Hotel Steffani in St. Moritz, but the view and location make up for it!

    It’s a warm evening, so it’s very pleasant to walk around the piazza and the lake shore, enjoying the lush tropical foliage and flowers. We enjoyed a very relaxed stroll around and did a little window-shopping before dinner. In contrast to more exclusively high-end shops in St. Moritz, some of the shops in Locarno seem to have moderately-priced merchandise.

    Given the delightful temperature, we decided to eat at one of the sidewalk restaurants. MK had her pasta bolognese and salad, TK had his favorite Bratwurst, fries and salad. With drinks: (51 CHF). All the staff spoke Italian, as we had expected.

    Two more final cappuccinos up the street before heading back to the hotel, which was only a few short steps away. The accessibility to everything in downtown Locarno made us happy to have our hotel in this location. We wanted to get back to ready things for what we hoped would be a nice boat trip to Ascona in the morning.


    Friday, September 5, 2014 BOAT TRIP TO ASCONA

    Up earlier than normal(6:45) because TK needed to move the car parked overnight near the TI building across the piazza. The new metering began at 8AM. By parking there, we avoided the 16 CHF overnight garage parking.

    Off for “colazione“, which was typical fare, but the breakfast room was nice. (MK’s comment) This is probably our bottom-rated of hotels rooms so far. However, the view was outstanding, and made up for a less attractive room.

    The day was starting with cloudy skies. We spoke for a while with Jennifer at the TI building because she knows English very well. When complimenting her on her impeccable English, she told us that her mother is British. From her, we received some good info on the route to Brig tomorrow.

    Jennifer drives the Centovalli road each day, and encouraged us to take it. (Another example of someone who lives in Italy and works in Switzerland.) The Centovalli (100 Valleys) is a snaky, narrow road which winds through beautiful country overlooking dramatic gorges. We watched a UTube of it before leaving home, so we knew that it’s fast-moving, and a fave of bikers. Also, Jennifer gave us some info on “how to get out of Dodge”(ala TK) given all the road construction.

    We walked around the piazza area before heading to the embarcadero to catch the boat for Ascona. Although we could easily have driven there, we looked forward to going by water.

    We caught the “Torino” boat, glad that it wasn’t an express to Ascona, as we wanted to enjoy more of the lake and the stops at a few of the other little lakeside towns: Magadino, Vera, and San Nazzaro. Even though the skies were a bit overcast, the ride was beautiful given the smooth water of Lago Maggiore and the dramatic backdrop of mountains that surround it.

    Interesting side note: we traveled to and from Ascona seated next to two mature Swiss ladies from Lausanne, an hour from Berne. Neither of them spoke English, but we traded German and French words and phrases; and it was amazing the fun we had exchanging ideas. We thoroughly enjoyed the encounter, and they seemed to, as well.

    We disembarked at Ascona where we spent the rest of the afternoon. Fortunately, the sun came out in its full glory. Ascona lies in a bay on Lago Maggiore. It boasts a beautiful, wide lake promenade, shops, restaurants, and walks in the surrounding Old Town. It has an intricate web of lanes containing every kind of boutique. Wandering this way and that through the lanes, it’s easy to find the way back to the lakeside piazza. It was while walking on one of these back lanes that we happened upon a great lunch site at GROTTO OSTERIA BALDORIA.

    While preparing for our trip, MK had read about “grotto” restaurants around Locarno. When TK spotted the sign with the word “Grotto” and an arrow up a side alley, we were curious and followed it, not knowing that we would be in for a most unusual restaurant experience.

    The GROTTO OSTERIA BALDORIA is constructed with one wall being the side of a building, a roof of vine poles, covered with green foliage, and a gravel floor. The seating is at large wooden picnic-type tables.

    When we approached the entrance, we asked to see the menu, and found out that there is no menu. Only one entrée offering! The lady explains that today it is pasta (farfalla) with beef with topped with a delicious Italiano sauce. So it sounded like fun to us. We were up for it!

    Once seated, the waitress takes your drink order. For us, their vino rosa: Ticino Merlot. She then brings fresh baked bread. The wine is brought soon after. Next, a large wooden cutting board with 3 rolls of different sausages, still in the casings, and a large knife, all of which she secures from another table, is placed on your table. You’re invited to cut what you want; then she returns, collects your skins, and passes the salami board to another table. Very shortly, the entrees are served; very hot and delicious. Upon finishing your entrée, another cutting board is presented, this time containing cheeses. Same ritual: cut what you want; whereupon, the board is passed to another table. After clearing your table, the waitress comes carrying a cookie sheet and spatula, and offers a piece of a large chocolate chip cake, fresh out of the oven. Finally, the bill. (51 EUR for 2 meals plus drinks; cash only).

    After finishing, we thought that this was the most unique and fun meal we’ll have on this trip; except, maybe, for our dinner with Maitaitom and Tracy in Paris!

    Upon leaving the restaurant, we met the 2nd set of USA people on the trip so far; a man and his wife from Minnesota and their friends from St. Louis. He is a minister who has been living in Zurich for 15 years with some sort of international ministry, soon to retire in the US. We chatted with them for a few minutes
    .
    We walked off our meal by taking a few more of the little back streets: passed the old Papal College and meandered up to the central business district of the town. Returning to the lakeside promenade area, we had a cappuccino outside as we watched the water and people activity. Amazing how you can while away time doing nothing while on vacation!

    We made use of a 30-minute tourist train ride around Ascona to see a few of the swanky hotels, a golf course, marina, beach area, etc. The commentary was in four languages and got somewhat long, but it was a good way to get acquainted with other areas of the resort town. The climate of this area is known to be the best in Switzerland, and many folks from the northern European countries, especially Germany, come to Ascona for their holiday.

    We caught the boat back to Locarno about 4:30. And. . .whom did we meet on that boat but the same two ladies from Lausanne? They had caught another boat to the Isla Brissago for the day and were connecting in Ascona for their return to Locarno.

    On the return trip, the skies were clouding up. As we approached Locarno, it began to drizzle. We were happy that we had gotten the 4:30 boat, as the downpour that ensued would have impacted our ride on the later boat, as well as our walk back to the hotel.

    From our covered balcony, we could watch the intensifying rain as we planned our route to Brig for tomorrow. It was soon time to freshen up for dinner. As we headed out, that new REI umbrella, TK’s idea, came in handy for our “Singin’ in the Rain” stroll to and from the restaurant.

    At RISTORANTE OLDRATI, only three blocks from our hotel, we shared a tasty lasagna and mixed salad; with beer and wine (33.50 CHF). After our meal, we had cappuccinos in a little place just a few doors from our hotel. It was about 9PM when we returned, feeling contented and tired, but stayed up another hour or more making use of Wi-Fi to catch-up on notes and get things organized for the following day’s travel to Brig.

    Overall, following our couple of weeks of constant mountain driving and exploration, Locarno was a good stop. We really enjoyed the warmer weather, although partly cloudy at times, the tropical foliage and flowers, and the comfort of our location near the waterfront. The room at Hotel Garni du Lac was somewhat of a disappointment, as MK had read a rave review of it. But the location was super. . . being right in the central area, with a view of the lake, the embarcadero, and many restaurants around. No need for our car. . .a nice change of pace! And the sun did appear in Ascona, contributing to an enjoyable day.

    A sunny day is predicted for tomorrow! We hope to get going early and enjoy a few more hours in Locarno, before we head out for Brig.

  • Report Abuse

    Saturday, September 6, 2014 MORNING IN LOCARNO,
    THEN. . . ON TO BRIG


    Up at 7AM. A picture-perfect day! Great for a delightful breakfast on the hotel’s outdoor patio, as the sun was already bright. A hotel employee knew we spoke English and, as we left, he tried to engage us with his limited knowledge of English. He pointed an index finger upward and said, “Blue upstairs”! It took us a second to realize that he was expressing that the sky was so blue. We totally agreed; it was an outstandingly beautiful day. Bellissimo!

    TK made a trip with our luggage to the Opel in the nearby garage. The perfect weather really gave us a treat: a few more hours of enjoyment in Locarno. We decided to walk around the town, stopping to enter some of the stores along the arcade near our hotel. On our walk, MK found an attractive sweater at Charles Vogele store (39.95 CHF); more our price range than in St. Moritz!

    We had a delightful experience in a Farmacia where TK finally bought shave crème (3.60 CHF). The owner, who spoke very little English, asked in Italian where we were from. We knew enough to understand him. “USA. . .Ohio”, we said. He replied excitedly, in Italian“, “I was in Cincinnati”. We were non-plussed!

    People rarely know “Ohio”, much less “Cincinnati”. He had recently traveled to our city for the ATP Tennis Tournament. Roger Federer, a Swiss, had won; his daughter likes American, Andy Roddick…etc., etc. Mason, Ohio. Wow! This tournament was about 15 minutes from our home, and took place only a couple of weeks ago!

    Similar to our encounter with the Swiss ladies on the boat to Ascona, we were able to communicate. In this case, it was our limited knowledge of Italian combined with hand gestures, which facilitated our pleasant encounter. This man was so excited telling us about his experiences, like a kid describing his visit to the circus. We were glad that TK still wanted that shave lotion!

    We continued on down to the Piazza Grande, a large open cobble-stoned area, surrounded by pastel-painted houses, and many stores and restaurants. The Piazza Grande is the center of Locarno, used for concerts, festivals, and other events. In fact, in August it is the site of an International Film Festival when the piazza becomes a huge open-air screen area.

    On this day, there was a collection of sleek Porsche racing cars! Crews were assembling stands. The piazza was a buzz of activity, with many people shopping in the stores, eating in the outdoor restaurants, and little kids playing nearby. We couldn’t pass up cappuccino at one of the delightful cafes along the Piazza Grande.

    The day was just so gorgeous. . . .such brilliant blue sky and sunshine that the gardens and the embarcadero beckoned us for one last look. We couldn’t get enough of the colorful flowers and the shimmering lake! It must be beautiful to be in Locarno in March and April when their 100’s of varieties of camellias are in full bloom.

    Finally, sadly, we had to check out of Hotel Garni du Lac (484 CHF). It was now close to noon. We had fun joking around with Stephanie Bufalino, the desk worker, whose family lives 5 kilometers from the DeBlasio family (mayor of New York). We were entertained by a few of her stories of unusual guests.

    As we left Locarno, we were aware that the town and areas surrounding hold many more interesting things to explore: architectural beauty, gardens, lake trips to islands. But for this trip, it provided what we wanted: a Mediterrean climate on a beautiful lake. It is definitely a place for a return visit.

    The route out of town seemed straightforward: “Centovalli”! “Signs are easy to follow; just watch out for the construction!”

    The Centovalli, “100 Valleys” was truly “gorgeous”; however, as impressive as the gorges were, the pull-offs were few and far between. The Centovalli Road offer a variety of landscapes including not only breath-taking gorges, but sparkling waterfulls, high bridges, colorful fields, vineyards, and tiny villages.

    The road was challenging as it was very fast-moving. Without warning, there would be very narrow spots or the road would go between a building and a rock wall, so narrow that it required concentration as one car had to stop to let another pass. Suddenly, narrow two-lane roads became one lane! Many motorcyclists and cars would whiz by and cut across lanes. They, obviously, knew this road! In fact, the girl at the TI in Locarno said that she drives it daily to and from work. In addition, it’s a popular road for bicyclists, which makes it essential to watch for them on the narrow, twisty roads.

    We did make use of the pull-offs to take in the deep gorges along the route. As we were driving this outstanding road, across a wide valley we suddenly spotted what looked like a very large “bascilica-like” church. It just seemed incredible that such a structure could be in an area with mountains and valleys, and seemingly, few homes. Looking across the valley, the large dome was quite a grand spectacle!

    As we continued on the Centovalli Road, the church appeared closer and closer, and we finally arrived in the very small town of RE where the church was located. We were in the Piemonte region, about 81mi. northeast of Turin. The church fronted the narrow road with room for only a few cars across the road. The edge was at that point, protected with a rock wall. From that vantage point there was a wide view across a beautiful green valley.

    As we walked around, awed by this large church, we couldn’t help but notice groups of men, uniformly-dressed, standing around in little groups. Their outfits looked to us like “chimney sweeps”, (right out of Charles Dickens) and, as it turned out, that’s exactly what they were. Apparently, they have annual meetings where chimney sweeps from all over the world gather. In fact, we learned that in nearby SANTA MARIA MAGGIORE, population of only about 1200, there is a museum dedicated to “chimney sweeps”. In the past, they were critically important to the people of the area.

    Quite a few of these costumed “chimney sweeps”, many with faces darkened with “soot”, were gathered in the only restaurant on the main road in this tiny town. It was aptly named BAR SANTUARIO, as the proper name of the bascilica, which is only a few paces from the restaurant, is “SANTUARIO DELLA MADONNA DI RE”. We decided to have lunch at this little outdoor café filled with these folks. The selections were minimal, but the experience made our panini and drinks a fun lunch. The chimney sweeps were a friendly group, and engaged us in conversation, as we were the only customers not dressed for the occasion. One gave MK a “souvenir” chimney sweep hat, and TK received a good luck coin!

    Following lunch, we visited the magnificent SANCTUARIO, which was declared a “minor bascilica” in 1958 when a major expansion was completed. The original part was constructed at the beginning of the 1600’s. It is dedicated to the Virgin Mary because of the belief that she worked a miracle in that spot.

    The story, in brief, is that a local man who lived there in 1494 was so angry after he lost in a game, that he hurled a stone at the Virgin Mary fresco, hitting her head, whereupon it began to bleed; this continued for twenty days. This was supposedly verified by the mayor of the town and several notaries, who all signed a document attesting to the fact. From that time, people believed it to be a place of miracles.

    The church later had quite an extensive expansion, designed by an architect from the Lombard area. Apparently, over many years this area was a favorite of painters, and has the name “Valle dei Pittori”. We wondered how there could be that many people to attend/support such a large church, as we passed relatively few homes as we traveled through the Centovalli.

    We spent a while viewing the ornate and impressive interior with its architecture, and all the paintings and sculptures. On one wall was a large display of baby pictures with baptismal names and dates, each one trimmed with the traditional pink or blue. We noticed that the dates were very recent. There were so many pictures displayed high up the wall that required quite a tall ladder. So we could only conclude that this must be an active parish, and that there must be larger populations in the surrounding towns; maybe some which we might soon pass.

    We followed the Centovalli Road to its conclusion, just north of Domodossola, and turned onto route 33. We then began the approach to the Simplon Pass, one link of Northern Italy with Switzerland. According to the books, this pass was first used as early as the Stone Age, and up to the 17th Century, by smugglers and mercenaries. Some time later, a Brig merchant prince, von Stockalper, began a trade to have salt from the Mediterranean transported, and thereby became immensely wealthy. But it was Napoleon who had laborers make it passable for vehicles. He wanted to move his cannons southward. Napoleon is credited with creating the first man-made road in the Alps. We find the history of these mountain passes in the Alps of interest.

    As we began the ascent from Italy, the subtle change of architecture from the typical stone plate roofs of the Italian style to the timber buildings of the Swiss was evident. “Arrivederci, Italia!” After a couple of days by Lago Maggiore, encircled by mountains, but at somewhat of a distance from us, we were again in awe as we drove these roads with mountains in close range on either side. Really outstanding views, even more impressive than we had expected! The sunny, clear skies certainly enhanced the beauty. . . Wow!

    The Simplon Pass Road was well-graded, which made the switchbacks seem more gentle than many we have experienced. We stopped for cappuccino before reaching the pass. When the owner saw us admiring the colorful flowers around the restaurant, he picked a nosegay of edelweiss and brought them over to MK.

    At the summit, we made a stop at the MONTE LEONE for a dessert of apple and blueberry pie. The weather was so delightful that we didn’t want to leave our table on the outdoor patio.

    Leaving the pass, we witnessed massive, snow-capped mountains, indicative of the beauty we would continue to experience. Stopping along the road, we could hear a concert of cow bells reverberating on the mountainside. After all, we were in Switzerland!

    On the descent into the town of Brig, the road crosses a large, impressive, modern bridge, well-integrated with the surrounding countryside. After a series of lengthy downward curves, the road leads into the town of Naders, a neighboring town to Brig. As we’ve experienced in many towns, there are quite a few roundabouts leading into the town of Brig.

    We successfully negotiated into Brig, but again, Gilda got mixed up. Our hotel is near the Schloss(palace) road, and Gilda couldn’t quite handle that, as she went into her “Re-calculating” mode. We knew that we were close, so we pulled over and asked an elderly lady (the only person we saw on the street). She understood “schloss” and using hand gestures, said very thoughtfully, “Uber wasser, ab rechts, gerade-aus.” We could follow that much German. And, sure enough, we found our hotel on a hill overlooking the Stockalper Schloss. The palace was named after the wealthy Prince Stockalper.

    The room in the Schloss Hotel was exceptionally small and very dated; 60’s or early 70’s orange. But it had a nice balcony with a great view of the palace grounds and the surrounding mountains. We were impressed with the beauty of Brig, a major rail connecting point to parts of Switzerland.

    After getting settled, we walked down the hill, passed the walled Palace grounds, through the historic old quarter, surrounded with restaurants and stores, to the Bahnhof. Our intention was to purchase some kind of Swiss Pass before we went to Zermatt and the BO. However, we found the office closed.

    By this time, we were tired and hungry and chose the yellow-umbrella’d outdoor patio of the Hotel Du Pont, a very nice restaurant down the hill from our hotel, for a dinner of deliciously-prepared cannelloni and spaghetti with salad and drinks. The atmosphere was delightful. Returning to the hotel was just a stroll up the hill past the palace, which by this time, was so well lit that it would be visible from all around the town of Brig. Home about 9:30.

    If it’s a clear day tomorrow, we’ll head for Zermatt. We hope!!!

  • Report Abuse

    What a fabulous trip (except for the driving, I was very envious!) Mountains, lakes, charming towns, my kind of holiday. Sorry about all the dreary weather earlier on, we were in Bavaria in July and had 12C, and rain most of the time, with a light snowfall on a mountaintop one day. Brilliant, given my youngest teen had never seen snow and the older one just the once. And it was all so spectacularly lush and green, we enjoyed walking in the rain (it was 43C here yesterday, so am really missing rain!) We also visited Hallstatt that trip, having seen a picture of it on an airline advertisement, my husband announced he wanted to go there, but we didn't know where it was. When I discovered it was Hallstatt, we added it to our itinerary from Salzburg, 2.5 hours of train travel and more rain on arrival, but, wow, what a setting. And then the rain stopped :)
    We hope to visit the Dolomites next year. Really enjoying travelling 'with' you.

  • Report Abuse

    Adelaidean, so glad to have you traveling "with" us! It was a fabulous trip! But it does take time to complete a TR for a month-long venture, as each day we seemed to experience so much. Knowing that there are interested Fodorites like yourself following along gives us motivation to keep writing.

    You mentioned the rain you experienced in Bavaria. One concern we had before leaving was knowing that Europe was having a chilly, rainy summer. We felt so fortunate to have so much good weather.

    The Dolomites are beautiful. . .different from any other mountains we experienced. We hope your plans materialize.

    Is your screen name indicative of your home. . .Australia?
    Hope you get some relief from the heat! Send a little our way in the US Midwest!

  • Report Abuse

    Yes, pretty unoriginal (only just joined Fodor's) .... we are from Adelaide, South Australia. Heat and bushfires here :(

    I imagine it is quite an effort to continue writing, and having read many unfinished reports I can see people lost the will to keep on posting...but so many more people read these reports, just don't post any responses (I am guilty, hence newly registered Fodor's member). So please don't give up!

  • Report Abuse

    Hi Tomarkot,

    We're still along for the ride! I believe detailed trip reports like yours are an excellent resource for others planning their own trips and for people like us reliving some of our favorite places through your writing.

    Paul

  • Report Abuse

    Paul, we appreciate your continued interest and insights. Your travels to most of these areas give you a good perspective. The interest of you and others continues to motivate us.

    As "Football Playoffs" continue today, we'll use time in between to post another day or two.



    Paqngo, glad to have you along. You won't be disappointed in the Dolomites, as Paul, pja1, above, will testify.

  • Report Abuse

    SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 7, 2014 MATTERHORN DAY!

    Up early. . .6:30 AM. Opening the doors of our balcony, we could hear a symphony of bells from the several churches in the area, and were happy to see a blue sky. Had a quick breakfast.

    Then we were off. . .re-tracing our steps down the hill past the palace, through the Old Town, and to the Bahnhoff, hoping to purchase some kind of “Swiss Pass” which will give us a price break on trains, gondolas, etc.

    The office was open! The line wasn’t too long! The lady behind the counter knew English well and helped us with the best deal we could get: 120 CHF each for the Swiss Half-Fare card; a month-long pass (the shortest time available). Fortunately, we did have our passports. Great! A big wonderment off our minds.

    The morning’s blue skies and sun promised a beautiful day! So off we went. . .headed for Zermatt and the Matterhorn. We drove to the nearby city of Visp and then turned onto the mountainous road to Tasch. The switchbacks were mild and the scenery wonderful. . .we could see that in the distance the skies were blue with patches of white clouds.

    We parked (13 CHF) in a garage connected to the very modern train terminal at Tasch. With our pass, we paid 100 CHF each for a combined roundtrip ticket: the train to Zermatt and the cog railway up the mountain to Gornergrat.

    The train ride from Tasch to Zermatt is only about 12 minutes. The train terminus is right at the main square in Zermatt where we paused for cappuccinos and apple strudel, enjoying an initial view of the square. We had just enough time to make the 12:40 Gornergrat train up to the top, arriving about a half-hour later. We would save the exploration of the square until our return later in the afternoon.

    The weather was perfect affording us a perfectly clear view of the Matterhorn, starting in Zermatt and all the way up. We knew from prior research to sit on the right side of the train to maximize our experience. We took lots of pics as we were lucky that the weather was so clear.

    After reaching the final stop, the Gornergrat, we walked around station area for a while, drinking in the surrounding scenery. The highlight was the crystal clear view of the Matterhorn, distinctive with its pyramid shape! But along with the Matterhorn, there were many other mountain peaks and glaciers, the closest GRONER GLETSCHER. A great ski area!

    It was lunch time, so we walked up to the outdoor restaurant KUHMHOTEL GORNERGRAT and found a “ringside” seat, looking directly at the Matterhorn. Sitting outside on the terrace, staring at the Matterhorn, enjoying our first tasty rosti with ham, topped with fried egg, ranked up there with top experiences. The employees were in great moods. They told us that only a few days before the whole terrace was steeped in snow. We were feeling incredibly fortunate to have this gorgeous day!

    As we were enjoying our lunch, a few clouds appeared over the top. . . but beautiful white clouds. What’s not to love?
    A beer/wine, with a tasty lunch, on a sunny patio, with brilliant blue skies, overlooking the impressive Matterhorn?
    We sat for quite a while!

    After that delightful lunch experience, we made a brief visit to the mountaintop shop, but with little success, as even t-shirts are 90+ CHF. . .Wow! We stopped in the little chapel, and walked around the Gornergrat area for a while.

    At about 4 PM more white clouds were accumulating. We caught the return train for the ride back to the town center of Zermatt, having thoroughly enjoyed our Matterhorn experience at the Gornergrat. We reversed our seating on the train to the left side on the descent, as there was scenery to enjoy all the way.

    The town of Zermatt has a large cobble-stoned square, surrounded by shops and restaurants, with a number of horse drawn carriages in the central area. Since there are no motorized vehicles permitted in Zermatt, these carriages, along with some battery-operated carts, deliver guests and their luggage to their lodgings. We walked around the Zermatt town square for a while, and couldn’t resist a stop for ice cream, chocolates, and a t-shirt for TK (29 CHF).

    After the satisfying experience of the day, we were ready to begin the return train trip back to Tasch. Our car was easily retrieved from the garage, and the drive from Tasch to Brig was easy enough, taking just a bit more than an hour.

    We freshened up in our hotel room and walked to the Altstadt for dinner. There were a few people milling around, but it was Sunday evening, so most stores, and some restaurants, were closed. We chose the outdoor RESTAURANT STEAKHOUSE and after a little vino, split a wiener schnitzel meal(41.40 CHF). We enjoyed our last stroll through the Altstadt and up the hill past the palace, again beautifully-lit, back to our hotel. Wonderful day! Good night!


    MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 8, 2014 ON TO JUNGFRAU,
    LAUTERBRUNNEN

    Up at 7:15. Weather again looked great. Fruhstuck is normal. We packed the car and discussed our way out of Brig. Seemed like our hardest task was figuring out the streets and roundabouts to head to the key highway in the correct direction. We know Gilda isn’t very helpful in this area.

    Following the absolutely amazing experience of the Matterhorn, we wonder how there can be so much phenomenal beauty still in store. But today we’re heading
    to the Berner Oberland, or Jungfrau area. The anticipation on this trip continues!

    Readying to leave Brig, we recalled a beautiful little city with an imposing Stockalper Palace reigning over it, towered over by mountains, and a cobble-stoned Altstadt area with many stores, restaurants, and bars, and a large Bahnhoff with multiple train lines. The best attribute of our SCHLOSS HOTEL was its location overlooking the palace and its gardens, and the hotel’s closeness to the Altstadt and the train station. The hotel offered free parking, WiFi, and a beautiful balcony to enjoy the surroundings.

    As we were pulling out of the hotel lot, we met a British couple from New Castle, near Scotland. They described how they flew into Switzerland, took a bus/train to get places, with no rental car. They were staying in Brig, doing some hiking and biking. We had a delightful discussion about travel and other world issues.

    Leaving town was somewhat confusing. We were aiming for a route A19, and not finding it, we did find a road that we thought was either A 19, or paralleled it. In any case, we knew that it was going in the correct direction. We followed it through a long valley surrounded by mountains with many ski lifts in the little towns. The road was good and the town names matched our map. For all we knew, we might have been on A 19, but we hadn’t seen a sign. Gilda was weird today and unable to direct us very well.

    We followed the road for about thirty miles. It was getting to be lunch time. We were aiming for the Grimsel Pass Road. We came to a small, rather non-descript little area on the highway, a town named Gletsch. We saw a small station, and learned that it is the starting point for the Furka Steam Railway. As its name suggests, this train carries passengers over the steep Furka Pass.

    Across the narrow highway from the station was a left-hand turn onto another narrow road, with a tall building on one side and the side of very old GRAND HOTEL GLACIER DU RHONE on the other; in other words, the road ran between two large buildings on the corner. This hotel, which we discovered had a self-serve lunch, fronted the highway which we were travelling.

    Before getting our lunch, we walked across the narrow street to read the small sign: “Grimsel.” Glad we looked before proceeding on down the highway, because that turn on the side of the building was critical for us as we were heading to the Jungfrau area! Conclusion: the passes might be major, but the signage is very small!

    We enjoyed our lunch on the outdoor patio with a panoramic view of the Rhone Glacier, the beginning of the Rhone River, and the Furka Pass, with its many winding switchback roads climbing up the mountain. That pass will have to wait for another trip as we are headed in an opposite direction.

    Before taking off for the Grimsel Pass, we explored the reception area of the hotel which had the feel of an early 19th century lodging. Very old but charming! There is nothing else around, so we conclude that guests must stay there before catching the Furka Steam Railway or en route to another destination.

    As we began the climb up to the Grimsel Pass, we found that the road, though having many switchbacks and some blind curves is better/wider/safer than other pass roads that we have encountered. We thought that our experience might be because we have driven so many mountain passes over the past couple of weeks that they no longer seemed as daunting.

    The top of the Grimsel Pass is devoid of much vegetation, and is strewn with rocks and granite outcroppings. We stopped briefly for view of the lake atop the pass. As we descended on the northern side, the road passed a series of reservoirs, colored a milky green from the silt runoff from the glacier. Also, less-attractive elements were the hydro-electric plants!

    The road then dropped steeply in a canyon sculpted with huge slabs of granite. Thick forests then came into view. Along the way we stopped for cappuccinos and met Marcus and Paul who ski in the surrounding areas. They suggested that rather than take the Jungfrau train though the miles of tunnels to reach Jungfrau, we would be better served by taking the lift to Schilthorn Mountain top where the Jungfrau can be viewed and the ride is spectacular.

    From the conclusion of the Grimsel Pass Road, we began our drive northwestward through the town of Meringen and proceeded on to a two-lane highway that parallels the turquoise waters of the Brienz Lake near Interlaken. With the advantage of the clear blue skies, the lake looked stunning! We thought that we’d keep a boat trip on Brienz Lake or its neighboring Lake Thun in our “basket of ideas” for a possible activity while in the area.

    The road into the Jungfrau area was well-signposted. We easily found our way into the heavenly valley of Lauterbrunnen. Unsure of the location of our hotel in this little town, we decided to drive the length of the valley which reminded us of Yosemite Valley.

    As often occurred in these mountains, Gilda could not find the satellite. She was no help in finding our SILBERHORN HOTEL, which, we knew, was on a tiny side-street. We asked directions, and within minutes, were happy to find the small, hilly road curled around the rear of the bank, and up to our the Silberhorn Hotel.

    Debra, the friendly receptionist, walked us up to our 4th floor room. We liked our room #40, with a nice balcony overlooking the valley. A complementary parking lot winds around the building and up the hill, with a rear entrance only steps to our room. Convenient for negotiating the luggage!

    What better way to begin our enjoyment of the Jungfrau than a vino out on our balcony? After a while relaxing, and taking in the view of the valley, including a waterfall, we decided it was time for dinner. We walked down the hill from our hotel, and then up the main road to the OBERLAND HOTEL for a dinner of delicious Rosti and mixed salad, with beer, wine, choc chip ice cream & two cappuccinos. (59.26 US dollars). The outdoor patio was full, but we were seated at a nice table inside. At that point, we didn’t realize that we were lucky to have been seated, as we had no reservation and the Hotel Oberland seemed to have the reputation of the best restaurant in town.

    On our walk back to the hotel, we saw the window of a WASH SALON, a laundromat, something we haven’t seen, but which we would now appreciate. It’s not far from our hotel; (5 CHF to wash and 5 CHF to dry). It closed at 21.00, so we hoped to take advantage of this. . .maybe early the following evening.

    We’re contentedly tired after a full day, but we really felt good in Lauterbrunnen. Tomorrow the weather was promising and the TV in the lobby, which has live coverage of 4 mountain peaks, will allow us to check conditions and make plans for the day as we eat fruhstuck.

    Debra, the receptionist, had the same suggestion as the two guys we met near the Grimel Pass; that is, visit the Schiltorn instead of taking the train to the Jungfraujoch. Their idea is that the 360’ views are tremendous and the cost is a lot less.

    At this point, we are still mulling over the ideas! But we’re happy that we have three nights in the area, with an additional night in nearby Grindelwald.

  • Report Abuse

    Tomarket: I'm just catching up with this superior trip. Well done, all around. I have to go back and read more so I can now follow along thru Switzerland and to Paris! Thanks for the ride, and yes, I'm glad I'm not driving also!

  • Report Abuse

    Just now catching up with your report tomarkot - as we just got back from our three weeks in Germany and Switzerland at 2 am this morning, greeted with Perth's hottest January day since 1991 (111 degrees F), which I'm sure Adelaidean can fully appreciate!

    Enjoyed your impressions of Locarno, as we almost chose it for this trip, but, being mountain people, it lost out to the Gstaad area.

    Glad you found the Hotel Oberland, our favorite restaurant in Lauterbrunnen...and that Laundromat...the only one of its kind I've ever found in Switzerland in our 8-10 visits, with the added bonus of having machines we actually recognize and know how to operate (the stories I could tell you about Eruopean washing machines...)

    Anxiously awaiting more.

  • Report Abuse

    Great descriptions! We also did the Gornergrat trip, but we stayed 2 nights in Zermatt. Also, from the top station, we walked back down towards Zermatt quite a bit before boarding the train for the rest of the way back. Looking forward to the BO, as we spent 4 wonderful days and nights based in Wengen.

    Paul

  • Report Abuse

    tomarkot, I'm just seeing this report for the first time. What a wonderful trip and report! I haven't finished the report but will read more tonight.

    I have been to many of the places you visited, albeit on several trips, and am enjoying the ride with you. Thanks for reviving so many memories of beautiful places!

  • Report Abuse

    Thanks to all for your interest!

    Melnq8 and Adelaidean, we feel for you guys in Perth. . .and South Australia. Hope you get some relief soon!!!

    Melnq8, you're probably feeling the heat even more after spending three weeks in milder weather. Can't imagine your posting when you just arrived home! Hope you had a wonderful trip. We'll be watching for your TR.


    Paul, your experiences in Zermatt sound like fun. We were just so happy to have good weather to enjoy the Matterhorn and surroundings. On a former trip, the whole area of northern Italy and into Switzerland was so fogged in that it put a real crimp in our enjoyment. We decided to stay two nights in Brig just in case of inclement weather. . .more to do there. No hiking shoes along this trip!


    Panecott and Taconictraveler, glad to have you aboard.

    Panecott, we remember enjoying your fairly recent TR of the Canadian Rockies.

  • Report Abuse

    Melnq8, thought about your gruelingly long flights-that you might be totally exhausted and out of commission. Can't imagine how we'd feel! Hope that you get adjusted to your time zone soon; no doubt staying 24/7 in A/C! We would gladly take about 50' of your heat! It's in the 20's in the US Midwest.

  • Report Abuse

    TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 9, 2014

    Up at 7AM. Weather didn’t look so great. We enjoyed our first breakfast spread in their attractive dining room, and for the first time in our weeks of travel, encountered three or so American families.

    After that satisfying meal, albeit with the skies outside looking very cloudy. The inclement weather was later confirmed by TV monitors of four mountains with live cameras at their peaks. We talked to a British couple who had visited Lauterbrunnen several times. They were also watching and deciding what to do. Rain was predicted and the mountaintops were cloudy already at 9 AM. For about a half-hour, we had a lively conversation with this engaging couple, perhaps each of us hoping that we could gradually see some hints of clearing.

    After another hour or so, we had all but given up hope for a clear day. Although disappointed, with the string of beautiful weather days we’ve had, we guessed that we were due for a rainy one. We knew that today would not be the day to fully appreciate all the beauty surrounding us in this valley bounded by gigantic rock faces, mountain peaks, and innumerable water falls.

    We began to evaluate a trip to Interlaken for a lake cruise; Brienz, the east lake or Thun, the west lake? The daytime desk attendant lives near Interlaken. He described the drive to the west boat station, then the boat ride to Thun, which he preferred, but which takes 2 ½ hours; and suggested taking the train back to save time. We decided that it was too late to start out on such a time-consuming venture, and that the inclement weather would not make for the most pleasant boat trip.

    Maybe do a waterfalls adventure? Nah! We decided to drive to Steckelberg, a 4 km. drive to the end of the valley, park in the lot there (4 CHF), and catch the gondola, the Schilthornbahn, to Murren (21 CHF).

    On our drive down the valley, we enjoyed the lengthy waterfalls cascading down the rock faces. The small town of MURREN is situated on a mountain ledge overlooking Lauterbrunnen. Since it wasn’t raining, just overcast, we thought we could enjoy the view from the cable car ride overlooking the Lauterbrunnen Valley, have lunch in Murren, and walk the streets of this little town so recommended by Rick Steves.

    There were just a handful of us on the gondola, so the 360’ views over the Lauterbrunnen Valley and surrounding mountains were available to us as we could move around the cable car. We asked the operator for a restaurant recommendation in Murren, and he suggested the RESTAURANT STAGERSTUBLI which he said was in the middle of town.

    The ride up to Murren included a stop at the small hamlet of Gimmelwald. Once reaching Murren, we found that the town was very quiet, with only a handful of people milling around, and most restaurants and shops were closed. We did have lunch at the Restaurant Stagerstubli, the place recommended by the gondola operator, as it was the only restaurant open. Wienerschnitzel, salad and drinks; (40.90 USD).

    We walked the length of the deserted main street, and spent a while overlooking the valley below and the mountains on the opposite side. Even though the skies were overcast, the views were still so amazing. The cows on the mountainside were enjoying the experience with us! Every few seconds, we would be entertained by some tunes from their bells!

    It was now after 3 PM. We continued our walk down the only street in Murren and discovered that the HOTEL BLUMENTAL was now open. . .and that they served capuccinnos. We were the only patrons in this very nice restaurant, which was a recommendation by Rick Steves, as noted on a sign in front.

    We had exhausted our choices in Murren, so we decided to walk back to the gondola station. The return ride to the valley was the opposite of our 360' experience coming up this AM when only one other couple and a worker joined us. The cable car down was jam-packed. . .possibly a tour group coming from Gimmelwald? The gondola was now so crammed with riders that it was difficult to enjoy much of a view.

    Driving back to the center of Lauterbrunnen, a light rain began to fall. We paused a few times to take in the views of the valley, with waterfalls streaming down the rock faces. Beautiful even in a light drizzle!

    We immediately headed to the Wash Salon, aka Laundromat, and spent the next couple of hours completing laundry…5 CHF for wash cyle and 5 CHF for the dryer. In the process of completing this task, we met a nice couple from Jupiter, FL, who were on a Rick Steve’s tour. They had gone up to Jungfrau on the “Good Morning Fare” and said that the weather was clear. They thought that the ride was scenic and not just all tunnels, and that the experience was well worth it.

    While accomplishing this necessary but mundane task, we took turns alternating laundry duty with checking out the shops; most important, the wine store. Fortunately, our balcony had an overhang which made it enjoyable, even in a light rain, to imbibe our wine and the beauty of the valley.

    We wanted to have dinner at our hotel restaurant, but discovered that the main dining room was booked with “½ pension guests”. The only available tables would be in a “back room” which lacked the elegant atmosphere of the main room.

    We again tried the Hotel Oberland that we liked last evening, but they were full at 7:20 and told us that only 8:30 would work. Finally, success at HOTEL STABBACH! We sat on their outdoor patio, and even though the service was slow, we enjoyed a well-prepared rosti with ham and a Swiss cheese along with mixed salad; drinks, of course. (36.50 CHF).

    The waitress at the Hotel Staubach Restaurant seemed to take an interest in us, and when we described our dilemma over the choice between Jungfraujoch and Schilthorn, she advised us to go for the Jungfraujoch. It might be a one-time thing, but she thought we should experience it. She advised us to go early before the tours would arrive and the trains would get crowded. "Sometimes people have to stand," she cautioned.

    Back at our hotel, we were discussing plans for the morning. We decided that since this was our first trip to the Berner Oberland, and we had a Swiss ½ fare pass, we would go for the Jungfraujoch venture. . . if the weather looked promising. We thought that it might prove to be another “highlight” of our Alps’ experience. We set the alarm for an early rising, and went to bed hopeful.


    WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 10, 2014 TRIP TO
    JUNGFRAUJOCH

    Up extra early: 6 AM! Skies looked cloudy at first glance, but a bit of sun (and hope) appeared at a second glance. “Let’s go for the Jungfraujoch!”

    We opened the 7:30 breakfast and chose a window seat overlooking the Jungfrau. Directly after breakfast, we collected the stuff needed for the day. Taking the short-cut path, located right across from the hotel’s front door, we had a quick walk down the hill to the train station. Tickets cost 176.20 CHF each.

    With tickets in hand, we boarded the 8:37 rack train to Wengen. The route up began with the gold-colored cog railway chugging up to its first stop, Wengen. We had seen this train wend its way up the mountain quite a few times from our balcony as we were sipping wine.

    On the ascent, we enjoyed an amazing, sunny view of the Lauterbrunnen Valley and surrounding mountains, passing several waterfalls cascading down the sides close to the track. Upon reaching the Wengen Station, where people were getting off and on, we would continue to Kleine Scheidegg. We decided to save our exploration of Wengen for our return trip in the afternoon.

    It was amazing how many “hikers” exited at Wengen, and many of them were not “spring chickens”. (TK’s observation!) Many had walking poles and backpacks. They seemed to know their way around these mountains very well. One couple, who continued on from Wengen, described their plans of taking a cable car from Kleine Scheidegg over a small saddle in the mountain, hiking a bit, having lunch at a location they liked, and then taking another cable car to a railroad and getting back to Lauterbrunnen, having made a full circle. More things for us to pursue on a return visit.

    Kleine Scheidegg is the boarding point for the famous Jungfraujoch Railway, described by some as the most famous mountain railway in the world. Opened in 1912, this cog railway leads to the highest underground railway station in Europe.

    We were able to secure a window seat on the right side of the train for the long, slow ascent. For the first part of the journey, we took a number of photos. The next part of the trip was through a 7.3 km long tunnel that traverses the massive wall of Eiger.

    The train made two five-minute stops on the way up. Passengers could get off the train, and walk out to “windows” which were carved out in the mountain wall, providing outstanding views. Especially impactful was looking straight down a wall of ice into the valley of Grindelwald.

    En route through the tunnel, a video played, explaining the history of the tunnel and the construction of the station at the top. The idea for this highest underground mountain railway, constructed by boaring through the Eiger and Monch Mountains, was the goal of a man named Adolf Guyer-Zeller. His original intention was to have the train climb to the highest lookout platform, named “the Sphinx”. This ambitious project was begun in 1896. It was plagued by inclement weather, numerous accidents, and budgetary issues. Final completion was to the base of the Jungfraujoch, (11,333ft.) short of the “Sphinx”, but a monumental feat of engineering!

    We arrived at the Jungfraujoch after about 2 hours. Upon arrival at the underground station, we exited into what felt like a combination of a subway station and an enormous “entertainment complex”. There was an array of colored arrows pointing to the various sections on several levels. Initially, we walked through an “Ice Palace”, a network of ice tunnels and caves filled with imaginative sculptures. The whole area had a greenish glow, and was very cold. The temperature prepared us for our next experience at the outdoor viewing area: the highlight of the venture. Quite an outstanding place, even though some clouds interfered with what could have been a crystal-clear view.

    We found our way to a little café for a cappuccino break where the windows would allow us to keep our eyes on the outdoors. As we were sipping our drinks, the “magic” happened, as the sun burned off the fog and we had a magnificent view of the surrounding peaks! We took multiple pictures. MK wanted pics of us together with the Jungfrau in the background. A good-spirited Frenchman patiently took a few shots to get the Jungfrau centered between us. A young girl who took our picture wanted us to pose with her and two friends for another shot.

    It was delightful and fulfilling to have a wonderful weather- day like this. Our choice for lunch, the CRYSTAL RESTAURANT, was more pricey than the other choices, but our window seat provided a tremendous atmosphere for our meal! We shared a wienerschnitzel and salad, plus drinks (47.80 ). Our waiter was a cool man from Hong-Kong who seemed well-traveled. He told us that he had many friends in the USA. No one was waiting in the line to be seated, so we continued to enjoy our view for a few extra minutes.

    After that tasty lunch, we again headed outdoors to the viewing area for more enjoyment of the jagged peaks of Eiger, Monch, Jungfrau, and other mountains: an awe-inspiring wide alpine panorama. A Swiss flag was flowing in the breeze, adding a meaningful note of color to some of our pictures.

    One of the most tempting attractions of the Jungfraujoch was the LINDT TOP OF EUROPE CHOCOLATE WORLD, the world’s highest chocolate shop. It would be difficult to sense the sweet aromas of chocolate wafting through the building without making a stop. . .and purchasing some of their delicacies. To whet the appetites, as if that were necessary, they were giving complementary LINDOR balls. Mmmmmmm Good!

    None of the Swiss sights we visited were devoid of gift shops. It was the same with the Jungfraujoch. TK bought another 29 CHF t-shirt. Purchasing these is really encouraged by MK, as they provide needed clothing changes as we travel.

    As clouds began to roll in, obscuring part of the panoramic view, we felt very satisfied, having had a wonderful Jungfraujoch experience. Since we had gotten a fairly early start in the morning, we thought it might be a good idea to catch the railway down before the trains crowded up. But before making our way to the boarding area, we made sure to have our “Jungfrau Railways Passport” officially stamped.

    Our wait for the cog railway was relatively short, and after boarding and securing a good seat, each of us succumbed to some “shut-eye” during the first tunneled part of the journey. Exiting the dark tunnel, we were happy to see that the weather at the lower altitudes was still clear.

    We switched trains in Kleine Scheidegg, and caught the second train to the little car-free town of Wengen. We got off in Wengen, checking the time-schedule for later catching a return train to Lauterbrunnen.

    There were very few people milling around Wengen. After spending a while strolling around the town, checking out the shops, we stopped at a little café for our cappuccino break. We enjoyed our little exploration of Wengen, but after our cappuccinos, we were happy to return to our hotel in Lauterbrunnen.

    The trains leave for Lauterbrunen at 03 and 33 after the hour. These trains are very precisely coordinated. There is essentially one track up the mountains, but multiple double track parking areas where a train stops to wait for another train, before it can use the same track. The trains leave at precisely the time that the schedule prints they will leave…impressive! So we caught the 4:33 train and were back in Lauterbrunnen just before 5 PM.

    Since our Hotel Silberhorn is very close to the Railway Station, we have only a short walk back and ample time to freshen up for dinner and relax on our balcony for a while. This evening we do have 7PM reservations, arranged through Debra, at the HOTEL OBERLAND, having learned the value of reservations. (Although not our usual style.)

    We used a ”discount card”, received from our hotel, for a 3-course meal for 31 CHF: rosti and mixed salad; dessert, and drinks. Total 58.60 CHF. We thoroughly enjoyed our last dinner in Lauterbrunnen.

    Just before we left the Hotel Oberland Restaurant, there was a brief light shower. As we stepped out, it was about 60 degrees. The street was fairly quiet, and we needed to return to our hotel to pack, load up the car, and prepare to leave the likeable Hotel Silberhorn the following morning.

    We were hoping to take the Schilthornbahn, the world’s longest aerial cable car system, the following day , weather-permitting. We aimed to turn in early, after getting organized for our last day in Lauterbrunnen. As on most nights, as we went to bed, we were hoping to awaken to a good weather day.

    One positive thought, while regretting having to leave Lauterbrunnen, was our reservation in Grindelwald for the following evening. More time to enjoy the Berner Oberland!

  • Report Abuse

    <<One of the most tempting attractions of the Jungfraujoch was the LINDT TOP OF EUROPE CHOCOLATE WORLD, the world’s highest chocolate shop>>

    Now you're speaking my language.

    We visited both the Cailler factory and the Lindt factory within the last two weeks and I just about broke my arms hauling the stuff home.

    No directions necessary; just step off the train and follow your nose.

    If only I liked broccoli as much as I like chocolate.

  • Report Abuse

    Melnq8, agree with you about that chocolate. Could easily become habit-forming! Good thing they sell Lindt in the US!
    When are you moving back?

    Also, wanted to add that it was your TR from Lauterbrunnen that gave us the hope for a laundry there. Thanks!


    Glad to have you and Adelaidean staying aboard.

  • Report Abuse

    "Passengers could get off the train, and walk out to “windows” which were carved out in the mountain wall, providing outstanding views."

    Glad to see they cleaned those damned windows from when we were there in 2003 (:

    Good stuff! I have a funny memory of going to the Jungfraujoch in the late 60s with my mom and dad. When we got to a stop (maybe Kleine Scheidegg) my mom was having altitude sickness. Instead of all of us aborting the trip, we just took her off the train (we did not Throw Mama From The Train) and my dad and I traveled to the top and got her on the way back down. I don't think she was vey happy, but my dad had spent the bucks to go to the top and would not be denied. I think his travel MO is in my DNA.

    Great report. On to Grindelwald!

    I hope you make it to Paris soon to see those ne'er-do-wells for dinner.

    ((H))

  • Report Abuse

    That story from the late 60's is a riot! Hope your Mom wasn't feeling too left out! (The 60's were a wild decade in more ways than we knew!)

    Was it 2003 that you and Tracy were there? We followed the recommendation in your TR from that trip for our lodging in Grindelwald. More to come.

    We're hoping to get to Paris soon!!! We can't wait to detail our special dinner with a classy couple from Southern California.

  • Report Abuse

    Hi tomarkot,

    That just reminded me that I was stuck standing, along with others, on the train from Wengen to Kleine Scheidegg and from Kleine Scheidegg back to Wengen. Loved the stop at Kleine Scheidegg, as I was as interested in seeing the Eiger as I was in seeing the Matterhorn.

    Not sure if it's still a hotel, but we stayed just around the corner from the station in Wengen at the Hotel Eiger.


    Paul

  • Report Abuse

    Hi Paul,

    I think we received good advice to go to the Jungfraujoch early. We had no difficulty getting a seat on the train.

    Eiger is really impressive! We'd read that the former Hotel Eiger in Wengen is now a restaurant.

    We enjoyed so much phenomenal beauty on our trip. . .it would be difficult to choose a favorite. Whether it's the Matterhorn, or Eiger, or many others, the weather has a big influence on the experience. We're just so thankful that, for the most part, we had favorable weather.

    We're aiming to keep this TR rolling and finish soon! Thanks for your continued reading, Paul!

  • Report Abuse

    THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 11, 2014 PIX GLORIA,
    SCHILTORN MOUNTAIN;
    EVENING IN GRINDELWALD

    Alarm off at 6:30. It looked cloudy outdoors, so we slept in for another hour. Ah Yes! After our morning ritual and some packing, we had our last breakfast at Hotel Silberhorn. From our window seat, we could take in that beautiful view of the valley, with two water falls in view, that had become a fave scene.

    Following breakfast, it took us only a short while to gather all of our things, pay up, and officially check out. When we explained to Debra at the reception that we were moving over to Grindelwald for the evening, because the Hotel Silberthorn indicated that they were full, she said that we should have e-mailed her directly. However, as it worked out, we were happy to be getting a taste of the area around Grindelwald.

    Despite the less-than-perfect weather, we decided to take advantage of the opportunity to experience the Schilthornbahn up to the summit of the SCHILTHORN MOUNTAIN where the famous PIZ GLORIA revolving restaurant was located. We had read that, on a clear day, there was a 360’ view extending over 200 mountain peaks in a spectacular landscape. With the spotty blue skies, at times blurred with clouds, we did not expect this to be our experience. But, nonetheless, there was enough blue sky and sun that we thought it was a worthwhile venture.

    After leaving our hotel, we were off to Steckelberg to park the Opel and take off on the Schilthornbahn (86 CHFea.) to savor what we could of Schilthorn Mountain and Piz Gloria. The drive to Steckelberg alone was worth the time, as it was another experience through the Swiss “Yosemite Valley”. The rain had turned on the waterfalls to high volume.

    It is estimated that within the Lauterbrunnen Valley there are 72 waterfalls. The most famous is the Staubbach Falls, plunging 984 ft. from an overhanging rock face. Trummelbach Falls is actually ten glacial waterfalls within the rock, made accessible by a tunnel-lift, narrow paths, and rock balconies at different levels. This exploration is another thing that will have to wait for a future visit.

    We had taken the lower section of Schilthornbahn on our excursion two days ago to the little town of Murren. That view into the valley was impressive! But as we experienced the next stage, from Murren to Birg, and finally the last long stretch from Birg to the Schilthorn summit, the deeper and deeper views into the valley became more and more breathtaking! And with just a few riders, we could easily enjoy the amazing scenery below.

    Once reaching the top of Schilthorn, at 9744 ft., the weather vacillated from cloudy to partly cloudy and then a bit sunny all day. We did not expect the full impact of the 360 degree panorama, but enjoyed many glimpses of various mountains as the puffy white clouds would move quickly from one area to another. It was like a game of “cat and mouse”, dashing from one area of the large viewing area to another, to catch the awesome views of the high peaks. The sky was a vibrant blue, and the clouds which swirled around were of the cumulus variety. Oftentimes, the clouds would cluster around mountain peaks as if to frame them, making for quite interesting pictures.

    Several scenes from the James Bond 1969 movie, ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE, were filmed at Piz Gloria and the mountaintop site capitalizes on that. There is a whole BOND WORLD complex, including a Cyclorama Museum, detailing how the movie was made, and displaying quite a few James Bond posters. Outside in one viewing area, the life-size cut-out of Agent 007 was a popular spot for guys (including TK) to pose for pictures. And, of course, the souvenir shop featured a lot of James Bond memorabilia.

    We sipped a couple of rounds of cappuccinos at their small café as we alternated between the outside viewing areas and the inside shop, taking the opportunities to go out when the views cleared. There were groups of young people running in and out, and when there was a clearing, it was as if they assembled automatically into “pose mode”. That was quite entertaining.

    While the mountain views danced in and out, we had lunch at a window seat in the revolving restaurant. When the clouds moved out of the way, the mountains were spectacular. The meal was overpriced and not especially tasty, but our observation point was perfect. And close by to the restaurant was one of the ever present gift shops where TK bought a 29 CHF pair of sunglasses to replace his others which had lost the screw.

    One of the main features of the journey to Schilthorn was
    the dramatic cable car ride, described as one of the steepest, and quite an engineering feat to complete. Composed of three sections of cable cars, because of the long distances, the view over the Lauterbrunnen Valley was truly spectacular. We were able to enjoy this phenomenal scenery on the way up.

    However, the ride down was not so pleasant or scenic. There were so many people crammed into the space that it was difficult to count them. In addition to the people, there were baby strollers, bicycles, and a couple of large dogs making for a very uncomfortable journey and an inability to see much of the scenery. Just when we thought the gondola was crowded, at the next stop more people were allowed to cram in. We began looking for Weight Limits!

    The ride up to Schilthorn took only about 40 minutes, even
    with the three changes of cable cars required to reach the top. We were glad that we made the trip. What initially seemed liked less than perfect weather turned out to produce some very interesting mountain scenes. We arrived at the Schilthorn summit about 11:30 and returned to Steckelberg around 4:30. We’ll remember, especially, the beauty of the dramatic cable car ride on the ascent! Overall, a terrific experience!

    Following our descent from the Schilthorn, and retrieval of our car, we said “Farewell” to Lauterbrunnen as we made our last drive through the Lautenbrunnen Valley. After shooting a few final pics of the town, we proceeded onward to Grindelwald, which is only about a 10-mile drive.

    As we turned on to the main road leading into Grindelwald, we experienced a lot of road construction. Gilda was ON and led us right to our Hotel Gletschergarten, which was a few miles down the valley road. We became interested in this hotel after reading a 2003 TR from Maitaitom, and were pleased that we were able to secure a reservation. And we felt glad that we had read that TR!

    Approaching the area of the hotel, we were immediately wowed with the smack-dab views of the majestic snow-capped peaks of Eiger, Monch, and Jungfrau. We immediately knew why Tom & Tracy liked this place! The outside of the hotel was bedecked with colorful flowerboxes making it feel so welcoming. Before checking in, we spent some time taking in the powerful scenery, which was so “up close and personal”.

    Check in went easily. The owner Gabriella showed us to our room, which was on a corner facing the impactful view. She also gave us a tour of their dining rooms, which seemed to be updated, and reflected the value they placed on their cuisine. She invited us to have dinner in their restaurant. When we asked about sharing a meal, Gabriella explained that their method is to serve smaller portions of meals, so we agreed to that.

    After our exhilarating day at Piz Gloria, we were happy to settle in at Hotel Gletschergarten which is nestled in such gorgeous surroundings. The room balcony was beckoning us. Our evening “happy hour wine” was so much better as we enjoyed that dynamite view from our sun-filled balcony!

    Dinner was anytime between 7 and 8. Since we were probably some of the last dinner guests to reserve, our table was in the back section of their restaurant. The dinner, served attentively by a professionally-dressed waitstaff, was delicious, and a level above other restaurant experiences we'd had. The meal included a mushroom appetizer, salad, entrée of pork roast, dessert of prunes (plums) and tira misu. We enjoyed it not only because of the ambience and menu, but because it afforded us a relaxing evening after our very full day.

    This was our last full day in the Alps. Reflecting on all of our outstanding experiences, we knew that we’ll have them stored in our memories forever!

    Tomorrow. . .off for Montreux!

  • Report Abuse

    Cool. Glad you liked Hotel G (as we called it). I remember it was family run. The older guy was Finn (who I think was in the Olympics…maybe?) and that's how he met his wife somehow. I forget the story. I assume Finn is gone as he was no spring chicken when we visited. Looking forward to Montreux. Did you visit one of my favorite castles while there??

    ((H))

  • Report Abuse

    So glad you are continuing your TR. I like all the detail.
    We are 'saving' Switzerland (and all these TR's) for when we are a bit more flush with funds, ....Dolomites next year hopefully, so a cheaper mountain experience as still travelling with kids.

  • Report Abuse

    Maitaitom, we never saw a "Finn" at Hotel G (much easier name!). Gabriella and her husband seemed to run the show.

    We really liked staying in Lauterbrunnen; however, knowing that our days in the Alps were coming to a close, we enjoyed Grindelwald as a memorable farewell. We left with a checklist of things to do on a return visit!

  • Report Abuse

    FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 12, 2014 DRIVE TO MONTREUX

    Up at 7:30; looked dark and cloudy as it had rained overnight. But, happily, the sun came around rather quickly and brightened the glacier and the mountain peaks. We took multiple pictures, given our gorgeous balcony view, on 3 cameras: cell phone, Canon, and Surface.

    About 8:15, we entered the front sunroom for breakfast, just before a number of people trickled down by about 8:30. Afterward, we returned to our room to take final advantage of the balcony before beginning to pack.

    About 10:30, we knew the time had come! At check-out, Gabriella gave MK a package of floral-print dinner napkins, with a Hotel Gletchergarten sticker on the outside. (Nice memento. . . and good advertising!) We were curious about the hundreds of geraniums in the window boxes, and Gerhard, the owner, confirmed what we thought: that they had to be replaced each season.

    Before leaving Grindelwald, we walked around for a bit, visiting the Catholic Kirke across the street. What a view they had! We stalled for a while. Leaving Hotel Gletschergarten was made more difficult because we would be leaving the Alps. We knew that we had gotten only a taste of the area, and would surely add it to our list of places for a repeat visit. Our visit to Grindelwald was short, but fulfilled what we had hoped. And we were sure that the meal would be surpassed only with our Parisian meal with Maitaitom and Tracy!

    We couldn’t delay any longer. . .it was time to head toward Montreux. Why Montreux? The decision went back a few months during our planning. Leaving the Berner Oberland, and working our way back to Munich, our goal was to visit a couple of new or interesting places en route.

    We had read that Montreux was known as the “Pearl of the Swiss Riviera”, a beautiful resort on the shores of Lake Geneva. Yes, it was a few hours out of our way toward Munich, but with highway travel, that didn’t seem like much to us.

    We were interested in this French-speaking area of Switzerland. We looked forward to the mild climate where palm trees and tropical flowers lined a lakeside promenade. We knew that we would only get a taste of Montreux, but we thought it would whet our appetites for a return visit when future travel might take us to places close to this area.

    Our drive out of Grindelwald went rather smoothly, with just two delays. One was on the highway toward Interlaken where some cows decided to relax in the middle of the road! Wouldn’t you know that some insensitive guy disturbed them, rounded them up, and cleared the highway! The other holdup was on the road past Thun where there appeared to be a fairly serious accident in the speed lane. (Somehow Gilda knew there was a 15-minute delay).

    Along the way, we stopped for gas since this was a Friday, and on the weekends it is very difficult to find “attended” gas stations; given that we did not have “chip and pin” credit cards, which are pretty much the norm in Europe. Gas was priced at 1.78 CHF per liter; multiplied times 4 which amounts to near 8 USD per gallon…Wow!

    The drive to Montreux was fairly easy. . .all highway. The roads were in good condition and signage was good. We
    skirted around the capitol of Bern, passed by Fribourg, and enjoyed miles of mostly gentle rolling countryside with a few little towns and industrial complexes. “Auf Weidersehen” et “Bienvenue”! We began to notice more road signs in French! We hadn’t realized that we would be in the vicinity of Lavaux, a famous wine-producing area.

    Arriving in Montreux about 2:45, Gilda led us directly to the front of the EUROTEL, our lodging for the evening. We chose this hotel because it is located on the lake, with ability to walk to the Old Town on an upper level, and was within our price range. It also had its own parking garage underneath the hotel. One unusual experience here was that in order to check in, it was necessary to pay the meters for public parking on the street in front of the hotel, which we discovered was well-monitored. No usual 15-minute check-in privilege!

    In booking our reservation, we did indicate that we were having a belated Anniversary Celebration. After check in, we went to our assigned room and discovered that we must have one of the best rooms in the Eurotel. The hotel’s design is a triangular-shape with one point toward the lakeside. Our room was on the 11th floor; the center section. The balcony, together with expansive windows in the room, gave an 180’ view. The interior was well-appointed, but it was the outstanding view overlooking Lake Geneva that made the room so special, and probably our favorite of the trip. We relaxed for a short while on our deck, overwhelmed by the view of the lake and the background mountains. Oh! And did we mention that it was a glorious day? Blue skies, brilliant sun. . .which made the lake so glittering!

    Time for lunch at the SAFFRON TERRASSE RESTAURANT which is on the outdoor patio of the Eurotel overlooking the lake. A “swiss hamburger” with fries and drinks for about 28 CHF! We strolled the lakeside promenade, lined with palm and cypress trees, other varieties of tropical foliage, and colorful flowers. The boat harbor is only a five-minute walk from the hotel. We had wanted to catch a boat ride over to Chillon Castle. But when learning the wait time for the next scheduled departure, the time on the boat, along with adequate time to do justice to the visit, we decided that we would save Chillon for a future visit.

    We were quite content to have a day to “chill out”. After strolling the lakeside for quite a while, we stopped at a café for a little happy hour break. We walked over to the main street of the Lower Town, lined with many shops and restaurants, doing only window shopping. Noticing a little boulangerie, we couldn’t pass up those French croissants which would be perfect for tomorrow morning’s petit dejeuner!

    From the Lower Town, there are 60+ steps climbing up to the Old City. How convenient that next to the imposing concrete stairs was an escalator! At the top, and across the street, is the Train Station. In the vicinity, there were several nice hotels, including The Grand Swiss Hotel. We walked out onto their hotel terrace, which had tables set-up, but surprisingly, no one was out there. The view of the lake from this higher vantage point was expansive.

    Having had a late lunch, we didn’t feel like having dinner as yet. So, passing another little café with a carry-out counter, we purchased a baguette sandwich of roast beef and cheese. We wandered the Old City a while longer, taking in its interesting architecture. We decided that it was time to return to our hotel room's "window" seat, and have our baguettes while enjoying the setting sun. Our balcony was a perfect vantage point. What a view and what a room!

    Another great day in paradise…they just don’t quit!


    SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 13, 2014

    MORNING-MONTREUX
    THEN. . .ONWARD TO LUCERNE

    Up at 7:30. The day welcomed us with the sunny view of Lake Geneva. With our delicious French croissants, and Starbucks coffee, we savored our petit dejeuner on our balcony as we enjoyed the expansive lake view.

    Regarding that Starbucks. . . when we travel, we sometimes find that a hotel or B & B room will have a pot for heating water, and provide only tea. We are not tea drinkers! So, as a bail-out, we bring our own Starbucks packets along. They’re the STARBUCKS VIA READY BREW. Normally, we do not like instant coffee, but these are good substitutes for the real brewed stuff.

    After finishing those delicious croissants, we couldn’t resist a last walk on the outstanding lakeside promenade, sharing it with a few joggers and bicyclists. Being Saturday morning, it was fairly quiet. The lake was very calm. The promenade passes some other very nice hotels, including the Fairmont, which is a neighbor to the Eurotel.

    We are mountain-lovers, but we also really enjoy being by water. We always say that when we’re in the mountains, we think they’re our favorites; but when by the ocean or by a beautiful lake, a water location is our favorite. And we like cities. We enjoy them all!

    We knew the time was getting near for our check-out, so we had to end our promenade enjoyment. Our short visit to Montreux placed it high on our list for a several-day return. It is fairly convenient to reach from some other locations which we would like to visit, and there are a number of things to enjoy in and around Montreux.

    Check out was efficient; our car was easy to retrieve from the garage below. Within minutes, we were on our way to Lucerne. Gilda directed us fairly well. We were mostly on highways like A9 to A1 to A2 past Vevey, Freiborg, Bern and, after a couple of hours, we arrived in Lucerne.

    Why visit Lucerne? We had been to this charming town on two occasions, and thought it would be a memorable last stop before our return to Freising. We remembered Lucerne as a city of beauty, culture, and having the charm of a medieval city. The covered Chapel Bridge lined with flower boxes, the mirror-like lake, and the rushing Reuss River with many restaurants lining its sides were all reasons to make a stop there. After leaving Lucerne, we would be making the last leg of our drive on a Sunday, so we weren’t concerned about having a four-hour drive to the Munich area, as we wouldn’t be encountering work traffic.

    Entering Lucerne, Gilda was unable to guide us to our HOTEL ZUM WEISS KREUZ because, as we suspected, the hotel is on a small side street that is off the walking street along the River Reuss. The hotel website was not helpful regarding a parking location. We knew that it was within the vicinity of the Bahn; that we might need to park there and walk to our hotel. Fortunately, we had packed our little roll-aboards with just the basics for one night. After circling around the area for a time or two, we decided to park in the Bahn Station Garage (2 CHF per hour fee!). A local girl helped us confirm the hidden location of our hotel.

    The weather in Lucerne was perfect. . .sunny, warm, brilliant blue skies. We walked across the bridge, happy that we had only very small items of luggage. We paused for a few minutes to take in the river view and the surrounding city. Then onward to our hotel. After crossing the remainder of the bridge, we turned left, walked past the Chapel Bridge, and were happy to find that our hotel was only a few steps up the hill from the walking street.

    The Hotel Zum Weiss Kruez is small and adequately-furnished. Check in was smooth. For us, staying only one night, and wanting to enjoy the hub of Lucerne, the location right off the walking promenade along the River Reuss was perfect. To say that our room had a view is stretching it, but we could see the river through a space in between two other buildings. That was better than staring at a brick wall.

    There were literally thousands of people in this city! The walking street along the river has quite a few outdoor cafes, but all were very crowded. After strolling down the main part of the walk, and then up again, we finally found seats at a little Italian place, and ordered drinks and a pizza. Because of the crowds, we assumed that the pizza might be slow in coming.

    We were at a table for four, and the other two couples, who subsequently occupied the seats next to us, were having only drinks. The first couple who joined the table lived only a few miles away. We had some pleasant conversation with them about life in Switzerland. They thought that the town was extra crowded because of the beautiful week-end weather. After finishing their drinks, they moved on. Then another couple from Fribourg joined us and wished us “Bon Appetit” when our pizza was served. We had a good conversation with them, also.

    We meandered over to the boat docks, and found that, using our Swiss Passes, we could catch a lake cruise on one of their newer boats. We had just enough time for cappuccinos at a near-by outdoor café by Pier 3. We boarded at 6 PM, and taking advantage of their free audio guide, enjoyed a relaxing journey, our 3rd boat excursion of the trip. It was interesting to see the villas and castles on the surrounding hills. We enjoyed viewing Mt Pilatus from a distance, since we had taken the impressive cog railway trip to the summit on a former trip. The surroundings around Lake Lucerne are beautiful!

    The boat trip ended just as the sun was getting low in the sky. We walked along the lake for a few minutes, and then made our way up to the cathedral, which was now well-lit. In the area of the cathedral, we were happy to find a quaint, little restaurant, CAFÉ CORSO, where we had drinks, and shared a mixed salad and delicious tortellini;(36.70 CHF). The owner was nice enough to allow us to pay with our remaining Swiss coins as we would be leaving Switzerland in the morning.

    Following our meal, we did some window shopping as we walked back to our hotel. How many stores can sell the same multiple brands of Swiss watches: Rolex, Tissot, etc. mostly in the range of 500 to 1000 CHF??? We passed some beautiful hotels. By now, though, we’re spent and TK feared he may be catching a virus…Oh, oh! Sore throat. We had packed only what we thought was the necessary stuff for a one-night stay. We had been traveling around for almost a month with a small REI nylon bag which we labeled our “OTC” (Over the Counter) bag, never needing it. Tonight, TK could have used some cold tabs! Unfortunately, the bag was in the car! It was Saturday night. . .no farmacie open!

    As we turned in for the night, we realized that the following day we would have only the morning to enjoy Lucerne. Then we would need to be goal-oriented to reach Freising, near Munich, for the night. In Freising, we would re-organize our luggage, and have our last overnight stay before our flight to Paris. We were excited about our last three nights in our favorite city!

  • Report Abuse

    Hi,

    Still along and remembering our stay in Lucerne many years ago. I forget the name of the hotel we stayed at, but there were no views of the lake, I do remember that. We spent a wonderful half day on a lake cruise there. I also enjoyed the Transportation Museum during our stay.

  • Report Abuse

    Paul, Lucerne is a beautiful city, isn't it? We never have visited the Transportation Museum; something to put on our list if/when we re-visit. This trip, Lucerne was kind of our "Last Hurrah" stop before our return to Munich to catch our flight to Paris. We'll try to post more soon.


    PalenQ, thanks for the great information you provided during the planning stages of our trip, especially regarding the Jungfrau. We did have wonderful experiences in so many gorgeous places.

  • Report Abuse

    Yes, Lucerne is beautiful. We stayed 2 nights and had good weather during our stay. Our Swiss trip took us from our first night in Liechtenstein (Triesenberg), 2 nights St. Moritz, 2 in Zermatt, 4 in Wengen and 2 in Lucerne and to the airport.

  • Report Abuse

    SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 2014

    TRAVEL DAY TO FREISING
    LAST NIGHT BEFORE FLIGHT TO PARIS

    Up about 7:20; room is small but adequate. TK has a cold. . . cough; voice is unrecognizable. Fruhstuck in the hotel restaurant…typical: cold cuts, cheeses, croissants and coffee…not exciting but substantial. TK had a couple croissants and a soft-boiled egg.

    It’s Sunday. . .and as we walked out of our hotel, we were treated to a beautiful chorus of bells coming from the city’s several churches. We walked around and took pictures, as our hotel is where-the-action is. We strolled the unique Chapel Bridge which crosses the rushing River Reuss; one view that is characteristic of Lucerne. Tucked in an alcove of the Chapel Bridge was a little shop selling, among other things, watches. MK spotted a Swiss watch (120 CHF) which she liked as a “souvenir” of our trip. . . rather than TK’s preference for t-shirts from favorite places.

    After checking out of the hotel, we said our final farewell to the Lucerne city center as we pulled our small roll-aboards along the cobblestone streets, across the bridge, and headed back for the Bahnhof. We were glad that we didn’t have larger luggage!

    On to the garage to pick up our Opel. (Parking cost was 44 CHF for the 22 hours…our costliest parking of the trip.) Apparently, we could have gotten a break on parking had we known ahead which lots would have been cheaper. Oh well. . .live and learn! Now that we had access to our luggage, we were able to get out some cold tabs for TK.

    A little past noon, we found our way out of Lucerne and headed in the direction of Zug. To connect with the N3, we drove for a short while on a minor highway, passing some small towns. We elected to go this route thinking that we’d stop for lunch in Liechtenstein. A benefit of this route was the gorgeous mountain scenery. . . “the Alps” would be visible in the distance.

    We planned for a longer distance on this last driving day. We wanted to arrive in Freising, near Munich, at our Marriott Airport Hotel by about 6:30 or so. The whole of Switzerland isn’t a lot to drive. It’s only about 140 miles from north to south, and 215 miles east to west. We’d probably covered more miles during the last couple of days than for the remainder of our time, as most of it was mountain driving.

    It was taking longer than we thought to reach Vaduz, Liechenstein, so we made a lunch stop at a MARCHE’, which was a very nicely done, large self-service cafeteria. It included several centers featuring different kinds of food, with employees behind each to serve what you ordered. To save time, we each got made-to-order sandwiches. With the brief lunch break, we were again on our way on the scenic highway. . .the Alps still visible in the distance.

    The Marche’ proved to be a good lunch stop as we discovered that the restaurants and cafes on the main road through Liechenstein were closed on Sunday. We did find an open service station for a fill-up and a purchase of an Austrian vignette (about 12 EUR for 10 days). We knew that it was possible to drive to Germany without crossing a bit of Austria, but, at this point, we were more concerned about the easiest and quickest route.

    A later stop at a McDonalds proved to be a good move. It was very convenient to pull right off the highway into a place which had clean, free restrooms, low prices, and the largest McCafe we had encountered. An additional benefit was the selection of freshly-baked muffins, specially-priced with the purchase of a drink, which we thought would be perfect for tomorrow’s breakfast.

    We had gradually moved out of the view of mountains and were driving in flatter terrain, which reminded us of certain areas of the US Midwest. We passed the time discussing how the detailed plans for our extended trip had worked so well.

    We really liked our itinerary. . .starting out in Berchtesgaten, then on to Salzburg and the Austrian Alps, the Dolomites in Italy, the Engadine and Locarno, Brig to Zermatt, and the Jungfrau. We really enjoyed the short stays in Montreux and Lucerne. We liked the routes we took, and all the hotels we booked. All in all, the time spent planning was rewarded.

    As we approached the outskirts of Munich, the skies became darker, and within a short amount of time, it began to rain. The drizzle soon developed into a fairly heavy downpour. Had this been a weekday, with business traffic, driving the expressways around Munich and into Freising could have been a hassle. As it was, we experienced no traffic issues and were just eager to get settled for our last evening.

    Having had such wonderful experiences in the Alps, we were now really excited about ending our trip in our favorite city, Paris! Gilda easily led us to our hotel. We were looking forward to having a meal and re-arranging our luggage for Paris. We anticipated getting a getting a good night’s sleep, especially TK, as he had almost completely lost his voice.

    Arriving at the Marriott in Freising, MK went immediately to the lobby to do hotel check-in. TK parked the car. Then we would meet and do our airline check-in. Paris. . .here we come!!!

    But. . . . to quote Robert Burns, “The best laid schemes of mice an’ men oft(en) go awry!” Our plans for the evening were abruptly changed as we attempted to check in for our AIR FRANCE Munich-Paris flight. FLIGHT CANCELLED!!! Words cannot describe our disappointment! This was to be the last European leg of our wonderful trip. Our flight home was out of Paris. But how would we get to Paris??? And what other plans would be affected?

    We won’t belabor the efforts/anxieties of the next couple of hours of futile attempts to contact Air France. We later learned that many Air France passengers had their flights cancelled and were dealing with the same frustrations. Hours of phone calls, hearing only recorded messages, and finally, no answer!

    The staff at the Marriott front desk was most helpful in dialing Air France. After the AF phone lines went dead, one receptionist called the Information Desk at the Airport, only to confirm that both the Delta and Air France ticket counters were closed. They suggested that our best (and only) option was to get to the airport in the morning.

    So our dilemma. . .what to do??? Not to offend anyone in the in the little town of Freising, or even the city of Munich, but we dreaded being stuck there for three days. Quite a disappointment after looking forward to Paris! And then, we would have to find a flight home from Munich!

    An unanticipated dilemma, for sure! By this time, we needed some sustenance, and headed to the hotel restaurant where we had a pasta carbonara meal, which, thankfully, was very tasty. And the waiter was very friendly.

    During the meal, we discussed alternatives to solving our flight predicament. The thought of having to take a train, especially in view of schlepping our luggage, was distressing. From Freising, we would have to change trains. We even considered renting a car, but Munich to Paris seemed like a long drive. And renting a car in Germany to drop in France would incur a drop-off charge. Not to mention that we would probably be footing the bill for train travel or a car rental. No good options at this point.

    After much discussion we decided that since we couldn’t do anything about our problem at that point, our best plan was to pack for our last few days, go to bed “hopeful”, get a good night’s rest, and go to the airport in the morning. Rest was especially important for TK whose cold seemed to be worsening!



    MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 15


    WILL WE MAKE IT TO PARIS???


    All this anxiety and confusion over the flight cancellation moved us to get up early, complete our morning rituals, finish last-minute packing, and have our McDonald’s muffins and Marriott coffee in the room.

    As if we didn’t have enough stress, when we were about to check out, we couldn’t find our Marriott Visa Card. After searching through our things, we decided that to alleviate our worries, we’d call Chase Visa and report the situation, just to be on the safe side. (Although we were fairly certain that it was someplace in our possession.) That call proved to be time-consuming, as we were put on hold. But cancelling that credit card was one less thing we had to worry about.

    We thought that, perhaps, our best hope for getting a flight to Paris was to approach the airport staff at Delta, since we were ticketed through them. So, we loaded the car, and off we went to fill up the Opel for the last time and head for the Rental Car Return at the Munich Airport. From there, we prepared to go to the Delta Ticket Desk to “beg” for assistance.

    As others have cautioned, Eurocar went over the car very thoroughly, inside and out, top to bottom, including the roof and spare tire compartments, checking for scratches, etc. and generated a form stating that the car was in good condition. They offered that we could just leave, instead of waiting for the inspection report to be printed. But learning from other travelers about their surprise charges for “damages” which arrived after they had returned home, and having experienced it ourselves from Hertz in New Zealand, we decided to wait. But time to secure a flight was a-wasting!

    So. . .we set off with all of our luggage in tow. Our aim was to find the Delta Ticket Desk to plead our case and hope to be ticketed to Paris on another carrier. We joked to the Delta agent that we were willing to ride in Cargo just “Please get us to Paris!”

    The Delta agent said that even though we were ticketed through them, the Munich-Paris segment was with Air France and we would have to deal with them. When we requested it, though, she phoned down to Air France and directed us to go to their ticket desk. Fortunately, we had asked her the name of the Air France rep. “Valentino will help you”, she said.

    The walk to the Air France desk wasn’t exactly “just around the corner” as described. But after a much longer walk to another terminal, schlepping our luggage, we were happy that Valentino responded promptly, saying that we were re-booked on Lufthansa. He took our passports and told us to come with him. But he took off like a flash, and towing all of our luggage, we couldn’t keep up. Good thing we had gotten his name, as future developments would indicate.

    Walking to the Lufthansa desk, a far distance from Air France, proved to be long and confusing; going through several terminals. Upon asking a man in an information office, he said that he and a female employee were heading to the Lufthansa terminal, and that we could accompany them. He even pushed MK’s heavy luggage pieces! The female Lufthansa employee wore shoes with low heels, and when MK asked her about their comfort while walking these long terminals, she shook her head and whinced.

    We were finally at Lufthansa! But no Valentino! The good news was that he had booked us, and the reservation showed up so that the Lufthansa employee could issue us boarding passes. The bad news. . .our passports!!! Lufthansa didn’t have them. Where was Valentino??? The two Lufthansa agents tried desperately to help. They asked around to their employees. . .made phone calls. Even had Valentino paged in the airport! He did call in to them. We were invited to sit down and wait until he returned. After a few more minutes, Valentino arrived-passports in hand! Whew! A relief! He was very apologetic about the mix-up. Now we could check our luggage, go through security, and sit down for a panini & beer lunch at Gate 40; near our Gate 38.
    A feeling of success!

    Boarding Lufthansa was quite an experience. A long walk down many steps, plus a bus ride all around the back of the large airport. . .more steps.. .and finally, very cramped seats in the last rows. Our joke to the Delta agent about riding in cargo wasn’t too far from the reality! We, no doubt, got the last two seats on the flight.

    When TK was situated in his last row, ultra-cramped window seat, after having to crawl over two passengers, he realized that he did not have his camera on his belt. He was unable to move, given that the overhead bins were filled, and his heavy carry-on and his back pack were squished in the area with him. Now we had “lost camera stress”! TK had no voice! Feeling horrible! MK talked to one airline attendant and asked that if anyone turned in a camera, it was ours.. . .all of our beautiful vacation memories!

    The couple seated next to MK, who was in the row in front of TK, were conversing in German. At one point, the guy, whom we would learn was “Chris”, turned to MK and said that they were announcing about our camera. He thought that we might not understand the announcement, which was in German. And he was right. He expressed his hope that we’d find it saying, his Mom always said: “No house ever lost anything” and hence, “No airplane has lost anything. It would be someplace!" As passengers were standing up, ready to de-board, Tom could get up from his pretzel position, and... WONDERFUL DISCOVERY, the camera was lodged behind his seat, which was in the very last row. The belt-clip of the case had apparently ripped off as he got into the seat. Another stress solved!

    We had made it to Paris!!! We felt so relieved to be there! Having conquered our travel dilemma, we decided that we would re-group, and just enjoy our days in Paris. We would trust that our Delta non-stop flight home would be OK.

    We walked down the long hall to the taxi queue, and very quickly, were on our way to the Paris City Centre. Our taxi driver was an attractively-dressed, young woman driver, who was excellent. She described how she liked having her own cab in order to keep it clean. “Men don’t keep their cabs clean,” she said . We learned that she was from Morroco. She described a bit about her hometown. . .200 miles from Marakesh. No jobs there. . .so she can’t move back. But her mother is there and she tries to visit twice a year. She easily found our hotel. Cost for the taxi: (56 EUR on CC; 5 EUR cash tip)

    It was an easy check-in at Hotel Le Regent, on Rue Dauphine, where we had stayed during our Christmas holiday visit in 2011. The hotel is very small, but ideally-located, within a few blocks of the Seine. There are many restaurants nearby, and it is within walking distance of many favorite sights. We were given one of their newly-redecorated rooms.

    For dinner, we headed to nearby L’Atlas, a fave of ours during our 2011 visit. Steak Frites for TK; Beef Bourginon with a Bordeaux for MK. Tom wasn’t feeling in the mood for their wonderful moules.

    We took an evening stroll up Rue Dauphine to the Seine. We had wanted to do an evening boat cruise, but, instead, decided to head back to the hotel early because TK was feeling pretty rotten. He needed rest. And so did MK.

    Suffice it to say, this had been a very stressful and tiring day, requiring us to use our resources to solve a serious travel dilemma. In fact, it had been our most stressful day of the trip! But, we felt grateful to be in Paris, given the cancellation of our Air France flight from Munich to Paris, and the ensuing saga of getting our flight re-booked on Lufthansa. Additionally, we had the stress over the misplaced/lost credit card. And later, the worry over the "lost" camera, with all of our vacation memories, which, thankfully, had a happy ending.

    Until we began prepping for bed, neither of us realized how exhausted we were. But just being in Paris, after all the hurdles of the day, was a tremendous relief!

    BON NUIT!

  • Report Abuse

    Wow, what an ordeal!
    Question I have is, what time did you arrive in Freising? How long do you think it would have been non stop Lucerne to Freising?

    Ok, after we arrived in Zurich and on the drive to Liechtenstein, we also stopped at a cafeteria style place! I truly have no idea where agtEr so much time, but remember it clearly. Seemed like a cafeteria that catered to office complex workers or something.

    Paul

  • Report Abuse

    Hi YandyGal the stress caused by that Air France strike was way more than we experienced over our whole trip. . .and then some. As we expressed, we were so, so happy to reach Paris! Better days ahead! Thanks for following along.

  • Report Abuse

    Hi Paul,

    We arrived in Freising about 6:45ish, pretty much what we had planned. Since it was Sunday, we thought the estimate would be pretty accurate. Up until that point, all was great.

    In planning our itineraries, we've found that plugging in the search of "driving distances between cities" gives several sites, and a fairly accurate account of time, excluding stops. We always plug in a little extra time for meals, coffee, etc. Lucerne to Freising is almost all highway driving, until you reach the little city, so it moves.

    That Marche' may have been the same one. We don't remember offices around there. It seemed like mostly travelers.

  • Report Abuse

    No offices, it just seemed like one that would be in an office complex to me for some reason. Funny, when we puled in, we had no idea that it was a "cafeteria" type place. We were very tired (I had a cold from the flight over), very hungry and just wanted something.

  • Report Abuse

    Glad you got the Lufthansa flight and your passports back!! I know your pain with the lost camera and I still haven't learned my lesson about downloading pictures to flickr periodically throughout my trips!!

    There are always some stresses on trips aren't there??

  • Report Abuse

    Denisea, so glad to hear from you! Yes, trips usually have some small or not-so-small stresses. The weird thing about this trip was that all of our planned 27-day travel in the mountains had worked out so well; only minor glitches. . .until that Air France frustration in Munich. And when it rains, it pours. But, all's well that ends well. We did enjoy our short stop-off in Paris, albeit in a different manner since Tom was not feeling up to par. We really had a fun dinner with Maitaitom and Tracy, a great finale!

    Have enjoyed your TR from Paris. Hope you new job is working out well for you. The trip to the AC sounds wonderful! We'll keep posted regarding your plans.

  • Report Abuse

    Some nightmare moments for you :(

    We haven't had too many travel dramas, so far, although we were 'bumped' from our overbooked return flight 18 months ago. As stressed as I was at the time, I think how much worse it would have been had it been the inward flight. All those carefully made plans....

    Have only just started doing a daily download of photos onto the tablet for fear of a lost/ broken camera. A friend returned home to find her memory card corrupted and could not retrieve any photos from entire trip.

  • Report Abuse

    Adelaidean, going forward, we'll be sure to do periodic back-ups!!!

    If it been our return flight home from Paris that had been cancelled, we would have enjoyed the extra days. But being stuck in Freising,Germany presented an array of other problems.

  • Report Abuse

    TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 16, 2014

    HAPPY TO BE IN PARIS!!!
    Great to awaken in Paris: 7:45. Even though TK had cold symptoms and limited voice, and MK also was not feeling her best, we were both so happy to be in Paris! Breakfast was included in our room rate, and as we made our way downstairs to their small restaurant, we were thrilled to see the sunny skies which promised to be another gorgeous day.

    The petit dejeuner included those delicious LE BUCI croissants from the cafe across the street, served with the little table niceties that characterize the French. Afterward, we stopped at the pharmacie two doors down from Hotel Le Regent and got a supply of anti-cold meds. At this point, TK was feeling very de-energized; dragging! But we’re in Paris! Our thoughts were: “What is best way to get around consuming the least amount of energy?”

    Earlier,in our planning stages, the focus was on plotting all of our travels in the Alps. We weren’t sure what we would do in Paris. We just felt that being able to spend a couple of days in our fave city, en route home, would be a bonus. Ideas we thought about were checking out a few of the restaurants that we’ve had on our list, purchasing a two-day museum pass, or taking the Metro to re-visit the Marmottan Museum. And there was St. Chapelle, always beautiful. Or, maybe, we’d just “go with the flow”, imbibe the atmosphere of the city, enjoy the sights, stop at the cafes and boulangeries.

    Actually being in Paris, dealing with the reality of things, with TK in low-energy mode, we decided that the metro was not a good idea. A Hop-On, Hop-Off bus day might be our best option as TK did not feel up to going museum-hopping. L’Open Tour 2-decker bus would do fine under the circumstances.

    We bought the 2-day package that included a boat ride on the Seine. That day we weren’t weighing costs, just ease. We caught the bus just a few blocks from our hotel. Just as the name of the bus implied, we hopped off and on at certain favorite places,"as the spirit moved us”. We enjoyed a bit of time on the Champs Elysses, the Trocadero area, Eiffel Tower, and other famous sites. The view at each site was enhanced by the beautiful weather.

    For lunch, we chose to re-visit a restaurant located on Place de la Madeleine, LE COLBERT BAR BRASSERIE, diagonally across from the Madeleine. The building was surrounded by brilliant flowers. A few years ago, while staying near the Marais, we would ride a few stops on the Metro and walk there for breakfast. What else to have for lunch but TK’s fave lunch: CROQUE MADAME? MK also had vin rouge, and both of us had a cappuccino. We were happy to be seated at an outside table.

    The fresh outside atmosphere was polluted some by one of the young women sitting next to us held her cigarette so that the smoke came directly into MK’s face. After enduring for a few minutes, MK politely indicated the issue, and the girl apologized and immediately extinguished the cigarette. A few minutes later, as she and her friend were talking away, she lit another cigarette and the same thing repeated. A bit of discomfort on this gorgeous, sunny day with a straight-on view of the Madeleine.

    The whole area around the Madeleine is great for walking, window shopping and people-watching. After lunch, we took in some of the sights and shops on Rue Royale and surrounding streets. Lots of attractive fashions, jewelry, and patisseries on which to feast our eyes.

    We re-boarded the bus with the aim of eventually visiting Notre Dame. En route, the Opera Garnier is always an impressive sight. And the Louvre courtyard was interesting, as was the area around the Arc du Carrousel. Though we have visited Notre Dame on each of our eight previous Paris trips, it seems that we always spend more time than planned. After enjoying the inside, the beautiful day made sitting in the front plaza very delightful.

    Our next little venture was a trip on the Batobus which boarded nearby. This was the boat trip included with our bus ticket. When in Paris, we usually do a boat tour, especially enjoying the evening trips. It’s the views all around the city from a different vantage point, enhanced by the lightning, which makes for a very nice experience. But it was now broad daylight, and this Batobus stops at various points, which makes it somewhat less desireable. But it’s a great sunny day, so what’s not to enjoy?

    We got off near Pont Neuf, in the vicinity of our hotel. After checking out some of the outdoor “bouquiniste” stalls along the river, we picked up a few mementos for friends. Oh yes, we also stopped at a little shop where TK found a cool t-shirt and a souvenir “chef’s hat” for our brother in California. The day must have agreed with TK, as his energy levels picked up as the day wore on.

    We freshened up for the evening meal and got a great recommendation from the girl at the desk of Hotel Le Regent, VINS ET TERROIRS. She called ahead for a reservation. This little restaurant couldn’t have been any more convenient, being a minute or two away, a quick left turn onto Rue Andre des Arts. With the warm evening, the restaurant had its front wall-to-wall glass doors wide open. Our table was just inside the edge of the restaurant. At this point in our trip, our detailed notes were more sketchy. We remember that we had mignon de porc, an accompanying vin, capped off with a cheesecake dessert and cappuccinos. We don’t recall the exact preparation; just that the food was delicious and reasonably-priced, the staff was friendly and attentive, and the atmosphere felt typically-French. Our table was great for people-watching!

    After that delightful dinner, we walked across the street and through an alley, overwhelmed with the great number of outdoor eateries, filled with diners. This was a Tuesday evening. It seemed that the Parisians may have been expressing their excitement at finally getting summer weather! The alley ended at Boulevard St Germaine. We took our time as we walked around the area, taking in all the activity, before heading back to Hotel Regent. So many hundreds of people eating outdoors at so many restaurants; with street musicians providing entertainment, made for an invigorating atmosphere!

    Upon returning to our hotel, the desk attendant, Elias, told us of the rainy, cold August in Paris. He said that he was able to use some vacation time to visit Spain, around Valencia, and the southern coast of France where the weather was very hot (40 C). He also told us that 80 percent of visitors in the area around St Germaine were from the UK or US. A great place for convenience and ability to walk to such sites as Notre Dame, the Louvre, the Seine, you-name-it. We agreed; that’s our reason for liking it!

    It seemed that we had just arrived in Paris, when we had to think about our departure. We were scheduled to fly home Thursday morning on Delta, thankfully. Elias said that he would arrange for a 6 AM taxi pick-up. After that practical matter was settled, it was time to turn in.

    In spite of our unplanned, play-it-by-ear approach, our day in Paris turned out to be very enjoyable. Sun and blue skies was great for taking advantage of the outdoors. Given the incredible weather, being in museums probably might not have been our preference.

    Tomorrow would be the last day of our short stay in Paris. We looked forward to our special finale dinner meeting Maitaitom and Tracy!


    A little advance packing. Then . . .Bon Nuit!



    SEPTEMBER 17, 2014 WEDNESDAY FINAL FULL DAY
    IN PARIS


    Up at 7:30 or so for our last full day in Paris before we had to head home. We again had breakfast in the tiny hotel breakfast room. Before heading out for the day, we wanted to take care of check-in for our DL229 flight tomorrow, leaving CDG at 10:40 AM.

    A lady whom we met in the hotel lobby indicated that her flight to Dulles on Air France was cancelled. She was off to wait in line at the local Air France office near Luxemburg Gardens. We later saw her in the long line at the Air France office as we were enjoying the top deck of the Open-air bus. What a coincidence! We could really empathsize with her situation. She seemed resigned to spending another day in Paris.

    The phenomenal weather made traveling on the top deck of a bus feel pretty delightful. We took the route going to Luxembourg Gardens, which had many visitors. Then it was on up to Montparnasse. Lots to see around that area. We decided to have lunch at CAFÉ DEUX MAGAUX on BSG. Though it is a popular place for tourists, we recalled our delicious lunch there over Christmas week in 2011, when, of course, we ate inside. Had their delicious macarons! This trip, because of the great weather, the sidewalk area seemed most inviting.

    After lunch, we enjoyed a stroll around the shops on BSG. We stopped in St. Germaine des Pres church where we had enjoyed a New Year’s Eve concert three years ago. Before venturing farther, we stopped in a little café in the square for our afternoon cappuccinos.

    From there, we walked a couple of small back streets in search of the Delacroix Museum, on Furstenburg Street. We made a stop there on our walk “home” to Hotel Le Regent. Having really liked the Delacriox painting “Liberty Leads Her People” in the Louvre, plus a couple of paintings of his in St. Sulpice Church, we were looking forward to this small museum. But it was somewhat different than we had thought, being filled with a few smaller works from earlier periods, many small lithographs reflecting Delacroix’intense interest in Shakespeare, especially Hamlet, plus a few other objects which he had brought home from Morocco. Also displayed were a few of his personal effects. Most of the works were fairly small. The courtyard garden was comfortable and peaceful

    Wandering back to the area of our hotel, we passed a number of very small shops, galleries, and clothing stores. Walking along very near our hotel, on Rue Buci, we experienced a second coincidence of the day when we heard someone call out our names. What a shock! Who would know us in Paris??? It was the German couple who were sitting next to MK on the Lufthansa flight from Munich. They said they were happy to see us snapping pictures with our “found” camera. What a small world to meet up with them! Their hotel was not in this vicinity, but over by the Opera. They had just chosen to eat an early dinner here.

    About 4:30 or so, we returned to our hotel to finish packing for the flight home in the morning. We were looking forward to our dinner meeting with Maitaitom and Tracy, the “grande finale” of our Paris visit, and wanted to have most packing completed so that we could enjoy a relaxed, fun dinner.

    The taxi arrived early to transport us to LE TRIMILOU RESTAURANT on Quai de L’Hotel de Ville,an arrangement that we had made with Maitaitom on Fodor’s. We had purposely arrived early because we weren’t quite sure of the promptness of the taxi or how long the drive would take. Upon arriving, we found only a few diners present. When we explained to the friendly manager that we wished to wait for our friends from the US at an outside table, he was very accommodating. He seemed happy that we had chosen his restaurant for our get-together.

    Not having met Tom and Tracy in person, but only communicated our arrangements by Fodor’s website, it was amazing that as they came walking up the street, and we got up from our outside table seats in front of the restaurant, we had instantaneous recognition of one another. Probably that mutual friendliness of travel-lovers!

    Even though we had just met Tom and Tracy, we immediately felt like we had chemistry with them. We ordered a bottle of a Rhone vin rouge and toasted their 20th anniversary, and the conversation began to flow. We could easily talk travel, Tom’s miraculous recovery from a very serious illness, and Tracy’s supportive care through the whole trying ordeal. Great relationship!

    Tom’s personality was the same as comes through in his writings: ability to see the humor in life. We had lots of laughs sprinkled into the conversation as we shared common personal experiences, as well as travel episodes. Our interaction was full of “joie de vivre”!

    Oh, by the way, the meal. We shared a couple of bottles of vin rouge. Tom really liked the escargots; he was the only one of us who enjoyed such. The specialty of the house was “canard pruneaux” which both of us had. We think we remember Tom and Tracy having the “poivre” and “formule P/D”. Cappuccinos served to elongate our camaraderie. The food seemed to us to be over-shadowed by the lively pace of the conversation.

    From our standpoint, the evening was so delightful that the time passed very quickly. It was a fun experience. Could it have been after 10:30 PM, maybe near 11 PM? The manager, who seemed to enjoy facilitating our get-together, volunteered to take pictures, both inside and out, with both of our cameras. Great memories of our wonderful evening!

    The manager called for a cab, and it wasn’t long before we were back at Hotel Le Regent. We settled the bill for our stay (EUR 555.) by using our remaining EUR and AmEx., in order to facilitate our 6 AM departure.

    Our final: Bon Nuit




    THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 18, 2014 DEPARTURE DAY;
    MIXED FEELINGS


    Up at 4:45 with only about 5 hours of sleep. Elias had suggested leaving Hotel LeRegent at 6 AM so as to arrive at CDG at 7. That would allow us 2 hours to go through security etc. The taxi driver had already arrived early, so we’re off before 6AM, and arrive at the airport about 7:10, having experienced little traffic. (Air France is on strike.)

    We’re feeling a bit draggy , but made our way through the “hoops”. We were glad to get through the final weighing in of two 48-pounders. We had only our roll-aboards, fairly stuffed at this point, and TK’s backpack to contend with. Then began the crowd and Delta maneuvers through Terminal 2 E; standing in a long line before getting into a second line to havING our luggage checked, and then heading for the gate assigned to us. Relief that we are flying on a DELTA flight. . .non-stop to Cincinnati!

    En route to the gate area, we discovered a “Chez Paul” bakery in the area, perfect for getting croissants and coffee. We arrived at K-31, our departure gate, and feeling like “parting is such sweet sorrow”.

    On boarding the plane, and getting settled, we were relieved to see that our 767-300ER was not full. We enjoyed lots of overhead storage and good leg room. We even departed from the gate a few minutes before the 10:40 scheduled departure. The day is clear and sunny and we are VERY happy to be heading home, as MK changes her watch setting to US time.

    All in all, we had a fabulous trip! From Berchesgaten to the Austrian Alps to the Dolomiti in Italy, to Locarno/Ascona, to St. Moritz, to Brig/Zermatt, and finally to the Bernese Oberland, the scenery was magnificent, and everyday seemed to be more beautiful than the previous. We felt very fortunate to have had mostly great weather. The trip back to Munich was made interesting by short visits to the cities of Montreux and Lucerne. It wasn’t until the last day in Freising, when the Air France strike affected us, that we experienced a significant stress and realization that our trip was ending. However, the wonderful feelings of the last three nights-two days in Paris, capped off with the delightful meeting with Maitaitom and Tracy, helped erase the memories of the stressful experience getting from Munich to Paris.

    The non-stop flight home to Cincinnati was smooth and as comfortable as a long-haul flight in economy class can be. We slept on the way home as much as possible, and trusted that Executive Shuttle would be awaiting us.

    After landing, we went through the typical immigration, trolleying our luggage to the conveyor belt for re-inspection, and then going through security. . . same as boarding. Arriving in the luggage carousel area, we were very happy to find an Executive Shuttle rep at the counter, and the van with the driver outside waiting for us. What a relief! We just had to sit in the van, relax, chat with Tom, the driver, and enjoy the 40-minute ride to our home.

    After having been gone for a month, our house, yard and flower gardens looked good to us. We expected some flowers to die; after all, it was late September. But, in general, things looked in good shape. Our home seemed welcoming. No need to unpack now. We just enjoyed the feeling of being home after a wonderful month-long trip!

    Tomorrow would be another day to step back into the realities of everyday life!

































    TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 16, 2014 HAPPY TO BE
    IN PARIS!!!

    Great to awaken in Paris: 7:45. Even though TK had cold symptoms and limited voice, and MK also was not feeling her best, we were both so happy to be in Paris! Breakfast was included in our room rate, and as we made our way downstairs to their small restaurant, we were thrilled to see the sunny skies which promised to be another gorgeous day.

    The petit dejeuner included those delicious LE BUCI croissants from the cafe across the street, served with the little table niceties that characterize the French. Afterward, we stopped at the pharmacie two doors down from Hotel Le Regent and got a supply of anti-cold meds. At this point, TK was feeling very de-energized; dragging! But we’re in Paris! Our thoughts were: “What is best way to get around consuming the least amount of energy?”

    Earlier in the planning stages, our focus was on plotting all of our travels in the Alps. We weren’t sure what we would do in Paris. We just felt that being able to spend a couple of days in our fave city, en route home, would be a bonus. Ideas we thought about were checking out a few of the restaurants that we’ve had on our list, purchasing a two-day museum pass, or taking the Metro to re-visit the Marmottan Museum. And there was St. Chapelle, always beautiful. Or, maybe, we’d just “go with the flow”, imbibe the atmosphere of the city, enjoy the sights, stop at the cafes and boulangeries.

    Actually being in Paris, facing the reality of things, with TK in low-energy mode, we decided that the metro was not a good idea. A Hop-On, Hop-Off bus day might be our best option as TK did not feel up to going museum-hopping. L’Open Tour 2-decker bus would do fine under the circumstances.

    We bought the 2-day package that included a boat ride on the Seine. That day we weren’t weighing costs, just ease. We caught the bus just a few blocks from our hotel. Just as the name of the bus implied, we hopped off and on at certain favorite places,” as the spirit moved us”. We enjoyed a bit of time on the Champs Elysses, the Trocadero area, Eiffel Tower, and other famous sites. The view at each site was enhanced by the beautiful weather.

    For lunch, we chose to re-visit a restaurant located on Place de la Madeleine, LE COLBERT BAR BRASSERIE, diagonally across from the Madeleine. A few years ago, while staying in the Marais, we would stop in there. What else to have for lunch but TK’s fave lunch: CROQUE MADAME? MK also had vin rouge, and both of us had a cappuccino. We were happy to be seated at an outside table, until one of the young women sitting next to us held her cigarette so that the smoke came directly into MK’s face. After enduring for a few minutes, MK politely indicated the issue, and the girl apologized and immediately extinguished the cigarette. A few minutes later, as she and her friend were talking away, she lit another cigarette and the same thing repeated. A bit of discomfort on this gorgeous sunny day with a straight-on view of the Madeleine.

    The whole area around the Madeleine is great for walking, window shopping and people-watching. After lunch, we took in some of the sights and shops on Rue Royale and surrounding streets. Lots of attractive fashions, jewelry, and chocolate shops on which to feast our eyes.

    We re-boarded the bus with the aim of eventually visiting Notre Dame. En route, the Opera Garnier is always an impressive sight. And the Louvre courtyard was interesting, even if we didn’t go inside. Though we have visited Notre Dame on each of our eight previous Paris trips, it seems that we always spend more time than planned. After enjoying the inside, the beautiful day made sitting in the front plaza very delightful.

    Our next little venture was a trip on the Batobus which boarded nearby. This was the boat trip included with our bus ticket. When in Paris, we usually do a boat tour, especially enjoying the evening trips. It’s the views all around the city from a different vantage point, enhanced by the lightning, which makes for a very different experience. But it was now broad daylight, and this Batobus stops at various points, which makes it somewhat less desireable. But it’s a great sunny day, so what’s not to enjoy?

    We got off near Pont Neuf, in the vicinity of our hotel. After checking out some of the outdoor “bouquiniste” stalls along the river, we picked up a few mementos for friends. Oh yes, we also stopped at a little shop where TK found a cool t-shirt and a souvenir “chef’s hat” for our brother in California. The day must have agreed with TK, as his energy levels picked up as the day wore on.

    We freshened up for the evening meal and got a great recommendation from the girl at the desk of Hotel Le Regent, VINS ET TERROIRS. She called ahead for a reservation. This little restaurant couldn’t have been any more convenient, being a minute or two away, a quick left turn onto Rue Andre des Arts. With the warm evening, the restaurant had its front wall-to-wall glass doors wide open. Our table was just inside the edge of the restaurant. At this point in our trip, our detailed notes were more sketchy. We remember that we had mignon de porc, an accompanying vin, capped off with a cheesecake dessert and cappuccinos. We don’t recall the exact preparation; just that the food was delicious and reasonably-priced, the staff was friendly and attentive, and the atmosphere felt typically-French. Our table was great for people-watching!

    After that delightful dinner, we walked across the street and through an alley, overwhelmed with the great number of outdoor eateries, filled with diners. This was a Tuesday evening. It seemed that the Parisians may have been expressing their excitement at finally getting summer weather! The alley ended at Boul.St Germaine. We took our time as we walked around the area, taking in all the activity, before heading back to Hotel Regent. So many hundreds of people eating outdoors at so many restaurants; with street musicians providing entertainment, made for an invigorating atmosphere!

    Upon returning to our hotel, the desk attendant, Elias, told us of the rainy, cold August in Paris. He said that he was able to use some vacation time to visit Spain, around Valencia, and the southern coast of France where the weather was very hot (40 C). He also told us that 80 percent of visitors in the area around St Germaine were from the UK or US. A great place for convenience and ability to walk to such sites as Notre Dame, the Louvre, the Seine, you-name-it. We agreed; that’s our reason for liking it!

    It seemed that we had just arrived in Paris, when we had to think about our departure. We were scheduled to fly home Thursday morning on Delta, thankfully. Elias said that he would arrange for a 6 AM taxi pick-up. After that practical matter was settled, it was time to turn in.

    Our day in Paris, in spite of our unplanned, play-it-by-ear approach, turned out to be very enjoyable. The warm weather, with sun and blue skies, was great for taking advantage of the outdoors. Given the wonderful weather, being in museums probably might not have been our preference.

    Tomorrow would be the last day of our short stay in Paris. We looked forward to our special finale dinner meeting Maitaitom and Tracy!


    A little advance packing. Then . . .Bon Nuit!



    SEPTEMBER 17, 2014 WEDNESDAY FINAL FULL DAY
    IN PARIS

    Up at 7:30 or so for our last full day in Paris before we had to head home. We again had breakfast in the tiny hotel breakfast room. Before heading out for the day, we wanted to take care of check-in for our DL229 flight tomorrow, leaving CDG at 10:40 AM.

    A lady that we met in the hotel lobby indicated that her flight to Dulles on Air France was cancelled. She was off to wait in line at the local Air France office near Luxemburg Gardens. We later saw her in the long line at the Air France office as we were enjoying the top deck of the Open-air bus. What a coincidence! We could really empathsize with her situation. She seemed resigned to spending another day in Paris.

    The warm weather made traveling on the top deck of a bus feel pretty delightful. We took the route going to Luxembourg Gardens, which had many visitors. Then it was on up to Montparnasse. Lots to see around that area. We decided to have lunch at CAFÉ DEUX MAGAUX on BSG. Though it is a popular place for tourists, we recalled our delicious lunch there over Christmas week in 2011, when, of course, we ate inside. Had their delicious macarons! This trip, because of the great weather, the sidewalk area seemed most inviting.

    After lunch, we enjoyed a stroll around the shops on BSG. We stopped in St. Germaine des Pres church where we had enjoyed a New Year’s Eve concert three years ago. Before venturing farther, we stopped in a little café in the square for our afternoon cappuccinos.

    From there, we walked a couple of small back streets in search of the Delacroix Museum, on Furstenburg Street. We made a stop there on our walk “home” to Hotel Le Regent. Having really liked the Delacriox painting “Liberty Leads Her People” in the Louvre, plus a couple of paintings of his in St. Sulpice Church, we were looking forward to this small museum. But it was somewhat different than we had thought, being filled with a few smaller works from earlier periods, many small lithographs reflecting Delacroix’ intense interest in Shakespeare, especially Hamlet, plus a few other objects which he had brought home from Morocco, and some personal effects of his. Most of the works were fairly small. The courtyard garden was comfortable and peaceful

    Wandering back to the area of our hotel, we passed a number of very small shops, galleries, and clothing stores. Walking along very near our hotel, on Rue Buci, we experienced a second coincidence of the day when we heard someone call out our names. What a shock! Who would know us in Paris??? It was the German couple who were sitting next to MK on the Lufthansa flight from Munich. They said they were happy to see us snapping pictures with our “found” camera. What a small world to meet up with them! Their hotel was not in this vicinity, but over by the Opera. They had just chosen to eat an early dinner here.

    About 4:30 or so, we returned to our hotel to finish packing for the flight home in the morning. We were looking forward to our dinner meeting with Maitaitom and Tracy, the “grande finale” of our Paris visit, and wanted to have most packing completed so that we could enjoy a relaxed, fun dinner.

    The taxi arrived early to transport us to LE TRIMILOU RESTAURANT on Quai de L’Hotel de Ville, an arrangement that we had made with Maitaitom on Fodor’s. We had purposely arrived early because we weren’t quite sure of the promptness of the taxi or how long the drive would take. Upon arriving, we found only a few diners present. When we explained to the friendly manager that we wished to wait for our friends from the US at an outside table, he was very accommodating. He seemed happy that we had chosen his restaurant for our get-together.

    Not having met Tom and Tracy in person, but only communicated our arrangements by Fodor’s website, it was amazing that as they came walking up the street, and we got up from our outside table seats in front of the restaurant, we had instantaneous recognition of one another. Probably that mutual friendliness of travel-lovers!

    Even though we had just met Tom and Tracy, we immediately felt like we had chemistry with them. We ordered a bottle of a Rhone vin rouge to toast their 20th anniversary, and the conversation began to flow. We could easily talk travel, Tom’s miraculous recovery from a very serious illness, and Tracy’s supportive care through the whole trying ordeal. Great relationship!

    Tom’s personality was the same as comes through in his writings: ability to see the humor in life. We had lots of laughs sprinkled into the conversation as we shared common personal experiences, as well as travel episodes. Our interaction was full of “joie de vivre”!

    Oh, by the way, the meal. We shared a couple of bottles of vin rouge. Tom really liked the escargots; he was the only one of us who enjoyed such. The specialty of the house was “canard pruneaux” which both of us had. We think we remember Tom and Tracy having the “poivre” and “formule P/D”. Cappuccinos served to elongate our camaraderie. The food seemed to us to be over-shadowed by the lively pace of the conversation.

    From our standpoint, the evening was so delightful that the time passed very quickly. It was a fun experience. Could it have been after 10:30 PM, maybe near 11 PM? The manager, who seemed to enjoy facilitating our get-together, volunteered to pictures, both inside and out, with both of our cameras. Great memories of our wonderful evening.

    The manager called for a cab, and it wasn’t long before we were back at Hotel Le Regent. We settled the bill for our stay (EUR 555.) by using our remaining EUR and AmEx., in order to facilitate our 6 AM departure.

    Our final: Bon Nuit


    Thursday, September 18, 2014 DEPARTURE DAY:
    MIXED FEELINGS

    Up at 4:45 with only about 5 hours of sleep. Elias had suggested leaving Hotel LeRegent at 6 AM so as to arrive at CDG at 7. That would allow us 2 hours to go through security etc. The taxi driver had already arrived early, so we’re off before 6AM, and arrive at the airport about 7:10, having experienced little traffic. (Air France is on strike for the week)

    We’re feeling a bit draggy , but made our way through the “hoops”. We were glad to get through the final weighing in of two 48-pounders. We had only our roll-aboards, fairly stuffed at this point, and TK’s backpack to contend with. Then began the crowd and Delta maneuvers through Terminal 2 E; standing in a long line before getting into a second line to have our luggage checked, and headed for the gate assigned to us. Relief that we are flying on a DELTA flight. . .non-stop to Cincinnati!

    En route to the gate area, we discovered a “Chez Paul” bakery in the area, perfect for getting croissants and coffee. We arrived at K-31, our departure gate, and feeling like “parting is such sweet sorrow”.

    On boarding the plane, and getting settled, we were relieved to see that our 767-300ER was not full. We enjoyed lots of overhead storage and good leg room. We even departed from the gate a few minutes before the 10:40 scheduled departure. The day is clear and sunny and we are VERY happy to be heading home, as MK changes her watch setting to US time.

    All in all, we had a fabulous trip! From Berchesgaten to the Austrian Alps to the Dolomiti in Italy, to Locarno/Ascona, to St. Moritz, to Brig/Zermatt, and finally to the Bernese Oberland, the scenery was magnificent, and everyday seemed to be more beautiful than the previous. We felt very fortunate to have had mostly great weather. The trip back to Munich was made interesting by short visits to the cities of Montreux and Lucerne. It wasn’t until the last day in Freising, when the Air France strike affected us, that we experienced a significant stress and realization that our trip was ending. The wonderful feelings of the last three nights-two days in Paris, capped off with the delightful meeting with Maitaitom and Tracy, helped erase the memories of the stressful experience getting from Munich to Paris.

    The non-stop flight home to Cincinnati was smooth and as comfortable as a long-haul flight in economy class can be. We slept on the way home as much as possible, and trusted that Executive Shuttle would be awaiting us.

    After landing, we went through the typical immigration, trolleying our luggage to the conveyor belt for re-inspection, and then going through security. . . same as boarding. Arriving in the luggage carousel area, we were very relieved to find an Executive Shuttle rep at the counter next to carousel 2, and the van with the driver outside waiting for us. What a relief! We just had to sit in the van, relax, chat with Tom, the driver, and enjoy the 40-minute ride to our home.

    After having been gone for a month, our house, yard and flower gardens looked good to us. We expected some flowers to die; after all, it was late September. But, in general, things looked in good shape. Our home seemed welcoming. No need to unpack now. We just enjoyed the feeling of being home after a wonderful month-long trip!

    Tomorrow would be another day to step back into the realities of everyday life!

  • Report Abuse

    somehow I knew your dinner with Maitaitom and Tracy would be fun! can't believe that you ran into seat mates from the flight. Small world.

    Sounds like a great trip, although I can't pronounce the names of half the places you visited!! :-)

  • Report Abuse

    Somehow the last three days of our trip, Tuesday-Thursday, September 16-18, double-posted. In fact, while still in the Edit stage, the site began acting up. Not sure what happened.

    We apologize to readers for the confusion. We'll attempt to contact "Fodor's Help" to see if the situation can be resolved Meantime, thanks for following. We appreciate your support.

  • Report Abuse

    A fun night indeed!!! I'm glad I paid you to say those nice things about me and not ruin my reputation. It was great meeting you both and we look forward to seeing you in the future. It was a terrific report that has given Tracy and me a lot of ideas for a future trip.

    ((H))

  • Report Abuse

    Denisea, yes, the dinner with Maitaitom and Tracy was really fun, and a great ending to our very short stay in Paris. We will return in the future, and hope to try some of the many restaurants on our list which we've been collecting from your travels.

    We also had difficulty with pronunciations. . .especially German words. But folks were nice and helpful, and enjoyed our attempts.

  • Report Abuse

    Deladeb and Poconolady, if any ideas from our report are helpful to you or others, we're happy. And we're gratified that others are still reading our report. Good luck in your travel planning!

122 Replies |Back to top

Sign in to comment.

Advertisement