An Alpine Adventure - May 2011

Jun 1st, 2011, 06:41 AM
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An Alpine Adventure - May 2011

An Alpine Adventure – May 2011

This is our trip report about our recent travels to Switzerland, Germany and Austria. My husband’s German mother lives in Biel, Switzerland (about 30 minutes from Bern). We try to visit her every 2 years, and combine that with another destination for the 2nd week.

Our journey began on May 14, 2011. My husband Nick and I live just outside of Raleigh, NC, so a quick ride from my parents and we arrive at RDU International Airport around 7:45am. We are taking carry on only the way over, so we check in at the United counter, get our boarding passes and off we go to the gate. Flight to Washington Dulles is short, about 40 minutes. We have about 5 hours layover there, so during that time we grab some lunch and settle in. Flight to Zurich on United is on time. The Zurich airport is very easy to navigate. (We’ve done this so many times before as well.) Downstairs to the train station, purchase our ticket to Biel, grab a Starbucks coffee and off we go. Train to Biel is about 1.5 hours long. The Swiss train system is great. Mom and Stepfather pick us up (they live about 5 minutes from the bahnhof).

During the week with family, we relaxed in the warmth of the Swiss springtime. Flowers are blooming everywhere – in window boxes, urns, and other containers. The grass is green and lush – great to run your toes through. It’s strawberry season (erdbeeren) so there are big huts shaped like the red berries set up by the roadside. We enjoyed traditional meals at home of bratwurst and Rösti, Schnitzel mit pommes frites, and many other delightful foods. Desserts were often crème cakes or ice cream. Breakfasts were yummy treats of brötchen, zopf or crusty bread with that rich alpine butter and homemade jams of blueberries or strawberries. The coffee here is strong and delicious.

We didn’t do as many day trips this time as usual, because my mother in law’s health has declined greatly. We weren’t disappointed though, because our purpose in this visit was to spend time with her. Nick had her relate some old family stories about her experiences as a child during WWII, which he recorded as video on his camera. One which I will share here: Her father was a soldier in the German Army, although he disliked Hitler greatly. One evening while drinking in a café, he said (obviously rather loudly) that “Hitler can come down here and kiss my ***!!” Not 10 minutes later, the Gestapo arrived and arrested him. Snitches were everywhere at that time. A prominent business owner in town that was friends with her father spoke up in his behalf, and he was released from custody. Otherwise he would have surely been sent to the concentration camp.

We did travel to Zurich one day to visit with her sister and her family, where we enjoyed a wonderful lunch of jägerschnitzel with noodles, salad, carrots/peas, and a lovely raspberry cream cake with almonds. That afternoon we did explore a beautiful area in the woods that is a flower nursery where exotic plants/trees are grown. The colors and scents were intense and stunning. When we arrived back to Nick’s aunt’s house, he informed me that I had unknowingly stepped on a snake! I think I am glad he did not tell me until later.

Also while in Biel, we took the local bus (which is one block away from his mom’s apartment) into town several times to walk around, do a little shopping (not much because it is expensive here!), and sit at a sidewalk café and people watch while enjoying a drink. Biel is a pleasant and modern city, not too big so you don’t feel overwhelmed. It’s the only city in Switzerland that is 50% German speaking, 50% French speaking. Although we find most people speak a little English, it’s not a problem anyway since my husband does speak German.

We also enjoyed an afternoon at a café on a mountaintop above Biel, where we soaked in the view of the three lakes - Lakes Biel, Neuchâtel and Murten.

The slower pace of this week allowed us to enjoy the sunshine in the afternoons and evenings – just sitting outside listening to the birds sing and the nice breeze that carried their songs.

A note on fashion in Biel: Skinny jeans/leggings. Everyone is wearing them - man, woman and child. Even if they are not flattering on them, they are wearing them.

So after a week of living the local city life in Biel, it was time to bid Auf Wiedersehn to Mom and Stepfather and begin our journey to our first stop for the next week – Mittenwald, Germany.
nicksgirl88 is offline  
Jun 1st, 2011, 07:40 AM
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nice start, Nicksgirl.

i like the detail about the leggings!

looking forward to more....
annhig is offline  
Jun 1st, 2011, 08:53 AM
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An Alpine Adventure – May 2011
Part 2

Sunday, May 22 – We leave Biel, Switzerland early morning for Germany. When we purchased the train tickets to Mittenwald a few days prior, the SBB agent had indicated that we would change in Zurich and Innsbruck, and then when we got to Scharnitz, Germany we would have to inquire at the bahnhof about the remaining leg of the journey to Mittenwald. This seemed odd to us, since apparently Scharnitz is only a few miles from Mittenwald. She indicated that there was some issue because the train from Innsbruck, Austria didn’t go all the way into Germany..? Some dispute between Austrian and German trains?

So, when we arrived in Scharnitz, and got off the train, it is a tiny train station with NOTHING around. I had a bad feeling about it. The station was closed, it was Sunday. We walked over to a nearby restaurant, and Nick asked the owner about the situation – she had no idea. So thank goodness for cell phones and having the phone number of the hotel we are staying at in Mittenwald. The owner was kind enough to call us a taxi, which arrived 10 minutes later (as it was starting to rain). A short ride to Mittenwald (maybe 5 minutes) and we are at our home for the next 2 nights, Hotel Garni Edlhuber.

We are shown to our clean, comfortable room with its own terrace. It’s a traditional Bavarian style room, with fluffy down comforters and pillows. As we’re unpacking, the rain starts to become tiny pieces of hail. After a week of sunny, warm weather in Switzerland, we now are experiencing hail our first day in Germany! It only lasts a few minutes, and then it turns back to plain old rain. We decide a little rain won’t stop us, so we grab an umbrella and off into town we go.

It’s about a 5 minute walk to the Hotel Rieger, where we decide to stop for refreshments. A slice of sacher torte and coffee for me, and a slice of Frankfurter Kranz and a weizen beer for Nick.

We leave the warm, dry restaurant and meander into town. Ok, we walk rather quickly since the rain is quite steady. We notice the beautiful painted homes and buildings here in Mittenwald and wonder how old they are.

We return to the Edlhuber for awhile, freshen up, and then return into town for dinner. The Alpenrose is our choice for dinner.

A delicious meal of wiener schnitzel, pommes frites and green salad. My husband has his usual weizen beer, and I have a Fanta.

Monday, May 23 – After a nice breakfast at our hotel, we walk into town. Our original plan had been to take the Karwendelbahn to the top of the mountain. However we learned a couple of months ago that it would be closed for renovation the week we were there.  So we decided just to wander around town, hike a little somewhere, and enjoy the day. We stopped at a nice café on the main street – don’t remember the name – but had coffee and enjoyed the morning. We also needed to pick up a few items at the local grocery, so a quick stop by ReWe and that was checked off our list. The few francs we had left from our time in Switzerland needed to be changed to Euros, so we did that as well as got some more money from the ATM. Of course after purchasing an umbrella, the rain was gone and the day was bright and sunny – almost hot. We wandered around this adorable town using the map we had acquired.

For lunch we decided on pizza – a nice change from all the schnitzel we had been eating the few days. We found a great restaurant off the beaten path – Mamma Lucia.

As we were walking back toward the hotel, we passed the Mittenwald Brewery.

It was closed for tours, but we went around back and found the store where you could purchase some of its products. Nick found his favorite beer of all time – Franziskaner Weizen (which he gets at home also). Nick took many photos on our walk. We also went to the train station and bought our Bayern ticket for Salzburg the next day. Of course we had to stop for ice cream (eis). The flavors are so yummy and creamy. I settled on hazelnut and chocolate. Hard decision! Tomorrow we leave for Salzburg.
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Jun 1st, 2011, 09:00 AM
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Tuesday, May 24 – After another nice breakfast at the hotel, we’re off by taxi to the bahnhof. We have to change trains in Munich, and we only have 15 minutes to do so. Why is it that the track (gleis) you arrive on is never close to the one you have to depart from? From Gleis 9 over to 27 – run we did. We made it on the train with maybe 3 minutes left. As we settle into our seats still huffing, puffing and sweating, an announcement is made that the train will depart 5 minutes later than scheduled! Argh!

We arrive in Salzburg to a bahnhof under construction. We immediately bought our 72 hour Salzburg cards. Free transport on buses, boats, lifts and free entry to museums. We would have used this immediately for our way over to our hotel, Haus Am Moos, but we were unsure of the changes we had to make to get there and we had all our luggage as well. So we took a taxi (17 Euro)and arrived at our lovely home for the next 4 nights.

We cannot say enough about the Haus am Moos, and its owners, Walter and Gudrun Strasser. This was by far not only the best deal for the money on our trip, but the nicest, cleanest and most pleasant stay of our journey. Walter and Gudrun are truly in the right business. They were welcoming, friendly, and extremely helpful the entire time we were with them. Each morning Walter would sit and chat with us as we enjoyed the great spread set before us in their breakfast room. More about them later.

Since we were only using public transport, it was so convenient that the bus stop for the Number 21 bus is just a couple minutes walk from the driveway of Haus. So using our Salzburg card, off into the city we went. By this time it was about 3:00, and we were hungry since we had not had lunch yet. It can be challenging to find a restaurant open at that time, since many close after lunch and don’t reopen again until dinner at 6:00pm. After asking a local, we found the Stiegl Restaurant.

We had traditional fare of wiener schnitzel, potatoes, beer and Fanta. Yes, we do enjoy our schnitzel very much! It was a hot day so it was so pleasant relaxing in the shade enjoying a cold beverage in one of our favorite cities.
We made our way to the Mirabell Gardens and took our required shots from our memories of the Sound of Music. (Correction – I made my husband take the photos of me doing my Julie Andrews reenactments) Such a good husband, he humored me with this last time we were in Salzburg two years ago.

We stopped at the Billa grocery store on the way back to town for some beer and snacks for our room. Unfortunately, we failed to realize that we should have been on the opposite side of the street to catch the Number 21 bus back to Haus am Moos. So there we were, not realizing we were going the opposite way through Salzburg to the outskirts and to an adjoining town for the next half hour. As the bus was emptying and we were the last ones on, the driver pulls off the highway to a rest area and turned the bus off. Nick went up front and asked him about our stop and he informed us we should have been on the opposite side of the street for the other Number 21 bus. Duh! Now the driver is taking a 15-20 minute break as he reads his paper. I guess he was thinking…dumb Americans! As we sit there in the rather warm bus in the early evening hours, I’m hoping this isn’t the way our whole time in Salzburg will go. Finally he cranks the bus, the a/c comes back on, and we head back to civilization. We get off at a stop we recognize in the city, and make our way over to the correct bus stop.

There we meet a nice young American student who we chat with until the bus comes. He is in Salzburg for 10 weeks studying at the University. He has been there for 2 weeks so far and we related our prior bus adventure. He admitted he almost did the same thing the first time too. He also is taking the bus to Moosstrasse but our stop is before his so we thank him and head back to our room for the evening.

Wednesday, May 25 – Our first breakfast at Haus Am Moos. The Strassers put out a wonderful spread. Their adorable dog, Nino, is there to welcome you and say good morning. Walter chats with us about our home in North Carolina and we tell him about our plans for Salzburg. We asked him what he thinks of Arnold Schwarzenegger (the most famous Austrian we know of besides Mozart ) and he says “nothing”. They don’t like him there in Austria apparently. We also learn thru our conversation that Nick and Walter love the same movie – Where Eagles Dare – with Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood. The reason this came up is because one of our day trips is to Werfen, the village where some of this movie was filmed and where the Hohenwerfen Castle (Schloss Adler in the movie) is located. Nick was so thrilled when he learned this was close to Salzburg and we would make a day trip. He’s been waiting for this for months. So when Walter found out, of course he and Nick had to converse about the movie several times. Walter told us that his father saw part of the movie being filmed.

However, our plan for today was to go to Berchtesgaden to the salt mines – an excursion Nick had made with his family back when he was a child living in Germany. We took the bus 840 to Berchtesgaden and arrived at our destination.

After donning our miner’s clothes, we get on board our trolley car and down we go into the depths. Wear a sweater, it’s chilly down here! The tour lasts about an hour and it is quite informative. We really enjoyed the wooden slides though, and the boat ride across Mirror Lake with the laser show was cool. After arriving back to the entrance, we purchased two photos (they take 3 of you, one at the entrance, one down the slide, and another somewhere else I can’t remember). Now we have a photo to match the one Nick had taken with his family so many years ago.

We walked into Berchtesgaden – long walk in the hot sun – and stopped at a street café for lunch. We had pizza which was only mediocre. We walked around town a little and then headed back to Salzburg in the late afternoon. We decided to try the local restaurant just a few metres up the street from the Haus am Moos, the Reiterhof Moos.

Lovely place with outdoor seating under the trees in nice weather. Since the evening was warm, we sat outside at a communal table. Nick ordered the Salzburger schnitzel with potatoes and I had the chicken stuffed with feta and spinach, potatoes, and salad. We finished off with ice cream for dessert. It was good we had to walk back to our hotel, we needed it after that large meal.
nicksgirl88 is offline  
Jun 1st, 2011, 09:43 AM
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Thursday, May 26 - Breakfast again with the Strassers. Walter recommends we try the Untersberg lift this morning, since the weather is nice and clear. This is free with the Salzburg card. We took the 21 bus into town, then switched for the bus to the lift. A word about buses in Salzburg – the school children there ride city buses instead of school buses like they do in the States. So at various times during the day, there might be 50 kids on the bus. It’s an experience, that’s for sure.

The cable car to the top of the Untersberg was awesome. We really enjoyed the amazing views as we climbed and climbed upwards. We spent a few minutes at the top for some photo ops, then we headed back down since we were making a day trip to Hallstatt.

Walter had informed us that the better way to Hallstatt is via bus, not by train. This enables you to actually see the lakes and the beauty around you. He said we would have to change in Bad Ischl and then go directly to Hallstatt. However, once we arrived in Bad Ischl, we got on the next bus which dropped us off in Obertraun, and the driver said we had to wait for another bus to Hallstatt. (!) Another 15 minutes later, and the bus came. Finally we get to Hallstatt later than we had planned – it took almost 2.5 hours by bus.

It was crowded with tour buses and people everywhere. The natural beauty is stunning I must say. We had to check and make sure we were back in time for the next to the last bus from there back to Obertraun, and then for the one from Obertraun to Bad Ischl. Which means we only had about 1.5 hours in Hallstatt. I think if I had known it was such a hassle to get there, I probably would have chosen St. Gilgen which is a little closer and probably a more direct bus route. Don’t get me wrong – Hallstatt is gorgeous and if we had more time, it would have been better. We walked around some and stopped for lunch and a cold drink. The lunch was the worst meal of our trip, and I can’t remember the name of the restaurant, except that it sits up to the left on a terrace (which probably doesn’t narrow it down that much).
By that time it was getting close for our bus, so we sat by the lake some and watched the swans, took some more photos and tried to cool off. The bus home was packed with schoolchildren and it was a noisy trip back to Salzburg. We were hot and tired and ready to relax. When we made it back to the city, we stopped at Billa again for some snacks and fruit and just had that for dinner back at the Am Moos.

Friday, May 27 – {Insert theme music from “Where Eagles Dare”} Nick’s dream day has arrived. We remind Walter at breakfast that we are heading to Werfen today and he should come with us. He can’t make it but asks us to bring him back a brochure. According to the Hohenwerfen website, we are to take the train from Salzburg to Pfarrwerfen, and then take a “shady path” up to the castle. We pass a stop for Werfen, where we can see the castle up in the fog, but we follow the directions and go to the next train stop, Pfarrwerfen. “Pfarr” is right. When we get off there, we inqure and a gentleman points us in the direction of the castle. We start walking and I swear it seems as if the castle is getting further away! After about 25 minutes, we arrive in Werfen.

We decide to have lunch before going up to the castle, so we find a place called Werfenerhof (recommended by the Tourist Info office there). Guess what? It’s Schnitzel Woche (week). So this time we have jägerschnitzel and spaetzle. After a stop at the ATM, we head up to the entrance to the castle.

We purchase the combo ticket for the tour and the lift. After walking from Pfarrwerfen, I’m not walking “farther” up the mountain. Nick’s camera is constantly clicking as we ascend. The tour doesn’t start for about 25 minutes, so we explore the courtyard and he is excitedly telling me about different scenes from the movie. We went into the gift shop expecting to see some merchandise related to the movie, but there is nothing. Not sure if it is copyright related or what. So we are disappointed we have nothing to take back to Walter.

The tour is good and lasts about an hour. It started sprinkling about 5 minutes after the tour. When we got back down to the entrance, we asked if there was a bus back to the Werfen Bahnhof. No bus, but one of the workers there offered to drive us in his van. We told him what was shown on the website about stopping in Pfarrwerfen instead of Werfen, and he said he had told them they needed to change that several months ago. He didn’t want to take any money for the ride, but Nick gave him a couple of Euro and he finally accepted. At the train station we find out we have about 15 minutes to wait for the next train back to Salzburg. At this point, it starts pouring, but it’s ok because we are sitting inside the glass shelter on the platform. It rained all the way back to Salzburg (about an hour) and we made it back via our Number 21 bus to Haus am Moos.

I didn’t want to go back out in the rain, but our stomachs were saying we needed some dinner. So we decided to just head up the street to the other restaurant Walter had recommended, the Schachlwirt.

This was our best meal of the trip. Our last Austrian dinner was what else but Wiener schnitzel for Nick, and Zwiebelrostbraten Frisch aus der Pfanne mit Braterdäpfeln for me. (steak with onions and roasted potatoes). For dessert, Hausgemachter Apfelstrudel mit Schlagobers. (homemade apple strudel with fresh cream). YUMMMMM. We rolled back to Haus am Moos and packed up for our sad departure from Salzburg the next morning.
nicksgirl88 is offline  
Jun 1st, 2011, 12:43 PM
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An Alpine Adventure

Saturday, May 28 - We were sad to bid adieu to our new friends, the Strassers, and the furry member of their family, Nino. We lingered at breakfast and chatted some more before going up to our room one last time and gathering our belongings. As we left Haus am Moos, we both agreed we will be back one day and for much longer!

It was raining still in Salzburg as we boarded our bus Number 21 for the bahnhof. We purchased our ticket there for our last stop, Freising, Germany. We decided on Freising since it was just outside Munich and an easy ride to the airport the next morning.

We had one change in Munich, but our train was late arriving from Salzburg so we missed that connection. No worries, there are frequent trains to Freising so we just hopped on the next one which was about 25 minutes later. Arriving in Freising, we called our hotel – the Mercure Munchen Airport Freising.

We discovered they were within walking distance from the train station so with luggage in tow we headed that way. Nice, easy checkin with very helpful and friendly receptionist. She informed us that there was a festival in town that week if we wanted to check it out. So after we put our things in our room (which by the way, was clean and modern and had a fan!), we first went down to the restaurant biergarten and had a cold drink. From there, we walked to the festival (less than a mile) and walked around some. Settled on a bratwurst with pommes frites, beer and soda. It started to rain again so we headed back to the hotel. Spent the evening packing up and watching French Open tennis.

Sunday, May 29 - We woke up early, checked out, and walked to the bus stop for our ride to the Munich Flughafen. Bus 635 runs every 20 minutes, with its last stop being Terminal 2 (for Lufthansa flights). We found the Lufthansa counter and checked 2 bags, praying that this time our luggage would make it all the way home when we did unlike our last trip.

We had about an hour to wait and then it was time to board. The A330 seemed like it was brand new, very nice, comfortable seats, good inflight entertainment on individual seatbacks. The flight attendants were friendly and attentive. We landed in Washington Dulles on time. We followed the line down to the transfer area, got on the tram which took us to the other terminal, went thru Passport control, grabbed our bags to recheck upon re-entry into the country, then through customs, then finally thru security once more. We made it to our gate with plenty of time to spare. Waited about an hour and then we were informed that our flight was delayed because of the late arrival of the flight coming in to our gate. A 1.5 hour delay – normally not bad but when you have been travelling for 18 hours already, it is torture.

Once we did board, the flight only took 38 minutes back to RDU. We grabbed our bags (yeah! they were there), met my parents, and finally pulled into our driveway at 9:30pm.
nicksgirl88 is offline  
Jun 1st, 2011, 01:00 PM
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Notes and observations:

May is a great time to travel. At least to the places we went. Lots of flowers blooming, green grass, and fresh fruit and veggie markets everywhere. Cool in the mornings but we had nice temperatures in the 70s for our week. Of course this is always subject to change!

The simplest foods are so good – breads, croissants, butter, jam.

Elderly people seem to be in better shape here – walking, riding bikes, travelling, touring, etc.

When you ask a local if they speak English, they always say “a little bit”. This pretty much means they are fluent.

Get the train/bus schedules asap so you can figure out your routes/times. Don’t be slow about getting on or off the bus or train, otherwise you will be left behind or left on board! Listen carefully for the stops if they are announced on board. It’s always good to know the stop before yours as well.

Use the city cards (i.e. the Salzburg card) to save money on your transportation, entry fees, etc. They are worth it.

Get the street map of the city when you arrive – it’s priceless.

We should not complain here in the U.S. about gas prices.

Skinny jeans do not look good on everyone.

Fanta in Europe tastes better than in the USA.

Be prepared that everything will not go perfectly when you travel – that is what makes it an adventure. It will give you a story to tell your friends later.

It’s great to travel, but it’s great to come home!
nicksgirl88 is offline  
Jun 1st, 2011, 01:24 PM
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really lovely report.

your enthusiasm is infectious.

thanks for posting.
annhig is offline  
Jun 1st, 2011, 01:43 PM
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nz101 is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2011, 01:40 AM
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>Some dispute between Austrian and German trains?
a mountain range.
>Scharnitz, Germany
Scharnitz is in Tyrol, Austria. Northbound trains run every 2 hours. . A car or taxi is a must.
>Franziskaner Weizen
The budweiser of Weizen beers. Some actually like it.

Nice report.
logos999 is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2011, 04:34 AM
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nicksgirl88, Thanks for wonderful report, I loved reading it! I've been copying & pasteing bits to use on our family trip in Oct/November this year. I know it will be a lot colder and probably wetter but I hope it's as enjoyable as your trip. We are looking forward to the schnitzel,apple strudel and singing Sound of Music songs on the stairs but I won't be wearing skinnies or tights!! Thanks again, loved it, JT
thomo7 is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2011, 04:51 AM
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Hello nicksgirl88

Nice job! Interesting story from your MIL about her father. Great idea to tape the conversation. I need to do the same with my father (fought in France in 1943-44) before his dementia gets the best of his memory.

Schlagobers - some words just make me smile
swisshiker is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2011, 07:03 AM
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Thanks for the great report!
pauljagman is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2011, 07:26 AM
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Wonderful report.. thanks for all the details and links, especially to your accommodations. They look enticing for a future trip.
lincasanova is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2011, 11:51 AM
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Thanks for the comments!

logos - my husband is definitely a wheat beer doesn't bother his stomach since his cancer surgery 6 years ago like other beers do. He also enjoys Maissels Weisse (sp?), Konig Ludwig Weissbier, and the Stiegl Weiss he liked too. He did try a couple of others on this visit but I can't remember the names!

swisshiker - yes, we thought taping his mom was a good idea too. Nick's sister couldn't make the trip with us so this way she can relive some of the moments as well.
nicksgirl88 is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2011, 12:15 PM
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Let him try this one the next time. Koenig Ludwig is ok too!
logos999 is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2011, 12:19 PM
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Thanks logos - I'll pass it along. Although it looks dunkel, he doesn't like dunkel!
nicksgirl88 is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2011, 12:23 PM
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There's also a Helles Wheat , but dunkel is the tradition.
logos999 is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2011, 12:44 PM
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so what's the weather like there this week? It was rather warm when we were there.
nicksgirl88 is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2011, 12:54 PM
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It's been raining cats and dogs for days, 13C max. The rain has stopped. Warm air arriving tonight. 26C and rain over the weekend, not really bad. Today was a holiday, could have been worse. Lots of traffic outside of town, however.
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