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Trip Report Bavaria and Salzburg, with the Children

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First, a big "danke schoen" to everyone who helped with suggestions and to fine-tune our itinerary. The most unanticipated, yet most appreciated, part of the holiday was the gorgeous weather we had--warm, sunny skies and temperatures near 70 degrees Fahrenheit. But on to the report...

The travelers: Mom and DH; and DS (13) and DD (8)
Lodging (all averaged around 100Euro per night total. In Rothenburg and Salzburg that included breakfast.):
Rothenberg ob der Tauber: Hotel Kreuzerhof. Tremendous value, lovely hosts, spacious family room. The hotel is inside the walls, and just a short walk to the center of the city.
Fussen: Landhaus Kossel. Our favorite. A one-bedroom apartment with kitchen, plus a large living room with another bed. Terrific views, a very pleasant choice.
Salzburg. Haus Am Moss. Thanks, Ira, for the recommendation. This was a perfect place for our family.

The story begins on Saturday, a day after our arrival. It’s late afternoon, and we’re all sitting in the yard of our gasthaus, enjoying the sunny and warm 19 degree weather (Centigrade, that is!). Mom and Dad are sipping the local Rothenberg Pilsner, and the children are playing “Go Fish” and eating (far too many) Kinder eggs. Some families do this every weekend, we hear. We have to leave the country to relax.

Backtracking a little, our flight from Dulles to Frankfurt the day before was on a Lufthansa 747, a massive plane but unfortunately with less legroom than expected, so my 6’7” DH was a bit cramped. The plane was also full of high school students en route for enlightenment in Rome and Greece; thankfully their chaperones kept them quiet for the flight. Although we were nearly an hour delayed getting out of Dulles, a fair tailwind landed us nearly on time, and within an hour we had cleared immigration and had our rental car, a manual Volkswagen mini-SUV that DH assured me he knew how to drive. He had a little trouble getting out of the parking garage, causing the children to panic over the smell of burning clutch and me to wonder if AutoEurope had any automatics for rent, but quickly realized that he had been attempting to drive in third gear. Soon thereafter we were cruising at a pleasant 140km on the Autobahn to Wurzburg. DS was impressed with the very fast Audis and Benz’ that were blazing by in the left lane, and I made a mental note to not ever give him the keys to my car.

In Wurzburg we found the Residenz with no problem, and spent a couple of hours touring this beautiful restored palace of prince bishops. At the end of the tour there was a long hallway of “after” and “after” photos--after March 1945 (the palace is near to a Mercedes factory), and then after the restoration. The devastation was tremendous; now the palace and grounds are a UNESCO World Heritage site, so it should go without saying (for us, anyway) that a portion of it was under renovation. After touring the palace we lunched quickly on bratwurst--except for DD, who was only feeling brave enough for a cheeseburger--at a street wurst stand, and then carried on to Rothenburg, “the most beautifully preserved walled city in Germany.” Our gasthaus is within the walls of the city, but unlike Italian walled cities, one can drive within the walls here. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easy, though. Most of the streets are narrow, and most have to be shared with horse carts.

Once we settled into our room and freshened up we roamed about the city for a bit, exploring the Markt Platz and the charming stores selling pretty little wooden toys and other German-made trinkets. Rothenburg is like a city from a fairytale--the buildings are mostly half-timbered, the streets are cobbled, and there’s even townsfolk wearing traditional clothing as everyday wear. One store in particular, “Kathe Wolfhart” I had read was considered the Christmas store that “all of Europe” shops at, and so naturally we were compelled to go in, even though I despise these same stores at home. The store was indeed uber Christmas, and, honestly, I didn’t see what all the fuss was about. We also sampled our first Schneeballen of the trip. Again, I had read that the relationship with this pastry was black or white--one either loved them or one hated them. Turns out that we all love them! They’re strips of flaky pastry piled into a sphere that is deep-fried, and then sprinkled with powdered sugar, or drizzled with chocolate or vanilla. They remind me very much of crusciki, but then again, Poland and Germany share many dishes.

By this time the long travel day had caught up with us, so we took a short nap before heading to the market outside the wall for snacks, detouring along the way to wander through a very old, and very busy cemetery. The cemetery had many family plots, all of which had raised gardens of flowers and plants, and in some cases, small trees, that were being tended to by family. There was lots of chatter, too, and for everyone there it seemed to be a social event. Maybe this is unique to small communities where families have known one another for centuries.

Dinner was outside at Die Roter Hahn--schnitzel large and small for the children; wurst and sauerkraut for mom; and a hearty sausage and potato salad platter for dad, it all a delicious array of dishes washed down with the local ale (and Fanta for the children.) Upon returning to our gasthaus we discovered that the heat was not on and the windows that let in the lovely spring weather earlier were still open. With silent shared panic DH and I flashed back to our trip to Tuscany, when lots of bees had entered our cottage through the open windows during the day, and immediately scoured every square meter of our room for the little buzzers. Thankfully there were none, which only left us with the lack of heat to deal with. We turned the radiators on but told the children not to expect heat because, after all, the calendar read “spring,” so perhaps Europe turns off its furnaces. The children looked at us as if we were crazy, but were too tired to complain about being cold, and tucked in under their thick comforters, sleeping soundly in their slowly-warming room.

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    Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber

    There were no bumblebees to wake us as in Tuscany, just the chirping of some very, very loud birds at the very late hour of 7:30! Late for us, anyway. We showered and dressed quickly, and walked over to the main house to be greeted by the familiar sights and smells of a hearty European breakfast--sausages, cold meats and cheeses, tiny cucumbers, breads, Nutella and jams, fresh yogurt and museli, and even coffee. Two other families joined us in the house, all of us chatting about our plans for the day.

    Our plan for the day was to walk along the town wall first, then follow the suggested walking tour I had found while planning the trip (Rick Steves, I think.) All of this was supposed to take a couple of hours, so I had also planned for us to spend the afternoon at nearby Schillingsfurst, a castle with a falcon yard. Watching birds of prey catch and devour little animals would be fun, no? Turns out that walking along the wall was more fun than we thought!

    It was still early when we began our walk, and there was much fog in the valley surrounding the town that added to the charm. Nearly two hours later, after much exploration and mock warfare antics by the children (mostly DS), we finally finished touring the wall. At one point in our conversation we were talking about invaders, but DS thought I’d said “vaders” and asked what they were. Just at that moment I spied through an opening in the wall two tour buses arriving to dispense their camera-clicking armies, and these “vaders” became our joke for the day.

    At the southern end of the city, outside the wall, there sat what seemed to be its own village. We explained that it was probably where the serfs once lived, which prompted twenty questions from the children about peasants and hierarchy and ruling classes. This was one of those times when, as a parent, you’re proud that your children extend their learning outside of the classroom--although they had both “learned” about medieval society in their classrooms, this hands-on experience really clarified their understanding.

    Finishing our wall tour, we ambled back into the Markt Platz, the center of town, in search of lunch. It wasn’t much of a search--with the skies a bright blue and the warm sun shining down on us, we sought an outside table at Ratstube, with excellent people watching. Lunch was kasebrot, a cold cheese plate with bread for DD; a similar lunch, but with meats, for DS; a Franconian platter of roasted pork in a sweet vinegar sauce for DH, and something like meatloaf with roasted potatoes for me, except that I traded DH the potatoes for his sauerkraut because there are just some things he does not eat. And of course, a couple of local pilsners. Lunch was quite good. From our earthbound vantage point we watched people atop of the town hall tower, and thought the 200 step climb would be fun, not to mention the view that we’d get from the top. So after lunch we climbed the very narrow and very steep 190 steps to an interior platform, where we paid a whole Euro for the pleasure of climbing 10 more steps through a teeny tiny porthole and literally crawling out onto scaffolding not more than one person wide and about waist high. The whole top of the tower could hold only 6 people! But the view, and the shimmy through the porthole, was worth it.

    Once back down on the ground, we decided to start the “official” walking tour of the town, but soon realized that we had seen a good deal of the tour on our own and so took in the final highlights a bit out of sync, including the beautiful carved altar of Jacobskirche. From there the gals and guys split up, with the guys touring the wildly popular Crime & Punishment Museum and we gals opting for a stroll through the pretty gardens behind the town’s former convent and a little light shopping. We all connected back at the gasthaus for a rest before dinner and the Night Watchman’s Tour.

    Our dinner this evening was thus far the most ordinary, at an outdoor restaurant of one of the local hotels. I ordered the Franconian pork roast that DH had for lunch, but it did not inspire me as much as his had; DH had a platter of several sausage types and fried potatoes, which seemed ordinary to him, as well. DD ordered schnitzel again, and DS ordered kasespaetzle, essentially German macaroni and cheese. Our waitress seemed to lose interest in us once she realized we spoke English, and didn’t even bother to give us the seasonal asparagus menu, something I fondly recalled from our previous Germany trip. Meh. So what--she wasn’t going to spoil our fun, especially the chuckle we got from DS, who went into the hotel to use the men’s room, but came out within moments because he could not remember whether “Damen” or “Herren” meant “Men,” and had actually entered the ladies’ room before realizing he’d best check!

    After dinner we purchased more schneeballen and waited in the platz for the Night Watchman. Nearby a crowd of about 50 high school students from Florida were, well, acting like teenagers. We hoped they were not going to take the tour. They did, but thankfully the chaperones reined them in. The Nightwatchman took us on an hourlong history tour of the city after dark, none of it scary. We all enjoyed the tour very much, and wrapped up our last evening in Rothenburg with a lovely walk home through town, anticipating the next days’ drive along the Romantic Road.

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    Driving the Romantic Road

    The Romantic Road was engineered, almost literally, by the German tourist industry as a way to connect the lovely little towns from Wurzburg to Fussen. The term “romantic” in this usage is a cross between “lovely” and the historic Roman trade route between Rome and Paris, although now it’s synonymous with tourism. Although we had no traffic along this two lane road, we’d read that in peak season it can be solid traffic the entire 300+ kilometers, and it was easy to see how several slow moving tour buses could achieve that, too!

    Enough with the history. We enjoyed a final breakfast in our gasthaus with a full house of people--an uptight couple who looked at us disapprovingly in our jeans; another couple from the day before, and another American family who also appeared to be on holiday. DS made us laugh at breakfast with his eagerness to try new foods, even if it meant adding Natrene to his yogurt before I could translate the label for him!

    Waving “auf weidersehn” to Rothenburg we drove south to Dinkelsbuhl, the second of the only three completely intact walled cities in Germany. The town is smaller than Rothenburg, with a shorter wall, and the houses are more patrician than half-timbered. We roamed about the pretty little town for an hour or so, stopping at a local woodcraft store to purchase handcarved wooden boxes to bring home. We also paused to wonder what the tank speed limit signs were all about, never quite figuring them out. We would like to have seen the town cathedral on the inside, but Palm Sunday masses were underway.

    The next town, and final stop on our triple ticket of walled cities, was Nordlingen. Save for its walkable wall, the city did not interest us too much. Its architecture was a mixture of half-timbered homes, patrician homes, and some very, very expensive homes along the outside of the wall. Unlike the other two cities, there were also homes that had been built in the former moat, into the exterior wall of the city! It was also here that we stopped for lunch, choosing an Italian cafe for pizza. In hindsight we all agreed that we should have skipped Nordlingen in favor of one of the other places we missed, but that’s how it goes. Driving on, we came around a curve to a sign that read, “Schloss Hoburg,” and there right in front of us was indeed, a castle on top of a hill. We pulled in to do some exploring--this structure really looked like a castle! Stone walls, towers, battlements, inner and outer keep--everything but the princess and the fire-breathing dragon. We wandered around on our own for a short while, as their tours lasted 60 minutes and were in German, took a few photos and sallied forth.

    Our next destination was Donauworth, a town whose claims to fame includes being at the confluence of the Wornitz and Danube rivers, and, far less interesting, the home of the world-famous Kathe Kruse puppets. It turns out that in addition to never having heard of this woman or her puppets, we all discovered that we dislike puppets, but stopping to look at the rivers was deemed worth it. Interestingly, the Wornitz flows much slower than the Danube, causing quite a swirl of watery action when they meet. This fascinated us longer than we thought—by now we were pushing against a civilized check-in time at our final destination for the day. We stopped quickly for fortification (diesel fuel and ice cream) and motored past Augsburg (next trip!) and Marchenwald (next trip!) through the periodic light sprinkles to get to Fussen before dark because we were all anxious to see the Alps for the first time. Just past Landsberg the Romantisches Strasse started to climb, and as we cleared Schongau suddenly the first snow-capped peaks appeared. The sprinkles had stopped, and the sky was a velvety periwinkle against the mountains. As the three of shouted, “Keep your eyes on the road,” we described the beauty DH was winding past very carefully. Soon we arrived in Fussen to big, fat raindrops. DH muttered something about it being impossible to stop on a two-lane road, in the rain, so that I could take photos, but what is a Bavarian vacation if there are no photos of rain-streaked Alps?

    The need to find our lodge was becoming pressing, with the darkening skies threatening to pour down, so we made our way to Hopfen Am See, just north of Fussen, and only drove past our lodge once! By this time the rain shower had stopped, and we hopped out of the vehicle to take in our first breaths of fresh alpine air, but very quickly our noses directed us to oh-so-unfresh piles of cow patties and horse manure in the adjacent barn. Maybe tomorrow for the fresh air. The lodge’s host fairly quickly rushed through the apartment review, tossed us the keys and said, “The store down the street will be open at 7:00 a.m. tomorrow for bread.” We settled in to our lovely lodge, complete with a balcony overlooking the mountains we had just driven by, and while the boys went on a crazy recon for milk (they were gone so long I thought they’d driven to Switzerland to milk a cow), I prepared a quick pasta supper. And soon it was lights out in anticipation of Neuschwanstein the next day.

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    Morning broke across “our” mountain around 6:30, and our fresh alpine air was truly fresh--not patty or manure-scented. Having failed in their milk recon mission the night before, DH donned his hiking boots for the 40 step walk to the market that was closed when we arrived, where he even waited patiently for the days’ Kaiser roll delivery, and brought both milk and bread home for breakfast. He reported that the “See” part of Hopfen am See was rather pretty in the morning, as well. I took his word from the photos he took.

    Not much of a problem getting the sleeping liebchens to wake on this day. After breakfast and a quick stop to drop off laundry (mom didn’t feel like sitting around with the other hausfraus and washing unterhosen at the community laundry), it was off to the castles. The skies were sunny and blue, yet the gentleman attending the parking lot warned of “rain and snow” in a couple of hours. Hmm.

    The first castle on the list was Hohenschwangau, the boyhood home of the “Mad” King Ludwig. Our guide, Sabina, led a small group through the main chambers of the King and Queen, and gave us the history of the home. We were in an English-speaking group, and of course there was a stupid English-speaker who felt compelled to try to take pictures inside despite the multiple “No Photos” warning. “I didn’t see any signs,” she quipped when she was reprimanded. Twice. What is it with those people?

    The castle tours are timed two hours apart in order to allow visitors to travel the half-mile between either by walking, taking the bus, or by horse-drawn carriage. I’ll leave it to your imagination to guess our mode of transportation. (Hint: the horse’s names were Dieter and Bessie.) From the carriage stop there’s about a ten minute walk to the castle entrance. Our (English-speaking) tour group was larger this time, and included obnoxious Irish teenagers, whose chaperones did not seem interested in chaperoning. Thankfully they were mostly quiet when our guide, a soft-spoken guy, led us through the castle. Much of Neuschwanstein remains unfinished from Ludwig’s time, but there’s enough fanciful artwork in the finished rooms to fulfill all princess fantasies. The conservatory was DD’s favorite room--with a large stage and fairy-tale forest painted background, she imagined performing “Minuet in D Minor” at a violin recital. I was intrigued by Venus’ grotto, a cave-like room complete with faux stalagmites and stalactites and an outdoor space, in which Ludwig presumably lived out his Wagnerian dreams. Best of all, there was absolutely no reference to Disney.

    Conveniently located near the castle is a lovely outdoor cafe where we rested our toes over lunch. Lunch itself was good, with the usual varieties of Bavarian fare, but it was the beer that will be most remembered. Because it was so bad. Imagine--bad beer in Bavaria. Yet there it was, two large steins of Radler that we dubbed “Sprite Beer” because it tasted like a mixture of the two. We had asked for pilsner, but ended up with Radler. Later in the trip we learned that Radler is indeed beer mixed with lemonade. That is just gross.

    After lunch we hiked up to Marienbrucke, an iron-framework bridge that spans a gorge about a 15 minute walk up the mountain from Neuschwanstein. Along our walk I couldn’t resist the urge to start an Alpine snowball fight. (The forecast snow by the parking attendant hadn’t occurred, and in spite of the 65 degree temperature and sunny blue skies, there was still plenty of snow on the ground.) The bridge offers an amazing view of the castle, the valley below, and the pretty waterfall directly below it, but once again I’ll take the family’s word for it from the photos, as I found myself a little too timid to walk more than halfway across. From the bridge we walked back into town, a nice little 25 minute downhill walk through the trees.

    By now it was approaching late afternoon, too late to take in another sight, but I remembered that there was a summer toboggan run in town near the cable lift to Tegelberg. We goofed off on the toboggan run for a while and then finally made our way home. The children kicked a soccer ball around in the yard while we relaxed with two real Pilsners. Dinner was a simple steak frites (the kitchen had limited cooking), and then we all fell fast asleep.

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    Linderhof and Mittenwald

    Sad to leave our lovely little alpine lodge, but excited about the fun awaiting us in Salzburg and Southern Bavaria, we bid “Tschuss!” to the cows and the horses after breakfast. It was now time for DH to start panicking about not having the total money-making scam called the “vignette” for taking an unowned vehicle across the border into Austria. Rebels that we are, we drove a full tenth of a kilometer into Austria without the sticker before stopping at the first petrol station to buy one.

    Our drive on this sunny day took us from Fussen through Reutte and past Innsbruck before navigating north back into Germany to Linderhof, the third of the four of Bavaria’s beloved King’s palaces. Along the way we were surrounded by snow capped Alps, and we all felt that even Steven Spielberg couldn’t improve the beauty--it simply has to be driven, and so over the mountains and past our first alpine lake (how do the Austrians make such beautiful green water?) to Schloss Linderhof we went. Ludwig’s “weekend home” sits on the site of his father’s former hunting lodge, but that is where the resemblance ends. Our delightful guide, Angela, took a small number of us English-speakers on the tour through the palace; as with the tours of Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein, it seems pretty clear that Bavaria loves Ludwig. The guides consider Ludwig’s place in history very carefully, suggesting only that he “broke off an engagement and remained single to enjoy music, and that “he died under mysterious circumstances.”

    For all of their formalities, one of the things I really like about the European way is that they seem to travel with a crate of food in their cars, always at the ready for an impromptu picnic. People just don't picnic along Arlington Boulevard at home! And like our fellow picnickers we, too, had our grocery bag of provisions, and picnicked in the parking lot before driving on to Mittenwald. The drive to Mittenwald from Linderhof was almost exclusively along the Alpinestrasse, so there was lots of oohing and aahing around every turn, with a couple of “ohs!” in there when we encountered the 16% grades and the gears in the Touran grinded. In good time we arrived in Mittenwald, a sleepy little health and ski resort town nestled in the Alps. Our purpose for stopping was a singular one--to visit the Gegenbau Museum, which tells the history of violin-making in Mittenwald. The museum was a little gem, remarkably well-done, and we all learned a little bit about the Lotz family, whose patriarch studied at the same school with Stradivarius, and whose descendants still make violins. But alas, although the weather was sunny and warm, we were not able to see any freshly-made violins hanging out to dry.

    With the late afternoon upon us, we made the wise decision to motor straight on to Salzburg in order to arrive at our gasthaus at a reasonable time. And that was a good decision, because we had a bit of difficulty finding the place--little things like not having an Austria driving map and the lack of street signs in Salzburg tripped us up a bit. Our hosts and their oh-so-adorable dog, Nino, were working in the garden when we arrived, and within minutes had us whisked into the family apartment, given us an annotated Salzburg street map (how did they know we needed that, we wondered?), and since we were in the outskirts of Salzburg, gave us step-by-step instructions on where to park “in the city” when we headed there for dinner.

    Our family apartment was no less charming and immaculate than the other places we’d stayed, and after freshening up we headed the 3 kilometers into the city for dinner at a biergarten that I had read about. The Augustinerstubl is in a former monastery, and in warm weather (as it was this evening), the outside terrace can seat about 1,000 patrons comfortably. And on this night I'd guess it was almost at capacity. The atmosphere was very casual--one could either bring their own food, or select from among the half dozen vendors offering wursts and whole roasted fish and chickens. The main attraction is the beer, of course, made on-site. The drill is simple: one pays for either a small or large stein, which you take from the many shelves lining the room and rinse in the stone fountain before handing it to the braumeister to fill. With beer and wursts in hand, we managed to find an empty table, a small miracle considering that a Manchester United game was being television there a bit later, and the fans were pouring in. And under the warmth of the fading Salzburg sun we toasted yet another schones tag.

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    Breakfast at our gasthaus did not begin until 8:00 a.m. which almost seems like lunchtime to us early-birds. Not wanting to seem eager, however, we walked over to the main house at the fashionable time of 8:10 to be greeted first by Nino and then by our hosts. Shortly thereafter two other families joined us, and soon the room was lively with conversation. Our hosts were well-suited to their profession--Herr Strasser sat at one of the tables and was ready for conversation--politely curious he was about all of his guests. His wife commented sweetly to DD about her dolls, who were a little too shy for conversation, and even their 12 year-old son managed to grunt “Guten Morgen” when prompted by mom as he wandered through in his pajamas. But it was Nino who captured everyone’s attention as he wandered from table to table, wagging his little dog bottom in the hopes of a stolen morsel. We chuckled to think of our own dog’s terrible table manners.

    Recalling the whopping 30 minutes we spent in St. Gilgen ten years ago as romantic and magical, we were inspired to head there first after breakfast. Time certainly has a way of rose-tinting memories, for although St. Gilgen and Mondsee were indeed pretty little alpine towns, they had us wondering if our memories were no longer serving us. Regrouping, the next destination was Untersberg and the cable car ride. We purchased our tickets quickly before I could chicken out, and for about ten minutes I held my breath as we climbed higher and higher to the summit. As the car reached the second tower, we were all fooled into thinking that we were at the top, but then suddenly there was nothing in front of us! The cable car makes a small dip into a gorge before arriving at the summit, but it was enough of a “thrill” to inspire a few “ohhhhhs!” from us. The view high atop Salzburg was so worth my rapidly-beating heart, and the family was proud of me for taking on this personal challenge. We had hoped to see mountain goats on this climb, but had to make do with only mountain goat tracks and stunning views in all directions. Darn.

    The descent from Untersberg was smooth, and soon we were on our way to the altstadt and all things Sound of Music. (The parking garage our host directed us to was literally inside a mountain--very cool.) But first, lunch. At the first place we stopped I was having trouble navigating the all-German menu, oddly enough, so we employed Plan B---sandwiches from the Billa that we ate while overlooking the Salzburg River. The sun was shining warmly, the river was flowing a beautiful alpine-green, and the people-watching made for a lovely al fresco meal.

    A few steps away from our lunch spot was Getreidegassee, a most popular street in the altstadt. I remembered the street as having pretty little wrought-iron signs announcing each charming little store, and this time memory served me well, except that many of the stores are now ones that I can shop at at my less-than-charming Tysons Corner. Still, Mozart’s birthplace at No. 9 was our destination, and it was just the right amount of Mozart for our young violinist.

    Now it was finally time for the Sound of Music pilgrimage. From Getreidegasse we walked first to Salzburgdom, which, in spite of what the guidebooks say, everyone knows is the church where Maria and the Captain were married, and then through the Dom Platz where Gretl asks upon seeing the German soldiers marching after the anschluss, “Why does the flag with the black spider on it make everybody cross?” Here there was a programming pause in my pilgrimage to climb (via the funicular, thankfully) to the top of Hohensalzburg, the fortress over the city that went unattacked for over 1,000 years (what is it with boys and fortresses and battles?), and enjoyed cold pilsners and warm pretzels at the top while reviewing the pilgrimage route.

    My plan to initiate DD as a full-member in my personal SOM Fan Club was well underway on this trip. She’s watched the movie at least three times now, has learned one of the songs on her violin, and can sing along with most of the music, so I had a singing partner as we walked from the fortress down to Nonnberg Convent (the terrace on which the family hid before escaping was not open on this day--my only disappointment of the holiday), past the Cathedral again and across the river to Mirabell Gardens. I will say that DD and I were not the only ladies singing the “Do, a Deer” song on the steps, and DH and DS were not the only gentlemen standing around looking embarrassed for the women in their lives.

    With evening approaching and our light lunch having faded, we decided to head back toward the house in search of dinner, but not without stopping first at the von Trapp mansion (private property, of course, but sticking my camera through their wrought iron gates doesn’t technically count as trespassing) and finally, at the gazebo now housed in the gardens of Schloss Hellbrunn, a location not associated with SOM. Now thoroughly starving, we stopped at the gasthof nearest our house and enjoyed what rates as our favorite meal of the holiday. Far from the tourist path, this unpretentious gasthof served savory local dishes--kasespaetzle baked and served in the cast iron pan for DD, sauteed Zander for DH, tender Zweiblbroten for Mom, and for DS a dish, while not the one he had been seeking all week, was a close second--Kalbbeuschel, essentially a stew of cow lungs and hearts with dumplings. The waitress paused when DS placed his order to ask if we knew what the dish was (we did). She even commented that not all Austrian children like that dish. We made DS promise to eat the food no matter what it tasted like. And you know what? It was delicious.

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    We awoke again to sunny and blue skies, with nary a furrowed brow over not having an Internet connection in three days. Even DS seemed to be managing without access to sports scores. It figures that it would be our last day when we would finally get the hang of this “vacation” concept.

    Breakfast was delightful again, with Nino waiting in the window seat of the breakfast room ready to greet us. After we finished, our hosts bid us “ciao ciao” (proximity to Italy, perhaps?) and we headed to Schloss Schonbrunn. This palace was built by a Salzberger prince archbishop in the 17th century because, really, he had nothing better to do. The interior of the palace is unremarkable as these European treasures go, save for the handpainted wallpaper in this one; it is the trick fountains in the gardens that attract visitors. For nearly an hour our guide led us on a very lively tour of the whimsical gardens, ever mindful of our cameras and knowing exactly when to turn a particular fountain on. Of course the children in our tour loved this; and even we adults found ourselves giggling when an unanticipated squirt of water would land on us.

    Spirits high, we drove back into Germany to Berchtesgaden for a tour of the saltmines. After donning miner’s suits we climbed aboard a mining train that took us, first, about 50 meters below the mountain to a demonstration of how salt is mined. Reaching the next level for more of the tour required sliding down a wooden chute. At this level we toured a brine lake, learned a little more about saltmining, and then took a boat across the lake, entertained by a “crystal” light show. There was one more level down to go, to approximately 150 meters, and it was also by wooden chute. This last session was more about salt mining history and interesting facts, and then we boarded the little mining trains to come back to the surface. At the end of the tour we all received tiny jars of Berchtesgaden-mined salt. We all agreed this tour was as much fun as the Paris sewers museum.

    Konigsee, the famed lake sandwiched between the alps is, according to the literature, the most photographed panorama in all of Germany, and was a perfect way to wrap up our Bavarian holiday. The electric ferry glided quietly across the lake while the guide narrated myths and legends about the lake and its mountains. At the midway point to St. Bartholomas the ferry captain played a beautiful song on the fluglehorn that echoed the length of the lake. Originally we had considered taking the ferry the entire length of Konigsee, but a significant portion of it was still frozen over and so all ferries were stopping at St. Bartholoma. We disembarked and roamed for a short while, soaking in the beauty around us and looking desperately for mountain goats. Finding none, and growing tired, we returned to the Berchtesgaden dock and tried to journey home via a stop at the Eagle’s Nest (for the view, mostly), but could only go so far because of snow-covered roads. Coming down was a bit of a challenge, with 24% grades in a few places. DH and I were white-knuckled, not at all from the drive, but rather from the crazy drivers blazing around us on this two-lane highway of terror. Once safely back on terra firma, we drove into Salzburg city for dinner, choosing an old burgerbrau that looked comfortable and inviting. The children enjoyed their last schnitzels, and mom and dad, goulash and Zweibelbroten. And with glasses raised, we bid a fond “auf weidersehn” to Bavaria and Salzburg.

    A final, few words about the randomness of airport security. For this and a recent trip to Paris, none of my 3 oz. cosmetic liquids were in a Ziplock bag in my tote, and they sailed through Dulles. Returning from Paris, my camembert was confiscated, but the pate in my suitcase arrived home in good shape. For this trip I had read that German airports were fairly strict, so I packed my liquid cosmetics into a Ziplock. My 4.25 oz. travel hairspray didn’t raise a flag, but DD’s dolls Kit and Bitty Baby were pulled aside and swabbed for drugs. I’m not kidding. Watching the German security agent try to explain in partial-English to a little girl why her dollies were being frisked was priceless.

    The flight home was uneventful. Customs and immigration were a snap, and we were home in good time. Our neighbor had the mail sorted by day on our dining room table, and our dog was in the backyard, his tail wagging furiously when the taxi pulled up.

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    Wow - beautiful trip report! We are anxiously awaiting our trip to Switzerland (to visit family) and then to Bavaria next month. We will be visiting many of the places you noted. Thank you for a wonderful read!

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    We won't be taking our seemingly yearly jaunt to Bavaria this year, but your travelogue made me feel like I was there. It reminded me of just how precious those trips with my young kids were. Fortunately, those adventures created a lust for travel that they still maintain today. Best of all, now they take us with them.

    But you and I could never travel together - You hate Kathe Wohlfahrt and love those Godawful Schneeballen!!! Yecccccch!!!

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    I went to Germany and Austria two years ago with my children. We all loved the trip and reading your report brought back so many wonderful memories. Thank you for sharing!

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    Thank you, everyone, for your kind comments. This style of vacation was a first for us with the children, with multiple lodgings and destinations. I had wondered if the children would get bored, but the different scenery, books to read and iPODs to listen to (not to mention a fair supply of gummy bears and Kinder eggs) made the trip great fun. We consider ourselves lucky to have children that are easy to travel with!

    About 1200 photos were taken, I'm sure of which less than a third are keepers. I'm planning to sort them this coming weekend and will try to post some of the better ones.

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    I loved reading your report. I read most of it outloud to my wife because it brought back so many great memories.

    I have a question. I am probably making myself the butt of the joke but "what is Natrene?" I even looked it up on the web and the best answer I got was a town in Latvia.

    It sounded like you stayed at the Am Moos isn Salzburg. Is that it?

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    I'm glad you liked our travel story. Natrium is the German word for sodium; Natrene was likely the brand name for the sodium pellets that our son ate.

    And yes, we stayed at Am Moos in Salzburg. It is a lovely place and we enjoyed our stay there.

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    Fourfortravel: Interesting travelogue!

    Do you maybe mean Natreen? It's an artificial sweetener which is pretty common in Germany.

    I think I can give you some info about "We also paused to wonder what the tank speed limit signs were all about, never quite figuring them out."

    Western Germany would have been the most likely place for WW3 to go hot, so until '89 it was prepared as a battlefield. Part of that was that all bridges had signs with the maximum speed and weight they could carry. You find them also in the Western part of France. These signs were also needed because large scale exercises were common (I still remember the large Nato summer exercises when on the highway one might pass for an hour trucks carrying soldiers and equipment from half a dozen countries).

    If you know what to look for, you can find quite a lot of such relicts, as for example the stretches of the highway which go completely straight for two kilometres without a seperation between the lanes. At the height of the cold war, everything was ready to turn them within a day into an airfield, including the complete infrastructure, gasoline storage etc.

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    Thank you so much for the tank speed limit information. We even tried Google-ing for information when we returned home.

    The Natrene our son ate was definitely not sweet. I licked one of them myself to confirm the taste. Perhaps I'm not recalling the name correctly?

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    Just found this wonderful report through a google search. You have done the itinerary I am planning! We have three kids planning our first overseas trip as a family--they will be 12, 10, and 8 when we go (in 2013 I'm sad to say--saving like crazy!).

    First, thanks for doing all the planning--we are going to match your trip in many ways! As a travel planning hobbyist, I love to meet others with such detailed and enthusiastic plans. So, thanks for sharing. (If you need more Disney info, I'm your girl--doing our last trip there this fall.)

    Question, do you think with 14 days we could do your itinerary and add in Vienna and Prague?

    Despite our best intentions, we are taking far fewer trips with the children than we had envisioned when we married. Such is life, and money! But we'd love to take three before our oldest goes to college--that may realistically be only two so I'd like to fit in what we can. Italy would most likely be our second trip.

    Anyone have any opinions?

    PS, fourfortravel, we both grew up in the DC area and now live in Charlotte. Too bad, we could be travel planning buddies. :)

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    While I enjoyed your report, I have one comment to make concerning:

    "it was now time for DH to start panicking about not having the total money-making scam called the “vignette” for taking an unowned vehicle across the border into Austria."

    Money making scam? Everyone, including Austrians, need to have a "vignette" for using the highways in Austria. Beats stopping/having toll's to pay every 10 miles or so like on the GSP in NJ.

    The 10 day sticker is 7.90 Euro and the one year sticker is 76.50 Euro. You could spend more than that yearly sticker cost in a few months here in the NY/NJ area.

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    We had asked for pilsner, but ended up with Radler. Later in the trip we learned that Radler is indeed beer mixed with lemonade. That is just gross.>>

    actually it's a well known drink in the UK [and i now learn Germany] which we call a shandy. my mum likes it on a hot day. not gross at all, but not what you were expecting!

    nice TR though.

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    Seems like you hit all the highlights of Bavaria that I enjoy. I could taste the food you described and I'm salivating from the beer you consumed.

    Too touristy? Perhaps but I love it. What a fabulous trip for your children. I'm sure it will instill travel to other countries.

    Thanks for the great report. Makes me want to go back soon!

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    Fourfortravel, I enjoyed reading your trip report! Our family will be traveling this summer from NoVa to the Salzburg area (via Munich) and your report was both helpful and entertaining. I'm trying to do as much research I can about traveling to Europe, where to stay our first and last few nights (already booked a place for the middle of the trip near where you stayed in Salzburg), and what to visit in the area. Now I'm trying to figure out if we should spend a night or two in Munich upon arrival or stay near Chiemsee (or somewhere in that general area) before moving on to Salzburg. So thank you for your trip report and best wishes on your next European adventure!

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    Thanks Fourfortravel, so cool to find a 'new/unread' tr. We've just decided on Salzburg for Xmas this year, so I'm madly reading new and old reports. yours is great.

    Thanks for the Radler headsup, we too call them Shandy's annhig (hi again) or if you don't want the ratio to be too in favour of lemonade its "a beer and a dash', perfect on a hot day.

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    hi aussie - glad to see that you've settled on salzburg. I'm sure it'll be lovely, even if it doesn't snow.

    i think we need a bit of a winter warmer at the moment - a Glühwein or Jägertee would hit the spot more than a refreshing shandy!

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    travelwithfive, did you make the trip? Did I miss your report?

    aussiedreamer, thanks for the helpful notes about Radler; I don't think my husband will ever be game to try it again, though! I'm jealous of your trip to Salzburg for Christmas, I'm sure it will be beautiful.

    Traveler_A, our next adventure is in about a month--we're taking the children to Krakow. I'm tuning back into the forum more regularly to finalize the trip plans now. How was your Salzburg trip?

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