A Travellerspoint blog

December 2008

The Top of Europe

27 December 2008

sunny 5 °F

This am it looked really ugly down at our level but we decided to risk it and try for the trip to Jungraujoch. It is touted as the Top of Europe at 13,642 feet. That’s higher than Cusco, Mom!
It is supposed to be gorgeous when the weather is good with views into France and Germany.
In order to get there you have to pay an outrageous amount of money and take 3 trains. The ride is about 2 hours and 20 minutes. The last trains are cogwheel trains that seem to go straight up the mountain. Along the way you get to see all the skiers going down the slopes right next to you!
There is a bunch to do at the top. They have an observatory where you can risk frostbite to go outside and take photos of the glacier.
There are also some crazy birds that soar around up there.
Even thought the weather was bad in Interlaken it was gorgeous at the peaks. There were a lot of clouds but it just made the view even more magical.
One side of the mountain has the Swiss flag and quite a bit of wind. Inside they have restaurants and of course a shop.
The other star attraction is the Ice Palace. It is built inside the glacier and you can “skate” thru the tunnels to see the carvings.
They have polar bears, igloos with fisherman, penguins and eagles all carved out of the ice. It is pretty impressive.
We had some fries for lunch before catching the crowded train back down to town. There is not much else to say – I’ll let the photos do it!
When we got back to town we stopped in a shop to get a fondue pot! We just had to! Dinner was at Des Alpes because they had a fondue spread. We apparently stressed out the waiter when we ordered it because we had to move to a bigger table and he asked us to go the salad bar while he got everything set up.
We got an outrageous amount of food. The cooker in the middle of the table had 3 layers – the top was a fondue pot for the turkey and pork. Then the middle was a grill for the vegetables, bacon, shrimp and pork. The bottom was the part for the raclette. This is a little shovel that you put a slice of swiss cheese on. It melts and they you scrap it off onto your bread or potato – FANTASTIC! And it was a change from our cheese fondue. The stuff also came with an assortment of olives, onions, pickles, fruit and rice. It took us 1.5 hour to eat and we didn’t even get close to finishing. Curt was exhausted form all the cooking though. Dinner wore us out so we went to the room to pack. Tomorrow we go home 

Posted by ErinDriver 01:53 Archived in Switzerland Tagged tourist_sites Comments (1)

Skiing in the Swiss Alps....or not!

26 December 2008

sunny 30 °F

The good news is we made it thru the day and there were no visits to the ER or casting room. The bad news is we DSC05411.jpgdidn’t get to ski!

So there we were, showered, breakfast and dressed in 10 layers with our skiis by our side. The bus pulls up and the driver and a couple of passengers tell us that there is a storm at the top of the mountain and no gondolas or trains are running!!!! What a heartbreaker – we dragged all this equipment to Switzerland and might not even get to use it!
So we just decided to walk around town and pop in some of the open shops. We didn’t find much of interest though. We had pizza and the local beer – Ragenbrau – for lunch followed by a ice cream and fries at McDonalds. I know, I know – but they did have the local chocolate Caradellis in the McFlurry.
We went back to the hostel and took a nap hoping that we will be able to do our midnight sledging!
Before sledging we went to a chocolate show at Schuh, a local chocolate shop that still makes everything by hand.
In the showroom they had displays of what students had to make as their project. It was amazing – there was a skier, dragon, dog, penguin, and mountain goat - all made of solid chocolate.
The chef went thru how we get cocoa and did manage to break our hearts by telling us the white chocolate is nothing but fat. It is the cocoa butter with sugar and vanilla!
She demonstrated how to make hollow chocolate santas and truffles. We learned the secret of the edges on the truffle – they just roll the chocolate ball over the metal bars on the little grate! We also got to eat lots of chocolate during the demonstration.
Next up was the midnight sledding! We got to go!!! A bus picked us up at the Interlaken train station and took us to Beatenberg where we took a gondola to Neiderhorn. Up here we had the best cheese fondue ever! The night before had nothing on this fondue in a little chalet looking restaurant in the Swiss Alps.
When we were done eating we got plastic sleds with no way to steer what so ever! Our only instructions were stay on the sled trail! The only marks on the trail were little glowing orange lamps that didn’t really illuminate anything. The object was to sled to Vorsass where there was another restaurant and a gondola. The route was about 1.5 miles we guess and you just go flying down the hill with nothing for brakes but your heels and no way to steer. The first round was absolutely terrifying. But the mountains were gorgeous in the moonlight and the stars were brilliant.
After the first run we checked in to the restaurant for the gluhwein and work up the courage to go again. It seemed as if most people walked down and didn’t plan to go again. The gondola went back up to the start every 30 minutes so we barely got 2 runs in before we had to catch the gondola back to the Neiderhorn. The second trip was much faster and more fun, and we didn’t fall off that time! It was a blast! After the gondola and bus back to town it was after midnight until we got to sleep!

Posted by ErinDriver 07:22 Archived in Switzerland Tagged tourist_sites Comments (1)

A Korean Christmas in Switzerland!

25 December 2008

30 °F

A seven hour train ride brought us safely to Interlocken, Switzerland although it felt more like we stepped off the train into Asia. I am not kidding when I saw we are about the only 2 tourists here that aren’t from Korea! Mom – I’m sure you will appreciate that :)
A few blocks from the train station was our hostel – The backpackers Villa.
It is very large and seems upscale as far as hostels go. Our room has a sink and a little couch and the bathroom is right outside the door.
After dragging all our ski equipment to the third floor we headed out for a walk. Even though it was Christmas many restaurants were open. There was a chocolate shop with a huge display of chocolate including a santa on the main road. I thought you might appreciate picture of that mom.
Of course I was looking for some cheese fondue and soon found it at the Bernenhof. We sat outside by the Christmas lights and a heater. Inside was packed with Koreans who were celebrating Ivan's birthday. One of the waiters was entertaining them with that Ricola horn!
Tomorrow we plan to ski so we went to the room to have some hot chocolate and get ready for an early morning.

Posted by ErinDriver 06:56 Archived in Switzerland Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Black Forest Tour

14 December 2008

sunny 40 °F

First thing of course is the free breakfast – nothing special here. My disappointment with the Hotel Colmar came when I went to check out. My Rick Steves book said I get 10% discount with the book and cash. But when I went to the front desk he said I had to tell them that when I made the reservation in order to get the discount!!! We made sure he knew we wouldn’t be back.
When I calmed down a little we found the car and 11 euros later were allowed out of the parking lot and did the hour drive to Triberg. Here mom had a ball at the House of a Thousand Clocks picking out souvenirs. The street and surrounding area was beautiful with all the snow on the trees.
We had lunch at a cute pizzeria that was down in a basement and very cozy. They also filled the requirement for the piece of Black Forest cake. I must say it was better than the cake we had on our last visit.
Triberg is about 2.5 hours from home but the drive thru the black forest was very Christmassy with all the snow on the trees and houses.

Posted by ErinDriver 12:01 Archived in Germany Tagged tourist_sites Comments (1)

Baden Baden

13 December 2008

sunny 40 °F

Isn’t it great – I worked for one day and then back to the traveling gig! This am Mom, Curt and I piled in the little Jetta and set off for Baden-Baden. It is mostly known for its bathhouses and casino. Two hours into the journey, Lola (the GPS), sent us up a pedestrian street to get to our hotel. It is so much easier to ride the train in Europe because parking spaces are sparse and costly. After a bit we found a spot and the hotel, Hotel Colmar on Lange strasse. It was a cute hotel at first glance and right on a busy street. After meatloaf sandwiches we set out to explore.
Right down the street was the Trinkhalle which is beautiful from the outside but just has a TI, café and ticket office inside.
The view from the hall back on the houses and mountain covered in snow was beautiful.
A few steps away in front of the Kurhaus casino was a christkindlmarkt which spent up a bit of our afternoon shopping around. A jaunt thru town led us by the baths and back to our hotel. Baden Baden is a great place to watch fancily dressed people parade around or shop.
A break was in order before dinner at a Chinese restaurant. I got some really spicy fried rice that I couldn’t eat but I had some of Curt’s buffet  Afterwards we thought we would try our luck at the casino. According to Rick Steve’s we didn’t need a passport to go to the slot machines in the basement. This was a lie, indeed we did need a government issued id so our military ID worked but not a drivers license. The entry fee was 1 euro each but we were allowed in free.
So we didn’t really last long at the slot machine. I just don’t get excited about dropping tons of coins in a machine and watching it disappear. So instead we shopped our way home and to bed.

Posted by ErinDriver 11:55 Archived in Germany Tagged tourist_sites Comments (2)

So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Goodnight

11 December 2008

overcast 45 °F

Today we say Auf Wiedersehen to Salzburg but not without a few last minute tourist stops. After breakfast and stowing our barely closed bags we set out for the Mozart Residence. Salzburg has his residence and birth place but everything I heard said come to this one. So 13 euro and some headsets later we were learning about Mozarts life and music.
The audioguide is useful in letting you know what you are looking at – like his targets for bolt shooting which was apparently a big deal then. And of course there are pianos and scores of music. At the end it portrays a map of all his travels :) At a young age he was traveling around Europe with his family giving concerts! He even at one point had smallpox! But he survived that to compose more operas like Don Giovanni for Prague :)
At the end of our Sound of Music tour yesterday it was too dark to go to Mirabell Palace. So we went for a few photos, and of course to see the Pegasus fountain, dwarfs and do-ray-me steps from the movie. The place would be absolutely gorgeous in the spring with leaves on the trees and flowers – we may have to come back for another look.
This was the end of site seeing in Salzburg for us. The takeaway point we got from everyone …..come back in the summer!!! Hmmmm…..

Posted by ErinDriver 11:45 Archived in Austria Tagged tourist_sites Comments (1)

Salt Mines and Sound of Music

10 December 2008

sunny 40 °F

Panorama Tours led us on a world wind of sight seeing today. We had signed up for the salt mine and sound of music tour, each 4 hours. So by 0900 we were at Mirabellplatz to meet the tour group. For the mines it was just 4 of us, another couple in the van that spoke French. Everything was said twice, once in English, once in French. The tour included a variety of stops, especially to see the Eagles Nest from every possible view point. This was the building that was given to Hitler for this 50th Birthday and from every angle looks like a speck in the distance. Although take note Curt, you can hike up there in 2.5 to 3 hours!!! Seems strange to come to Salzburg and drive back into Bavaria but there were great views up near Obersalzberg.
The guide took us to one spot with beautiful views and a “track” where people were cross country skiing.
There was time for a quick stop in Berchtesgaden for a tea. The town is cute with lots of shops and paintings on the buildings.
Then the fun really began when we got to the mine and put on our miners suits for the tour.
A long train took us thru skinny shafts to a big open area where we rode the miners shaft down to the mine area.
The tour consisted of taking us thru several stages in the extraction of the salt. The salt mines are under the ground in the first place because there was an ocean that dried up and left all the salt, then the alps came across and covered it, pushing the salt underground. Now it is a huge production just to get it back up. There was a beautiful lake in the mines called mirror lake.
It is so named because what you see on the lake is a mirror of the ceiling of the cave. After this tour was over we headed back to Salzburg and mirabellplatz to catch the Sound of Music tour.
The Sound of Music tour guide was very animated and passionate about her work. First she took us to Leopoldskron Palace for photos. This is where the children and Maria were boating and fell in the lake.
Apparently Gretel didn’t know how to swim and Maria was supposed to catch her. However on the second take Maria fell backwards and poor Gretel nearly drowned. Needless to saw there were no more takes.
Another great photo op here were some asian ducks that had recently migrated to the area. She also showed us another great view of the fortress that we didn’t get yesterday.
Along the way she shared little factoids about the movie including that actor who played CPT VonTrapp did not sing his songs. He was also snobby and said “He wasn’t going to carry that fat little girl up the mountain.” He was talking about how he was giving “Gretel” a piggy back ride into “Switzerland” at the end of the movie.
The real Maria VonTrapp did not like how Hollywood was changing her life story either but she was offered $90,000 to go along with it. She wanted a part in the movie so when Maria is walking thru the abbey on her way to the VonTrapp mansion she passes a woman that is the real maria.
Of course on the tour we went to the Hellbrunn Palace which holds the famous gazebo. It is now closed because some 80 year old woman was jumping the benches, fell and broke her hip :(
We passed thru the lake district and into Mondsee where we had some free time. This is the location of the cathedral where the wedding scene was filmed.
Here we had a chance to get some strudel so I tried the tropfenstrudel which is a cheese filled strudel. It was much better than I thought it would ever be.
On the way home our guide sang to us with a Sound of Music CD. Last but not least she nearly hit a biker at our parking spot 
After some last window shopping we hit a place called Shrimps for dinner. It was recommended by Rick Steves, looked cozy and smelled delicious. I got spaghetti with shrimp and vegetables, asian style and mom got shrimp on brushetta and salad. It was so very good. Fat and happy we headed home to pack for our departure tomorrow.

Posted by ErinDriver 12:53 Archived in Austria Tagged tourist_sites Comments (1)

Salzburg fortress

9 December 2008

sunny 45 °F

Free breakfast is my favorite and its great here with a big teapot of tea and fruit, cheese, bread, cereal and meats. The walk towards the Old Town took us right past a store with dollhouses so of course I couldn’t help it. An hour later we headed toward downtown and hit the St. Peters cemetery.
The plots are beautiful here because they all have little gardens with flowers and candles. The families rent the plots and tend them consistently. They really are very gorgeous. Next we hit inside the St. Peters cathedral.
Salzburg has a funicular that takes you up to the Hohensalzburg cathedral and for only 10 euro you get the ride and the tour. Once on top there is a courtyard with fabulous views over downtown.
An audio tour takes you thru some of the inside which shows models of the building of the fortress. A torture room has lots of shackles but apparently it was never used for torture. Next the tour goes to the top of the fortress with more views.
After coming down from the fortress we went looking for lunch which ended up being sausages at the Christkindlmarkt. I got a kasekrainer in honor of Curt  and mom had bratwurst.
We searched for the Salzburg cathedral which we were actually eating our sausages in front of. Supposedly Mozart was the organist for two years and was baptized here.
After a glance at the glockenspiel which is just a bunch of bells we headed for a break before the Mozart dinner.
The concert was at Stiftskeller St. Peter, a restaurant that claims it has been open since 803. It was recorded that Charlagmane ate here in that year. The room for the concert was beautiful with a big Christmas tree, poinsettia on the tables and of course candles. We ended up being in the front row which was great. There were 5 musicians and 2 singers. They performed three sets of Mozart music while we ate in between. The menu included bread with a cream soup tasting like lemons and cinnamon. This was followed by roasted Capon with potato and vegetables. Dessert was a parfait with honey and fruit sauce. I also had a St. Peters cocktail which was like strawberry sherbert with sparkling wine. It was fantastic. The concert was beautiful and probably even more so since it was Christmas time.

Posted by ErinDriver 09:27 Archived in Austria Tagged tourist_sites Comments (1)

First Day in Salzburg

8 December 2008

sunny 43 °F

Unfortunately for Curt, he went to work this morning as Mom and I set off for Salzburg, Austria. After train swaps in Nurnberg and Munich we arrived in Austria and found our hotel, Hotel Auersperg. We have a small room but it is nice, has free breakfast and is relatively close to the main attractions.
After a quick lunch of sandwiches in the hotel restaurant we set off for the Old Town. We intended to do a self guided walking tour but got caught up in the shops of Getreidegasse street. This street is famous for the shops and metal signs that advertise the shops. The streets are even more beautiful with the Christmas lights and other decorations. Every store seems to have these decorated eggs as ornaments. I’m not sure what is up with those???
Near the Mozartplatz we saw kids ice skating in front of a Mozart statue and did some Christmas market shopping in the Residenzplatz. After several pictures of the castle in the distance and a fountain that is similar to the Titan fountain in Rome we headed back down the main road.
Back across the river in the New Town we had dinner of margherita pizza and finished it off with some tea while we planned the rest of the events for the week.

Posted by ErinDriver 11:49 Archived in Austria Tagged tourist_sites Comments (1)

A Castle and a Christmas market!

7 December 2008

overcast 45 °F

This morning we woke up in the castle! It came with breakfast so of course I had a roll with cheese.
The castle was decorated with for Christmas so we spent time walking around taking photos both inside and out before heading home.
After a short break and lunch we walked down the street to see what was happening with our neighborhood tigers. They seem to be getting along well since our last visit.
Next it was off to the train station for the Nurnberg Christmas market. The Christkindlmarkt was more beautiful when we first got there and it wasn’t so crowded. Right away we found the blueberry gluhwein in a little souveneir boot which we had to have :) DSC05064.jpg
The stands were similar to other markets with candy, cookies, Christmas ornaments, etc.
It was obviously one of the most popular with the isles between the stands similar to a mosh pit by the evening time.
We didn’t leave without having one of the sandwiches with the little nurnberg sausages. According to legend these were about the size of a pinky finger in order to pass between the locks on jailhouses.

Posted by ErinDriver 11:56 Archived in Germany Tagged tourist_sites Comments (1)

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