A Travellerspoint blog

July 2015

14 July 2015


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We walked from the train station to Old Town Salzburg, over a beautiful bridge...


..and through a tunnel with amazing graffiti-esque art. Mostly of Mozart, of course.


Then we went up and down and around the Old City a few times. We skipped the high-end shops that mean nothing, but stopped at a few shops that offered local goodies. A few were kitsch...

I'm not sure what the deal is with rubber duckies, but they were all over town, commemorating famous Austrians. What would Freud say??

...but most were really interesting, particularly a wood carvings shop (miniatures and lots of cuckoo clocks, all set to different times so they didn't all cuckoo at once) and a "Christmas in Salzburg" shop that sold ornaments (mostly blown eggs that were hand-painted with everything from world maps to pencilled portraits, absolutely gorgeous).

This doesn't even begin to convey the number of eggs in this shop.

We had lunch at a wonderful restaurant that Laura recommended, s'Herzl. It means "little heart," and indeed, there were "little hearts" and "little harts" everywhere in the decor. The restaurant is part of the Goldener Hirsch Hotel, a 600+-year-old 5-star hotel right on the main drag, but actually a little hard to find. We had the place to ourselves!


What struck me again and again today is how old everything is. Many buildings have their heritage painted on them; large letters telling you the year it was built, and the year of its latest renovation. You can see that in some of my photos, along with amazing artwork that's on their facades.


After lunch, we explored a few churches, including the breathtaking Salzburg Cathedral, originally built in 774!! That number is not missing a one; it really only needs three numerals! This is the cathedral where Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was baptized and served as organist. I can only dream of what it must have been like to sit under the cuppola and hear the music--coming from four sets of pipes!--bouncing around the church in all directions.

Video taken from the center of the transept of Mozart's church. It begins and ends on the apse (now usually called a chancel) and circles around to showcase the four surround-sound sets of pipes. At the back of the church you see the actual organ that young Mozart played as a musician for the Salzburg royal court. Note the guy with his mouth hanging open. :)

Mozart's baptismal font.

From there, we took the funicular to ascend to the fortress/castle, Hohensalzburg.

The view from the top is incredible.


Hohensalzburg Fortress is a medieval treat, complete with torture devices and a royal potty! I was very struck by the doors and doorways; some were thick wood with heavy iron belts and bolts, some were richly painted swinging doors, some were framed by wood about 1,000 years old, and some were romanesque archways of stone.

Seriously creepy puppet/marionette display. There were a couple of rooms full of this stuff.

The cannons are still ready to go.

The history of this castle begins when the year needed only three digits.

Beautiful door!

They are still discovering the mysteries of this castle. Recent excavations uncovered this entire room and a huge cache of very old coins.

The torture room.

The royal privy. Nice view!

Beautiful door!

This huge, ornate, incredibly detailed thing is an oven. An OVEN. There were several of these throughout the castle; I imagine each one took several months to make.

Next, we sat under a tree in the castle's courtyard, filling out some postcards. It was nice to rest there and imagine what it looked like when bustling with the busy, hardworking life of the Middle Ages.

View from the picnic table where we sat to write out postcards. That's Mark's hat on the table.

We stopped into the gift shop for a few small items, including "Mozart balls," delightful treats of pistachio marzipan, hazelnut nougat, and dark chocolate. I'm not a huge fan of dark chocolate, but yyyyyyum!! They're available all over Europe, but they're everywhere here, Mozart's hometown.


Bye bye, Hohensalzburg Fortress!

o/' The hills are alive, with the sound of music... o/'

Then it was a descent on the funicular, a stop at a post box...

The graffiti says, "Please only love letters."

...and a bakery...


...and a walk back to the train station for the 2-hour train ride back to Munich. On the way, I snapped a few photos of these plaques, embedded in the sidewalk in front of residences from which Jews were forcibly taken by Nazis. Each plaque names the person taken, and provides other info as available.

The number of these plaques on the sidewalk is sobering, as is the sight of hundreds of tourists traipsing right over them, oblivious to what they're stepping on.

Mozart booze in violin-shaped bottles, sold at the train station.

Salzburg: an indescribably beautiful city. I want to go back. Now.

Posted by OhMissLia 05:15 Archived in Austria Tagged salzburg austria summer_2015 14_july Comments (0)

22 July 2015


View Europe 2015 on OhMissLia's travel map.

The plan was to meet the other students in the afternoon for an outing, so I had the morning to myself. After some homework, I headed to the train station to do some shopping. I needed another pair of reading glasses (the pair I bought in Austria broke) and some food. The hauptbahnhof, or main train station, is very close to the apartment where we are staying, and has an entire shopping mall within.

This is the tram platform at the Essen Hauptbahnhof. This entrance is very close to our apartment. Pretty, isn't it?

I found a drogeriemarkt, figured that was close enough to "drugstore," and went in. After wandering the aisles and not finding reading glasses, I went up to the pharmacy counter and asked the lady there if she spoke English. She said no. I took a pair of sunglasses off of a nearby rack, put them on, then stretched my arms out as if I were reading a book at arm's length and squinting, then bringing them closer, then back out again--the universal gesture of "I have old eyes!" Then I removed the sunglasses, tapped them and made a questioning gesture. She said, "Ahhh! <long stream of German>." I had no idea what she was saying, but it was clear that she understood what I needed and that they had them somewhere in the store. She waved her arms a bit, then said, "Left!" I smiled and asked, "Links?" She nodded. I was quite pleased with myself for learning "Links=left" by paying attention to Mark's conversations in Munich, and for the disembodied voice on the trains in Munich that constantly implores riders to "Bitte links ausgang!" That's how I learned: "Please exit to the left!"

Anyway, I found the glasses. I was pleased.

Next order of business was lunch. I'd intended to get a solid meal, something more than the snacky "travel food" I've been living on, but realized that I'd just spent my last small bills on the reading glasses and... more snacky travel food. I had about five euros and a hundred-euro bill. Fast food it is.

I went up to a Kamps, a German chain restaurant that sells pastries and coffee and such. I bravely decided to order in German.

"Puddinpretzl und milchkaffee, bitte," I said. (Okay, so that isn't terribly difficult German. I still felt brave saying it.)

Imagine my surprise when she promptly retrieved the yummy-looking pudding-filled pretzel-shaped pastry I'd been admiring, and a latte! Woohoo! It worked! I had my money ready, but when she said the total in German, I instinctively looked helpless and said, "No Deutsch," while handing her the money I had. She nodded and assured me that I had the correct amount, then made sure I knew where to look for a lid. Woohoo!

Puddinpretzl und milchkaffee. The pastry is pretzel-shaped, but soft and sweet like a doughnut. And glazed. And filled with yummy custard.

This is the fabulous woman who actually understood my attempt at German. I love her. She's older than me, bald, and has big earrings, and I love her.

Later, I met up with the group and off we went to the Zollverein, a UNESCO World Heritage Site here in Essen.

On the Mercedes-Benz bus--Dr. Scott, her sister Sheri, and fellow student Kay.

In front of the iconic symbol of the Zollverein. Traci, me, Dr. Scott, Denton, Kay.

It's a huge campus full of museums, restaurants, and other educational things, all built around a former coal-mining complex. The machinery is gigantic, intimidating, and depressing. Unfortunately, English tours are only conducted on the weekends, and there are no English audioguides or brochures, so we were a little lost. We spent some time wandering in the lobby of the biggest museum, then around the park area. The place is HUGE. (More info here: https://www.zollverein.de/)


Home again, home again, jiggety jig. This is what one sees when exiting the train station nearest our apartment. The area we live has a large Turkish population, with no fewer than four Turkish "nightclubs" on our street. I wasn't kidding about the "Euro Turkish Bollywood disco" music! We ate at this restaurant our first night in Essen, and it was wonderful!!


Posted by OhMissLia 11:26 Archived in Germany Tagged germany essen summer_2015 Comments (0)

20 July 2015

St. Goar, the Rhine, and Bacharach

all seasons in one day
View Europe 2015 on OhMissLia's travel map.

(First note: I have had a devil of a time getting all of the technologies to talk to each other so I can do this blog AND have photos. I think I have it figured out, finally, but now I have over 650 photos to sort through, in addition to being busy with school and exploring, etc. I've learned from scrapbooking that it's best to pick up where you are and go backward in your spare time, so that's what I will do here. It may make for a confusing order of journal entries, but hopefully the titles will help. [Unfortunately, this software doesn't let me manipulate the order of the posts.]

Second note: The complete photo collection can be found at https://www.flickr.com/gp/43163337@N02/X986WR. I am adding photos as I have time to go through them and delete the duplicates [just one of the technological difficulties I've been having]. I am also adding commentary, some quite detailed, although this may or may not be completed at the time I put the photos to "public." In other words, if this sort of thing interests you, you might want to keep checking back. :D)

The "Romantic Rhine"

On a train at 6am!


Arrived in St. Goar at 8:30am and stopped for a macchiato and apple struesel at the St. Goar Cafe. It is a small shop, one of the few that are open at that hour.


I sat inside (too chilly to be outside yet, at least for me), looked around, and watched the people come and go. The other patrons were clearly locals, probably on their way to opening their own shops. The shopkeeper greeted everyone and they greeted him with obvious familiarity. He hadn't charged me at the time of purchase, nor when he brought the food, and I ended up waiting a while. I looked around at the items for sale; in addition to pastries, the shop sold local country-style foods--jams, jellies, and the like.

The shopkeeper reappeared from the back, followed by an older woman who shared his burden of a large wooden paddle laden with freshly baked bread. Together, they began to load the loaves onto the racks behind the counter. I assumed her to be his mother, and instantly I had their whole story--how he'd managed to convince her that her breads, desserts, and pastries, although beloved within their family, would be a fabulous commodity to sell to the ever-growing number of tourists that come through every summer. She was reluctant, I think, only relenting after her son agreed to handle all business and customer interactions, leaving baking as her sole responsibility.

I paid for my food and strolled down the cobblestone pedestrian street, watching as merchants set up their wares and restaurateurs their bistro tables and chairs. (It doesn't look like a pedestrian street at this hour!)


When I found the stein merchant mentioned in my guidebook, I turned left (making a mental note that the classmate whose birthday it was had mentioned she'd wanted a German stein) and began the somewhat arduous hike up to Schloss Rheinfels. It meanders first between railroad tracks and residences until the street ends at a youth hostel.


At the youth hostel, there is a forest trail, wandering back and forth but ever upwards until ending near a vineyard that abuts the castle. At this point, I've climbed about 400 feet.


The trail ends at a narrow, winding street that takes you to the castle entrance. Walking along this street was a bit scary; there isn't much of a sidewalk, and the turns are hairpin enough to require the use of mirrors.

At the entrance, I used the cleverly-decorated WC before buying my ticket. It was all done in dark timber, with wrought-iron signs indicating male, female, and wheelchair-accessible doors. The toilet had a wrought-iron pull-flush (I took a photo), a wrought-iron water pump for hand-washing, and a wrought-iron wheel that brought a rush of warm air through an old-looking pipe for drying. It was cool.


For a mere five euros, Schloss Rheinfels allows folks to wander almost everywhere. You're handed a map with somewhat useful English descriptions, but I found my Rick Steves guidebook to be infinitely more informative. I visited the medieval dungeon, slaughterhouse, wells, batteries, stables, brewery, and "minutemen holes" where soldiers lived just a few feet from their designated arrow slit. Most of the castle is in ruins, but there is plenty to see, from ditches to direct the flow of water/blood/pitch to a wine cellar, still in use today.

"Minuteman" quarters on the left, his workplace on the right. Not much of a commute.
Not much of a home, either. This is the minuteman quarters, really just a hole in the ground, even if furnished.
Location where a certain guild held its ceremonies. I don't recall its exact name or function, but it had something to do with the last name Hansen. The guild still exists today and holds functions here, although it's more of a social club now.
Stockade next to a pile of stone "cannon" balls. They reused these over and over, retrieving them from the fields after a battle.
A view of the grounds. There is a huge network of tunnels far below these areas. Castle defenders filled the tunnels with explosives, and if a siege was laid... BOOM!
Dungeon. As many as fifteen men lived here at once. The castle wasn't allowed to execute people, and most prisoners died pretty quickly. The two men that survived the longest (2.5 years) died three weeks later of overindulgence.
Slaughterhouse. Note the drain.

I had intended to explore the tunnels, but did not. One reason was that I had forgotten how to use the flashlight function on my fancy new iPhone; another was the realization that going downhill and all the way underground would require coming all the way back up. I hadn't fully recovered from climbing 33 flights of steps two days prior, and after the morning's hike, I didn't want to risk being immobilized for the rest of the day.

Lastly, I visited the museum. It's in the only part of the castle that has been fully restored.

I think it's AMAZING that you can actually purchase something like this (the second paragraph is in English).

Finally, I headed back down to the town. Passing a long line of schoolchildren on the tiny sidewalk of the hairpin road was scary, but the rest of the walk was very peaceful. I had an encounter with a forest animal--a vole, I think--that sat and stared at me for a long while before finally scurrying about his business.


I stopped at the stein merchant to pick up a birthday gift for Traci. I expected kitsch and found craft; to my untrained eye, this merchant is a connoisseur. Steins fill the place from bottom to top, each lovingly labeled with the year/location/occasion for which it was made, as appropriate. I immediately felt awed and intimidated, especially when I saw the prices! Sorry Traci, I thought, no birthday gift from here. Then my eye was caught by a beautiful display of drinking horns. Some were polished wood and old-looking and some were of modern glasswork in various colors, but all of them were stunning. One was priced at 3,500 euros! I was afraid to look at them too closely for fear of damaging them ("We break, we cry; you break, you buy!" the sign said), so I took out my camera. "No photos!" the man said. I apologized, purchased a stein magnet for Traci, and left.

A short time later, I was on the Goethe, churning our way up the Rhine. The Goethe is a paddle steamer ship, built in 1913 and still resplendent. I built my itinerary around this particular sailing, partly because paddle boats are cool and partly because this is a German Literature course, after all, and we did read some Goethe.


From various positions on her decks, I watched the famous scenes of the Rhine slide by: the Lorelei statue and the cliff which spawned the legend; the former tollbooth/customs tower on an island in the middle of the river; and, of course, the castles. Dozens of them, it seemed. They kept popping into views as we rounded hilltops to discover new valleys (most castles aren't built on hills; the idea is to hide from view, not entice invaders). They were red, brown, white, tall, stout, majestic, modest, pointy, and round. I finally stopped trying to take pictures of them all.

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At first, I sat near some German ladies who didn't seem interested in chatting. There was an odd moment when a large group of young Chinese folks began singing. I looked up and saw that they were holding sheet music, and singing, in English, "Nothing's Gonna Change My Love for You." I thought it was an odd choice for celebrating the beauty of the Rhine, but maybe they were a choir getting in some rehearsal time? Then they settled into a low "oooo-oooo-oooo" and I realized that something else was going on--a proposal! And an acceptance! I got some of it on video, but it's hard to see the couple through the crowd.

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After an hour or so, I disembarked in Bacharach. There's a lovely park right on the waterfront, built over a landfill to keep the Rhine from constantly flooding the town. I took several photos of a memorial there--its neglect was disturbing, particularly in a country where most things are cared for with efficiency.


Bacharach, or "altar to Bacchus," earned its name by being the place where various wine-producers in the area (there are TONS of them) brought their wines to be shipped along the Rhine. Almost the entire town is decorated in grapevines! They grow along the walls, jumping from one building to the next and making everything look cool and green and inviting. I took photos of buildings (primarily doors!) and people and interesting signs.


Lookout towers once encircled the town, and I climbed another large hill to one of the few towers still stands (my blisters didn't allow me to climb the actual tower). I contemplated what it must have felt like to stand here as ruler, watching the busy docks below and feel responsible for their very lives. Maybe that's not how it really was, but that is how I would have felt.


The day ended with a long train ride home, the highlight of which was examining the contents of a railroad station vending machine. The most notable item in there: vacuum-packed french fries... with ketchup??


Posted by OhMissLia 01:20 Archived in Germany Tagged germany st_goar rhine summer_2015 bacharach Comments (0)

Preparing for Europe

Hope this blog works while I'm gone!

This is it--the final week before heading out on my big adventure. I'll spend this week packing and prepping Kona for taking care of pets and house while I'm gone. Creating this blog is an important step--it will be used primarily to communicate with friends and family about my trip, but will also likely be used to satisfy some of the academic requirements of the German Literature and Culture course that I will be taking; which is, in fact, the reason for the entire trip.

At this point, I am not planning to take any electronic device with me, so actually contributing to this blog will be a challenge. I will have my phone--an ancient Android that takes horrible photos and whose battery dies easily. I won't be able to use it as a phone, but if I can connect to wifi, I may be able to get on Facebook, Skype, or hopefully this blog. I will have a decent camera--great for photos, but horrible for my neck, and I can't type on it or connect to the internet, so it won't help me there. My goal is to find an internet cafe at each location, where I can upload and post. While in Germany, the academic requirement is to write a short reflection of each day... if I can get to an internet cafe, I will post it here. If I cannot, I will write it manually.


12 July: depart from Vancouver, BC, Canada
Ten and a half hours. Ugh.

13 July: arrive in Munich, Germany
While in Munich, I will be staying with my childhood friend Mark and his lovely wife Laura, whom I am very excited to finally meet. We'll traipse around the city, visit the Dachau concentration camp, and nearby castles, including Neuschwannstein.

17 July: arrive in Essen, Germany
Essen is the location of University of Duisburg-Essen, partner university to Fort Hays State University in Hays, KS, where I am completing my MA in English. I'll be taking a 2-week course in German Literature and Culture. During these two weeks, we will be taking many day trips to learn about other German locations. These day trips are loosely scheduled, and may change according to various circumstances. As it stands now, this is the schedule:

First week: explore Bonn, Koln (Cologne), Dusseldorf, Aachen
24-26 July: travel to Berlin and spend the weekend there
Second week: explore Amsterdam (hopefully)
30 July: final day of class in Essen

31 July: arrive in Rome, Italy
I will fly from Dusseldorf into Rome, and check into a small flat close to the Colosseum. I'll spend the rest of the day visiting the ancient sites.

1 August: Vatican and the Heart of Rome
I have a morning Scavi tour scheduled at the Vatican. Since the Museums/Sistine Chapel do not open before then, I will have to wait until after the tour to see them--ugh. On a Saturday, in August, it's going to be crowded and hot, but I can't do anything about the timing. I should finish with the Vatican in the afternoon. After a brief rest, I will spend the evening doing Rick Steves' "Heart of Rome" walk: the Trevi Fountain (cross your fingers that the restoration is finished by then!), the Spanish Steps, the Pantheon, etc.

2 August: Naples
I will catch a morning train from Rome to Naples, and spend the afternoon exploring the incredible Naples Archaeological Museum, home of most of the artifacts from Pompei and many other treasures. Afterward, I will do as much of Rick Steves' Naples Walk as I feel up to, then retire to my hotel room fairly early. I anticipate being exhausted and needing a rest, and Naples isn't really a place for me to be wandering alone at night.

3 August: Ercolano, Pompei, Sorrento
The morning brings another train, and I'll visit the ruins of Ercolano (Herculaneum) and Pompei before heading to Sorrento to stroll and relax and have dinner before catching a boat back to Naples for the night.

4 August: Naples to Munich to Vancouver to home
Travel day! Small plane Naples-Munich. Big plane Munich-Vancouver. Tram to downtown Vancouver. Bus Vancouver-Bellingham, WA (if I don't miss it; it's going to be close). Car from Bellingham-home.

Posted by OhMissLia 10:16 Archived in USA Tagged home Comments (2)

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