Europe 2012 – Week 1

October 15th, 2013

Vicky put together an itinerary that completely filled a 1″ binder. Throughout the trip I kept a journal to jot down stories, challenges, and (mis)adventures from our trip. Combined with the pictures that we took, here is a recount of our trip to Europe this summer.

Over the next month, each day we’ll add a story and/or pictures from the trip. I’ll provide links to the things we saw and pictures we took. I’ll provide a few facts here and there. But that information can already be found on the web. Every day offered a new adventure and a recount of these adventures will be the focus of this blog.

Click on the thumbnails to see more pictures for that particular day.
The “Show as Slideshow” link does not appear to work. Use the “View with PicLens” or click on the thumbnail image.

14-June-2012

13-June-2012 <br /><br /> And so the journey begins... Today we leave for a 4-week vacation to Europe. The flight path takes us from Orlando to JFK to Amsterdam to Munich. We leave Orlando around 12:00pm and land in Germany about 11:00am the next day. Any “night” on an airplane consists of about 4 hours where the lighting is dim and the stewardess doesn’t bother you too much so you can sort of catnap. <br /><br /> 14-June-2012 <br /><br /> 7:30am We land in Amsterdam and I took opportunity to take a few pictures. One restaurant had tables that looked like tea cups. And the tulips were on display everywhere and would you like some wooden shoes? The Amsterdam airport has a huge area of Duty-Free shopping; fortunately we were not distracted and headed right for our next gate. What we found was another security/customs line we had to navigate before getting to the gate area, good thing we are not shoppers. <br /><br /> 12:00pm We are hanging around the Munich airport as our luggage is not here. We are hopeful that it arrives on the next plane around 1:30pm as the bags contain all of our camping gear and clothes. We will be in a real bind if it does not show up. <br /><br /> Chris is crashed out; I don\'t think he really slept on the plane too many movies to watch. Vicky and I caught a few Z\'s so we are holding together at the moment... where are our bags? <br /><br /> 2:30pm Bags are still not here. They (KLM) don\'t know where they are but are hopeful they will get here. In the meantime we need to go get the rental car so we can pick up Jason in <a href=\"http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F%C3%BCssen\">Füssen</a>. This should be interesting as our navigation device is also in our missing luggage, along with all the maps, reservation information, etc... Fortunately we have the laptop with most of the information. However, while we have the power cord, we do not have the transformer to tap into the car battery. <br /><br /> We get the rental car from Avis which turns out to be a 6-speed manual transmission. I haven\'t driven a manual in over 6 years... I can\'t figure out how to get the car into reverse. This will be interesting. It has a built-in navigation system so that is a real life saver. <br /><br /> We get out on the autobahn. I guess I didn’t really know what to expect. I suppose in the back of my mind I had romanticized the autobahn into something bigger. But in reality it is equivalent to our interstate system. Although, it was cool looking down at the speedometer and seeing 120. Ok, it was 120 km/h and not mph. But in a Ford station wagon, what did you expect? <br /><br /> After being on the road for over an hour, we discovered that we were heading to the wrong place. Apparently the GPS requires the dots on the \"u\" or it takes you to the wrong location and not to Füssen. We wind up getting to Füssen late where we pick up Jason who arrived from Heidelberg via train. I finally figure out how to put the car in reverse, else we wouldn’t have been able to leave the train station. The stick shift has a ring that you have to slide up in order to engage reverse. <br /><br /> We stay at a local gasthof, <a href=\"http://www.alpengasthof-geiselstein.de/\">Alpengasthof Geiselstein</a>, since all of our camping gear is still missing. As we are checking into the gasthof, there is a man in the dining area having a seizure. I hope it wasn\'t the wienerschnitzel. Finally we settle down to order some of that famous German beer and Bratwurst. While we eat dinner, we get a call from KLM that our bags have arrived. Too late to get them tonight, but it is a relief to know that they have finally made it. We\'ll deal with that tomorrow after a little sightseeing. We all sleep good as we are totally exhausted. The stay at the gasthof was about 130€ (or $164) for 4 people. They cost the stay dependent upon the number of people not the space you take up; that’s different.

15-June-2012

15-June-2012 <br /><br /> Up and at ‘em! I try out the razor included in the overnight bag KLM gave us since we needed some essential items. That razor hurt so bad that I almost went out with just one side of my face shaved. “Honey, be sure to take a picture of my good side!”. The gasthof has breakfast already waiting for us when we get down to the restaurant. Breakfast consisted of extra strong coffee, breads and jams, fresh yogurt, deli meats and cheeses, and soft boiled eggs in little cups. <br /><br /> Today we visit <a href=\"http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hohenschwangau_Castle\">Hohenschwangau Castle</a> and <a href=\"http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuschwanstein\">Neuschwanstein Castle</a>. While walking through the castle on a tour, a Japanese group in front of us repeat to each other the instructions of the tour guide, “Ascend! Ascend!” when we reach a set of stairs with 63 steps. This became our battle cry throughout the vacation as we climbed many stairs with many more steps. <br /><br /> While standing on Marienbrücke </a>, (a bridge with a fantastic view of the castle) I ask a young lady to take a picture of the family. She proceeds frame the family into the picture but does not move in order to put the castle in the background. I politely add “with the castle”… <br /><br /> Here are some interesting tidbits from the tour. The castle was commissioned by <a href=\"http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ludwig_II_of_Bavaria\">Ludwig II of Bavaria</a> and the influence of <a href=\" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Wagner \"> Richard Wagner </a> is seen in paintings throughout the castle. King Ludwig had the first telephone in the area but could not call anyone as he was the only one with a phone, so he bought another phone for the village near the castle. Ludwig II spent much of his personal wealth and the income of the kingdom in the construction of castles and artwork; this among other things caused his advisors to think of him as “mad”. A medical doctor collaborated with that opinion and thus the king was disposed. Strangely though both he and Ludwig were found drowned shortly after that; accident? <br /><br /> During World War II, the regents for the family of the Bavarian Kings did not agree with the Nazi movement and they attempted an assassination of Hilter. They failed earning the wrath of Hitler. Thus many of the families, women, and children were captured and sent to concentration camps. Many died while only a few survived to be released at the end of the war. <br /><br /> OK, time to drive back to Munich and get our luggage. After getting our bags we set off in search of an OBI store (similar to a Home Depot) in order to get some supplies. They have the propane tanks, but the connections are different that what our grill needs. Well, guess we’ll get a new grill, too. Off to the campsite! <br /><br /> As we get close to the campsite, we find the bridge is out. We turn around and start searching for a different route. Eventually the GPS recalculates a new route which takes up this one lane country road through a wheat field – I kid you not! I am just glad there was no oncoming traffic. We eventually find our way through to a quaint little town called Hopfen am See. What a beautiful lake and mountains in the background too. <br /><br /> By time we get to the campsite and get our tents set up it is already after 9:00, and we are hungry. We decide to walk into town to check out one of the many restaurants. But, one after another we find the restaurants closed – and it is Friday night! Jason remarks that here in Germany they “Roll up the sidewalks” at dark. We finally find the <a href=\"http://riviera-hopfensee.de/\">Riviera Restaurant Pizzeria Cafe</a> is still open and enjoy a nice meal. In addition, way off in the distance, we could see some big Disneyland like fireworks. <br /><br /> At dinner we let Chris try some <a href=\"http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunkel \">Dunkel</a> or dark beer (drinking laws are different Germany). He takes a sip and states, “This doesn’t taste as strong as I remember.” To which Jason replies with, “That is because you are a <em>man</em> now!” We all bust up laughing.

16-June-2012

16-June-2012 <br /><br /> At 6:30am we are awoken by a group of cattle that are being herded by ranchers in the field next to the campground. I didn’t even realize there were cattle nearby but as they were be rounded up, the only thing you could hear were the bells around their necks, and bellowing mooos. Yes, the cows had bells on and several of them were quite reluctant to be herded into the back of a truck. A well placed kick on the wooden sidings echoed their displeasure. Well, we are up now. May as well get started... We find breakfast at a nearby bäckerei - <a href=\"http://www.baeckerei-feneberg.de/\">Bäckerei Feneberg</a>. It is common for the German people to visit the bäckerei every morning to get freshly baked breads, cheese, and yogurts. So when in Germany… <br /><br /> Today we take a cable car to the top of the <a href=\"http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zugspitze\">Zugspitze</a> which is also known as the “Top of Germany.” The area was very scenic with a breath taking view of the surrounding mountains. The crisp cool air whipped about us as we scoped out the surrounding mountains. <br /><br /> We took another cable car down to a nearby restaurant where we visited a small church and the boys rode some sleds down the hill. While there, we hear and see a small avalanche of rock, snow, and ice cascading down the mountain side behind the restaurant, wow. For lunch I tried the meatloaf which is very different than the meatloaf I am accustomed to having. This meatloaf was like a slice of a giant frankfurter, except with no skin on the outside. <br /><br /> After lunch we took a cog-wheel train down the mountain. The train was very slow moving and while passing through the dark tunnels, both Chris and I began to nod off. Vicky pointed out a statue that was placed in a small alcove set into the tunnel wall. It seems that they have many guardian saints placed here and there to protect travelers. <br /><br /> We now set off in search of the 1936 Olympic Stadium. After driving around for a while, we find one – except it is the wrong one. Fortunately, the one we are looking for, the Olympic Ski stadium is not too far away and we soon arrive at our destination. Our real destination is not so much the stadium but the <a href=\"http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Partnach_Gorge\">Partnachklamm Gorge</a> which has a trail that follows a river nearby. This was one location where wish I had my Nikon D7000 + tripod as the lighting conditions were pretty harsh. But we still managed a few pictures with the trusty Nikon D50. <br /><br /> When we exited the gorge we had to pay. I was confused because we were exiting and I’m thinking, “No, I don’t want to pay to go see the gorge... I just saw the gorge.” But eventually I figured out that they only collect at one end of the gorge and as we had ridden the lift up we had entered from the top of the gorge instead of the bottom. <br /><br /> On the drive back to the campsite, we make our first stop for gas. I did not jot down the mileage so I don’t have the MPG. But here are the other vitals: 44.63L @ 1.609€/L = 71.81€ (translation: 11.79gal @ $7.80/gal = $92.01) <br /><br /> We make the drive back to the campsite and have dinner at <a href=\"http://www.fischeramsee.at/\">Hotel Fischer am See</a> where Vicky has the spargal, or white asparagus. The season for spargal is quite a celebration for the people here and is featured in many special dishes. We all enjoy some fresh apple strudel for dessert. Quote from Jason at dinner, “There is no good. There is no bad. There just ‘is’.” <br /><br /> That evening, a bit after 10:00pm, we saw people staring and pointing at the mountains. All along the ridgelines and off into the distance, fires were appearing on the Austrian Alps - sometimes in lines, sometimes in shapes such as a heart, cross, or wine-cup. A local indicated that this day (June 16) was an Austrian national day, and that, over those front mountains we could see, all the mountain-tops in Austria would be alight.

17-June-2012

17-June-2012 <br /><br /> Today we spent the day canyoneering which consisted of hiking, rappelling, swimming, and jumping into frigid waters. Did I say frigid? Let me put it this way... this is snow melt that is about 8°C (or 46°F). The waterfall picture was invigorating as the water runs down the back of the wetsuit. <br /><br /> At the beginning of the trip as we are going through our safety prep, Daniel, our guide, tells the men in the group, “You must use ball management with these harnesses.” Good advice. <br /><br /> At one point during the trip we took slide down a rock slide that was just crazy. The problem is that as you are sitting on this rock getting ready to go in this frigid water (have I mentioned the water is cold?), you are watching the rushing water in front of you and this is big white water. But that is not the scary part… the slide takes a blind turn to the right and you can’t see what is downstream of that. Daniel explains, “Just around the corner is a drop where you will plunge into the water. You will be underwater for a good 4 seconds. Just count and you’ll be back on the surface.” I’m thinking to myself, “4 seconds in this water!?!?! Crazy!” Have I mentioned this water is COLD? <br /><br /> At another spot we jumped from a ledge into the waters below. As it turns out, these waters are spinning in a whirlpool fashion. Chris goes first and caught in the whirlpool and goes around, and around, and around before finally making it to the exit area. <br /><br /> We also had several opportunities to rappel; from the bridge or various ledges all resulting in a “refreshing” plunge into the water. <br /><br /> Towards the end of the canyoneering, the gorge was filled with trees brought down by an avalanche. Under the trees snow remained. I told you this water was snow melt! Daniel expects that the snow will survive the summer due to the insulation provided by the trees. Looking back up the hillside, one could see an entire section devoid of trees where the avalanche had wrought its destruction. <br /><br /> Afterwards we grabbed a late lunch nearby before heading back to the campsite. Jason picks up a few things and then we drive to the bahnhof (train station) so he can return to Heidelberg. <br /><br /> After we say our goodbyes, Vicky, Chris, and I drive back to the town near the campsite and try out the ice cream parlor / bar, Seaside Eis Karte. The locals really enjoy both ice cream and beer (not necessarily together) so this restaurant caters to those desires. Vicky and I enjoy a dunkel while Chris orders an apple juice. As we are enjoying our drinks we peruse the menu (desserts only). Several “entrees” are spaghetti, one of which was: Spaghetti – Schokosauce. (3 Kugeln Vanilleeis, Schokosoße, Weiße Schokosplitter and Sahne) Chris just had to try this. Well, we are on vacation. The “spaghetti” is soft serve vanilla ice cream pressed into the form of noodles, with of course chocolate sauce and whipped cream. <br /><br /> Vicky writes, “In the local amphitheatre, a local band is playing in traditional clothes. The musicians get free beer. We have to buy ours. They are playing a polka so I ask Eric, “Do you dance the polka?” He shakes his head. So I say, “I guess we need to buy you another beer!””

18-June-2012

18-June-2012 <br /><br /> This post is rather lengthy as there are stories here that just cannot be captured with pictures. So settle in with your beverage of choice, kick back, and I hope you enjoy. <br /><br /> We are breaking camp today and the price is 28€/day. The one night we stayed in the gasthof (2 double rooms) was 130€, quite a difference. Both the camp ground and the gasthof set prices per person, not by the number of rooms. The campground host computes the total dependent on the number of people the number of tents and the number of nights. <br /><br /> We are travelling on several autobahns today on our way to <a href=\" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passau\">Passau</a> which is about 3 hours away. For the sections that have speed limits, it is usually posted at 120km/hr, or about 75mph. I pretty much maintain this speed even in those sections without speed limits. Other drivers however took advantage of the no speed limit and were easily going 200km/hr. I felt like I was sitting still as these cars flew by. The tires on the Ford were rated for 240km/hr. Oh, any by the way, “Ausfahrt” means exit. <br /><br /> As we are driving through the country side, many barns and houses have solar cell panels covering the roofs and we see many windmills dotting the hills. This must really reduce their need to burn fossil fuels. We also noted that nearly all of the trains are electric as well so that greatly reduces pollution from the mass transit system. Germany seems to be very eco-conscious. They are also very religious about segregating and recycling plastic, metal, white glass, green glass, brown glass, and paper all in separate bins. <br /><br /> We reach Passau and find the central parking garage, which should be real close to the cafe Vicky had found in her research, <a href=\"http://www.greindl-passau.de/cafediwan-index.php\">Café & Lounge Diwan</a>. Exiting the parking garage we find ourselves in the lobby of the cinemaplex. Outside the Cinemaplex, we attempt to ask for directions to the cafe. Two young ladies attempted to help but did not speak English. They proceeded to point down the street and stated “neun” (nine) plus some words which we did not quite understand. <br /><br /> We started walking down the street in the direction they pointed. We walked past the park, the <a href=\"http://www.passau-loewenbrauerei.de/ \">Löwenbrauerei</a>, the <a href=\"http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/University_of_Passau\">university</a>, until we came to a place that we recognized on the map – two roads coming together in a sharp ‘V’. Hum, it has definitely been “neun” blocks and I don’t see any “Nibelungenplatz”. <br /><br /> We asked again to confirm our location, but the gentleman was not familiar with the restaurant that we were trying to find. We wind up walking back near our starting location and head off in a different direction. I think we are all beginning to have had enough of this search as we are getting tired, hot, thirsty, and hungry. Not a good combination. <br /><br /> The peninsula of Passau that we are on is formed by the joining of the Danube and the Inn rivers. Before we know it, we are at the banks of the Inn River with a view of the church. Diwan’s is supposed to have a great view overlooking the city. We are seeing it up close. We turn around once more and head back in the direction of the car and decide we’ll find some other place to eat. Next thing you know, we are back at the original location where we asked the two young ladies for directions. <br /><br /> Not once did we see the name of the street we were looking for “Nibelungenplatz”. Out of the corner of my eye, I catch the street name on the corner of the building housing a bookstore, “Nibelungenplatz”. We walk into the bookstore hoping to find someone who spoke English and could direct us to the restaurant. Low and behold, the restaurant is in that very building – on the 9th floor! <br /><br /> We find our way up to the restaurant and find a table overlooking the city. In fact, from where we are sitting, looking almost straight down, we could see the very spot where we received our original directions for the two young ladies. If they could have just pointed up instead of down the street... sigh. A couple of waters with gas, they always ask ”with gas or still”, and lunches: 32.30€. <br /><br /> With our luck we are finding the places we visit do not take credit cards and we are burning through our cash fast. After a call to Visa and a nearby bank, we have cash in our pockets again. <br /><br /> While we were eating at Diwan’s, we spotted a fortress across the river and Vicky says, “Yes! That is where we are going next! That is the fortress \"Veste Oberhaus\", built in the 1200s overlooking the city. Ok, across the bridge and up the river to the fortress we go! <br /><br /> That is easier said than done. I missed one turn on the round-about and next thing you know we are crossing another bridge and touring Passau – again. Somehow I got stuck in the middle of the intersection trying to get back across the river and I nearly instigated the first instance of grid-lock in the history of Passau. I think Chris may have heard a few explicative’s out of my mouth that he never heard me utter before. I was determined not to miss that turn this time. <br /><br /> We did make to the fortress and took a few pictures of the city from up there. A nice view and pleasant surrounding help to get my blood pressure back down. Now we’ll try to make it back to the campsite without incident. On the way back we stopped for gas again. Here are the vitals: 56.67L @ 1.4039€/L = 79.56€ (translation: 14.97gal @ $6.71/gal = $100.56). This time I have the mileage. Thus far we have traveled 1316km (817.7 miles) with two stops to the gas station consuming 101.3L (26.76gal). That gives us 12.99 km/L or 30.56 mpg, not too bad for a station wagon. <br /><br /> We finally make it the campsite. This campsite is on the grounds of the Tirolerhof gasthof so we have a place to go for drinks at the end of the day. The bizarre twist is that is also in the middle of a farm area and we see chickens and peacocks running around. We also hear the unmistakable sound of pigs squealing (and the notice the odor). I suppose the wiener schnitzel will be fresh here.

19-June-2012

19-June-2012 <br /><br /> We awake to a tremendous thunderstorm this morning. We first experienced the wind beating the tents. I was praying that the tents were staked out well enough to hold. Then comes the rain and lightning. Sometime later the alarm went off on my watch noting the time as 6:30am, beeping to get us up for our drive to <a href=\"http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salzburg\">Salzburg</a>. Vicky went to wake up Chris and asked, “Chris, are you awake?” He responds with, “Are you kidding me?!!??” I don’t think anybody could have slept through that storm. <br /><br /> With rain falling, I’m thinking to myself, “There is no way we are going on a bike tour today. Frauline Maria will just have to wait another day.” But then I think, “Vicky will want to go anyway.” And I was right; she had some rational explanation about weather patterns moving west to east or something. As we drove to Salzburg, the skies cleared into a beautiful day with all of us getting a little too much sun. But now I am getting ahead of myself... <br /><br /> So Hildegard... who’s Hildegard you ask? We’ve named the built-in GPS system Hildegard, a good German name, and she has a personality of her own. Her voice is not nearly as sexy as the Jamie (GPS system in my car back home) but Hildegard does keep us entertained with some of her sayings. Here are a few: <ul> <li> “Your position is not located on a digitized road.” </li> <li>“Please drive onto a digitized road.” </li> <li> “There are traffic disruptions on route.” </li> <li> “Prepare to keep straight on soon.” </li> <li> “Please keep straight on.” </li> <li> “Please follow the road until further notice instruction.” </li> </ul> <br /> Where was I? Oh yes... So Hildegard sends us on an interesting route. Right off the start, we are going down a one lane gravel road that leads to a one lane tunnel. Vicky just missed getting a picture of a deer on the road in front of the tunnel. Hildegard, are you sure? <br /><br /> We make it to Salzburg and meet our tour guide, Rupert, for the bike tour from <a href=\"http://www.mariasbicycletours.com/\">Fräulein Maria´s Bicycle Tour</a>. What happened to Fräulein Maria? I saw her picture on the website advertising this tour. We didn’t realize it when we booked the tour, but the bike tour takes us to many of the famous scenes from the movie, “The Sound of Music”. If I had known that, I would have been tempted to watch the movie beforehand. As it is, it has probably been twenty years since I’ve seen the movie; and there is a good chance I slept through it then. <br /><br /> We figure is has been seven years since any of us have been on a bicycle. But we did just fine. I suppose that old saying is true. <br /><br /> Here is a trivia tidbit from the tour... While tunneling water to the city which is surrounded by mountains, they used old tombstones to line the tunnel to give it a smooth surface. The water is used to turn the watermill. This watermill turns the millstone to grind the flour. The bakery is still in operation and is one of the oldest in Europe. <br /><br /> Navigating through the city was a bit of a challenge. At times we had to deal with other bikes, pedestrians, cars, and trucks. In a few places we had to make some tricky turns all while staying together in a group. At one point we were travelling through a particularly congested area. It was important that we all stay together. Sure enough, one member of the group managed to get separated – none other than our very own Chris. As the group formed up, Chris was nowhere to be found. Rupert instructed me to watch the road ahead in case Chris took a different path. The guide went back to search. While waiting I heard sirens approaching and I had to keep a rising sense of panic in check. Just about that time the Chris and Rupert come around the corner. Everybody starts ringing their bike bells in celebration! <br /><br /> Towards the end of the tour, I wound up in the back of the group behind a family from Singapore that was struggling with their bikes more than the others. We reached another point in the tour that it was very important to stay together. But the family was falling behind and I could not get around them. Sigh. We drift further and further behind until we get separated from the main group. The mom, who was in the “lead”, started heading the wrong way. After a few minutes, we circled around to the last point we saw the group and waited. Rupert came to our rescue and we too were greeted with ringing bike bells celebrating our joyous return. <br /><br /> Some additional tour photos can be found on Fräulein Maria´s <a href=\"http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151198387890830.550748.95601290829&type=1\">Facebook</a> page. <br /><br /> As an aside, I am writing this journal entry at the gasthof at our campsite enjoying a local beer. While sitting here, one of the chickens is pecking at the shoe laces on our shoes. He is quite determined that Vicky’s lace is a reluctant worm. <br /><br /> At the conclusion of the bike tour we enjoyed a nice lunch before heading up to Hohesalzburg Castle. We took an inclined train (pulled by cable) to the top of the hill saving us the need to climb many steps uphill. From the castle we had a spectacular view of the city. Salzburg was a very rich city because of the nearby salt mines and the Archbishop saw to the construction of the castle as well as many of the churches in the city. Afterwards we enjoyed a milkshake before heading back to the campsite. <br /><br /> We turned on the “Eco” option on for the navigation system and it took us through one of the many small forests. On a one lane road that pretended to be a two lane road we were forced negotiate around heavy farm equipment that was also on the road.

20-June-2012

20-June-2012 <br /><br /> Chris writes, “We were off to an excellent start before our day’s journey began. Stumbling out of our temporary fabric homes well after the sun had risen, we set out to get ready for today’s adventure. After reaching a bakery slightly after 10 o’clock and devouring our share of food, we ventured down the road where we found an intersection. And in this intersection we waited as truck after truck spontaneously appeared. After the logging truck in front of us finally moved through the crossroads at least another dozen trucks must have passed before our eyes.” <br /><br /> We are driving south of Salzburg to visit the <a href=\"http://www.salzwelten.at/en/home/\"> salt mines </a>. The mines were originally started by the Celts and later became a major source of income for the archbishop of Salzburg. It was +10°C in the mines and quite cool. <br /><br /> The tour started with a train ride through the mining shafts deep into the mountain. Later we rode a couple of slides made of wood downhill. I wonder how far underground we are. We had an opportunity to taste the brine water which was 27% salt compared to the oceans that are approximately 6%. <br /><br /> The Celts extracted salt by manual labor and at one point abandoned the mines. Having been closed for a long time, the mines were nearly forgotten. Later a new technique was developed and the mines reopened. This new technique uses water to dissolve the salt which is then collected in large pools underground. The tour took us on a boat trip across one of these rather large pools. <br /><br /> At one point a mummified body from the Celtic era was discovered by the miners. When brought to the surface the decay processes began very rapidly. However, while the body was underground it was preserved by the salt. <br /><br /> While we were underground in the mines we crossed from Austria into Germany and then back into Austria. As salt was such a valuable commodity as you can guess there were a number of disputes about which region had mining rights. <br /><br /> After the mines we drove to the <a href=\" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K%C3%B6nigssee \">Königssee Lake</a>. Along the way we see another large pole, this time covered with rings that looked like Christmas wreaths with white balls where ribbons were once attached. Atop the pole looked like a Christmas tree. We’ve come to the conclusion that this is representative of the <a href=\"http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/May_pole\">May Pole</a>. <br /><br /> The boat trip along the lake was very beautiful. The water was so clear you could see the fish swimming. From the lake we had a spectacular view of <a href=\"http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Bartholomew%27s_Church,_Berchtesgaden\">St. Bartholomew’s Church</a> as the boat approached. We stopped and enjoyed lunch under the shade of the local tress. The trout and salmon were excellent! After lunch Chris wanted dessert. We suggested that we wait until the end of the day as we wanted to continue to the end of the lake, to this he was agreeable. <br /><br /> After lunch, we caught the boat to take us further up the lake. From there it was a short hike to the tallest waterfall in Germany. We had to hike briskly as we needed to be back at the dock by 5:40 to catch the last boat back. If we missed the boat, it was a five hour hike or a several hundred Euro fee to get back. Oh, at the lake by the waterfall, there were these black things swimming around that we think were leeches. So we take in the view but no swimming allowed. <br /><br /> We made the hike quickly and had time to spare to get back to the boat. As the boat trip progressed, it started to rain. Chris kept promising that it looked clearer at our destination (where the ice cream was). <br /><br /> But the rain kept coming. As we docked, the rain was coming down at its heaviest and the lightning and thunder have added their presence. The lightning was near, and now the hail is beginning to fall. The hail is roughly marble sized and making a tremendous din against the roof of the boat. We watched the hail bouncing off the dock and splashing into the lake. <br /><br /> The captain opened the boat to allow people to leave. But no one dared leave the safety of the boat. Why run in the rain and get soaking wet and pelted by falling ice when we can instead stay dry? <br /><br /> After a few minutes of watching the storm and nobody getting off the boat, the captain then proceeds to move the boat to the boat house as their shift is coming to a close. While in the boat house, the hail stopped but the rain continues. The winds were not bad, but the rain, hail, and lightning rivaled some of the worst storms I’ve seen in Florida. <br /><br /> Eventually the captain has the boat secured and it is now time to secure the boat house. Time to leave... <br /><br /> It is a good thing that we are (now) in shape as we had to make a mad dash to the car. We found shelter along the way as we ran from building to building. But there was no avoiding getting totally soaked as the total distance back to the car was on the order of a mile. <br /><br /> Having made it to the car, we began the drive back to the campsite. We started about 7:00pm and it’s a two hour drive back. As if driving wasn’t already difficult, now it is dark from the cloud cover, rain is coming down in sheets, and small streams are running across the road. I begin to dread what some of the country roads are going to be like. <br /><br /> We made it back to the Salzburg area on fairly good roads, but this is surely a flood. As roads join in from uphill areas a gushing brown river crosses our road in front of us. I suggest we find a gasthof for the evening and not worry about trying to make it back to the camp this evening. Looking through pelting rain and fogging windows, we find a gasthof, but when Vicky runs in we learn that it is already full. A little further down the road, we get the last available two rooms at the next gasthof. Time for hot showers, dry clothes, hot food, cold beer, and a good night’s sleep... Well it would have been a good night’s sleep except for the cat in heat right outside our window.

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