Posts Tagged ‘Austria’

Eurotrip 2012 – Day 7

July 25th, 2012 1 comment


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.”

We are driving south of Salzburg to visit the salt mines . 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.

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%.

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.

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.

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.

After the mines we drove to the Königssee Lake. 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 May Pole.

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 St. Bartholomew’s Church 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.

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.

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).

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.

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?

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.

Eventually the captain has the boat secured and it is now time to secure the boat house. Time to leave…

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.

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.

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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Eurotrip 2012 – Day 6

July 24th, 2012 1 comment


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 Salzburg. 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.

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…

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:

  • “Your position is not located on a digitized road.”
  • “Please drive onto a digitized road.”
  • “There are traffic disruptions on route.”
  • “Prepare to keep straight on soon.”
  • “Please keep straight on.”
  • “Please follow the road until further notice instruction.”

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?

We make it to Salzburg and meet our tour guide, Rupert, for the bike tour from Fräulein Maria´s Bicycle Tour. 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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

Some additional tour photos can be found on Fräulein Maria´s Facebook page.

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.

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.

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.

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Eurotrip 2012 – Day 4

July 22nd, 2012 Comments off


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.

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.

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?

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.

We also had several opportunities to rappel; from the bridge or various ledges all resulting in a “refreshing” plunge into the water.

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.

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.

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.

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!””

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