We spent the post-Holland tulip weekend recovering in warm, sunny Munich. Munich boasts pretty cathedrals and attractive architecture, but the most striking aspect of Munich is the ease of living. Its public transportation system runs like clockwork. There is a variety of ethnic food choices. Munich's parks are sprawling and spectacular. Everywhere you walk you can see people lounging and enjoying the weather.
After the workweek we headed to the market in the main square and took in the crowds of both locals and tourists enjoying the warm weather and sampling the local Bavarian cuisine. The center of the market featured a shady beer garden where people of all ages shared picnic tables topped with giant steins of beer, plates of sausages and oversized soft pretzels. We enjoyed walking around the market and sampling the local fare. While in Munich we tried two yoga classes taught entirely in German. So now we can add bücken and hocken to our repertoire.
We woke up early Saturday morning and rented a car. Upon arriving at the rental car facility, we were told that we would be driving a Picasso for the weekend. Curious, we headed outside to find a shimmering white hybrid of a minivan and station wagon sent from the distant future. The Picasso featured a full glass panoramic roof and side panels, adjustable seats with extending leg rests and heated massage functionality, automatically adjusting seatbelts, a killer sound system and a myriad of other ridiculous but amusing features. It is as if the Griswald family truckster from National Lampoons Vacation was recreated just for us. Despite Dave's initial hesitation to navigate this boat around the narrow lanes of Europe, once we were on the road we were both wholeheartedly on board with our spaceship on wheels.
We departed from Munich through the Alps to the small town of Hallstatt, Austria. Hallstatt is a tiny town precariously perched between a pristine lake and the Alps. To reach town from the train station, visitors must take a ferry across the lake. 16th century Alpine houses are scattered around the secluded lakeside town. The town become known throughout the region for its salt production, and visitors still take the funicular up from town to the salt mines, sliding down wooden slides into caves dating back hundreds of years. We enjoyed taking the funicular up the mountain above town for some epic Alpine views. We played on the observation deck that jutted out over the lake and watched the ferry bring groups of tourists across the placid waters. We hiked back to town through neon green forests with waterfalls, creeks and ruins of mining rails.
From Hallstatt, we headed to Hohenwerfen Castle, which dates from the 11th century. It's perched 600 meters above the mountain valley. We recently watched a new Amazon Studios show called "The Man in the High Castle" which featured this gorgeous mountaintop castle in one episode. It felt surreal to be standing inside it one week later. It turns out that the castle is also featured in the background of the "Do Re Me" song in "Sound of Music." We took another funicular up the mountain to the castle, where we explored torture chambers, learned about falconry and surveyed the valley from up on high. We hiked down around the castle bastion and through the forest to the valley floor. Exhausted after all of the hiking and driving, we sailed into Salzburg on our Picasso in the early evening.
Our hotel in Salzburg had electric bikes, so despite our fatigue and the drizzly weather, we headed out and rode our bikes along the Salzach river to check out the town famous for being the birthplace of Mozart and the setting for "The Sound of Music." We parked our bikes near the edge of the baroque old town, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and explored the sprawling squares, ornate fountains and shops while enjoying a giant soft pretzel. From everywhere in town, visitors can see the massive castle fortress atop the town. We enjoyed riding our bikes through manicured gardens and public parks on the way home.
We woke up early on Sunday to find even colder and wetter weather in Salzburg. Despite nature's warning, we headed out into the chilly rain after enjoying an impressive European breakfast. We took our bikes to top speed and headed along the river to Hellbrun Palace, a 400 year old palace situated outside of town, famous for its "trick" fountains, its gardens and its glass pavillion. The "trick" fountains were apparently all the rage for warm summer parties in the 1700s. The idea is that the palace owner hid many squirt gun-like fountains installed within the grounds of his gardens, including at outdoor tables and along walkways, and he surprised his guests with sprays of water for his own twisted entertainment. The best "trick" was at the long outdoor dining table. In the etiquette of the day, guests could not stand without the host's permission, so the host hid fountain faucets in the seats of guests. With a press of a pump, the guests would be shot with water from under their seats and could not stand up. These people knew how to have a wild summer pool party.
The other main feature of the palace is the glass pavillion set outside in the gardens. This was the pavillion from "The Sound of Music" where Liesl sang "I am 16 going on 17" and where Maria and Captain Von Trapp embraced. We both love the movie and watched it frequently growing up, so the pavillion was instantly recognizable, although much smaller than it seemed on film. Erin pranced around the pavillion humming songs from the movie and we pressed on, riding our bikes through a snow storm toward the old town to hit our final castle of the weekend, the Hohensalzburg Fortress.
The Fortress sits atop the old town in Salzburg and dates back to 1077. We took yet another funicular to the top and enjoyed the sprawling views of Salzburg all the way to the Alps. We climbed up the castle tower and watched a mountain snowstorm (which we would drive through later on our way back to Munich for our flight). We explored the castle staterooms, gothic sculptures, paintings, frescoes and grounds. We headed back through town and rode our bikes at high speeds through the freezing wind back to our hotel and checked out.
Two more castles collected! We headed back to Munich and flew from there to London, where we'll be for the next few days on business. Next up, finally back to warm weather for medieval city and desert camp adventures in Morocco.
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