Sunday, September 23, 2012


The drive from Bruck to Augsburg was comfortable and scenic.  We went by the famous Krimmel Waterfalls and admired the huge volumes of water plummeting down three tiers of falls.  Then north into Germany, down out of the mountains and across the rolling wheat fields and on to Munich.  The traffic was light until we got on the ring road around Munich and then, north of town, we ran into a terrible backup.  The ambulances and firetrucks were klaxonning down the freeway, so after sitting in stop and go traffic for 45 minutes, advancing about 2 miles, we decided to get off the freeway and take surface streets.  I had a route spotted on my map and figured Trexie would take us the best way into Wallgauer Wag.

Well, right away we missed a turn and got shot off into farm country.  We zig-zagged around field after field, Don questioning me often about the turns we were making, and finally we got to territory Don recognized.  We drove into the court, found a (rare) parking spot, and met up with Klaus and Evelyn Aker at their home.

It was so good to spend some time with them again and, as always, they were very fun and interesting to visit with.  We enjoyed a delicious dinner, and talked and talked until it was bedtime. 

The next morning we got up, had breakfast and talked some more.  Evelyn wanted to entertain us by going somewhere, but we were just satisfied to hang out at their house and talk all day.

Sunday morning we said our goodbyes and headed out early to catch our plane for home.  The flight was comfortable and our transfer at Heathrow was not too stressful.  Kudos to British Air for having comfortable seating and those nice personal viewing screens on their aircraft.  We got into SFO around 5pm and DJ came to pick us up and take us home.

This was a terrific trip.  Here are our recommendations:

1.  GO TO THE AUSTRIAN ALPS.  With all of the traveling we have done, I have never enjoyed the scenery as much.  Austria is twice as beautiful and half the price of Switzerland.

2.  Bike ride in Austria.  This is the most bicycle-friendly country we have visited.  Lots of nice bike paths and good bike lanes in major cities, too.  The valleys at the foot of the Alps offer many excellent bike rides, with opportunities for interesting climbs and descents, if desired.

3.  AirBnB worked out very well for us, so we can recommend their listings.  We found the descriptions and ratings to be accurate.

4.  If you are going to Venice, stay at the Hobo B&B for a very good value and a delightful hostess with lots of great advice.  Spotless, spacious rooms, generous breakfast, nice garden for afternoon drinks, helpful and cooperative hostess, reasonable prices. Information and photos at www.bbhobo.itand contact at You can catch the boat into the city for a very reasonable price and it is an interesting and scenic way to enter Venice, from the sea.

5.  If you are in the Burgundy region of France, visit the Chateau de Dree.  This chateau is one of the nicer ones we have visited over our many years of touring in France, fully furnished with authentic period furniture right down to the silverware and crystal on the dining table, beautifully maintained grounds and a good guided tour in English.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


The day dawned sunny and blue and we decided to do one more bike ride before we packed up our bikes for the trip home.
There is a very nice bike path that runs right in back of our house, so we went out and got on the bike path and rode along the river and then up towards the mountain range, and along the farm country for about 20 kilometers.

Along the way we checked out the ski area at Kaprun and the little commuter train that glides along the tracks on a very frequent schedule, the snowy peaks towering above us, and the green pastures full of cows.  At one point we played bike tag with a group of girl scouts who joined us on the path.  

We had lunch on a nice picnic table stationed along the route.  The scenery was beautiful from my perspective and from Don's perspective across the table the scenery was just as beautiful.  It was beautiful on both side too.  Sorry to be so repetitious, but that is just the way the scenery is.

After 20 kilometers out we turned around and rode the 20 kilometers back again for a very satisfying ride.

Last few days in Bruck:
September 19, 20, 2012

Wednesday night we enjoyed a very nice visit, wine and snacks with our hosts, Karin and Gerhard.  We had a good time sharing travel and home exchange stories, talking about the sights we have seen and the places we have visited and plans for the future.  

Now, Thursday, Don got busy packing up the bikes, snuggling his 4 jars of 29cent Dijon in between bike parts, and weighing the bike bags to be sure they are not over the allowed weight.

In the afternoon he went to the Grossglockner Alpen Challenge 2012.  The main events will occur this weekend, but they are gathering today at the foot of the Grossglockner.  As with the tractors, the guys will all be walkin' and talkin' car stuff, showing off their fancy cars, shiny engines and special features.  I decided to stay home and take a nap.
Tomorrow we drive to Augsberg for a few days with our friends and former exchangers, Evelyn and Klaus Aker before catching our flight home to California. 

Monday, September 17, 2012


September 17, 2012

One last castle report--the commanding white castle we see on the road from Bruck to Salzburg.

The Hohenwerfen castle is an 11th century castle that has undergone numerous remodels, enlarging, fortifying and updating to protect against the evolving weaponry.  This is where, in the torture chamber, our friend, Wolf Dietrich met his end after falling from grace.

We enjoyed a guided tour of the chapel, torture chamber, the dungeon, the bell tower and the state rooms.  The torture chamber was complete with instruments of torture, full descriptions and some demonstrations of how they were used.  Again, the views from the bell tower down the Salzacktel were beautiful.  I have used every adjective I can think of 7 times over, trying to give you the idea of how fabulous the scenery is, but my words do not do it justice.  Thank goodness for Don's photos, which do a better job.

After the tour of the castle and keep we went into the yard for a falconry show.  Falcons were kept here because this castle was used as a hunting lodge.  The falcon master brought out several different types of birds of prey, including a vulture and a bald eagle.  Of course they came out one at a time.  Each time the trainer would ceremoniously  march out into the yard, huge bird mounted on his gloved hand, and then he would untie the bird's leg,  send the bird flying, and using a long leather thong with a lure on the end, would have the bird fly low to try to catch the lure.  The birds could not really fly far because they had some bells and weights attached to keep them from escaping.

The falcons would soar up into the sky, and dive down toward the lure and the falcon master would swing the lure just out of reach as the birds swooped in for the kill.  Finally he would allow the bird to catch the lure and reward it with a mouse or gizzard of something, and take it away before coming back with yet another bird.  The old brown buzzard was so tame he was just like Petros the pelican from Greece.  He would follow the announcer around the yard like a puppy dog and she would occasionally toss a little white mouse toward the audience so the bird would come close and we could see him well.  The show was about 45 minutes long and finished up with a dramatic demonstration with the bald eagle.  These are BIG birds.  

As we strolled backup the hill to the museum we stopped to look at the drawings and photos of all of the falcon masters from the 11th century monk to the most recent falcon master, who retired in 1989.  The guy who did the demonstration is a young guy--maybe in his early twenties, and he wasn't in the picture gallery.

Next we visited the extensive weaponry display, tracing the history of weaponry from early man using spears, all the way through cannons and firearms from the middle ages and on to weapons and uniforms from WWI.  There was an interesting display of armor and medieval weapons set up on life sized stick figures who were positioned as if they were in a battle.

After leaving the fortress we drove across the canyon and up the mountain to the famous ice cave.  Since Don is still hacking and sniffling with his cold we decided not to take the two hour tour in sub-zero temperatures.  But, we drove back down the mountain a short distance and set up our tablecloth and had a nice picnic lunch overlooking the beautiful river valley.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

SALZBURG Hohensalzburg Fortress & Hellbrunn Palace

September 16, 2012

Back to Salzburg for another day of touring.  We decided to park outside of the city center and take the bus into town.  The bus rides were included with our Salzburg card and this plan worked out very well.  Our first stop in the city today was the imposing Hohensalzburg Fortress, which looms over the city and can be seen from just about everywhere.
The fortress was first built in the 11th century and modernized and expanded over the years to medieval times.  It is the largest remaining fortress of that age in Europe.

To reach the fortress we took a funicular up the hill.  As we were gliding up the cliffside we could first see the roof tops of the city, and then the river and then the green valley.  The fantastic view from the fortress out over the city will just take your breath away.  We spent our first 20 minutes atop the hill just looking out over the scenery.

Then it was time to get our audio guide and join the guided tour of the castle.  Up the steep stairs and into the castle keep to visit the state rooms, the gallery, the fortress museum, the marionette museum and the torture chamber.  Then up and up and up many stars  to the observation tower at the top of the fortress, where we had a magnificent 360 view of the whole region.

The visit was far more than my brief description, but there was much more to do today, so I am saving some space for the rest of the story.

After lunch we hopped on the bus and went out to the south edge of the city to Hellbrunn Palace.  This palace was built by another Archbishop,  Markus Sittikus, in 1612.  This palace was to be a vacation home where one could relax and play, rather than a formal meeting place to conduct business.

The highlight of the palace is the famous Wasserspiele (the beautiful garden with trick fountains).  The gardens, lovely in themselves, sport many water features and the fun part is that all over the grounds are fountains and spouts that can be controlled by the guy with the key.  Not all of these fountains and spouts are situated in a nice pond of water, though.  They are set up to spray unsuspecting strollers and visitors as they walk around the grounds admiring the gardens and statuary.

One of the favorite fountains is a trick banquet table.  When Markus would have his guest sit down to eat al fresco he could seriptitiously start his water and catch the banqueters off guard as the water sprayed over the table and even out of some seats.  The guests would be drenched and have to go change clothes.  Don's theory is that ole Mark would especially invite ladies to his summer house, get them wet and naked, and do what comes naturally.  Really!  the Archbishop?  Don, what blasphemy!

So.our guide took us around the gardens, key in hand, and managed to spray us all by the time the tour was over.  We visited grottoes, and scenes of Greek mythology, and ponds with huge fish.  

The highlight of the gardens is an engineering masterpiece, a miniature Austrian village, with hundreds of little people, twirling through the streets, shopping, chopping wood, waving out windows, and doing what people do every day.  The entire sculpture is run by water power.  It was much fun to just stand and look at each aspect of the village.  The guide had fun too, twisting his key and spraying us with water as we watched the village.

At the end of the tour we went into a grotto to see a special lighted fountain and as we exited the water sprayers were activated and we marched through the arched sprays to safety.  By this time the kids in the group were having a great time, running through the water sprays, and Helmut, the guide, cooperated, adjusting the sprays up and down to catch the kids off guard as they ran up and down the pathway, hoping for more water.

We also toured the interior of the palace with it's richly decorated rooms, again with those huge tiled stoves.  

We walked back to our car, which was parked just outside the palace walls, for free this time, and headed down the road.  A very full day.

Saturday, September 15, 2012


September 15, 2012

 Well, I have to say that Salzburg is a stunning city.  I loved every moment of our visit.

The first day we went right to the parking area Don had programmed into Trexie and found a good spot and parked our car.  It was a short walk to the tourist information center and we got a city map and purchased a Salzburg Card.  Some websites recommended against the card, but it turned out to be a big money-saver for us.  The card got us in free to most of the important points of interest and discounts at all of the other places and had more than paid for itself by the end of the first day.

Right away we walked from the tourist center to one of the famous castles of good ole Archbishop Wolf Detrich von Raitenau, the Residenz.  This imposing building, which was built originally in the 13th century and modified, expanded and embellished over 500 years, was used not only as a residence for the Archbishop, but also to hold important meetings and audiences with statesmen and diplomats from around the world.   It sits across the plaza from St Peter's church and abbey and also next to the famous Salzburg Dome. 

We walked up the massive regal staircase, the first of 7329 staircases to walk up in the Salzburg area, as we listened to the audio guide.  Today the Residenz is furnished with decor and furniture from the period of Archbishop Wolf Detrich, around the end of the 17th century. 
We strolled through the state rooms of the Residenz and enjoyed the baroque plaster work, beautiful ceiling murals, gorgeous Venitian chandeliers, paintings of the gentlemen and ladies of the court, intricate clocks and period furniture.  The walls were covered in precious tapestries, or rich ruby red damask, and one wall was covered in beautifully patterned Chinese paper depicting scenes of China and Chinese gardens, birds and plants.  The original floors are still in use.  They are intricately patterned parquet made of oak, mahogany, ash, and maple woods.

I was particularly impressed with the enormous, beautifully tiled stoves used to heat the rooms. These monsters are 10-12 feet high and about the size of a small building.  They usually stand in one corner of the room and some poor attendant had to huddle in back of the stove, feeding it fuel. 

After leaving the Residenz we walked across the square and into the famous Salzburg Dome to admire the ornate golden altar, ceiling murals and the dome itself.

We strolled across the river and through the beautiful Mirabel Gardens, which were in full bloom and beautifully maintained.  There we saw many bridal parties having their photos taken with the fountains and blossoms as a backdrop.  We tried to keep out of their pictures, breaking our long tradition of accidentally walking right into the formal photo of bride, groom and family.  Many years later they look at that photo and ask each other, who are those people?  One of the brides was dressed in a snowy white flowing gown and the other was dressed in traditional garb.

After a bite of lunch we meandered through the cemetery where Mozart is buried and then on to the house where he was born. 

Time to go home, so we bailed our car out of the convenient parking lot, 18 euros! and made our way out of the city and back into the countryside and home to our scenic valley.

Friday, September 14, 2012


 When we arrived in Bruck a few days ago we were informed how lucky we are to be here at this time of year because Bruck and the Grossglockner sponsor a very famous and well-attended Tractor Fest.  Tractors come from miles around, and some even come from other countries, for the event.  They all park in a big green field and talk tractors for a day or two and then they parade to the nearby town of Fusch and have a big party.  Then there are events every day culminating in the tractor climb up the Grossglockner. 

This all sounded like good fun, so we decided to go check out some of the tractors at the rally point near the supermarket.  I can guarantee that none of the tractors participating in this event has ever seen a bale of hay or a cow patty.  Well, Don says I am insulting the tractormen, as they have lovingly restored old tractors that have seen the other side of tractor life.  But, just the same, they are shiny as new pennies, painted their original colors of bright blue, green, red, and all spiffed up.  Some of the tractors have fancy enhancements to the engines, with 6 shiny pipes curling up from their sparkling clean engines, extra seats for admiring fans and tractor buddies, and luggage boxes on the back.

All of the tractor guys were standing around in their team jackets with special badges and yodeler’s hats covered with souvenir pins, talking shop and admiring each other’s equipment.  Don joined in while I did some grocery shopping.

The tractor parade to Fusch was to pass near by our house around 2pm, so we went home and got our bikes and rode along the parade route.  There is a very nice bike path that goes all the way to Fusch, so we rode along the route admiring the tractors as they passed by, the vivid green fields, the herds or cows grazing, and even a gaggle of geese, loose in the field, grazing just like a bunch of cows. 

We rolled into Fusch enjoying the tunes of music combos playing folk music for the beer-guzzling crowds.  Ooom-pahs and accordians and poles with bells and other horns and percussion instruments competed up and down the main street.  Jolly locals and tractor men sat at tables and enjoyed their schnitzel and beer.  It was a very good time.

As the sun began to drop down behind the snowy peaks we climbed on our bikes and rolled down the road to get home before it got too cold and dark.

Thursday, September 13, 2012


We are having some rainy weather, so we stayed in on the 12th to give Don a chance to recover from his cold and gather up some energy.

Another rainy day today so we decided to go to the town of Hallein to take the tour of the famous salt mine.  We enjoyed the scenery on the way north to this suburb of Salzburg.  As we rounded a corner we saw a majestic castle perched high upon a hill.  It was so striking--white and imposing--we had to stop and take a photo of it.  We decided we would investigate this castle in the town of Werfen, and maybe we could tour it.

We really didn’t know what to expect with this salt mine, and we didn’t really know the significance of the salt either, so the visit was really interesting and something new.

The salt mines here have been mined for 2500 years, first by the Celts in 600BC.  The important period for the salt mines was during medieval times though.  The salt mines are what Salzburg is named for and what made Salzburg a very wealthy city.

Prince-Archbishop Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau (1559-1617) was the leader in this region at the time.  He exploited the mines using a method called wet mining.  This method entailed mining the rock, soaking it in water to extract the salt and then distilling the water to extract the salt.  Prince Wolf Dietrich  became one of the wealthiest men in Europe with his proceeds from the salt mines.  He built many beautiful baroque palaces and made Salzburg into a magnificent medieval city. 

When we began our visit in the salt mines we all donned white suits and then we straddled a kind of a bench on wheels and we were scooted along a track through the entrance to the mouth of the salt mines.  We had a nice guide who gave us the story in both German and English and there was also a movie dramatization of Wolf Dietrich and his bumbling servant, Jacobus.  After entering the mine and stopping in the first cavern we walked along the tracks for about half a kilometer and then mounted a wooden slide which moved us down into the depths of the cave.  There were no handrails on either the wheeled bench device or the slide, and I wondered if I would slip off, but both rides were quite stable and we made it down the two slides with no problem.

After sliding down the wooden slides we were several hundred feet below ground.  We learned all about the wet extraction method of mining, saw veins of pure salt crossing the ceiling of the caves, examined mining equipment from the middle ages and tasted the extremely salty brine at the tasting tap.  At each stop along the tour our guide gave us interesting tidbits and the movie Archbishop and his servant took us back into the 16th century with their reenactments.  Eventually we passed from Austria across the German border, all underground in the salt mine.  We floated through a salt lake on a boat and peeked into the grotto to see the salt man--an ancient Celt who had been trapped, died and preserved in the salt for thousands of years.  It was a terrific tour and we enjoyed it.

After leaving the mine and turning in our clean suits we explored the Celtic village which has been reconstructed on the hillside near the mine.

A very satisfying day of touring.