A Travellerspoint blog

Salzburg, Linz and back to Sydney

July 20 to 25

We are now coming close to the end of our trip. Our next destination is Salzburg. We spend three days in Salzburg, then just one day in Linz and then come back to Vienna to take he flight home.
We left Innsbruck and drove to Salzburg. This is our last major destination. We would spend three days in Salzburg and then one day In Linz before coming back to Vienna to take the flight home.
Salzburg is the fourth largest city in Austria. It is visited by millions of visitors every year. The river Salzach flows through the city. The old city has been declared a UNESCO world heritage site.
The city became a major tourist attraction for many reasons. First reason is that the famous composer Mozart was born and grew up in Salzburg. Second reason is it’s history and the many old buildings including the Hohensalzburg fortress. Third important reason is the very popular film Sound of Music. Some scenes and the surroundings of Salzburg were used in the production of Sound of Music. The tour operators take tour groups to show the places where the film was produced. It was on the steps of Mirrabell platz that the song "Do Re Me" was sung by the children and Julie Andrews. Another song “The Hills are alive with Music” was filmed with the background of the pretty mountains. Tour operators know these places and we heard that some of the tourists go there and sing that song as if they are acting in the film.
Our hotel Holiday Inn was not in the city centre. It was not very far, but not walking distance from the hotel either. We bought a day ticket and went to the city centre by bus. We debated whether to drive to the old city. Through Internet, we found a car park close to the old city. Then we found that we could lose our car parking slot in the hotel car park. There was limited parking in the hotel car park and if we took the car out, it could have been difficult to find a slot when we came back.

When we were in the old city, it started raining and we had to stay in one place under cover for some time. Other than that, we covered most of the places in the old town. We visited Salzburg several years ago and some of the places were very familiar. Mala did some shopping and bought a few items from some traditional Austrian shops. We also tried some traditional food items from their food stalls.

There are several bridges across the river Salsach connecting the old city to the main city. There is one pedestrian bridge which is used by most tourists to cross the river. On the two side rail panels of the bridge, you can see thousands of padlocks attached to them. We do not know who started it, But it has become a common practice among young couples who visit the city. They put a padlock on a wire and lock it to show their love is locked and permanent.

We finished our stay in Salzburg and moved to Linz for one night. Linz is the third largest city in Austria. The river Danube runs through it. Our hotel Park Inn by Radison was a good hotel close to the main street of the city. We did not have much time to explore the city, but we walked a fair way along the main street. We spent a fair amount of time in the shops doing last minute shopping. The shops close at 6:00PM and we came back to the hotel and decided to have dinner ast the hotel. It was a bad decision, because both dishes we ordered were badly cooked. The only good part was the soup which was served as the entree.
We haver basically finished our trip and now it was packing to get ready to fly back. This hotel was a good place to do that. We took vall the bags to our room and packed them properly. The next morning after breakfast we drove to Vienna NH hotel at the airport. On our way we surprisingly found a good restaurant which served Italian-American food. Their freshly prepared potato wedges, Calamari rings and the salad was a big change from the bad food we had in the hotel. They also served good coffee. We came to our hotel which was just opposite the airport terminal and only walking distance from the rental car returning place. Everything went very smoothly. We put our bags in the hotel first and then returned the rental car. The car was with us for forty days and we have done over five thousand kilometres. I was always in the passenger seat while Mala did all the driving.
A few things which I like to add before finishing the blog.
We found a big difference in the way the Eastern Europe countries spend their Sunday. It is a true holiday for them. All the shops are closed and there are no people on the road except in tourist areas.
We found it difficult to find a good open restaurant in some cities.
Grocery shopping centres are small in size. Aldi is probably the leading grocery shopping centre. In Germany it is called Aldi, but in Austria it is called Hofer.
Drivers in most East European countries are normally well behaved, but they tend to be impatient. If you stop at a traffic light and get even one second late to start, they will blow the horn.
Most city areas have narrow and one way roads. Parking spaces are also smaller in comparison.
In Germany the Autobahn which is the freeway is toll free and has no upper speed limit. At some places Mala was driving at 150 KM per hour and still finding faster cars overtaking and whizzing past our car.
People we met in every European country went out of their way to help us. They are very friendly and polite. In one small town, we parked the car on the road side and entered a restaurant to have lunch. We knew the place we parked had some restriction, but we could not understand the writing on the post. Mala talked to a lady who came to park her car. The lady told her that we need to place a time tag on the dash board , to show the arrival time. Then you could keep the car free for one hour. We did not have a time tag. This lady had two and she gave one to Mala. She said not to worry about returning it. We did not see her after that. We left the area after lunch.

We are finishing the blog at this point. When I have time, I will add more details and photos which I missed.

Posted by fernando65 23:40 Comments (0)

Three days in Munich

July 17,18,19

We drove to Munich and checked into Holiday Inn hotel in Munich. We avoided the tollway and drove through small towns and villages to reach Munich. On our way, we stopped at a small German Bakery and had had some bread filled with meat and salami and then coffee. We found the bread to be very fresh and coffee excellent.


Having coffee at German Bakery

We did not go out and decided to relax in the hotel for a change. In the late evening , we were looking for a place to have dinner.


Dinner at Restaurant Delhi Palace

We needed a change and found an Indian restaurant called Delphi Palace, not very far from the hotel. We had early dinner and came back to the hotel.


Munich Holiday Inn hotel

On the second day, we decided to visit the world famous Neuschwanstein castle and the well known town Oberammergau. This was about two hours drive from the hotel.

The Neuschwanstein Castle is one of the most visited castles in Germany and one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe. More than 1.3 million people visit this castle every year. It was built by King Ludwig II of Bavaria, also known as the “Fairytale King”. King Ludwig was a great admirer and supporter of Richard Wagner, the world-renowned composer. The Castle was built in his honor and many rooms in the castle’s interior were inspired by Wagner’s characters.


Neuschwanstein Castle seen from the bridge

Neuschwanstein castle is located in the Alps in Bavaria, Germany, in a magnificent landscape, on the top of a hill. Neuschwanstein overlooks the Hohenschwangau valley with an extremely beautiful landscape. The construction of the Neuschwanstein castle began in 1869, and originally it was projected to last three years. But Ludwig II wanted the castle to be perfect, so the immense building was not finished even at Ludwig’s death in 1886 and it is not completely finished to this day.
This fairytale look of the Neuschwanstein castle inspired Walt Disney to create the Magic Kingdom. Today, Neuschwanstein is the most visited castle in Germany, and one of the most popular tourist destination in the world.
There are day tours which take people from Innsbruck to the castle and back. We decided to drive there on our own. When we are about two kilometers from the castle, we get a very good view of the castle. Many people stop their cars on the road and take photos of the castle. When we arrived at the bottom of the castle, the place was full of people. We managed to park our car at the bottom of the castle. The narrow road up the hill to the castle is restricted to passenger buses and horse carts. You have to either walk up the steep road or take the bus or take the horse cart. We decided to take the bus.


Mala and Andrew with the castle in the background

The bus took us up to a point and dropped us not very far from the castle. On the way to the castle there is a side road and a foot bridge. You cannot go to the castle that way. People go there because the bridge is the best place to take a photo of the castle. You get a fantastic view of the castle from the bridge. We took some photos and then took the real path to the castle which was another ten minute walk from the bridge. When you reach the castle, you can see how big the entire castle is. It is a huge structure. Restoration work on the front part of the building is still going on.


Walking down hill from the castle

We spent some time in the castle and then started climbing down. We could have taken the bus, but we decided to walk back along the steep path. It was easier to walk down hill.


One of the Oberammergau shops

Next stage of our tour was to visit Oberammergau. This small Bavarian town has become world famous due to its Passion play which is staged every tenth year ending with a zero. In 1633, the residents of Oberammergau, vowed that if God spared them from the plague ravaging the region, they would produce a play for all time every 10 years depicting the life and death of Jesus. The death rate among adults rose from one person per 1000 per year in October 1632 to twenty in the month of March 1633. The adult death rate slowly subsided to one in the month of July 1633. The villagers believed they had been spared and they kept their part of the vow when the play was first performed in 1634.


Another example of an Oberammergau religious shop

The play is now performed repeatedly over a period of five months during every year ending in zero. The last set of performances was from May 15 to October 3, 2010 and the next is scheduled for 2020. The production involves over 2,000 performers, musicians and stage technicians, all residents of the village. They do not take outsiders to perform in the play.
We drove to this little town just to have a quick look. It was a fascinating town with many shops selling Christmas decorations and various religious items including statues. We went through some of the shops and bought a few items, then had coffee from a small bakery.

On the third day, we visited the main city centre of Munich. It was a huge city with a huge shopping area. We knew we cannot take the car to the city. There was a direct tram bus from the hotel to the city. We took the tram to the city. There are some important buildings in the city centre area. The main street in Munich city is Marienplatz. This street is always full of tourists.


The New Towh Hall on Marienplatz

The New Town Hall on Marienplatz in Munich is the seat of the Lord Mayor, the city council and headquarters of the city administration. It was built from 1867 to 1909 in three stages by Georg von Hauberrisser in the neo-Gothic style.

We walked around the city for a long time and did some shopping and finally came to the hotel to relax.

Posted by fernando65 15:59 Comments (0)

Back in Austria, Innsbruck and Reith im Alpbachtal

Jul;y 14,15,16 and 17

We drove back to Austia from Italy. This time it was from Bolzano to Innsbruck. We selected a route going through small towns avoiding the tollway. Driving on the tollway is very fast, but you miss the small towns, markets and cafes which are on the normal roads. While driving on the narrow single lane roads we could see the tollway erected on tall pillars high above us.


Tollway on high pillars above the narrow single lane road

Innsbruck is located in the west of Austria, adjoining the river Inn. It is at the foot of the Austrian Alps. Austria has nine states or provinces. Innsbruck is the capital of the province called Tyrol. It has a long history, has been the home for many past leaders and literary giants. It was selected twice for the Winter Olympics in 1964 and 1976. It has become world reknown for its famous ski jump Bergisel.
History of Innsbruck goes back to the time of stone age. Later in the fourth century, Roman forces occupied the city. Then in the 15th century, Emperor Maximilian made his home in Innsbruck. During the second world war, Innsbruck suffered immensly. It was bombed no less than 22 times, destroying many valuable historical buildings. Still the old town has some beautiful buildings . One important building is the museum building. It was built by the emperor Maximilian .


Part of the Museum Building

The building was covered with gilded copper tiles and is known as the building with a golden roof. The main street which is known as Maria Theresia Strasse becomes crowded with tourists in the evening. Maria Theresa's statue is in the centre of the square.


Statue of Maria Theresa in the main city square

Our hotel, Best Western Plus Goldener Adler, was on the cross road that leads to the main street. We wanted to drive up to the hotel, but the police has cordened off the road for some reason and did not allow us to go there. We managed to drive to an underground public parking station which was not very far from ther hotel. We walked to the hotel and found that our hotel is also in a very old historical building.


Hotel Goldener Adler building

The hotel building was built in 1390. Among the famous people who stayed in this hotel are people like the Emperor Joseph 11, Poet Johan Wolfgang von Goethe, King Ludwig 11 of Bavaria. There are wall hangings outside each room to show the famous people who occupied those rooms at some stage in history.


A woman posing as a statue in Innsbruck main square

Innsbruck is always full of tourists. They are either roaming the streets or sitting in open air restaurants and drinking beer or coffee. There are icecream parlours everywhere. Ice cream is so popular that there are long queues to buy them. You could see many women and young people walking with an icecream in their hands.


Piano Player in the main square

There are several Swarowski crysatel outlets in the town square. We visited both, but Mala wanted to visit the main Swarowski factory in Wattens which is about 15 km from Innsbruck . We have visited this factory long ago during a former visit. We decided to visit it again on our last day in Inbnsbruck that happened to be a Sunday. On Sundays the city shops are closed, but Swarowski factory is open.


Swarowski Crystal figure

It was a good day to visit the factory. We went through the exibits and then visited the factory shop where you can buy Swarowski jewellery. Factory prices are very reasonable compared to the prices we see in shops. Mala ended up buying a few small articles.


Entrance to the Swarowski Crystal Museum

Our next destination was a castle in a small town called Reith im Alpbchtal. It is a small town in Austria, only about 50 kilometres from Innsbruck.
We selected this place, mainly because the hotel was a converted castle and we wanted to see how we could spend a day in an old castle. The castle hotel is called Schloss Matzen.


Open area inside the castle Schloss Matzen

When we arrived there, we asked the receptionist to give us some information about the history of the castle. It was built in the 12th century. It was originally owned by the Knights of Freundsberg. Then it changed hands several times. Improvements and renovations have been carried out by various owners. In 1776 the castle caught fire. In 1873, an Irish woman Fanny Reade bought the castle and renovated it. Her son William opened this castle to British and American tourists. In 2008, it was purchased by the present owners, Rueter family.


Mala in Schloss Matzen Castle bedroom

The castle is very tall and has four floors. We knew it has no elevator. Knowing that it is difficult to carry bags to higher floors, we requested for a room on the ground level. The hotel staff were veery understanding and the only room that was at the ground level has been allocated for us. We still had to park the car outside the castle and drag the hand luggage along the steep stone paved path. The entrance to the castle is a huge metal door. After checking in, we just entered into our room that was in the corner pasaage of the ground floor.


Schloss Matzen castle seen from the road

We had the entire ground floor and the outside furniture at our disposal. The room was huge and the furniture was antique but not very old, may be close to hundred years . The bathroom was elegantly decorated and had modern equipment. There was no air conditioning . Mala checked with the reception why they do not have air conditioners. The answer was simple. They nevere needed air conditioners in the past. The huge castle with it's stone walls and high roof are very cool even in hot summer. He was correct. Our room was cool and cosy. We had only one night in the castle. We saw several other parties arriving at the hotel. The receptionist is a strong young fellow. He carries the visitors bags up the staircase and putb them in the rooms. The nezxt morning, after breakfast we left the hotel.


Mala with Fruit farm owner

Close to the castle hotel, only about a kilometre away, there was a fruit farm and a fryuit stall. They sell fruit from their farm. If you wish to, you could pick your own fruits from the farm . We had no time to spend picking fruit, though it could have been very interesting. We just drove there, bought some fruit punnets and started driving towards our next destination, Munich.

Posted by fernando65 15:23 Comments (0)

Bolzano and Dolamite road

July 11,12

We left Desenzano and drove to Bolzano. The shortest driving distance from Desenzano to Bolzano was only about 160 km. We decided to take a longer and a more interesting route. Lake Garda is nearly 52 km long and is the biggest lake in Italy. It is in Northern Italy. Desenzano is at the southern bottom corner of the lake. There are many small towns bordering the lake which are very popular among holiday makers. We decided to drive along the western border of the lake passing through towns like Salo, Gargnano and Ampione Del Garda. The holiday crowds were pouring into Salo and we got stuck in the long traffic line. We took a detour avoiding Salo and drove towards the next town Gargnano. That was a good move, because we found ourselves moving against the heavy traffic . Gargnano was not that crowded. We passed Gargnano and a few other small towns to arrive at another small town called Limone Sul Garda. There were many tourists in this town and we stopped at a hotel called Splendid Palace Hotel for coffee. The hotel sits on a cliff above the hotel and has a great view of the hotel from the outside sitting area.


View of Lake Garda from Splendid Palace hotel in Limone Sul Garda

After passing the lake, we drove through some beautiful mountain ranges. We had to drive slowly due to winding roads and many small towns where the speed limit was 50 km/hour.


Hotel Four Points by Sheraton in Bolzano

Bolzano is in Northern Italy . Once we have stayed in Mirano which is close to Bolzano. Bolzano in itself is not a tourist town. It has a few tourist attractions, but the city is like any other modern city with a small market squre and an attractive church. We have booked the hotel, Four Points by Sheraton, for two days. One main attraction in Bolzano is the Ice man Otzi. The archaeology museum has the preserved body of Otzi. It has been preserved in ice for 5100 years. They do not know how this prehistoric man died, but his body, his clothing and equipment have been found buried deep inside a glacier.


Map of the Great Dolomite road

Bolzano is also the Western gateway to Spectacular Dolomite road. We were planning to use the hotel to do a trip to Dolamites.
When we arrived at the hotel, they had a special offer to upgrade our room to an apartment. We took the offer as it included the free use of the minibar in addition to the huge apartment room. The apartment did not have a kitchen, but had two rooms, two bathrooms, two TVs and a sitting area. It would have been ideal for a family with children.


Driving through a range of dolomites

On our first day, we decided to relax and spend the time in the hotel. On the secod day, we drove on the dolomite road. The Dolomite road has been listed by UNESCO as a world heritage site. The winding road from Bolzano to Cortina d'Ampezzo is called the Dolomite road. It is a little over hundred kilometres long and winds its way through some spectacular scenes and mountain ranges made of dolomites. On its path, there are many sharp hairpin bends. For several miles, the road climbs to the top of a mountain and then starts going down hill. The road in normally closed in Winter.


Restaurant Chalet Gerard with dolomites in the background

Half way through the trip, we stopped at a restaurant and had a snack and coffee. There are many places to stop. Many vehicles stop at these lookouts to admire the scenery. We stopped the car in many places taking our time to absorb the beauty of the surroundings.


Another sample of dolomites


Entering the city Cortina d'Ampezzo

We drove right up to the city centre of Cortina d'Ampezzo. The city is at the foot of a dolomite hill range. Apart from that, there is nothing special about the town centre. It was the road that was spectacular. We took nearly three hours to drive the full distance of the road. We decided to take the freeway back to Bolzano. The freeway was longer but we took less than two hours to reach Bolzano.

Our next destination is Innsbruck in Austria.

Posted by fernando65 13:59 Comments (0)

Four days in Switzerland and Italy

July 7 to10 , Chur, Lugano and Desenzano

Lindau is our last German city. Our next destination was Chur in Switzerland. We decided to spend one day in Chur on our way to Lugano, a lake city in Switzerland border. Chur is the gateway to Switzerland Holiday region. It is closer to many ski resorts. We had a reservation for the ABC Swiss hotel in Chur. From Lindau to Chur, we were slowly climbing through mountains and going through some historic villages. In one place, there was a castle on top of a mountain which could be seen from the road. We saw many tourists stopping and taking pictures.


Castle on the mountain seen from thec road

We were passing the German border and getting closer to Switzerland. We decided not to use tollways and drive through small towns and villages. But there were times, when we had no other alternative, but to use the tollway. We stopped at a petrol station and bought a Swiss Vignette and attached it to the wind screen of the car. The Swiss vignette is the most expensive one among European Union countries almost coming to A$50.


Mala near ABC hotel rewceptiion

ABC Swiss hotel had free parking at the back of the hotel. It was a good place to do some house keeping. We brought the big bags to our room and packed the stuff we bought in different cities. We normally take only the hand luggage to the rooms and keep the big bags inside the car. We were in Chur on a Saturday and there was little traffic on the roads. We saw many tourists arriving at Chur by train. But the streets were not crowded. In the night around 9:00pm, we came out of the hotel to have a coffee and a snack in a restaurant. All the restaurants were closed and the only place that was open was a McDonald. The place was full of young people. We bought some take away chicken nuggets and came back to the hotel.


Remaining snow caps on mountain tops in Summer

The next morning, we were looking at different routes to drive to Lugano. Lugano is in Switzerland, bordering Italy. The shortest route is to take highway A13 and either drive over San Bernadino pass or take the tunnel which has been built to replace the pass. The other option was to take the longer route and drive via Disentis. We decided to take the longer route. It was a winding road, but in good shape. There were road blocks and delays due to repairs, but it was better than we expected. On our way, we stopped at small hotel/restaurant called Valletscha and had lunch.


Stop over at Valletscha Restaurant for lunch

The person who served us could barely speak English, but he mnaged to tell us a few things about the area. We asked him whether they close the restaurant in Winter. No they do not close it. It is open through out the year. The road is closed closed and opened many times due to heavy snow, but they keep the retaurant open. Normally the raod is closed about twenty day a year. This year, it was unusually cold and they had closed the road for sixty days. They had very heavy snow falls covering the roads and also causing avalanches. On the mountain opposite the retaurant, we saw many huts erected . We wanted to know who lives there. No one lives there, they are used for storage of hay. They cut hay and bundle them and store them in these huts given to cattle in Winter.


Storage huts on the mountain

In some tunnels, the road base has deteriorated. This is a common phenomenon. In Winter, the damaged roads are not repaired. Some are closed due to heavy snow. In Summer, the road repairs start causing road blocks and long delays. We drove slowly stopping in several places.


Lugano lake view from a near by park

The name of the town Lugano has come from the lake Lugano. There are three lakes close to each other. They are Lago de Lugano, Lago de Como and Lago Maggiore. All three of them are very popular among tourists. We had a booking for the Hotel International Au Lac for two days. The hotel is facing the lake and we got underground parking and a reasonable room when we arrived. The room was small, but changing it would have cost double the amount. It was the lake and the area that mattered most. We walked along the lake promanade and in the old city centre area. The hotel gave us two tickets which allowed us to travel in buses free. The reception told us about a small beautiful village called Morcote. We decided to take a bus , but not many buses were going to that village and we gave up that idea. In the night the city area takes a carnival atmosphere. There are many outdoor restaurants to select from, but all of them are packed with people and finding a vacant table is not easy. They all serve Italian food. We walked around foir a while and finally had dinner in an Italian restaurant called Federale.


Pizza at Lugano restaurant Federale

There are boat trips and also boats to hire in the lake. It was getting hot during the day time and we decided to relax in the hotel. The shops seemed to be catering to rich tourists. Most of the items in the shops, like jewelerry, wrist watches and designer bags had price tags in thousands of euros. There were two funiculars taking people to the tops of two mountains. We could see the path of lights from the foot of the mountain to the top. They were supposed to be very beautiful in the night giving a panoramic view of the city from above. We did not go there. We walked to a beautiful park bordering the lake and spent some time there.


View of Lake Lugano, from our hotel

From Lugano, we were coming to another lake city called Desenzano in Italy. This city is near the lake Garda, the biggest lake in Italy. We had a booking for one night in a hotel called Palace Hotel. The drive from Lugano to Desenzano was beautiful. On our way, we stopped at a restaurant and had lunch.
In Desenzano, we got a huge room with a balcony in the Palace hotel. The hotel was not near the lake, but we could walk to the lake from there. We checked into the hotel and decided to explore the area. I have been to Desenzano more than thirty years ago when I visited Milan. I spent a weekend in one of the Desenzano hotels, right next to the lake.


Our room an d the balcont in Palace Hotel

The town has changed a lot from that time. Sirmeone which is on a narrow long strip of land into the lake has become more popular. We drove to Sirmeone town centre and came back , then drove to Desenzano town and the lake area. We had limited time, so we just drove around visitng many beaches on the lake. In the night we walked to a restaurant facing the lake and had dinner.


Dinner at Desenzano restaurant near the Garda lake

While having dinner, Mala met two ladies in their seventies who were in our hotel and come to the same restaurant to have dinner. They are from England and the two of them have teamed up and come together. Their itinerary has been prepared by a travel agent in England and they use public transport like buses and trains to travel. We met them again qwhen we came down to have breakfast in the morning. We wished them well on their next stage of the tour.
Our next destination is Bolzano in Italy.

Posted by fernando65 13:20 Comments (0)

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