Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Austria - 2001 (Vienna, Italy, Switzerland) Final Entries

October 6, Saturday

We left Menaggio for Villaggio and drove the road along Lake Como into Como – what a zoo the city was on a Saturday morning. There was a busy flea market in the city and it was a very difficult traffic situation. Then we drove along the other side of the lake to Bellagio – a narrow, twisting road. It took about 3 hours, but we are glad we came. However, we should have taken a ferry over. That would have taken 20 minutes – live and learn.

This is a great place. It is very busy – lost of restaurants and exclusive shops and great prices. We will take a ferry out of here and save a lot of time and stress. We are here until Monday and it is a relaxing spot. Our hotel is the Firenza (Florence) right on the lake with a terrific room.

October 7, Sunday


We went to Mass at 11:30 in St.Giovanno, the little church we see (and hear) from our hotel room. The bells ring early Sunday and practically knock us out of bed they are so close. The Mass was all in Italian and I was able to dump all my Swiss change in the box for candles for Tom. We love our room – very highly decorated – one lime green wall behind the bed, all others an off-white. The headboard is trimmed with black and white 2” stripes to match the huge valance on the window in same stripe and white side drapes over spheres. The bathroom is typical Italian – 4”tiles (shiny) of black and white on the floor – walls white, tile with black cable trim – their tile work is gorgeous. Many artisans here make jewelry and hand made shoes and clothing. The shopping is fun as prices are so much better than Switzerland. We met a lovely couple from New York (Niagara) and stopped for a cup of coffee after Mass. He is a judge – previously the D.A. and we had a lively conversation until 1:30 pm when John and I took the boat to Varenna. It is pouring rain and it is a quaint and pretty small village set into the hillside, but it didn’t take long to see it.

October 8, Monday

We left Bellagio on the ferry to Varenna. It was a great short cut for us to head North along Lake Como where we drove East to Sondrio over a mountain, where a town named Aprica sits on the top – a town of condominiums all shuttered up waiting for snow. The hills are full of chairlifts but not a sign of life. We took the road South to Trento to avoid another mountain pass and then turned North toward Bolzano. It is a tall road, but they will take German, Italian or Swiss money. We stopped at Pension just South of Innsbruck.

Pension Sonnenheim – excellent. Least expensive so far – Exit 10 just outside Innsbruck. 5 star Inn named Searls is just down the road from our Pension Mieders (correct spelling)

Sonnenheim Pension
6141 Schonberg
Stubaital – Austria

October 9, Tuesday

From our Pension south of Innsbruck we drove to Salzburg. It was relaxing as the mountain passes are behind us and we have no itinerary. We have been to Salzburg before so we enjoyed the shops and revisited the beautiful church of St.Blasius. Then we drove to Mondsee which is on the Lake of Mondsee where se stayed earlier. However, we drove into Mondsee where we have been before and visited the church where the wedding in “Sound of Music” was filmed. It is a lovely town set on this exquisite lake. Austria is a gorgeous country and the people are delightful! I haven’t bought much as I haven’t seen anything I wanted. I did get a book for the trip home – recommended by the shop owner of “American Discount” books in Salzburg. The book, written by an American, Donna Leon, is about Venice. She teaches English Literature in a local college and is not published in U.S.A.

American Discount
Kargasse 6
5020 Salzburg
T +43-622-845 640

(book was uninspiring)

October 10 – Wednesday

The Panorama Hotel at Mondsee is great. We even had eggs for breakfast. We’ve had breakfast every morning as part of our hotel arrangement, even at Astron here at the airport. We drove most of the day to get here but we are all set to takeoff for home tomorrow. I am ready – have been for 5 days. The war news has me jittery, I’m afraid.

October 11, Thursday

Flew to Dulles – Washington – very smooth flight. 9 hours.

Good to be home!!!

War on Terrorism continues and from reports - shall for some time.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Austria - 2001

October 2, Tuesday

We talked to Susan last evening and all is well except she told us to be careful that the government is warning people that overseas travel is dangerous. Of course, it didn’t help my sleep, but we were up early for our short trip to Tasch and Zermatt. Our short 130 miles (?) took over 5 hours. They are slow miles. I was pleased to find it an easy drive without hairpin turns up steep mountain roads. We took the cog railway out of Tasch and were in Zermatt in about 20 minutes. It is a busy tourist town. The weather is fabulous – actually too warm for our clothing. We came with hats, gloves, sweaters and on Oct 2 it is hot in the sun (high 70’s) but pleasantly cool in the shade. People are shining on the Matterhorn above where we are staying and there are lots of hikers. Met a couple from N.C. – a rarity as no U.S. seem to be here.

Stayed at the Perren Hotel and it is lovely and had dinner in their restaurant – one of our super best meals. One of the interesting things to see here is the cemetery. So many of the graves are for those lost on the Matterhorn, young men mostly. There is a lovely church where we said some prayers for Tom and a safe trip home. The streams coming down from the glacier are powerful and the water is an opaque green – very unusual. Tomorrow we leave early on the Glacier Express. I am really looking forward to this train trip.

October 3, Wednesday

Left Zermatt at 8:50 in the most beautiful train with large panoramic windows. It was smooth as silk and a very quiet train. The views are spellbinding. In every direction are the snow-capped mountains so close on all sides. It is a very relaxing trip and 4 hours passed very quickly. Every seat was filled and we had a darling South Korean couple across from us. They are coming to the U.S. later this year and we exchanged addresses and e-mails. He has a Christian Magazine he publishes for teachers and is coming to a conference. St. Moritz is lovely – much larger and more cosmopolitan than Zermatt. The stores are elegant (closed unfortunately) but we did some window shopping.

We return tomorrow, leaving at 10 am, back to Zermatt. This has been a real highlight of our trip. Hope all our pictures do justice to the glorious views. The sun was so strong today we wore sunglasses almost the entire trip – except some tunnels of cause. You can’t look down as the train track runs along the sides of cliffs with no shoulder and across bridges that span chasms.

Hotel Laudinella – very good.

October 4, Thursday

Back to Zermatt – same route, same train, lazy day.

Perrin Hotel – terrific hotel, great restaurant, nice people.

October 5, Friday

Off to Italy – train to Tasch where we get back to our other suitcase and the car. We lightened our luggage by taking enough for 3 days in one suitcase. We traveled East to pick up the road South to Italy and it took us over the furka pass. Never have I been so frightened – a narrow, 2-lane road that twisted along the mountain edge up to 2,431 meters or over 7,000 feet. Most of the trip was very slow because of switchbacks. I could look up and see the road as it wound its way to the top and it seemed endless. I found myself holding my breath on the turns as I prayed no one would be coming the other way. It was such a relief when we reached the turn for the Gotthard pass, but we feared it would be another tough mountain climb, but we were pleasantly surprised as it was a “piece of cake” after the previous pass. The road was wider and the climb was 300 meters less in height. Arrived in Menangis about 6pm after a long day of driving and stressful driving at that. This looks like a nice town and we have a room overlooking Lake Como with a little outside balcony – The Bellavista Hotel.

We had a nice dinner and then back to our room with a good book.

Austria - 2001

September 29, Saturday

Left Grindelwald after a good breakfast (on the house) for Montreaux. Drove through Interlaken then headed South. The miles are long and it was 1 o’clock before reaching Lurchers (?) in Montreaux for lunch. It certainly resembles the Riviera in topography, but was rather old and tired looking by comparison. It had started to rain so perhaps that colored my viewpoint. We toured the Chateau of Chillon, which is very interesting and drove to Cully. Nice little town – our hotel on Lake Geneva has a pretty view, but not up to Karen Browns’ usual superb choices. Four stories – no elevators, ugh. We’re only here one night. It is called Major Davel. I was frightened by a Mid Eastern looking kitchen worker who gave me a menacing stare after listening to a conversation in the bar between John and an English gentleman about September 11th.

September 30, Sunday

We were glad to leave Lausanne and head toward Geneva. It is damp from the nights’ rain and the mountains are invisible in the morning mist. Taking a red road that goes through each little village made our trip about an hour. We found a great stop for the next two nights in a darling village, Celigny. It feels like France as everyone speaks French and the villages have a French ambience. We drove into Geneva and tried to find the Notre Dame Cathedral, but got trapped in wrong turns and finally gave up. We found the Red Cross Museum and it was interesting, but depressing. The sun came out while we were there and we came out to a beautiful day. 

We went to Lake Geneva – called Lac Leman and it is magnificent. There were lots of people strolling and even some in swimming. It must be mighty cold as it is fed from glaciers. We walked along with the crowds and it could have been anywhere in the world as the crowds are diverse. This is an international city with visitors from the whale world. We came back to our hotel – Hotel du Soleil in Cigny. Richard Burton is buried here so we took a walk to the graveyard. His grave is very simple. A large rough stone has his name and dates cut into it 1925-1984. I understand Liz Taylor sends flowers but I don’t know how often. We had a good dinner here in the hotel and will be early to bed.

October 1, Monday

Left early for Geneva and our cruise on Lac Leaon (Lake Geneva). Our Flexi Rail Pass entitles us to use them on the cruise, but security is so tight here, we had to go to the train station and have them verified against our passports before we could board a lake cruise boat. Each hotel takes our passport number and home address and birth date. It is much more careful than U.S. The cruise was beautiful as it is a sunny clear day. We could see Mont Blanc – in France from Geneva. It is a lovely city. We drove back to Nyon, a small city near our hotel and had supper. We had not had much lunch and it was difficult to wait until 6:30 before any restaurant starts to serve. They have their customs and you have to comply.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Austria - 2001

September 24, Monday

Breakfast at the Nossek was better than the free one. We ordered eggs this morning. The free breakfast consists of coffee and a basket of dry, cold rolls such as Kaiser rolls. Today we are going to pick up the balance of things we missed seeing. Unfortunately, all state run museums and buildings are closed on Monday. However, we went to St. Peters kirche and again to St. Stephens kirche. They are magnificent. St. Peters is the most baroque of Austrian churches and St. Stephens has a mosaic roof. Evidently, many buildings were bombed at the end of the war – WWII, but all have been restored. We had lunch at Move and Pick, a restaurant we tried for the first time in Munich. You can see the food as you pick it, which helps when your language limits your choices. Most foods are very unappetizing in Germany. We had guided tours after lunch of the opera house. It is gorgeous and although we are not opera fans, we have enjoyed an annual program on PBS hosted by Robert Cronkite on New Years Eve, and we have always thought the theatre magnificent. It was smaller than we expected and the stage itself is 1700 sq feet. The head of the Opera House is as important as the President of Austria, which gives some idea of the way people feel about Opera in Vienna.

It has been a week of walking and our legs are ready for a rest. We found a great pizza place for dinner. The city is packed with young people and it jumps at night. Tomorrow we pick up our car and are off for Switzerland.

September 25 and 26
A cab took us to our rental in Vienna outskirts. It didn’t take long to adjust to Renault 5 on the floor diesel. The roads are good and we made a few wrong turns getting to Durnstein, as it was on the opposite side of the Danube and we missed the bridge crossing. What a delightful tiny village overlooking the Danube. We had lunch at Sanga-Blandell, a restaurant named after the singer who saved Richard the Lionhearted from the dungeon where he was being detained by singing a song only known by them and getting a response from Richard and being able to save him by paying a ransom. The place was charming and the soup delicious. We drove on to Melk where we visited the Benedictine Abby, founded by St. Benedict – absolutely magnificent buildings, all restored about ten years ago. The very latest in displays and art. I was impressed with their use of art and moving film images on the walls. The library is fabulous – many early manuscripts and beautifully bound. The church was enough to take our breath away. We have visited many, many churches all over Europe and in the U.S. but this was the “piece de resistance” All the statutes were gold and the ceiling paintings were incredibly beautiful. It was larger than the Weiss kirche and up until now that as our favorite. Even though it wasn’t painted by Michaelangelo, I liked it better than the Sistine Chapel in Rome.

We drove to Mondsee, stopped at Panorama Restop on the highway and had a great hotel – our room overlooking Lake Mondsee. To wake this morning with a wall of glass looking out on the gorgeous mountains with clouds wrapped in every depression on the cliff was a thrill. It changed minute by minute as the clouds moved around. We had a fabulous breakfast buffet. It is so nice to see the food rather than trying to decipher a German menu. I was craving fruit and had my fill.

We drove most of the day and passed up St. Gallen as time did not allow it. However, the scenery from Salzburg to Lucerne was so beautiful with snowcapped peaks and sweet Chalet-type homes through Austria, Lichtenstein and Switzerland. It was an Ooh & Aah ride, and the roads are super – well marked and the trucks stay to the right and give no competition to the cars that travel very fast. We went through over a dozen tunnels on this drive – some three and four miles long. However, one was 14 Km – that is 8 ½ miles long. We arrived in Lucerne and have a beautiful room in a Swiss Chalet Hotel – very Swiss – red tile floors covered with throw oriental rugs – a gorgeous canopied bed, kitchen & bath. Too bad we’re only here one night. Schlass-Hotel Swiss-Chalet in Merlischachen.

September 27

Mary and Dots’ birthday! We left the Swiss Chalet after a great buffet breakfast and drove to Lugern. We spent the morning in Old Town – pretty painted buildings and a gorgeous covered bridge with flowers in hanging baskets on every window. They have had 22 days of rain this month. The countryside is beautiful – a green that looks like springtime, but a little nip in the air. Sunshine for another gorgeous day – temp about 68 degrees F. After lunch at Move and Pik, we dove to Grindelwald – tunnels, mountains and lakes. A ride of such beauty it stuns your senses. Everywhere you look is a view you would like to savor, but in a minute it is a new thrill. I wanted John to look but was afraid he might take his eyes off the twisting, narrow road, taking us up another mountain. This must be the most beautiful place in the world on this gorgeous day. What a surprise to arrive in Grindelwald to find a bustling tourist town – very Swiss in the shadow of the Geiger, Jungfrau and Monch peaks. We have a gorgeous hotel in the Swiss tradition – flower bakes and all. I can sit on our little balcony and see two of the famous peaks in their mantle of snow. Down below the Brienzersee is a soft agua color – a huge glacial lake. What a heavenly place.

This morning we visited another church in Lugern – a Jesuit church named Francis Xavier. It was incredibly beautiful, so I don’t want to leave it out of my diary in my excitement over the Alps. This certainly must be the high point of this trip.

September 28, Friday

Before I start this day I must add that I had raclette cheese last evening. It is the famous Swiss melting cheese. They bring you a dish of melted raclette about 5 inches round and a bowl of small boiled potatoes. You dip the potatoes in the cheese where there are pickle slices and 4 small onions. It was good, but not a good choice for dinner – too much cheese. Better if I had shared it as an hor dourves.

Good breakfast before our trip to the summit of the Jungfrau on a cog railroad. It is a beautiful day, which accounts for the popularity of the trip. Every sweat in the train was filled – about 4 or 5 cars. It is fairly slow but it gives you time to see everything. Many people will get off before the summit to hike down. The hikers are very colorful – many in knickers and Austrian tiral clothing with their walking sticks and back packs. I was overdressed expecting to be outdoors for quite a while tat the summit. However, they have a beautiful modern building that looks like a space station with three restaurants, W.C. and options for viewing the peaks. We went out on a platform and it was too cold to stay for long, but you could rent skiis and ski on the glacier or climb to an outdoor platform and walk on ice and snow. Or take another lift to a much higher view of the mountain peaks. The views are unbelievable – you look down an ice valley where the glacier rests or on the highest peak in Europe – the Jung frau. The Matterhorn is much higher, but you can’t go there unless you climb it. There are many Japanese here – they say it is their third language here in Grindelwald (tourists). We have seen very few Americans – a few Canadians but Americans are staying home since September 11, and it is very obvious. We are planning dinner in our hotel. It has a fine reputation: “The Fiescherwald.”

Monday, June 6, 2011

Austria - 2001

September 20, 2001 Thursday

After the tragic events of Sept 11, flying anywhere is different. Security is very tight. We arrived at the airport at 2 o’clock for a 6 pm flight to Vienna, Austria. The lines were long and slow. Some people were heaving their luggage opened and checked by hand.

The plane was packed – about 300 to 350 in an Airbus. Fortunately, it was a smooth flight – also sleepless for me. They are very long nights when you don’t sleep a wink.

September 21, 2001

Arrived in Vienna about 4 am PA time and 9 am Austria time. This is a gorgeous city. Our hotel is beautifully located – very old and a bit tired but adequate. We spent the day finding our way around and discovering about food, etc, until our 4 pm tickets for the Vienna Boys Choir. They are fabulous – a wonderful concert at Musikverein.

September 22, 2001 Saturday

After a long sleep – 8:30 pm to 8:30 am, I have recovered. We had a lovely day – temp about 70 degrees in and out sun. It is a walking city and we headed for the ring road that would take us to Votivkirche. It is being rehabbed and in very poor condition, but we lit a candle for Tom and had our three wishes. The University of Vienna is nearby and we visited the Rothaus (city hall) with the most beautiful interior, we thought it must be a cathedral. Then we went back to Michael Platz to see the Hofburg Palace and Helden Platz, home of the Habsburg dynasty. We spent a great deal of time in the Schatzkammer Museum, which houses the crown jewels and magnificent vestments of the Hapsburgs – fabulous religious artifacts – monstranz of solid gold and crucifixs’ and baptismal sets of solid gold. Unbelievable wealth. We had lunch at Central Café, where Leon Trotsky played chess. There is so much European History here and so much of Europe was part of the Roman Empire.

We love Vienna – the people are beautifully dressed – men and women. The stores are fabulous – very expensive. But wonderful quality. A laden jacket can cost $2,500. It is fun to people watch as it is like a fashion show. Entire store for hats – another for handkerchiefs. A veritable feast for shoppers here. Dinner at “Grienstadl” very good and reasonable. Lunch at Central Café was $20 for two and dinner was $32 for two. Met a lovely couple from England at dinner – now living in Amsterdam; on holiday here for a week.

Mass at St. Michaels and organ concert.

Sunday, September 23

Wake to the sound of church bells and the clip clap of the horse and carriage – the only transportation allowed on the Graben. Looks like a cloudy day to begin and we got an early start to Schonbrunn Palace with our raincoats, just in case. The underground is wonderful – very clean – very modern and it was a short ride from the Graben. There weren’t any guided tours as guides were sick, so we got the taped tour, which worked out fine. 22 rooms. The palace was magnificent. We liked it better than Versailles even though it has lots of gilt, but it was much more livable. You could picture real people living there. The family dining rooms were all set with dishes, silverware, etc., lovely centerpieces and linen as if the family would arrive momentarily. John was impressed with the white porcelain stoves in each room. The Hopsburgs knew how to live well.

The gardens were still lovely and the garden pavilion was very impressive with an arched pathway and lovely trellis entries. We walked up the hill behind the Palace to the “Glorietta,” a lovely dining room where Elizabeth, wife of Franz Josef, would ride to be alone. Of course, it wasn’t a restaurant at that time. We had a lovely German couple join us as we had our lunch. It started to rain while we were there and we made a hasty return to the subway and back to St. Stephen Platz where we visited the church. What a gorgeous cathedral – Mozart was married and buried from St. Stephens.

We visited St. Peters earlier in the day – the most baroque church in Vienna to make our three wishes for Tom, of course.