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.”

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