Monday, May 28, 2012

Frankfurt and friends

We left Frankfurt yesterday after a wonderful visit with our German friends; Oliver and Sandra and their boys Lewis and Neils. They have a beautiful home just outside of Frankfurt in a quaint sleepy town.

Tod spent a day hanging out with Oliver riding his very cool vintage motorcycles, while I got a relaxing day catching up with Sandra and the boys. I cant believe how the have grown the last few years. Lewis just graduated from high school, and Neils will be a freshman come fall. Their English is exceptional! It's a good thing...Oliver is being transferred to New York city for work. We don't know much about New York and couldn't give them any advise...other than we'll come visit them in NYC!

We spent a beautiful day touring the wine country around the Rhine...and visited Bad Hamburg - a resort/spa town famous for it's mineral springs.

A few more thoughts about our trip....Germany and Iceland have stop lights at home except the yellow light goes on after red and before that? Germans are so efficient, they can get off the line faster....We also noticed a difference in road signs. At home we have towns listed and the mileage...ours always start with the closest town (Tacoma, Olympia, Portland if you are heading south on I-5) but, it's opposite here. The farthest away is listed first. Germany & Iceland also have gas stations on the freeways with their own exits. Like our rest stops, only shorter...zoom in, pay your $9.00 a gallon for gas, and zoom back on the freeway.

Iceland is an interesting and very expensive country. The weather was beautiful (60 degrees) and bright sunshine. Speaking of sunshine, it doesn't seem to's 10:30 at night, and bright as 3 pm. I now understand why our hotel room has heavy black curtains. Land of the midnight sun....we toured the island all day in our tiny rental car. We saw spectacular waterfalls and geysers as big as Old Faithful. There were steam vents coming out of mountain sides and gouges in the landscape. There is very little soil...just lots and lots of trees and very little scrub brush. The lakes and the sea are clear and blue and the glaciers are eye popping white.

Tomorrow we head home! We leave here at 5 pm and arrive at 5:45 pm....I just wish there wasn't a 7 hour time zone difference:-)

See everyone soon!

Oliver's vintage DKW

Bad Hamburg park with Oliver and Sandra

Waterfalls in Iceland

Gondola ride through the vinyards

Rhine River valley

Lewis and Neils had to get up early to have breakfast with us on our last day

More sheep than people in Iceland

Bad Hamburg health spa


Monday, May 21, 2012

More on Munich

It's 4 pm on a beautiful Monday, our last day here in Munich. We're enjoying a wonderful cup of Pike Street blend at Starbucks:-)
It's been a tourist filled 6 days here. We spent a day at the beautiful English Gardens Park (better than Central has beer gardens and oompa-bands))
Yesterday we drove north of town to the Dachau Concentration Camp. I don't even know where to start...such atrocities happened here. It felt like a punch in the gut when I entered the crematorium. We walked through each room as if we were inmates...disrobe room and then "showers" the next room was body storage until ready for the ovens. We all learned about these camps in history class, and I thought I was prepared. But, the experience is overwhelming when you visit personally and listen to first-hand stories from some survivors. And learn about lives destroyed. It is a school requirement that school children experience the camp memorials...there is a plaque the Allies erected just past the gates...Never Again.
Germans are a people that strive for efficiency, comfort, convenience, technology, following rules....our kind of place except for the rules thing! Almost every German has a basic use of English and a sense of humor when I fall into role-playing to get my point/question across. A duck in Germany goes quack-quack, thank goodness!

The weight of traveling! Well...when I boarded the cruise ship in Florida over 4 weeks ago, I wore a pair of cargo pants that with my pockets full, they fell dow n. that's not happening any more! Looks like the food all day and all night on the ship for 15 days, pasta and pizza in Italy and schnitzel with lots of beer have taken their toll. Of course Tod is still as thin as's just not fair. Luckily the YMCA is my second home....find me there by June 2!!!

This was a tough room to visit

Probably someone on Tod's family tree

It was easy to get lost with town names like this

Maybe I'm still a kid...this makes me giggle every the way, it means exit

Strange little car at the museum

Todd, these are for you. Great displays about blacksmithing

Tonight we pack and head north to Rothenburg in the morning. We will be traveling the Romantic Road - full of estates and castles.



Sunday, May 20, 2012

Germany: the land of speed and efficiency

We have been here in Munich 5 days now, and even though I'm comfortable with my surroundings (yes, must of the time I know which way to turn to get back to our hotel), I'm still at a loss for the German language. It seems that every word has six syllables, and I'm really butchering any attempt at pronunciation. I think my biggest problem is looking at the words from my Spanish background, and not looking at the words as English....german is closer to English any day of the week than Spanish...Oh well, I get a smile everytime I try, and that's what counts.

Yesterday we drove through beautiful countryside to visit King Ludwig's Castle. It is said that Disney copied this castle for Snow White's Castle, and they weren't kidding. It was a long hike to the castle (yes, I cheated riding my scooter), but couldn't use in the castle. I walked 600 steps touring the castle, and was weel worth it. The castle is elaborately carved, furnished, and designed in the mid-evil style, yet it was built in the 1800's. Ludwig was all about comfort ("flushing toilet") and cutting-edge technology (first telephones).

We got our first chance to drive the autobahn strange to not have any speed limit signs. I was frantically punching in numbers into my conversion program to figure out how fast we were "really" going. These guys drive comfortably at 120-130 miles per hour. Luckily the freeways are wide and smooth. Driving along at 105 and we would get pased by a "soccer Mom" like we were standing still!

Here are some photos:

King Kudwig's Castle

Don't know what this means, but check out the name!

Starbucks in downtown Munich was huge, clean and fast internet...loved that they served Pike Place coffee

Country side in way to castle

Passageway in the castle

A view from one of the windows at the castle

Some of the beautiful crowns we saw at the Palace.

Banquet hall in the Palace

Beautifully carved fireplace at the end of the banquet hall in the palace

Waiting for our turn to tour the castle

The lazy man's transportation to the castle. No, we didn't ride - we hiked (well, scootered for me). I climbed 600 stairs throughout the castle!!

Today is another beautiful day - expecting to be near 80. We are going a little north to visit the Daucha Concentration camp memorial and tomorrow to Salzburg, Austria.



Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Hills are Alive....

We left Venice Tuesday morning and boarded the train to Munich. The trip was 6 hours of comfort and visual delight! We crossed sections of the Alps and the scenery was breathtaking. Bulzano, Italy is high in the mountains, and could easily pass as a quaint Swiss village. Along the way we saw castles perched on the top of mountain peaks. I wonder if the owners of these domains were (are) part mountain goat. We cruised through Austria, passing by the Olympic site in Insbruck....reminded me alot of Whistler, BC.

After many long tunnels through mountains, we arrived in Munich. I remember saying several weeks ago how much I liked Barcelona....well, Munich is a place I could easily live the rest of my life. It is both cosmopoliton and yet has the old world charm. We like to think of Portland as a bike/pedestrian kind of town, but Munich is unbelievable. So much of the whole area is devoted to pedestrians and bikes only...And the bikers are everywhere! On their cute commuter bikes with their briefcases strapped to the back, or tonight's groceries. Every age rides...the little ones ride in Mom's buggy or ride their own and tiny little old ladies hop on their bikes after visiting with friends over a cappicino. I haven't seen a single fat German!

Our first full day here we spent the day at the Descheutes Museum. It's the largest technical museum in the world, and absolutely facinating. We visited for 6 hours and got through the basement and ground floor...we still have 4 more floors we hope to see. Germany is very handicapped friendly and respectful. We were able to park right at the front door, and we both got in for half price. Oh, did I mention that they had the coolest, sleekest disabled bathroom I have ever seen? We have found abundant disabled Parking throughout the's great.

Today we went to the BMW museum and then to English Gardens Park. The park is the largest in Europe, and was great to enjoy on a sunny afternoon. Boy, these guys know how to make a park...creeks, lakes, bike paths, riding paths and of course playgrounds, rose gardens, and beer gardens. In the center of the park is the main beer garden with a 4 story bandstand carved from local Bavarian wood. The band was playing all afternoon and were dressed in typical Bavarian costumes including the cute hats with a feather.

Beer and food!!!! There were pretzels the size of a baby, roasted chicken that smelled heavenly and every kind of sausage and potatoes mixtures I have ever seen. Oh the was mouth watering.

Tomorrow we will visit palaces and more of the museum. Saturday we venture out of town and see "Mad"King Ludwigs castles...the one that Disneyland's Snow White's castle is copied from...can't wait!

I loved this beer...and beer is (relatively) cheap here:-)

Now, this is established beer!

Tod's dinner - a plank full of ribs and baked potato along with the best garlic bread he's ever had

Heading into one of the beer gardens at the park

Hope eveyone is enjoying the spring weather at home.
Four more days in Munich area and then the Romantic Road to Rothenburg for a night. Frankfurt soon to see our German friends


Location:Munich Germany

Reflections on Italy

I'm sitting here in the Venice train station waiting for our train to Munich to start the third leg of the trip, but thought I should write a little more about Italy.

Italy is an assault on your senses!!!

Smell baking in a wood stove next to fabulous breads on every street corner. Roses blooming in any little spot of dirt...the musty smell of the ancient canals of Venice. The acrid smell of cigarettes - seems like every other Italian is lit up:-(

Feel the ancientness of this country. Buildings everywhere that are thousands of years old. Hill towns with their walls that haven't been attacked in many many generations. Things don't change, they just get older.

Visualize the colors! Women wear fabulous bright scarves...the colors of buildings, gondolier's bright striped shirts, red roof tops in the hill towns.
Bright mosaics, stained glass windows and frescos are in every town, big or small.

Feel the spray of water on your face from the many unbelievable fountains in Rome. Feel the devoutness and history of the Catholic church not only in the Vatican, but throughout the entire population.

Hear the horns blarring in Rome...what crazy drivers. Listen to gondoliers slip through canals singing to their passengers :-) Church bells ringing and ringing, and ringing! So many languages being spoken by travelers from all over the world.

Italy was an experience!

Ciao to Italy and time to get my German translation program fired up.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Venice train station

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Bonjourno Venice.

We have been here in Venice for 3 full days. Our apartment is the biggest yet and overlooks the canal. It's great fun to watch gondolas quietly slip by day and night. During the day this canal is conjested with barge type boats that are as close to Home Depot deliveries as one could get. I've seen pallets of tile, bags of cement and mixers, even appliances. It must cost a fortune to do any repair work.
Most of this city was built in the 1300's with narrow alleyways and bridges over canal fingers everywhere. I've been caught in passageways scraping both sides of my scooter along ancient can't be claustraphobic in this town.
We've hopped on the water bus and visted St Marco's Square, Rialto Market and the beach on the island of Lido. Home again for the evening watching Italian TV (crazy stuff), catching up on our electronic devices, drink Lemoncello (yum) and re-energize for another day of being "Venitian"
Here are some photos


You probably all know how much I love clowns...especially expensive Murano Glass clowns!

San Marco Square

Rialto Bridge - view from the water bus

On our water bus...a lady came with her dog and parked him right at Eric's feet....He wasn't too happy the rest of the ride

Venice is like Disneyland!

Location:Venice, Italy

Friday, May 11, 2012

Pictures added!

Please look at the pictures we added to the old posts

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad