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Saturday, February 4, 2012

Our European Trip: First 3 Days

On December 25, Erin and I awoke before 5am in Lawrence, KS at her folk's place. We were leaving for the airport shortly after 5am. We had a Christmas lunch in the Atlanta airport with family friends Heather and Brian, whot were on their way back from Honduras. I think almost everyone had a bloody Mary along with lunch at T.G.I. Fridays.

On the flight to Frankfurt, Germany, I watched Rise of the Planet of the Apes, took a few Tylenol P.M. and went to sleep. I knew we would hit the ground running so I tried to get as much sleep as one could get on an international flight.  We purchased Euro-Rail tickets at the airport in Frankfurt, and hopped on a train to Munich.  It took about 3 hours, and although we were tired, we didn't sleep very much because of the initial excitement of being in another country.

December 26, 2011

One of the first things I admired about Europe is that they have English signs everywhere.  It was nice, but at the same time I was a little annoyed.  I wanted to use this trip to use and re-learn the German I learned in two semesters at Iowa State. This also got me thinking about how much of a fuss Americans make about having other languages available in the United States.  It makes me want to puke when I hear some lazy ass American complaining about having to push 1 for English on a telephone.

We ate lunch at the Ratskeller, which made me think of the Rathskeller in Indianapolis, at which I ate a lunch with my friend Jake and his wife.  All of us took time looking over the beer menu trying to find something we wanted to drink.  The waitress, though, when she found out we all wanted beer just wrote down five beers, and we all ended up getting the same thing.  I ordered Grillwurstl Schmankerl, which was a sampler of all the bratwursts they offered.

Hofbrauhaus in Munich, Germany
When we finished, we walked to the Hofbrauhaus.  Inside were long tables where you should sit at any open spot you can find.  We unknowingly asked to sit at a local table, and only found out later that this was quite an honor.  Directly to Erin and my left (your right when you look at the picture), the band was playing. 

The size of the beers that you order in Germany are half liters or liters.  As you can see, Erin and I are not amateurs when it comes to drinking.  We chose liters.

Unfortunately, with the itinerary we were following, this is the total extent that we got to see Munich.  We hopped back on the Euro-Rail and sped over to Salzburg, Austria. We arrived in the evening, but to us, it felt extremely late since are travels had not stopped since we had left Lawrence.  We checked into the Hotel Guten Hirte, freshened up a little and went to have dinner at their restaurant.  Although I can't recall what I ate, I do remember our complementary shots of schnapps after dinner that made Nathan (Erin's step-brother) get up from the table and run outside to throw some chunks.  In his defense, he slammed the shot rather than sipped it, he had taken something for motion sickness earlier, and he had just satisfied a 48 hour hiatus from smoking any cigarettes (he's a regular smoker) by smoking two fairly fast.  This combination would have been too much for anyone.

December 27, 2011

Mirabellgarten in Salzburg, Austria
The next day we played in Salzburg.  After breaking our fast downstairs in our hotel, we began walking.  Our first stop was exploring Mirabellgarten.  This garden had beautifully trimmed maze-like hedges with unicorn statues guarding one gate, lions guarding another, and a fountain with a horse statue in the middle.  I set up the gorrillapod and got one of our first group photos.

We exited the Mirabellgarten and crossed the Salzach river on the Makartsteg (a foot bridge) and made our way through the old town.  We were able to see Mozart's birthplace and several cathedrals and churches as we hiked up to the Festung Hohensalzburg, which is the Fortress that sits on top of Salzburg.  Erin and I were reminded of our hike through Multnomah and Wahkeenah Falls in Oregon with all the switch-backs we had to go through to get to the top.  The exercise was worth it.  The Festung was one of the highlights of the trip for all of us.  The first video below gives the the north view while the second video gives the south view.
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The hike up and down from the Festung got us famished.  The long walk to the Magazin (z was backwards) was worth it.  All of us got lost in culinary bliss with an amazing 3 course meal of steamed catfish as an appetizer, duck on a bed of red cabbage with two dumplings, and then a fruit dish and soft sherbert finish.  We enjoyed some white wine over lunch.  The lighting they used consisted of lights at seat level shining up off of huge disks that were above the tables.  The venue had a cave and/or a wine cellar appeal. 

The Augustiner Brewery - Salzburg, Austria
Dinner just made us more thirsty, so we walked directly to The Augustiner Brewery.  As we walked in, we passed several food vendors whom lease the space inside this brilliant place.  At the main counter, we grab a liter or half liter stein, pay for a ticket to have it filled, and as we wait in line for the person to fill it up, we give the stein a good rinsing at a water fountain. 

While we were there I enjoyed 2.5 liters of beer, a pretzel, and some turnip chips.  We talked with a couple from England that were on their honeymoon. The woman was from London, the guy from Manchester.  So, Erin talked to him about the Manchester United, her favorite soccer team that she no longer follows because we don't get cable anymore.

At this point in the evening, Erin, Nathan and I said goodnight to Trish and Joseph, and parted ways for the evening.  It is hard to wrap my head around what we did, but in involved going to the Felsenskeller for several beers until Nathan felt uncomfortable when he felt that a patron began hitting on him, getting back across the Salzach river to find a fancy restaurant with a bar where we had a few more drinks, getting closer to the hotel and stopping at another tavern to eat some hotdogs and have more drinks, and then finally getting back to the hotel where we foolishly decided to have more drinks.  It was difficult to get moving the next morning.  On this particular morning, we had our only hiccup of the entire trip.

December 28, 2011
We walked a little over half a mile from our hotel to the train station.  Once we were there, I checked for my Euro-Rail pass and couldn't find it!  It must be back at the hotel.  Hungover and sleep deprived, I began my run back to the hotel.  Our room was being serviced when I got back, and I thought for a second it wasn't there until it revealed itself on the desk.  I let out a huge sigh of relief and began my sprint back to the station.  I remember Joseph requesting that I please, never do that again.   

We slept off the hangovers on our long train ride to Dusseldorf. When we arrived, it was too late to see it in the daylight.  We tried checking into Hotel Monopol, but a pipe had burst and they had to give us reservations at a sister hotel, Hotel Karstens.  They paid to have us taxied over there, and I believe we ended up getting a better deal.  We unpacked, relaxed a little bit and met in the lobby at 6pm. 

We walked toward the Rhine that evening and got up close to the Rheinturm, the needle-like tower in Dusseldorf.  We also saw the amazing architecture of Gehry-Bauten in the Medienhafen. It was a long walk that evening.  We made our way slowly to the old town of Dusseldorf and stopped at the Llerige, Joseph's favorite place for Alt bier.  Unfortunately, the place was packed to the maximum, and we couldn't have dinner there.  So, we settled for drinks outside under some heat lamps.  We dined at the Althouse Restaurant that evening and Erin and I ordered a grill plate that was huge.  It advertised as for two, but could have easily stuffed four normal humans.

We had a long but beautiful walk back to our hotel where we retired to our rooms at 10pm.  Erin and I were asleep by 10:30. 






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