Friday, May 30, 2014

lakes, forests, mountains and tunnels

May 26th,
Instead of driving the freeways direct to Vienna, we took the narrow country roads that took us through beautiful lakes, dense forests and snow covered mountains. And where there was no way around, we drove right through the mountains, about 10 tunnels totaling more than 20 miles. The weather was not as cooperative as we would have liked, overcast and rainy for the most part, but nevertheless wonderful.

Alpine lakes!
The fields were truly brilliant green when the sun shined on them.
As we climbed higher, darker forest, steeper hills.
And the steep hills kept growing into these magnificent mountains, many of which were shrouded in clouds.
Near a little village called Woeschach are many hiking trails and a castle ruin that we wanted to hike to. A two hour hike they said. So we set off up this nice little stream.
Well, the gentle stream turns into the tumbling waterfall.  And it starts to rain.
And the trail takes a decidedly vertical aspect.
Six bridges seeking the easiest ascent.
The ravine gets steeper and narrower as we climb.
With each step higher it seemed to rain just a bit harder. After crossing the fourth bridge and not being able to see the top (in clouds), we decided it was time to abandon our adventure, caution the better part of valor. 
Wet but still alive, we returned to our bed and breakfast in the village.
The next morning we set off for Vienna. This time by freeway which went straight through the mountains.

And out the other side!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Mozart and more...

May 25th,
Salzburg, the city of Mozart. Also the city of Blanka, that is, if we could aford to live here. As a family we have been to Salzburg several times now and each time is just plain fun. Salzburg has it all, big fortress on the hill, glorious churches, concert halls, elegant old buildings, the Salzach river, little fountains, statues, and not least of all shops including shoe stores for Blanka.

Fun. Just a lot of beautiful little and not so little things to enjoy. 
We did pay tribute to Mozart's house but did not go through the museum again.
The castle, Hohensalzburg, looms high above the rest of the city.
Residenzplatz with modern sculpture that gives quite a contrast to its surroundings.
From the river bank you get a great view of the formal buildings that grace the river and the church 
The Salzach river splits the city but gives the opportunity to walk along the shore.
After being happily married for 40 years, we didn't think it was necessary for us to put our names on a padlock, lock it to the fence of the bridge and throw the key in the river to declare everlasting love.
Understated elegance describes many of the buildings in the city. Very nice color and form.
This photo is especially for Mia and Phil. While Blanka looked at all the shoes (again) in the windows, I took the picture of the name of the shoe store: MIA!
Most of the streets in the city center are closed to cars but you do need to keep out of the way of the horses.
Baroque churches don't need fixing. Take a mix of Romanesque and Gothic architecture, embelish it with lots of flamboyant designs, the more complex the better and you are Baroque. 

Lets not leave a single inch unadorned.
Another great organ. I keep showing pictures of organs so Guy can decide which he want to install in our church in Phoenix. In this case there are four identical organs surrounding the center dome.

This is my favorite picture of the church, nice perspective down the side aisle.

And poking up all around the city are these sad little guard towers that have served their time and are now just a testimony to a time when the world could be locked out with walls and towers.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

the hills are alive ...

May 24th
We have been looking forward to Salzburg, not just because it is Blanka's favorite European city, but because we get to stay in the Van Trapp family home, not the Sound of Music home, but the real one. Even though the area has built up around the home, it is still easy to visualize how life might have been for the captain and his seven children. There is so much we could talk about but we will keep it short.
Here is a glimpse into their world:
As you drive in the gateway you get a great view of the front.

The back as seen from the garden. Our room was the balcony room on the 2nd floor up (3rd floor if you count floors like an American.) The best bedroom in the house!
We had breakfast here each morning in the family dining room.  
View from our bedroom balcony. The trees have grown up so much in 60 years that the view of the mountains is obscured. 
This lovely little church and cloister are just a short walk from the van Trapp home. We heard the bells ringing long before we saw it over the meadow.
The bells were ringing because there had just been a wedding. Most were dressed in traditional Austrian attire. 
The church all decked out for the wedding.
Totally unexcited, we saw this London double-decker bus behind the church ready to take the wedding party to their reception. Good idea.
Interesting little wall sculptures on the church walls.  I suppose it was originally put there to ward away evil spirits but it looks creepy to me.
Behind the church was this very inviting path leading into the woods. 
Naturally we went for a hike.
The higher mountains are never far away.
Blanka is pretty enthusiastic about her wiener schnitzel.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Fairy Tale Town

May 23rd
After a couple of days reliving 40 years ago, we set off to one of our favorite towns along the Rhein River, Stein am Rhein. It seems to be a town that time forgot.
Stein am Rhein
About as romantic as you can get. That is Stein am Rhein. 
Stein am Rhein in English is "Rock on the Rhein" and you can't get any closer to the river. Half of the town is on one side, the other half on the opposite shore.
No matter how you enter the town, you will like it.
The old town is quite small but almost all the houses boast incredible murals.
Every house/shop is different!
Each shop also has there sign above their door.

Don't ask me what this is suppose to represent.
Blanka and birds, no matter where we are or what we are doing she has a thing with birds. We bought meat-filled pastries from the local bakery and settled down on this bench next to the Rhein and low and behold we got company. First the female duck had to have her share. 
Then the male charged in for some.
And the little sparrows cleaned up the crumbs.
The swan down by the water wasn't interested in such nonsense! Preening was far more important!
Lake Constance
More Rhein River and then we get to Lake Constance.
Lake Constance looks like a sapphire jewel surrounded by emerald trees.
Little towns dot the shore.
The area around Lake Constance is famous for their fruit orchards. Acres and acres of trees, many of them covered over with netting to keep the birds away.