Thursday, September 19, 2019

Austria Trip 2019: The Castles

There were four of them!  And when you consider that two are the top two from all of Germany, you're really saying something about what we saw.

Here they are in the order in which we saw them:

1.  Hohenschwangau Castle, Füssen, Germany

It's a 19th century castle in Bavaria, the childhood home of King Ludwig II,
built by his father, King Maximilian II.

It was fun to see it up close and personal, as well as from far away.

This is what it looked like from the next castle that day, nearby.

2.  Neuschwanstein Castle, Hohenschwangau, Germany

This also is a 19th century castle, commissioned by Ludwig II in honor of Richard Wagner,
the great German composer and conductor of operas.

This is Germany's most popular castle, with 1.3 million people visiting it annually.
It's also supposedly the castle on which Disney's logo is based.

We spent our most time at this castle, walking up to it and even further up the mountain
to the Marienbrücke Bridge to get the views from above.

We were close enough to actually touch it.
Can you imagine living there!

3.  Vaduz Castle, Vaduz, Lichtenstein

Believe it or not, we went to this castle only because it was in Lichtenstein
and we wanted to check off another country on our Bucket List.  HA!

We drove from our home base in Ehrwald, Austria, to the western border into Lichtenstein, 147 km.
See how tiny a country Lichtenstein is, snug as a bug between Switzerland and Austria!

It's a 12th century castle that's now the private residence of the Prince of Lichtenstein.
Absolutely No Entrance!

But we got close enough to see some of the details...

and then from afar, on the side of the mountain.

4.  Eltz Castle, Wierschem, Germany

This is Germany's second most popular castle, which we saw on our way home from Austria.
We first saw it from above and afar, while walking down the pedestrian road to it.

It's a 12th century castle that's been in the same Eltz family for 33 generations!
But why it's there is beyond me.  How/why would anyone want to attack it with no easy outlet?

We actually had time to eat a brat and drink a beer while there, all of 1.25 hours,
and only 37 km out of our way while driving the 860 km home.
A total no-brainer!

Four castles in a week's vacation to celebrate Astrid's 65th birthday!
That's what I'm taking about.

For those of you who wonder, NO, we did not enter any of them:
Neuschwanstein was too expensive, lines too long, and no photos inside,
Hohenschwangau was a side show to the Neuschwanstein,
Vaduz was a private residence, and
Eltz...not enough time, except to eat lunch on the terrace outside.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Austria Trip 2019: Overview

There and back again, so quickly but so wonderfully for Astrid's 65th birthday celebration!  We both have often said it was everything, if not more than what we expected and hoped for.

Here's the overview of the trip as posted on Facebook, mainly through our collage app on our iPads.  It's not exactly as what we can produce on our laptops here at home but you'll get the point.

Saturday, 31 August:

On Saturday, the day we left, I showed where we would be staying for the week,
in the small village of Ehrwald, Austria, at the foot of the Zugspitze mountain,
which happens to be Germany's highest peak at 2,962 meters (9,717 ft.) above sea level.
[photo credit:  Headwater]

Our drive that Saturday was 823 km, from 6:30 a.m. - 5 p.m.,
arriving to our first drops of rain and majestic thunder in the Alps in Ehrwald.
We settled into our gasthuis (right-center), ate a sturdy meal at the restaurant around the corner,
and then walked around the surroundings.
Even heard a men's band in Austrian costume.  Saturday night at Pumpkin Creek!
And yes, that's the Zugspitze, right outside our balcony.

Sunday, 1 September:

Knowing the weather could be iffy each day, we planned trips according to the weather forecast.
Sunday was supposed to have some rain but nice enough to make the trip back into Germany,
to see the castles we wanted to see in Schwangau, only 40 km from Ehrwald..
In the valley of two castles, we stopped first to see the 17th century St. Colomon church.

The first castle we visited was the Schloss Hohenschwangau from the 19th century.
The top-left images were taken from the second castle...

which happens to be Germany's most popular castle, the Schloss Neuschwanstein,
also from the 19th century and supposedly the castle on which the Disney logo is based.
The top-left image was taken from the St. Colomon church in the valley!
The center image is taken from the Marienbrucke bridge from a climb further up the mountain.

This is the collage Astrid posted that day.

Monday, 2 September:

Rain was predicted the full day, so we stayed put in Ehrwald and walked around with our umbrella.
The Maria Heimsuchung church from 1648, just a couple blocks from us, was open.

Between the day before and this day, we ate and drank well.  HA!
Remember that Austria is just north of Italy, so Italian food is plentiful in Austria.

Tuesday, 3 September:

Just like that, the weather changed back to a sunny, glorious day for our trip up the Zugspitze.
We took the cable car up on the Ehrwald side (a 10-min. ride) instead of the Germany side.
As you'd guess, the mountain is shared by both countries but because the highest point 
is at that gold cross, it's called Germany's highest mountain, at 2,962 meters (9,717 ft.).

On the way home that day, we stopped in Lermoos, just 3.8 km from Ehrwald,
to see their 18th century St. Catherine catholic parish church.
Can you imagine such a church for a village with less than 2K people?

Wednesday, 4 September:

This was our Innsbruck day, through the most direct route of the Fern Pass,
between Alps and mountains, with the summit at 1,212 meters (3,976 ft.).
Astrid had traveled this pass on skiing trips many times from her youth on,
but never stopped to see the 1288 Fernstein Castle (bottom-right).  This time she/we did!

Once in Innsbruck, 77 km from Ehrwald, we spent our time in the old town center,
eating lunch (among other things) in view of the Golden Roof from 1500,
where Emperor Maximilian I observed festivals and tournaments.

Before driving back to Ehrwald, we visited the Cathedral of St. James from 1724.

Thursday, 5 September:

Back to a rainy day again, it was perfect for our drive to nearby Vaduz, Lichtenstein.
Since the country borders the western side of Austria, we HAD to see it...just to check it off the list!
Vaduz is the capital of Lichtenstein and happens to have a castle.  BINGO!
It's a 12th century castle that's now the palace and residence of the Prince of Lichtenstein.
Totally worth the 147 km drive through the mountains to get there!

On our drive back into Austria, just inside the border, we stopped to see the Basilica in Rankweil.
It was first mentioned in 700 as a castle church.

This is Astrid's collage from that church.

It was a 9-hour day with a total drive of 325 km.

Friday, 6 September:

This time it was an overcast day without any rain, into the Alpine skiing area of Austria.
We stopped late morning in Holzgau for a latte macchiato and a visit to the parish church 
next door, first mentioned in 1401.  

But what we were driving to see were the cows coming down the mountain in Au for the winter.
This is a town that caters to everything COWS, even in the restaurant decor!

This is Astrid's collage from that day.  Later I'll show a video of what she captured here.
OMG.  What a blast and worth the 225 km round-trip.

Saturday, 7 September:

Believe it or not, even on our way home, we still had another stop!
Astrid found out that Germany's second most popular castle is the Eltz castle
just 37 km off the main highway 3/4ths of our way home.
It's been in the same family for 33 generations, since the 12th century.
After seeing the most popular castle, Neuschwanstein, there was no way we'd miss this one.
We actually were there long enough to get the photos and eat our first brat of the trip.

That day we drove 861 km home (534 miles), arriving home at 8:15 p.m.
And yes, we both drove on the coming and going days (Astrid the rest of the time).

A total of 2,480 km/1,541 miles.
How's that for packing it all into a 65th birthday celebration!
One of our best trips ever.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Grand Tour of Italy: Turin

Guess what, folks! This is the end of my Italy posts...except for Rome, which I will tackle hopefully before the end of the year.  HA!  Because I had been to Rome two times previously, I guess it feels like an after-thought, even though it's not.  So, I WILL tackle it...later.

But for now, I finish the tour here with Turin, which happened to be our first day in Italy (after two days of riding the OAD coach/bus from the Netherlands to get there!).

We entered Italy on the Switzerland side, just north of Turin,
and left Italy 15 days later on the Austrian side, north of Verona and Venice.

We arrived in Turin at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, 3 April, to meet our Italian guide at 10.
Because we were early, our bus driver drove us around to see some of the sights...

and ended up at the Palazzo Madama to connect with our guide.

We had plenty of time at the beginning and the end of our 5.5 hours to see its many faces,
even though we weren't there to visit it.
Its origin dates all the way back to the first century BC!

Our guide was taking us, instead, to Parco del Valentino (Valentino Park), 
Turin's second largest public park at 500,000 square meters (123.5 acres).
We were on our way to...

the Medieval Village, a 19th century reproduction of a 15th century village on the river Po.

It had us at HELLO (the entrance)!

This is the other side of the entrance (always look back!),
with Astrid and me in the left and right images, thanks to a friend.

Of all the places to see in Turin, I can't imagine any place better
(coming from someone who loves this kind of architecture).

I wanted to STAY and really see everything...

especially the church, if it had been open.

It was hard to leave it and move on to the next attraction...

the Fountain of Twelve Months, also in the Valentino Park.
It was designed by Carlo Ceppi and built in 1898.

Here, too, I wished we could have lingered to find out more about each month.
But no, we were still on the move, getting back on the bus to where we started at Palazzo Madama,

from which we then walked to the Royal Church of  San Lorenzo (Saint Lawrence), 
adjacent to the Royal Palace.

It was designed and built by Guarino Guarini between 1668-1687.

Can you see me snapping pics while on the go with the group,
hurrying before it closed at noon...

just so we could see what Turin is famous for:  a replica of the Shroud of Turin (top right)!
It's still revered to be the burial fabric that covered Jesus after his crucifixion, in spite of how
scientific data supports the confession of an unnamed artist who made a forgery of it in 1390.
The two modern negatives near the shroud show the image on the shroud much better.

From the San Lorenzo Church we then walked to the Turin Duomo/Cathedral.

It's dedicated to St. John the Baptist and was built between 1491-98.
The Chapel of the Holy Shroud, added to the cathedral in 1668, holds the "original" shroud
(put on display only 5 times since 1933).

Because it was before lunch, and we were already late, we had time to only peek in.
I was lucky to to grab these images, seriously.  Others didn't even go in.

But I did have time to grab other sights as we went to lunch...

and after lunch, heading back to the bus, the Mole Antonelliana, built in 1863.

Sometimes it's only the landmarks that are important, I guess, just to say we saw them.
But I go back to what I said at the beginning...that what we saw in Valentino Park
was worth the entire time in Turin for both of us.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Now, totally changing the subject, Astrid and I leave on Saturday for a week in Austria,
celebrating her 65th birthday (which was last week, 24 August).
Our base will be in Ehrwald, Austria, for the week, 
from which we'll visit Germany castles, Lichtenstein, and the Austrian Alps.

So, we'll take a break here and see you later!