Thursday, September 26, 2019

Austria Trip 2019: The Churches

There were five of them that we actually visited, all of them in Austria...and all different in size and shape and decor.  You know us in that they have become the "museums" we most enjoy entering wherever we go.

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

1.  Parish Church of Maria Heimsuchung, Ehrwald, Austria

It was built in the Baroque style in 1648.

We visited it on a rainy day when we stayed put in Ehrwald, our home base for the week.
It's a village of ca. 2,500 people in the state of Tyrol.

Look at that very modern-looking ceiling!

The organ, pulpit and...what struck my eye.

Even on a rainy day we do visit the cemeteries, yes!

2.  Parish Church of St. Catherine, Lermoos, Austria

This, too, is in the Baroque style, built in 1751.

Lermoos is the neighboring village of Ehrwald, just 4 km away.
Like Ehrwald, it sits in the shadow of the Zugspitze, Germany's highest mountain.

Even though the village is less populated than Ehrwald, at ca. 1,150 people,
it's church seemed much more opulent.

The painting behind the altar is of the beheading of St.Catherine, the church's patroness.

A ceiling similar to but different from Ehrwald's!

The organ, pulpit and...what struck my eye.
[Oh, and yes, there was class for kids while we were there.]

3.  The Cathedral of St. James, Innsbruck, Austria

This is a Baroque cathedral that was started in 1717 and consecrated in 1724. 
Innsbruck is the capital city of Tyrol and is the 5th largest city in Austria.

It was a gorgeous day for photos outside!

But it's the inside that takes your breath away!

The nave and altar...

the ceiling...

the organ...

the pulpit...

and...what struck my eye.

4.  The Basilica of Rankweil, Austria

It sits atop a hill and was first known as a fortress church ca. 700.
Today it is a Gothic parish and pilgrimage church of Our Lady Maria and Visitation.

It really IS up on a hill, which we climbed on another rainy day.

It was actually a bit like a maze, through courtyards...

 and finally a passageway to the sanctuary...

which was quite dark inside, mainly in the nave, looking towards the altar.

Looking back, the organ was hiding in the shadows.
If there was a high pulpit, I never found it!

This statue of Maria and child is one of the main objects of worship.
It's made of linden wood and is from the 15th century.

I especially liked what struck my eye...the Wallfahrts Opfer = Pilgrimage Offering.
What I liked is that the design is painted on (center-right).

The cemetery bade us farewell as we left.

5.  The Parish Church of Maria Himmelfahrt, Holzgau, Austria

It's history dates back to 1401 but the present look was started in 1709.
The village of Holzgau has ca. 412 people.

For a village that small, look at this nave!

Towards the altar and backwards to the church entrance...

the organ and the pulpit...

and what struck my eye.

See what I mean about five different churches and why we visit them?
Do they surprise me because I grew up in a preacher's home and went to church "all the time?"
Maybe because our church was Baptist and not Roman Catholic?
Or maybe I always try to see them through organist Mom and preacher Dad's eyes,
wondering what in the world they'd be thinking?!

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.