Headed Home

I woke up this morning before my alarm went off. I laid in bed and dozed until the alarm went off at 6:30. We are headed home today. We have a flight from Zürich to Amsterdam then to Atlanta. 

The hotel front desk hired us a car for the ride to the airport.  It was a small mini-van which already had another couple in the far back seat.  We sat in the middle seat.  There was not much space for our luggage, so the driver piled it on the front passenger seat.

We arrived early for our flight, which is a good thing.  So after dropping our luggage we had time to explore the shops and the airport.  Airports today really are glorified shopping malls.  

While we waited we had breakfast at a Starbucks.  I think this is the first “American” restaurant we have visited during our trip.

Breakfast in the Zürich Airport
Our plane to Amsterdam

Our flight left Zürich on time.  It was a couple of hours to Amsterdam where we had a few hours to wait for our flight to Atlanta.  Once again we wandered the airport and ate an early lunch.

We saw this cool clock in the Amsterdam airport.

Albert wanted to have his picture taken in the giant tea cup.  At first I didn’t understand the relevance of a giant porcelain tea set.  Then I remembered that in it’s trading days, Amsterdam was know for it porcelain.  Today I think it is best know for drugs and prostitution.

Giant tea set in Amsterdam airport

On to Zürich

I did not sleep well last night.  i could not get to sleep.  I blame the coffee I had around 4:00PM. I laid in bet trying to go to sleep, then I watched the last of “The Way” on my iPad. I laid back down, but I was hot.  I threw the covers off and then I started to drift off to sleep.


The alarm went off at 6:00 this morning. I was not ready to wake up. Unfortunately, the cable car from Grimmelwald to Stechelberg only runs between 6:00am and 8:00am.   So we are getting up early to make sure we get the cable car.  Otherwise we have to get to Mürren and take that route.  It would take us a little longer
We got up and motivated. Quietly ate and cleaned up breakfast and left the guest house at 7:45. It was snowing as we left, so we carefully walked the 200 ft to the entrance to the cable car station. We watched it snow as we waited.  A few minutes before 8:00 several more people showed for the cable car.  I took great comfort in that.  At a little before 8:00 the massive wheel atop the station began turning and we knew the car was on its way.  Once the car arrived we boarded for the short trip down. As we descended, we went into a cloud and nothing was visible. Then slowly we could make out lights and buildings in the towns below. I was relieved that we made our first connection. 


When we arrived at the cable car station we purchased bus tickets to Interlaken OST. We took the 141 bus which became the 311 bus all the way to the train station. At the train station we only had 10 minutes to find the next train to Bern.  We did it and boarded the train. I was relieved that we made our second connection.
We rode the train for about an hour to Bern.  Once again we quickly left one train and quickly found our train to Zürich. Last connection made successful. We rode the train an hour to Zürich. 


At the train station in Zürich we took a few minutes to see if we could get some information on the airport train in the morning.  Albert and I stayed with the luggage while Shari looked for an information station. About 15 minutes later she returned,  but was unable to find an information station staffed by a human.  We walked out of the train station.


I turned the roaming data on my iPhone, so I could use Google maps to find our hotel. It gave me a walking and riding option.  We walked for a little while, but I was tired of dragging my suitcase.  I started looking for a riding option. We were standing across the street from a tram station, so I started looking at how to find the right tram.  I bought us 3 day passes. I thought we could use the tram like out Hop-on-hop-off bus. We boarded the number 13 tram, but we boarded going the wrong direction. I didn’t figure it out until we were about six stops down the line.  We exited the tram and walked across the street and waited for a 13 tram going in the opposite direction. Once on the right track we were on our way.  We exited at the “Central” station which was unfortunately only one stop from where we first boarded the tram.  We exited the tram and then used Google maps to help us walk to the hotel. It wasn’t obvious. We had to climb some stairs and walk down the street, but there was our hotel, Hotel St Josef. Our room was ready. Once in the room we took a few minutes to get connected to the WiFi and figure out where we wanted to go for lunch.


We identified a restaurant that Rick Steves recommended called Restaurant Zeughauskeller. When we arrived we were seated at the end of a long table where other people were already sitting. I was confused at first. We took our seats and in a few minutes our waiter brought us some English language menus. Shari and I ordered the veal and Albert a dish that was a glorified Mac and cheese with potato’s.


After lunch we tried to find St Peter’s cathedral,but go lost in the narrow streets.  We wandered for a while enjoying the adventure of exploring.  We found the Apple Store and since it is Black Friday I was tempted to go in, but didn’t.

The Apple Store Zürich Switzerland


Since it was still raining, we decided to board a tram again and ride around.  We did this for about an hour until we were tired of being cold and wet and decided it was time to go back to the hotel. We promised Albert dessert, so we stopped at a Coop grocery store and bought a chocolate cake and a bottle of wine to take back to our room. 

Rainy day in Zürich

Thanksgiving Day

Esther’s Guesthouse Grimmelwald, Switzerland 
I woke up this morning before my alarm went off at 6:30. I laid in best listening to the rain on the roof. Our room is located on the top floor of Esther’s Guesthouse and the ceiling is the roof. We have two skylights in our room that peer out at the Alps. 
Since it looks like it will be a rainy day, we have decided not to go to Jungfraujoch, the highest peak in Europe (www.jungfrau.ch) It is a two hour journey to get there and around 150 chf to get to the top. The money and time does not appear worth it with less than perfect weather. 

We decided to walk from Grimmelwald to Mürren and take the train and then the cable car down to Lauterbrunnen and explore.  It took about an hour to walk up to Mürren.  We also ran into our landlord and his wife and child.  They were coming down from Mürren.  I commented that they must have started early. Shari made a friend along the way.

View along the trail to Mürren

It was just starting to snow as we hiked the last bit into Mürren. Our landlord told us that the restaurant at the Alpenruh hotel was open.  So we stopped in for some lunch.  We are here during the break in tourist season, so the offering was limited.  We each had a salami and cheese sandwich and a large beer.  For desert they had a nut log.  The filling reminded me of baklava.  It was a delicious sweet ending to our meager Thanksgiving dinner.

It was still snowing as we walked the mile to the train station.  Mürren has some beautiful architecture.  We stopped and took a selfie with one of the more distinct building behind us.

When we arrived at the train station, we just missed the train, so we had to wait 30 minutes for the next one.  We found a heated waiting room and hung out there until the train arrived.  These flags were flying inside the train station.  The one on the left is the flag of Lauterbrunnen and the other is for the Canton of Bern. I could help notice how anatomically correct they drew the bear.

Small gauge train in Mürren Switzerland

We rode the train to Grütschalp and then took the cable car down to Lauterbrunnen.  Lauterbrunnen has one main street through the town, so we walked along the road toward the Lauterbrunnen Tourismus.  There is a “bridal veil” type waterfall behind the Tourismus.  The Tourismus was closed, so we continued walking south.  We came to a RV campsite where we found a walking bridge and crossed over to a trail that goes along the creek.

We walked the trail back to the main part of Lauterbrunnen.  We were all a bit hungry so we stopped into Air Time Cafefor a coffee and a chocolate brownie.  Albert wanted a lemonade, but they didn’t have any.  The barista suggest he try a Rivella.  A local soda.  I tried it and it was actually very good.

After our coffee and snack we walked back toward the cable car station.  It was starting to get dark and the Christmas Market was starting to come to life.  We stopped at a few booths, but didn’t buy anything.  Near the bus station we stopped into a Coop grocery store and bought some wine and groceries.  We walked to the bus station and took the 141 bus to Stechelberg where we could take a cable car directly to Grimmelwald.  This cable car line is only operating after 6:00PM.  Back in Grimmelwald we opened a bottle of wine and ate a few snacks while we played a few rounds of Uno.

Travel to Grimmelwald

We are taking the Glacier Express from Chur Switzerland to Grimmelwald Switzerland.  It is a very scenic train ride across southern Switzerland.  We left the Chur train station at 9:00 this morning.  As we stood on the platform, I noticed the bicycle parking nearby.  Seriously.

We rode the train from Chur Switzerland to Interlaken Ost. Along the way we crossed a high mountain pass at Oberalppass. It was complete white-out conditions.

Chur to Brig to Interlaken Ost where we took the 141 bus to Lauterbrunnen. At Lauterbrunnen we took a cable care to Grütschalp.  From here we took a small train to Mürren.  From the Mürren train station we had to walk to another cable car station about a mile away.  It was lightly snowing as we walked dragging our luggage behind us.  The sun was setting and it gradually became darker as we walked.  At the cable car station we had to wait about 45 minutes before we boarded a taxi van for the drive to Grimmelwald.  

It was after 9:00 by the time we arrived at our accommodations for the next few days, Ester’s Guest House.  Once inside the door we sat down and took off our boots and placed them in the designated area.  In our socks we climbed another set of stairs to the main floor.  The main floor had a common kitchen.  There was another set of stairs off the kitchen and our room was up those stairs.  Our room was the top floor of the house and had three beds.  The host had only made up two of the bed, so we used the other for out luggage.  We opened on of the bottles of wine we bought at Interlaken Ost and had wine and snacks for dinner.

The Welcome board at Ester’s Guesthouse.

Travel Day

Today we took the train from Salzburg Austria to Chur Switzerland.  It is a 5 hour train ride, but from a train you get to see the beautiful country side.

Waiting for the train in Salzburg Austria
View from the train


We arrived in Chur Switzerland around 6:00PM.  Once again I had trouble with Google maps on my phone navigating from the train station to the hotel.  We took an unplanned tour of Chur while we tried to find out hotel. We are staying at Zunfthaus zur Rebleuten in Chur. It is a comfortable hotel and we have a nice room on the top floor.  When we arrived in the room it was like an oven.  We opened a window and went out for dinner.


We wandered around Chur looking for a place to eat.  After walking around the city for 30 minutes we settled on a fondue place in the old part of town.  The restaurant was just opening for the evening and we were the first guests.  The waiter spoke a little English, but during dinner I heard him speak German and Italian.  I guess he need to know a little bit of everything.  We had the traditional fondue for dinner with several large beers.

Cheese fondue with bread and potatoes


After dinner we went to the grocery store to buy lunch for the train ride tomorrow.  I find it always interesting to go into a grocery store in another country.  Some things are different, but somethings are the same.  To me, a local grocery store give me a better understanding of how the locals live.

Last day in Salzburg

Today we did a Sound of music tour.  It sound corny, but it was actually a lot of fun.  It also gave us a 10,000ft view of Salzburg which I really wish we had done on the first day.  We rode a tour bus to the various site around Salzburg where the movie was produced.  At each location our guide had interesting details about the location and drama that happened behind the camera.  We rode over to Mondsee Austria where the grand wedding scene was filmed. I used the word “Grand” because even when I was younger, I thought that the church must have been a cathedral.    The inside of the church is very beautiful and ornate but actually quite small.   I took a few picture inside the church.

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Mondsee was a picturesque Bravarian town all decorated for Christmas.

Advent in Mondsee

When the tour was over we used what we learned and walked through Salzburg seeing things differently.  We walked through Mirabellgarten, the park shown in the movie.   

Today is our last day in Salzburg, so we walk through the Old Town one more time.  We are not big souvineer purchasers, but we did buy a selection of Salzburg chocolates.  We went to a grocery store and bought lunch for our train trip tomorrow and a selection of local beers and a big soft pretzel for dinner in room tonight. 


Once back at the hotel we all changed into our Pj’s and sat on the bed and ate our pretzel and drank beer for dinner and then ate chocolates for dessert.  Afterward we sat on the bed playing Uno. Before bed we laid out our clothes for tomorrow and packed up. 

Vienna to Salzburg

Before checking out, Albert and I walked down to the comic store so he could buy the two t-shirts that he wanted. I stopped at the hotel front desk to ask about mailing the postcard. The clerk was very helpful and said that she could mail it and charge the postage to our bill. She also admonished me for not checking out.  It was 11:15 and check out time was 11:00. I told her we were running a quick errand and would check out by noon.


Albert and I walked to the comic store where he chose a Captain America t-shirt and an Arrow t-shirt. They had a nice looking cloth Avengers bag for our purchase, so we bought that, too. The store was cash only, so I paid the 42€ for the purchase. 
We walked back to the hotel and Shari was ready to leave.  We rolled our bags to the lift and Shari walked down the stairs while Albert and I rode the lift with the luggage. Once in the lobby, we check out and started walking down the street to the Metro station 

Once at the Metro station we took the U1 train to the main train station. We exited the train at the first stop because I was afraid we got on the wrong train. We were fine and boarded the next train. We exited at the Südtiroer Platz train station and had to walk quite a distance to find the train to Salzburg. Since we are not in a hurry, we took our time and eventually found the right place. We went to the ticket counter for the OBB railway. We wanted to buy a Eurorail pass and she directed us to the OBB Lounge were a very helpful agent helped us purchase a 5 trip Eurorail pass.


With tickets in hand we walked to platform 8 where a train was leaving at 12:55 for Salzburg. We boarded the train and took our seats for the 3 hour trip. It was an uneventful journey and we arrived in Salzburg at 3:50 in the afternoon. 


From the train station we walked about a mile to the Imlauer Hotel Pitter where we had reservations.  After a quick check in, we took the elevator up to the third floor Once in the room I got everyone’s devices connected to WiFi and then we started looking for a place to eat. We chose the PitterKeller which is located in the basement of our hotel. Very nice place, friendly staff, good, food and good beer.

Dinner at PitterKeller

After dinner we walked to the closest Christmas market. Nothing spectacular. Since it was still early, we walked to the main shopping area and then across the river to the old town.  It was decorated for Christmas. 

Salzburg from the bridge
Christmas decorations in the Old Town

We walked through one part of old town before heading back to the hotel. Albert was getting tired and I didn’t want to wear him out the first night.
Back at the hotel we changed into out pajamas and each did our own thing before going to bed.  It was a really nice day and I’m looking forward to tomorrow. 

After the palace

After finishing our tour we walked back to the Metro station and rode the train back to the Karlplatz station.  From the Metro station we walked to Stephensplatz. It was a nice walk and gave us a different tour of Vienna. We approach Stephensplatz from a different direction and we saw more of the shopping and restaurants.  Shari saw a Swarovski store and wanted to go in for the experience. We wandered around the store for about 20 minutes looking at all the beautiful items they make out of crystal. There were some nice pieces, but I’m too practical to spend that kind of money.
Albert was getting hungry so we walked around Stephensplatz looking for somewhere to eat.  We wandered for a while before reluctantly settling on a restaurant named “Chattanooga.” We went inside and chose a table. It took some time before a server helped us.  Albert ordered a bacon cheeseburger, Shari ordered the Veal medalions, i order a bratwurst plate with frites. However, they brought me two ground veal patties with mashed potatoes. I ate it and it was tasty, but not what I ordered. After we finished eating we all made the trip downstairs to the restroom. I took this picture outside the bar that was downstairs. We had to walk through it to get to the restroom. The bar was closed at the time.

After lunch we walked over to St Stephen’s Cathedral and went inside. It was nice inside.  Access was restricted unless you paid 6€ for the audio tour. We decided just to do the free part.  It was crowded, so we didn’t stay long. We lit 3 votive candles and each said a prayer and then left  

Inside St Stephen’s Cathedral

Once outside, we walked down the street to catch the Ring tram.  This is a sightseeing tram that takes you around the perimeter of the old city. It was nice to sit and see the sites, but for 12€ each, I thought it was over priced. You can get off at a stop, but we didn’t. Maybe it would seem like a better value if you used it that way.  Once back at our original station, we walked up the hill back to our hotel to relax for a little while. I took a short nap, but my snoring kept waking me up. 
Around 6:15 we left the hotel room again to wander around Stephensplatz. We started out at a comic store that we passed and Albert just had to go into. We looked around and he saw a couple of t-shirts he wanted. I told him that we would sleep on it, but if he still wanted it in the morning, we would come back and buy them.  

We continued to walk down the street towards Stephensplatz. The Christmas decorations over the street were lit tonight. We walked though the Christmas market that ringed the back side of the Catheral. We saw some interesting things, but nothing worth buying. It was crowded, too. I felt in the way. We continued to wander around Stephensplatz looking for something light for dinner.  I really didn’t want to do the sit down restaurant dinner.  There were several street vendors selling “ hot dogs” but their menus were in German and I didn’t know what I was ordering. Shari suggested that we go back to a restaurant we had stopped in for lunch, but it was too crowded earlier. It was not as crowded now.  It was called Aida and was mostly a pastry shop. We each ordered dessert and decided that it was going to be dinner for the night.

Schonbrunn Palace

We rode the Metro to Schonbrunn Palace. We paid for the guided English tour that started at 11:00.  We had about 45 minutes before the tour started, so we walked around the gardens.  Everything was brown and leafless, but it gave you a better perspective of the size of the garden. It was not as large as Versailles, but it was close.  

We started wandering back to the palace and stopped at a building that was a large bird cage for pigeons. There was a placard that explained the building and the types of pigeons that were housed there. Albert and I lingered too long. At this site.  As a result we missed the guided tour of the palace.  We tried to catch up with the group, but never succeeded.  At one point I think we passed them, but all the group members had headphones, so I didn’ both to try and join.  On our own we walked through the 40 rooms on the tour.  It was interesting, but the gilded opulence did not impress me.  I’m sure part of my skepticism is because I’m an American. We don’t believe that God chooses certain among us to rule over the rest.

Schonbrunn Palace from the gardens
Albert and Shari in front of The Gloriette in the gardens
Neptune

Vienna Austria

We landed this morning at Paris’s Charles de Gaul Airport at 5:45am CET. After getting off the plane we had to go through security again and passport control. We ate breakfast in the 2F concourse near our departure gate.

Our flight to Vienna left on time. It was a two hour flight and I took a little nap in route. We landed on time and took the shuttle to the city.  I had a little trouble using Google maps to navigate the walk to our hotel it took us way out of the way.  We checked in our room and since Shari wasn’t feeling good we took a little nap.

We are staying at the Hotel Austria it is located close to St Stephen’s Cathedral in the heart of old Vienna. After our nap we walked around Stephanslpatz looking for a place to eat dinner. The Christmas Market is setup around the Cathedral. We strolled for a while before settling on a place for dinner. It’s a beautiful area of Vienna and I could have walked longer, but some in our party are hungry.

The outside of St Stephen’s Cathedral
Statue in Stephensplatz