Saturday, September 29, 2012

Munich and Schwangau in Germany plus Lake Konstanz

I spent more time researching this part of our road trip than the others before we left as I kept coming upon interesting places to visit. Looking back, I wished we had an extra day or two here. I was amazed by the scenic landscapes around this area- Bavaria, Baden Wurttemberg, and Lake Konstanz as we drove thru them on the way to Zurich. I wouldn't mind coming back here for another visit some day.
Coming from Salzburg, Austria we decided to stop by the BMW Museum in Munich. Small two storey building accomodating old and new models of BMW and Rolls Royce. Good place to learn about BMW's design philosophy- smooth lines and optimum performance for the ultimate driving machine. One can schedule for BMW test drives as well as factory tours here. The tours were fully booked when we got there at noon. Should have prebooked the tour before going. Had lunch at the museum's cafe. Service was slow and the food was ordinary. My daughter who is obsessed with Mini Coopers bought a toy version of a red mini. Hand carried it all the way on the flight home and is now sitting in its box on a shelf in her bedroom. Her pride and joy, indeed.

                                                      Sleek 1972 BMW Turbo
                                                          What's not to like?
                  Olympic Tower in the Olympia Park seen from the exterior of the BMW Museum.
Pedestrian walk at downtown Munich. Would love to spend more time here. Lots of name brand stores and restaurants.
Monument at Maximilianstrasse- great spot for people watching. Munich surprised me as I didn't expect it to be such a beautiful city.

From Munich, we should have driven to Neuschwanstein Castle in Schwangau, Germany. Due to time constraint and  fatigue, we drove on to Zurich, Switzerland via little towns near Lake Konstanz. Spent 2 nights in Zurich then drove back to Schwangau before moving on to the Black Forest area the very same day. Scenic drive all the way especially around the Lake Konstanz area which borders Germany, Austria and Switzerland near the Alps. Not that hard to stop and snap nice pictures along the route.

Stage for the opera Andre Chenier at Lake Konstanz in Bregenz
Lake Konstanz- abundant beautiful panorama
Loved the wide open pastures of Switzerland. Miles and miles of open green spaces with hardly a soul around. Just a very well fed herd.
My kids got up close and personal with the sheeps. Feeding and touching some of them.

During the planning for this section of our trip, I was debating between visiting the Eagle's Nest (Hitler's teahouse) or the Neuschwanstein Castle. In the end, we chose Neuschwanstein as we thought it would be a great place to take a family portrait together on the Marianbrucke (Marie's Bridge) with the castle as our background. Well, it was overcrowded plus a quarter of the castle was scaffolded for reconstruction. We actually knew about these facts before we went but my better half still wanted to try. Picture came out so-so. Oh, well!

Very captivating eye expression. Felt an urge to stroke the eyelashes and wipe the mucous away when I first took this picture. It belonged to one of the many horses used to transport visitors to and from the Neuschwanstein castle. We didn't ride the horse carriages as we took the bus up to the bridge and walked back down to town- about 45 minutes.  These horses work very hard to carry full carriage loads of 12 to 16 people each way going up and down the hill. It's quite an unbearable sight for us.

The world famous Neuschwanstein Castle- inspiration for the Disneyland's sleeping beauty castle.
Lake Alpsee (left) and Lake Schwansee(right) with Hohenschwangau Castle perched on a hill.
Hohenschwangau Castle- the childhood home of King Ludwig II. Smaller but better looking on the exterior than Neuschwanstein.
Bavarian snow balls (3 for 2 euros)- deep fried dough with powdered sugar- soft, fluffy, delicious
Very good foam soup- Jagenhaus Restaurant at Hotel Lisl in Schwangau
King Ludwig's roasted pork with crackling skin in beer sauce and potato dumplings- couldn't get enough of the pork skin (crispy and not chewy).
                                         Creamy noodles with grilled chicken- very good as well
Linguine with local chanterelle mushrooms- fresh and excellent

                                       Grapevines on the way to Black Forest- lots of wineries
On the way to Black Forest

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Lake Mondsee and Salzburg, Austria

Lake Mondsee was our stop for lunch on the way to Salzburg. It is a good sized lake with beautiful views of the Austrian Alps. Lunch was good at a lakeside restaurant called Fisherman's Cafe. We rented an electric boat for 11 euros for 45 minutes, going around half of the lake and saw some interesting people.

The electric boat we had was just like this one. No safety briefing or life vests provided. Just a kid around 10 years old pushing us off in the boat and we paid the rental fees to an older lady (maybe his grandma) at the dock after we're done.
  Off the jumping deck into the water. The beach was packed with beachgoers- swimming, sunbathing, waterskiing, yachting, kayaking, etc. Renting the electric boat got us away from the crowd to better enjoy the lake scenery.
                                                             Lake Mondsee
                                 Fisherman's fish samboltica with tomato risotto- quite good
Local lake bass with noodles. We saw a lot of these fishes swimming around in the crystal clear water of the lake.
                                                            Lake Mondsee
                                                                Lake Mondsee
We had one night in Salzburg. Heavy downpour throughout the afternoon and night really put a damper on our plans to explore the city. Had to cancel most of our sightseeing plans except for Mirabell Gardens. Being fans of The Sound of Music movie, we chose to stay in the suites at the Schloss Leopoldskron as some scenes from the movie were shot here.The suites were comfortable with beautiful views of the lake and mountains. Unfortunately, that's about all that had going for this place. I think it catered more to the seminar attendees at the schloss than paying guests like us. I don't think we would stay here again if we were in Salzburg next time around.
The back of Schloss Leopoldskron from the other side of the lake. We had two separate suites on the second and third floor of the schloss.
Entrance way ceiling

                                                      Garden overlooking the lake
The famous horse gates
Views of Untersberg Mountain out of our suite's window
The high gates to the schloss
Mirabell Gardens. Too bad we didn't get to explore it as it was pouring nonstop the whole time we were in Salzburg.
                                                   Salzburg Fortress from Mirabell Gardens
Salzburg Fortress

Well seasoned and perfectly cooked wiener schnitzel at a local cafe.

                                   Viennese noodles with ham- very good with hints of bacon.
Mixed salad- one of the better salads on our road trip

                                                Old Viennese style chicken noodle soup
              Beef goulash soup with kaiser roll- really warms up the insides on a rainy night.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Vienna, Austria

Vienna, the city of music. A beautiful, refined and culturally rich city. Would have loved more time in Vienna as there were so many places to explore. Free concerts, free operas, museums, gardens, palaces, cafes, pedestrian walks - endless things to see, do and eat, of course. This is the one city on our road trip that we had to take the hop on and off city tour bus as we're short on time. We saw a lot of sights on the exterior, just not in depth. Vienna is one of the places that I want to visit again in the future.

Schonbrunn Palace- breathtaking but not as grand as the Versailles in France. Nonetheless, a wonderful place to explore and enjoy the picturesque views of the palace grounds. Of course, a tour of Emperor Joseph Franz and Empress Sisi's state apartments is a must- so many stories to indulge in.
                                                The Neptune Fountain at Schonbrunn Palace
Schonbrunn Palace and the city viewed from the Gloriette's terrace
The Gloriette- built in 1775 as a monument to the fallen soldiers defending the Austrian empire at the time. Walk up the stairs to the Gloriette Cafe for pastries then up the terrace for panoramic views of the city.
                                                           St Stephens Cathedral
                                                                St Stephens Cathedral

Albertina Museum- wished we had time to see the Monet to Picasso Art Exhibit that was going on
                                                   Statue of Friedrich Schiller
Haus der Musik- very cool and fun interactive museum for young and old- one can conduct an orchestra, compose your own music or be exposed to various everyday sounds that one might not usually pay attention to.

Kaiser Jubilaums Kirche or Emperor Jubilee Church aka St Francis of Assisi Church in honor of Joseph Franz's 50th anniversary reign

Danube Tower overlooking the Danube River

Bikes for rent at the State Opera House

        Reminded me of my godmother and I getting groceries when I was about this kid's age.
City tour, anyone?
Hofburg Palace- grandiose, again wished we had more time here
Parliament building- just passing by

Benediktushaus (the building in the middle)- an 800 year old monastery, stayed here for 2 nights, good location, nice beds, good breakfast, very clean and renovated rooms, just don't stay here during the hottest days of August as there're no in-room air conditioning. I can tell you the little table fan provided didn't do a very good job of cooling down the room. Be prepared to sweat thru your sleep during the warm summer nights. Oh, parking was 80 euros for 2 days. Not knowing beforehand there was a price difference depending on where we paid (pay at the parking attendant booth for 27 euros/ day vs the parking machine at the garage exit for 40 euros /day), we paid at the machine. When we asked the parking attendant afterwards why the price difference, he just said it was what it was and no refund whatsoever would be issued. Wished the guesthouse reception had told us of the price difference as they had quoted us the lower parking fees.

Gloriette Cafe's Sacher Torte- rich and chocolatey, not bad

Gloriette's beef goulash with potato dumpling- very good

Nordsee's seafood on Kartner Strasse- fresh and inviting
Nordsee's half lobster tail- 27 euros, sweet and succulent, makes a great morning snack

Almdudler- Austria's national soft drink. Had this drink at Purstner Restaurant which is a local Austrian restaurant just a few blocks from St Stephens Cathedral.
Purstner's black pudding with potatoes and shredded cabbage. To this day, my kids had no idea that they ate pork blood since it tasted so meaty and so good.
Wiener schnitzel- huge portion but a little bland
I thought I had ordered veal liver but when this dish turned up, it tasted like pork scallopine. Oh, well!
Grilled baby back ribs with cabbage salad and more potatoes- aromatic but not quite finger licking good
Peppered beef at a cafe close to Benediktushaus- can't remember the cafe's name, though

                                                  Viennese noodles with chicken breast
Tafelspitz- boiled beef in broth- tender meat with wonderful flavors
Kasekrainer- cheese stuffed sausage, greasy and good