The highlight of my summer ended two weeks ago. We had two couples that we have been friends with since the 80’s come visit. We took them to see one of our favorite places in Switzerland, Salzburg, and then Munich. I truly hope they enjoyed the trip as much as Julie and I. It was especially fun, because we saved some of our bucket list experiences to be with them.
Like all good vacations this one had a little drama. It started with delayed flights that cost a day of sightseeing in Switzerland. We got thrown out of a restaurant in Lauterbrunnen. We got kicked off a train in Germany! However, we made it through all of that, and had an amazing week.
In Switzerland we went to the Lauterbrunnen valley. In my opnion, this is for sure in the top three most beautiful places in Switzerland. We stayed in a little town named Murren. Murren is a small village with only 450 residents, but it has over 3000 beds for tourists. Murren is one of the towns in Switzerland that does not allow cars. This is not technically true, because some of the residents have cars, but there is no easy road up to the town. To get there you take a train to the village of Lauterbrunnen, take a gondola 1/2 way up the mountain, then a train across the mountain into the town. The train was built in 1891, and when you board the train it looks like the original train car is still in service. We spent three days hiking and enjoying the alps before heading off to our next stop.
I do have to talk about our trouble in Lauterbrunnen. I promised our friends that we would have a fondue picnic while in the alps. So we went down into the valley to hike, and visit some of the waterfalls. When it started to get close to noon, we decided to stop and have our fondue. There was a restaurant in the area, that had a huge outdoor seating area. The restaurant was not open yet, so everyone thought we should just go sit at one of the tables, like dozens of other people were doing. I tried to convince them otherwise because I knew the place would open up before we were done eating. I was outvoted, so we set up….. Needless to say, before the cheese had melted we got chased away. The fondue was excellent, though!
Salzburg was one of the cities that Julie and I have wanted to visit since we first moved. I think it had more to do with the Sound of Music than anything else, but Salzberg was a fascinating town. We stayed in an old monastery that had been converted into a hotel.
Salzburg has been inhabited since the stone age. It got the name as being one of the primary salt distribution sites in Europe. There is, or was, a large salt mine in the area, and the Salzach River made a perfect way to help distribute the salt. The Salzach is a tributary to the Inn river (think Innsbruck) which in turn flows into the Danube. Salzburg has a very deep and rich religious history for many hundreds of years, the rulers were Prince-Bishops. Each one felt the need to build a new church and add on to the Hohensalzburg Fortress. This was the most impressive castle/fort I have visited. It is not a Palace by any means. It was built purely as a defensive fortification to protect the ruler. One of the interesting things I read is that it was never defeated. Though that is a little bit of a mis-statement. When Napoleon came to the area the fortress gave up with out a fight because the ruler realized that military innovations made the fortress obsolete. It was still a fascinating place to tour, and offered the best views of the city.
One of the biggest disappointments I have had traveling was in Salzburg. We all wanted to take a Sound of Music Tour. We had visions of dancing in the gazebo and running through the fields singing just like the movie. I am old enough to know NOT to have these preconceived ideas, but I had them anyway. Our tour guide was excellent, and we loved learning some of the trivia from the movie. Things like Christopher Plummer did NONE of the singing. He was also a bit of an ASS. Apparently, he did not like the little girl that played Gretl. She was so young, that she kept getting fed to keep her quiet on the set; so she gained a lot of weight. During the final scene when the Captain is carrying her over the mountains it was a stand in, because Plummer could not pick her up! We also learned that just like any movie BASED on a true story there is more fiction than fact. It turns out that the Captain was NOT being recruited by the German Navy after all. He was old! The family had already been touring Europe as a singing group for a few years. They left because Hitler wanted them to perform, and the Captain hated Hitler so much (kudos by the way) he decided the family should leave rather than perform for Hitler. Also, they left by train not hiking through the mountains. Which does make a lot more sense, because going through the mountains would have taken them into Germany, not Switzerland. 🙂
The tour was also disappointing because the only movie scenes we saw were 1) the church from the wedding 2) the garden from the do re mi song, and the lake where the boat tips over. We did see some of the sites from a LOOOOONG way off. but that was it. We are still not convinced we actually saw the gazebo. It too has been moved because the crowds were to much for the site. They moved the gazebo a few miles outside the city, and of course it is locked up, because some idiot tried to do the dance scene and couldn’t jump from bench to bench and got hurt. Honestly, the gazebo just looks like something you would buy at any home garden store!
The picture above is an example of what I mean. This was taken with the strongest zoom my iphone would capture! We were 3/4 of a mile away, and we simply drove by. The same thing happened in the field where Maria sang. We drove by the field, and the guide said ” and this is the field where Maria sang.” The problem is that all of the sites are privately owned, and so many tourists want to visit that the owners have cut off access. The picture below was our group at the lake where the boat scene was filmed. Way off in the distance, you can see the hotel where all the balcony scenes were filmed.
So my recommendation to you is that if you ever go to Salzburg skip the Sound of Music Tour. It is simply not worth it. Salzburg is an amazing small city on it’s own and is worth a visit! Our biggest adventure happened as we were trying to go from Salzburg to Munich.
Julie and I have traveled by train enough to know that while trains work great in Switzerland; sometimes they leave a lot to be desired in other countries. I convinced myself that we did not need to get a seat reservation for the trip to Munich. Even if the train was crowded it was only a 45 minute trip so we could stand if need be. This was A HUGE mistake on my part. We got our tickets just fine. It turned out the train was only 4 cars long. We got on the first car, and there were no available seats; so we went to car number 2. We found seats that were marked as reserved, but 2 minutes before the train was due to depart no one was there; so we went ahead and sat down. Of course for some reason the train was delayed and after 25 minutes the people that had the reservation showed up; so we were forced to stand. The train was delayed even more when one of the cars had to be emptied because the air conditioning was not working. This of course caused everyone on that car to try and pack in the remaining cars. The conductor made an announcement that if you were standing you needed to get off the train. Again, this has been a pretty common occurrence so we stayed in the car. Eventually it took off; so we thought we were good to go. We only rode about 15 minutes before the train stopped at a station in the middle of nowhere, and two police officers get on. The officers tell us that everyone standing has to get off, and there will be another train along soon.
I asked the officers and the conductor if the next train would have seats, but of course they did not know. I went into the office and asked what time time train would be coming, the number, etc… I was told it would come by in an hour, but this person also did not know if there would be a seat. So we waited. A train came finally, but the sign said it was going somewhere away from Munich. I talked to a German Soldier who was also trying to get back to Munich, and he called the station from the train and verified it was going to Munich. I will say the train company did this right. They diverted a train that was not in service to pick up all the people stranded, and they sent a train that was big enough for everyone to get on. So eventually we made it Munich!
My post is getting a little long so I am going to end it now, and will talk about Munich in my next post. I hope you enjoy the pictures.