December 20, 2006

We have waited almost a year for this day to arrive. We are off to Salzburg, Austria for Christmas and to celebrate our 25th Wedding Anniversary, which is January 16, 2007. Just before Christmas last year we started thinking about a special trip. We have always loved Austria and have spent quite a few weeks there in quite a few January’s for previous anniversaries, as well as Germany. Then in September 2000, we went to Oberndorf to visit the Silent Night Memorial Chapel. We were so impressed and found they held a special service every December 24 commemorating the famous Christmas Carol. They broadcast it live on webcam but we thought it would be so wonderful to experience it live. We decided to go and when we checked our frequent flier miles, we not only had enough to fly over, but enough to fly first class. Wow – this was going to be great. We went on line March 1 and booked our trip for December 20 to the 30th, US Airways Philly to Munich – transfer to Salzburg! We told our kids that Christmas that we would not be home for Christmas 2006 to celebrate our anniversary and they would have to make their own plans. Our kids are all grown and married with their own families so this was not a problem.

Of course we all know how much fun it is to plan a trip and this was no exception. We had been to Salzburg twice previously. Once just to tour the fortress and eat lunch. The other time we took a train from Innsbruck, visited Mozart’s birth house and the shops on the Getreidegasse and took the train back again. So we were really ignorant of the city. The tourist information bureau is just wonderful. They sent a great info packet including a mini CD, maps, hotels and general info. I then used Trip Advisor to check out hotels and read the Salzburg forum. This was also tremendously helpful and it seems as if all the Brits love Salzburg. They provided a lot of info.

It was somewhat confusing to us as the city is on both sides of the river and both sides have an Altstadt. But finally figured out where most of the tourist attractions were in the “Old” Altstadt and across the river the “Newer” Altstadt, but an easy walk across the river. A young couple from our church recommended the place where they stayed for 4 months when they were there as students several years ago. It was a family run guest house about a 10-15 minute walk to center of city in a nice residential area. This sounded fine with us as we normally don't like staying in the center of any town. After checking prices on hotels in town which ran 115€ to 150€ day we were elated to find that Haus Wartenberg, would give us a rate of 84€. Our communication with Johannes, the owner was very pleasant and helpful so we took this offer. I then contacted Bob’s Tours and made reservations for Christmas Eve so the major things were done. Of course we wanted to visit the Christmas Markets also and they would be open until 2pm Christmas Eve. By arriving the 21st, we would have time to explore them and catch up on our sleep. So now it has arrived! We arrived at the airport at 5pm for our 8:15pm flight. A nice surprise was finding out we were entitled to go to the US Airways Lounge and have drinks and snacks before boarding. This was really nice and very relaxing. The plane was almost an hour late in taking off so we landed at almost 11am the next morning in Munich.

Thursday - December 21

Fortunately, I was able to sleep about 3 hours, so that was a big help. We had made arrangements with a taxi transfer service in Salzburg to pick us up at the airport. ( This works best for us as neither of us can lift much anymore due to various ailments.

We went thru customs relatively quickly and retrieved our luggage with no hassles and headed to Terminal 2 to the transportation booth. I was surprised to see Christmas Markets set up at the airport. It was extremely festive. For some reason the transportation people didn’t have our name, but I had the confirmation paper and they had room, so we were set.

We arrived at Haus Wartenberg about 2:30.

Johannes was not there but a young priest had our room key. Turns out he was the brother of the owner. The house is old – 350 years and filled with lots of antiques. Our room is fine. Large enough bathroom with a very decent shower in tub and the toilet is actually in another room, like a closet. We had a nice wardrobe and a dresser and the TV was satellite so we had a ton of stations. We couldn’t wait to walk into town and see the sights of the markets. Haus Wartenberg is in a lovely residential neighborhood with a post office, supermarket, Konditorei and other interesting stores. It was a very pleasant walk of about 6 blocks to the tunnel that leads into the city.

The tunnel leads you right into the old city at the Horse Fountain.

The markets are indeed wonderful. Before you even reach the market area which is at the Dom Platz and the Residence Platz, you see that Christmas is everywhere. There are little courtyards and tiny alleyways galore and all are decorated everywhere you look.

When we reached the main market area it was quite a festive atmosphere. There were crowds of people shopping, talking and eating but mostly drinking gluhwein.

We immediately found a stand where you could give a 2€ deposit and receive a cute mug that said Salzburg Christmas Market. Of course we each had to have a mug as a souvenir. There were quite a few horse drawn carriages taking people around and they even had a Santa carriage for the Kinder with Santa himself riding with the little ones.

By this time it was 5pm and we were hungry as we only had a bretzen at the airport. We were tired also so wanted to eat early and we found the cute Café Stierewascher on a small side street. It was small but very good food. We both had pork medallions and Al a beer and I had wine. Ah, our first meal back in Austria. By the time we finished dinner and walked back to Haus Wartenberg, we were quite tired. We tried to get our clothes in some order, turned on TV for a while and fell asleep early.

Friday, December 22

We didn’t get up until 7:30, which is late for us. When we went downstairs for breakfast we met Johannes. The breakfast room is quite comfortable and they also use it as a restaurant at night.

The woman that serves breakfast doesn’t speak English but there was a coffee carafe on the table and I asked if it was hot? She immediately replaced it with a fresh one and then asked if I wanted the cream warmed up. I was thrilled and she did this every day for me. I enjoyed the coffee very much and we looked forward to seeing her each morning. They had a nice assortment of food and always delicious rolls.

We explored the markets more today and made several purchases.

I went into the Dom to take pictures and there was a mass going on. I had my video camera with me and just as I entered the boy’s choir got up and sang, in English; Go tell it on the Mountain. I was thrilled to hear it and be able to record it.

We then walked to the St. Peter’s Stiftskellar to check on our reservations for Christmas Dinner. They didn’t have them – I was afraid of that. My final email was never answered so I’m glad we checked. They were able to fit us in at 2pm. We then walked around outside in the cemetery there. It is so beautiful and some of the graves even had decorated Christmas trees on them. I took quite a few pictures there.

From there we went to the funicular that takes you to the top of the fortress.

As soon as we got to the top, we went to the restaurant that not only had good food, but a great view.

After lunch we walked all around and looked at everything. There was even a Marionette Museum that was very interesting.

The Christmas Markets were up there also but didn’t open until later. When we came down we just walked around downtown and enjoyed the sights and sounds of the city.

The men were playing chess in the courtyard on the huge painted chess set.

That evening we decided to go to Augustiner Brauhaus and it seemed like we walked forever. This was recommended to us also and was an old Monastery turned beer hall. It was off the beaten path and a location almost outside the city. We could have reached it easier from the neighborhood where we were staying, but the streets were dark and unfamiliar so we went thru the tunnel, into the city, over to the river and up and up and up. Being only our 2nd day, we were still quite tired and when we finally got there were disappointed to find that you had to buy your food at separate little counters as well as the beer. It was a very interesting place and supposedly in the summer with the outside gardens the place is really jumping, but we were not in the mood for self service. We felt like just sitting down and being waited on so we headed back into town to find a restaurant. We chose the Sternbrau as it was the closest and just at the beginning of the Getreidegasse, the main pedestrian shopping street. It was quite a large complex made up of several restaurants all facing a courtyard – and yes, the courtyard had it's own little Christmas Market area. We had a very good meal but decided not to have dessert there, but to go find a café and have some ice. Much to our surprise, everything was either closed or just closing and it was just about 8pm. We looked at the menus of a couple of nice hotel restaurants but the prices for desserts were out of sight at 10-12 € each and that was without a glass of mineral wasser. So we passed on dessert and walked home. Back in our room we were pleased to find non-stop Christmas concerts on several TV channels that we enjoyed. I think our tiredness reached a peak today and hopefully tomorrow we will feel really good.

Saturday, December 23

This morning we were the last ones in for breakfast. Johannes, the owner talked to us and told us he and his family were leaving that day for 3 days for the holiday. Of course they would be serving breakfast every day and they were also offering a Christmas Eve buffet at 6:30 if we wanted to join that. We were thrilled as we found out before traveling there that most restaurants are closed Christmas Eve. Since we were doing the Silent Night tour, we figured we would just have a good size lunch and then buy snacks ahead of time for us to eat when we returned. So of course we indicated we would be there as the tour was set to be back by about 6:30. We were not expecting to get any dinner so this would be a treat.

After breakfast we took the bus to Mirabel Palace, which was on the other side of the river. This actually helped us become more familiar with the entire area on both sides of the river and they are an easy walk. The palace is very pretty and is now used as the government offices for the town and where all the weddings take place. Since the weather has been extremely warm there, (this time last year there was over 100” of snow), they had pansies blooming all over the place. They say the gardens are beautiful in the summer. We saw the steps made famous by the “Do-Re-Mi” song from the Sound of Music, and the arch where the Children and Marie came skipping and singing thru.

And by now, we were used to seeing small Christmas Markets set up everywhere and this was no exception – so of course we had to browse a while. We then took the bus back across the river to the Altstadt and had lunch in the Getreidegasse Café where we had delicious Gulaschesuppe. We then walked to the Information Center to find out which bus to take to go to Hellbrun Palace. A friend from the Trip Advisor forums, who lives in England, had been there the week before and said it was not to be missed. We are so glad we went. The atmosphere here was just wonderful.

They had Christmas music on speakers throughout the area and just as we arrived 3 alpine horn blowers were playing some music.

The markets were plentiful and this is actually where I made most of my purchases. I bought ornaments for all of our kids. There was a small petting zoo for the kids with the hutches decorated with greenery and lights and a circle where kids and parents could roast brats on a stick like we do hotdogs. There was even a little train ride. Inside the palace there was room after room of Christmas decorations. In another side building were more decorations and things to buy, wonderful food and drinks as well. Another building had beautiful antique wardrobes and chests. Then we strolled out in the garden area and watched the swans in the water.

As we were walking we suddenly came across the gazebo that was used in the Sound of Music.

We had no idea it was here so it was an added surprise. It has been beautifully restored and is in a lovely setting now. By now it was dark and all the lights were on just adding to the beautiful setting.

We took the bus back to Mozart Platz and walked to Zum Mohren Restaurant on the Getreidegasse.

This restaurant was recommended and did not let us down. The main part of the restaurant is one level down and then one of the rooms is even on a lower level. The building dates to 1300 and parts of the original walls to the old city are still exposed. It is said that Mozart and his counterparts frequented this place often. I had the Tafelspitz that came with shredded carrots and zucchini and wonderful thin crispy fried potatoes and creamed spinach. Al had gulasch with spaetzle and it looked wonderful. We enjoyed our meal so much we had dessert. I had Kaiserschmarrn and Al cheese strudel mit vanilla eis! Both were wonderful and the waiters were very pleasant. As we left the restaurant and headed towards the Dom Platz I was suddenly overcome. On the top of the tower of the glockenspiel were four trumpeters and they were playing music. Then suddenly, across the way on the top of two other towers were trumpeters also and they would echo the first ones. My eyes filled with tears just to listen to this and they were playing Silent Night. Knowing we were going there the next day made it all the more special. We stood and listened a few minutes and then walked around the market stands again. It was an extremely festive atmosphere tonight. It seemed like the whole city was there either buying or socializing. Of course we had to have a cup of gluhwein and then started our walk back to Haus Wartenberg. The end of a perfect day.

December 24th, Christmas Eve.

It’s almost here – Christmas 2006. I was becoming excited. We took our time with breakfast as I was charging all my batteries for tonight. The 24th is the day that the Austrians consider the most holy; as they celebrate the birth of Christ today and then tomorrow is a day of celebrating and festivities. We saw many, many groups of walking tours wandering about and tried to stay out of their way. We wandered over to Mozart Platz and the ice-skating rink and it was extremely busy as was the winter lounge they had set up with all sorts of drinks and even a fire to warm your hands.

The internet café there would take your camera card and load it onto a CD so I was going to do that, but the equipment was not working that day and they only had it on one computer. We stopped at one of the bakery stands and bought some yummy cookies to take with us on the tour. We weren’t hungry for lunch yet and just wanted some snacks.

We then walked over to St. Peter’s Cemetery again and then inside the church.

It’s strange to go to a cemetery so many times but this is so different, so peaceful and beautiful in a mysterious way. We then got another cup of gluhwein – are you noticing a pattern here – and head back to the house to get the proper clothes on for the tour.

We were picked up by Bruno from Bob’s Tours at 1:50pm. The next person he picked up was a single gal at the hotel just a couple blocks from our place. Debbie was from Wales. She is divorced and her kids were with their dad for the holidays and her boyfriend was with his son, so she flew to Salzburg. She was a lot of fun and in fact we all booked the Sound of Music Tour with Bruno for Tuesday, as we knew already he was going to be fun. Next were Jim and his son Keith – both from Scotland, but Jim and his wife live in Salzburg. Jim’s wife Sandy also is a tour guide for Bob’s Tours and they wanted Keith to go on the trip but not ride with Sandy. Sandy was also taking a van along. So it was great. We had all English speaking people, including Bruno, who is a Salzburger.

We had no idea what to expect of the trip and actually thought we would just drive to Oberndorf and stand around and wait for the service. Were we ever surprised! We first went to Arnsdorf, Austria, where Franz Gruber - who wrote the music to the carol lived. He was the schoolteacher and the organist in the church there. Arnsdorf was preparing for their formal memorial ceremony and it just brought you to tears. We went into the church, which was just beautiful, and there were two men dressed like Father Mohr and Franz Gruber getting ready to give a special performance there.

Then we went into the schoolhouse where Gruber had lived with his wife and 12 children, on top of the one room classroom. We had no idea this was to be included and we were a bit rushed as there was one other group to go thru before their service started but what a treat.

The history was overwhelming - it still has some of his original furnishings.

Al and I had been there in 2000 and the same little older woman was there telling you all about the place. The other tour driver translated for us. We also had the chance to quickly go into the one room schoolhouse – still in use.

We had not been able to go in there before so it was special to see it.

Outside we took pictures of the Austrians all dressed for their special ceremony and then the men’s chorus practiced just the chorus of Silent Night.

There they were, all dressed traditionally in front of the building were the music was written with a sign saying, “Stille Nacht Platz”. It was very moving and I cried all thru it.

Two little girls walked by and I asked if I could take their picture.

After the ceremony they have a torch lit procession where they all light their lanterns and walk to Oberndorf - 3 km - singing Stille Nacht all the way.

You could see all the people walking toward the platz carrying their lanterns.

Again – a special moment. We left before that and drove to a beautiful church in the meadow called Maria Buhl and parked the van. From there we walked thru the fields and pastures, past farms with chickens running around, and walked to Oberndorf. I couldn’t even talk as it was a very emotional and spiritual time and quite an experience seeing people walking from all directions, these same paths as the people did 200 years ago.

Before we arrived at Oberndorf there was a car waiting for our group. Bob’s tours had come down with hot gluhwein and cookies for everyone. What a nice touch. As we arrived in Oberndorf, we had to walk down quite a few steps to the street level. We walked along the river and on the other side was the German town of Lauffen. Church bells were pealing all along both sides of the river enhancing the atmosphere. As we approached Stille Nacht Square, there were trumpeters high on the ridge of a hill above us playing music as we entered town. It was definitely a Kleenex moment. The square was packed and Al and I separated as I wanted to take videos and to get as close as I could. The Kapelle came into view and the soldiers were already lined in position with their bright red uniforms.

The square still had market stalls open and people were busy buying souvenirs and gluhwein. The service started right at 5pm and was in German and English. It was so nice and I got some good pictures of the Austrian officials in their bright red military uniforms. I was able to video most of the service which was good as my pictures were not coming out too good. There was a lot of singing and special speeches and then again two men dressed as Father Mohr and Franz Gruber – with a guitar - played and sang Silent Night. It was truly a special moment that we will remember for a long time.

After the service was over there were hoards of people trying to leave at the same time. Debbie was standing with me and I told her that I was going to run into the museum to buy two of their special Silent Night Christmas balls and I would not be long. I went running and fortunately, not many people were in there. I made my purchase and ran to where the van was. I was not the last one thank goodness. We arrived back at Haus Wartenberg at 6:40pm. In the large dining room was the most beautiful buffet I have seen in a long time. There was hot pork and beef with potatoes and hot vegetables. Then there were all types of salads including shrimp and potato and cucumber salad and many others. The pastries that were set out were just scrumptious and they had beer and red and white wine. It was truly a feast. After dinner we went up to the computer area and sent all of our family an email describing our evening, then went and watched a Christmas concert on TV and went to bed.

Christmas Day

Merry Christmas! It is a foggy, cold day. The breakfast room was packed and we chose to have eggs today which hit the spot. We left here about 10am to walk to church. I had found out from the Tourist Bureau that there was a Protestant church just across the river. An added bonus was the service is in English. As we arrived at the bridge to cross the river we bumped into Debbie and she was headed there also. This is the International Christian Church and is in conjunction with the Luther and Reformed Presbyterian. There were about 100 people there and the minister was from Wisconsin. The music was so good and it turned out the pianist was a professor at the Mozart School of Music at the University. The other musicians were also students there so it was top notch. We left Debbie after the service as she was going to the fortress. Since we were already across the river we decided to explore that part of the old city also.

We walked up the Linzer Gasse, which is the main street of the Altstadt on that side, and checked out the shops and restaurants.

Stopped in St. Sebastian’s Church and Cemetery where Mozart’s wife and father are buried. We finally started to make our way to St. Peter’s Stiftskellar for our Christmas dinner.

What a beautiful restaurant. It was built in 603 and is the oldest restaurant in Europe. There are many, many rooms and I liked ours the best. We were seated in what would be a basement room with arched ceilings. Everywhere you looked were decorations. The service was wonderful and the food was great. There were three women from Greece next to us who were very friendly and we enjoyed talking with them. We tried the famous Salzburger Nockerln for dessert. It was quite delicious although there really isn’t much too it. A lot of fluffy meringue with hot raspberry sauce poured over it. It went down real easy. Of course after dinner I had to roam around and take pictures of everything. One of the Mozart Dinner Concerts had just let out so I got to see the room and take pictures there.

We then just walked around town a bit and headed home. We called our kids, read some email and just relaxed and watched TV. After a while Al walked downstairs and got a beer and then I walked down also and we just sat and talked with some of the guests a while. A very different and interesting Christmas Day.

Tuesday, December 26

Today was the Sound of Music Tour. We really like going with a smaller tour company that uses a van with no more than 7 people. Much more personal and we had the same man from the Silent Night Tour so we were happy. Two girls at our guesthaus were going on the same tour with Panorama today on a big bus and there were 70 people. Not Al´s idea of fun. There was a heavy mist in the sky but you could see the sun was trying to come out. For our tour there was Al and I, Debbie and 4 students from Malaysia in medical school in Glasgow. Very nice people.

The tour was excellent and we learned so much including the real history of Salzburg as well as facts of the movie. It was really amazing where they filmed some of the scenes.

The bus stop for instance, where Maria got the bus from the Abby to go to the baron’s home, was just an abstract fountain with no correlation to a bus stop at all.

We could not go into the Abby. They will not allow any tour groups at all. You are able to walk by it on your own, but we viewed it from below.

It was a sunny day and as we left Salzburg after visiting the sites there in the city. It included another stop at Mirabel Palace and I didn’t realize that the dwarf (the one kids went up to) was there.

We also saw the building that was used for the back of the Baron’s house where they fell out of the boat into the water. The building is now owned by Harvard University. And then we did stop at Hellbrun to see the Gazebo, which we had seen a couple days earlier. As we drove out of the city we passed the house where Maria got off the bus and was walking up to the house for the first time.

They also do not allow anyone to visit so our pictures were from the van.

The mist was burning off and the mountains surrounding Salzburg had white trees from the frost. It was beautiful. We climbed to a higher altitude and then we started seeing snow. As soon as we were on this high narrow road with hilly meadows and trees all around, Bruno, the tour driver, started playing the sound track from the movie. Of course we all sang a bit. It was a little bit silly but a lot of fun. When we got to the Lake District, there were more misty clouds, as the mountains are so high it takes longer to burn off.

The little towns around the lakes are so quaint and charming.

We stopped at three spots mainly to see the area they showed in the opening scene.

The last stop was the Church of Mondsee where the wedding took place in the movie.

It really took place in the Abby were Maria had lived, but being a private religious order, they would not allow any filming. At the time of the filming there were over 100 nuns living there and today only 30. Anyway, the church makes quite a remarkable setting. Right now it is undergoing major renovations inside so the high altar where she walked up to meet the Baron, with her gown flowing down the stairs, was sealed off. I do have pictures from when we were there before in 2000 but the others were disappointed. The town is quite nice also and we had a quick look around. We got back to Salzburg about 2pm and our new friend from Wales went with us to the Tomaselli Café. This is a beautiful café in a historic building in center of town. Mozart’s wife lived next door after he died. Surprisingly they had omelets on the menu and we each had a ham and cheese omelet and Debbie and I had two wine splitters and Al two beers. We went back to our room to rest a while before we walk into town again for dinner. We had made reservations for the Weisses Kruez, up near the fortress and sort of in the mountain. This is also a popular guesthouse. We had our favorite – Swiebelroastbraten and we had dessert also. It was late by the time we were done and it took us a good half hour to walk home where we checked email and went to bed.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Went to the resort town of Zell am See which is about an hour and forty-minute train ride away. Funny thing happened as we were getting on the bus. Debbie from Wales went with us and we needed to go to the Hauptbahnhof to catch the train. So Al goes to the driver and asks for two tickets to the Hofbräuhaus and then Debbie says - I’ll have one to where he is going. I thought I would die laughing - but we got the right tickets.

Zell am See is a resort town in a tiny valley nestled in the alps. It is further south and not far from the Grossglockner Alpine Strasse. There was also more likely to be snow there and they have a huge ski mountain. The ride was spectacular and we just oohed and ahhed all the way.

We had to laugh at one couple on the train as every time the train stopped they jumped up, opened the window, and hung out til the train started again.

After arriving we found our way to the cable car and it was a lovely ride up the mountain. Once there we had lunch in the restaurant but most of the people were eating outside with their jackets off.

After enjoying the view we rode down and walked a good bit along the lake path.

The scenery was stunning.

We ended up at the Bahnhof with 45 minutes til our train so decided to go in the café and get dessert and a hot drink, as it was much colder in town without the brilliant sun.

We go into this café and here was a young couple seated already with a huge dog with the body like a lab but a face like a bulldog. He was just sitting there in the booth with them looking all around and started staring at us.

Of course we had to take a picture of him and then he went - woof-woof- and it honestly sounded just like you read it.

We laughed hysterically and then he laid down and went to sleep. We have seen three Westies like we have, but most of the people favor golden retrievers. They are everywhere.

I finally saw my favorite dessert listed on the menu and had it.

I have searched high and low for the spelling of this but cannot find it. It’s really weird. It is a dough dumpling, filled with some plum with hot vanilla sauce poured over it. It begins with a G and had noodle in it – LOL. But it was delicious. I also had a Jagertee. We all enjoyed our desserts. We got back to town at 5:30 and we both had some items we wanted to buy as gifts and we had to run as the stores close at 6pm. We each bought our things and met at the Zum Mohren Restaurant and had a great dinner and then walked home. It was quite busy tonight but the waiters were all in good moods and we had a really enjoyable time. Debbie’s hotel is two blocks from our place. She flies home tomorrow and she has really enjoyed spending time with us as we did with her. Just read some email and watched TV and learned the news of President Ford’s death and went to bed. It was a very enjoyable day.

Thursday, December 28th - our last day in Austria

Today we took a bus to the Untersberg Mountain and took the cable car up. It was another beautiful day and the ride up was nice til it got near the top. The last two minutes were a wee bit scary for me as it was so near the sheer cliff wall of the mountain. The ride was 10 minutes long and each cable car holds 45 people. The view was magnificent. There is nothing in the background but the alps, some Austria and some Germany. There was a pretty decent pathway to get to the first cross and we decided to try it. There was hard packed snow about a foot deep and we have these things you pull over the bottom of your shoes and velcro across the top. The bottom is a tiny metal traction strip that grabs the snow. It was amazing - here we come well prepared and other people just go slipping and sliding all around. Believe me, you do not want to be slipping up there. There were three older women with canes and they had regular shoes on with a 2” heel and stockings. I couldn’t believe they were going out on that path. As we made the last curve it was very icy and we had to cut up a hill thru the snow. I became very nervous and just inched my way along. I made it but then told Al I wasn’t going to the top, so he took the last pictures of the cross.

I almost made it, but it’s not worth being a nervous wreck. It amazes me that I do the things I do over there with my fear of heights, but I figure I’m not going to travel that far and not do things. On the way back to the cable car people came zooming along. We just let them all pass. I would like it much better when it is all green grass.

The views were amazing though. You could see the mountains of Austria and Germany.

When we got down to the bottom we went across the street to a charming hotel, the Hotel Untersberg and had such a nice relaxing lunch. We took a bus back to town and then Al walked back to the room for a nap and left me to shop by myself - hallelujah! And boy did I enjoy every minute. Also made some nice purchases. We went back into town for a really nice dinner and a last walk around the old city.

Today we woke up at 7am and got ready for breakfast, which we lingered over with an extra cup of coffee and I took some pictures. We did our final packing checklist and then just hung around on the internet until our ride came at 11:15. Our last few trips we have been using a van transfer service, instead of going by train with our luggage. My husband can’t lift heavy things so this works out best for us. We picked up some other passengers and then took mostly back roads and approached Munich airport from the north where the others were dropped off. We then proceed into Munich to the Acanthus Hotel. We just love this place.

They are so hospitable and it is such a charming place and they pay such attention to detail. It is located right by Sendlinger Strasse and a 5-minute walk to Marienplatz. They had our room ready for us and when we asked for a taxi in the morning, they said it would be waiting. They have a fixed price with the taxi firm for drives to the airport of 60 €.

We took our bags to our room, the same one we were last in, and then headed into town via Sendlinger Strasse. It was packed with people. We both commented that we had never seen so many people on the street. It was just wall-to-wall and all seemed to be shopping and spending their Christmas money. We stopped at the first Imbiss we came to and went in for a bretzen and a drink. We walked first to a store by the toy museum where I always buy small pewter figurines. Here is the website of a store in Salzburg that also carries them ( They also sell beautiful steins, etc. We then walked around the Viktualienmarkt to see what items they had, then headed over to the Hard Rock Café where I had promised to buy a pin there for a friend. We looked at the stores around there and then headed back up to the Pedestrian Shopping area. One thing we had noticed immediately in the city were huge lions that were on display outside of stores and restaurants. They were all painted differently and we asked someone what they were. They said that stores and businesses were sponsoring the lions, decorating them as they saw fit and then after the display time they would be auctioned off with the proceeds going to charity. Some were beautiful and all so very clever.

It seemed like we walked forever as at times it was difficult with the crowds. We actually had to stop sometimes and wait for people to pass. We noticed almost immediately the lack of Christmas decorations. It was almost as if Christmas hadn’t happened. There was still a large tree at the Marienplatz and we saw 2 stores with decorations, but other than that they were all taken down.

We finally decided we had enough of the crowds and headed back to the Hofbräuhaus area. We love the Ayingers Restaurant, Wirtshaus Ayingers am Platzl, which is in the same square as Hofbräuhaus and almost next door to the Hard Rock Café.

It was only 5pm but we were tired and hungry, not having anything more than a bretzen for lunch. We got a table in the front window which was most interesting as we watched all the people hustling along.

The food was wonderful.

We both had the same meal along with a bretzen each. The restaurant was so busy they were turning people away so we were very lucky we got there early. We decided to go to the Hofbräuhaus to get some dessert and walked inside. It was packed. Every table was filled to capacity and there were quite a few tables of locals, including the Stammtisch table.

We left and decided to walk to the Paulaner Restaurant nearby where we had yummy desserts.

Heiße Liebe and apfelstrudel mit vanilla sauce! We just sat around and watched all the people coming and going and enjoyed ourselves. It topped off the evening perfectly. We then walked back to the Acanthus, made some last minute adjustments to our carry-on luggage and went to bed.

Saturday, December 30 - Munich to Philly

We went down to breakfast at 7:30 and it was so wonderful. They have the most elaborate breakfast buffet we have ever seen. Being a Saturday morning there were not any business people there and we had the breakfast room to ourselves. Our taxi was right on time and he loaded all our items very carefully. What a nice taxi driver. He spoke English very well and tried to give us a little history of the area.

We had to go thru three different security stops to get to our gate. The plane loaded and left the gate exactly on time and we landed in Philly an hour early.

Reflections – Salzburg is a beautiful city steeped in history and very charming. There are plenty of hotels, stores and restaurants to suit every taste and budget. The food was good. I enjoyed all my meals. Al liked the food but he noticed a definite difference in certain things. While we did not have a bad meal anywhere, he has enjoyed the food elsewhere in Austria and Germany more so than in Salzburg. He likes more gravy and there didn’t seem to be too much with gravy. In addition, Salzburg has it's own brewery which is Stiegl. While it was good, as all beer there is, it was not his favorite. Most restaurants served it being the local brew. He preferred the Augustiner when he could get it. Food was a bit more expensive. Our meals averaged 15€ each. I drank a lot of wine gespritzers – wine mixed with mineral water mit gas. It was on every menu. In Munich the same drink is called a schorlee.

Almost everyone speaks English. There are an awful lot of British tourists but all the shopkeepers and everywhere we went, they all understood us. We do think it is courteous to ask and always do so. One of the popular souvenirs that we saw all over is a t-shirt with a saying – “There are no kangaroos in Austria” with a picture of one. Quite cute! Marzipan is everywhere as are the Mozart chocolates.

The Salzburg Card is a very good value. While it is expensive to purchase, 44€, if you are there for two days or more it pays for itself with admittance to all of the tourist attractions, museums and city bus service, funicular to the fortress and boats in the summer, even the cable car to the Untersberg. Quite a good deal. The bus service is very easy to use and buses are very frequent.

So another trip has come and gone and left us with lots of pictures, our video and assorted items we brought home. But most of all, it has left us with many wonderful memories that will be added to our memory bank to relive over and over again. We are so fortunate and blessed to be able to have made this trip.

Thelma and Al

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