Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Hills Are Still Alive With the Sound of Music

We finally go up close and personal with the Alps as Lori and I took our first trip to Salzburg, Austria.  We started driving after I got off work on a Thursday evening and made our way through Bavaria when we suddenly ran into a truly vicious storm.  Amidst one of the longest hail storms we've ever been in was some incredible lightning, thunder and wind as well.  Stopping on the autobahn is strictly verboten (forbidden) and as such there isn't much in the way of shoulders.  However, obviously you can pull over in emergencies (and this storm qualified), but due to the lack of space, it can get really dangerous with cars and semi-trucks jutting into the lane as you drive by.  I decided it was more dangerous to pull over, so we kept going slowly until we reached a tunnel, which had a red light before it.  Likely due to the weather in some way, we waited at the entrance of the tunnel for about 20 minutes before being allowed to continue...not cool!

The Approaching Storm

Just Before the Hail Started

Gizmo happy to be out of the car
Anyway, we finally got there around midnight and met up with our "contact" in a parking lot.  You see, we used the website "" to find a rental studio apartment for the long weekend.  It's typically a cheaper option than a hotel and you get a full kitchen, laundry, couch, etc.  The location was also fantastic as it was right in the middle of town near the river.  We were also told that the apartment's building was several hundred years old and it was on a narrow stone-paved ally.

The next morning we got up early to head over to our planned Sound of Music bicycle tour (guess which one of us booked that).  I admit though, we had a blast!  The weather, while hot at first, eventually turned perfect and we spent the next 3.5 hours biking through the most notable parts of Salzburg as well as just outside the city and into the breathtakingly beautiful countryside.  Despite being surrounded by sheer mountains, the city itself is easily bike-able with relatively few hills.

Some of the highlights included seeing the oldest convent in the world which was the same nunnery that the real (and "fake") Maria von Trapp lived and worked before eventually getting married to Captain von Trapp in the convent's chapel.  However, in the movie, they got married in a much bigger (and more beautiful) cathedral in the nearby town of Mondsee, which we later drove to visit.  We also saw the von Trapp residence, the gazebo, the fountain they splashed in, and the Mirabell Gardens where they sing part of "Do Re Mi."

Some of the sights:

Mirabell Gardens

Fountain in Mirabell Gardens where part of "Do Re Mi" was sung
The famous Baroque Salzburg Cathedral (one of our favorites so far)

The Hills Are Alive

House with the terrace; lake where they canoed and fell in. 

Lori riding amongst our group

The Von Trapp House!

"You are sixteen, going on seventeen"

Inside the Abbey chapel where the real Von Trapp's got married

"All we want to do is talk to her!"

After the biking tour, we wandered around for a little while before ending up at a famous Salzburg drinking institution:  the Augustiner Abbey & Müllner Bräu Brewery, where it's mostly self-serve.  Here's the "directions" from the Salzburg website along with some pictures we took of the process:
"To get your beer - after all the main reason to come - go to a cashier and order a token. You will pay and then you can pick up your stein mug; just act like a local from now on! Go the one of the wells and rinse it (they should be clean already, but it′s fun to do the rinsing) and then queue for the beer that will be taken from the barrel for you.
Very important point: Wait until the foam has settled! Sometimes, if the barrel was fresh, there is up to a third foam which goes into nothing - in that case, the barrel guy will top up your glass, but only if you stood by there all the time to make sure you didn′t drink it! Sometimes, they start arguing in any case." (
Select your mug(s):  large or HUGE
Rinse it out using the fresh spring water

Enjoy it in the biergarten.  You can even bring your own food!

After downing half a liter of fantastic beer, we headed over to the main historic shopping street of Salzburg.  The narrow, pedestrian-only street is lined with painted wrought iron store signs that let shoppers know what's inside.  This was apparently done because the majority of people couldn't read back in the day.  We stopped in a family-run schnapps store that distills and bottles their own spirits.  German and Austrian schnapps are traditionally drank before dinner and are meant to be sipped.  They're definitely much different from American-style sugary schnapps.  The only thing that as famous as the Sound of Music in Salzburg, is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.  We stopped by his birthplace and then a candy store to buy some Mozartkugel aka "Mozart balls."  For whatever reason, these are the most famous confectionery treats in the city.

Schnapps Shop

Inside the Schnapps Shop

Lori enjoying apple-pear schnapps

The nicest McDonald's sign in the world?

Mozart's birthplace

On Saturday, we ventured outside of the city and went into what's known as the Lakes District, which is really more of a lakes region.  The drive offered unforgettable scenery that you truly only imagine in the movies or a travel magazine.  Lori and I must have said, "WOW" and "Whoa!" a couple dozen times each.  We first drove to Mondsee (name of both the lake and town) where we saw the above-mentioned cathedral.  Then, we ventured over to Fuschlsee (again, name of both lake and town) where we had some lunch on the lake's edge. 

Our Driving Path


The cathedral where the Von Trap's married in the movie

The Remains of Abbott (and Saint) Kondrad II

Lake Fuschlee
Enjoying some Coke Light, lakeside

After making yet another beautiful drive back through the mountains to Salzburg, we took another long walk through the city at dusk before ending the night having some fancy drinks on a rooftop terrace.  Here's a few photos taken with my I-phone:

Rooftop terrrace on top of hotel.  That's the Hohensalzburg Castle on the hill

It was a fancy place; notice the full bottle prices (in the thousands)

After leaving Salzburg Sunday morning, we decided to make one quick stop at Lake Chiemsee in Germany, also known as the Bavarian Sea.  The lake is gigantic and surrounded by rolling hills of green fields and trees.  It's apparently a popular summer spot for Germans in the region.  We walked through the town of Prien am Chiemsee before settling at a lakeside restaurant for some lunch.

The "Bavarian Sea"

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Now We're Cookin!

We're finally starting to feel at home.  Our stuff is here and mostly put away, I have a few things hanging on the wall, and most importantly, I can cook again!  As much fun as it sounds, eating out at restaurants every night for two months can get kind of old.  It's not very healthy either, especially in Germany!  We were in our house for about three weeks before our shipment arrived.  That left me cooking with only one pot, one pan, no microwave, and a set of very bad and unsafe $8 knives.

The first room that I got put together after the arrival of our stuff was the kitchen.  My favorite part is the spice cabinet!  Thank you Penzey's and Mom for sending it to me! (Once you start using Penzey's Spices, you can never go back!)

Of course I was stubborn, and insisted on bringing my Kitchen Aid.  Luckily, we ended up with more than enough space for it.  I have to plug it into a transformer to to use it, but it's so worth it!  I can't imagine making Christmas cookies without it!

The first honest to goodness meal I made after our stuff arrived and the kitchen was fully put together was one of our favorite weeknight dinners and a creation of mine; curried falafel patties (not fried!) with homemade tzatziki sauce and roasted vegetable cous cous.  Delicious and nutritious!

Here is a round of cherries from our tree!  So far I've made brandied cherries (which won't be ready for a month) and cherries steeped in red wine on top of sweetened marscapone cheese.  I guess in my head cherries go hand in hand with alcohol for some reason.  As it turns out, we are also growing red currants in our backyard.  I don't think we have enough to make anything with, but I'm not sure what I would make with them anyways besides jam. Any suggestions?

Kyle on the roof trying to get more cherries!

For the 4th of July it was just the two of us for dinner.  No parties or anything big since Kyle had to be at work at 5:45 the next morning.  I still made a good American style dinner though, with pulled pork, skillet corn, potato casserole, and pina colada fruit salad.  To top it off, we had some good old Sam Adams.

Happy 4th of July!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Ulm and a Catch up

About a week or so ago on one of Kyle's days off we headed to Ulm, a town an hour away right in between Stuttgart and Munich.  It is a beautiful town on the Danube river that was established in 850. Unfortunately, during WWII bombing, much of the city was destroyed.  Luckily and amazingly, the Gothic cathedral with the world's highest church steeple was spared damage.

Ulm was the birthplace of Albert Einstein.  His house was destroyed during the firebombing in 1944, but a memorial stands in it's place.  During the rise of the Nazi's, Einstein renounced his German citizenship and would have nothing to do with Germany, even after the war ended.

Einstein Memorial Marking his Former Home
While Kyle and I were strolling the streets of Ulm, we ran into a delusional woman.  She came up to us and first started asking us something in German.  She quickly found out that we don't speak German, and asked where we were from.  We answered, "The US."  In a calm, soft spoken voice, she proceeded to say, "Did you know the US started WWII?  Obama found this out.  Bye, Bye."  She quickly turned around and left, not even giving us the time to politely refute her statement, although our jaws were hanging so low and our minds were so in shock that it probably would have taken at least five minutes to fully comprehend what she just said and come up with a response.  What do you even say to that??  There must be an asylum somewhere in Ulm with the bars pried apart and a broken window. 

Despite our weird encounter, we fully enjoyed our day taking in the sights.

One of the Most Beautiful Rathauses in Germany
This Tower Dates Back to the 11th Cenury
According to the Guinness Book of World Records this is the most crooked house
Posing on the Medieval Wall

A few days later, we met up with our friend and my former IU roomie, Heather, in Ingolstadt (where Frankenstein created his monster)  for some shopping and catching up.  The shopping wasn't overly successful, but it was great to catch up with Heather!


A couple of weeks ago we headed to the nearby town of Sindelfingen for the International Festival.  There were tons of food and drink vendors with a huge assortment of foods like, curry, paella, crepes, kebobs, and pretty much anything you could think of.  There were a lot of performances from different nationalities.  Very fun!

And lastly, we were treated to our first German summer storm.  Kyle caught this picture out of our upstairs window.