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Autumn 2016 Travels in Europe: Chilled, Preserved, Displayed

September 30, 2016

The Tyrolian village of Hallstatt draws one quickly into its charm. The narrow cobblestone streets reveal mountain gingerbread-style houses stacked above each other on the mountainside with the clear and clean lake shimmering on the other side. A waterfall falls in the middle of the city just above the cozy village square. A Lutheran church with a beautiful steeple commands the square, and a Catholic church sits majestically on the hill above. “Picturesque” does not describe the scene adequately enough.

Our group explored the city; yet, other activities also beckoned. Mike and Sandra went to the unique ice caves high above the mountain lake. Not only did they do the remaining strenuous climb after the bus dropped them off, but braved over 500 steps inside the cave to see the ice formations that were like stalactites and stalagmites in regular caves, but made of ice in this cave. Wayne and Kathy took the funicular (a cross between an elevator and cog train) up the mountain to the world’s oldest salt mine. 7,000 years of production have brought wealth through the ages to Hallstatt and still today, 300,000 tons of salt are produced annually. Riding a run-away salt mine train inside the cave and sliding down steep 100 yard slicker slides into the mine depths were exciting parts of the journey. We did not know we had bought tickets for amusement park rides, but in reality, these activities were a part of the miners’ everyday existence. Allen, Rhonda and Sherlene went to the Bone Museum, where they viewed old skulls, displayed with the name of each deceased carefully inscribed for public view. Because usable land is scarce in Hallstatt, those who have been dead the longest are dug up, the bones dried and sculls inscribed, in order to make room for new bodies in the grave site. Sherlene took one look and fled the site. Allen took pictures and Rhonda looked for long lost relatives.

It was a fascinating day in one of the prettiest places on this planet. WEG

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Oktoberfest in Munich

What a day in Munich! Saturday, September 19, was the opening day of Munich’s 2015 Oktoberfest that will last through October 3. Since we were told the crowds were humongous, we opted to go later in the day and use a secondary train stop rather than the popular Theresienwiesen stop. It was a good choice.

With an open schedule in the morning, we visited the Schloss Nymphenburg, the Baroque palace on the outskirts of Munich that was the main summer residence of the former rulers of Bavaria, and is now a state historical site. The grounds were impressive; flowers surrounded man-made lakes where swans and wild geese swam above and large carp swam below. The palace was designed in an impressive array of inter-connected buildings that formed an oval, enclosing a beautiful park festooned with colorful floral plantings. The main entry gallery, the Great Hall, was stunning with its pastel-colored fresco paintings encased in elaborate baroque frames of gold and white. Huge crystal chandeliers hung from the frescoed ceiling. Ludwig II, “the mad King,” was baptized in this Great Hall. The rear gardens were even more impressive than the front gardens since clipped hedges, mass flower plantings in full bloom, statuary and fountains stretched as far as the eye could see.

The Great Hall in Munich's Nymphenburg Palace

The Great Hall in Munich’s Nymphenburg Palace

Front exterior view of Schloss Nymphenburg in Munich

Front exterior view of Schloss Nymphenburg in Munich

As we wandered the palace, we stumbled upon the rooms that contained the royal carriages through the centuries. The Marstallmuseum (Museum of Carriages and Sleighs in the former Royal Stables) houses a collection of historic state coaches, ceremonial sleighs and riding equipment. The carriage of Emperor Charles VII was gold and massive, exuding strength while the golden carriage of Ludwig II was ornate and whimsical, portraying his love of opera. What surprised us most, however, was the collection of horse-drawn sleighs. Some were constructed of ornate wood with Bavarian paintings on the side. Others were gold with elaborate golden decorations and lamps. The seats were fur-lined. We were able to observe archivists meticulously restoring one sleigh. After walking through the porcelain gallery containing the table settings and decorative arts that surrounded the royalty on a daily basis, we headed off to the Oktoberfest grounds, the Theresienwiesen.

One of the sleighs of Ludwig II found in the museum at Scloss Nymphenburg in Munich

One of the sleighs of Ludwig II found in the museum at Scloss Nymphenburg in Munich


It was easy to know where to go since thousands were headed in the same direction. The vast majority of folks were wearing the lederhosen (men) or dirndls (women) that is traditional Bavarian dress. The Oktoberfest was boisterous and packed with people. We went into a couple of the tents (that hold up to ten thousand people) to hear the bands playing “oompa” music and watch the “Gem├╝tlichkeit” (camaraderie, fellowship, warmth and friendship) of the singing crowds. “Ein prosit, ein prosit, Gem├╝tlichkeit” and our day at the Oktoberfest was done. We spent the evening at the famous beer and Bavarian food house, the Hofbrauhaus eating crisp pork shank and potato dumplings along with the smooth Hofbrau beer (HB). We sat in the rustically ornate and huge upper dining room, as the beer garden and lower rustic rooms were packed. The band, dressed in Bavarian clothing, played as we ate. It was early to bed since the Bergs are flying to Rome early in the morning to catch their scheduled plane home. And, good news, Allen is out of the hospital, and plans are being made for Allen and Rhonda’s return home. WEG – Saturday, September 19, 2015
Oktoberfest 2015 - Munich, Germany

Oktoberfest 2015 – Munich, Germany

The Agony and the Ecstasy

View from the train that carried us from Innsbruck to Mittenwald

View from the train that carried us from Innsbruck to Mittenwald

A day trip to Mittenwald, Germany proved to be a grand experience. The train trip through the Austrian Tyrol into the German Alps was amazing. Breathtaking mountain vistas were everywhere. It was clear and cool and every turn of the railroad track brought new mountain peaks into view. Waterfalls fell from the sky and deep canyons divided mountain ranges. Verdant green high mountain hills nursed cattle, sheep and horses.

We arrived to the wonderful mountain “painted” village of Mittenwald. Picture postcard perfect, the village beckoned with its painted building, exquisite painted church, fountains and flower gardens. Throughout the village, water flowed through the streets in flower-lined narrow and shallow canals. We ate a late lunch in a restaurant that shouted German–dark wood carved paneling, shaded lamps and painted ceiling–oh, and every beer, including the Oktoberfest beer, was on tap and each beer had its own glass or mug peculiar to that beer. On a side note–German beer is chemical/preservative free and non pasteurized, meaning it is fresh and when it is best, cloudy. Even the same brands cannot be purchased this way in America and thus lose their excellent taste.

Rhonda and Charlotte opted to shop in Innsbruck and chill out, and Allen wanted to stay in since he did not feel well. Since this was a free unscheduled day, everyone could do as they pleased. God knew we needed that free day since Allen’s health deteriorated in the afternoon and he needed to go to the doctor/hospital. Rhonda took him since we were still in Mittenwald. After finding only German-speaking people at the hospital, they finally found a dentist who could speak English and helped them to the urologist who did a thorough job of running tests to diagnose Allen’s prostate infection. Later, we were off to the pharmacy to get the five prescriptions necessary to get Allen back to health. Please pray for his complete recovery. WEG – September 15, 2015

A view from the train that carried us from Innsbruck, Austria, to Mittenwald, Germany, for a pleasant day trip

A view from the train that carried us from Innsbruck, Austria, to Mittenwald, Germany, for a pleasant day trip

Beautiful Mittenwald, Germany

Beautiful Mittenwald, Germany

Colorful Mittenwald, Germany

Colorful Mittenwald, Germany

Enjoying the afternoon in beautiful Mittenwald, Germany

Enjoying the afternoon in beautiful Mittenwald, Germany

Appreciatng the abundance of floral beauty in Mittenwald, Germany

Appreciating the abundance of floral beauty in Mittenwald, Germany

We return in early evening to our lodging in Innsbruck after an enjoyable afternoon in Mttenwald

We return in early evening to our lodging in Innsbruck after an enjoyable afternoon in Mttenwald