Joined July 2018 Message
  • Day7

    Rainy-day Rambling

    September 2, 2019 in Austria ⋅ 🌧 16 °C

    We woke up to serious rain. Being in the mountains in the rain is an experience; while the clouds enshroud the peaks most of the time, every few minutes a corner lifts to show a rock face or mountain top. Plan A (hiking to an alpine hut) was changed to Plan B - some Innsbruck city sights and a quick train ride (9 minutes) to the medieval town of Hall in Tyrol.

    We began with the Hofkirche, which is more of a shrine to Emperor Maximillian I (1459-1519) than a church. The church was built in 1553 by Emperor Ferdinand I (1503–1564) as a memorial to his grandfather. The main nave of the church is filled with an ornate black marble cenotaph surrounded by 28 larger-than-life bronze statues of Grandpa Max’s family and friends. Very impressive! And a little weird given that old Max is buried somewhere else (except for his heart which was sent to Bruges).

    Our second stop was the Folkmuseum. Now, those of you who know us know that we do NOT spend much time in museums. Two reasons for going to this one: (a) it was included in the ticket for the Hofkirche; and (b) it is attached to the Hofkirche, meaning that we did not have to go out in the pouring rain. As museums go, it was ok - lots of examples of how Tyrolian (don’t call them Austrian) folks lived in the old days.

    After lunch, we headed for the Hauptbahnhof for the short ride to Hall in Tyrol, one of those amazingly cute medieval towns. From the 13th century, the salt mine at Absam in the Hall Valley north of the town formed the main industry of the town and its surroundings and made the town very wealthy. Salt has now been replaced with tourism. The town is still wealthy! The buildings of the old town have been beautifully restored.

    Tomorrow, we head into Switzerland, catching a train, three buses and a train to reach Samedan. The weather is supposed to improve for at least the next two days.
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    Charlyne Murphy

    Grandpa Max certainly went out in style, wonder why he is in one place and his heart in another. What a Laundromat you went to, a necessary stop for sure and interesting I bet. Keep up the good reporting, I look forward to the stories and photographs.

    9/2/19Reply
     
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  • Day6

    Getting there is all the fun!

    September 1, 2019 in Austria ⋅ 🌧 26 °C

    We began our day in Melk with a walkabout - taking in views of the Abbey at every turn. Then, on to the train station (Bahnhof) for a 15 minute flip to St. Pölten on a regional train and 3hr and 44min (and not one minute more or less!) to Innsbruck on a RailJet train. As the train sped along, the view gradually changed from flat agricultural land to hills to mountains. Most of the final 30 minutes of the trip was in a tunnel with speeds over 200km/hr. The ride was smooth as silk.

    Our hotel in Innsbruck is a five minute walk from the Bahnhof and right on the edge of the old city of Innsbruck. After dumping our bags, we headed out to explore. Yesterday, our background was the impressive Melk Abbey - today, we have the towering Alps. We finally have hit a change in the weather; rain has begun and is scheduled to continue through tomorrow. Ah well - we’ve had it good so far! We will find rainy-day activities in the Tyrol (eating and drinking come to mind).

    Owen here - my comment to Judith about our peaceful start to the day in Melk “You know, I can see a person coming here for an extended stay in order to write that great novel we all have in us”. The place just calms you down in spite of yourself.
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    Charlyne Murphy

    How fun zooming place to place by Train. Great photos and no, everyone should have crystal encrusted household products in their pantry. The Rum and Pepsi drinker, Alain, would love the Pepsi bottle.

    9/1/19Reply
     
  • Day5

    Melk and the Amazing Abbey

    August 31, 2019 in Austria ⋅ ⛅ 30 °C

    The weather is still hot, hot, hot. But that is supposed to change over the next few days; snow is forecast for Zermatt by the time we get there in a week.

    We began the day in Vienna with a morning stroll (quick trot) to the Schloss Belvedere Gardens. Those Hapsburgs sure knew how to spend money!

    We then found our way, with all our bags, to the main train station for a 12:30pm train to Melk. The first 25 minutes of the trip were on an express train which reached speeds of 225 km/hr. That sure as heck beats the Via Rail train to Toronto! We were in Melk and checked into our hotel before 3pm.

    Melk is best known for the Stift Melk, a Benedictine Abbey founded in 1089 when Leopold II gave the monks one of his castles (nice to have castles to give away). The present structure was built in 1702. It’s big - about 500 rooms and 1300 windows - and slathered in ornate decoration. The library holds about 100,000 volumes - some dating back to the 9thC. Due to a fear of fire, there is no heating in the library. Last year, 550,000 people visited Melk. The Abbey is also home to a co-ed secondary day school for 900 students of the region.

    The town of Melk is cute as a button, with winding cobbled streets and alleys. Good beer and good food.

    Tomorrow, we are off to Innsbruck.
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    Charlyne Murphy

    Beautiful Abbey, and amazing how old these buildings are and still standing as stately as they were when first constructed. We certainly won’t see that with the structures we are building today.

    9/1/19Reply
    Charlyne Murphy

    On another note, I wish I was young again so I could be one of the 900 Students lucky enough to study there. What an experience.

    9/1/19Reply
     
  • Day4

    Our Classy Evening

    August 30, 2019 in Austria ⋅ ⛅ 27 °C

    Tonight we had a dinner reservation at 8 pm (how European!) at the Palmenhaus, a conservatory in a park in downtown Vienna. What a delightful evening! They specialize in grilled fish and fine wine - Austria does a great job with their whites. Our waiter was knowledgeable, helpful and not at all the aloof stereotype of fine restaurant staff. Sitting outside watching folks pass by on the promenade - how could it get any better 😀

    Of course, being the big spenders, we took the tram there and back. We have a prepaid pass you know. Speaking of spending, our mid morning coffee, a NA beer at dinner and a glass of good wine - cost? The coffee was the most expensive of the three!

    Tomorrow we are off to Melk. The abbey there is on my bucket list. The next day Innsbruck. Feeling sorry for us yet?
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    Charlyne Murphy

    Every trip deserves at least one classy night out, without the hiking boots of course.

    8/30/19Reply
     
  • Day4

    Here and there in Vienna

    August 30, 2019 in Austria ⋅ ⛅ 25 °C

    Another hot day in the city, with temperature over 30. So, we moved even slower than our usual tortoise pace; infants driving prams were passing us. We also managed to put in 9km and 12,000 steps before returning to the hotel at 3:30pm for ZAP (zero activity period).

    Our day began with a tour of the magnificent St. Stephen’s Cathedral - dead centre of the city. The church structure dates mainly from 1300 to 1450. however, the cathedral was heavily damaged by WW2 allied bombing in 1945. So most of what we see is reconstruction. Nevertheless, it is still impressive. We left the cathedral and wandered - pretty much aimlessly - through some pedestrian streets lined with a combination of very high-end shops and some of the same-old chainstores (eg. H&M) and some quirky little alleyways.

    As you might expect, after an hour or so of wandering, we found ourselves at a coffee house for coffee and lunch. This time, it was Café Central, established in 1876. Gorgeous interior. It should be pretty special for what they charge for coffee - €5.60 for a latté (called Mélange) or americano (called Verlängerter). It was worth a visit but is really more for tourists - oh yeah, that’s us😀😀. The Schwartzenberg still gets my vote for best coffee house!

    I then had a hankering to see the Danube - the real river and not just the Danube Canal that lies closer to downtown. That took a couple of subway rides but we did it. Upon emerging like prairie dogs from the Ubahn station, we could see the magnificent St. Francis of Assisi Church, overlooking the Danube. The monumental, Neo-Romanesque church was constructed between 1898 and 1913 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Kaiser Franz Josef’s reign, the structure having been modelled on several churches located on the Rhine. (Note: I wouldn’t know Neo-Romaesque from another kind of Romanesque - obviously, I cribbed that last sentence from the internet). We then hiked along the shores of the Danube where about ten river cruise boats were “parked” before finding our way “home” via one Ubahn and one tram.

    Next up is dinner at the Palmenhaus at 8pm tonight. We were there in 2012 - hope it is just as good! I am not wearing my hiking boots.
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    Charlyne Murphy

    The Cathedrals are so impressive. I could sit there all day and probably miss an architectural feature. It boggles my mind how they built these glorious buildings without the modern machinery and tools we have today.

    8/30/19Reply
     
  • Day2

    Wunderbar Wien

    August 28, 2019 in Austria ⋅ ⛅ 29 °C

    We have arrived in Vienna! The plane ride was - hurray - uneventful and getting through the airport was a snap. Even passport control, which had been such a nightmare at Heathrow last May, was a nonevent. Our one checked suitcase was the first onto the luggage carousel. By 9:30am, we were in the train to central Vienna, having bought a transit pass for Vienna and tickets to go to Bratislava tomorrow. We are staying at the Imperial Riding School Renaissance Hotel, located just outside the ring road that defines the oldest part of Vienna.

    Never mind that we had barely slept a wink on the flight here, we were pumped to get out and explore. By 11:00, we were walking to St Stephensplatz, through narrow street lined with beautiful buildings. I am not sure whether we passed any of the sights from The Third Man (terrific movie shot in 1947 in post-war Vienna), but I think I saw the shadow of Harry Lime lurking in a doorway.

    The highlight of the afternoon was lunch and coffee (of course) at Café Schwartzenberg, a traditional Viennese coffee house since 1871. We were at this delightful café in 2012 and not a thing has changed since then. Other than taking debit and credit cards, probably nothing has changed since 1871 - including the waiters!

    Having covered 8km and 12,000 steps, we are back in the hotel room taking a break before heading out for more exploration. The weather is a very hot 31C.
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    Owen Snider

    So many beautiful buildings in the Old Town as we walk around or ride by on the trams. And to think of all the bombing in WW11!!

    8/28/19Reply
     

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