Thursday, May 26, 2011


One of our first stops in Britain was Canterbury Cathedral.

I say "one of our first" because, in order to leave London, we had to pick up our car. I volunteered to drive, and have been since.

Those who say that driving in Britain is difficult...are right. It isn't really physically difficult, although driving all day is exhausting and yet manages to keep me up later than I should be...For the first day, I had to make a conscious effort to stay out of the right lane. I found myself drifting over to where it felt natural to be. So much so, that I have earned a reputation for driving up on the curb to my left, and, the first day, I clipped a car and a post wtih the left-side mirror! But I'm getting used to it. I am becoming very skilled in the roundabouts, or so I'm told! They scared me at first, but now I wish we had them in the US. So sensible!!

I really, really, really wanted to attend Sunday worhsip in Canterbury, but we were about an hour and a half late, due to difficulties in the car rental office. The Cathedral and the close were lovely, and we enjoyed our visit there. We saw the Black Prince. Well, his casket, anyway.

All through Europe, we noticed that cathedrals and other elderly buildings are in a constant state of "being worked on." We saw more scaffolding this past month than, probably, in our entire lifetimes. The main job is sandblasting/cleaning the old stone. You can see the difference in these two pictures of Canterbury Cathedral. The first I posted is pre-cleaning, and the second is post-cleaning. We joked about it, but it really is necessary.

Canterbury Cathedral is the worldwide center of the Anglican Church. It was established by St. Augustine in 597, when he came as a missionary to Britain. It was rebuilt after a fire in 1077, by the Normans. Other changes were made to the building, but it continued as a monastery until 1540, when Henry VIII ordered the monasteries closed. During the English Civil War in the late 1600s, most of the medieval stained glass was smashed, and the Cathedral was used as a stable. After the Restoration, repairs were made. Later, the Cathedral suffered damage during the Second World War. It continues as a place of worship.

Canterbury was always, from its beginning, on the pilgrim road to Rome. Then, in 1162, Thomas a Becket was made Archbishop by King Henry II. After this, his allegiance transferred from Henry to the Pope. Henry was not pleased, and complained aloud about Becket. Four of his knights took his complaints very seriously, and murdered Becket as he was saying Vespers. Three days after his death, a series of miracles occurred which led to his being canonized in 1173. Canterbury became a destination for pilgrims, and thousands came to pray over the years. Henry II himself showed up himself in 1174, barefoot and in sackcloth.

Didn't mean to include all that detail, but it is an interesting story when you hear some more of the detail. Hunt up the story. You also have heard of this place through Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, a collection of stories told by pilgrims on their way to the shrine of St. Thomas.

Our plan was to spend the late afternoon at the site of the Battle of Hastings, but, as we continued to learn about Britain, driving distances are deceiving. We were also deceived by a sign leading us to Battle, the site of, you guessed it, the Battle. It turned out to be the slow route, and we never did make it. Instead, we found our hotel in Brighton and settled in for the night.

I headed out about 12:30am to pick up John, who was taking the National Express bus from Heathrow. I went down to the desk to ask where the bus station was, and had a wonderful surprise. Whoda thunk that, of all they myriad hotels in Brighton, we picked the one whose backside was the bus stop? It was a safe area, so I just walked over and picked him up. I did get an interesting look at the late night folks of Brighton. The bars were closing, so you know what I mean when I say, "interesting."

That was a Wednesday night, I believe. We headed out the next morning for adventures in Portsmouth....

Monday, May 23, 2011


Whaddya mean I didn't share pictures of Cologne Cathedral? Hmmm.....

Train Ride...

Our train ride from Koln to London was uneventful. I was nervous about the Chunnel; I'd seen what happened when Tom Cruise took that ride! But the most we got was a crabby baby on the Koln/Brussels leg, and a backwards ride, meaning an iffy tummy, on the Brussels/London leg.

I did get to experience first-hand the obsessive obedience of the Germans. As we boarded our train in Koln, there was a back-up in the line to get into the passenger compartment. Two of us were left on the platform at the conductor blew his whistle. The cabin lady started yelling, "Get up in there! Quickly!" There was no arguing with her. Regardless of the fact that there was literally NO WHERE to go, she began pushing us up into the vestibule. The train was rolling as the doors closed, and we were lucky to have fallen into it instead of back onto the platform.

And I also got to experience first-hand the legendary courtesy of the British. As we entered the Brussels/London train, I had a really tough time getting our souvenir suitcase up onto the train. (Yeah, I know, quit shopping already!) I was really struggling, and a nice man grabbed it, put it up into the vestibule, and extended his hand to help me in. He then said, "I'm going to suggest you put it here, on the bottom shelf, next to mine. This is far too heavy for you to be lifting." Later, as we got off the train, I told Mary that I was leaving her one bag on the shelf, but that I would come back into the train to get it. She left, I left, and, when I turned around to go back in, a male hand was handing that bag out through the door. He then followed us onto the platform, telling us the history of St. Pancras station, and all but begging us to "stay a bit and look around at this lovely place." (We did.)

We spent one night in London (we'll be back later) and headed out to Canterbury...

Sunday, May 22, 2011


I've gotta finish Germany...we're in Britain already!

After Garmisch, we headed up for a couple of hours at Dachau. Lots of people wondered why we would do such a thing. Our mom was a WWII buff, and was especially interested in the plight of those whom the Reich murdered. It was appropriate for us to go and pay our respects.

We then headed north to Rothenburg. This is a small city on the Tauber River in central Germany, still in Bavaria. The central part of the city has intact medieval walls, and, in fact, despite damage during the Thirty Years' War and bombing during WWII, still maintains its medieval character.

We climbed the highest tower of the city wall, then walked the wall itself. It extends around about half of the city. When we reached the end, we climbed down and walked through the old part of the city. We had lunch and, of course, shopped a little.

We then headed on to St. Goar. We intended to take a short Rhine cruise from this small town. Unfortunately, the schedule was such that, if we did, we would not make it to Koln in time to drop off our rental car. We consoled ourselves by shopping. Not really. We did shop, but the highlight of the day was our drive to the top of the Loreley rock. We had a tremendous view of the Rhine, and, as it was a normal working day, got great pictures of barges for John.

Yes, my husband loves barges. You'll notice we made sure to get a picture of the garbage barge for him!

We dropped our car in Koln, spending a Friday night there. "Dropping our car" sounds far easier than it really was. We spent about 45 minutes looking for the drop-off. Later, we were told that that's just how it is, that we shouldn't badly. So, we don't. We had dinner at a beer garden, drinking lovely Koln kolsch and eating, believe it or not, our one and only meal of sausage in Germany! There were so many good things to eat, we realized that night that we had forgotten about sausage. It was delicious.

After dinner, we headed home to sleep, stopping off at an archaeological dig along the way.

The next morning, we visited the Koln cathedral. There was a worship service going on, so we were not able to see all parts of the building, but, what we saw, was worth the effort.
After a lovely lunch of steak and pommes frites, we were off to the train station and Britain!!

Saturday, May 21, 2011


Sometimes there aren't words.

Somewhere left of center, at the end of the row of poplars, are the gas chambers and crematorium. I couldn't bring myself to go there.

With profound thanks to the beautiful Dogfaces who slogged and fought their way through Europe and finally opened those gates. They remind me of all that can be good and right in humanity.

Carriage Ride

We took some time on Wednesday morning to take a carriage ride. Our hosts at the Fiakerhof have two Freiberger horses named Leo and Lantano. They work very hard carting tourists around Garmisch-Partenkirchen in the warmer months, and pulling them on sleighs during the winter. They are sweet boys, though, and love carrots. We learned this our first night there.

Mary was missing her horse, and was interested in their offer to teach guests to drive the horses. When I asked if Mary could take advantage of the offer, I was told that the driving instructor, Mr. Host, was not comfortable enough with his spoken English to do this for her. BUT she could ride along, and he put her in the front seat. After a few minutes, he handed her the reins and she drove for most of the next hour and a half. (And his spoken English was just lovely.)

She drove right through town, which meant stopping for stoplights and dealing with garbage trucks, cars and pedestrians.

Once, when the horses balked at the sound of the garbage truck, our host took the reins. When Mary balked at driving across the busy road after the stoplight, he took them again, although he said she would do just fine.

She drove out into the country, where he had her trot the horses for a bit.

Then our host had her turn the horses around, a 180 degree turn. When she finished, he said, "Perfect." She was thrilled. I was too busy watching the action to get a very good picture.

He took the reins for the last 15-20 minutes or so, when Mary realized her arms were really getting tired. He told some stories about growing up taking care of horses, learning to drive them, and a little about the horses they've had over the years. Leo and Lantano are 8 years old, so he hopes to have them around for a while.

Back at the stable, there was time for carrots and pictures.

It really was a fun morning.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


No need to bless me; these are two small towns on the Austrian/German border filled with all the gingerbread and oom-pahs most of us associate with Germany. They are lovely towns, and we had a great three days there.

Firstly, our rooms. We stayed at the Fiakerhof, which is in Partenkirchen, and was recommended by the friend of a friend. Deb; make sure you get to stay there next time! We felt so pampered. We had a foyer,

a living room/kitchen,

two full bedrooms, and two full baths. Oh, and two balconies, both of which looked out on the Alps.

One balcony had this lovely carving just above it, typical of the decor of the Fiakerhof.

Our first day there was cold and rainy, so we chose to sleep in and hang around the hotel. We did make forays to a grocery store and a bakery, but, otherwise, it was all about sleep, getting back some of the energy we had been using, and just staying out of the cold and wet.

On our second day, we visited two castles and almost got lost again! Linderhof and Neuschwanstein, two castles which were built for Ludwig II, the last king of Bavaria, are very different buildings. Ludwig, who liked to live alone, spent the last 8 years of his life living at Linderhof. It is a tiny place, with gaudy decoration. He also built a grotto there for the purpose of having a private performance of Wagner's opera, Tannhäuser. It seemed a creepy lifestyle; living alone except for servants, and living in a dream world where everything was heroic, grand and perfect. Neuschwanstein, which you have probably seen in mant films, was never finished and Ludwig lived in it for less than a year before he died under mysterious circumstances. It is decorated with murals of the various Wagner operas; Tristan and Isolde, Tannhäuser, Parcival, etc. I preferred it's more stark, medieval atmosphere to the gilded Victorian gaudiness of Linderhof.

(I love my daughter's photography. I hate that she takes very artistic shots...and none of the overall subject! I just looked through and learned that we have NO shots of Linderhof or Neuschwanstein. We have shots of fountains, or architectural features, or animals or people around them. But no shots of THEM.)

Our third morning in Partenkirchen, we took time for a carriage ride hosted by our, well, host. The hosts at the Fiakerhof own a team and several carriages, as well as a sleigh for winter rides. They took us out for about an hour and a half, and Mary got to drive. More on that in my next post....After our drive, we loaded up the car, mailed some things home (too much shopping = too much to carry around Europe!) and headed out to Rothenberg. More on that in a future post...

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Salzburg, Day 2

Although we planned an early start, we had a second cold, rainy morning. Now, honestly, we've been here since, when, the 2nd of May? These were our first two rainy days. We sure can't complain about the weather. But it got us going late.

We went into town and visited the Festung Hohensalzburg; the fortress above the city.

We took an audio tour, climbing and climbing, high above the city, and getting some beautiful vistas. Yes, it was cold and rainy, but, still enjoyable.

We shopped. A little. We ate. I had hot chocolate that may have had more than a little rum in it, goulash soup, bread...and nockerl. Nockerl is a Salzburg confection that I will have to learn to make at home. Yum!

We visited the Mirabell gardens, and I especially liked the gnomes. I may have to get some for my garden.

Sorry. Of course, that last was not a gnome. That was one adorable half of a set of twin girls we met on the square in Salzburg that day. The other did not want her picture taken!

Late in the day, we headed for Garmisch-Partenkirchen, in Germany. The drive was long. And, since we were crossing mountains, twisty, turny and high. At one point, we found ourselves on the way to Italy, about to head over a long bridge over a ginormous valley!! I am not big on driving bridges, and to cross it would have meant going the wrong way, so I tried to avoid it. I went through a half-cloverleaf...and found myself on the bridge, after all. That mean going over it twice. Yikers! On the other side, I stopped for directions, and met the grumpiest German we've met yet on this trip. Hopefully, they'll continue to be nicer than he was! We had no real directions to our hotel, just an address. And no GPS, no real map of the area. Stupid travelers. But we made it. It was late, and we were hungry, but we made it.

Nothing was open except an Italian place. So, on our first night in Germany, we ate shrimp ravioli.

Doncha love learning about other cultures?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


When I was planning this trip, I knew I had to add Salzburg to the list. For one thing, it's a beautiful city. For another, my mother was a HUGE fan of The Sound of Music. So huge a fan, in fact, that we actually tucked a copy of the DVD in with her when she was buried. So Salzburg HAD to be on the itinerary.

We had two days in Salzburg. We stayed at the Villa Trapp. This is one of the actual Trapp Family homes, and it is beautiful.

It's a little ways outside of Salzburg, has a lovely little yard

and some resident bunnies. We saw one the first night and named it Franz. When we returned from dinner that night, we saw another, and said, "There must be 2 Franzis!" Turns out there are about 5!

We spent the first morning touring Salzburg and the surrounding area on a Sound of Music tour. We saw several filming sites from the movie, including the church where the wedding was filmed,

the famous "I Am Sixteen" gazebo,

and the roadway where Maria dances and sings, "I Have Confidence." It happened that another couple was being married at the church from the movie wedding! Mary snapped a quick picture of the bride.

We stopped mid-morning for some lovely coffee and strudel, and ended the day at the Mirabell gardens, where the kids played in the fountain while singing "Do Re Mi."

As the tour broke up, we realized a couple from the tour was headed up to the Eagle's nest, the small house above Berchtesgaden which was given to Hitler as a birthday present. (Our resident photographer failed to get a picture of the building, but we did get one of us in front of the window in Eva Braun's room)

We tagged along with them. Although he morning had been rainy, the sun broke through about noon, and we had lovely weather for pictures high above the valley.

We ended our day at the Augustinian beer garden. Really. The Augustinian monks in Salzburg make a delicious beer, and we had to stop and try some. A six-pack is coming home with me!

So I spent the day singing with Maria, hanging out with Adolf, and drinking with the Augustinians.

Not too schizophrenic!

More on Salzburg tomorrow...

Monday, May 16, 2011


Ten years ago, John and I were in Austria. Most of our time was spent in Vienna, but we did drive west to Salzburg for a couple of days. Along the way, we discovered Durnstein. On our way to Salzburg on this trip, we decided to also stop and see it.

Technically, it was the Austrians who discovered Durnstein. And it's been around long enough that Richard the Lionheart spent some time here in 1192. Having hacked off Duke Leopold V during the Third Crusade, Richard was held hostage here until a ransom could be paid. You have heard of this if you have any familiarity with the Robin Hood stories; it's why Richard couldn't get home and nasty King John was ruling.

The castle is now a ruin, but the views from up there are breathtaking. It is situated on a hill above a curve in the Danube. There is a sweeping view of the curve, of hundreds of acres of vineyards and peach orchards and the beautiful mountain highlands in the area.

But first, you have to make the climb...It's not for the faint of heart or the weak of knees. Janet wasn't able to join us, and, sometimes, we even doubted our ability to carry on. But we did. And it was worth it.