Sunday, June 8, 2014

Repost of my 2012 Space A trip report… Part two

Our very first military hop to Europe! Part 2... places we saw-- part one

May 29, 2012 (Updated May 30, 2012)

The Bottom Line Our travels in Europe.

For part one, click here.

Our blind booking

After enjoying a tasty German Sunday evening repast and Kolsch beers at a Kolsch brewery, Bill and I went to the lobby in the Ibis and completed our blind booking flight. I was hoping we'd end up somewhere exotic or interesting, but it turned out we got a flight to Munich.

I wasn't that disappointed about going to Munich. Munich is a fun town and I hadn't been there with Bill, except to stay overnight before an early flight to Oslo. As soon as I started looking for Munich hotels online, I realized that our cheap flight would lead to high hotel prices! But thanks to that trip in 2009, we knew of a good hotel. It happened to be at the Munich airport. At first I was reluctant to book a stay at the Hotel Kempinski because I wanted to be in Munich. But then it occurred to Bill that we had an early flight back to Cologne on Thursday and being in an airport hotel would be convenient. Plus, we also knew that the Munich airport is awesomely populated with conveniences. So we booked our expensive Munich room, confident we'd be happy with our choice.

Monday morning

We enjoyed a typical German breakfast at the Ibis, included in our rate. All in all, I was pretty happy with the Ibis. The room was tiny, but had a nice hot shower, a flatscreen TV, and free Internet in the lobby. The bed wasn't the best, but I was so tired, it didn't matter.

Since our flight to Munich wasn't until the afternoon, Bill and I strolled around Cologne's old town. Right next to the train station stands the city's very impressive cathedral. We walked inside and I was awestruck by its vastness. Bill was overtaken by how beautiful everything was. I always get a kick at the ease he gets moved by beautiful places and Cologne's cathedral is definitely beautiful.

We walked around Cologne and I took pictures of graffiti. For some reason, I have a knack for finding stuff. On the other hand, Germans post a lot of goofy stuff on signposts and walls. That afternoon, we took a train to the Cologne airport. Bill was upset because Germanwings never sent me a confirmation for our flight. We went to the counter and the ticket agent found my reservation with no trouble. We dropped off our bags and had lunch at a German Argentinian chain restaurant called Mareda. Its speciality is beef, but I'm not usually impressed by German beef, so I ordered Wienerschnitzel. Bill had goulash. We both enjoyed the free wifi in the airport. Free wifi is apparently a rarity in Germany!

Our flight to Munich was quick, painless, and peaceful. It lasted about 40 minutes. The most memorable thing about it was the sight of a young guy walking around with a t-shirt depicting a naked picture of Claudia Schiffer.

We landed in Munich and checked into the Kempinski, where a very elegant man gave us the full tour of our expensive five star room. The Kempinski was even more lux than I remembered it. The huge flatscreen television had British channels; the bathroom was huge; and the Internet was not free. The Kempinski is a business hotel, though, so that's not surprising.

That first night, I didn't feel like going into Munich, so we headed to the Airbrau restaurant/brewery and drank some very tasty wheat beers. I was pretty fascinated by the people watching. I saw a vast array of interesting fashion choices, including one swarthy looking man wearing a t-shirt that said "I'm what Willis was talking about." I had to wonder if the man even knew what famous television program his shirt was referring to... Those of us who grew up in the 80s certainly know!

Tuesday

The next morning, we went to McDonalds for breakfast because we didn't feel like paying 30 euros for a hotel breakfast. I was amazed by the fact that the McDonalds had kiosks where people could order their food from a computer. It was sort of like a self checkout for fast food. I don't tend to enjoy McDonalds that much anymore, but I had to admit the quality of the breakfast was pretty good and at seven euros for both of us, cheap.

After breakfast, we took the train into Munich and visited my favorite German gourmet store, Dallmayr, before touring the Residenz museum. Bill had never been there and I wanted to show it off to him. Imagine my surprise when I saw jars of Bone Sucking Sauce on sale for about $10. Bone Sucking Sauce is made right here in North Carolina.

Next, we went to the Residenz. I had been before, but had only seen the crown jewels/treasury. We purchased combo tickets and toured the whole museum. By the time we were done, it was time for lunch. We made our way to the Hofbrauhaus. Bill was sure it would be touristy and crowded, but it really wasn't. We had mas krugs of fine German brew and enjoyed some very yummy German cuisine. One of Bill's favorite German meals is roasted chicken. That's what he had, along with potato salad. I had a wurst with sauerkraut. I let Bill eat the cabbage, though.

We wandered around Munich until evening and checked out the Farmer's Market, which had a very handy public pay bathroom. I made use of that, needing to get rid of some of the two liters of beer I drank at the Hofbrauhaus. Then we climbed a very tall church tower, which helped burn off more beer and offered a gorgeous view of the city. We got to the top in time to see the glockenspiel show, then climbed down and visited a couple of churches, one of which had an atheist message stenciled/graffitied on the side of it. We went into one church that was having high mass and stood in the back, trying to be inconspicuous. Sweet Bill was overcome with emotion again, so we left quietly and went looking for dinner.

I was getting pretty tired of German food, so we stopped at an Italian trattoria I had visited on one of my day trips to Munich. Bill and I enjoyed pasta, wine, coffee, tiramisu, and people watching. We were the only Americans in there. I recognized one of the waiters, who I think actually might have owned the place. Last time I was there, he laughed when I tried to say "schtimpt"... meaning he could keep the change. I probably still haven't gotten it right.

Wednesday

We started Wednesday with breakfast at an Italian cafe and deep conversation. We had plans to visit Salzburg, which was included as a stop on our three day German railpass, even though it's in Austria. I had never been to Salzburg. Bill had been once in the late 80s. But I have seen The Sound of Music many times, so I knew I was in for a treat!

We took the train from the Munich airport to the main train station, then switched trains to go to Salzburg. It took a couple of hours traveling through beautiful countryside to get to our destination. When we arrived, it was about 1:30 pm. We walked toward the centrum and stopped for lunch at a charming family owned restaurant where we enjoyed Austrian beer and some local specialties. I had green and white asparagus with Hollandaise sauce, ham, and potatoes. Bill had roasted pork, I think. I remember two big dumplings.

After lunch, we wandered to the centrum and I was awestruck by how beautiful Salzburg is. We passed the building where the composer of "Silent Night" was born, then crossed the river into the old town. We toured the cathedral and saw some beautiful horse drawn carriages. We were about to move on when a female driver approached with a couple of gorgeous black stallions. If I had to guess, I'd say maybe they were Friesians (I was a horse geek as a kid). I stood there capitvated for several minutes by these beautiful steeds, wishing I still had horses in my life.

I was drawn away from the horses by the sound of music. A quartet of four Russian Cossack soldiers were singing folk songs, accompanied by accordion. Now it was my turn to be moved to tears. After listening for a few minutes, I had to buy one of their CDs. Then we walked up the hill toward the Stiegl Brewery. I wish we had been there earlier; maybe we could have taken a tour! I was suddenly wishing we had booked a room in Salzburg instead of Munich.

As it was, we had to leave quickly because a storm was rolling in. We managed to get to the same restaurant where we had lunch before the sky opened. The man who owned the restaurant was delighted to welcome us back for beer and schnapps! He said the schnapps would make the hair on my arms stand on end, but it was actually not bad at all. Just tasted a little like minty gin.

On the way to the train station, I needed to make a pit stop. Fortunately, there was a shopping mall where peeing was free. We also ran into a group of ladies engaged in a "hen party". I think it was in honor of someone's 50th birthday... We will have to go back to Salzburg for a closer look sometime soon!

Stay tuned for part 3...

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