Thursday, July 1, 2010

Europe 2010 - Days 12-13

NOTE: It’s about 9:45 p.m. in Innsbruck, Austria, as I write this. Even with the window open and a breeze flowing in, our hotel room is still quite hot. So I may skimp on the historical notes and hyperlinks pertaining to places we visited on Wednesday and Thursday.

Wednesday, June 30 - Day 12

Wednesday morning we checked out of Gutshof zum Schluxen quite early and made the approximately 45-minute drive to the only one of King Ludwig’s three castles in which he actually lived: Linderhof. Ludwig lived in Linderhof for seven years, but his time spent there was that of a hermit. The only other people on the grounds most of the time were his servants, and he ate dinner every day alone—even having a special dining room table installed that allowed the servants to set the table from the floor below and then crank the table up through the floor so that he could dine all alone without seeing or talking to anyone.

Another odd aspect to Linderhof is the “Venus Grotto.” Ludwig had a portion of the grounds a few hundred yards away from the castle excavated, and in the resulting pit, he had a fake concrete cave constructed. It was made to look like a real cave. It even has a working waterfall and a lake inside. His inspiration behind this place was (surprise, surprise) another one of Richard Wagner’s operas.

Of all Ludwig’s castles, the grounds at Linderhof were the most magnificent. We got a lot of great photos there. He also had a Moorish hut built on the grounds. He used it for drinking tea and smoking opium.

When we left Linderhof, we also said goodbye to Germany and drove to Innsbruck, Austria (the capital of the Alps). The drive was less than two hours, much of it on the highway (my top speed during this trip was about 148 km per hour, but many cars were going MUCH faster than that).

Upon arriving in Salzburg, we checked into Hotel Mozart. Had I known that we wouldn’t need our rental car at all during our time here, I would have tried to turn it in a day early rather than wait until Thursday.

One reason we didn’t need the car was because we purchased two “Innsbruck Cards.” For a total cost of 68 Euros, the cards granted us admission to all of the city’s main attractions as well as complimentary access to all buses and the cable car that runs up the mountain that hulks over the north side of the city.

We had dinner outdoors in the middle of the old town at a place called Wiener Wald. It’s worth noting that in German-speaking countries, Ws are pronounced as Vs. Veal is one of my favorite meats, so of course I had the wiener schnitzel. It was excellent. There aren’t a whole lot of places left back home where you can get good veal.

We actually turned in early Wednesday. We got back to the hotel before 8 p.m. and went right to bed.


Thursday, July 1 – Day 13

On Thursday, we got the full value out of our Innsbruck Cards.

After breakfast at Hotel Mozart, we walked to the Hofburg, which is where the royal Tyrolean family lived for centuries. We went from there straight to the Golden Dachl (Golden Roof) Museum. The Golden Dachl was the domain of Emperor Maximilian. That museum wasn’t all that impressive, but the next one was.

Our favorite sight in Innsbruck was the Hofkirche. It was a “court church” built by Emperor Maximilian. The beautiful sanctuary houses his empty tomb—apparently the most impressive tomb in all of Europe—and more than a dozen lifesize bronze statues of his relatives and ancestors (and some people he “sort of” considered to be his ancestors, like King Richard of England).

From there, we had a quick lunch at a small cafe. Brooke got a sandwich, but I opted for apple strudel with ice cream and whipped cream. You’ve got to have some local strudel, right?

Then we went to the world headquarters of Swarovski Crystal, about a 20-minute shuttle ride outside of Innsbruck. The company has a mind-blowing museum of sorts there called Swarovski Kristallwelten (Crystal World). It’s a subterranean exhibit of crystallized sights and artwork. It houses both the largest and smallest hand-cut crystals in the world. The Crystal Dome and Crystal Forest were a couple of the cooler exhibits. It was actually a pretty amazing place.

Of course, what awaits at the end? Yup, a giant Swarovski store. I had already bought a pair of black crystal cuff links last week in Switzerland, so I was done with Swarovski. Brooke apparently had not finished up in Switzerland...

After the shuttle back to Innsbruck city center, we bused to the hotel, grabbed the car and then dropped it off at the airport. Following an easy bus ride back into the old town, we had another great dinner (Austrian ravioli for Brooke, more wiener schnitzel for me).

As we were walking back to the hotel to call it a night, we were lucky to see a procession of a traditional Tyrolean folk band, which was making its way toward the Golden Dachl for a free public concert featuring traditional singing and dancing.

Our plan now is to catch the 7:54 a.m. train to Zurich, where we’ll finish up our trip before flying out of the Zurich airport Saturday morning. It will be a long day, as we take off at 9:50 a.m. (3:50 a.m. ET). This may be my last vacation blog entry. I hope everyone who followed along enjoyed it. If you ever make the (great) decision to travel to any of the places we’ve been, I’d be glad to provide some tips and suggestions.

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