Last of Germany And of This European Trip


Wow, I hadn’t slept like that in quite a while. Being with friends and their home made the difference I know. Thanks Megan and Mike for a wonderful stay in your beautiful part of the world!
I had not problem getting to the bus station and soon I was on my way to Frankfurt, the last bit of my journey. I have been in the Frankfurt Airport a couple of times, but never saw the city. I was glad to at least get a glimpse this time.
I quickly found my hotel and I was received most warmly by Yvana who went beyond the call of duty to make me feel at ease. She answered all my questions. She even went further than that. When I came down she had printed for me the various times and routes I could take on the S-Bahn to get to the airport at my desired time. How sweet of her! And of course, I was not surprised to learn that she came from Croatia.
I went out to seek beautiful things and I found some modern street art, old buildings and churches. I saw many preparing for some kind of events. I did ask one young lady and she responded, “A marathon!” But her friend was shaking her head, so the first corrected and said, “A half-marathon!” I answered, “You are doing 20 km?” And she said, “Oh no, 5 K.” That is a bit of difference. We did have a laugh. So, there are runners and walkers all over town getting ready to start at 7:30 pm at various points. They didn’t run in front of my hotel. 😉
I encountered many of other nations here, but not as many from black Africa as seen in other countries. Many immigrants are on the streets. I saw shopping carts loaded with blankets and pillows or mattresses all over the area near the train station. They appear to be refugees from Syria possibly. Entire families were huddled together in parks and streets making due with what they had. Of course, many were begging. Heart wrenching! Germany has worked very hard to open its doors and purse to help many, but there always seem more to be done.
I continued to walk along the various streets and the river. I visited a few churches from many denominations. The oldest, Alte Nikolaikirche got a visit from Martin Luther at one point. Much of this part of town was destroyed in the WW II bombings as seen in one of the pictures of St Bartholomaus Cathedral which was spared. I and many others enjoyed crossing the padlock bridge, Eiserner Steg, across the Main River.
The atmosphere is festive with all of those participating in the upcoming event. Many are there to support and preparing the feast and drinks after the happy runners come back.
That’s it folks, for this time around!

Stuttgart, A Haven With Friends


Monday morning, I left Munich. I truly didn’t see the city, but I felt of its liveliness. I went from my Airbnb to the train station where I debated if I wanted to take the train or walk a half kilometer longer to get a bus. I thought, “Nah, Let’s be wild and take the train!” LOL I proceeded to check the outgoing trains to Stuttgart, my next destination and quickly realized that the minimum ticket would cost me three times as much than the bus and save me just a few minutes. So, it became “Nah, Let’s be wilder and take the bus!” And I did walk the half kilometer and got on the bus that took me to the Stuttgart Airport.
The city has a great rail/metro system. The young lady at the information booth discussed with me the various options I had for spending a few hours in the city and I settled for the 1 1/2 hr hop on/off bus tour. She also prepared the three subway tickets I would need for today and tomorrow’s return to get my bus. Then I got the bus for Frankfurt ticket. I was all set for the day.
Well almost since I still had to get a locker for my luggage. I did find some at the train station from where I would also start the tour. I put my luggage and the money in and took my key. I saw a man who just had a few things using a large locker and indicated to him that the other ones were cheaper. But the joke was on me, I put my luggage in the one hour lockers that’s why it was cheaper! However it would be more when I returned much later than one hour. So, I transferred to the 3euros locker. Put the money in and it didn’t lock. A janitor stayed to watch me to do this all and then helped me stuffed my luggage in a second time. Put the money in and it worked this time. So, I had spent 8.5euros for something that should have cost me only 3. He encouraged me to go the the consignment luggage room and ask for money. I did and I received 4 euros back. That hurt a little less.
The tour reminded me that Germany was the site of heavy bombings during WW II and therefore much of it is reconstructed. Stuttgart is the home of Mercedes-Benz and Porsche which employs at least a half million people just here. It is here that Gottfried Daimler started the first car with another partner. His company later experienced financial difficulties and later acquired with the use of his name by a British company and continues to produce cars today. Vineyards dot the city since the Roman times. They found the soil and weather conditions ideally suited to grape growing and producing excellent wines. If I had had time, I would have enjoyed taking a walk along this area and giving it more time that it certainly deserve.
I didn’t see anything spectacular during the tour and as you would have it, I was always sitting on the wrong side of the bus for good pictures. My bad luck, but I didn’t want to make it worse by jumping from one side to the other in the open air bus because as explained on the tour, the city is riddled with electrical wires for the bus and tram system. There is even a sign with a stick figure standing up with its head falling off. I should have taken a picture.
The best part of the day came after that. I got my luggage and the subway to Sindelfingen. A sweet lady offered me a ride from the station to my friend’s house. She said it’s much easier than explaining it. I certainly can appreciate that. She said she would be in San Francisco shortly to visit it and the national parks nearby.
Soon, I arrived where a former Coal Ridge Middle School colleague and her husband live. Megan and Mike welcomed me in their home for the night. They treated me to an excellent traditional German dish and a walk to the charming, totally German part of town. Megan and I had a good time catching up with the common acquaintances we have. But soon, I am fading out. The last couple of nights had been less than satisfactory. So, I gathered my laundry and said goodnight and goodbye since they would probably leave before I in the morning.
Thank you Megan and Mike for a great stay!

Winding Down In Munich



Feeling very thankful that the cold I started last evening responded well to two Tylenol Cold tablets and a good night of sleep. The sweet Taiwanese girl renting the other room knocked on my door and offered me hot tea because she was concerned about my sneezing. How totally sweet of her! I leisurely finished packing and we walked out to the bus together. Getting on my train was a painless procedure.
I settled in a seat kind of hoping I would be left alone, but it was not to be. Soon the train was practically full and three young men sat in the seats next to me, as well as a young woman across the aisle. They all knew each other and shared a passion for climbing and hiking.
Kevin and Max are Germans who came climbing. The couple is Canadian from Toronto, but I never got their name came for hiking, but they are traveling to many places. I loved the company, but they obviously hadn’t bathed in a while. LOL The conversation made up for it. As you can imagine, they were interested in Colorado for the obvious reasons. The 2-hr journey went very fast. A bachelorette party came along for the ride as well. The bride meandered the cars to sell items to get money for the wedding. Which I hear is the tradition here. They were a happy group, but not troublesome nor too noisy.
I managed to find my Airbnb and took the correct public transport. I know I am winding down because I am less interested to be running out to see something. I stayed in to get my bearings and think about what I could be doing. I left an hour later to walk Marienplatz and the older part of town. I just took pictures of things that looked interesting, but not especially noteworthy (well maybe the creepy skeleton might be of note.). It felt like all of Munich was there. There were tourists for sure, but the majority of the people were German speakers enjoying a night on the town. The weather was pleasant. The square building is the Jewish Synagogue. I considered going to the museum beside it, but it was close to closing time. I walked by the large market and again many sampling the rich offerings around them and beer of course. There is something to say about walking this kind of venue, that is it would be much better in company. Everyone seemed happy and relaxed. Nice to see!

Relaxing Day
I just enjoyed doing hardly anything. I found that the local LDS meetinghouse had an English speaking ward. I was perfectly happy to be enjoying the Sabbath Day among fellow members. It was a truly international lot with many out for the school holiday.
After church, I leisurely walked back to the bus stop which arrived as I crossed the street. Soon, I was at the U-Bahn, but before I got on, I looked at the map and saw there was a large park nearby. I debated a few minutes in my head if I wanted to explore it. And sure glad I did! I noticed that basically all stores are closed here on Sunday. You see cafes and restaurants operating, but that’s about it. I now know where they all go. To the park! There was quite a festive atmosphere with large family gatherings. I saw many different ethnic groups and heard a variety of music around. I spent an hour just watching people and finishing my current book. It was just lovely!

The View From Mt. Untersberg Is Unbelievable, But …



I got us this morning quite early and decided pretty quickly that I would rather bicycle to the cable car than take a bus. The bike Dietmar provided is not the greatest, but it did the trick. In fact, it improved with the kilometers. LOL! I left around 8:30 thinking I would be there around 9 when it opens, but as usual the best thinking doesn’t always translate as clearly as hoped for. Even though it took me 1 1/2 hr rather than 30 minutes, they were peaceful riding in the country side. I finally made it to St-Leonhard where the cable car brings us up to the top of the mountain.
Let’s be honest hear and I’ll fess up to the fact that I really do not like heights. Every time I take one of those cable cars, chair lifts etc., my heart pounds like crazy and I hold unto something trying hard to avoid thinking about the gazillion feet of air under me and what if it fails. But every time the inner voice says, “You know you don’t have to put yourself through that,” I simply rebel. I decided a long time ago that I wouldn’t let my fear control my behavior. I understand being smart and listening to warnings, but I don’t cater to fear. So, here I was going up and up for about 30 min. That is quite long when you feel uncomfortable.
Notwithstanding my fear, it was so worth it. The view from up there is simply breathtaking. I laughed (inwardly) as I watched a family getting off the car ready to do some serious hiking. It got my attenuation when the mom uttered quite an expletive as she looked down at one of her boys and noticed that he had only his crocs sandals on rather than the sturdy shoes he needed for such an activity. Oh the joys of parenthood! We have all been there, right?
I came down with the same feeling in the pit of my stomach, but it was alleviated by the conversation I carried on with a French woman during the descent. I hopped on the bike and now, that I really knew where I was going stopped at Hellbrunn’s Palace with its trick fountains. While waiting for the tour to begin, I quickly walked over where the famous “Sound Of Music” pavilion stands. It wasn’t filmed at this location, but it is the real structure used during filming of “I am sixteen going on seventeen.”
The fountains were a riot and the tour guide got in the spirit of it. Markus Sittikus, prince archbishop of Salzburg from 1612 to 1619, wanted something to entertain his guests, but I think he got one on them. The first one, you see a picture of people sitting at a table. Wine was placed in the middle where it keeps cool in the water. The guests were sitting around the table with Markus at the head. After turning a certain key off the side, he would sit back and wait. After a minute or so, jets of water would come out of the holes in the benches and around the table soaking everyone, except him of course. The guide asked for unsuspecting volunteers who just got it all. A few of the smaller ones didn’t enjoy it so much which surprised me a bit. It continued on this vein. I quickly figure out where the wet spots were on the ground and around me and knew where to stand to avoid the jets, but some never figured it out and quite a few were really wet by the end of the tour. The whole system functions with water pressure and it was quite a feet of engineering considering that this was built in the early 17th century. Furthermore, it works perfectly well today So he would invite his guests to see this or that and would get a kick out of watering them. What a trickster!
I then visited the palace where a few more idiosyncrasies come up. It was never his home, but rather just a summer retreat. The park brings peace and quiet and I enjoyed just sitting there watching the duck and fish go around. Finally, I hopped on the bike to get back to my room where I had lunch before heading into town for more sightseeing.
I went to the train station first to get a ticket for my travels to Munich tomorrow. That done, I went back to the center to visit the Domquartier, the official residence of the prince archbishops of Salzburg. They were a combination of religious and secular rulers. They were appointed by the Pope to rule this portion of the Roman Catholic Empire. They did that for about three centuries then had to give it up to the Habsburg Empire after the Napoleonic wars. They conducted the affairs of the states from these apartments. Various rulers contributed to the overall palace done in the Baroque style mostly. I figured out eventually that I wasn’t supposed to take pictures. Oh well, you get what I got. The whole tour takes you through several floors and buildings into the cathedral and St-Peter’s Monastery, back to the palace. Amazing collection! I bought postcards of my favorite paintings. The most prominent and illustrious because of its unusual painting process used by Rembrandt. In 1629, he used a copper plate with several steps to produce the “Old Woman Praying.” They had a special exhibit explaining the steps and I did take a pic of that. The others are: The Young Postillon, 1846 by Reiter, Gentleman and Lady by Graat, Portrait of the sculptor Nicolas Le Brun, 1635 by Charles Le Brun. In the painting “Children at the window” by Waldmuller (1853), the children literally appeared to be hanging out the window when I entered the room where it hanged.
When I exited the museum a couple asked me to take their picture and wouldn’t you know it, they were from Denver. We chatted for a bit about their travel in the area. After that, I sat on a bench eating an ice cream and watching a ongoing chess game in front of me when an older couple in their 80s from Cape Cod, sat beside me and stroked a conversation about their travels first, then Trump, then religion followed. I thought it funny that two out of the three are considered ‘not mentioning’ with company. LOL
And then to top it all, two of the chess players were a father and son from Utah. I saw The Smith Family Reunion shirt the man wore and I thought they most be LDS. Sure enough, he is a Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphics BYU professor on sabbatical in Germany. The world is small!
I made my way back to pack, write etc. You know the nightly ritual. 😉

Salzburg, Mozart’s Birthplace


Niksa brought me to the airport and we got a chance to chat. We talked about how it was living in a country with war. Unlike the two previous native I spoke to, Niksa’s mom chose to stay in the country. He told me that going to school was sometimes dangerous because they could be shot. His dad said: “The irony is that we paid the taxes that they could by weapons to kill us with.” In their case, that was so true. In the end, all is well he said. We also talked about how they started doing Airbnb and what a blessing it has been for him and his family. He also told me that traditionally, the groom and his family will travel to wherever the bride comes from and bring her to the wedding along with her family. He said he wished they could travel more, but the low income in the country makes it almost impossible for them to do so. He told me: “You are rich!” And I quickly wanted to disabuse him of that, but he continued: “Yes, you are rich. You have a beautiful family, many grandchildren, and your are doing something you love.” He could not be more right!
I almost missed my flight and I can’t figure out how. They announced it, but I heard only garbling and they were at the wrong gate. Then after a while, I see some women rushing to that gate and I thought wow, almost missed it. Shortly after, I heard my name and four others. I approached looking for someone who could answer my question and they had been waiting for us. Wow! The passengers didn’t even occupied half of the seats. However, we had great service and a pleasant staff and flight lasted barely over one hour.
My Airbnb host, Dietmar, came to pick me up at the airport in a convertible. How’s that for service! Soon, I had left my luggage, rented one of his bicycle, and rode into town along side the Salzach River. After about 20 minutes, I arrived at the center of town just in time to join the walking tour which turned out quite disappointing. It appeared she had lots to say in German and very little in English; 3 minute to 1 ratio. So, we missed a lot of information. Nevertheless, the city is beautiful. We started at Mozartplatz where is statue stands. He looks quite imposing, however it is misleading she said as he was not even 5 ft tall. But I read elsewhere that he was 5’4″. We saw various buildings, including his birthplace which I visited later on.
The churches are quite ornate, but different from what I have seen so far in this trip. The Collegiate church shows gorgeous plaster works and the Franciscan Church displays great frescoes. Then I went to visit Mozart’s early year dwelling. His family rented the third floor of the house from a friend. I saw the violin his played at six years old and copies of his earliest piece of music written in his sister’s music book and more. I just wished I could have taken a picture of his traveling medicine box which was about 6″ square with the tiniest bottle imaginable and all properly labeled. Amazing!
Upon exiting the museum, I saw a young woman who had been on the same plane with me and I approached her to ask her if she had heard the announcement, but like me she hadn’t. We started talking and decided to have a snack at Cafe Tomaselli that Mozart and his family frequented.
Sara Khalifeh comes from Chicago and has been traveling and volunteering around the world for the last two years. She had great stories and I admired her commitment to serve while getting room and sometimes board for her work allowing her to really immerse herself in a culture. This is a holiday for her and will return to Bosnia to volunteer in a school there for another month before returning to the States and finding a job. I promised to get some information for her. She is an insightful young lady and it was a pleasure getting to know her.
The sun continues to warm my skin and I decided to take the tram up to the fortress for a splendid view of the city and surroundings. I walked down from there and spent some time in St-Peter’s cemetery and church. The oldest grave I found was 1717, but I know it must have had much older than that. Some of the stones are so worn out, you can’t read them.
I bought a great salad before hopping on the bike to return to my room where I got settled, ate, wrote, and uploaded pictures. All of which is a nightly ritual.

#EuropeSpring2017 #Austria

Last Of Dubrovnik And Croatia




Left Split on the 7:40 am ferry. My tour companions from yesterday, Katie Mcandrew and Valentin, joined me. I loved spending some more time with them. Valentin had a very short night and spent most of his time sleeping, but we would have a few short conversations. He will have only the afternoon in Dubrovnik and return on the ferry at 4:30 pm. What a shame! He will probably regret not having more time like I did with Split.
Katie and I talked about some of the places she visited and and the companies she toured with. Her next stop is a sailing cruise of 7 days in the Greek Islands. I got some good tips for future travels. Katie’s grandfather passed away while visiting India and she feels she’s living this adventure in part in his honor as he instilled in her his love of travels and that it bonded them in a special way.
I also met another Quebec couple on the ship traveling from Gaspesie. We had a great time chatting about their beautiful part of the province and traveling styles. It amazes me all the time who I meet and how much I enjoy connecting with others through something we have in common. That French Canadian accent will always get my attention!
I said good bye to my new friends and made some tentative plans to have dinner with Katie if possible. I hopped on the bus and arrived at my Airbnb around 1 pm. I am frustrated with my SIM card which stopped working sometimes yesterday afternoon and I found out where the company had a service center. I got settled a bit and went there. The ladies were extremely helpful, but couldn’t solve the problem. However, they were kind enough to replace the SIM card as they saw when I got it and how little I had used it. I left the store with an uplifted heart. I just can’t deal with not having a phone and data properly working. I stressed every time. First world problem, right?
After that, I finally entered the Rector’s Place that had been closed until today. It is a small museum, but oh my, how well appointed and with a unique exposition. I especially liked the iron chests. I simply have never seen the intricate locking mechanisms they had. Those are from 14th to the 17th century models. They had an astounding display of silverware in especially designed wooden box/carriers and so many other items I couldn’t photograph, including one of the most exquisite filigree ornament I have seen. As mentioned in a previous posts, the Rector of Dubrovnik lived in the palace with his family only one month as they were selected monthly by the Senate of the Republic. They also had a courtroom where a judge, holding the post for one year, would attend to the needs of the community. The judge was from the nobility, but the lawyer called a chancellor was from the working class. They apparently had another enlightened mode of dealing with crime for that period of time.
Shortly after that, Katie and I got together to visit Cavtat and have dinner there. I had hoped that Stella would join us, but I didn’t get a hold of her. Cavtat was called Epidaurum in ancient time and was from the people of Dubrovnik originally came from. When an conquering army came their way, they chose to leave and go up north. Today it is only 30 minutes or so by buy, but apparently that was far enough to avoid the conflict and settle just a little ways away.
We had a peaceful time with a passion fruit Le mode for me and a mint one for Katie, sitting by the sea. We strolled the waterfront and selected a restaurant to have dinner while enjoying the sunset. We parted ways in town. It is always bittersweet to say goodbye because who knows when and if we will ever meet again. But we are staying in touch with social media.
I arrived at Guesthouse Mary where, to my delight, everyone could stand in for a quick picture. They have been very helpful and welcoming to me. My stay in their home reflects what I think Airbnb should always be. Then, I did laundry; yep, that’s basically a daily occurrence with my limited luggage, Tomorrow, I get to the airport and fly to Salzburg, Austria.

Croatia Europe Spring 2017

I Found Eden, No Kidding!



So the goal for this early morning is Plitvice Lakes. I first came across this natural wonder when I was filling a Facebook “where have you been” post and saw those in a picture and made a vow right then and there that I should go someday. Well, that someday is here. Our beautiful earth and God’s creations continue to amaze me. I am blessed that I can see so much of it in my life. As I spend significant amount of time writing about my travels, I become deeply aware of the privileged life I live. I am blessed in so many aspects that bring happiness. Family is at the center of it all, but I do enjoy the other side benefits to living.
The Plitvice Lakes are the crowning jewels of the Plitvicka Jezera National Park. We traveled three hours mostly eastward to reach them. We crossed the major mountain chain that divide the country’s climatic regions. We travelled through a 5.9 km tunnel to reach the alpine region, greener and just slightly cooler, but where you can ski in the winter.
There is no way I can really explain this magical place. The colors of the lakes are almost indescribable and my photos do not do them justice, but they’ll have to do. For more on the formation of the lakes, see this link:
I just wanted to enjoy it. We walked around the upper lakes and water fall. Then we took a short boat ride across a lake to visit the lower parts of the park where we saw the 79 m water falls. They are beautiful, but not as big as one would imagine after seeing so many others where the water flow is plentiful. We were blessed with a sunny day even though it started sprinkling when we arrived at the park. Fortunately to our delight, soon thereafter the sun peeked out of the clouds and remained the rest of the afternoon. We strolled the wooden boardwalks surrounded by gradient rich green foliage and listening the water rushing down everywhere. We were part of a small group and easily managing the various steps and turns into the park. It is not too crowded yet. They expect 15,000 visitors a day in peak season of July-August.

Croatia Europe Spring 2017 Plitvice Lakes