Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Day 48: Shopping

Today's goal is to find a flash drive for Xander. He is making videos for his YouTube channel and wants to speed them up (from an hour to 4 minutes) and needs to be able to get them from the shared computer to mine (which has the software to speed it up).

Seeing the under-workings of an escalator (left)
Me, mimicking the statue (right)
Finding a Radio Shack type of store has proven difficult, so we are headed to the Sony Store, because they will have one and we know where the store is! The timing is ironic (or coincidental, English lessons can wait), as I have run out of computer space. Several of my programs are quitting on me and/or won't run. I can't save my photos... all is crazy for me. So, I have purchased a hard drive via so that I didn't have to go all over town looking for one, or spending a pretty penny at the Apple Store. But, here we are, going to the Sony Store... my hard drive is coming today (to Chris' work), but had I known a trip to the Sony store was in my future, I would have just purchased it there and had it hours earlier. Anyway... that's the way it goes.

After lunch, we headed to Potsdamer Platz, where the Sony Center is located. We walk in and don't even need to search the multi-leveled store, as the flash drives are right there on the first floor. Found one. Boom, done.

Xander wanted me to include that as I got my change Euros and 1 cent, the cashier said, "And a lucky cent." (instead of lucky penny)

Bubble Tea in the sunshine.

Playing around with the iPhone and perspective.
Venice (still crazy about bubble tea) asked if we could get bubble tea after our errand. The restaurant we decided to buy the tea from, didn't actually have the "bubbles" (tapioca balls), instead they had strawberry bubbles... I can only explain them as having the consistency of a bath oil ball, that melts in the warm bath water and then eventually explodes. Needless to say, I didn't care for these anymore than I care for the squishy tapioca ones.

But, I did enjoy the sunshine and the beautiful day. We found a spot behind the Sony store that had some lush green grass and interesting landscaping (wall/retainer walls).

From here, instead of getting back on the Bahn, we decided to walk through the Tiergarten. We've been through the main thoroughfares (on a bus) but not walking through the pedestrian pathways. I, for whatever reason, wanted to see the Brandenburger Tor again, so we cut through the Tiergarten on the western side to get there.


The kids are stomping acorns (middle) and Xander shows us the nut inside (right).

As you can see from the photos, the weather continues to be cool, but not freezing. The leaves are falling, and some are turning, but things are still pretty green.

Unfortunately, we were not able to walk through the Brandenburger Tor! There were fences all around, tents going up, and more. At first, Venice wondered if it was left over from the BMW marathon that happened last weekend, but that seems too late for event items to still be up. As we walked around to the other side of the gate, we saw the banners.. duh! The 25 year anniversary of German Unity is this Saturday!

Signs tell us it's on the street west of the gate and that you are not allowed to bring in fireworks, flares, or glass bottles. No problem! And Chris found out from a coworker that it's free entrance and will have live music, food, and such. So, one more festival!

So, this is exciting and a great reminder of what to do this Saturday. However, I have to say, I was bummed we couldn't walk through the gate (had to go around)... To make up for this, I decided to do another shopping errand I've been thinking about. A stop to the other Amplemann store in Hackescher Höf (instead of the one inside the Potsdamer Platz we went to earlier in the trip).

Hackescher Höf is a set of shops near Hackescher Markt. The kids and I walked around twice before we found the store. The area is really quiet nice. You walk between/under two buildings and come into a set of courtyards. The courtyards are surrounded by buildings. All have stores on the bottom floor and apartments on the upper levels. I think only cars that are delivering are allowed in, so it's mostly a walking area with nice little shops.

Entering the courtyard that has the Amplemann store (left)
A view of the Fernsehturm from Hackescher Höf (right)

Then, back home on the M1 tram.

Dinner time!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Day 47: Back to Routine

Today is reintegration day (and produce placement). After sight seeing every day and doing all sorts of walking, the kids and I get to relax a bit. Chris, of course, if off to work, champion that he is!

I get it, but I still think it's funny to have it be
American style pizza Hawaii, but then have the
Statue of Liberty (from NY) on the cover.
For me, it's about household duties. Dying my roots (pesky grey is peaking through), more laundry (still can't get it all the way dry, so have to hang each load, which takes a while), and going to the market with Xander (to refill our cupboards and to give Venice time to recoup from her cold).

Well, after eating so well in Munich and Salzburg (I think I brought home a few extra pounds for souvenirs), it was tough to get back to routine of cooking for ourselves. Looking back, it wasn't too hard to figure out where to eat (we followed the guide books or someone else's suggestion). But now, back in Berlin... it's hard for me to figure out what to cook. Sigh. So, sadly, for lunch, it's frozen chicken balls and American style pizza!

Trying another tea to
see if it's any stronger!
After lunch, I caught up on some computer time (now that I have much better internet connection!) Back to doing some editing for Nagai Photography, catching up on this blog, catching up on some personal emails. And, maybe playing a game or two. BUT, dang it, my computer is out of space. So, some of my programs are quitting on me, others are giving me errors galore. Good thing I ordered an external drive that should come in a few days. I need space!

And by this time, it's time for another meal, dang it. This is Tuesday, so no Chris for dinner. It's just us. I still don't want to cook. But I don't want to go out to a restaurant either, as that's a big time commitment (remember it always takes another 15-30 minutes to get the bill).

Venice convinces me to go to a restaurant. I compromise that maybe we can go to the Thai restaurant down the street and do take-away. We snooped a little, on the movie set, as we walked by on the way to the restaurant. We never did get to see any actual acting being filmed, but we did see a lot of setup and getting ready to film. Venice dreamed of being in the background, but since it's "Berlin Syndrome" decided we wouldn't fit in, as we may not appear so "Berlin-ish".

I muddled our way through ordering our take-away, we got to eat in the comfort of our own home. Winning.

This is the first shampoo I bought. I
tossed the conditioner bottle already.
Let me leave today with this conversation: There is a "conditioner" problem over here in Europe that no one told me about. If you don't have long hair, or never have, you may not be aware. You may not care. But, those of us with longer hair, we need conditioner.

I've tried finding it at the markets. I tried using local stuff. But it is hard to find here! I find tons and tons and tons of shampoo choices, but only 1, maybe 2 conditioner choices. I bought one of these and it was like putting lotion on my hair. I had to use a lot and it just didn't seem to do very much for my hair.

When traveling to Prague, NO CONDITIONER at the hotel. None at the hotel in Munich. And none at the €expensive/night Salzburg hotel either. What? What do all the long-haired people do over here? I did see some really nice conditioner at the hair salon where Venice got her hair coloured. But, that's high-end and pretty pricey. Where are the "regular" choices? I even went to far as to look at the "American" brands, but even there, tons of familiar brands, but only shampoo. Finally, I found one brand that comes with conditioner. I'm sorry, it's American. But I'm desperate for conditioner! And yay, I can finally have silky, brush-able hair again!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Day 46: Return to Berlin

Well, the bad news is there is still a bad wifi connection, more mosquitoes buzzing around Chris' head, and Venice definitely has the cold that Xander and I had.

A last look at our hotel (says hotel on the left) and our location.

The good news is we have time to shop for souvenirs!

There is a toy store the kids have been wanting to visit. We went there first. But, as Chris and I predicted, it was mostly.... toys. Things we can see anywhere. So the kids concede and don't buy much there. Venice did find a few cute-cuddly hedgehogs and I found a grammar game (yeehaw!) but then we were on our way to the many "real" souvenir stores.

Looking for a good spot to put our lock.
The first one we entered is the oldest store in Salzburg (if you believe). And all the items we were looking at are handmade, not made in China (if you believe). So, it's a perfect store to buy lots of souvenirs. We did go to a few other stores along the street, but the content seems to be the same in each store. Not too much variations either, pretty much the EXACT same stuff. Xander did find his favourite t-shirt. A green shirt that says, "No kangaroos in Austria". I guess they get confused with Australia all the time. Makes me think of our New Mexico, USA license plates, always getting confused with Mexico.

Venice really wants to buy a lock to leave on the Love Lock bridge. I know it's mostly for couples in love, but why not a family? So, we buy a red lock, and write Baileys on it (the store even had a sharpie for us to use, they are well prepared for this tradition!) We walk to the bridge, the kids find a good spot and lock it away. Venice threw the key into the river and we will all love one another forever, or so the lore promises!

Working together to put the lock on, lock it, and toss the key.

Showing our lock has a good view of the Fortress. 

Back at the hotel, we finish up packing, call a taxi and head to the airport. Um, this taxi driver is crazy. I do think, in general, the drivers here in Salzburg are more aggressive than those in Berlin and I thought Berlin drivers were aggressive. Turns out, there's still a sense of common sense in the Berlin drivers... with this taxi (and remember the fast bus drivers) there's a little more "out of control" feeling. When driving well over the speed limit, on the wrong side of the street, to pass someone on a city street... it gets a little "white knuckle" feeling.

At the airport, we have no trouble with any kind of border control (none on the ride there either). At check-in, our passports are checked, but that happens where ever we travel, so nothing new really. By the way, did I already say that America is the only place you have to remove your shoes when going through security? I think I did. It's still awesome.

The trucks (top), Filming a scene in the car behind the tree (bottom-left)
Some of their lighting equipment (bottom-right)
We are flying a new-to-us airline. It's €35 a ticket, plus €15 for a bag. Pretty cheap. The biggest downside is that we fly into Berlin's "secondary" airport, so it's a 60 min travel home via public transport (or a $50 taxi?) Oh, and if you want in-flight water or a snack, you will have to pay for it. But, on a short flight (ours is only 90 minutes, max), who needs that? So, perfect. No wonder so many fly and visit all sorts of countries within Europe. Cheap flights can be easily found.

As we walked from the Bahn station to our apartment, we found several large white trucks parked on our street. Turns out, some scenes of a movie ("Berlin Syndrome") are being filmed on our street. So, for a few days (and into a few early mornings) they will be here to offer hair and makeup, wardrobe, catering, etc. It takes about 30 people for the one scene we saw being filmed (however many actors in the car, two holding a black backdrop, a couple camera people, the director, and lots of people on hand watching, probably waiting to do other jobs like hair, get coffee, etc.)

After starting laundry (it will take me about 4 days to do all of this laundry!), we head out to dinner (because who wants to cook the first night back after a long trip?)

It's a nice feeling to be back in Berlin. Austria, I have to say, was easier than Prague, as the language was the same and the system, or infrastructure, seems familiar. However, Berlin is "known" and it feels comfortable. I do still harbour bouts of anxiety when going to a restaurant without Chris, or having to deal with the big market (where you have to talk to the butcher and answer questions about a membership card and packing your own items, etc.) but all in all, it does feel comfortable here. I know the Bahn stations (and destinations which makes it easier to know which side of the track to wait on), so getting around has become simple and almost second nature.

So, as we ease back into our routine, I leave you with this image (I forgot to include it in the post from the gardens at Schloss Mirabell) of a unicorn. Enjoy.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Day 45: Salt Mine Dürnberg

Breakfast area in the hotel.

Today's goal, the salt mines in Hallein.

I purchased tickets online (they are supposedly cheaper online and you are guaranteed a spot on a tour), while Chris checked out the bus schedule. It seems, the buses right out of Salzburg are frequent, but the ones going to and from the salt mine are much more infrequent (such as returning at 5pm or 7pm... we want the 5pm!) We do our best to schedule the tour tickets to when we think we'll arrive via bus.

The time we need to travel and the time we do the tour, leaves little time for lunch at a "normal" hour. So we know we need to fuel up the kids early. We headed out to the fair for "easy-to-find-economical" food. How nice for us!

When we arrive at the fair, the main "beer tent" is mostly empty and finding a table is super easy. Chris orders sausage and french fries for Xander (the hungriest in the bunch). But as we sit and watch him eat, we realise the rest of us could use some food too, so Chris orders more and, by this time, all the tables are filled up. We timed it, unknowingly, perfectly.

The small ferris wheel from the other day (left), Xander eating at the fair (middle-left)
The empty beer tent area (middle-right). and my favourite new word Zukerwatte (Cotton Candy) (right)

After pit-stops at the hotel, we head out to the bus stop. The buses here in Salzburg make me wonder in comparison to Berlin's buses. From our limited exposure, there seem to be tons and tons of buses. For example, one stop might have 7 different buses stopping there. Tons! And yet, our bus stop, was 30 ft from a bus stop that has 7 different buses scheduled. The big bus stop has an overhang to sit under, a big giant sign with digital readouts telling you what buses are scheduled, etc. Our bus stop, 30 ft farther, is a small sign on the wall (you could easily walk past it without knowing it was even there) with a few words written on it (no digital display). The big bus stop has an "indent" in the curb for the bus to pull over and out of traffic. Our bus stop has cars parked all along the narrow street, so when the bus stops, it will block traffic and we'll have to weave through parked cars to get to the bus.

Or not!

Our bus came and pulled over into the big bus stop area. So, those of us waiting for this bus hustled back up the street to get on. Why not just put the bus at the same stop? I don't get it.

And now we have to converse with the bus driver to buy our tickets. No automated machine where we can press "English" instructions. Chris does really well talking with the driver saying we're going to the salt mines in Hallein, that we are four (Venice often counts as an adult, but sometimes is a child, so we have to always figure that out) and we want both directions (or all day tickets). We pay. We think we did it. It's about €30 for our family. We are really hoping this is round-trip. And, unlike Berlin, there is no automatic machine that validates your ticket, it seems you just show it to the driver as you get on, which means you have to get on at the front of the bus. In Berlin, there are always multiple entrances and exits, you do not have to get on at the front. Also, different, the buses in Salzburg are more like "Luxury Coach" buses than city buses. So, we ride in comfort on our way to Hallein.

Ok, another difference? The buses here in Salzburg drive like Mario Andretti would hug the corners of a race track. So, hold on. AND, they do NOT stop unless you press the "Stop" button. Berlin also has the "stop" buttons, but they seem to always stop. I'm not sure if this is something the Berlin drivers just do, or if it's because we're in a big city and so there is usually always someone wanting to get off or on. But, here in Salzburg, if you don't press the button and there is no one waiting for the bus, the drive will just whiz by at a million miles per hour. What does this mean for us? Chris is VERY vigilant to read the signs of the stops as they blur by the window. Some are easier than others. Some are large and printed above the bus stop alcove, others are tiny on a small sign. Some of the buses have digital read outs at the front of the bus where you can watch the stops listed, other have none and you have to be watching all the time or else you miss your stop.

Thanks to Chris' eagle eyes, we know our stop is next and we press the stop button. In Berlin, the stop button seems to just light up on the screen. Here, it makes an amazingly loud buzzing sound by the driver. So I am careful to warn the kids to NOT ring it more than once, lest we piss off the driver or cause him to drive off course.

As we get off the bus, we quickly begin scanning the bus stop sign to see if we can see our connecting bus on it and confirm what Google has said to us (when to expect it to arrive). Our driver, opens the door and tells us, "No" and points. He is indicating that the bus we want (direction) is on the other side of the street! Oh my gosh. Remember when we did this in Prague? It's definitely confusing when you are going one direction, and in your mind you want to keep going that direction, but in fact, you may need to back track or turn... but it's unclear. I'd like to think we would have figured it out on our own (maybe by the bus sign having the wrong "destinations) but I don't know that we would have. So I am very grateful to our bus driver for helping us out. Because the number of riders is less here (than Berlin), perhaps, or perhaps because they are more engaged (who knows), the bus drivers have been very helpful to us, thus far.

Waiting for the bus transfer (left x 2), View out the bus (middle-right)
Xander on a "high chair" on the bus (right)

So, we cross the street and wait for our connecting bus there for our next accelerated ride on the windy country roads.

The grounds at Salt Mine Dürnberg

Maybe because the buses drive so fast, or because we miscalculated our travel time, we arrived a lot earlier than planned. It's 1pm and our tour is scheduled for 2:30 or something. Gah. Waiting is not what any of us want and 90 minutes is a long time to kill in the middle of nowhere. Chris (yay, Chris!) asks if we can change to an earlier tour even though our tickets say no (yes, we can!) and while he's got an English speaking person, he asks if our bus tickets appear to be all day tickets (yes, the worker, after a long inspection, thinks so).

Now that our tour is now, we are hurried down into the preparation area. We knew ahead of time (from watching an online video from the salt mine's website) that we would have to wear pants and a jacket over our street clothes. Xander was unhappy about this, but rallied and was willing to wear the bulky clothes. We also knew that "sturdy shoes are recommended". What we didn't know is if "recommended" was a suggestion or a rule. We had not packed sneakers for the kids. We figure Xander's Keens are ok, they cover his toes and have full straps. But Venice only has her flip flops. I only brought one pair of sneakers and two different pairs of "Oktoberfest" shoes (one has the heels and gave me the 5 blisters, the other are more "flats" but with lots and lots of sparkles on them). We came prepared to either split up if we needed to do two different tours, and I also brought the sparkly flats, just in case those would work.

Well, first thing we hear when we get into the dressing area, is, "Are those the only shoes you have?" our tour guide asks pointing to Venice's feet. I ask, "Are they not acceptable?" She replied, "No! They are not safe!" So, I say I have flats that might work. She nodded vigorously and tried to shoo me out the door to go get them, "Hurry, hurry!" I say that I have them with me, here, not in the parking lot. She is VERY relieved. So, as pre-planned, in case this happened, Venice put on my sneakers, which are a little too big for her, but not too bad and I put on the flats, which aren't too bad. Other than they sparkle and call attention to my feet. I want to hide. And really, they are not very sturdy, they are a little loose on me, in addition to not being completely flat (a very small heel), but, assuming our guide saw them, they pass inspection and we are all ready to go.

Glück Auf! (Good luck!)

We head outside and down some stairs to prepare for our "exciting train ride" included in the tour. It's a small train you straddle and are supposed to hold onto the person in front of you. No one wants to hold a stranger, so I am (by creative positioning of my family) elected to sit in the front of our group, designating me to be the one who has to hold onto a stranger. Good thing our group isn't too big, I am able to sit with space behind the family in front of us and I do NOT have to hold onto their dad. Instead, I hold onto the train "bar-seat" we're straddling. Awkward crises averted.

Us on the "exciting train" ride back (left)
A top-down photo of the train, you can see where we straddled (right)

Our tour guide proved to be cantankerous. As she was giving her opening speech, a young child was talking to his parents. The guide stopped, and in that "teacherly" manner, waited for all to be quiet and gave some sort of chiding. She really didn't seem very happy to be a salt mine guide. She had the air and tone of boredom. And to top it off, she didn't even have to give too many talks, there were buttons with videos throughout the tour that showed clips of an on-going movie about the Prince Archbishop, his workers, and such of olden days. The movie explained the historic riches of the salt mines, the wars over the salt mines, and the Archbishop's 14 (no, on his dying bed, he says 15) bastard children and the Castle and gardens he had built for his love Salome (he says, she's the one he really loves). The castle? Schloss Mirabell, where we were yesterday!

Walking through the tunnels (left and middle-left)
The salt water brine available to taste, Chris and Venice giving it a go (middle-right and right)

Then onto a boat to cross the salt water lake. OMG, the lights were turning colours, the music dramatic, and it was a very "Disneyland" ride across this lake (going 1 mile per 5 hours for 30 yards). And, just like at Disneyland, everyone was taking flash photos, ruining the drama created by the disco lights.

The salt lake

One of the coolest things (for me) was that we crossed the border from Austria to Germany, and then back again. The first time, I was taken by surprise, so I didn't have enough time to snap a picture. But knowing we'd have to cross again (and our lovely guide warned us of the re-crossing), I was prepared for the cross back.

Crossing the border back into Austria (left) and the recreation of the "Man in the salt" (right)

And that's about it for our tour! The kids are glad they went, but admitted it was scary to be so far underground. I'm sure it doesn't help that there is a cardboard (paper mâché?) recreation of one of the two guys buried alive in an old collapse. It was a very "cheesy" adventure, but something to add to our list of things we've done, I suppose! And, we did get to go down a wooden slide (more straddling involved and perhaps the "real" reason to wear the weird clothing... to avoid chafing?)

You can see from the lower right corners, Chris got the fasted time!

We checked on our bus schedule, and it seems that we either have 15 minutes to catch a bus, or we wait 2 hours until the next one... So, we speed through the gift shop (picking up a little... salt... and then later we wonder where did the salt come from as this mine hasn't been mined for salt in many, many years...) and run to the bus stop... and of course, it's late, so we wait... and wait...

When this bus driver (it's the same one who drove us on our connecting bus ride from Hallein) drops us off at the stop we're going to transfer to our bus back to Salzburg. He stops us in the aisle, and says that our bus, back to Salzburg, comes in 40 minutes (and he points to the correct side to wait on). Again, so helpful! I'm impressed, that I was able to understand what he was saying (granted, I thought he said 20 minutes and not 40, but I got the gist). But, what my limited German has me missing out on are the nuances. I understood that our bus would come on that side and in 40 minutes. But what was he trying to say, really? Just that, or did he also want to add that we should go into town, or there's a better way? Was he implying something else or wanting to hint at another tip? Or was he just giving us info? That's what's missed by not speaking the language better.

40 minutes is a long time to wait for a bus. So, we wander around. Only, we're not really in the town of Hallein. Well, we are, but not the main part, mostly the industrial part. There is a lot of construction, water ducts, fire house, and such. But no coffee shops (sorely missed right now), restaurants, or snacks. But, it's nice to wander outside, above ground, and enjoy the warm sunshine.

Sites around the outskirts of Hallein.

Back to Salzburg (and counting bus stops as we go).

The Salzach river. Another view of the craft tents.
We asked the hotel to make a reservation for us at a local "authentic" Austrian restaurant. The concierge wasn't sure he could do it... it is Sunday during a very busy time. But, he did it! Again, eating at 6pm is early, so not so hard! And we wanted it a little earlier than normal tonight, just in case we can see some fireworks, scheduled to go off at 8:30pm. You might think 2.5 hours for dinner is plenty, but you'd be wrong. The courses take a while, and remember, sometimes it takes a very long time to catch a waiter's eye to ask for the check. AND, if you want dessert, that adds another 30 minutes to your experience. So, 2.5 hours is going to be tight, we think. We just have time for a quick rest (and coffee for Chris and myself at a local coffee bar) before heading out to the restaurant.

A view of the buildings and mountains from our coffee spot (left)
A bus going VERY slowly through a narrow tunnel so as not to shear off its mirrors (middle)
A street that only allows local cars through, using cool electronic barriers (right)

Dinner was fantastic. And, guess what? Our reservation was on the second floor, again. What does go on at the first floor? I want to know! We did opt for dessert. Good news, they were incredible. Bad news, I forgot to take a photo. Venice's Black Forest ice cream... was more like a volcano of of a sundae (giant proportions) and Chris' berry strudel was very tasty.

But, it's time to run back home. We were just in time for the fireworks. And actually, early, since they started about15 minutes late. And the best news? We COULD see them from our hotel room as suspected. So, while everyone else was out freezing in the cold, we were able to watch through our windows while wearing our PJs.

Good night, Salzburg!

Salzburg Hotel

Dedicating a short entry to our hotel. We've shown a few photos, but it really was an incredible hotel. Some parts very ancient (worn stone steps) and some very modern (iPads or other computers on the walls).

What I found very odd (and I think the rest of the family did too) is that with going "too" modern.... can go very strange in the art department. I never thought I'd miss the old-boring-same-hotel paintings/photographs. So, not a single Salzburg oil painting or artistic photograph of the Fortress... no... modern art all the way. More art in quotations. "Art".

So, here is an extended tour of our hotel:

This is hard to see in a photograph, but at the reception desk, they had an iPad in lieu of a clock. They had filmed the changing of the clock over (however many hours to piece it together) time so that each minute was represented by a crew of people coming in to change the wooden planks to form a new number. They'd finished fixing the new number at the top of the minute, and about half way through the minute, they'd re-enter the frame to change it to the next number. In the photo below they are changing a "1" into a "2". Ok, pretty cool.

Our suite, again a very expensive price tag (that we only paid about 40%), had a long hallway leading from the door into the main part of the suite. It created a light and airy feeling to the entrance. However, it also had automatic lights (triggered by movement), so at night, when you go to the bathroom in the dark, the lights automatically turned on. Cool, on the one hand, as you don't have to turn on the lights. Uncool on the other hand, as it creates a flood of light that's unnecessary as well as might wake up the daughter sleeping in the living room area. Also, when they time-out, they sometimes come right back on and flicker and... hmmm, we couldn't turn them off as the sensors were in the walls and taking the card out of the "electrical" enabler do-hickey would turn off all electricity, we just had to deal with it. And only one bathroom, so we had to go up and down stairs all night for the bathroom. Just a few of the many things you find yourself feeling "irritated" and/or "entitled to" due to the price you're paying.

Our hallway from within and from below (top floor).

The kids said it well when they mentioned it felt like an apartment.

Xander's room (also included a kitchenette) (left), stairs up to the loft (main bedroom) (mid-left)
The lounging area (middle), the bathroom corridor (sinks, bathtub, shower) (mid-right)
A crazy light-switch post that is outside the shower/bath area and the main sink area.
It always takes three tries to get it right as to which switch is which. (right)

Again, a mixture of old and new. Some new flooring and lights. But lots of old stone staircases. I loved how they were worn down, warped, missing steps. Beautiful (but hold onto the railing as you walk them, just to be sturdy).

Ambience around the hotel. Hallways and stairways.

Ok, so some of the crazy artwork found through out the hotel. We walked the stairs a lot, so we saw this art every, day several times a day. Getting more steps is awesome, but we mostly took the stairs because the elevator was slow and could only hold 4 people (max) at a time (very, very tiny, very, very close quarters). The art below:
Top: Found in Xander's room. Actually kind of cool.

Second row: A blemished mother holding her baby on a cross, smudged. This one, while at first glance seems innocuous, was quite disturbing to me. Yuck.


Eva and Adelle, just strange style of art.

Third row: Two ghost-apparitions on dangling weird legs floating above the city, and sorry for my reflection.


A man with a sign that reads (I can no longer see art). This one came with a secondary instalment of an monitor (on another floor) with the artist explaining the process and showing how they set it up and such.  There was another monitor, on another floor, showing some scientists trying to launch "something", which failed miserably, people slipped and everyone was laughing. But there was no sound, so you just watch, and this "something" is on display (and really, just on the floor in the corner) of another part of the hotel. So random. 

Fourth row: I don't know. Two people from the front and from the back.

This is just a sample of the weirdness that is art.

Then, there was other humour around the hotel, which was appreciated. In this following photo, there is a "Glashaus" (glass house) with a sign reading: No stones please. Made Chris and me laugh, anyway.

 More from the "older" atmosphere, which I liked. An old telephone with typewriter. The wine cellar (available to reserve for parties with large groups).

And finally, a view from the street and from above.

Our hotel room is the middle building, top row of three windows (left).
Middle building between the two "pinker" buildings (middle).
A view from the walk down from the Fortress (right).

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Day 44: Schloss Mirabell

After visiting the Fortress, the kids did a few rides, as promised. First up, the Round-Up. Chris opted to remain on sturdy ground. The kids convinced me to join them, so up and around we went. Mostly the same as the American version. Biggest difference is that kids were flipping themselves upside-down and no one was getting in trouble for it. And either there are no chains to "lock you in" or they just don't use them. I never understood them anyway, as centrifugal forces will keep you in your seat. The "belts" are just for show. Anyway, looser rules.

The Round-Up

Next, the kids wanted to do the swing ride, similar to the one they did at Oktoberfest (only this one goes counter clock-wise, weird). We got in the long line to buy tickets. But most of the people in line were adults buying for their kids only, so the line went faster than I would have thought. And, there is organised chaos at this ride. The ticket master only sells enough tokens for one ride, waits for that ride to start, then begins selling another "pre-counted" set of tokens for the next ride. For this ride, it's important, because there is no line to get onto the ride. Once you have a token, you wait around the ride, and when the swings slow down, you rush to claim one. It's a bit "everyone for himself" but it seems to work ok. We just have to prep our kids to be assertive if they want to sit together.

After the swings, Venice asked to go on the ferris wheel. This ferris wheel is SUPER tiny (8 family cabins?) and doesn't go very high. Different than the really big one we went on at Oktoberfest and definitely smaller than the London Eye, which we hope to ride when we visit there in the future. Chris was willing to leave solid ground for this one so that we could ride as a family.

Ferris Wheel (top)
Swings and the rush to get a seat (bottom)

Again, rides are pretty expensive. About €10 per ride (for the 3-4 of us), so that adds up quickly. So, we only do the few rides and are ready to head back to the hotel to rest.

In addition to resting, we try to research what to do next. The internet connection here stinks. It drops you periodically and disappears. And when you can get it, it's weak and mind-boggling slow. So, research is tedious and frustrating.

While I still don't want to take a bus for "The Sound of Music" tour, I do feel that if we came all the way here and I didn't see a single "Sound of Music" site, I'd regret it. Seeing the outside of the theatre wasn't enough. So, I searched for sites and came up with the Mirabell Gardens at Schloss Mirabell. This is where they filmed much of the "Do-Re-Mi" song. Perfect.

On the way, after a snack of street pretzels, we crossed the Salzach River using a Love Locks bridge. From afar, you couldn't see the locks, but it became clear as you got closer. Fun to see all the locks and imagine who put them there.

Schloss Mirabell was just a few blocks beyond the bridge. The gardens were very crowded. Not so much that you couldn't walk around in peace, but enough that if you wanted a photo without anyone else in it, you had to either be very creative (we achieved this in some of our photos) or patient for people to pass (we achieved this in some, too). As we entered the garden, a giant tour group entered with us and posed in front of the first fountain. They were a fun, boisterous crowd that seemed like they were going to be there a while. And not to mention, Chris had an open container that started to feel a bit conspicuous, so we sat on a bench to let the group "do their thing". As we enjoyed Chris' beer, I searched YouTube for the "Do-Re-Mi" video, as studying material. Watch the video, yourself, if you're so inclined, and see if you can spot the scenes we were able to capture.

With the large tour group dissipated and the beer can empty, we were ready to explore the gardens ourselves.

The roses were photographed by Venice.

he Fortress in the background (left), A beautiful Venice with a pretty flower (left)
Diana trying to emulate the statue (right)

Ok, so there are definitely some nice things about traveling on a weekend. Even though you're with all the crowds, there are things you see that you otherwise would miss. We walked back along the riverside and got to see another market, of sorts. All the craft makers had stalls of their wares, including scarves, clocks, clothes, purses, jewelry, and more. (This was all gone on Monday morning, so definitely a weekend-only event.)

Another view of the Fortress from the river (left). The craft tents along the river (right).

There seem to be a lot of fountains here. If it weren't so cold, the kids would play longer.
Despite the weather, Xander did get his shoe all wet and squeaky.

One of the things we learned, quickly, is that Mozart was born in Salzburg. Many of you classical music lovers might have already known this, but it was new to us. Well, you can't miss this fact here, as Mozart is EVERYWHERE. Mozart bags. Mozart chocolates. Mozart pencils. Mozart squishy balls. You name it, Mozart is on it. And he's on our free city-map. His place of birth, that is. We had decided to not aim for it, as it was a little off our path, or so we thought (dang map isn't to scale). As we were walking back to our hotel, I saw everyone looking up and taking photos. Turning to see what they saw, I saw what they saw. Mozarts Geburtshaus, Mozart's birth place. Photo snapped. Done!

A little hard to see, but Xander is standing under the "Salamander" sign (one of his nicknames) (left)
Mozart's Birth House. 

Back at the hotel, we asked the front desk to make a reservation for us at the K+K restaurant. When we arrived at the restaurant, we were informed that our reservation was "upstairs". This is not the only time this would happen. I'm not sure what happens on the bottom floor (that must be where the cooler kids sit?) but dinner reservations for us seem to be "upstairs". 

My dinner "won" tonight. It was beautifully arranged and tasted wonderful. Xander wasn't feeling to well, so he ordered only soup. No worries. Once he got a little food into his system, he was able to eat off the rest of our plates and no one went hungry and no food was wasted. He was even feeling better when dessert time came around. We all tried a different dessert with Chris trying the local Apple Strudel and me trying the local Sachertorte. The strudel was pretty good. The Sachertorte was a little dry (is that the way it's supposed to be or are there better ones out there?)

Diana's dinner (left), Xander's layered chocolate cake (middle),
Venice with a lamp on her head (right). I thought this lamp looked like one of those "lemon nets"

And so ends another day filled with great explorations and beautiful views.