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GT-I Home > My trips >The Alps > week one > week two

Salzkammergut and the Austrian/German Alps
Week one

Thursday, Aug. 20, Munich airport to Poing
No pictures today. The plane arrived on time at the airport. There were only a few people ahead of me in the passport line, although several women ahead of me seemed to have a problem, so it took longer than it should have. Of course, now days they are scanning the passport chips and it seems to take a long time for the computer to come back with the records. Anyway, it didn't take too long to get through immigration. Then we went to baggage pick up and customs. In the baggage room there is an ATM, so I got €350. As I was walking out through the "Nothing to declare" line, I looked back at the baggage carousel, where all of the people from the plane were still waiting for the bags to arrive. Doing the carry-on thing sure saves time.

The rest of the day didn't go so smoothly. Someone on the ETBD website, someone who lives in Germany, had mentioned that several discount grocery stores sell prepaid SIM cards for computer data links. I had even seen it in writing on both of their website. They sell two things, one is a "Starter Kit", containing the SIM and a phone number. They also sell cards to add minutes to you account. One of the stores is a block from where I am staying; the other is more like 4 blocks away, on the other side of the S-Bahn station. Of course, I went to the nearer one, only to be told by the manager that those cards were only for phone service, not data. I also noted that the smallest "Add" card he had was €30. So I went to the other store. On the way I stopped at the cybercafe in between where I am staying and the S-Bahn to send some emails home that I had arrived. After three I tried to view the sent folder to be sure they had been sent and Hotmail locked up on me. I would only show me the Inbox, but wouldn't open the Sent folder or any other folders and wouldn't open any emails in the Inbox.

I gave up on Hotmail, and after printing the first store's ad, in case I got back, to show the store manager, I went to the second store where I was told the same thing. This manager told me to call the customer service number for there store, which was on the website. Back to the cybercafe to get the number, then back to my hotel to call it. Wrong number; must have copied it wrong. Back to the cybercafe to check it. Yes, I inverted two numbers. Each time I went to the cybercafe I tried Hotmail again but no luck. Back to the hotel to call; this time I get through, and am told that the card is basically for phone service only, but if you buy the card and call another number activate it, then you can call customer service and they will change it to a data account.

So that's where I am this evening. I have a telephone SIM card in my computer which is being activated, and I will call them this evening to switch it over to data. I've walked miles and I still don't know if I sent any emails home.

I say I come to Germany to practice my German. Well, I sure got the practice today. Through all of these problems, no one in Poing spoke English to me. And there were a some rather young folk. Anyone who says everyone in Germany speaks English hasn't seen enough of Germany. Even in the phone calls to customer service, were mostly using my German. Tonight I am tired and rather frustrated, but proud.

Friday, Aug. 21
Poing to Freilassing

Herrenchiemsee Palace
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I'm sitting at a table on Ludwig's back porch at Herrenchiemsee Palace enjoying a beer. I finally got a good night's sleep last night, after only about two hours sleep on the flights over. The trip here from Poing has been interesting. They are working on the S-Bahn tracks between Markt Schwaben and Feldkirchen, so they have a replacement bus (SEV) transporting people between the stations on the line that are inaccessible. The bahn said I should take the SEV from Poing to Grub (next station towards Munich) and the 452 bus from Grub to Vaterstetten today. I took the SEV to Grub, but the bus stop there didn't indicate a 452 bus and one never came, so I took the next SEV to Feldkirchen and caught the S-Bahn from there into Ostbahnhof, where I caught the same RB that the Bahn said I would catch at Vaterstetten. So I didn't loose anytime there.

Where I did loose time was between Grafing and Rosenheim. They were working on track there also, so we had to take the SEV 30 km to Rosenheim. This cost me some time. I was at least an hour late getting to Herrenchiemsee.

Herrenchiemsee: If I were rate a place on how worthwhile it is to see vs. how difficult it is to get to, Herrenchiemsee would not rate that high. Not that it isn't worthwhile seeing, but if you've been to Nymphenburg, the Residenz, and Linderhof, it's getting pretty repititious. And it is a pain to get to. If you arrive with the train in Prien, there is an eight minute ride to the harbor an what they advertise as the last steam streetcar in the world. Of course, you could drive and park at the parking lot near the harbor, but there is still a walk to the docks, and the boat fare alone is almost a much as the combined streetcar/boat fare. After you get off the boat, it is a 20 min walk by the shortest, less scenic way to the palace. Coming back I walked down the mall for a last view of the palace, and that route took at least 30 min. So my total walking time was almost an hour. I could have taken the horse drawn carriage for another €3 each way, but that would have added another €6 to the already €8,60 in transportation cost just to GET to the palace and then you have another €7 admission to just the palace and Ludwig museum.

On the positive side, it was cooler today, but still just as humid.

Tonight I'm staying in Freilassing, which is right across the Salzach river from Salzburg, just a few minutes by train. I'm having a Wieninger "dunkeles"; it's got to be amongst the best beers I've had.

Saturday, Aug. 22
Freilassing, Germany, to Hallstatt, Austria
Mondsee Basilica
inside Basilica
Mondsee street scene
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I think I am destined to be wet. It rained part of the day, today - always the part when I wanted to be out. Everytime I got in the bus, the rain stopped. It rained in Mondsee, it rained again in Bad Ischl, and it rained as soon as I got off the bus and walked to my accommodations in Hallstatt. Now I'm sitting in the breakfast room in the house and it has stopped raining (sigh).

I had scheduled a couple of hours in Mondsee, primarily to see the Mondsee Basilica (Sound of Music wedding Church). It doesn't take long to see a church, particularly when there is a Mass going on. I think it was a funeral mass, because later I saw a horse drawn hearse leading a band of walking mourners away from the church. I wanted to get a picture, but my camera was put away at the time, and they were gone, down the street, before I could get it out.

Later I walked in the rain down to the lake, Mondsee (Moon lake), and took a picture with the low clouds making a very gray scene. Then I went back towards the church and got in out of the rain in a little cafe, where I had coffee and Sachertorte.

I rode on five buses today. It could have been just one from Salzburg to Bad Ischl, but I wanted to see Mondsee, and that took one bus from Salzburg and another two to Bad Ischl, changing in St. Gilgen. Then instead of the train and two boats, I took two more buses so as to arrive in Lahn, near my room. I did get to see a lot of the Salzkammergut this way.

I arrived in Hallstatt Lahn just before three. After a rest I walked into the town of Hallstatt itself for an early dinner. I was already hungry since all I had had since breakfast was the piece of Sachertorte. Hallstatt is very quaint and pictureque. It is filled with tourists, but most seem to be German speaking. I can't say I am all that impressesed with the restaurants. They are pricey, to be sure, as befits a resort area, but I didn't find the menu selection to be that great. Maybe they don't have what I expect because they're Austrian restaurants and have Austrian, not the German cuisine, I have come to expect. Tomorrow I'll see more of Hallstatt.

Sunday, Aug. 23
Hallstadt Market
Hallstatt from Seestr.
Hallstatt from above
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I awoke this morning to the sound of the animals. The Echernbach flows into the Hallstättersee just south of town, in Lahn, and the house where I am staying is about a half mile (10 min) up the bach, in a pretty rural area. When I arrived there were half a dozen chickens in the front yard. The neighbor has a herd of goat (update: I saw them closer today; they're sheep). I keep hearing a bell; it is on one of the sheep. The bell only rings when it is eating. The bell rings all the time.

Normally I try not to be about before 9 AM, but the last two days I had to start traveling just after 8. Today will be more leisurely.

I thouroughly explored the town this morning. It's very small; that doesn't take very long. The mountain behind Hallstatt is VERY steep. The town owes it's very existance to a waterfall behind it, which has brought down soil over the millenia and created a little delta of flat land along the shore where they started building. Once they ran out of flat land, they started building up the mountain. Sometimes a house is a whole building higher than the house next to it. There are no streets running up the hill, just a series of zig-zag lanes running across the mountain.

Monday, Aug. 24
Hallstatt to Hall in Tirol
THere will be no pictures of Hall. That would be more, in my opinion, than it is worth. No, I am not impressed with Hall. More about that later.

The trip from Hallstatt was uneventful. I took the bus from Lahn to Obertraun. The station in Lahn is a real one man operation. The guy who sold me my ticket had to stop midway to set switches and signals on the board behind him, then put on his official red hat and go out to signal the engineer when all were aboard, then, only when that train was gone, could he come back in and finish the ticketing.

The trip from Obertraun to Stainach-Irdning was pretty. The mountains are not as stark as the Rockies, but impressive never-the-less. They are much more wooded that the Rockies, and lower, so that only the very tops are above the timberline and, therefore, bare. The river valleys the train ran in were rather wide and flat, with lots of signs of human habitation.

I had an hour twenty minutes in Stainach. It was kind of early for lunch, but I knew I would not have a stop until I got to Jenbach at just before 4 o'clock, so I ate early. I look at the menu under "für kleine Hunger" (for a little hunger). I order Berner Würstel. It was two rather large hotdog wrapped in bacon, with a pile of French fries, and pickled carrots, cucumbers, slaw, and potato salad. for a little hunger, huh.

We traveled down another river valley, this one not so pretty - too industrialized - to Jenbach, where I had a 30 minute wait for the S-Bahn to Hall. I could have gone all the way to Innsbruck and come back to Hall, and that would have saved a few minutes, but cost more, so I did it this way.

The people next to me on the S-Bahn were speaking a form of German. I could understand individual words from the woman, but not complete sentences. From the man, I understood nothing. I asked them if she was speaking Hoch Deutsch and he a dialect, and they responded that they were both speaking the Tirolean dialect, but he was from the are and had a Tirolean accent while she was from Bregenz, by Switzerland, and didn't.

I arrived at Hall just after 4 PM. I didn't see a map at the station, there were no buses of taxis, so I hoffed it to Haus Tollinger. I think it was over an mile's walk. By the time I got there I was tired and hot. My hostess almost seemed reluctant to admit me, but finally showed be to my room. She never spoke English. I am surprised that she is recommended by Rick Steves. She showed me my room, the breakfast room, and the bathroom on the floor. Funny, the TI had offered me a double room with bath on the floor or a singel with bath. I asked her about buses into town, and she said that there were buses. She didn't offer more. She then asked me about breakfast and I suggested 7 AM. She frowned and offered 8. Then she disappeared, never again to be seen that day.

I settled in for a few minutes, then hiked into town. On the way I was passed by a bus. Wonder where you get it. I found the old town an there was a big sign with a map. It showed the way to the TI office. I found it and got a smaller paper map I could use. I asked her about buses, and she told me I could find the schedules online on the VVT website. She did print out some schedules for me that showed the way from somewhere near Haus Tollinger to the Bahnhof - 16 minute trip, 10 of it on foot. I then found the Internet cafe - no Wifi, no wired connection, either. Only terminals. So I sent a few emails and made a few posts on Rick's website, but couldn't upload to my website.

After the big lunch, and concentrating on getting the map and using the internet, I never felt like dinner. I returned to my room to wash out my clothes and get ready for bed.

Tuesday, Aug 25
Hall in Tirol, Innsbruck, Italy
When I am in Europe, I like to get up around 6-6:30, have a leisurely breakfast, and be on the road by 9. Today I stay in bed until 6:30. The shower facilities are nice. Very modern and the water is hot. As I leave the bath room, Frau Tollinger comes out of the breakfast room and informs me that my breakfast is ready.

I've had some "sparse" breakfasts in Germany, but this one takes the cake. Two small Kaiser rolls that couldn't have been made this morning and two thin slices of cheese, about 1" x 3" and one thicker piece about 1/2" x 3". That's it. No meat. There was jam; at least it wasn't strawberry. But there was plenty of coffee.

According to the schedule from the TI office, the bus is about to come. I go out to the bus stop and, to my surprise, the bus says, "Bahnhof". I ask the driver if he is really going to the Bahnhof. He says he is. I stay on the bus and, sure enough, he goes to the Bahnhof. It just takes longer than getting off at an earlier stop and walking. The girl at the TI office told me there were no buses to the Bahnhof.

The trip to Innsbruck takes 9 minutes. I go looking for an Internet cafe and find it near the station. They have a wired connection, but I quickly find that it doesn't work. I have to use one of the terminal, check my email, post some on RS, but no website upload.

After looking around Innsbruck a bit, I buy the ticket to Brenner. The automat does not give the option for a return trip. The trip up to Brenner Pass is pretty, with wooded mountains and quaint Alpine towns, but after the Rockies of Colorado and the Cascades of Washington, I'm not impressed. It is nothing like going over Loveland Pass. What is impressive is the highway that has been built for cars over the Pass. In most cases the train is below the highway, allowing one to see the spindly bridges. If one is going to do it both ways, one should do it by car the first time. Once you take the train and see how the highway hangs over nothing, you might not want to do it by car.
Brenner Pass
Alpine village
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The train comes into the station at Brennero just before noon. I'm in Italy by, it looks like, about 100 yds. I have to go a little farther. I buy a ticket to Fortezza, about an hour down the mountain. In Fortezza I find a restraurant and have pizza with spicey salami, red and yellow sweet peppers, and pepperoni. In Europe, pepperoni is a spiced yellow pepper, not the sausage we expect. After lunch I catch the train back to Brennero.
Brennero Station
Brenner Pass
Italian Side
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Italy, check.

There is no ÖBB ticket automat in Brennero. A Trenitalia worker tells me I must buy my ticket on the train. No one ever comes around on the train to check tickets, so my trip from Brennero to Innsbruck is free. From Innsbruck I take the bus back to Hall. It takes a little longer and costs the same, €2,80, but it drops me off at Unterer Stadtplatz, closer to my room.

Wednesday, 26 Aug, Hall in Tirol to Osterhofen
Frau Tollinger did warm up a little today when she came while I was having breakfast to collect the bill. She asked me if I was going home today, and I said that I had another week in Germany and told her where I was going. She than asked me if I was Dutch. I kinda laughed and said I thought everyone could tell by my accent that I was American.

I finished breakfast, which this morning included a fourth slice of cheese, finished packing, and headed for the bus stop to get the bus to the Bahnhof. If I had already purchased a ticket, I could have caught the 8:51 train, but by the time I finish getting my tickets (note plural), that train had left. The ticketing is interesting. There is no ticket counter here in Hall, only an automat. The automat does not allow me to purchase a ticket all the way to Brannenburg, only to Kufstein. There is another touch pad labeled "Kufstein Rosenheim Relation". Touching that pad gives me a half dozen selections from Kufstein, including to Brannenburg. So I end up with two tickets, Hall to Kufstein and Kufstein to Brannenburg, all for about €10, less than ÖBB said it would be from Hall to Brannenburg.

Right now I am writing this from the top of the Wendelstein. I came up on the Zahnradbahn (cog railraod) from Brannenburg. The view from the top of the Wendelstein is impressive. You can see straight down into Bayrischzell. The elevation at the top of the Wendelstein is 1723 meters (my house in Littleton, Colorado is at about 1700 meters).

AT LAST! I have good Internet connection again. I feel kind of like the astronauts when they came out from the shadow of the moon and had communication with earth again. I'm back in Germany and I can use the G3 connection. I managed to upload the latest update to my website, but the pictures are taking too long. I'll have to try again later.

I walk around the top of the Wendelstein and take a few pictures. Although the top of the mountain is in sunlight, there is a lot of cloudiness making it difficult to take good pictures of lower elevations.
View from the Zahnradbahn
near the top of Wendelstein
Observation Platform
Top of Wenderstein
Weather Station
Osterhofen from Seilbahn
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There is a panorama trail that allows one to walk all the way up to the weather station at the very top of the Wendelstein, but there are no lockers in Wendelsteinhaus, and I'm not going to do that narrow trail with my backpack.

I also have lunch. After about 3 hours, the mountain begins to get socked in, so I give up on pictures and take the Seilbahn (cable car) down to Osterhofen and walk to my room. This place lists itself as a Gasthaus, but it is really a Privatzimmer.

This page is getting kind of long, and with so many pictures, must load slowly, so lets go on to week2.