Days 10, 11, and 12 – Munich!
Having gotten the maximum value we could from the Salzburg Tourist passes, we moved on to Munich. They’re only about 70 miles apart, so it was a pretty easy drive on the Autobahn – we got the Fiat Punto up to about 120 mph (for just a few minutes)!
One of the most classic things-to-see in Munich is the Glockenspiel – mechanical dolls that “dance” when the clock in the town hall strikes 11 am, noon, and 5pm. We waited and watched it, but honestly the more exciting thing for us was the large bookstore right across from the town hall. English language novels for everyone! Remember, we’d had that theft almost a week earlier, and were completely out of reading material. Nearby was the first Starbucks we’d seen all week, which made Heidi very happy.
We also stopped in at the Deutsches Museum, the world’s largest museum of science and technology. They’ve got an amazing collection that spans from stone-age paintings through microelectronics exhibits. Fully worth the visit, though we were pretty tired by then and didn’t give it nearly the attention it deserves.
We did, however, experience several of the infamous Munich beergardens. The first was part of the old Botanical gardens – we lucked out with a gorgeous evening, liters of beer, and our first accidental taste of “radler” – half beer, half lemonade. The next night we stopped at the Hofbrauhaus – just as crazy as you might expect, except that instead of Germans or even Europeans, it was almost all Asian and American tourists. You even had to enter the place through the gift shop! To top it all off, this was the one place in all of Munich (all of Germany, all of the countries in Europe that we visited) that upped the drinking age to 18. Guess they’d had problems in the past! We didn’t stay there long, but instead went to a much better place called the Augustiner. Technically it was a beer cellar not a beer garden, but with the long picnic-style tables, big beers, and jovial company, it was a much better fit for us.
I think next time, if there is a next time, we should fly into Munich first and spend more time there. This trip, however, we had to move on. One stop more stop first – just outside of Munich at the museum on the site of the Dachau concentration camp. The museum is free, and you can get audio for a self-guided tour in a whole bunch of languages (that’s the paddle-like thing in Eric’s hand). They’ve torn down most of the buildings, leaving the whole place with an eerie, empty feeling. The fence and guard towers are still there, and exhibits that describe all the things that happened there. There’s also a documentary they show several times a day in both English and German.
Days 12 and 13 – Switzerland
Our final destination for this trip was Switzerland. Because we spent most of the time in the Austrian and Italian Alps, this was much the same for us. First night was just outside of Lucerne – once again, arriving after dark and heading to bed early for a bright-and-shiny start the next morning. We drove through scary-dangerous mountain passes, saw snow on the top of the mountains, and rode the cable cars up, up, up. This time we stopped to play a bit – ride the longest summer toboggan ride…
and to let the kids spend an afternoon on the ropes courses at the top of Mt. Pilatus.
Our final Swiss night was in Hasliberg – a tiny village we found by accident (not because we were lost). Nice, scenic, very Alpine. We stayed in a sort of school vacation hotel that had the toilets and showers down the hall. This worked out ok because we were the only guests in the whole place.
And our final fun activity was a stop at the Swiss open-air museum at Ballenberg. This is one of those recreations of historic villages (like Plimouth Plantation or Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts) where they make bricks and cheese and straw hats just like they did in olden days. The difference here is that Ballenberg is a whole BUNCH of villages representing different time periods and regions. You have to walk for what feels like miles in between them. Guess who was having fun here and who wasn’t?
Days 14 and 15 – home
One last night in an airport hotel (aren’t these all the same??) and we were on the long trip back home. Despite a few troubles here and there, it was a great vacation!