Friday, September 28, 2007

Home Sweet Home

It's 3 am as I type this.  We got in around 10 pm last night and went straight to bed.  25 hours of travel to get home and neither of us slept so we were pretty exhausted.  Should help the jet lag.  Not complaining because 5 hours of sleep the first night should be pretty good.  The next three days until work week should be a haze of napping and getting things back together after having being gone so long.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Munich (oder München)

San Fransisco Coffee Company - Munich

Posting from a coffee shop in downtown Munich.  The San Francisco Coffee Company actually as strange as that may sound. Sneaking in a post whilst Heidi grabs us some beverages.  The Internet still proves to be elusive whilst traveling at hotels we've stayed at and I've ended up paying 19 Euro for a 1 month connection to T-Mobil.  The hour by hour and minute by minute charges just seem to be price gouging.

The coaching by horse and carriage for two days was a great way to see the country-side and the highlight of our trip.  I have many pictures and video to share.

We're doing Munich for 3 nights and two days.  Yesterday we did the Oktoberfest tents!  What a blast.  Today was our first day of bad weather.  It's been raining all day so we spent the afternoon in the Deutsches Museum, basically the equivalent of the Smithsonian.

Tomorrow we take the train back to Vienna and fly out Thursday morning.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

Forest house at the lake

View from the balcony

We've arrived at the hotel "Forsthaus am See", forest house at the lake, tonight in Feldafing, Germany, about 45 min southwest of Munich.  Tomorrow Andreas picks us up for the Coaching trip and so this is the reason we are here as this is close to his stables.  It's quite the vacation area for well-to-do Munich citizens though.  Many million dollar mansions along the lake.  It reminds me of Lake Geneva, WI, the spot of rich Chicagoans to vacation.  Although I think the lake here is just a little deeper, and the view of the mountains (not sure which ones they are) on the horizon is quite spectacular.  My guess is we are headed in that direction tomorrow.  Should be interesting.

Rothenburg 092

Rothenburg 094

What I've gleaned in 1/2 day:

  • There's a path that appears to go around the lake used by pedestrians and bikes.  Larger than the Lake Geneva one.
  • The vegetation is much more like back in WI/IL than OR.  Less pine and more deciduous.  I can imagine when the leaves change here in a few weeks it will be beautiful.  This is in contrast to Baden-Baden, north of the Black Forest, which was more like OR, with many pine and they also grow Pinot Noir grapes for wine as well there.
  • You gotta be rich to live here.
  • Looks like you could create some nice singletrack for MTBing. :)
  • More use of German.  The woman who picked us up at the trainstation, Bahnhof, English wasn't very good and we rely more on our German as we approach the less tourist area.  I had to order most everything today and communicate in German but don't let that scare you off.  Most know enough English to get by.  Partly I'm fueling my own desire to speak another language since I feel ignorant that I only know one.
  • Cool tempuratures.  Jackets at night.  Jeans and long-sleeves during the day.  The driver said she hasn't seen the lake frozen in years though so probably quite temperate like Oregon and UN-like the Midwest.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Quick Hello

I am feeling lazy so just wanted to let you know we are alive and well here and enjoying the city of Rothenburg.  Today is our last full day here and we'll be doing abit of shopping.  We plan to pickup a nice Black Forest cuckoo clock as a reminder of the trip.  Also a stop at the famous German Christmas store, Kathe Wohlfart, of which there are shops all over Europe.  I guess this town is their company headquarters.

I'll leave you with two shots taken yesterday.  The first is apparently a world famous part of this town where the old inner castle wall meets the newer outer castle wall.

Rothenburg 024

The second is of a more humorous note.  A "Packer Backer".  Here in Germany.  I guess I shouldn't be surprised.  Wisconsin and Germany are fairly well linked and my old home territory.  So for your enjoyment is a Green Bay Packers fan sporting is hat... (and perhaps even a Harley-Davidson t-shirt although I'm not sure - try zooming in and see what you think).  I don't think he saw me taking his photo.

Rothenburg 027


Monday, September 17, 2007

Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Rothenburg 159

We are in Rothenburg now.  We are here for 4 nights.  As I type it is the 2nd night, just after 10 pm (although to post this may take awhile to type...).

What a beautiful city.  Rothenburg is an old medieval town surrounded by a castle wall.  We decided to spend a few extra days here to just relax.  It can be a pain to pack the bags every other day to go off to a new town, and basically waste some of your day traveling, and we would rather just enjoy the stay awhile.

The hotel we are staying at, the Kosterstuble, is beyond words.  Just take a look. 

Rothenburg 007

We finally found some WiFi.  It's at the hotel, free and not great but better than paying 8 Euro for 1 hour.  Everytime I tried an upload a batch of photo's to flickr they bounce so I'm left to only loading up a few at a time for the blog posts.  I'll have to wait to get home to upload them all.

We went on this very fun Night Watchman's Tour the first night where we learned all about the town from a unique perspective.  The guy giving the tour has been doing it for 15 years or something.  He dressed the part, dressed in a cloaked robe with halberd in one hand and candlelit lantern in the other.  He gave the tour in English, albeit German accent, and interspersed it with some very funny commentary.  He even has a DVD if your interested, including some clips on the web if your interested in hearing his voice, maybe we'll pick up a copy while we are here.

The food at our hotel is good and we had a nice dinner the first night here outside.  Afterwards we went to this cool, Lord of the Rings, Hobbit-like place for drinks.  I'm enjoying this drink called Radler.  It's a mixture of beer and lemonade.

Today we did more exploring.  Up to the top of the 200 foot tower in the center of town.  We did the full 1.5 mile hike around the town on the castle wall, which is where I took the photo at the top of the post.  Also toured the Town Vaults and saw some dungeons, armor, etc.  Went through a couple of old churches and looked at things that were built, made or constructed bake in the 1400-1500s.  This stuff is old and it gives you an appreciation for what people were able to achieve so long ago.

I have to say that even though the Euro is stronger than the dollar, some things seem substantially cheaper here.  4 drinks at the bar and our bill is only 12-14 Euro.  I can get two scoops of ice cream in a sugar cone for 1 Euro.  And that's what we've been doing alot of.  Stopping at a small cafe.  Heidi has coffee and I have hot chocolate or tea along with a baked good (and there's so many baked goods here). 

We've had beautiful weather since we've been here.  Tonight was the first time it has rained and it only did so for about an hour after dinner.  We retired early tonight to just do some reading and more relaxing.

Tomorrow we need to do some laundry.  Then Heidi's going to get a manicure.  I on the other hand am going to see the best museum in the world of torture devices.  It's called the Medieval Crime Museum or Kriminalmuseum.  Also take a look at a craftsman museum by going through a house built in 1270.  That's old.

I'll leave you with this photo of the fountain in Market Platz. 

Rothenburg 009

In medieval times the fountain provided water to the populace.  Notice the the pipes coming from the mouths of the faces on all four sides.  You'd move the metal rail you see so that the water would go into your bucket.  Also if you look at the yellow building on the right, you'll see what looks like a board sticking out almost at the top.  It's the old pulley used to haul grain, salt, etc, to the top of the building.  Every building here has these relics.  They stored about a years worth of dried goods here to keep it out of the rain, the roads used to be muddy and filthy (yes both animal and human waste) and for use in times of defense when the castle was under siege.

Danke schon!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Baden-Baden: 2 nights / 1 day

We arrived at 7pm at the train station and had a short 15 minute bus ride into town.

Our hotel was at the top of the hill next to the church.  It was quite a hike after 10 hours on the train.  75 steps at least when I stopped counting up stairs.  But the streets were all cobblestone and narrow.  Since the church bells ring every 15 minutes from 6 am to 10 pm, I was afraid sleeping would be difficult.  It wasn't and I think we've now made the conversation to European time.  We took no naps the next day.

The room we had for two nights was nice.  The bathroom was a very welcome upgrade from the one we had in Vienna.  At least it didn't smell...  Unlike the other toilets, this one was very American in that the water hole (or whatever it's called) was at the back.  All the ones in Vienna were at the front.  Why?  Dunno.  The only downside was that it was on the 3rd floor and those 50lb bags were getting heavy after all that hiking to just the hotel.  The Frau had no problem taking Heidi's bag up and she looked thin and wiry, not even 100 lbs soaking wet.

Breakfast was good.  Meats, cheese, bread, jam, butter.  Heidi is enjoying the coffee.  I'm liking the hot chocolate.  The Germans must like their sweets because the hot chocolate is always available at cafe's etc, usually 3-4 versions, with whipped cream, without, spiked with Rum, etc.

We had awoken late and rushed downstairs to eat so afterwards we took showers and didn't get out to enjoy the day until 11:30.  The previous day of travel and shaking out the last bits of jet lag had us starting the day late but felling really good.  It's vacation anyway and we weren't on any timeline to begin with.

We strolled around town and through a very cool garden.  Like our parks only less cut grass and more tree, foliage and trails.  It was right next to a private palace with large intimidating castle-like walls.  Would have been cool to go inside but is was closed to the public.

There's two baths in Baden-Baden.  And old school Roman style bath, called Friedrichsbad, which supposedly takes 3 hours to get through.  There's umpteen (17 I think) different stages - water at 38C then a shower, then water at 58C etc.  Heidi expressed some concern because a few of the stages involved mixing men and women together... nude.  Yes.  Nudity is not a problem here.  There was also a newer bath, called Carcalla, with similar stages but you were a swimsuit.  Both baths are actually steeped in history as is the town.  It's built on an old Roman settlement and the baths are on top of hot mineral springs.

We settled on Carcalla and Heidi immediately signed up for a 50 minute massage.  While she got her message, I toured the old Roman ruins.  Previously a Roman soldier bath house had existed here and it was interesting to see how they heated the floor, etc.  I joined Heidi after here message.  The entire bath house was very cool.  Many different showers, whirlpools, aroma steam rooms, and even and all nude area with steam log cabins.  After a couple hours we left feeling like jelly.  Very relaxed and at ease.

We were now ready for some dinner and settled on this nice restaurant we came across.  With the streets small and the buildings right next to the street, the building are usually square around the block and have a passageway to the middle of the building with a garden, fountain, etc.  It's very private and very nice.  This place had tables set up there.  Food was great.  I'd add specifics but I don't have the information near me now.  I took a few photos as well.

After that we stopped for some ice cream, strolled some more and then stopped a bar.  We got to know the bartender Chris, who is originally German, now lives in Miami, Florida, but has been here for two years visiting family in Baden-Baden. More on the beers later but we found some interesting information about Budweiser and Lowenbrau. 

As we were leaving town this morning a couple commented on our large rucksacks as we had them on our backs walking down the 75 stairs to get to the bus station.  I commented that my German wasn't so good but that yes, we were on our way to the train station (Bahnhof).  We stopped and then had a 10 minute conversation with them.  Hans and Margaret were on their way home from church.  My guess would be their 60s/70s.  Margaret could not speak any English but Hans was pretty good so we proceeded to have a conversation in half German and half English.  We told them we were on our honeymoon and headed to Rothenburg.  Hans said they had honeymooned their years ago and that we would love it.  Margaret was commenting on our hair color and eye color and saying how beautiful she thought Heidi was.  When I looked over I could see tears welling up in her eyes which made me almost tear up.  It was a very warm nice conversation and of course Heidi loved it. 

We can't wait to come back here to walk the Lichtentaler Allee, see the Casino, and go the the Friedrichsbad.

I'm running out of time waiting for the train so until then...


Saturday, September 15, 2007

Train Ride

Yesterday was a long day.  We rode from Vienna to Baden-Baden.  11 Hours door-to-door but went from the far side of Austria to the opposite side of Germany.  The trains are super fast though going close to 200km/hour.  We made fast time and it wasn't like US trains.  We sat comfortably and drank beer and ate food.

Baden-Baden is an old small town with cobblestone streets and old buildings.  Once we arrived around 8pm we showered then went out for dinner and strolled through the pedestrian only streets.

The Internet has been elusive here.  I had to pay 8 Euro just to use 1 hour of WiFi here at the Hotel am Makt.  I have many pictures and would love to intersperse them through my posts but don't have the time nor bandwidth.

Today we have plans to spend a few hours in a Roman bath.  It should be interesting.

Tomorrow we head to Rothenburg for a few days.


Vienna: Day 2

Up at a decent hour today for breakfast of meat, cheese, bread and various jams.  There was a little bit of sliced fruit.  Apples and grapes.  One does wonder how Austrians get their daily servings of fruit and vegetables though with such a heavy meat and cheese diet.

Today was a long tour of the Hapsburg residence.  In particular the Hofburg Palace and the Imperial Apartments (Kaiserappartements).  They had audioguides in English which was nice.  Although the Rick Steves guidebook made it seem like you could do this museum plus another 2 or 3, we were tired after 3 hours of walking and listening.  I guess our idea of a vacation includes alot of relaxation time.  Not that it wasn't cool checking out all the royal silver and porcelain collections (and that means collection after numerous collection - seems like one for everyday of the year for umpteen years).  We also got to learn all about the Empress Sisi and toured all the Emperor Franz Josef and Empress Sisi rooms.  One for the Large Salon, another for the Small Salon, and so on... These were certainly "wish-I-were-God" royal rooms.  Throughout the tour we were not allowed to take photo or I'd have snapped a few inside.

After the tour, we had lunch at the Hofburg and relaxed for awhile taking in the sun.  It's been cool here, no shorts and a jacket at night (50-60s), but when the suns shines down it feels good.  Either we were tired or a little jet lagged still so we headed back to the hotel for a nap and to rest up for the evening.

We got all dressed up that night and headed out to see a Classical music concert in and old old room.  It was great.  The acoustics were really good and the players were great as well, although I'm sure listening to it in Vienna added to the ambience of the evening.

Afterwards we had dinner at a Beisl.  These unique Vienesse taverns are all over.  I originally thought they were part of some chain ala-Starbucks but not so.  I must also add that it's nice to have to ask for the bill and not be bothered every second to know if you want more food or drink or are ready to leave.

We wrapped up the evening with dessert at Sacher which is supposed to be the place to have Vienna dessert called the Sacher tort.  Not bad.  Wierd to hear techno in the place.  Reminded me of a martini bar.

We also spent some time trying to figure out where to go next.  We only booked 2 nights in Vienna (or Wien as it's called here) so we needed to figure out where to go next.  We checked into staying an additional night but our hotel has no rooms, at least not one with a bathroom.  Also, we have noticed the terrible smell coming from our bathroom.  The shredder toilett, while environmentally friendly and European, may be a little lacking in American standards.

Gruss Got and Gudent Abend!

Vienna: Day 1 (Long day)

Long day.  Ride and shine, Portland Standard Time at 4:30 am.  4 hours to ORD.  2.5 hours wait.  8 hours to Vienna.  Add in the extra 9 hours and you lose a whole day.  Leave Tue morning from the Pacific coast and arrive Wed morning in Vienna.

Flight from ORD to VIE was surprisingly good.  I got a kick out of the flight attendants red uniforms.  Of course, a majority were blondes with strong Austrian accents.

The food was also surprisingly good.  We were happily presented with a menu.  With two separate times to be served.

We used real silverware on real plates.  Gotta love the recycling impact.

Cool movie, music, games were available in each headrest.  Saw Shrek 3 and Spiderman 3.

Once we landed it was time a little struggle to get out of the airport.  Luckily most signs are in both German and English.  We waited forever to get the 3 day pass for the transit system here in Vienna and then got confused trying to figure out if we should take the express CAT train, the bus, the S-Bahn or U-Bahn.  We did meet a couple interesting English speakers.  A woman from Chicago who was on some kind of spiritual journey through Czech Republic and another from England.  Once we found and boarded the correct train we couldn't help but notice all the graffiti.  In fact, it wasn't until later that evening that I really found the vibe of this town.

We were also struggling with out choice of travel bags a little.  We decided to use the Rick Steves bags.  They have no rollers and are meant to be used like a backpack.  Well I could see Heidi was struggling and I felt bad.  Once we were on the cobblestones in Vienna I can see the point where rollers might be no good but they sure would have been handy in the airports.

We did get a cool room.  It's in the old old old part of Vienna.  The one that used to be surrounded by castle walls.  So you know it's old.  I felt like I was in an episode of the Bourne Identity. 

Then we went strolling around around.  The architecture is very cool.  Lots of statues and ornamental things on buildings.  The roads are non-symmetrical, narrow and a mixture of pavement and cobblestone - including the bike lanes! 

We just wandered and ran across some interesting stuff.

After walking abit we got hungry.  We happened across this place called Trzesniewski.  THis is a Vienna specialty; finger sandwiches.  You basically walk up and pick out what appears to be a single slice of bread covered in a spread of different kinds.  Cheap.  Fast.  And damn good!  Check out the little sandwiches and small 1/4 liter of beer served in a little mug!

We then walked some more and found our way to this large old church called St. Stephens.

We noted it was interesting the woman begging with their children right at the entrance and exit from the church.

Then our jet lag started to catch up.  We headed back to the hotel at 2pm and crashed for 4 hours, showered, and headed back out for dinner and some drinks.

We were recommended the Ofenloch and ran into this nice couple.  We were actually seated next to them in the same booth you see below.  Very friendly and helped us with a couple sights to see.  Their English was bad but that gave me plenty of practice with my German.

After that we headed over to Brezel-Gwolb for some after dinner relaxing.  Had this cool beer called the Raudel? which was beer mixed with fruit juice.  Heidi had the local Vienna white wine.  The interior was old and built upon Roman ruins.

After that is back to the hotel to sleep.  What a long day.  Just after midnight here and it's only 3pm back home.

Auf Wiedersehen.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

End of the Beach Weekend

Hope you had a great time at the beach.  We did.  Couldn't ask for better weather.  We had the whole house to ourselves on Sunday night.

It took my all of last night to upload the photo's of the weekend and we are heading out the door now to catch the bus to catch the train to the airport and off to Vienna, Austria.  See ya soon!


Friday, September 07, 2007

Vacation: Day 6, Thursday Sep 6

Mt. Saint Helens.  Wow.  Another long day in car. 

More later.

Heard an owl hooting tonight outside the house... way cool.


Vacation: Day 5, Wednesday Sep 5

Tour Guide. Columbia Gorge.  Multanomah Falls.  Hood River.  Mt. Hood.  Timberline.  10 hours - 250+ miles.  Tiring day.

Update to come.


Vacation: Day 4, Tuesday Sep 4

Out the door at 10 to get to Husum, WA.  Location of the Riverdrifters White Salmon River run meeting location.  Class 3 and 4 rapids.

Whitewater rafting.  Dinner with father after he arrives in town.

Update placeholder.


Thursday, September 06, 2007

Vacation: Day 3, Monday Sep 3

Hangover recovery day.  Wake up easy.  Yogurt and granola fuels a bicycle ride.  I take Ray on a tour of Portland for 20 miles which included the Esplanade and Terwilliger.  The final test was a ride up the steep grade outside my house which he did quite well.

Ray rides the hill on 17th

Ryan enjoyed an afternoon nap.

Ryan enjoys an afternoon nap

Afterwards we introduced New Seasons and local organic food.  Followed by a picnic at the top of Council Crest.

Council Crest picnic

Later that evening we grilled out and went to bed early so we could hit the rapids refreshed the next day.


Vacation: Day 2, Sunday Sep 2

Ray and Ryan flew into PDX at 11:00 am.  Went solo since Heidi was running a little behind and was tired from the previous day.  Hopped on the 9:45 bus to downtown, grabbed the Max train to the airport.  Flight was early by 20 minutes but that was fine since I got there in plenty of time.  From there we got the rental car and I drove them back to our house, taking the Fremont bridge so they could get a good view of the city, hills, and other bridges.  We dropped off their bags and had a beer on the back deck.

From there we headed downtown to get some lunch.  First stop, Rogue brewery in the Pearl.  Had the Kobe Beef hotdog that the Willamette Week was bragging about.  Didn't think it was anything special; neither did Ryan.  We hung out at Rogue for a few hours just enjoying the afternoon sun and good beer.  One memorable beer was the Snakebite, a combo of cider and Dead Guy Ale.

Enjoying a beer at the Rogue Brewery

Next stop was OBA for happy hour.  The hostess however was weird.  We needed to wait for a table outside so she asked us for our phone number (strange thing #1).  She told us 15 minutes so we grabbed a seat at the bar.  We get a call two minutes later (strange thing #2) before we even order drinks from a phone number with an area code of 232 (strange thing #3).  Then when we go outside to grab the table she tells us someone sat down walking by without waiting in line.  How about kicking them out of the table? (strange thing #4)  We gave up and went elsewhere.

Right down from OBA is Manzana where we easily grabbed at table outside and stayed for a drink.

After Manzana came Henry's.  Ray was looking forward to Celis White.  On tap.  Along with 100+ other beers.  Ryan seemed to appreciate the ice trough along the bar and became a Hefeweizen fan by the end of the day.  They both dug the Halibut Fish & Chips, which I sill consider to be the best in town.

Old friends at Henry's

Another first timer at Henry's


It was getting dark by now and we had quite a few beers in us.  We started heading towards Old Towne and got distracted along the way.  First by the gay bar party scene happening in front of the bar with all the red lights (? name).  They had the road blocked off and were chargin $5 cover.  We could see two guys in their underwear dancing together without going in.  They got a kick out of the Portland gay scene regardless.  Another distraction, Sparticus.  Rabbit ears.  Gun oil.  Too funny.

Unique hood ornament

Distracted again into a bike bar.  We each took turns posing on the bike we weren't supposed to when the waitress wasn't looking.  Two bands played.  War Wagon was the first which didn't turn out too bad.  The following bad sucked bad...  From there, Heidi and Ryan lost wind.   Ryan falling asleep at the table and Heidi was tired as well so they grabbed a cab and Ray and I left for Voodoo donut.... which I couldn't seem to find in my condition and so we ended up at Thirsty Lion Pub where we enjoyed the weird albeit much appreciated requirement that Oregon bars have food when they sell liquor; all the way to closing time.  The home-fried chips (way good) and chicken strips were a life saver.  We had to wait 20 minutes before we caught the last running bus home so we decided to check out the strip club across the street...  the worst I've ever been to so we decided my Dad owed us $10 ($5 ea in cover) because we saved him the trouble.

Posing at the biker bar

When we got back, Ryan was fast asleep.  Long day.

Tired after a long day


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Vacation: Day 1, Saturday Sep 1

Errands.  Dishes, bank, website, haircut, phone calls, laundry.  With friends and family arriving all week, I needed to get this stuff done.  Heidi had to go to Eugene for the day because her good friends' father passed away and the memorial service was that day.  This left me with ample time to do all the above and some extra time to do a few rewards.  Treated myself to a all beef hotdog picked up from Edelweiss and some baked goods (carrot cake and chocolate crackle cookies) from the local bakery.

Haute dog from Edelweiss

Tried to take it easy because I figured the next day was going to be a big one with my two friends Ray and Ryan flying in and I haven't seen them in 1 1/2 years.


Sunday, September 02, 2007

Vacation: Day 0, Friday Aug 31

Day 0 because it's not really a true vacation day.  Had to work until 1PM.  It still counts because the excitement is there at the start of an entire month of doing what you would do if you didn't have to work.

Great day for a round trip bike commute to work.  The 2 1/2 hour, 40 mile round trip is becomes more enjoyable when it's paired with a 5 hour work day and sunshine.  Sometimes I need to pinch myself that views like this are available most everyday.  Mount Hood pokes through the clouds and overlooks houses on the Columbia river channel.

Mount Hood

After a shower it's still early afternoon.  Heidi gets off work early too because of the Labor Day weekend and she's got a great boss.  After a few beers enjoyed on the back deck we decide it's time to try Apizza Scholls, a small family run pizza joint.  We'd heard it was good but what we experienced blew us away.  Great beers and awesome pizza.  They take special care to make the dough each day and cook it in special ovens over 600 degrees.  That ended up with a perfectly crispy pizza.  They didn't open until 5PM and this was the line to get into the place at quarter to.

The line to get in Apizza Scholls 

We spent a good 2 hours there and decided to end the day by relaxing at home.  The day certainly seemed longer with the shortened work day.  I could get used to this...