Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Munich and Salzburg

FIRST DAY: The trip over was as expected, 3.5 hours to DC, 8.5 hours to Munich, trying to convince yourself it is morning when it is really midnight. We flew to Munich and took the train to Salzburg. Our first impression in Munich airport was good, the lady at the coffee shop was tolerant of our bad German, I had two and three mixed up, and was happy to help us pronounce things more correctly. In fact, the first four people we encountered were very nice and helpful. The cash machine rejected three of our cards with the error message ínvaid card´and we were starting to get worried when I realized that my bank has a limit of $300 a day and I was trying to get 400 euro (about $500). I switched it to 200 euro and it worked much to our relief and the relief of the people behind us in line at the cash machine. It is so easy to get cash now, much better than going to Europe in the old days where I literally got writer´s cramp signing all the $10 travelers checks I bought.

The airport bus took 45 minutes and then we waited about 1.5 hours for the Salzburg train. We got a "Bavaria pass" which allows up to five people unlimited local trains in Bavaria for one day for 25 euro ($32), a very good deal. Going from Germany to Austria is like going from New Mexico to Colorado these days, no border check, nothing, not even aacknowledgementent we were going into another country. In fact, getting to Europe was not much different. We showed our passports to the gate agent Albuquerqueque and then again to a young German official who glanced at it for a second and we were in the Munich airport.

The local train was electric and quite smooth. It took two hours to go about 80-90 miles, not that bad really. We went the wrong way out of the train station and had to double back so we were tired when we got to the hotel after close to 22 hours of travel. It amazinging how simple instructions look after you learn about a town and how hard they are to follow when you arrive tired and jet-lagged. Of course, one of the best parts of travel is learning how to manage in a new town. It is fun to figure it all out and learn your way around.

The Hotel Berglund was very nice, 90 euro a night. We checked in with what appeared to be the head maid and she just said "the room is on the second floor". After lugging the suitcases up one floor I remembered that Europeans use zero-based floor numbering where the floor number is the number of floor you have to go up to get there. Something computer scientists love but people lugging suitcases, not so much. I was in both groups and so was in the middle.

On the way up I noticed a little patio (between floors 0 and 1) which I sat in the next morning for a while. The room is good-sized and airy. It looks out on the side of one of the "little mountains" Salzburg is sited around, a nice view.

One of the fun things about traveling is learning about how other people do tordinaryarz things of life. The bathroom was typically European. The toilet and the "little flush" and "big flush" buttons, which seems very sensible to me. The toilet paper is soft enough but looks like reused newspapers, which it probably is. It would be just like the Europeans to require that toilet paper be 100% recycled.

We went out to get some food but it was around 4 pm and most places were just serving coffee, beer, desserts, etc. But we found a place with a nice patio and serving actual food, and mentioned in the guidebooks. We have found that it is worth the trouble to always go to a place with a recommendation. Even in can´t-miss-on-food Italy, the recommended places turned out better. We always copy the food the hotel sections out of four or five guidebooks and bring them along. I got a noodle and mushroom dish which was excelleThesehese Germans and Austria know their noodlThe the big shock was the price of the water. Prices here are high and you have to get used to that but the water was 2.70 euro for 0.25 liter, more than $3 a cup! Water was more expensive than beer or wine or soda. We got spritzer and fruit juice thing that was quite good.

We forced ourselves to stay up until about 7:30 and then went to sleep. We were lucky because we did not get up until 7:30 am the next day. We only work up once and had to read for 30 minutes. So we were feeling pretty good the next day and made the 7 to 9:30 breakfast with ease. More on the second day later.

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