Reflections in Photos of My Austrian Summer

This statue in Krems is called
This statue in Krems is called “Simandl.” It is about the hen-pecked husband begging for the house keys so he can stay out late with the boys.

In three weeks the time on the clocks will change here in Central Europe and we will be on “Winter Time.” Summer has come and gone as I spent much of it exploring Austria on holiday and in two weeks I return to Spain.

A grand Danube River View from Aggstein Castle in Wachau Valley
A grand Danube River View from Aggstein Castle in the beautiful Wachau Valley

I have most recently been living in a small village in Wolkersdorf but my travels have taken me far and wide throughout the country to Krems, Horn, Melk, Tulln, Semmering, Salzburg, Graz, Innsbruck, Villach, the Wachau Valley, and Vienna. Many of these beautiful places, people, and artwork have been captured in photographs that I have shared on Facebook, blog entries and in messages to friends and family.

It is both happy and sad to be returning to Spain in two weeks. I have greatly enjoyed my holiday in Austria and with Winter cold and snow coming and the time change bringing darkness earlier in the day, I am anticipating the warmth on the Costa del Sol and friends there. I will miss the people I have met in Austria, the confectionaries, lattes, apple strudel, wiener schnitzel, and this distinct culture that I have appreciated.

In Salzburg, Pegasus in Mirabell Gardens. It was also in The Sound of Music 50 Years Ago
In Salzburg, Pegasus in Mirabell Gardens. It was also in The Sound of Music 50 Years Ago

Today’s blog is all about places I have captured in photos while in Austria. I hope you enjoy them!

Melk is at the beginning of the Wachau Valley and is also on the Danube River. It's famous Benedictine Stift Melk Abbey dwarfs the little town.
Melk is at the beginning of the Wachau Valley and is also on the Danube River. It’s famous Benedictine Stift Melk Abbey dwarfs the little town.

My initial stop in Austria was in Krems an der Donau. It is one of the oldest settled communities in all of Austria and was an excellent place to begin my Austrian holiday. Many people speak English in all of Austria but especially in Krems. I wrote a few entries in my blog about Krems but my favorite one is here. Following Krems, I stayed awhile in Melk. In Melk I particularly enjoyed the park at the Abbey and wrote about my Melk holiday. Krems and Melk are the bookends of the Wachau Valley. Famous for apricots and grapes for wine, the Danube River flows through the Wachau passing many small villages with Spitz, Durnstein, Rossatz, and Emmersdorf among my favorites. The castle ruins at Aggstein are in the Valley and well worth the visit. I wrote about Aggstein and its famous “Little Rose Garden.” I especially enjoyed visiting the ruins during a Renaissance festival and loved the food and writing about my visit to Aggstein.

Lake Wolfgang near Salzburg was in the opening scenes of the movie
Lake Wolfgang near Salzburg was in the opening scenes of the movie “The Sound of Music.”

A beautiful view of the Alps in Bavaria from Eagle's Nest
A beautiful view of the Alps in Bavaria from Eagle’s Nest

In many of the places I have mentioned I went by train and boat to visit towns and cities in Austria. Most notable to me was Salzburg and is certainly one of the places I want to visit again someday. Salzburg is the location for the movie “The Sound of Music.” The scenery in the mountains and lakes is stunning and in the mountains one cannot help hearing Julie Andrews singing “The hills are alive with the sound of music.” While in Salzburg I visited Hitler’s “Eagles Nest” where the beautiful mountain views take your breath away. I wrote two blogs about my visit to Salzburg and Eagles Nest. One can’t help but to be inspired to write in these places with beautiful skies and spectacular peaks.

Schönbrunn Palace, the Summer residence of the Hapsburgs

Johann Strauss in beautiful Stadtplaz in Vienna
Johann Strauss in beautiful Stadtpark in Vienna

I have taken so many photos that it is always difficult to determine which to include in any blog or to post on Facebook. Staying in Vienna presented a problem in that there are so many places one wants to visit and if I were to reflect on them all, the blog would be way too long. The city offers so much… classical music by Strauss and Mozart among others, opera, historic, beautiful monuments and architecture, and wonderful food and drink. I narrowed my photo selections to a few and decided to write about the “City of Dreams” from a perspective that focused on present day Vienna as dreams that have been realized. There are also memories in Vienna that are sad such as the 65,000 Jews who never returned during the Holocaust, the NAZI annexation of the entire country during World War II, and the oppression by the occupying Russian forces following the war. Vienna was also the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and there are wonderful and sad stories throughout the history of the Empire. These are captured in the numerous museums throughout the city.

A Wachau Vally trail marker
A Wachau Vally trail marker

Hiking along the Wachau Valley Trails brings you to many of the famous places I have mentioned previously. There are many selections of trails to take and one can always find solitude and reflection somewhere in the Wachau. Surprisingly often you find yourself in one of many vineyards. The grapes from the Wachau are particularly desired for making Gruner Veltliner wine which is loved throughout Austria and Germany.

An original 14th century walkway to the Danube inside the Durnstein walls
An original 14th century walkway to the Danube inside the Durnstein walls

Two of the towns in the Wachau Valley are Rossatz and Durnstein. Each are known for many things but my adventures were often focused on taking photographs, eating different foods, learning about history, and tasting wines.

Rossatz early in the Summer
Rossatz early in the Summer

Rossatz in particular is quite beautiful. Located across the river from Durnstein in the Valley, the town is often identified as the heart of the Apricot Mile. In the Summer when apricots are ripe, they are for sale everywhere. In addition to fresh apricots, apricot dumplings are particularly popular. There are all sorts of drinks and syrups made from apricots. But in Rossatz I enjoyed its quiet charm. Many just don’t know about it and the serenity found there in the vineyards, throughout the community, and along the beach. That’s right, there is a beach on the Danube very close to Rossatz. It also turns out that there are several along the Danube.

The Jester in Villach
The Jester in Villach

My excursions have taken me to many fascinating places in Austria and I have captured some of those memories in this blog. I enjoyed my Summer holiday very much and look forward to returning sometime and reliving many of the memories that I have described and many more. So for now I will say “Auf Wiedersehen” from Austria as I plan my return to Mijas Pueblo, Espana, later this month.

Salzburg: 50 Years After “The Sound of Music”

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Mirabell Garden Statue (also in The Sound of Music)

Salzburg, Austria is forever etched into our memories as a place of natural and man-made artistic beauty and as a cultural center. The rich history of this city is evident at the turn of every street corner and throughout the nearby lakes and hills. The movie The Sound of Music embraces Salzburg in the late 1930’s. This year we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the film and I have been fortunate to have recently visited Salzburg. In this blog I not only share some thoughts about the movie but also many other things that are evident to me in this vibrant area.

In comparison, much larger ViennaIMG_1853 (1) is majestic and bold but in seeking Austria’s soul, it would be found in Salzburg. On arriving by train, you can immediately look up and sense grandeur in the mountains. Yes, these are the “hills” that Maria sang about in the movie. The hills and the city are alive and in your mind you can hear her singing!

Fortress Hohensalzburg crowns the city
Fortress Hohensalzburg crowns the city

Journeying through the city, one can see boats on the Salzach River, lovers expressing their forever love by attaching their locks to the bridges, Mozart’s birthplace, the Fortress Hohensalzburg crowning “Old Town,” Mirabell Gardens with Pegasus dancing at its center, the Mozart Bridge the children ran across to play, and the small towns of Sankt Gilgen and Monsee on the shores of Lake Wolfgang… everywhere there are visions and sounds from the movie that surge into my memory!

My first visit was to Mirabell Gardens across the street from the hotel. With the Pegasus fountain centrally located, everyone was taking the “perfect” shot not only as reminiscent of the movie but also because it is a beautiful artwork. The garden’s colors just explode and several statues found there are in the movie.

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An entire blog could be dedicated to the Mirabell Gardens but I journeyed to the Lake District to see Sankt Gilgen, Sankt Wolfgang, Monsee, and Lakes Fuschl and Wolfgang. Each of these locations were included in The Sound of Music.

People were camping around, sailing on, and swimming in Lake Wolfgang and Lake Fuschl. The mountains around the lakes provide a perfect backdrop for a superb holiday in the region. And who can forget the sweeping images of these places at the beginning of the movie?

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Lake Fuschl as in the opening scene from The Sound of Music

Quaint, traditional buildings in Monsee and Sankt Wolfgang are like time capsules with their large overhanging roofs and decorations of flower boxes attached to the upper levels. Each house has its own large supply of firewood to prepare for heating during the harsh Winters that come to this area. The mountains and the lakes are breathtaking and it is easy to see why these places were chosen for the movie.

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Traditional House at Sankt Wolfgang

Of course the city and area have so much to offer as they pose for the camera’s eye. I endeavor to keep my blog entries to a reasonable length and know that this one doesn’t adequately recount my memories of this vibrant city, the home to The Sound of Music and Mozart.

Looking Downriver at Sunrise
Looking Downriver at Sunrise

Salzburg is one place that I highly recommend be included in your travel bucket list. Salzburg is an extravaganza for your soul!

There are so many more places to see from The Sound of Music and I know that these few memories of the city will be just my initial ones as I will return several more times.

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Sankt Gilgen on Lake Wolfgang as in The Sound of Music
Mozart's Birthplace
Mozart’s Birthplace

I hope you enjoyed sharing in my adventure to Salzburg and that it encourages you to want to come and visit!

My Visit to Hitler’s Kehlsteinhaus “Eagle’s Nest”

Eagle's Nest from Outside
Kehlsteinhaus from the Outside

Last week I traveled to Salzburg, Austria because I had heard so much about its beauty, artistic value and historic significance. One of the historic places I am attracted to is Hitler’s “Kehlsteinhaus” (a.k.a “Eagle’s Nest” by English-speaking people) overlooking Berchtesgaden, Germany in the Bavarian Alps.

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View from Eva Braun’s Tea Room where she entertained diplomatic spouses

Kehlsteinhaus was intended to be a diplomatic reception place for dignitaries and general planning. In 1938 the NAZI Party paid for constructing Eagle’s Nest as a present for Adolph Hitler for his 50th birthday. It is a bit odd to give Hitler such a present because he was afraid of heights and at over 1800 meters above sea level, Eagles Nest is at a significant height with astonishing views. Supposedly, Hitler used Kehlsteinhaus less than 15 times and usually for very brief periods less than an hour. Other than for the guards, there are no sleeping accommodations. There was then a full service kitchen as there is today. Now, Eagle’s Nest is primarily a tourist attraction with spectacular views, a magnet for history buffs, and a restaurant that is open except in Winter.

Tunnel access to the elevator to go up into Eagle's Nest
Tunnel access to the elevator to go up into Eagle’s Nest from the upper parking lot

Access to Eagles Nest from the lower parking lot is by bus to the upper lot and then through a tunnel to get to the elevator for the final 124 meters. Constructing the building and creating access to get to it was a substantial achievement. And the stone work done by Italian masons for the building and tunnel is exceptional. The single lane road to the upper lot is up to 26 degrees which is really steep (I seem to recall that the original section of the Pennsylvania Turnpike is no more than 4 degrees). Each bus goes up or down in a group because the road is only 4 meters wide and the drop off is sheer. Given Hitler’s concern with heights, this narrow road with five tunnels and a switch back must have been problematic for him.

Looking to the outside through the elevator tunnel
Looking to the outside through the elevator tunnel

I found it interesting to have an elevator to get into the building. The access tunnel from the upper lot is wide enough for a car and when Hitler came, the driver took the car directly into the tunnel to the elevator, backed out after Hitler got out, and then backed in to be ready when Hitler was to depart. Hitler also was apparently claustrophobic so the walls in the elevator are polished brass that makes a mirror effect that the elevator inside is much larger than it really is. The elevator moves quickly and traverses the final 124 meters in 46 seconds.

The fireplace given by Mussolini is at the head of the conference room, today a restaurant
The fireplace given by Mussolini is at the head of the conference room, today a restaurant

In today’s restaurant you can see the fine Italian marble fireplace which was given by Italian dictator (and Hitler’s ally), Benito Mussolini. The restaurant formerly was the main conference room. The large fireplace has been severely damaged by American soldiers smashing off pieces as war souvenirs and etching names and graffiti into the stone. The damage is evident in the photo.

Damaged Marble Fireplace
Damaged Marble Fireplace

Which military unit was first to reach Eagle’s Nest? Contrary to the movie “Band of Brothers” in which the U.S. 101st Airborne “Screaming Eagles” were first to arrive, it is not precisely known but it is believed that on 4 May 1945 that the U.S. 7th Army, the U.S. 101st Airborne, and the French 2nd Armored all seem to have been there.

A view from Outside
A view from Outside

Recently I found out that PFC Benedict Vinzani, Senior’s (from my hometown and parent of two of my Facebook friends) final duty station during World War II was in Salzburg. He was a member of 33rd Armored which is recorded to have been part of the 101st. It is unknown if he went to Eagle’s Nest but he served in the area as a member of the “Greatest Generation.” I think it is important that we remember those who contributed to Hitler losing the war and how different the world would be had that generation not risen to the need and challenges. I am forever grateful for them.

Inside view on a walkway
Inside view on a walkway

Today, Kehlsteinhaus it is operated by the Bavarian German State and revenue generated in excess of operating expenses is given to charity.  Last year more than 300,000 people visited Eagle’s Nest. Hitler was an awful, evil, cruel man. I am pleased that charity is benefiting from a remnant of that time. Eagle’s Nest could have been obliterated in the final days of the war but it was spared and I hope that it remains as a reminder of lessons from a very tragic time in history