Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Im Back and on to other things

We are currently in Wisconsin after passing through Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. We hope to spend the next few weeks spending time with family around the country.

We arrived in the USA on August 12th. Last week we spent with family in Pittsburgh and started to slowly adjust to American life once again. Our arrival was bittersweet. We were happy to be home, but sad that our big trip is finally over. :(

I have a few more posts that I would like to put up and you will see them over the next month. Stay tuned as I find my creative self and get a surge of energy to post my very last posts regarding our grand tour of Europe.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Beautiful Graveyards

The french do not forget their dead. In Pittsburgh, I drive past a cemetery and it is usually dotted sporadically with flowers. I get the same results when I drive past the big cemetery in San Pedro, Calif. Many headstones are bare and have been for some time. The older headstones are usually void of all color or remembrance.

The French are very different in how they remember their dead. They spend a good amount of time caring for their loved ones who have passed. They build gardens of live flowers, trees and plants directly on the headstone. Every grave is marked with color. This is a neat custom.

We saw many headstones in France since we did many tours of battlefields. Soldier's graves and people who were killed during World War II had their headstones well kept and covered with color.

In Rixheim, we saw people gardening in the church cemetery like it was their own back yard.

Lessons Learned: Small Town France in August is a Bad Idea

Our train rolled into Strasbourg, France and we ended up staying in a very hot hostel. Regardless, Strasbourg was nice city.

We should have stayed there for 4 days.

Instead, we decided to stay at a super nice B&B in a small town of Rixheim which is near Mulhouse. Small town France in August is a very bad idea. Because of a mix up with the B&B we had to stay in a hotel the first night. Their restaurant was closed. We walked down the road and we could not find any restaurant since we were in a more industrial area. The only open place was an all you can eat china buffet. The buffet was packed. This should have been my first hint. Why in the hell would the French flock from all parts of this region to eat greasy egg rolls in a bucket. To make things even more funnier, the food was awful. The French do not tolerate buffets and the presentation which is top priority in every Frenchman's list was laughable. However, the place was full of French speaking people. What the heck was going on?

The next day we made it to our B&B and we walked around town hoping to find a good mom and pop shop with authentic Alsace regional fare. Shop #1: closed. Shop #2: closed. Apparently, the shops all close in August for vacation. We walked about 5 miles looking at cafe after cafe to only find each one closed for vacation. For the first time on my trip, I saw myself starving in this little town of Rixheim. Finally, a pizza place. So much for traditional French food.

Among all this anguish, we found Vino.

We were saved after all.

Eat, Pray and Hike

Okay, I just had to have one cheesy rip off line as a blog subject before I went home.

Austrians are very religious. I was really surprised to find out how religious they really were.

Mutters was so cute and quaint that I could just hug it.

We did quite a bit of walking above Mutters. As we walked, we found alters, crosses and even little prayer houses.

We joked that hikers must pray that they don't get lost or fall down the mountain. I should have knocked on wood with that.

The Austrian Alps rivaled the rockies but they did not hold a torch to the Swiss Alps. Regardless, we got lucky with one clear day.

After ascending 400 meters, we saw a house in the distance. I had read in my Lonely Planet book that Austria is well connected with Mountain Huts. These huts give hikers a roof over their heads and a warm meal as they walk across long distances. You cannot drive to these huts, you can only hike in. So we traversed across a range and found out we could have a nice lunch of schnitzel and wurst in the middle of nowhere.

We planned out our route back over lunch and we started off with full stomachs.

We met a few friends along the way. (This is one of my favorite pictures, by the way)

About 10 minutes after I snapped this picture, one of our new friends tried to eat the map.

We should have stopped and prayed at the alter nearby, because just then, we took a wrong turn and we found ourselves descending down a steep path for 2 hours. We reached the bottom in shambles and realized we were way off course and we had about two hours to reach the gondola before it closed for the evening. We hot footed a mountain bike path as fast as we could to avoid a long walk down the mountain. We made it with 10 minutes to spare.

After that tough afternoon, we decided we were done with hiking for our trip and we decided to head to Alsace, France for our final 4 days to enjoy France's claim to fame: food and wine.

Kittie in Austria

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

We winged it in Mutters

(Posted on a German Keyboard. I couldnt find the question mark and there is no spell check.)

We arrived in a town call Innsbruck on the western side of Austria with no plan but to go hiking. Innsbruck is a large city. They were one of the host cities for the 2008 Euro cup. We walked into the tourist office and got a map. There are many little villages around Innsbruck but I did not adequatly do my research. Mutters stood out. What kind of Name is Mutters(question mark). The name itself is what I decided on.

We went to the TI lady and asked her to find a place in Mutters. She did. Its a small Pension footsteps from the center of town. We took the so called old school tram which riverted into a train when it left the city streets up the mountains and arrived in Mutters.

Mutters has one road and a jesus christ fountian right in the center. In addition they have a 'you cant miss' church with a big ass steeple. The church rings its darn bells Morning, Afternoon and Night. We cant seem to figure out why. Who rings bells at 4:25 in the morning(question mark)

Our Pension has a gigantic tub, balcony and sitting room and we are paying a fraction of the price we could have payed in Innsbruck.

I love flying by the seat of my pants. You never know what you are going to get.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Hops, Hops, Hops

We found out from our host family, that Bavaria is the king of hops. Makes sense.

Respect the Brew

Anyone who has been to Munich will respect this Brew:

We love Beer Gardens

Where have we been??

I am sure you have been wondering where we have been the past week. Well, the answer is easy. We have been reflecting on our future after the trip and then ......