Sunday, October 9, 2011

2011: Munich III




The official tour took us to Marktl and Altotting. Some skipped the formal program to visit museums (BMW for example) or explore the city further on their own.

Marktl is the birthplace of Pope Benedict. We viewed a short movie and then walked around inside the home, which he lived in until he was just a few years old. We then went around the corner to the quaint little church where he was baptized. Several of us stopped in the information center for hot coffee.

Then off to Altotting - site of the statue of the Black Madonna. The chapel housing the statue is situated in the center of the town square. Its perimeter is adorned with paintings, drawings, and words of devotion and gratitude brought by those on pilgrimage who prayed to the Madonna and experienced miracles. The shrine is visited by millions of people.

We then had time for lunch (and shopping) in this little town before returning to Munich.

Tonight we have our farewell dinner and tomorrow we have an early wake up to begin our journey home.

2011: Munich II




We awoke and boarded the bus for a city tour of Munich with our local guide. We swung by museums and squares and got a very good overview of the city's history and beauty. We got off the bus and headed to the city center: Marienplatz, where the beautifu City Hall stands (and holds the famous Glockenspiel). We also went into the cathedral which had pictures of its destruction at the end of the war - although both of its towers remained intact.

We than had free time for lunch - and, of course, shopping - before meeting up again to board the bus. The bus took us to Dachau, site of the first Nazi Concentration Camp. Not sure any of us can describe the experience in words. This visit ended with Fr. Kevin offering Mass in the Chapel on site.

2011: Munich












Sorry for the delay in posting: technical difficulties. We have arrived in Munich - along with some cold temperatures and rain.

We left Salzburg and headed up into the mountains to visit Eagle's Nest. Unfortunately, icy conditions prohibited us from going up to the retreat. Instead we saw the documentation area which allowed us access into part of the actual undergraound bunkers used by the Nazis. The presentations and displays were very moving.

We then departed for a beautiful little village town, Prien. Situated right on Lake Chiemsee, the town boasts buildings decorated with murals. We boarded the ferry and headed over the lake to 'men's island' to visit a palace of King Ludwig II - who was a bit (or more than a bit) crazy. The palace was ornate and over-done. The entire palace was Ludwig's monument to Louis XIV of France. So it is very similar to Versailles. In fact, four rooms were never intended to be used -- they were part replicas of rooms in the French palace, inlcuding the hall of mirrors.

We made it back to the ferry in time, boarded the bus and departed for Munich. Where most of us tried (some successfully) to eat and drink at the famous Hofbrahaus. The place was jam packed!

Friday, October 7, 2011

2011 - Day 5: Salzburg

We left Vienna (early again) but enjoyed another pitch-perfect day of great weather!

En route to Salzburg we stopped in Melk to visit the very impressive Melk Abbey. Run by the Benedictines, the abbey has been here for hundreds of years. It currently serves as a museum of its own history as well as the history of the Benedictines in the area, a church and a school. 30 monks are in residence at the abbey. It offered gorgeous views of the town , river and countryside, lovely courtyards, religious relics and archives, a grand library and a spectacular church!

We boarded our motorcoach and headed west for Salzburg, where we met local guide Gabi for a short city tour. The tour included a visit to Mozart's home, and many of the sites from the Sound of Music movie. This is a quaint little town with mazes of little alleys and streets spanning both sides of the river.

Kevin again shared a lot of his knowledge with us on the bus - offering two presentations about the area (including one on Adolf Hitler as we passed by his birthplace) and some of his current reseach.

Tomorrow we head to Germany.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

2011: Day 4 - Vienna




Another great day!


We had a 6am wake up call - but it paid off!
Our tour director, Robert, secured the first reservations of the day at Shronbrunn Palace - which meant we were the only guests in the Palace for the most part. We went room to room with our own local guide, Gabi, for a nearly private tour! A one-of-a-kind experience for sure. The Palace and Gardens were beautiful. 1,441 rooms and acres and acres of grounds. We learned about Mary Theresa (and all of her 16 children). This was the summer palace for the Hapsburg dynasty.


We then switched gears and went to see modern art at KunstHausWien - what a creative artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser was. And a man who epitomized eco-friendly living and work. A very different experience after our tour of the Palace.


Next was a driving tour of some of the city's monuments, etc. with a stop for lunch along the way. We ended with a walking tour to additional historic spots and a tour of the downtown palace - the winter residence of the Hapsburg clan - and currently where the Austrian President is. {There was actually a visiting dignatary - we saw the motorcade and another country's flag in the courtyard (researching which country the flag belonged to).}


Then free time to explore some more - perhaps some shopping, some Sacher Torte, a stroll through one of the parks, or a glass of Austrian wine or beer. Tonight we head out into the coutryside for an Austrian wine dinner - looking forward to it!


Weather has been pitch-perfect thus far and no rain in the forecast for tomorrow as we make our way to Salzburg.


Hello to everyone back home!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

2011 - Day 3 Vienna




This morning we had an early wake up call, a nice breakfast and said goodbye to the wonderful city of Prague.

We had a nearly-full day of bus riding as we made our way to Vienna. (The highway construction not only caused a bit of delay; but also reminded us of home :) .)

We stopped in Brno to grab lunch and spend the last of our Czech money before crossing the border into Austria. There we checked into our Hilton Hotel - just a short walk from city center. Some began exploring on their own and others caught up on sleep and rest.

We'll head out tonight for a concert of Strauss and Mozart compositions in a Viennese Palace.

On route to Vienna our tour director Robert shared some of his knowledge of the area, including some history of Napoleon. But, the highlight was Professor Kevin Spicer sharing some of his expertise on the area and how its rulers and citizens were involved with the Holocaust. He didn't even make it back to his seat in the middle of the bus before being stopped by travelers looking to chat about his comments and studies. We look forward to hearing from Kevin in a few days when we have more extended time on the bus!

Tomorrow is a FULL day. Wake up call at 6am for a 7:30am departure from the hotel. Robert tells us we have the first reservation of the day to tour Scronnonbrunn Palace - with more than 1,400 rooms, we'll need all the time we can get! We also see a few more of city's sights before getting some free time in the afternoon (which means shopping for many!).

Monday, October 3, 2011

2011 - Day 2 Prague



Thanks to our readers for leaving comments! Folks got a kick out of it and say hello back.

Today could not have been better!! We had a reasonable wake up call and a great breakfast in the hotel before departing for a walking tour of Prague with our local guide Alex.

She took us to so many places and shared many stories (and even a few singing notes!) Charles Bridge was spectacular! The astrological clock tower was fun and impressive. All the alleyways, stone roads and walkways and the 1,000 spires! Architecture and history galore....

We also visited the Jewish Heritage Museum and cemetery. The museum was very moving with thousands of family names as well as children's sketches and coloring.

Then we had FREE TIME to explore this wonderful city on our own. Folks split up and grabbed some lunch (and maybe a local pilsner), did more sightseeing (some went up the tower), and perhaps a little shopping.

Many of us enjoyed a wonderful evening riverboat cruise. A bonus was that the entire boat was just for us!! A nice variety of foods on the buffet and a great night to go to the open-air second level for picturesque views of the city lit up at night.

We said goodbye to Alex and prepare for our 6:00am wake up call - as tomorrow we head to Vienna!

PS - the weather also could not have been better - 70-75 and not a cloud in the sky!!!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

2011 Day 1 - Prague



We have arrived - and with all our luggage, too!

Got to Logan airport to learn of a 3 hour delay, which would have resulted in a missed connection in Paris. BUT, a terrific team for Air France moved all 30 of us to a Luftansa flight with a connection through Frankfurt and we arrived in Prague just 10 minutes later than scheduled - thanks to their staff!!!

We were met by our tour director Robert and local guide Alex. They got us settled on the bus and provided a brief introduction of this wonderful city. We then headed to the Palace - nine times larger than Buckingham, it is the largest in all of Europe! And what splendid views of the city it provided from its balconies. We also toured the St. Vitus Cathedral. Even though the crowds were tough to navigate, we got to enjoy the beauty.

Then on to the hotel - which is terrific and perfectly situated near Old Town. Some grabbed a light lunch, some napped, and others began exploring. It was a beautiful day - sunny and about 75 degrees!

Fr. Kevin offered Mass in the outdoor veranda. After which we had our welcome meeting and headed to dinner.

Dinner was TERRIFIC! Great food (obviously, great company!) and some entertainment as well. The folklore show even got some of us singing, dancing or playing instruments! The food and drink were good too.

Tomorrow we will take a walking tour of Old Town and the Jewish Quarter. Then enjoy an afternoon of free time after which many of us will board a ship for an evening dinner cruise.

Everyone says hello to loved ones at home.

PS - we all sang happy Birthday to Barbara - and got all the other dinner guests involved too!