Yo-a-hey, dear readers! I’m posting from the beautiful almost fairytale-like city of Salzburg. The city is just at the foot of the Alps and in every direction I look I am taken aback by the stunning views. The fact that it is now Autumn and the leaves are starting to change colors only adds to experience. Before I jump too far into my experiences in Salzburg though, I want to cover my too short of a visit to Berlin.
I wasn’t originally planning to visit Berlin (or Salzburg for that matter) but my meetings in Hamburg ended and I had some time to kill before the Alzheimer’s Europe Conference in Vienna (which will hereby be referred to as: the most expensive conference). I’d heard great things about the city of Berlin but I wasn’t quite prepared for how quickly–and how hard–I fell for it. It’s a city that is full to the brim with history (a very dark history yes but one that they address head on) and yet has such a presence to it that’s hard to capture in words or pictures. I heard one person describe Berlin as having the energy of New York in the 80’s. I don’t really know what New York was like in the 80’s but if it’s anything like Berlin is now, I’m jealous of everyone who lived there.
One of my general rules for myself on this trip is: if I can walk it, I walk it. Meaning, I take as little public transportation as possible. In Berlin, I think this was one of the best calls I could have made. It seemed like every street had some story to it, some memorial, or some really cozy looking cafes. On one day, I set out to get the the Brandenburg Gate and found segments of the Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie, and a stunningly beautiful city park called the Tiergarten.
The Tiergarten used to be hunting grounds for the Prussians but now it is a very large park in the heart of the city. I spent hours in the park walking around and getting lost. I didn’t even mind that at one point it started to pour. There really was no way to capture the beauty and expansive nature of this park. And, the best picture could have come from the structure in the last picture. It’s located near the end of the park and you can climb all the way to the top. I got to the top but once I did I was terrified. I didn’t trust myself to take a picture and not drop the camera down to a certain death. Suffice it to say though that it was beautiful. And, I highly recommend if anyone ever goes to Berlin that they picnic in the park.
Berlin is world renowned for its Philharmonic Orchestra and the next day I set out to attend a weekly free lunch concert. And dear, oh my, it was wonderful! I would add a video to this blog but it would cost me 60 bucks. Sooooo, here’s a picture instead:
After the concert, I set out to skype with Olivia before visiting the Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe and then going to another park to hike and potentially swim. I don’t know why I thought I would be able to do anything of substance after visiting the memorial…or that the visit would be a short one. I spent several hours in the memorial museum and eventually was one of the last still inside. The memorial itself looks like this:
Directly across from the Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe in Tiergarten Park there was a memorial for the persecuted and murdered homosexuals of Europe. This memorial was small yet packed a pretty big punch. There was a large block and at one spot you could peer into the block. Inside, a film of lesbian and gay couples kissing, laughing, holding hands played, etc while onlookers peered over their shoulders or directed their children away. It wasn’t until 2008 or 2009 that this memorial was erected and I think that says a lot. I don’t want to turn this into a political platform though so suffice it say, it was an emotionally exhausting day. And, I didn’t make it to the park. I did make it to a very good German restaurant though. And, I definitely ate my emotions.
My next and last day in Berlin, I walked to the German Parliament for a tour of their dome. On my way to learn about Germany’s present, I stumbled upon a museum dedicated to Nazi era terror. As I walked to the Parliament, I was digesting the disturbing images and facts. It should be noted that these aren’t facts or images that I haven’t seen before but that there is just something about being in a place where grave human rights atrocities and terror tactics were employed that makes everything seem much more real. Anyways, I was in the middle of some depressing thought when I saw this:
and walked around in this:
with these kind of views:
directly above a session of Parliament (I think)! And that’s what I mean by Berlin being a city full of history but also having a distinct presence. The building is sustainably designed, overlooks the Tiergarten, the Brandenburg gate, and the Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe. And it was so cool. AND FREE.
Anyways, my time came to leave Buurlin for Salzburg via an overnight train. I thought I was going first class for a rate cheaper than second. But there was this really big attendant bully that wouldn’t let me go first class and was yelling at me (all in German). We arrived two hours late to Munich and I missed my connecting train. Which translates into me getting 50% of my ticket cost, if not more reimbursed! Yahoooo!
I went to Salzburg for a number of reasons but one of those was so that I could go hiking around the Alps in the Autumn. My hostel wasn’t all that keen on helping me get to places cheaply but could offer me a 45 euro four hour group trip to the top of a mountain. And, that just didn’t appeal to me. So, I was walking around this beautiful city feeling kind of mad at myself: Why hadn’t I done more research before? Etc, when I met these two women one from Salzburg and one from Mexico while overlooking this:
and they invited me to join them on their trip to the Lake District the following day. Lilo and Alexandra are two of the warmest, kindest women I have ever met. They have been friends for over 30 years and frequently visit one another in their respective countries and regions. Anyways, we didn’t end up leaving until 2 p.m. because Lilo had to run some errands and unfortunately right at three p.m. it started to rain. I still saw some beautiful scenery though and ate some delicious cake with some peppermint tea while talking about animals, politics, and how I need to get to Mexico.
Mozart joined us for tea and cake. He was a little too serious looking for us though. Anyways, if the “Drug War” in Mexico could quickly end so I could head to Mexico after South Africa and stay with Alexandra in her house very near to the ocean with seven dogs and some cats, that would be great. She even told me that I could bring a friend. I hope that I am as warm and interesting as these women when I am their age. In the mean time, I’m just going to work to pay their good deeds forward. And pray that the travel advisory ends.
When I returned from my visit with Lilo and Alexandra, I frantically started looking for my misplaced wallet all the while trying to carry out a conversation with a fairly attractive roommate. I eventually threw my hands up in desperation and said something like, “I’m sorry, I’m not trying to be rude but I don’t think I can concentrate on this conversation until I find my wallet.” Fortunately, the front desk had it–and everything was still in it. OOPS. To celebrate, I went to the Augustine Brewery with my new roommate and had a beer. And, that was pretty cool. We left the Brewery (after one beer on my end) to find another drinking hole and on the way I was hit pretty hard by a parking pole (like the ones that are designed to prevent cars from leaving without paying and open and close) on the head. I think I’m suffering from the effects of a minor concussion. You win some you lose some? Anyways, walked on and ended up at another local brewery (where I had eaten the night prior). It was a great brewery–the food and beer were great and the people friendly. My only complaint, however, was that the brewery’s menu featured photos like this:
The food, drink, and atmosphere were great on their own. I don’t think they really needed a picture of a woman holding her breasts to sell the special of the day. But hey, that’s just me.
On my last day in Salzburg, I met up with an old pal from Hendrix who is currently on her studying (but more like living) abroad experience in the region. And, Florence (said pal) took me to some pretty damn beautiful places while driving in the smallest car I have ever been in. Florence, if you’re reading this, thank you so much for such a perfect last day in the region.
On both of my days exploring the region around Salzburg, the weather was less than perfect. And, I still was blown away by the scenery. I couldn’t even see half of it. I think I’ll need to come back here some day and do it all again.
I am now on my way to Vienna–the location of the Most Expensive Conference–and will be in the city for several days to make sure my suit is pressed, pay a visit to a local doctor, explore, and potentially go on a bike ride to a wine region just outside the city. Stories to come soon! Lastly, I promised there would be more pictures in the most and I may have gone a little overkill with them. Sorry I’m not sorry about it?