Wednesday, May 10, 2017

European Adventure 1 - Final Thoughts

I had been wanting to do a solo trip to Europe for a while, and I hope this is one of many that I will take. I enjoyed my trip, the pace was perfect for me. I did my entire planning, searched for the hotels and tours and made my daily tours. I think I may have over-planned it a little bit. I did not walk on the routes I had planned and in the order I planned. I also overestimated my food expense.

The major problem I encountered in Austria and Germany was that all the street names were different than what was in the Google maps. For this reason I could not follow my walking routes I had made. I missed the names of a lot of the buildings.

I did not carry a tour book with me, which I saw a lot of people doing. I walked by so many beautiful buildings and parks, and for most part I could not tell what place it was. I would look at my Google maps to try to identify the buildings. Not very good way to keep notes if I wanted to keep track of all the buildings with my photos, which I like to do.

The trains were all amazing, and ran perfectly on time. I did not need to get a schedule as most metro-trains ran frequently. What I did have a problem with was again some of names of the stations. I had a hard time getting to the main station from the airport because I could not really tell the name from it - I thought it would say "Main Station" (hehe!). I used the bus only in Salzburg, that too because they did not have metro. It's a small city. I was also a little confused about the bus routes, even though there were some clear markings, but I did not feel adventurous enough and neither had the time to find out.

The food was the pleasant surprise. There were so many places to eat, such diverse availability (Indian, Italian, Middle Eastern etc). So many coffee places that also had sandwiches and pastries. And all was affordable. I could have eaten well in E-20 per day, keeping in mind breakfast is included in all hotels in Europe.

The hotels were okay.  Most were about E-80 for the smallest single bed room. The rooms were comfortable but the bathrooms were tiny! Service was okay. Breakfast was repetitive but sufficient. I selected the locations close to main station or a train station as I was not planning on taking a cab anywhere. For most part I was okay with my choices. I would not recommend my hotel in Munich - it seemed a little run down and the one in Vienna had the most tiny bathroom. One can never tell from pictures how small a bathroom would be. Anyhow - next time I will upgrade a bit on hotels. The only problem I feel with that is I don't spend time in the hotel :-)

There was a LOT of walking involved. I really regretted not having my shoes. And I checked the weather only at the last minute otherwise I would have noted that I would need a jacket and umbrella. I usually carry the latter, but since this trip was a layover on route to USA from India, I did not have my large luggage with me which is another reason why I planned this trip. I could leave my luggage at Munich airport. So essentially I had a small carry on with 9 days of clothes. For the same reason, I could not shop for souvenirs also (which may not have been such a bad thing!)

Lastly - the money. I used my credit card everywhere. It helped a lot. I took out only E-300 and used barely 200 of that. I needed it for the food/coffee, for small time shopping. All hotels and shops take credit card.

Overall, I am happy with my trip I took. I will plan another one soon!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

European Adventure 1 - Day 9 - Munich

Not much to do today. have to leave for the airport around 11ish. Got ready and went to have breakfast…same old stuff. Came back packed up and left for the central station around 11 am. It is about 2 blocks. The #S8 goes straight to the airport. Bought the ticket from the info-ticket center as all the ticket dispensers are in German. For E-11 I am set. The Central station of Munich looks terrible from outside, but interior is very nice, like an airport. 

The train is quite empty, good. in 40 mins I was at the airport. 
I still have plenty of time. I went to get my luggage from the “Kept Luggage”. E-117, not bad for two pieces for 9 days. Had to repack some stuff to make both of the large luggage less than 24 kg.

Checked in my luggage (E-75). Not bad. I was expecting more. Went through security, no issues. No immigration yet. Had to get the train for my gate. There was no food near my gate! Should have eaten before. Immigration was near the gates.  All went smoothly. Flight was smooth, not issues. Did not want to sleep so that I did not get jet lab. Watched movies all the way to Newark.  Food was good and so were the attendants. Certainly quite different flying from India vs Europe.

Newark airport had changed quite a lot since 3 years ago. Much smoother and cleaner. Except luggage cart – that is still $6. Why do they steal from tourists and residents? Gave my luggage for Palm Beach and then walked the long walk to my gate. Lucky that I had a 2 hr layover. Flight was delayed so got in really late to Palm Beach.

Monday, May 8, 2017

European Adventure 1 - Day 8 - Munich/Chiemsee Castle

Full last day in Munich and its still raining. Have bought the ticket to see the Chiemsee castle so hoping that it will not be raining out of the city. Breakfast is the same old stuff. Weather is also getting old. The line for the tour had already begun even though I thought I was early. There were many tours leaving from the same place. The tour guide was not very good in informing where the line was for the Chiemsee tour. The bus also was a little delayed, but not that much, just about 15 mins. The drive was okay. Saw the same sights of the city as yesterday. Ursulla, the guide, gave us a nice history of the city. Hitler had a strong connection to Munich. He got his start from here after he came from Austria. I need to brush up on my WWII history.

The scenery outside of Munich would have been nice except for the rain. Got off near the Chiemsee lake from where another guide, Alexandra, took over. I also had to pay E-25 more for the boat ride. That was not disclosed prior in the tour! Not good.

It was still raining. Two nice ladies shared their umbrella with me. Turn out to be a mother and daughter from California. And then we were all together for the rest of the day. They were really very nice ladies. Just like I always think about Americans. The whole day was cold, rainy and miserable.

Took the boat across to the island where the castle is. There was still a 10-15 min walk to the castle. Damn I miss packing shoes! The front of the castle was gorgeous with huge fountains and the most interesting looking statues in it. Took photos, despite the rain. After another 15 mins we were given the tour of the castle. I would classify it more as a palace.

The castle was Ludwig II’s, who was a fan of Ludwig XIV of France and so he replicated 4-5 rooms of Ludwig XIV Versailles castle in this castle. He must have been in love! The chandeliers were amazing and so was the wall work. There is a lot of gold everywhere. Apparently he got 5 kg gold and plated a number of things with it. He had a secret staircase going to the dressing room from his bedroom. His whole dining table went up and down a floor so he would not have to see his servants while eating. (Once the table was set, it was sent up). Sadly, we could not take pictures here anywhere. The bedrooms, the staterooms were just too beautiful, my hands were itching for my camera.

After the castle was a museum where we could take pictures. There were some replicas of things and other collectibles.

We then walked back to the boat ramp, in rain! Went to the Woman’s Island. It is a beautiful little island with a church for about 23 nuns. There were a few more houses and a couple hotels there.

We had lunch in one of the restaurants. The menu was all in German but luckily the owners spoke a little English. All three of us ended up having the same things: spinach soup and French fries! All really good. They served the fries with mayonnaise! We ended up asking for ketchup. The American ladies were ready to pay for me. How amazing! But no, I paid for myself and a little bit for them also.

After eating we took a tour around the island. It had stopped raining a bit. The church was beautiful. So simple. Outside of it was a small cemetery, really unique in it graves and beautifully kept. 

We left the island by 5 pm and waited for the bus. The ride back was quite uneventful. It was still raining in Munich. Not much to do, so went back to the hotel. Could not eat any dinner, the spinach soup was quite heavy. 

Tomorrow morning I have to leave. There is not much packing to do since I did not buy much. But I am worried about how much I will pay for the extra luggage. 

Sunday, May 7, 2017

European Adventure 1 - Day 7 - Munich

The city tour starts at 9:40 am so I have plenty of time to get ready. Got up lazily, had breakfast …boring…same old bread and cheese and egg.  They do have a fancy coffee machine. It's too intimidating for me to use.

Today is miserable. It is rainy and cold and it rained all day today. I had looked at the weather app and knew it was going to be bad, hence the “Hop off Hop on Bus” today. I knew I had to stop at three places, the Palace, the Olympic Village and the English Garden.  No museums. Maybe the BMW showroom.

Tour started punctually. Got off at the palace as planned. Thank god for the jacket I bought yesterday. Its already miserably wet outside. Have not heard too much about the palace, so I just want to see a little bit and get back on the bus. Besides, my jacket can take only so much rain. And boy I miss shoes! As I was walking an Indian lady asked me if I was from India….and we got talking. I had seen her on the bus, but I thought she was with someone (have not seen any Indian women by themselves). It turns out she is on a business trip from Delhi and using this weekend to do some sightseeing before she goes back. Great! I have company for the day. And she is a nice lady, Bhupinder. She is in the sales/support of the machine that counts money! Great!

The palace garden was “meh”, just a large green park, no flowers. The fountain was just one jet of water spouting out. There were few flowers and some statues were nice, but not worth spending too much time here. Got back on the bus and got off at the BMW museum. 

Oh WOW! What a grand building!! Bhupinder and I were on the same page regarding sightseeing, so that was even better. We went to the showroom and took pictures of some fancy BMWs. All great looking cars.

Walked across to the BMW museum but with the 10 euro entry fee, both of us decided to skip it. We bought some momentos and walked to the Olympic park, which was not too far. 

We walked around the Olympic park. It is very well kept from the Olympics of 1982?? The park is quite popular also. Lots of people, even though it is a rainy day. We went up the tall tower (7 euro). It was too windy and rainy, but we got some shots. The rain also prevented a good view from up the tower.  

Went back to the BMW showroom and had coffee and sandwich and then waited for the bus. Either we missed it or something, but the bus was really late, and the one that came was also not the right one. It took the tour to the soccer stadium, Allianz. But we were too tired of waiting and the guide did not check our tickets so we took a free ride to the Allianz stadium. It was still raining.

Came back to the BMW building and changed to the right bus. It took us around to a lot of museums. I guess this is a good place for art lovers. I wanted to get off at the English garden to see the guys surfing the river. And boy I was rewarded! It was so much fun watching the surfers surf the fast current of the river. It was awesome! Could not walk much else in the garden, first its too big, second, its just a city park and third – too darn wet!

Got back on the bus to finish the tour. I realized that I had walked a number of these places yesterday. Bhupinder and I parted ways after the tour. She has some ways to go to her hotel. I went to get some coffee and also ended up have a slice of cheesecake.

Rested a bit in my room and then went to get falafel from one of the many middle eastern stores near my hotel.  The 5 euro falafel was soooo good! I finished the whole large wrap in one sitting.

That’s it! That was my wet rainy day in Munich. For a rainy day it was not bad, I did get to see a lot of places today and having company was good too! 

Saturday, May 6, 2017

European Adventure 1 - Day 6 - Salzburg/Munich

Not a stressful morning. I guess none of my mornings are rush rush. I love lazy mornings. Got up and had breakfast as usual. Have to check out and leave for Munich today. So packed up and left luggage at the counter and went back to Dom Quarter. Changed my ring. Now I have one that fits me better…I love it!
Sat there for a while, enjoyed the music and the Sound of Music dancers. Walked over to Mirabell, once again and sat there till 12 pm.

Went back to the hotel, picked up luggage, took the # 2 bus to the station. Met the mother and two daughters again! They are also going to Munich. They apparently made their trip just like mine!
Train came on time, as usual, scenery was beautiful all the way! Came to the main station, as I had before. Walked out and found the street of the hotel. It is about 3 blocks from the station. Not too far. I feel like I am in an Arab country, there are all Arabic stores around, Arab men standing around. Way too many men just standing around. Not very comfortable for me. Found the hotel. It is just okay. Will probably not stay here again.

After 15-20 mins of resting, left for Marienplatz, the central place. It was not so easy to find. I took one or two wrong turns. The phone really is handy. Thank God for T-Mobile’s global free data network that I am able to use the maps feature so frequently. It turns out that Marienplatz is a huge market place. And it was super crowded. So I could not tell one street from another (which I have not been able to do in Europe!). So I am going around purely on my own sense of direction and with the big help of the phone.

A mime
Marienplatz is full of shops, same ones over and over again, and restaurants. Its really a lively area, maybe also because it is Saturday. It is just super crowded. I cannot even tell which building I am looking at. The only building labeled was the Munich Residence and there are less shops and more tourists there (how do I know? They all have the guidebook!).

A magician
I walked all around and then back to the train station. I have to go to the tourist office to get tickets for the castle tour. I don’t see how I can keep walking this much! It’s a lot!

Stopped by McDonalds to have a salad and coffee. That also is crowded. The train station is directly on the same road as my hotel so walked back. Found the tourist office and bought tickets for the Hop on Off Bus Tour and the Chiemsee Castle trip. Also bought my fridge magnet from there, they have a nice selection.

I walked close to 10 miles today! I am tired! Somewhere here, I missed the beer garden!