Sunday, October 12, 2014

Pops' Travel Guide, The Eagles Nest

There is something magical about Bavaria. To me the towns all give me a feeling of being brisk, clean and like you are in a faerie tale. When I say brisk I mean it is like a cool autumn day where the wind hits your face that is clear and refreshing. The rivers also have a different look. They have a look of light green jade most likely from containing minerals washed down from the Alps. That's the best that I can describe it.

I have been in the Bavarian Alps before and have seen Neuschwanstien Castle so I wanted to see something else. The Eagles Nest is in Berchtesgaden near the Austrian border in the Alps. The town of Berchtesgaden in itself would have been worth the trip. The town has a river running through it and in the center of the town you get the feel that you are back in time. On another trip I wouldn't mind staying there instead of a larger city.

The Eagles Nest is a house given to Adolf Hitler for his 50th birthday back in 1938. It is perched high above the town of Berchtesgaden at an elevation of 6017 feet. Berchtesgaden sits at 2300 feet. My only regret was the day we were there it was cloudy and we didn't get to see the amazing views.

To get to the Eagles Nest you need to drive to the parking area slightly up the mountain. From there you can buy a ticket for the Eagles Next and a bus ride up the mountain. Taking the bus is the only way up there as the road is very narrow and there is no way to pass. From the drop off point for the bus there are two ways to the house. You can hike up to the house or you can walk through a tunnel inside the mountain which is 300 meters long. At the end of the tunnel is an elevator which will take you up 300 meters to the inside of the house.

My advice would be to book a guided tour in advance. If you go on your own you will be limited to what you can see. Inside the house is a restaurant and we had a great lunch there with some local beer. After lunch we explored the area outside the house and took some pictures. I'll need to come back on a clear day to see what I missed.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Pops' Travel Guide, Austrian Shakedown

Warning: This is a warning to anyone traveling into Austria by car.

While in Munich with my son and a friend we decided to take a side trip to Berchtesgaden, Germany and the Eagle Nest. Being that we were already in Germany and we were traveling to another city in Germany it didn't occur to me that we would be in Austria at all. Austria has a little known law, at least unknown to me, that requires you to have a toll road sticker in your windshield. When entering Austria you can buy one at the border but again I don't remember seeing any signs at the border stating so. A 10 day sticker cost Euro 8.50 and if I had known this I would certainly have paid the Euro 8.50. Remember I didn't even know that I would be in Austria at all.

We crossed into Austria and made the exit for Berchtesgaden where we came across a police checkpoint. We were pulled over and were fined Euro 140.00 for not having a sticker. I tried to explain that we didn't know we would be in Austria to no avail.  After paying the fine we drove for only a few km and we were back in Germany!

Ignorance of the law is not a defense but I still feel like this was a shakedown. I am writing this as a warning to others.

Here is the link to the Austrian Driving Regulations. Take note that it says you also need an "International Drivers License".

Austrian Driving Regulations

Pops' Travel Guide, Munich Day 2 Cont.

After the BMW Museum we headed back to central Munich and a little more sightseeing. This time I was dressed in Lederhosen I had bought back home. I actually wore the Lederhosen for two reasons. One I thought it would be fun and two, more important, was to embarrass my son.

We walked around the city and ended up having dinner at The Paulaner Brauhaus. Ending the day having a great German meal, lots of beer wearing Lederhosen. It was a perfect end of the day.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Pops' Travel Guide, Munich Day 2

On day two of our trip we wanted to go to the BMW Museum located by the Olympic Park. Getting around Munich is very easy since they have a very extensive transit system. Being that we were a block from the train station it was an easy walk to the station and one change of train later we were at the Olympic Park and the BMW Museum.

The BMW Museum has a vast collection of BMW cars and motorcycles. They also had a collection of Mini's. What I didn't know was that BMW must have acquired Rolls Royce because they also had a large collection of Rolls Royce automobiles.

There are different sections of the Museum broken out by motorcycles, BMW's, Mini's, Rolls Royce and concept cars. We also saw a motorcycle demo inside the lobby where a stunt driver went up and down the stairs. We had a great time there and saw some really cool old and new cars.

One thing to note. We did the tour on a Saturday and the factory tour was closed. If you come during a weekday you can also take the factory tour.

After walking the museum we walked across the street and walked around the Olympic Park. There is a lot of history connected with this Olympics, mostly bad, but it was a nice day to walk around the beautiful park.

Pops' Travel Guide, Northern California

Mark Twain once said, "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco". I can't tell you how many times I have seen tourists in the summer wearing shorts and a short sleeve shirt freezing in the bitter cold. The reason why San Francisco is so cold is that it gets extremely hot in the valley which sucks the marine layer over San Francisco. The difference in temperatures also creates what we call the delta breeze which can make it windy in the city.

However, during the fall the temperature in the valley cools and the marine layer stays off the coast. October is the best time of the year to visit San Francisco for the weather. The days are mild and there is usually no rain. If you are planning a trip to the northern California coast now is the best time to go. If it is too late to plan for this year then start planning next years trip.

This is also my favorite time of year to visit the wine country.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Pops' Travel Guide, Munich Day 1

After a six hour train ride from Prague we arrived in Munich at the Central Station. My son wanted to stay at a Youth Hostel so we had reservations at the Euro Youth Hostel. I didn't know what to expect and I was pleasantly surprised. To start, the hostel was about a block from the train station. The hostel is secure, with large and clean rooms, and there was a nice bar as part of the hostel. We had booked a four bed room with a private bathroom for the three of us.We had one other person staying in our room and they were very nice and shared their travel experiences.

The bar in the hostel is a gathering place for travelers from all over the world. The drinks are inexpensive and there is also a happy hour every day with very cheap drinks. Even though I was older than almost everyone else I had a great time talking to people from other countries. Although we didn't take advantage of it, the hostel offers activities for the travelers, most alcohol related, and it would be a great way to meet fellow travelers and see the city. Young or old, staying at a hostel is a travel option you should consider. My son traveled Europe for two months staying at hostels. I'll get him to write about his experiences.

After checking into the hostel we decided to go for a walk. The Euro Youth Hostel is also about three blocks from the Marienplatz and the heart of Munich. From there we saw the Glockenspiel in the New Town Square. The Glockenspiel was constructed in 1908 and commemorates two events from the 1600's. The Glockenspiel goes off every day at 11am (12pm and 5pm also in the summer). Although we missed it this day we did see it go off on another day. It is truely a site worth seeing as it has bells ringing, knights on horseback and dancers. The entire show lasts about fifteen minutes.As we continued walking we came across the Hofbrauhaus and stopped for a couple one liter beers each. We would have had dinner there but the wait was too long. We did find a very nice restaurant close to the Hofbrauhaus to eat at.

After dinner it was back to the hostel and more drinks in their bar. By then it was really busy and we shared a table with fellow travelers and got to meet a lot of people from all over the world. This was another late night and it felt good to get back to the room for a good nights sleep.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Pops' Travel Guide, Amador County Wine

This weekend is the "The Big Crush" in Amador County. Amador County is just east of Sacramento in the foothills. This is an annual event featuring the wineries in Amador County and the wineries will each have special activities. In California, October is one of the best months for great weather. The wineries also have picnic areas so why not pack a lunch, buy a bottle of wine at one of the wineries and enjoy.

Even better, make it a full day and also head over to Apple Hill. You can do both in one day.