Travels of the Elderly

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2017-10-09 Munich Area

Just a few pictures from our drive to the Munich area.
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We are staying at a nice B&B presided over by this fellow. Not sure whether we are really welcome. That’s OK because we will be up early in the morning to fly home. God willing, we will be home tomorrow evening.

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2017-10-08 Hall and Innsbruck

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Herz-Jesu Basilika in Hall where we attended Mass. Padded kneelers and almost comfortable pews. And believe it or not – no collection.

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A group of six cloistered nuns occupied the front part of the church, separated from the rest of us . The priest said Mass with his back to us.

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We took the train to Innsbruck, ten minutes from Hall. The “Golden Roof” was built by Emperor Maximilian in 1494. We expected the entire roof to be gold. Innsbruck was full of tourists and souvenir shops. Certainly glad that we are staying in Hall.

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He visited the Museum of Tyrolean Folk Art, where we encountered this group of people in authentic folk costume.

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Many Nativity scenes on display. Some were huge.

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An unusual and interesting Nativity scene.

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Next to the museum was the Hofkirche where Emperor Maximilian is buried.

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28 larger than life statues of Maximilian’s family plus his favorite heroes of the dying Middle Ages, such as King Arthur.

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Hall at night from our balcony.

2017-10-07 Hall and Seefeld

We are staying in Hall, Austria, near Innsbruck.

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We spent the morning exploring the town of Hall. Large farmer’s market in the town square. Many food booths and rows of table for sitting.

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Apples for sale! How many bushels would you like? Even a tractor to pull the wagon.

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There was one booth at which everything was free: cheese, various meats, tomatoes, peppers, soup. We each had a generous cup of pumpkin soup. Costco could learn a thing or two. Not much English was being spoken around the fair, though most people had at least some knowledge of the language. Felt as though there were only a few tourists in the town.

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Wedding going into city hall after a final adjustment to the dress.

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Scenes around town. Church spires. At least four churches within a few blocks of the old town area.

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Music from morning until the end of the day. This band was in the main square.

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Street scene

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Jesuit church on the left.

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Another band in front of a children’s clothing store.

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In the afternoon we drove north to the town of Seefeld, surrounded by Alps.

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More Alps.

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Back in Hall. Hall was a rich salt-mining center. In the 15th century, Hall started minting its own coins.

Please, oh please, don’t lock me in the tower!

2017-10-04 to 06 Vienna to Innsbruck

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On Wednesday we rented a car in Vienna and drove northwest to the Danube. The first part of the drive was a lot of farm fields.

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Gradually became a bit more hilly.

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Ruins of the Durstein Castle on the Danube. Must a fun place to explore for those who are younger and more adventuresome.

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Many vineyards along the Danube.

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View of the Danube from the heights of Maria Taferl, a small village where we spent the night.

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A beautiful autumn arrangement outside a shop.

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Our view as we ate dinner.

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We ate at this same restaurant in 2009.

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On Thursday we turned in our rental car at the Salzburg airport and took a taxi across the border to Freilassing in Germany where we picked up a different car (a Mercedes). By doing this we avoided the substantial fees for returning a car in a different country.

We drove south to Ramsau, Germany, near Berchtesgarten. It was a beautiful drive as the leaves are really turning. This picture is a farmhouse B&B where we have stayed previously.

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St. Sebastian in Ramsau. Beautiful scene We have a print of this hanging in our kitchen.

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This is the B&B where we stayed Thursday night.

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View from the balcony of the B&B we stayed in.

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Woke to a view of snow in the mountains. From our balcony.

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Many small farms in the area. Milk waiting to be collected just around the corner from our B&B.

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View looking down at our B&B (middle left) as we left Ramsau. Margaret wanted to stop after every turn to take more pictures.

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We are spending the next three nights in Hall in Tyrol, near Innsbruck, Austria. This is the view from our balcony. We have been very fortunate with weather. Rain was forecast for today but it was a nice day. Rain is forecast for the next two days as well, so we will just have to be flexible.

2017-10-03 Museum, Opera House, Konzert Haus

Today was planned as our quiet day. Nothing much planned. We started out in light rain with a visit to the Kunsthistorisches Museum. A long walk to get there and a long walk around the building to find the entrance and many people already in line to buy tickets. Fortunately, Margaret planned well and we arrived soon after it opened, before the Real crowds. Excuse us, we already have our tickets, excuse me, excuse me…

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Hunters in Snow by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. A pioneer in depiction of landscapes with individual persons merely elements in the scene.

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Madona of the Meadow by Raphael.

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A model of a ship in gold, with images on the sails.

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Benvenuto Cellini’s $60 million gold-plated salt cellar, stolen in 2003 and recovered from its burial spot in the woods in 2005.

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People waiting in line to buy tickets as we arrived at the Kunsthistorisches Museum. For all the wonderful art inside, the museum desperately needs to hire a good map maker to provide a better guide to the interior; and an expert in signage to label the rooms and toilettes. We recommend hiring a specialist in art history to guide you through the museum.

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After the museum, we got a quick lunch at a nice cafe and then took a tour of the Opera House.

While waiting for the English tour to begin (as opposed to the German, Russian, French or Spanish tour), we watched these women working. Tired of cleaning? After today, they may perhaps move on to the next column.

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Inside, from the floor of the opera house. It was rebuilt after World War II and is really quite impressive.

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We were fortunate to receive a backstage tour. They have a different opera every day so all the scenery for the entire week is set up in a backstage area larger than the public space. Sections of the floor are rearranged by lowering them, moving them to their new location and then raised up again.

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The opera has 180,000 costumes so most are stored in another building across the street. They have 1000 employees to keep all things running. Guide said they are the same level as the NY Met.

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In the evening we attended a concert by Nigel Kennedy with orchestra and band,at the Wiener Konzerthaus. Of course, we had never heard of him before we bought tickets but we were very pleased with the concert, the comfortable seats and the audience of what appeared to be local people, not tourists.

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Another picture of the concert house. No, that is not Dick in the picture. Must be a relative. You must check your coats at these concert halls and pay to do it.

We will probably not post for the next two nights. We leave Vienna on Wednesday, pick up a car and have two one-night stays on our way to Innsbruck.

2017-10-02 Vienna and Schoenbrunn

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Visited Schoenbrunn Palace early this morning to avoid the crowds and glad we did. We were here on our honeymoon 38 years ago. On the Grand Tour we visited 40 of the 1,441 rooms. This was the summer residence of the Hapsburgs. The exterior from the late 1600s is Baroque but the interior is mid 1700s Rococo.

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View of the gardens below the Gloriette.

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View of the back of the Schoenbrunn Palace.

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We actually hiked all the way up to the Gloriette.

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The view back towar the palace and Vienna is the reward for the climb.

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Enjoying lunch with a great view.

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What do you think?

2017-10-01 Vienna

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Began our Sunday with Mass at Karlskirche that is quite near our hotel. Mass was at 9:30. At 9:25 we were the only people in the church apart from those involved in conducting the service. Eventually about 40 people arrived. Out in less than 45 minutes.

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Ten foot tall drinking fountain. Actually two fountains: one on each side. Maybe they could provide more drinking fountains around town and in museums if they didn’t make them so big??

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We then walked to Belvedere Palace. Disappointed with the gardens and did not tour the palace.

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We toured in the afternoon with a guide who pointed out this interesting clock from about 1918. Notice the figures of Adam and Eve below the “skyway”.

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Modern payphone. Get your Internet access here!

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Stables of the Spanish Riding School.

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Hofburg Palace grounds. Should figure out who this dud is.

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Tourist at the National Library. Strange, also, to find a bunch of displays that explain Freemasonry.

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National Library

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Balcony of the National Library. It was designed as a place from which the king could address his people. Then Hitler used it and no one has seen fit to speak from here since.

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View in Vienna

2017-09-29, 30: Krakow – Vienna

Margaret was eager to visit the Wieliczka Salt Mine but when the day came she did not feel that she could do it: too much wine, perhaps. Richard went anyway with our driver, Andrew, driving. Dick’s bad hip made the regular tour inadvisable, so he visited as a disabled person, using an elevator rather than the usual 800 steps. Andrew was able to sell Margaret’s ticket to another American so it was just the guide and two guys.

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A highlight of the tour is the Chapel of St. Kinga. Everything is salt – even the gleaming floor and the crystals of the chandeliers.

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A statue of St. John Paul II, also in the chapel.

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After the visit to the salt mine, Andrew drove Richard to the city of Nowa Huta on the outskirts of Krakow, where Andrew was raised. The Communist government built Nowa Huta as a model city providing housing and schools for workers at a large steel mill. The government did not allow any churches to be built in Nowa Huta but this Cistercian monastery was just 2 km from his apartment so he (and many others) walked here for Mass, for religious education and so forth. This was Andrews home parish, where he was confirmed by the bishop who later became Pope John Paul II.

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In 1952 the government approved the construction of a church just a few blocks from Andrew’s apartment and in 1957 a cross was erected and consecrated at the site. But the government rescinded its approval of the church  in April, 1960; and decided to remove the cross. Thousands of residents of Nowa Huta (including Bishop Karol Wojtyla – later Pope John Paul II) stood up in defense of the cross on 27 April 1960. Andrews mother locked him in his room to keep him away from the demonstration but he went out his window. A few demonstrators were shot by the police or military, including one whom Andrew knew. Even so, the cross stayed; and church was finally built in 2001.

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On Saturday, Andrew drove us to Vienna. Along the way he told us that when he was very young, before moving to Nowa Huta, he and his parents lived in a small village, as did one of his uncles. Some resistance fighters killed an officer of the SS and the Nazis sought to teach the villagers a lesson. So one day the SS rounded up 200 random villagers, including Andrew’s uncle and imprisoned them. After some time they were moved to Auschwitz and then, all on the same day, all of them had accidents or fell ill or whatever and died. Many years later Andrew researched his uncle’s fate with the help of some people he was driving – producers of a documentary. Putting the pieces together it became clear that the villagers were all shot on a single day.

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Saturday evening we attended a symphonic performance at the Musikverein.

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Unfortunately, the cramped, uncomfortable seats were too much for Richard’s hip so we ducked out before the end. Getting to be a couple of elderly travelers with limitations.

 

 

2017-09-27 Gdansk Jewish Area

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Pays to get up early for a cup of coffee. You can have the square to yourself, except for the cleaner.

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Today was our day to visit Kazimierz (Jewish Quarter),the historic heart of Krakow’s once thriving Jewish Community.  After years of neglect, the district was rediscovered by the people of Krakow and tourists. The picture above is a memorial in a small Jewish cemetery. It honors the 65 thousand Jews from the Krakow area who were murdered by the Nazis.

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Nazis used this cemetery as a trash dump, burying it deep and doing great damage. The headstones were knocked over and moved about. So the current arrangement of the headstones do not correspond to the actual locations of the persons named.

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Nazis destroyed some of the tombstones. The fragments have been assembled on one wall of the cemetery.

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This man, Jan Karski, was a Polish resistance fighter and later professor at Georgetown University who reported to the Polish government in exile and the Western Allies about what he saw during two visits  to the Warsaw Ghetto and an attempted visit to the Belzec death camp (though it is likely that the camp he saw was actually a transit camp).

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We than crossed the Vistula River to visit the ghetto area during the war. Thirty three empty chairs at Plac Zgody serve as a monument to the Jewish Ghetto and the atrocities committed here. This was a selection site and also the place where thousands of useless “non-workers” – elderly, children, infirm – were slaughtered.

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The only non-Jewish inhabitant of the Jewish Ghetto was a pharmacist, Tadeusz Pankiewicz. The Nazis saw value in letting him continue to operate his pharmacy because that would reduce the risk of disease. And the Nazis never visited the pharmacy because of fear they might contract disease from the Jews who were there. So in addition to dispensing drugs, the pharmacy also served as a place where messages could be passed between the Ghetto and the outside world; and also a meeting place for members of the resistance.

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We also visited Schinder’s Factory Museum. This picture of Dick and our guide was taken outside the factory. The only picture we took. One of Europe’s best museums about Nazi occupation, it fills some of the factory buildings where Oskar Schindler and his Jewish employees worked.

Chris was our guide (and a very good one). His paternal grandmother was snatched off the street in Krakow at age 20 and sent to work on a farm in Germany. For six months her parents did not know whether she was alive, until she managed to send them a message. While working at the farm (where she was forced to remain for four years) she met the man who became her husband. He too had been taken from he streets of Krakow. Chris’ father was born while they were still working as forced laborers on the farm.

Chris’ maternal grandfather was a colonel in the Polish home army and became a resistance fighter against the Nazis. After the war he and his wife moved about while he performed menial jobs to avoid notice of the Russians – and continued his military work in the resistance against the Russians.

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Through determination and luck we not only got some sausage from a marketplace vendor, but also a place to stand while eating it.

 

 

2017-09-27 Zacopane

 

Today we had a driver, Andrew, take us to Zacopane, south from Krakow near the Tatra mountains.

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A typical home along the way.

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Andrew stopped the car to show us how the locals make cheese. A small house or shack (perhaps like a Minnesota ice fishing house??). Andrew knows the guys who are working here and we are given explanations and demonstrations.

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Salted sheep’s milk is heated in a large bowl over an open fire to make Oscypek, a smoked cheese made only in this area. The first step is to make cottage cheese which is then repeatedly rinsed with boiling water and squeezed. The bowl hangs by a chain from a tree branch that has been chosen, trimmed and installed for the purpose. There is much more to the process, of course but this is as much as we could digest.

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Except that we were required to digest a sample of the whey. From a large, shared cup. Margaret could barely bring herself to imbibe from the shared cup. The smoke filled the room and soaked into our clothes. We did feel compelled to purchase a sizable piece of cheese, which is so smokey that that we cannot bring it home. The young man at the desk of our hotel was delighted to receive it as a gift.

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Andrew was also warmly welcomed at TatraHaus, a small company that builds houses from hand finished pieces, using a chainsaw and a sander as the principle tools; and then disassembles them for delivery to customers anywhere. We came away with a few brochures in case someone would be interested.

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Another house that Margaret liked.

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A hand-built church from the 1930s.

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Photo taken through a window in a locked door in the vestibule.

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Horse-drawn wagons still share the roads with cars and trucks.

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Snow-covered Tatras in the background.

 

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