Gutten Tag ! Achtung !!! We're back from Munich! This trip was a blast. For the first time, we flew out of Scranton instead of Philly. The trip from Avoca to the Philly airport is only 30 minutes, and it's on a small, 20 seater plane. At Philly, we had to wait a couple of hours for the international flight, but at least we did not have to stand in the long lines to recheck the luggage.

We arrived in Munich at 8:30 AM local time (which is 2:30AM our time), and the very first thing I saw on the way out was some guy eating a pretzel and drinking a beer for breakfast!! It turned out to be a common sight - they even serve beer in Burger King! We found the way to the train station with no problem, and with help from the information desk, bought our tickets to the main station in center city Munich. The train was almost futuristic - it was so new and clean, and hardly made a jolt when it started or stopped. Within a half hour, we were in Munich and caught a cab to the hotel. Our hotel was right around the corner from the Oktoberfest grounds, which were half empty, and half filled with all of the closed rides and storage tents, on a street called Schwanthrallenstreiss ( It took the whole vacation before I could even come close to pronouncing it correctly) . After checking in, we decided to walk back to the train station to get our bearings. We ate lunch at the station, and I got to try the "lieberkas" sandwich. The book said it translates literally as "liver cheese", but is a meatloaf served with mustard on a hard roll. Well, it was a meatloaf, alright, but more like Spam is a "meat-loaf". It was spicy, but still good. Of course, I should have been washing it down with a Lowenbrau, but being the typical American, I had to have a Coke. Adam got some kind of round sausage patty with "pommes fries" - french fries, although we never figured out what pommes meant.

After that, we wandered around the down town for a while, seeing St. Paul's church and the statue of Bavaria at the fair grounds. The statue is over 100 feet high, and is hollow inside with steps leading up so you can look out of her eyes over the fairgrounds. It is not for claustrophobic people. The two of us could barely fit in her "head" at the top, and we had trouble letting another person pass us on the way up as we went down. But the view was tremendous, so it was worth it.

On the second day (Good Friday), we went to MarionPlatz, the main plaza downtown. It is where the glockenspiel plays daily at 11:00, and you can watch the mechanical figures do their two dances. We were there very early, so we had a chance to go to the top of the tower on the town hall, and get a great view of the city. Fortunately, there was an elevator this time that took us to the lookout vista, well over 200 feet up - the elevator was hidden behind an old door that must have been part of the original construction. We took in the views and wandered around the courtyard for awhile, looking at all of the gargoyles and other statues they carved in the walls. At a little before 11:00, we dutifully waited with 2,000 other people for the glockenspiel to play. The clock struck 11:00, and nothing happened. By 11:02, a murmur was passing through the (probably all foreign) crowd that they don't do the "happy mechanical dance today" out of respect for Good Friday !!! Bummer!

So we hopped back on the subway, and rode it to the Olympiazentrum (Olympic Park from72). It is situated on over 400 acres of land, and was "dug in" (meaning they put the bulk of the buildings and various services underground, or at least removed earth to start building so they wouldn't have to build so high). The whole park was conceived, designed and built in less than 3 years, and has a gigantic acrylic glass "tent" top over it. It has a pool (with another pool UNDER it for training), and includes a soccer stadium that seats 60,000+, and two smaller arenas for other sports. They included a lake in the middle, and made a hill from all the dirt they removed. It also has the Olympic Tower, over 1000 feet high at the top, with an observation platform at 280 meters up. The elevator to the top tells you how fast you are going, and within seconds, you are pinned at 7 meters/second! The whole trip to the top didn't take more than 10 seconds, but you can hardly feel the elevator moving!!! The view is awesome to say the least, but we didn't see the Alps. There was also a "way cool" inline skating-skateboard park in one of they gyms, and ice skating in another one. Most of the Germans we saw at the park were either skating or riding bikes, and at least half of them had their dogs with them.

At the top of the observation platform was a restaurant that revolved once every hour. Even better, though, was the "stamp maker" machine. Another fine example of technology we saw in Germany (although the machine was a product of Sega), it would take your picture, let you choose a comic setting, and create a stamper for you with your face on it!! Adam had one made of him as a super-hero.

After the tower, we ate huge pretzels for lunch (they were at least 2 feet across, and were not the largest pretzels we were to see!!) and then went on the Olympic tour, were they showed us all of the buildings, and gave us some background on the whole complex. Then we took the subway back to the center of town, walked through the old Toy Museum (boring, unless you really need to see every Barbie ever made) and ate at Burger King (our only fast food stop, and the only time we ate cow the whole trip, if you can call a whopper real beef). And yes, you can get beer with your value meal - just don't try and get ice in your coke!!!!

On Easter Sunday, we went to the Deutsche Museum of Technology. What an impressive place - it's like the Franklin Institute on steroids - 8 stories tall, and if you walked by every exhibit, you would have to walk 12 miles!! There were at least a dozen full sized airplanes on one floor, replicas of full sized space crafts and boats on two others, dozens of autos from 1880 to the present on another. They had virtual reality cars and bikes to try, and a VR-coaster ride (the ones that move up/down/sideways to simulate motion). As usual, we were there early, which was good - by noon, the line to get in was over two blocks long, and the first two floors were mobbed with people. I was especially impressed with the full sized replication of the cave at Altimira - not just the paintings, but the whole cave!! The science of space exhibit was awesome, with full sized rockets from WW2 - I was a little suprised that they understated the German nationals who actually built the American and Russian space programs up. We ate our lunch there, and finally tried WeissWurst (white sausage, a "specialty of Munich"). It was very sweet and good, but is also meant to be eaten with beer, which was served in the museum. In fact, people in the museum were allowed to eat and drink anywhere - quite a change from American museums. That night, we ate pizza from a local take out place that was run by two native Italians - it was the same very thin crust pizza we had in Rome that we loved so much - we ended up eating it again on two nights!! We also ran into something called "Doner kabobs". They were everywhere - it was like seeing a sign for a hamburger in the states - every little take out place advertised them. And they all had the same thing - a huge piece of pork on a revolving spit. The chef would just carve a few pieces off, throw them on a pita, and add tomatoes and lettuce and sauce. I just wish we knew why they were "doner" kabobs?

On Saturday, we had a bus trip to Salzburg, Austria and the lake district. The scenery was breath-taking. You'll have to see the pictures to see what I mean. Salzburg is nestled in between some really large mountains, and the castle sits a few hundred feet up on top of one. The whole city still looks like it did in medieval times - tight, winding roads packed with shops that open out to large plazas (for markets, etc). The cathedral of St. Peter's was magnificent, and the catacombs that were dug into the side of the mountains were spooky! We saw Mozart's birthplace, and bought a lot of the chocolate candies named after him. We even managed to find the Coo-coo clock we were looking for. For lunch, we ate Weinerschnitzel, and even tried the local desert, Salzburgknofple - it was a soufflé that was the size of two full loaves of bed served with a raspberry sauce. The whole restaurant stopped to stare at us when it was served - it was big enough for a dozen people. We managed to finish 2/3 of it before we had to stop, or they may have had to roll us out the door :) After that, we road to Wolfgangsee, a lake by a medieval church from 976. The White horse Inn from some German Opera is located there. We went sailing across the lake in what our guide called "typical Austrian spring weather". First it was sunny, then we couldn't see the shore through the dense fog, then it was snowing! It kept going back and forth between snow and sunshine all day. And of course, the tour guide pointed out all the places used in "the Sound of Music" - the cemetery, the "hills", etc, etc....I'll have to watch it again now!

You'll have to see the pictures - especially the ones from the Alps. They should be beautiful.

We even saw an episode of the Simpsons dubbed in German (Hearing Marge yell "Achtung Homer" is a riot - I just wish I heard a German "Doh!")

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