Monday, December 19, 2011

The Sound of (Christmas) Music: Salzburg, Austria 2011

     If you've been reading this with any regularity then you know that we love to go to Christmas Markets this time of year.  We try to make a trip out to at least one major city each year to find something different and this year we decided to head down to the beautiful city of Salzburg, Austria.  This town is most famous for "The Sound of Music", which was both filmed there and inspired by the von Trapp family that lived there.  It's pretty popular to take a minibus and do a Sound of Music Tour with one of several companies that trek you around to famous sites from the movie, all the while playing your favorite hits that Americans love to sing-a-long to.  This is all heresay because we did not give in to the tour.  We had other things in mind..........

The old part of the city as seen from atop the Hohensalzburg Fortress

Although we didn't go on the tour, we did walk through a special exhibit dedicated to the lives of the real Trapp family.  Basically it sounds like the Maria von Trapp gal was a hippy chic that loved to sing and play guitar and she happened across this older widowed military fellow with a bunch of kids, married him, had more kids, then got all of them singing and took them to the U.S. to go on tour.  I still haven't seen the film, but I think I get the picture.

St. Peter's Cemetery - this place was very cool with simple iron crosses for tombstones, but very ornate floral decor for each grave.  Apparently you rent your grave in Austria, so if you don't have family that is able to make your payments then you could be exhumed and your spot sold to someone else!  Not sure if this actually happens but quite shocking anyways.

St. Peter's Cemetery

St. Peter's Cemetery

View of Hohensalzburg Fortress from the old city.  This bad boy was never attacked and thus, never taken until Napoleon came through - when he asked they just gave it up.  That's why it's still in remarkable condition.  In the foreground, a piece of public art commissioned in 2008.  Each year since 2002 the city selects one artist to make a piece for the city.

We ventured into a smaller Christmas Market atop the Hohensalzburg Fortress for some hot orange punch, gluhwein, and some tailgating games.  I would say "reindeer games", but this appears to be a unicorn.  For the record, Marisa and I played to 5 and I won - we don't keep records of wrongs, but I tend to keep records of rights!

Hohensalzburg Christmas Market

Next, we headed out to a summer palace called Hellbrunn Castle which was built in the 1600s to visit another small Christmas Market. 

This one had lots of great handcrafts and a children's area with a petting zoo.

Of course the donkeys were the least these kids thought so.

"Weihnachts Postamt" - where kids go to write their letters to somebody......St. Niklaus? Weihnachtsman? Christkind?  Christmas angel?  We're not sure.

While the lamb was certainly cute, I couldn't help but see the inspiration for Jar-Jar Binks in Star Wars I.

Hellbrunn Castle

Hellbrunn Castle

Hellbrunn is famous for its collection of trick fountains that apparently are notorious for getting visitors wet during the warmer months.  This one was interesting because he kind of looked like he was throwing up.

As close as we get to a fisheye lens.

Hellbrunn market in all of its glory.  It's really nice when these castles host Christmas markets because otherwise they wouldn't be used that much.

If you didn't know, I'm a dog lover!

Marisa prefers unicorns.

Steingasse - a nice little street across the Salzach river from the old city; I just like the font on these signs.

Also on Steingasse is a sign that claims that the words for silent night were penned at this very address.

Before heading out we had a quick brew at the Augustiner brewery restaurant.  It's similar to the bavarian brewers of Munich, but apparently it's distinct from the Augustiner in Munich.

It was an excellent weekend trip with plenty more that we wish we could've seen.


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Not too many digs in Dresden

The weekend after Portugal I headed down to Dresden for our school's annual volleyball tournament. Yes, I coach our girls volleyball team.  Let me make one thing is nothing like the States, but the girls are great to work with.  Besides the volleyball, the highlight of the weekend was the opening of the Dresden Christmas Market(s). Not only did their main Christmas market rock but they had about 3 or 4 all over the main part of the city.

The main Christmas Market

Just glorious!

Sipping on some gluhwein with the my assistent, Katie, boy's coach, Laura (taking the picture), male chaperone, Scott, and our athletic director, Ulli. This was Scott's first Christmas market ever and I know the ladies and I showed him a good time!

These bad boys are famous all around German and come in all different sizes. They are called Weihnachtspyramide and every house should have one.

The beautiful Frauenkirche. I love the story of this church. Read about it in our summer post about Dresden.

It was as amazing as it looks

Ulli introduced us to the most amazing dessert I have ever had. It might sound simple but it was incredible, a baked apple. Add some vanilla sauce, cinnamon and sugar and you have heaven and it even includes an edible bowl.

The Christmas Market with the Frauenkirche in the background

More old lit up buildings in Dresden made for a cool effect

Der Furstenzug- a tile parade of former leaders of Dresden or Saxony the state, not exactly sure

One of the most interesting markets was the medieval market in the castle courtyard. 

My girls and even though we only won one game out of nine at least we had fun doing it

Having been to many Christmas markets at this point in Germany, I will say that Dresden might be up there as one of my favorites. It was spread out which made it less crowded and I love how all the different areas offered different things. I hate when the different areas just sell the same stuff. Dresden is a great city and definitely one you should put on the list any time of year but especially in December.


Thursday, December 8, 2011


     Once Marisa found out that she would be in Lisbon for a girls' weekend I couldn't stand the thought of spending that weekend at home in Frankfurt.  I immediately thought of possible short weekend trips to take in order to avoid missing out on the fun.  I convinced my friend Andy to join me for a "guys" weekend to rival the girls' weekend and we came up with the port city of Hamburg - about 4 hours north of Frankfurt.  It was pretty much the last "major" city in Germany that I hadn't been to and a perfect opportunity to cross it off the list.

The beautiful port city of Hamburg - Europe's third largest.  Situated on the Elbe River, it's Germany's most important shipping hub.

     We came with no real game plan - just to explore and experience the city.  As Marisa had the camera in Portugal this weekend, Andy stepped up to the plate and delivered these fabulous photos.

Lots of shipping and ship-building going on.  We took a public transit boat on a nice little unofficial tour of the port.

Near the fish market that rages for a few hours every Sunday we have this fish monger and notice the cruise ship being assembled in the background.

I love the black-and-white effect here.  These bicycles were parked in a most unfortunate position underneath a tree that was home to dozens of pigeons.

One of our favorite finds was this little cafe that was furnished with tall armchairs and ottomans - much like a friend's living room.  Nice a cozy on a cool November evening.

We had a foggy night that made for some great photos down by the water.

Another foggy photo.

Hamburg also had plenty of swanky shopping streets and alleys.

Nice little reflection pic amid the canal system.

Ever see Hitchcock's "The Birds"?  This guy came straight out of Bodega Bay!

St. Pauli - the section of Hamburg with the most character.  It's the working class part of town, yet also kind of hip and trendy.

St. Pauli - also famous for their football club which bears the skull and crossbones as their logo.  They're known as some of the most passionate fans in Germany.

Ooohhhh..............I like Hamburg.

Hamburg is a very livable city with enough variety to make me want to return.  Excellent guys' weekend.  Thanks for the pics Andy!

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