Last night we drove into Austria. I was a bit nervous about going through customs but it turned out to be ill-founded as well, there weren’t any. The EU seems to becoming more like the US all the time, as this trip was just as eventful as driving from New Jersey to New York. When we woke up in our lovely hotel and looked out the window though, we were surprised to see a decent coating of snow on the ground. I was very glad to have rented winter tires for our trip through the Alps, as I doubt this will be the last we see of the white stuff.
Salzburg is very nice little city, although a bit touristy. We seemed to have more difficulty finding good places to eat here however, and the places we did find were filled with people smoking. I’d forgotten how awful it is to go to dinner with someone smoking right next to you, it just makes all the food taste worse.
Salzburg only has 150,000 or so people in it, so its easy to walk around, and thats what we’ve been doing. Today we walked through much of the old city, which besides for the names on the shops hasn’t changed much in a couple hundred years. From there we took the cable railway up to the Fortress Hohensalzburg, which sits atop a large hill to the south of the city. Its a huge fortification that looks pretty much impregnable, and not surprisingly has never been taken by force. Of course for some reason they just surrendered it to Napolean. After lunch we went over to the Cathedral Dom, which was originally built around 700 AD, and then rebuilt again in the 1500’s, and rebuild again in 1959 after it got blowed up in WWII.
Today we went to Castle Nymphenburg, which is really a palace as it has no fortifications whatsoever. It is quite large and incredibly ornate, as you would expect of a king’s palace. What I found most interesting was that although it is currently just outside the city center of Munich, when it was built it was basiclly in the middle of nowhere. Of course because of that it means that it has a huge garden that is impecibly landscaped. Since it was still winter there wasn’t much there, but they had just put in a few pansies and by a few, I mean about 16,000.
One of the smaller side palaces was unique in that it was trimmed out in silver, as opposed to the more typical gold. Although I suppose that might be because silver is more fashionable now. From there we got to have our first experiance with the legendary German Autobahn. This was promptly cut short as we had to get off to get gas… $100 worth of gas. When we got back to the autobahn we hit the first unlimited section which basicly felt like driving down the parkway. Driving in heavy traffic with every once in awhile hitting a break and getting passed by someone doing 130mph. The road itself wasn’t much different either, although it was only two lanes, and much twistier. I probably would have been more impressed if I was limited in my speed by the BMW’s break-in period, as well as the aforementioned crazy expensive gas, and the paranoid wife in the passenger seat.
Today we went to the wonderful new BMW Welt to pick up my car. The whole experiance was amazing. Right fromt he get go they treated us like VIPs. After checking in we were given some little ID cards with our schedule on it, and brought to the ‘Premium Lounge’ where they had an amazing spread of food and drinks, as well as a plethora of leather couches to relax in. We got some breakfast and then headed off to learn all about my new car. They had a silly little simulator that showed all the fancy traction control features, as well as the first implementation of Microsoft’s Surface technology that I’ve seen. The electronic car that they were showing me around was an exact duplicate of my car, right down to the correct liscene plate. From there the big moment arrived when I was given the keys to my shiney new BMW 335i Coupe.The car was in this unbelievable hall on its very own turntable, making the whole experience seem special. I got to drive the car around a bit and then it was time for our factory tour. My car was made an hour or two up the road from Munich, however the factory here makes 3-series sedans and wagons. We saw a good portion of the factory, from the stamping line to the body shop to final assembly. Not surprisingly it wasn’t much different from many other modern car factories. Almost all of the welding and body work is done by robot, with the assembly being done largely by hand.
Then after another small stop back at the lounge for a rest and some drinks, we went off to the BMW museum. Here they had pretty much everything BMW has ever made. From the first airplane engines all the way to some of the new concept cars. My favorite was this 1956 BMW 507 Roadster. At this point however we were rather exhasuted though so we kind of flew through the museum. From there we headed off to get the winter tires we rented, to prepare for our upcoming journey threw the Alps.
We spent yesterday sleeping and getting adjusted to the time difference and Munich. Today we wok up rather late and stopped at a little coffee house to get some pastries for breakfast. It was then off to the old city square where we saw the Glockenspiel that is in the ‘New’ City Hall. This would have been alot nicer if it didn’t involve standing around in the near freezing rain for half an hour. Then it was off to the fantastic Deutsches Museum. This is huge science museum that is much more adult oriented than most of the science museums in the US. The guy above was giving a glassblowing demonstration. They has a bunch of great manufacturing exhibits on everything from food to glass to textiles. A decent amount of the plaques also had information in English, which made figuring out what we were looking at alot easier. They also seemed to offer alot of demonstrations and tours, unfortunately the glassblowing was the only one that appeared to be running today.
From there we hit up a local grocery store to get some dirt cheap snacks and juice, and then went back to the hotel to take a nap. When you are used to sitting at a computer all day, walking all over a city and standing around looking at exhibits all day is very tiring.
Then it was time to head to the art museum and get some culture. The Munich art museum is split into three, the old, new and modern. We went to the Old museum, which was quite large all by itself. They had some great paintings there, with this being my favorite. It shows the battle between Alexander the Great and Darius of Persia in amazing detail. It was painted by Albrecht Altdorfer in 1529.
We interrupt your regularly scheduled home improvement post to go on vacation! This crappy Lufthansa Airbus A340 is our cramped home for the next 8 hours on the way to spending the next two weeks jaunting around Europe. We’re going to be flying into Munich where I will be picking up my new car, and doing some sightseeing. Then we’ll be going to Salzburg for some more touristy stuff on our way to Cortina, in Italy where I’ll get to do a bit of skiing. From there its back to Austria, this time to Innsbruck, and then back to Munich.