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Traveler breaks down visit to Germany, Austria

By GARY RICHARDS • Jul 15, 2018 at 2:00 PM

Well folks, I am back home again in Norwalk once again. That’s after visiting Germany (five days), Austria (one day), the Mediterranean Sea island country of Cyprus (four days) and Turkey (13 1/2 days) from May 23 to June 15.

I was visiting Germany (2010), Austria (1993) and Turkey (2017) for the second time in my life, but it was my first time to visit Cyprus, which represented country No. 38 for me as part of my lifetime goal of visiting 50 countries in my lifetime. Since my trip was 25 days long and involved four countries on two continents, I will beak my trip down into several parts. So, this travelogue of mine will only include my first six days in Germany and Austria, so let's get traveling shall we?

After arriving in Munich early in the morning on May 23 after a long and uneventful overnight flight, I checked into my very comfortable and centrally located hotel and started walking, despite my jet lag (seven hours ahead of Ohio or EST).

Munich is historical in every sense of the word with its gorgeous old buildings and churches dating back hundreds of years. One of the first things I did was climb 305 very steep wooden stairs to the top of the very old St. Peter's Church for the most amazing 365-degree view of the city high above the central square, which is called the Marienplatz.

Since Munich is very famous for beer brewing, beer drinking and its Octoberfest, I simply had to visit one of Munich's many beer halls and huge beer gardens for dinner that evening. So, I headed straight to the world famous 500-year-old Hofbrauhaus, the world's largest and oldest continuously operating tavern. All I can say is that the Hofbrauhaus serves delicious food, lots of cold beer, is extremely colorful and is the perfect place to people watch.

My second day in Germany was spent touring the historic and beautiful old city of Nuremberg, Bavaria's second largest city after Munich. I was part of a bus tour group from Munich and actually met and befriended a very nice couple from the Cleveland area that day.

Our first stop was the Nazi Party Rally Grounds, where Hitler and his cronies were building a large new city and Nazi Party compound and where they staged many of his lavish and theatrical parades, rallies and light shows, accompanied by his many hate-filled and emotionally charged speeches. Later that afternoon, I toured the famous Palace of Justice with my new friends from Cleveland, which was the scene of the Nuremberg war-crimes trials after the war. In courtroom No. 600, infamous Nazis such as Hermann Goring, Rudolph Hess and 19 other high ranking Nazi officials were tried, found guilty of crimes against humanity, and then either hanged or imprisoned.

The very next day, I boarded a high-speed train from Munich's huge and very busy train station and took part in a full day tour of gorgeous Salzburg, Austria. The train ride was fun and so relaxing, traveling through the spectacular Bavarian countryside with the Alps as a backdrop.

Our two-hour-long walking tour included stops at numerous “Sound of Music” movie locations and of course Mozart's birthplace and the home where he lived with his family until he left Salzburg for good at age 25. Salzburg is, without question, one of the most beautiful, charming and interesting small cities (150,000) that I have ever visited anywhere ever. I easily could have spent two or three more days there, but was grateful just to be there that one day.

I spent My fourth day in Germany, May 26, entirely in Munich. There were five interesting hours on my own visiting the four-story Nazi Documentation Center/Museum, which is located on the exact site where the Nazi party headquarters once stood.

That afternoon, I participated in a two-hour-long walking tour to all of the infamous Adolf Hitler and Nazi sites that are located throughout this city, which was considered by Hitler to the capital of the Nazi movement, not Berlin, which he hated. That night, it was time for some lighter entertainment, so I headed to yet another one of Munich's famous outdoor beer gardens for dinner and more people watching.

On May 27, I boarded yet another tour bus in Munich and took part in an all day tour to the spectacular castles of Linderhof and Neuschwanstein high up in the Bavarian Alps near Germany's border with Austria. These impressive castles were designed by, built for and lived in by the last King of Bavaria, Ludwig II, in the late-1800s, who is often referred to today as Mad Ludwig, due to his reclusive and eccentric behavior.

Neuschwanstein Castle is the most visited castle in the world today and is right out of a fairy tale. This castle actually inspired Walt Disney to recreate a miniature version of it as part of his very own Magic Kingdoms, first at Disneyland in Anaheim and much later at Disney World in Orlando.

We also got to spend an hour for lunch in the quaint and charming little town of Oberammergau, the home of the theatrical presentation of the Passion Play, which is held every 10 years in its theater, with the next theatrical season being 2020.

On my last day in Germany, May 28, I took yet another tour bus from Munich, but this time to infamous Berchtesgaden and Obersalzburg to explore Hitler's Eagle's Nest, which was his personal tea house and conference center high up in the Bavarian Alps overlooking his beloved Austria. The Eagle's Nest was a gift to him for his 50th birthday by Nazi Party secretary Martin Bormann, who also had a home nearby, along with many other high ranking Nazi officials. It was kind of creepy eating lunch in the dining room where Hitler entertained high ranking Nazi officials, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini and the leaders of the German occupied and/or allied countries.

We also got to see the ruins of Hitler's home in Obersalzburg (The Berghof), where he spent much of his time during the war. The Berghof was badly damaged by American and British bombers at the end of the war and in 1952, it was completely demolished by the occupying American troops. It was a fascinating place, but kind of surreal at the same time.

So there you have it, folks. I hope you enjoyed your tour of Germany and Austria with me. See you next month when I take you with me to the beautiful island of Cyprus and to the amazing and extremely hospitable country of Turkey. Now get out there and do some traveling of your own my friends, because summer is going by quickly and 2018 is more than halfway over with already.

Gary Richards is a teacher and Norwalk resident who enjoys writing about his travels.

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