Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Bavarian Alps

My parents made their first-ever international trip a few weeks ago and we spent a few days in Vienna to take in all the sights. After my last exam, we left for a day in the Bavarian Alps. We had a quick stop in Salzburg and after a difficult time finding a bus, we headed out to Berchtesgaden. This is a nice little German town...but it is best known for its association with Hitler and the Nazis. It was basically their home away from Berlin. Just a few minutes outside of town is Hitler's Eagle's Nest. The only way up to the top of the mountain is a difficult bus ride and then an elevator ride...but the house was already closed for the winter. You can still see it overlooking everything in the area though:

So we couldn't go in there, but we did visit Obersalzberg, the Nazi Documentation Center. This was a pretty intense museum that showed how Hitler gained control of Germany, and then what happened after he had control. The purpose of this place is clearly to show the horrors of the Nazis and not glorify them. Based on the pictures inside, the museum definitely succeeded. Underneath the Documentation Center are the bunkers that the Nazis built for their last stand. This was all fairly impressive to see:

After seeing that, we decided to visit nearby Lake Konigsee. To get to the lake, you take a bus from Berchtesgaden and then walk through a typical (or at least what I would think of as typical) small Bavarian town. It's a beautiful lake with views of the Bavarian Alps all around. We got there too late to actually go out on the lake, but it was still impressive to see.

Great views of the mountains all around as well.

Overall, it was a nice trip to Bavaria. It'd definitely be nice to spend a few more days here and also visit in the summer when the lake's warmer and the Eagle's Nest is open.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Slea Head & Dingle Peninsula

I'm running way behind on this blog--lots of work, travel, and inability to connect to the Internet. But one last entry on Ireland...

This point marks the Western-most place in Europe. Right where the Spanish Armada crashed in 1588. This is far off the beaten path. In fact, I had to get from this very point to Vienna for a class the next day, and this is how I got back home:

-Biked 14 miles to get back to Dingle town
-Took the bus for 1.5 hours to get to Tralee
-Took the bus for 2 hours to get to Limerick
-Took the bus for 4 hours to get to Dublin
-Walked through downtown Dublin and took a bus to the airport
-Got on the plane and waited for an hour
-Got off the plane and moved onto another plane
-Flew for 3 hours to get to Bratislava
-Took the bus for 1.5 hours to get back to Vienna
-Took the train to get to my class in northern Vienna

It's a bit of a reach to get there, but it's still worth it. The Dingle Peninsula is one of the most beautiful places and one of the most unique cultures that I've seen. This is the Anti-Dublin--it's more like Ireland was a couple hundred years ago. (Cliff Death Warning signs excluded.)

The town of Dingle is a small fishing village. You can basically walk around the entire town in about 15 minutes. It's a fishing village, but I don't think it would still exist without the tourists. Lots of Irish pubs and touristy gift shops. Of course, lots of tourists to fill those pubs and shops too.

So the first day I was in Dingle, I walked around the town and went to a few of the pubs at night. The town is well known for the traditional Irish music in the pubs, which was great to see.

On the second day, I decided to bike around the peninsula. I wanted to visit Slea Head and Rick Steves recommended that I rent a bike for the trip. I went to a bed & breakfast and found a woman who was willing to rent me a bike. In fact, it was a B&B with Rick Steves' name on the sign nonetheless:

Well my bike was not exactly a mountain bike. In fact, it wasn't even a men's bike. The best description would be a grandmotherly bike. The only thing it needed was streamers on the handlebars.

I set out on my trip with my grandmotherly bike, Rick Steves' handy directions and a large bottle of juice. On a side note, I had been drinking juice during my entire trip in Ireland. When I tasted the juice here, my first thought was "This is the worst juice I've ever had in my life." It was some type of fruit that we don't have back in the States and it was cheap, so I thought maybe it was just a cultural difference. I tried a different one the next day and thought the same thing. At the end of my stay, I found out that I'd been drinking concentrate over here. It wasn't listed on the bottle, but it's concentrate. Keep that in mind if you're visiting.

So I set out on my trip with my directions and my large bottle of concentrate. The first few miles were pretty straightforward--mainly back roads and little traffic. Then you get to the main road to Slea Head. Now I was expecting a nice bike path and lots of other bikers out here. Well there is no bike path. I basically rode my bike on a highway around the peninsula. Granted, there wasn't much traffic, but not exactly the safest route. On my 5-hour trip I didn't see one other biker on the road. There were tourists driving around, but not a single person on a bike taking this tour.

It wasn't dangerous because there weren't too many cars around. Plus the view is much better when you ride a bike around the peninsula. There are lots of cliffs, huge waves on the shore, and thousands of cows and sheep.

There are also stone beehive huts on the way to Slea Head that look like igloos. No one knows how old the huts are (estimated that they're somewhere between 800-4,000 years old--kind of a wide range).

Plenty of great views as you continue up Slea Head. Note the currach boats in the bottom of the picture.

Alright, so after the long trip back from Dingle, I traveled back to Vienna. More updates later this week...