Camp Martin Travels

These entries will be a combination of historical day trips, graduate level travel courses, and just little stops along the way. I have been teaching 8th grade American History for over 25 years. I am also a Civil War Reenactor and have traveled to Germany and Austria with several groups of exchange students and written about our adventures. Please check all my posts by using the monthly Blog Archive tabs shown below. I have posted over 150 Blog Episodes since 2009... Please explore them all!

Blog Archive

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Back Again in Bavaria / 2016 Part # 1 - Landshut



Back Again in Bavaria
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GAPP 2016 / Landshut

The River Isar in Landshut
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It was the first day of the weekend and I had the luxury of getting off to a slower, more relaxed start.  Today I was scheduled to tour the historic city of Landshut along with fellow chaperones, Wendy and Molly for our first adventuring during the 2016 GAPP student exchange program.  In addition, our German friend Elvira and her daughter Carissa would be playing the role of tour guides and would drive us to our destination.  In sharp contrast to the predicted gloomy weather forecast, it was surprisingly a beautiful day with abundant sunshine and cooler temperatures.  I took along an umbrella just in case, as they were still predicting the possibility of strong storms later in the day.  The hour and a half drive to Landshut was a smooth ride through the well maintained roads of the Bavarian countryside, where farmers were working quickly to collect their cut hay in advance of the predicted rain.  Soon after arriving on the outskirts of the historic city, it was quickly evident that Landshut was old world traditional Europe at its finest.  The cobblestone streets were aligned with colorful interconnected buildings with uniform red terracotta rooftops.  Our host Elvira had only visited the city previously once before a few years ago, so the visit would be relatively new for all of us.    

Colorful Streets of Landshut
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The city of 60,000 residents is the official capital of Southern Bavaria and the largest city within the region.  The city is known for having a very rich industrial economy, touting the lowest unemployment rate in Bavaria, which is only about one percent!  Despite Landshut's industrial reputation, it was mostly spared from allied bombing raids during World War II.  Other than major damage to the railway station area, most of the original medieval city was untouched by by the devestating effects of modern war.  The first thing we saw was the River Isar, which connects Landshut to Munich to the west and Deggendorf to the east.  Throughout the city's long history, the River Isar was the key to the economic success of the city through trade within the region.  From a historical perspective, the city is most well known for a famous wedding that took place way back in 1475 between George the Rich of Bavaria and Hedwig Jagiellon from Poland.  The prearranged marriage of political alliance attracted great attention and was attended by over 10,000 people.  The city reenacts the wedding every four years as part of a colorful festival known and the Landshut Hochzeit, which is one of the most attended medieval living history events in Europe.  Unfortunately, the couple did not live happily ever after, as George the Rich had her banished to Burghausen Castle ten years after their epic wedding, where she lived a lonely and isolated life until her death in 1502. 

Hedwig Jagiellon / George the Rich
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The famous wedding took place at one of the star attractions within the city, the extremely prominent red brick church known as Saint Martin's Church.  The church has a towering bell tower steeple that holds the record for the tallest freestanding brick structure in the world at 428 feet high.  The tower also has a large clock face on all four sides and still keeps accurate time for the city's residents.  The interior of the medieval church is equally impressive with a simplistic hollow style of white stone, supported by two rows of matching parallel support columns.  The 500 year old church is a true monument to God and you just can't help but be humbled within the quiet, sacred space of worship.  I felt so small within the massive space, and continuously stood in awe, taking in the interior from every angle and vantage point.  After leaving the tranquility of the church, we continued onward and soon upward toward the hilltop fortress known as Trausnitz Castle that watched over and protected the ancient city.  

Saint Martin's Church Interior
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We decided to walk up the extensive steps that climbed and twisted up the rock cliff wall to the castle.  As in previous castles I have visited, I was not surprised when one stairway ended and another began in a different direction that was previously hidden from view.  It was a challenging assent and very tiring with the hot afternoon sun beating down on our backs.  We all had to rest and take periodic breaks at intervals along the way to catch our breath, which gave us an opportunity to take in the view of the vast city below.  Building a castle on top of a hill was genius because any enemy trying to attack would be exhausted by the time they reached the outer curtain wall.  Once we arrived at the top, we checked out several interior courtyards and accompanying buildings, one of which was bright yellow and appeared Spanish in style and design.  We took in the view from every available access point and then followed a shielded pathway along the curtain wall, which soon led to an exterior staircase that ended in a quaint biergarten and a small corner lookout post. 

Trausnitz Castle
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As advertised, the view of Landshut below was well worth the climb as we all stood along a low wall and gazed over the vast city below.  The interior main street where we had walked through earlier was a colorful sight from above, with all the bright pastel colored buildings.  The sections that panned outward became a little more modern with each ring of development.  The outermost areas in the distance were industrial, visual evidence of the economic might of modern Landshut.  At the center, our eyes were drawn to Saint Martin's bell tower, which dominated the skyline.  As if on cue, the bells began to ring a beautiful cadence of chimes that bellowed out over the city and beyond.  The three Americans in our group couldn't help but think of Fraulein Maria in the opening scene of the classic film, The Sound of Music.  To everyone's surprise, the bells continued to ring for a long fifteen minutes, which we all soaked up in silence.  Apparently, this is a tradition for the city of Landshut that dates all the way back to the Middle Ages.  The extensive chorus of bells from 3:00 to 3:15 every Saturday afternoon was the signal for people working in the mills and distant farms to stop work for the day and begin preparations for the festive evening and restful Sabbath the following day.

View of Saint Martin's Church from Castle
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The bells of Saint Martin had just brought the work week to an end, just as it had for many past centuries.  Despite the sudden quiet, we all continued to gaze out over the city in the shade of one of the castle towers.  A welcoming breeze was an additional comfort that made it difficult to finally leave the beautiful spot, which I soaked up as long as time would permit.  We finished our brief tour of the castle grounds and then began the long descent back down to street level.  As we exited the castle portal to the staircase entrance, we were greeted with the pleasant aroma of jasmine, which was protruding from a large flowering shrub just outside the gate.  The climb down the steep series of staircases was much easier than the climb but was still a little hard on the knees. We headed back down the main street by way of  Saint Martin's Church to soon indulge in some refreshing ice cream and to explore a few more shops as we made our way back to the parking area.  The city was beautiful and I hope to return again one day to explore some of the adjacent historic and colorful streets that ran parallel to the one we had just explored.  

  A Storm Approaches
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We were tired and wanted to get back home, where we would meet fiends at a favorite local brewery biergarten for a nice relaxing evening meal.  However, the elusive storms that had been predicted all day finally appeared off to the west in the form of dark threatening clouds.  We were soon consumed  by heavy rain, fierce lighting, and strong winds.  Elvira did a fine job navigating her small car through the wicked storm, taking her time, and proceeding with caution.  We arrived at the biergarten safely just as there was a break in the storm.  Most patrons had retreated off the wet patio area and were seated inside to partake the local fare of the popular restaurant.  We were all thankful the weather had been so beautiful and spared Landshut during our tour of the city.  We enjoyed a delicious dinner in the comfort of the restaurant, protected from the storm, which continued in spurts outside.  Another great adventure and a big thank you to Elvira and Carissa who were great hosts and tour guides during our tour of historic Landshut!  

Graminger Weissbrau Pub and Restaurant
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Saturday, February 25, 2017

An American Back in Bavaria / Part # 12 - Naschmarkt



GAPP Journal 2014
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Part # 12 / Vienna - Naschmarkt

Fresh Fruit from around the World
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We scaled the steps up to street level and were deposited at the entrance to Vienna's famous open air market known locally as the NaschmarktA popular destination for locals and tourists alike, the market is a great place to pick up fresh foods, including those from distant lands.  The stands were overflowing with colorful products from fresh vegetables, fruit, nuts, olives, spices, and even specialty teas. Many of the vendors appeared to be foreign from countries to the south and east.  I love to visit the local farmer's markets around my home of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, which often take place on one specific day or two every week.  Root's Market near East Petersburg is always on a Tuesday, Green Dragon happens every Friday outside Ephrata, and Central Market in Lancaster City is only open on Wednesday and Saturday.  Each market has their own specific personality and flavor of goods catering to specific customers.  Central Market is more global and offers specialty foods that appeal to a variety of ethnic palates and restrictive diets more likely found in the city.  The others offered more locally grown, fresh, and basic foods common within the Pennsylvania Dutch tradition of a rural farming lifestyle.

 Interior / Exterior Cafe Seating
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 The Naschmarkt, which is open Monday through Saturday, was much more exotic and high class than any from back home.  The stalls were all well maintained, clean, and were neatly organized.  Many of the fine eateries had enclosed seating areas that were chic in design and accented with green plants that provided some privacy from passersby.  Wine was served in fine stemware in some of the high-end booths and the foods they served suggested culinary delicacies.  However, there was something for everyone and I was able to find a Turkish stand touting fresh chicken-nuden in a box to eat on the go!  The market was long and narrow and paralleled the space between the rail line and the edge of the city for almost a full mile.  Everyone was very friendly, obviously very accustomed to encountering the many tourists who stop in to experience one of Vienna's top and oldest attractions.  Two young ladies, who were selling about a hundred different varieties of candied fruits, posed for my camera as I took the shot of their colorful stand.  The Naschmarkt dates all the way back to the 16th century, where milk was sold to the city's residents in bottles made from ash wood, which is how the market received its name.

Global Tea Market
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Our kids really enjoyed exploring the market and trying the various foods available for a quick lunch.  I also picked up a few souvenirs for back home, including some unique tea mugs from India for my wife and son, who are avid tea drinkers.  The row of buildings on the edge of the city were very beautiful and mostly the iconic white plaster that flowed throughout the city.  Several of the buildings were accented with various forms of art including Romanesque statues, sculptured planters, and several were accented with subtle color through painted stenciled patterns.  One building that caught my eye had a huge portrait painting of a young woman's face displayed on its side wall upside down, which covered the entire space.  The painting of the woman, with her eyes closed, was created in various shades of blue.  It was very bold, beautiful, and complimented the artistic personality of the city.  It was piece created in the modern art style, which stood out in contrast with the traditional historic white building, which supported the enormous canvas.  Our departure time was approaching quickly and time, the enemy of every visiting tourist, was becoming more apparent.  A few students wanted to take one more ride on the U-bahn to the far edge of the city to see the iconic Danube River and I was chosen to go along for the ride.  All aboard!

 Two Women at the Market
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The train from the Naschmarkt to the historic Danube was all above ground and the train flew at such a high rate of speed; it was hard to really see the landscape rushing past the windows.  The train came to a stop at a small, elevated platform above an island in the middle of the river.  The 13-mile long island known as the Donauinsel or Danube Island, which was created when an additional channel of the Danube was excavated in the 1970s, is known as the Neue Donau or New Danube.  The purpose of the channel and accompanying created island is to provide additional protection for Vienna from flash floods that threaten all cities built along the banks of Europe's fabled powerful rivers.  Donauinsel has also become a great space for recreation for the city's residents.  The Danube on either side of the narrow island seemed to appear as two different waterways entirely due to their stark contrast in color. (See Photo Below) The main river channel, which was the much wider of the two, appeared gray in color with the city skyline running parallel with the distant riverbank.  The New Danube was a deep rich blue color, reminiscent of the river's romantic and historic mystique.

 The Deep Blue Waters of the New Danube
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The buildings to the east of the New Danube were more modern design with clean smooth lines, many shrouded in a skin of tinted glass.  There were also residential apartment complexes that were also symmetrical and modern in design.  Unlike the center of the city, the buildings of this mixed area of business and residential urban life were less congested with structures placed far apart from one another.  This openness provided a different, more relaxed feel than that of the busy crowded city streets to the west.  The hillside far bank of the New Danube was full of sunbathers taking advantage of the day's beautiful weather but few were in the water.  In fact, the only swimmer was a large dog that was swimming out to retrieve a ball thrown by the dog's owner on the edge of the shore.  A bunch of our students got the brilliant idea of jumping in to go swimming in the channel.  I pointed out this was not wise to jump into an unknown river, especially when there were no other people swimming.  In addition, we were due to leave on our train home within an hour and a half and the long ride would not be pleasant soaking wet.  The students were extremely upset with me and vehemently protested my decision to not allow them their free spirit act of reckless abandon and spontaneity.  Sometimes it is really hard to be the only grownup in the group!

 Lighthouse of Copa Cagrana of the Sunken City
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I sat down on the edge of the bank, took off my shoes, and soaked my tired, aching bare feet in the cool water of the river.  I suggested the students do the same to semi-satisfy their intense desire to jump in the river.  However, the students were in no mood to compromise and boycotted my olive branch invitation to join me.  Despite their continuous complaints, I remained unbending in my position and refused to put their safety in jeopardy with our exit pending within the hour.  We had made it through the whole weekend without incident and I wasn't going to risk fumbling the ball near the conclusion of the fourth quarter.   I corralled our group and we headed back up to the elevated platform to wait for the return train.  The station provided an excellent view of the rich blue waters of the New Danube to the south and on the opposite side was the lighthouse of a recreation area known as Copa Cagrana and the Sunken City.  This area comes alive at night with its many restaurants, cocktail bars, and open-air discotheques... but the nightlife would have to wait for some other visit as our train came into view.  We raced back into the city to our designated meeting place at the entrance of the Naschmarkt, where we had a few minutes before heading back to our hotel to collect our bags before departing the city for home.

View of Danube, Danube Island, and New Danube
(Photo Credit /© Bwag Commons Taken from top of D.C. Tower)
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A few minutes later we prepared to ride the "U" back to our hotel and counted everyone to be sure we all had returned on time.  Much to my surprise, several of our students who had recently been to visit Danube Island were soaking wet!  Apparently, as soon as we had arrived back at the Naschmarkt, they turned around and jumped back on the train to return to Donauinsel, where they ran down and jumped into the Danube.  Nothing like a little defiance to make the teenage experience in Vienna complete!  I guess they showed me but then again, they were soaking wet and it was a long train ride home.  Hope it was worth it but I guess, when in Vienna... It was a great tip, an amazing experience I will never forget!  Thanks to Wendy for all she did to make our overnight stay in Vienna such a success!  

View of the D.C. Tower from the River
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 PLEASE SEE MY VIENNA COLLECTION
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Sunday, February 12, 2017

An American Back in Bavaria / Part # 11 / Schonbrunn



GAPP Exchange Journal 2014
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Part # 11 / Vienna - Schonbrunn Palace

Schonbrunn Palace / Main Center Front
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Our overnight stay at our hotel in Vienna had come to an end as we repacked our belongings, cleared out our rooms, and met downstairs in the lobby for a light breakfast.  The hotel had agreed to allow us to store our luggage at the hotel so we could continue to explore the city before our train was due to leave for back home to Bavaria later in the afternoon.  I had to hand it to Wendy, who had done a fantastic job with the itinerary of our trip.  She had really maximized our short weekend in the city by scheduling a series of amazing historic sites within our limited time frame in Vienna.  First on tap this morning was boarding the now familiar U-bahn subway to visit the famous summer palace of the Hapsburg Dynasty known as Schonbrunn.  Again, I had no idea what to fully expect, having only a free city map from the train station, which showed the location of the palace and a small picture.  The subway emerged from the underground darkness into the light of the surface.  Apparently the trains of Vienna run both above and below ground depending which direction you are headed.  It seemed the subway emerged on lines that ran outside the city's congested center.  Our train arrived and we walked along a long wall towards the front gateway (Map-I) of the popular palace.


Schonbrunn Palace and its accompanying imperial gardens were first opened to the public in 1779 by Queen Maria Theresia.  As with many magnificent palaces I have visited in Germany and now Austria, Schonbrunn began as a simple recreational location for the sport of hunting for the select members of the royal family and imperial court.  Originally known as the Katterburg Estate, the royal family acquired the rural property in 1569 for its close proximity to Vienna's forest.  In 1612 a spring fountain was discovered on the estate that provided the property with fine spring water, which was so pure, it was bottled for consumption for the Hofburg Winter Palace in the center of Vienna.  The spring was called Schones Brunnl, and would eventually give the grand palace its namesake.  The first constructed house of leisure was almost completely destroyed by the Turks in 1683.  The remaining foundation was soon razed to make room for a new grand structure to be built as a monument worthy of emulating the power of the Hapsburgs.  Over time, the main palace expanded to include over 1440 rooms to house 1000 people of the royal family and the entire royal court who resided there during the warm months of summer.

  Naiad Basin / Lilly Pad Fountain (13)
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The massive gardens were so impressive and rather than go on the interior tour of the palace, I went rogue and decided to take the full time of our visit to explore the palace grounds to the rear of the structure.  I walked through the center-arched passageway under the main palace to stand at the extreme edge of the expansive imperial gardens.  The entire site encompasses 436 acres and is more than a half square mile in physical size.  Once again, to our great fortune, it was once again a beautiful sunny day.  Off in the distance on top of a hill was a structure known as the Gloriette (Map-8), which looked down over the palace grounds and appeared to be square with the palace's center.  If time permitted, my goal would be to try and reach the Gloriette to see the view offered of the palace grounds below.  First, I ventured to the left, with every turn in the pathway revealing one garden display after another in full bloom.  There were ornate statues, elaborate fountains, groomed gardens, flower lined pathways, and sculpted shaped shrubs.  I walked at a brisk pace all the way to an impressive fountain spring known as the Obelisk (Map-9), which denotes the history of the Hapsburg Dynasty.  


 Schonbrunn Palace and Gardens Map
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Keeping my goal of climbing the large hill to reach the Gloriette (Map-13) in mind, I headed back to the east and passed a large fountain of mock Roman Ruins (Map-12) known by the same name.  I took in the view of the expansive center area known as Schonbrunn Park (Map-6) looking toward the center facade of the palace.  The climb was steep and the sun hot so I took a turn to enter a side road (Map-26), which provided shade from the heat of the sun overhead.  I imagined this was what much of the area resembled when the estate was originally used mostly as hunting grounds.  I came to a crossroad intersection and turned east once again to angle my climb toward the Gloriette, which was completely hidden from view.  I had no idea of my position in relation to the top of the hill, when the grandeur of the Gloriette suddenly appeared before me as I came around a bend in the wooded roadway and out into the bright sunlight.  As I turned to face the palace below, the view was nothing short of magnificent as the colorful city skyline of Vienna was stretched out along the horizon.  Just below the Gloriette on both sides was a large pond that created natural bookends to the structure. There was a grand cafe with large glass widows, offering thirsty patrons a beautiful setting and accompanying view to enjoy a cool drink.  However, tempting as it may have looked, the clock was ticking and all I had time for was a bathroom break and bottle of Coca-Cola Light from a vendor before I began my descent. 

The Neoclassicist Hilltop Gloriette
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The Gloriette was built as a monument to all the soldiers who had perished over the centuries defending the empire.  The original grand plans for the summer palace dictated the main palace structure be built upon the top of the hill but construction was determined to be too expensive and the lower location was chosen instead.  The grass-covered hillside is an excellent space for spectators to sit when summer outdoor musical concerts are performed at the Gloriette.  The long zig-zagging pathway down the slope was longer than anticipated and I was beginning to worry I would miss our predetermined rendezvous in the main courtyard more than a half mile away.  However, I couldn't resist stopping periodically to take a few pictures of the beautiful view below.  I finally came to the base of the hill where the Large Neptune Fountain (Map-7) roared with powerful cascading falling water into a large pool below.  The Baroque styled fountain contains large marble statues depicting a mythological scene of the Goddess Thetis requesting Neptune to give her son Achilles a safe passage to the ancient city of Troy.  Stretched out before me was a colorful view of Schonbrunn Park (Map-6) framed by the large side gardens and main palace structure beyond.  It resembled a living work of art where nature and man merged to create something of true beauty. 

View of Schonbrunn from the Gloriette
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The ornate gardens of brilliant colors were scrolled out in multiple complex designs of patterned symmetrical artwork displayed on a canvas of bright green lawns, framed by broad stone walkways. As always, I wished we had more time so I could explore the other half of the gardens on the opposite side of Schonbrunn Park.  I later discovered that the other side contained one of the largest greenhouses in the world known as Palm House (Map # 18) and a large zoo, which has been in existence since 1752.  The zoo known as Tiergarten (Map # 22), has been brought up to date as a modern facility and houses a variety of exotic animals such as elephants, apes, and hippopotamuses. There is also a space known as the Maze (Map # 15), a labyrinth of tall green hedges that would have been fun to navigate but time was slipping away.  Unfortunately, I was never able to penetrate the space hidden from view by a line of trees and accompanying statues.  If I ever get a chance to visit again, I will be sure to get the interior tour and then start by exploring the east gardens first.  I made it back to the main courtyard to join up with our students and even had time to explore the gift shop and enjoy another Coca-Cola Light under the shade of a brightly colored umbrella overlooking the courtyard and palace frontal facade.  

Schonbrunn's Neptune Fountain
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On our way out, we even had a few minutes to explore the side English rose gardens that had several rose covered trellises that were large enough to walk through, resembling a tunnel of flowers.  The summer imperial palace was absolutely beautiful and it was no wonder why the royal family and court wanted to spend the summer months in residence.  In fact, I wouldn't mind moving into one of the 1000+ rooms of the palace for a month or two, so I could take my time to fully check out the property in full!  We walked back to the small train station and boarded to make our way to our next and final destination before departing the city.  On our train car we met a nice old gentleman who was quietly ministering to anyone who would listen.  He asked if he could pray for us and we welcomed his blessing, which requested safe travels for all of us during the remainder of our stay in Europe.  We got off at our stop and said goodbye to the kind elderly missionary, who continued on the train to destinations unknown.  

Elderly Train Missionary
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FOR ADDITIONAL PHOTOS
 PLEASE SEE MY VIENNA COLLECTION
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SOURCE
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Site Facts, Figures, and History
Source / Vienna by Lina Schnorr
Published by Harald Bohm - 2014

  

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

An American Back in Bavaria / Part # 10 / Hotel Sacher



GAPP Exchange Journal 2014
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Part # 10 / Vienna - Hotel Sacher

Colorful Street Cafe at Night
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After regrouping on the Stephensplatz we began to make our way to Hotel Sacher, which was located right next to the Vienna State Opera House.  The skies overhead were now darkening but the streets had come alive, illuminated with bright colorful lights.  Again, the streets were full of pedestrians on their way about the city.  Several street performers offered passersby a cheaper alternative to the formal venues for which the city is famous.  We passed by a lone violinist who was barely visible up against a nearby building, faintly revealed by a soft light overhead.  His open instrument case lay open at his feet, hoping for some compensation for his efforts.  Perhaps, he was a hopeful student, working his way from the streets toward the larger stage and mainstream notoriety.  I wish him all the best!  The buildings were interesting to look at, so different back home as everything seemed more orderly, clean, and elegant.  The outdoor sidewalk cafes were still very busy with patrons relaxing, sipping coffee, or ordering light fare.  Thankfully, the heat of the day had subsided with the onset of darkening skies.  Vocal salespersons continued to try and fill any and all open spaces within theaters located throughout the city by calling out to the passing crowds.  A few were even in costume to resemble Mozart himself, hoping to stand out and attract attention.    


 Bright Lights, Big City
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We continued on our way through the beautiful streets toward the Hotel Sacher, located in the center of the city.  The weather continued to be very nice and the heat of the summer sun had given way to cooler temperatures.  I was so thankful the weather had cooperated, as this experience would have been totally different with heavy rain and storms.  Walking through the city was so relaxing and calm compared with other cities, most notably due to the fact that there were no cars.  The sound of engines and car horns were replaced with the sound of music and French horns within the pedestrian walkway.  The multiple outdoor cafes provided a great place to relax in the open air of the summer season.  I'm sure it was a totally different atmosphere during the winter months, due to cold temperatures and the absence of most tourist visitors.  However, I would love to visit Germany and Austria during the winter and see the beautiful landscape covered in snow.  The traditional Christmas Markets that arise in most city and town centers during the holiday season would be a top item on my list to see and experience.  

Hotel Sacher's Signature Chocolate Cake
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Hotel Sacher is a five star luxury hotel in the heart of the city of Vienna, where a basic room can run you $500 a night.  Over its long history, the famous hotel has served guests from royalty to celebrities including Queen Elizabeth II, John Lennon, Grace Kelly, and John F. Kennedy.  Now they could add the students and chaperones of the GAPP Exchange from Warwick Middle School to their list of distinguished guests, even if we were just stopping in the cafe for dessert.  Wendy had somehow managed to get a reservation for all 20 of us in the hotel's restaurant to experience the famous signature chocolate cake known as Sachertorte.  The most famous culinary dessert in Austria was first created by Franz Sacher for a special reception for Prince Wenzel von Metternich in 1832.  As the story goes, the head chef who was put in charge of creating a special dessert for the prince's reception fell ill and the task was then assigned to his understudy, sixteen year old Franz Sacher.  His chocolate cake creation pleased those who attended the reception but did not become famous until much later.  Franz went on to work in several other cities and eventually returned to his hometown of Vienna, where he opened a deli and raised a family.

Sachertorte Creator / Franz Sacher
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Eduard Sacher, who was the oldest son of Franz, continued his father's craft in the food business and attended culinary school in Vienna where he became a pastry chef and chocolatier.  During his studies, he took his father's Sachertorte torte recipe and altered it to create his own version.  It was a hit and served at the famous bakery Demel Bakery in Vienna and eventually became the signature dessert at Hotel Sacher.  Ironically, a legal battle later ensued over which famous location had the legal rights to call their version of the cake The Original Sacher Torte.  The disagreement went on for years, right through World War II and eventually wound up in civil court.  For seven years, the legal battle raged over the naming rights of the cake and even what specific ingredients made up an official and original Sachertorte.  Eventually the dispute was settled out of court in 1963 where both businesses agreed to own the rights to serve a version of the cake and both had the legal right to use a variation of the name.  Today the Demel Bakery serves Eduard Sacher Torte and Hotel Sacher calls their version The Original Sachertorte.  All's well that ends well... as long as it's delicious!

  The Window View from Cafe Sacher
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We entered the hotel through a side entrance, which delivered us to the restaurant and cafe.  The interior space was richly decorated with dark wood mahogany walls accented with bright red and pink tones.  It was very beautiful and resembled everything you would expect from a luxury level hotel in Vienna.  This was not your run of the mill economy hotel chain.  We were taken to a cafe seating section that ran parallel with the street outside.  The top half of the large windows were free of glass and the view of the illuminated Vienna State Opera House across the street was beautiful.  It was a dining atmosphere that was unique and nothing like I had ever experienced before now.  We all ordered a slice of sachertorte... Sorry, I legally meant The Original Sachertorte!  The cake arrived with the mug of hot chocolate I had ordered, on a simple white plate accompanied by a white napkin and small dessert fork.  It was very elegant in its simplistic presentation.  Sachertorte is a dense chocolate sponge cake with a thin layer of apricot jam in the middle.  It is topped with a dark chocolate icing, which was accented with a round chocolate candy disc with the words "Hotel Sacher Wien" imprinted on top.  It is traditionally served with a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream and no matter what you legally call it... delicious is most appropriate.     

Hotel Sacher Restaurant Interior
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We had most of the dining area to ourselves and took in the views of the opera house and the street scene outside.  I went off in search of the five star luxury bathrooms and got a view of some of the other areas of the restaurant.  It was really beautiful with oil paintings portraying aristocracy from Vienna's historic past adorning the walls.  The hotel is said to have a small art museum of collected works from the 19th Century but I imagine entrance to view fine art requires more than buying a piece of cake!  It was a really great experience that we all enjoyed very much. You could order a whole cake to go for about $40 but the dining room atmosphere, which you could never get at home, was priceless.  We left Hotel Sacher to go out and explore the night.  Wendy was leading a group of our students who wanted to take advantage of a free music concert outside the Vienna Rathaus, or city hall building.  I was tempted but was more than beat after walking about the city all day and instead, decided to retreat back to the hotel for the night.  I was joined by a few of our students who were also tired and we walked back toward the subway station together.  Along the way we passed by more colorfully lit social spaces and illuminated historic buildings.  I later regretted my decision because the rathaus was such a beautiful building and I never got the chance to view it, other than from a great distance.  It will be a "must see" if I ever get the opportunity to return to Vienna again.

  Vienna State Opera House
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FOR ADDITIONAL PHOTOS
 PLEASE SEE MY VIENNA COLLECTION
https://www.flickr.com/photos/mrjmartin/collections/72157649592186357/
 
SOURCE
------------------
Site Facts, Figures, and History
Source / Vienna by Lina Schnorr
Published by Harald Bohm - 2014


Saturday, January 28, 2017

An American Back in Bavaria / Part # 9 / Vienna / Saint Stephens



GAPP Exchange Journal 2014
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Part # 9 / Vienna - Saint Stephens


The Streets are Alive with Music
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After a brief rest, we left the lobby of our hotel and were on the move once again, going out to explore more of the city.  We broke into smaller groups as a matter of interest and I led my collection of young ambassadors toward the cathedral of Saint Stephens in the heart of the city.  I was leader in age but the kids had mastered the "U" subway like a full-time resident and knew exactly where to jump on and off with ease.  I thought it much easier to follow the kids than try to digest the complex underground map of colored rail lines in conjunction with street stations.  The sun was out and illuminated the western sides of buildings, while leaving the eastern half in shadow.  It made it a little tricky to get the best shots with my camera but I took every opportunity to capture every photograph possible where the light cooperated.  The streets were still crowded with pedestrians, who appeared to be making their way toward no place in particular.  Perhaps they were on their way to the theater or State Opera House to hear the creations of Mozart or Beethoven.  As the evening arrived, street performers began to appear in small groups or solo to share their gifts of sound with anyone who would pause to listen. 

Prayer Candles of Saint Stephens
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As we approached the impressive sight of Saint Stephens, I couldn't help but notice the poor souls begging outside on the steps.  Old women and men who looked truly Biblical in appearance, which protruded a profound feeling of weakness in the presence of the tremendous walls of strength of the cathedral that soared upward to the heavens above.  I deposited several coins in the hands of an old woman who may have been blind as her distant gaze was unfocused but nodded her head in appreciation when she felt the coins hit her open hands.  Later I was told that some beggars are actually employees of a corrupt underground organization that preys on the sympathy of tourists for financial gain.  Regardless, I did not regret my actions as she looked like she could benefit from any and all available help.  As we entered into the dimness of the outer sanctuary, we came upon multiple large tiered racks of prayer candles, which created a beautiful display.  It was a reminder that the most important element of the magnificent church was the individual people from far and wide in need of spiritual guidance.  

Interior Sanctuary of Saint Stephens
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Saint Stephens is considered to be the most important religious site in Vienna and holds the high status as the Mother Church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vienna.   It resides on top of the ruins of two church structures that previously occupied the space.  The church was first officially dedicated to Saint Stephen in 1147 as German nobles prepared to embark south on the Second Crusade.  As with most famous churches, the original structure was changed and expanded over the centuries to eventually grow into cathedral status. The original church started out in the Romanesque architectural style but later evolved to add Gothic elements as it expanded outward and upward.  The tallest tower of Saint Stephens is 446 feet tall, making it the tallest building in Vienna.  The construction of the impressive limestone tower began in 1368 and took 65 years to complete.  As the highest point in the city, the tower was often used as an observation point during times of war, when Vienna was threatened by foreign invaders at various times over the last 500 years.  

 Saint Stephens by Joseph Alt 1847
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Near the end of World War II, the German Army began to withdraw from the city as allied troops approached.  An order was given by top command to fire 100 shells at the cathedral to destroy the iconic structure in an intentional act of defiance.  However, the officer who received the order chose instead to ignore it, and his own personal act of defiance saved Saint Stephens from destruction.  However, as the Soviet Army came into view, a group of civilians intentionally set fire to several shops nearby in an effort to deny the invaders of supplies.  Unfortunately, the fire was driven by wind and spread through the streets towards Saint Stephens.  The cathedral caught fire and badly damaged the roof, causing the roof to collapse.  Thankfully, priceless works of art and artifacts inside were mostly spared from damage due to preventative care to protect them from the potential destruction of war.  The roof was replaced and covered with 230,000 colored tiles in a mosaic pattern that included the images of the Hapsburg Dynasty's coat of arms on one side and the City of Vienna's coat of arms on the opposite side of the roof.  The colorful pattern of tiles has helped make Saint Stephen's Cathedral become the most recognized structure in the city. 

 Mosaic Tiled Roof of Saint Stephens
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After a quick tour through the beautiful open-air sanctuary, we made our way to the star attraction of the cathedral.  For a small fee, you could take a small express elevator up 224 feet to the top of the North Tower, where a small observation deck provides an amazing view of the city in all directions.  The sun was about to set and time was of the essence, so we quickly got in line and waited our turn.  It was breathtaking to see the view, as we first stepped out into the fading sunlight of the observation platform.  However, one of the first things I took notice of was one of the cathedrals massive bells, which was perched right before us within the tower.  Of the 23 bells contained within the church, we were looking at the largest of them all, known as Saint Mary.  At 44,380 pounds, it is the largest bell in Austria and the second largest swinging bell on the entire continent of Europe.  As a result, it is affectionately referred to locally as the Boomer and I was glad we didn't get an opportunity to find out why during our visit on the platform!  The famous bell actually only rings about a dozen times a year on special designated times, including "ringing" in the New Year.

 View of Vienna from the North Tower
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The iconic South Tower of Saint Stephens is twice as tall as the North Tower and also has an observation platform.  However, there is a catch as it can only be reached by climbing the 343 steps within a tight circular internal staircase.  They say the view is amazing but I'll just have to take their word for it as the express elevator sounds a lot more user friendly!  The view from the platform was nothing less than spectacular and we arrived in time with enough light to see to the far reaches of the northern horizon.  The red terracotta rooftops spread out in all directions within view and their color was enriched by the orange glow of the setting sun.  The view was periodically broken up with the steeples of additional churches within the city jutting upright above the jumbled ceiling of Vienna.  One nearby rooftop contained an inviting open-air restaurant accented with vine covered trellises that was full of diners enjoying the cuisine and accompanying view.  We stood on the platform and continuously re-positioned ourselves to take in every view possible.  The sun began to sink deeper to the west and soon caused a bright glare, which reflected off the rooftops to obscure our view in that direction.  I would have loved to stay up there to see the city lights of the night but we had a schedule to keep so it was time to descend back down to street level and reconnect with the others of our larger group at the designated meeting place.  We had a reservation at Hotel Sacher to enjoy a piece of their signature chocolate cake dessert.

The Sun Sets / View to the West
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FOR ADDITIONAL PHOTOS
 PLEASE SEE MY VIENNA COLLECTION
https://www.flickr.com/photos/mrjmartin/collections/72157649592186357/

SOURCE
-------------------
Site Facts, Figures, and History
Source / Vienna by Lina Schnorr
Published by Harald Bohm - 2014


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

An American Back in Bavaria / Part # 8 / Vienna / City Center Tour


GAPP Exchange Journal 2014
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Part # 8 / Vienna - City Center Tour

The Plague Column on Graben Street
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We continued on our way down the wide pedestrian street, admiring the urban landscape and storefronts displaying the highest quality luxury goods from around the world.  Soon we came upon a large marble sculpture, accented with gold, which seemed somewhat out of place in the middle of the street.  The Pestsäule, also known as the Plague Column, is a monument of the Holy Trinity to honor the people of Vienna who perished in the last great plague to infect the city in 1679.  The Hapsburg ruler Leopold I vowed to return to the city if and when the plague ever dissipated and erect a mercy column to commemorate the dead.  The monument was constructed as promised and later went through many changes, revisions, and additions to become one of the most recognized monuments in Austria and beyond.  In 1693, the Plague Column was dedicated in its final form in the High Baroque style.  The column depicts the Holy Trinity with nine angles atop a cloud base with Leopold I kneeling in prayer at its base.  It was really beautiful and humbling to think what it represented.  It was just another reminder of how old the city was to have a monument dedicated to the victims of the Black Death.  The solemn marker provided a stark contrast to the wealth and rich luxury that abounded around it in the form of materialistic goods of excess.

Eissalon Schwedenplatz / Italian Gelato
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After a time, we broke off in different directions to explore on our own.  I joined my fellow chaperones in a quest for the best ice-cream in the city.  We left the historic district and entered into a more modern section, known as the Old University Quarter.  Despite the areas name, the buildings were much taller and seemed to suggest corporate Vienna's business district.  We found the famous "ice" stand known as Eissalon Schwedenplatz, where abundant flavors of Italian style gelato were colorfully displayed in overflowing containers within the expansive glass case. The stand was busy but the line moved quickly and soon I was faced with the dilemma of choosing from a complex rainbow of inviting flavors.  We made our choice and continued our stroll along the Danube Canal Donaukanal, which flows through the center of Vienna.  The canal was once a branch river of the Danube but had been converted into a canal long ago.  The sides of the canal were confined by high walls of concrete, which were decorated with colorful graffiti.  I know some would argue graffiti is a form of art but I will admit, I'm not convinced and not a fan.  The day was hot and we found a spot shaded by an overhead bridge.  We sat down on the edge of the retaining wall with our legs dangling over the side to watch the flow of the canal below.  It was a great spot to enjoy our rich ice-cream treats that really lived up to the hype.

The Danube Canal of Vienna
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We sat and watched the activity on the canal, enjoying a light breeze that seemed to follow the flow of the canal and was confined to the water by the tall buildings on both sides.  A few low boats eased by and passed beneath the arch of the bridge overhead.  It was a great way to take it all in and this was one of those spots where I could have sat all day to enjoy the picturesque setting in the shade of the afternoon sun.  However, only having an overnight stay in the city, there was so much to see and do before it would be time to leave Europe's center of art, music, and culture.  As a result, we left the sanctuary of the Danube Canal to seek out more sites of interest and headed back to the historic district to explore further.  Along the way we were able to direct our attention to previous passed over places of interest including Saint Peter's Church, which is somewhat hidden in the center of Vienna.  The Church is topped with a large dome with a fresco-covered ceiling.  The interior decor is very ornate, complex, and full of gold accented statues in the Baroque style.  A service was taking place during our drop by visit, so we did not stay long, and only viewed the interior from the rear of the sanctuary.  The church could be the oldest in the city, although no evidence of the original structure remains.  As with many churches, new structures were built to replace older versions with the passing of time.  The large oval interior space was very impressive and brightly colored despite the dim lighting. The dozens of churches I have visited in Bavaria and Austria are unique and beautiful in their own individual way.               

The Vienna State Opera House / Side Wing
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The star attraction in Vienna is all things Mozart, which centers around the musical concerts within the famous Vienna State Opera House.  As you walk the streets you see salesmen dressed to resemble the composer himself in an effort to sell tickets to the latest scheduled concert.  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was one of the most gifted composers in history, creating more than 600 works in his short 35-year lifespan.  Mozart moved to the capital of Vienna, where he had creative success but struggled financially at times.  As a result, he traveled about the content in search of sponsorship but eventually settled back in Vienna, where the final decade of his life proved to be his most productive.  His work and style greatly influenced many other composers including Ludwig van Beethoven, who also called Vienna home.  The Vienna State Opera House was first opened in 1869 and became the main stage for the nation's top musicians, singers, opera, and ballet performers. The iconic structure was badly damaged by fire during an allied bombing run during the conclusion of World War II in 1945.  The decision was made to restore the building back to its original stature, rather than raze the building and construct a new structure on the same site.  After a decade of work, the Vienna State Opera House reopened to share the splendor of the arts again with the world in the fall of 1955.

Pedestrian Streets of Vienna
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Now off on my own, I continued to explore the city and found a souvenir stand that didn't say Gucci or Rolex, so I bought a pin for five Euros to represent Vienna in my collection of hat pins of all the places I have visited both at home and abroad.  The buildings were all so ornate but also unique in architectural design, often contrasting one another to express their individuality. Yet, despite their independence, somehow they appeared as an interconnected string, expressing the uniformity of Vienna.  I really enjoyed the wide pedestrian streets that enabled me to take it all in and capture photographs without worrying about vehicular interference, running me over!  The absence of automobiles added to the historic feel of the city, plus the lack of noise and congestion were a welcome perk.  I was looking for something to eat and found an Italian Bistro called Vapiano close to our hotel.  It was like a pasta bar where you place your order and stand at the counter as the chef prepares an individual fresh portion, right in front of you.  It was interesting to see the meal prepared from sauce in a skillet to pasta in a pot, while you watched.  It was all done in about seven minutes and I was really hungry with all the walking I had done so far today.  Don't tell my wife, but it was some of the very best pasta I had ever eaten.  The rich meat sauce and subtle seasoning combined with the freshly made linguini was absolutely delicious.  If we had stayed another day, I would have definitely returned for a replay.  I will keep my eye out for Vapiano in other cities as I believe it was a might have been a franchised chain.  Unfortunately, I haven't come across any other restaurants since and the amazing taste was lost in Vienna.

Signage Advertising Vapiano
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I continued through the now familiar streets near our hotel and sat down to rest and just take in the sights for a few minutes from a retaining wall along Mariahilfer Strauss.  Again I admired the delicate towering trees above, providing light shade over the movement of life below its ornate branches of leaves of light green.  The slightest breeze set the tiny leaves in a flutter, resembling a dance to the rhythm of nature.  In stark contrast was the urban landscape that contained them and their roots.  In addition to the McDonald's restaurant our kids had dined in earlier, there were a few other signs of American commercialism present in the form of a few Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks tucked in corners throughout the city.  After a time, I continued on my way and managed to find my way back to our hotel and took refuge for a short time in my tiny hotel room.  I opened the window with a view of the sky above and took a brief rest in my bed to digest all I had seen and experienced so far this day.  Within a short time, we would regroup in the lobby downstairs to explore the city once again in the evening light of the setting sun.

 The Plague Column / Detail
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FOR ADDITIONAL PHOTOS
 PLEASE SEE MY VIENNA COLLECTION
https://www.flickr.com/photos/mrjmartin/collections/72157649592186357/

SOURCE
------------------
Site Facts, Figures, and History
Source / Vienna by Lina Schnorr
Published by Harald Bohm - 2014




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