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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Travel Tunes - Week 9

Tim is picking this week's Travel Tune...

Golden Earring is a Dutch band from the 60’s and 70’s. Formed in 1961, they’re still around today, doing shows. My pick for this week’s travel tunes is their big 1973 hit “Radar Love.” Singer Barry Hay almost sounds pre-David Lee Roth in this song, a bit bluesy and urgent. A song with lyrics about driving all night hits home with me since we do a lot of driving on our trips. One trip in particular crosses my mind, our first trip to New York when our flight was delayed and we drove from midnight to 4 in the morning from New Hampshire to Connecticut.

“Radar Love” is what most people remember them for here in the U.S., but they are not a one-hit wonder. It took awhile, but they charted here again with the excellent “Twilight Zone” in 1982. A tragic fire at a concert in New Jersey in 1984 and MTV’s refusal to play their latest video (featuring nudity and mature subject matter) caused the band to pull back to Europe. They have not played a gig in North America since.

It’s also a go-to song for producers who like to use it as a background song for driving, much like Steppenwolf’s “Born to be Wild.”   Showing that the boys...men by this time...still have it, the performance below is from 2006.  The band pretty much look like the old men I see each Sunday in the donut shop, but lead singer Hay is a little more middle aged looking  Still sound great, though.  So, let me present to you, “Radar Love” boy The Hague’s Gelden Earring.

-Tim
Picture courtesy of Wikimedia
Barry Hay under CC-BY license




Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Best of 2009 - Accessible Destination


It's amazing how accessible this destination is.  All subway stations, train stations, and buses were accessible.  Curb cuts on every corner and smooth sidewalks.  Very walkable (or rollable) and easy to get around.  Heck, even some of the ancient buildings have had accessibility added to them.  It's Munich, the capitol of Bavaria in southern Germany.  The only kink in the armor that I could see is that maybe every third tram was an inaccessible older model but they come by every few minutes and most of them are accessible with ramps deployed behind the driver.

My favorite accessible transit feature is the elevator at the Marienplatz station...it takes you from the platform right up into the plaza itself, just in front of the Glockenspeil.

I know there has been a dark history here regarding people with disabilities but walking around Munich today, you wouldn't know it.  Wheelchairs abound and the people are very accepting and accomodating. 

I wish I could find an American city that is this friendly for wheelchairs.  You can see our report on Munich here.


-Darryl

Saturday, December 26, 2009

TRIP PLANNING 101 - Part 3


Tim is planning the next big trip, another addition to his quest to visit every Major League Baseball stadium…

In my last two segments, we decided which cities we were visiting, what games we would see, and the approximate dates of travel. Next, I need to figure out how much hotels will cost, how we will travel between cities, and how much that will cost. Right now, the costs I’m calculating are more for making a budget…as we get closer to the travel date, my dad says we will probably find some better deals.

A quick check on hotel rates found us rooms in Cincinnati for around $150 a night; St. Louis at $120 per night; and Kansas City at $90 per night. This I did using Expedia and the Marriott website. We like to use Marriott because of our points and the fact that they guarantee accessible rooms on the site. When it comes time to book, I’ll try to pare down those prices a bit.

Now, to get from Cincinnati to St. Louis, there are basically three options: fly, train, or rent a car. Airfare fron Cincinatti to St. Louis would be around $175, but Southwest has cheaper fares from nearby Louisville, Kentucky from around $75 to $120. Amtrak would cost $64 per person but the train leaves in the afternoon and would arrive around 8pm. A one-way rental car would be around $250 and take around 6 hours to drive. I’m tentatively going with Southwest on this leg but may make a cancelable car reservation if I can get that rate down.

Going from St. Louis to Kansas City, airfare is about $85. Train fare is $26 and it leaves at 8:30 in the morning and arrives at 2:30 in the afternoon. Train it is.

So here’s our initial budget for three people:

Airfare – LA-Louisville; Louisville-St. Louis; Kansas City-LA
$975

Hotels
$1,130

Train
$78

Game Tickets
$180

Total (so far) - $2,363

Next, we start to build an itinerary.

-Tim

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Best of 2009 - Airline


Consistency, on-time performance, no hidden fees, friendly and helpful staff, comfort, good prices, and good equipment handling are longtime hallmarks of this year's Airline of the Year - Southwest Airlines.

Long known as a no-frills, budget carrier Southwest, by being consistent, has evened it up with the legacy carriers. On a flight back home from Charlotte on US Air earlier this year, I couldn't help notice how this carrier had actually sunk below Southwest's supposedly "budget" stature...no on board entertainment, no pillows or blankets (however you could buy a travel pack for $14), no food, no free checked luggage, and a very worn looking cabin. US Air on board and airport staff were very helpful though.

On the other hand, Southwest had clean planes, friendly cabin staff, the best baggage handlers when it came to loading our power chair, free checked luggage, free snacks - on the longer flights even approaching a light meal, free use of pillows and blankets, no delays, and low prices.

The only knock I can think of is that there is no assigned seating on Southwest and it can be a free-for-all to find a seat. Get there early if you don't qualify for pre-boarding to get one of the first boarding passed - Southwest has three tiers, A, B, and C, and are handed out first-come, first-served. A boards first, B second, and C last.

-Darryl
Picture courtesy of Wikimedia
Dylan Ashe under CC-SA license

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

TRAVEL NEWS - San Antonio River Walk Access Improvements


Good - San Antonio River Walk more wheelchair friendly

Travel Tunes - Week 8 (Christmas Edition)

This one is for my dad, who passed on around eight years ago.  Not a real music lover, this is one of the few songs he ever admitted to listening to, let alone getting to him.  Stationed in bitter cold of Korea just after the war, he'd hear this song while not being able to go home for the holidays and it'd just tear him up inside.

"I'll be Home for Christmas," of course, talks about how the singer will be traveling home and all the things they're looking forward to.  In a melancholy melody, we hear about the snow, mistletoe, and presents under the tree.  Pretty simple, straightforward lyrics.  It's the last line that grabs people's hearts.

Written by Buck Ram, Kim Gannon and Walter Kent...and recorded just about every singer under the sun...in August, 1943, it's the original version we'll present this week by Bing Crosby, recorded in the fall of 1943 and peaking at number 3 on the charts.  Unfortunately, I can't find a clip of him actually singing it, so this montage will have to do.

Merry Christmas from The World on Wheels!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Best of 2009 - Hotels

Here are the best hotels we saw this year...



Best Chain - Springhill Suites by Marriott.  A two-room suite, a hot breakfast, good rates, and guaranteed accessibility.  We stayed at several locations and always had a good suite...a real suite too, I hate hotels that have a divider between the bed and sofa and call it a "suite" - a suite is more than one room, period...a good, hot breakfast with eggs; meat; very helpful and friendly staff, never more than around $20 more than Motel 6, decent locations, and...as with all Marriott hotels...if an accessible room is available, you can guarantee it with a web reservation at marriott.com. 

If you need a roll-in shower, you'll need to call ahead of time to block it, so I'd deduct a half star for that, but otherwise, you really can't go wrong here.  Locations also have free wi-fi, and an ethernet connection in the room (also free) if the wi-fi is spotty. 



Best Independent hotel - Best Western Station House Inn, South Lake Tahoe, California.  I know Best Western calls itself the world's "largest hotel chain," but really it's just a confederation of independently owned inns.  Here in Lake Tahoe are about a half-dozen Best Westerns.  Some of you are already whining, "but it's on the South Shore!"  I'm with you except...it's the best place to stay.  One block from the lake, with free beach passes; two blocks from the casinos; two blocks to the Heavenly Valley gondola and on a very quiet street - quite a rarity at this location.

Two-room suites with in-room spas are the prime rooms here and the management will provide a bath chair.  A large standard room with two queen beds is also available with a roll-in shower.
The best feature, even better than the heated pool and spa, is the restaurant.  Your room includes what has been called the best free hotel breakfast in the world.  It has been included in a number of top 10 lists.  You actually get to sit in the restaurant; get waited on by professional, experienced waiters; and get to choose from a number of huge breakfasts or choose that day's special.  The hotel, and the restaurant staff, are very proud of their breakfast service and it shows.  The rates are Southshore reasonable, the rooms very comfortable but I wish they'd have just one suite with a roll-in shower.  Still, the nicest place in Tahoe right now.

Honorable Mention - HomeAway.com list thousands of private rental properties that you can search for wheelchair accessibility.  We got a gem of a flat in France with 3 bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms, dining room, kitchen, living room, sattelite TV, wifi, two pools, free gated parking, two terraces in the heart of Cannes for $250 a nght (five people) and step-free access.  The only drawback is that you can't book on the site, your request is sent to the owner and you then negotiate with them directly.  I'd like to see you be able to book directly on the website.

-Darryl
Pictures courtesey Wikimedia
Terrence Ong under CC-SA license
Sidney and Russel Poore under CC-SA license

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

NEW BLOG - Plug


Tim has started a new sports blog.  He'll still be contributing here also.  As some of you know, sports are Tim's passion and he got a degree in Broadcasting strictly to persue a career in sports media.  Til he gets another paying gig, he's going to be letting loose his passion on the new blog.

Check it out at Tim's Sports World.

-Darryl

Travel Tunes - Week 7

Willie Nelson is a well known wild man and is one of the founding fathers of country's Outlaw brand of music.  Famous for his hard living and endless days on the road, Willie put his experiences into song when recollecting a particularly hard tour with his drummer, Paul English.  It doesn't sound like it's giving too much away on the surface with lyrics like "almost busted in Loreto for reasons that I'd rather not disclose" but if you know anything about Willie, the next line does..."if you're staying in a hotel there then don't leave nothing in your clothes."  This is one of the great "lost weekend" variety of road songs, the title track of Nelson's "Me and Paul" album.


Last week I complained about the silly lyrics of  "Born to be Wild" but this week's song makes up for that.  You have the complete story by the end when you find out that they were too drunk at a show in Buffalo to even know if they went on stage or not.  This is the best video I can find of Willie performing it but it still seems like a lazy effort compared to the recording and other performances I've seen of it.  Still, you'll get the idea and if you want to here the polished result, you can download it here for 99 cents.


Without further ado, here's Willie Nelson and "Me and Paul."

-Darryl

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Travel Gear - The Christmas List

The conclusion to our European trip report will be posted tomorrow, in the meantime, here are some goodies we use that make our travel easier and more enjoyable.  They also make great Christmas presents.  The text links will take you to vendor sites.


VIDEO GOODIES-

The Flip UltraHD Camcorder is probably the hottest item for many people this year, with good reason. With 2 hours of recording time, no tapes or disks, extremely easy to use, this camcorder does some remarkable things at a great price. Great high definition pictures with one button use, this pocket-sized camera has been our go to camera for the videos on this site. Movies are easily downloaded via the pop-out USB jack that plugs into your computer. This also charges the onboard batteries...those batteries can also be replaced by normal AA batteries in a pinch.  I love this camera, especially being able to download and edit while on the road. The only downside is that you cannot use an external mic...you need to be within about 6 feet of your subject for decent sound, which brings us to our next item...

The Kodak Zi8 HD Pocket Video Camera is the next hottest camera out there.  This is at the top of my Christmas list.  Pretty much does everything the Flip does but add the bonus of being able to plug in an external mic for better live sound.  I've got one on order and I plan on this being our main camera with the Flip used for second unit photography.

Sima Universal Mini Tripod is great for traveling. Notice that everything on this page is pocket sized? That's essential for traveling, especially air travel when space is extremely limited. This little tripod is sturdy, has telescoping legs, and attaches in seconds. Put the legs together, and you've got a quick & dirty steady cam grip.

Adobe Audition 3 Upgrade this is the audio editing software we use on our videos.  Notice that this is the upgade edition, make sure you qualify before you buy.  The full version is quite expensive.  I love this for audio work, you can edit literally hundreds of track at a time for some deep, rich sound.  Many filters and restoration tools are included to polish up less-than-perfect sound.  A much stripped down alternative is Audacity, which you can download for free but beware of its bugs and limitations.  If you use Audacity, save your files often.



TRAVEL GOODIES-

Apple iPod is Tim's favorite way to pass time either on the road or on the plane. He's got close to 700 songs on his and has only used up about 1/3 of the 8Gig capacity.

Inflatable travel pillow Neck Rest Support Cushion is nothing fancy, but great for the plane.  In our case, it also comes in handy as a back booster when Tim needs a little extra help to sit at the table for eating.

Microfleece Travel Blanket is handy since airlines don't like to hand out blankets and pillows any more. Besides the plane, you'd be amazed how often this comes in handy. Also good for a privacy screen when you've ended somewhere very public and no private facilities are available.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone.  May your shopping and traveling be stress free!

-Darryl

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

TRIP PLANNING 101 - Part 2


I'm planning our next big vacation.  Last time, we decided where we'll go, today I need to figure when we'll fly, what order we'll do the trip in, and start figuring the cost. 
The next step is to figure out what days we would fly and how much that would cost. I decided that we would do it starting in Cincinnati and ending up in Kansas City. The trip would tentatively start on May 7, flying from Ontario, CA to Louisvillle, KY, via Southwest. The return would be from Kansas City to Ontario. The game dates would be May 8 for the Reds, May 11 for the Cardinals, and May 14 for the Royals. We would fly home on May 16.

A quick check with Southwest airlines gives us an approximate airfare of $225 per person.
Next, I’ll need to check hotel availability in those cities for those times, and figure out how we will travel from city to city.
Stay tuned.
-Tim

Travel Tunes - Week 5

UPDATE:  On Christmas Eve we were visiting with our cousin Henry, who told us he got to meet Mr. Fernandez just a few days ago.  Henry shares this picture he took with Vicente Fernandez at Citywalk here in Los Angeles.

Picture courtesy of Henry Melgarejo
If you've only heard the tired, out-of-tune mariachis at a place like Olvera Street, you don't know how good the genre can be.  Mariachi is a type of Mexican music from the state of Jalisco.  It can be as simple as a couple of guys with guitars or can be as elaborate as a complete symphony orchestra.  When it's good, it's darn good.
One of our great memories is the duo that played for us at El Set Restaurant in Puerto Vallarta.  Very simple, but these two were just fantastic as they serenaded our party as the sun set.
By now, I'm sure you've guessed this week's tune is a mariachi tune.  It's one of the most famous songs of the type, "Guadalajara," which can easily be the official song of the capitol of Jalisco.
When I think of the first time we went to Puerto Vallarta, I'm reminded of the bus trip we took over the mountains to Guadalajara.  It starts off in steamy jungles, stops off at a bus station in a high mountain village for lunch (with some of the most nuclear salsa I've ever had), cruises through Tequila, before ending at the mammoth bus terminal in Guadalajara.  It's thrilling, scary, and beautiful.
This song reminds me of that trip.  Here is a full-orchestra treatment of the song, sung by a true Mexican national treasure with some great vocal theatrics, here's "Guadalajara" by the great Vicente Fernandez (click on the picture below, link opens new window - video is not embeddable).
Guadalajara by Vicente Fernandez



- Darryl

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Travel Gear

My dad says the worst part of traveling is the traveling...in other words, the hassle of transportation like airports, finding accessible transfers, etc.  It's even worse if equipment you have lets you down.  Traveling with the right gear makes the going a lot easier.  Here is a list of some of the stuff we've found that make things smoother along the way-with links to online sources.



My backpack - I use a JanSport Antics Series Driver 8 Wheeled Backpack . It has three large comparments, a smaller wallet-sized pocket, and a good size mesh pocket on the side that, as you can see from above, I use as a cup holder.  In the larger pocket, there is also a sleeve to hold a laptop.  This pack got me through college holding all my books, notebooks, supplies, audio gear, bathroom gear, and the occasional soda.  It is also on wheels and has a telescoping handle that turns it into a rolling suitcase for travel.  It also fits my Invacare Storm chair perfectly and easily fits into a plane's overhead compartment.  I've found this pack to be much superior to the packs that are supposedly made to fit wheelchairs.

Our camera - We actually use a couple of cameras, but this Canon PowerShot A590IS 8MP Digital Camera with 4x Optical Image Stabilized Zoom has just as good a picture as our larger Fuji Camera but in a pocket sized package.  With a 2GB SD chip, it can take over 1,000 high-quality pictures. We started using this camera on our France and Germany trip in September, check out the images from that report.



Urinal - OK, without getting into too many details, this is the best traveling urinal, at least for seated guys.  Works well in the seated position or laying down.  Has a great cap with good seal for storage, is easily dumped and cleaned and it will easily fit in a pocket on the backpack.  We have a couple...one for home and the other for the road.  It's pictured above with the female adapter but I couldn't tell you how good it works for girls, for guys, it's just about perfect.

Power converter - For foreign travel, you need to have this - make sure you don't just get an adapter, you need something that will actually convert the local voltage to 110 volts for your electronics and appliances.  The Power Line 0900-27 Global Power Travel Kit will do just that.  We run my mom's hair dryer, charge our cameras and iPods, and run our laptop with it.  For those with power wheelchairs and Lester chargers, the Lester Company does not recommend this for your chair and says you need to get a specialized dual voltage charger from them.  Not wanting to void my warranty, I have not tried this on my power chair.

That's it for now, if we think of anything else, we'll let you know.  (P.S. - if you buy through the links above, you will help this blog put some change into our pockets at no cost to you...thanks)  Have a happy holiday shopping season.
-Tim



Thursday, November 26, 2009

Road Food - Scottsdale


Spring Training in Arizona

Yes, Tim, Buckley's is a fine place to eat...and drink!  It's in a quiet but well connected location and, yes folks, you haven't had mac 'n cheese until you've had it the Buckley's way.
Besides eating today, we put up the lights for Christmas, installed Windows 7 on Tim's laptop, and finished the video editing for the Borrego trip.  Tomorrow, it's into Tim's studio for the audio.
For my pick, I'm going to Scottsdale.  We like to go there when the weather gets warm...you can get some unbelievable deals on hotel rooms.  It's hot, but they still have plenty of A/C and lot's of swimming pools.  Sometimes, we'll also head over for spring training to get up close and personal with the baseball players over there.
When in Scottsdale, I always need to eat at least one meal at the Coyote Grill in North Scottsdale at 7707 Bell Road.  It's menu is filled with Southwest specialties such as blue corn enchiladas, tamales, and cornmeal encrusted halibut.  One of the best things is to get their lavosh chips with the spicy habanero salsa as an appetizer with a delicious hand shaken margarita.  The perfect food for the Phoenix area.

-Darryl

Road Food - Seattle


Buckley's in Seattle

It's Thanksgiving and we're feasting.  For us, this is not a day to travel...too crowded and too hectic.  We're staying in and my mom is making her famous lemon garlic chicken with a homemade carrot cake.  Tomorrow, I'll be doing the narration for our next video and we'll be heading down south to see what trouble we can find. 
Since it's a feast day, my dad and I were talking about our favorite places to eat in different cities.  One of the highlights of any trip is finding unique and good places to eat.
Today, I want to talk about my favorite place to eat in Seattle.  That would be Buckley’s pub in the Queen Anne neighborhood, at 232 1st Avenue, on the corner of Thomas Street just a couple of blocks from the Space Needle.
They have a killer macaroni and cheese that has bacon mixed in with it. Anything with bacon in it makes it taste good. Go for happy hour and you can get a good deal on one of the many microbrews they have on tap. Buckley’s is also near a very good Homewood Suites that has excellent accessible transportation connections to the heart of Seatlle.

-Tim

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Travel Tunes - Week 4

The Anza Borrego trip report is being finished up, just editing the video and recording narration.  With a long weekend coming up, I should be able to post then.  In the meantime...

This week's song is from JT...James Taylor.  It's "Mexico", which provides the almost perfect sense of being along a Mexican beach.  Seemed perfect for this week's revisit of our old Puerto Vallarta days.  It's as good of a Mexican beach song as Jimmy Buffet's "Margaritaville" is the perfect embodyment of a Baja lost weekend.

The thing that amazes me is that, at the time of this song's creation, JT had never been to Mexico.  I hope he has by now.


James Taylor - Mexico

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Travel Tunes - Week 3

This week, we get the Led out.  There's a couple of Led Zeppelin tunes I like for traveling.  One time, I was taking a drive through a windy little country road, between Tehachapi and Lake Isabella in California when Kashmir came on.  At the time, I thought that was just the greatest piece of music for that road.
Lately, however, when I listen to it on a road trip, speeding down a boring interstate, I notice mostly that it's repetitious as hell, so that won't do for this week's travel tune.
What does make the grade this week is the splendid Going to California.  Although, the California of this song mostly exists only in the imagination, I can see where someone would like to hop on the next plane to the coast after listening to this song.
Performed live at London's Earl's Court in 1977, this clip captures the song almost perfectly.  Also worth noting is a very good cover by the band Train, who obviously are very influenced by Zep.  See their version here.
So, now, back to Earl's Court and Going to California:

-Darryl

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Our Next Trip


Photo Courtesy Wikimedia Commons
We're currently driving south towards the desert for a quick Veteran's Day getaway.  We'll  be posting this trip report up soon.

-Darryl

Travel Tunes - Week 2

This week we are in the desert at Borrego Springs, putting together another trip for you.  A little desert travel music is in order here.

Back in the 70's in high school, I was pretty much a head banger.  The harder the rock the better, disco sucked, and country and western was just sh!t-kicker music.  Then one late night I was laying in bed listening to the "world famous" KROQ, who broadcast a lot of punk and new wave in those days from a suite on top of the Pasadena Hilton, a famously chemically-enhanced DJ by the name of Jimmy Rabbit put on a song that peeled off layers of musical bias from my mind.  I learned that, not only was there good country & western songs out there...much of it as hard and brutal as the best rock I'd listened too...but eventually came to the realization that there is no such thing as a bad genre of music.  Every form has its gems...and its trash...but I will now listen to anything once before making any judgements.

Anyway, back to that song.  Carolina Dreams is the album it's found on and it's by the Marshall Tucker Band from South Carolina.  Consisting of just 7 songs, there's not a throwaway track to be found.  The big hit off of this album was "Heard it in a Love Song."  But my song is the 5th track on the album, Desert Skies.   

Telling the tale of the perfect day, riding through the desert, this song captures perfectly the feeling of sitting by a campfire, watching the stars overhead.  Listen for the three solos in the heart of the song.  Good here, but on the original it was a fiddle solo by Charlie Daniels ("The Devil Went Down to Georgia"), a smooth sax solo by Jerry Eubanks, and a guitar solo by the late, great, Toy Caldwell.

Not only is this the best desert travel song ever produced (IMHO), it is the best cowboy song, and...in  my list of music...the best song ever recorded.  It has a permanent place on my travel mix and is my only request for my funeral someday in the very far future (I hope).

Below is a live version from 1991 which gives you a great feel for the flavor of the song but you need to get the original recording from the Carolina Dreams album for the full effect.  Enjoy...

Marshall Tucker Band - Desert Skies

Monday, November 9, 2009

Bavaria, Germany - September 2009: Final Chapter



St. Peter's Cemetary, Salzburg Austria
We're heading down to the wire as we have another bountiful breakfast at the Vi Vadi Italian restaurant, which just happens to be attached to our nice Vi Vadi Hotel in Munich.

Watch the Video for this Trip


Well fed and rested up, we head over to the Haupbanhof for our next adventure. We’re off for a day trip to Salzburg, Austria…home of Mozart and, perhaps better known as, the setting for the movie The Sound of Music.

The Train to Salzburg


The long train is at a far platform outside. Two cars, one at each end, are designated for wheelchairs. The closer one smells like the bathroom is leaking so we make the long trek to the other end where it is much nicer. It’s a 70 minute, very scenic ride.

We purchase Salzburg Card at the Tourist Information office at the Salzburg Haupbanhof. This gets us admission to most sites along with rides on the public transportation. It’s a short bus ride from there to the old city. A note: most of the buses are accessible but no driver we saw would move a muscle to help.

Salzburg Cathedral

After the ride, we make our way to the Mozart Plaza near the main cathedral, which has a ramp for accessibility. Inside is a huge sanctuary filled with priceless artwork with four organs surrounding the altar. As Mozart was the organist here for two years, his fingers have graced those keys. A brass baptismal near the entrance is where the baby Wolfgang Amadeus was baptized.

Behind the cathedral is a large fountain that turns out to be a horse wash. Like today’s car washes, except horsemen would use it to wash their steeds. A ramp leads in to make it easy for the horse. Just up the alley is an accessible funicular that takes you to the Hohensalzburg, a great 900 year-old fortress on top of the hill. A large terrace here grants you superb views of the city below. This, and an adjacent restaurant, are all that is accessible here. Many stairs lead into the castle itself.

The Horsewash

Back at the bottom, around the corner and up another alley is St. Peter’s cemetery, an absolutely gorgeous burial ground with a monastery built into the hillside. This is where the Von Trapp family hid from the Nazis in the movie, although it was actually a set built to look like this cemetery. In one of the niches on the hillside is buried Mozart’s sister. Out the other end of the cemetery is the Felsenreitschule Theater, famous in the movie as the place where Captain Von Trapp sang Edelweiss. Tours are available but usually you cannot see the interior. A market dominates the next street before you get to the Getreiedegasse, the main shopping street.

Before you go on, there is an accessible restroom in the marketplace, ask one of the workers in the restaurant next door for the key. The last thing we see here is Mozart’s birthplace, which is not accessible. Back across the river is Mozart’s family house that is accessible but by the time we got here, we only had 15 minutes to see inside before closing. That’s ok because it was very hot in there.

On the way back to the station, we see Mirabelle gardens where the movie Maria Von Trapp taught the children how to sing…think “doe, a deer…a female deer…”

It’s a quick bus ride from here back to the station and then back to Munich.
In the morning, I pick up a station wagon from the Hertz desk at the Haupbanhof. The destination for today is Neuschwanstein, King Ludwig II’s fairy tale castle near the border of Austria. Think of Cinderella’s castle at Disneyland, it was modeled after this castle.

Tours for the disabled are offered at closing time (6pm) every Wednesday. Advance reservations are a must and the disabled guest gets a 1 Euro discount and an attendant goes along for free. Any extra people need to take the regular tour.

Since we have all day to get there, we hit the autobahn trying to make it to Lichtenstein for lunch. Once outside of the city, the speed limits stop and we try to make a cruising speed of 100 miles per hour. Like back home, however, there is always some knucklehead that wants to jump in front of you in the left lane going fifty.

We do get a bit lost trying to find the right road to Vaduz and end up in a small town in Switzerland instead. We have a picnic lunch there before doubling back to Schwangau, home of Nueschwanstein.

Although I don’t like or understand the restrictions set in place for disabled visitors, one benefit is that disabled visitors are the only people allowed to drive their car up to the castle. We park within 10 feet of the meeting place for the disabled tour. Since three of us cannot go on that tour, the ticket office down below books us on the last mainstream tour of the day. My mom, finding out that there are over 300 stairs on the tour, volunteers to go on the step-free tour with Tim.

We wait in the castle courtyard for our appointed time, while Tim and my mom wait by the car. Finally, our tour group is called and in we go.

Neuschwanstein

Ludwig worked on this castle for two decades, bankrupting his country’s treasury in doing so. He had finished 6 rooms inside before he was declared insane and deposed. The next day, the former king and his psychiatrist were found floating face down in a lake. A few days after his death, the castle was opened to tourists and has been one of the top attractions in Bavaria ever since.

The half hour tour takes you through those six rooms. Imagine our surprise, after climbing all those stairs, to see Tim and my mom with their group in the first room.

Each room is lavish. The throne room has a golden brass chandelier with inlaid Bavarian glass jewels with an empty spot for the throne that was never delivered. A theater/ballroom leads to a faux cave, complete with stalagmites and stalagtites. In the king’s bedroom, a porcelain swan faucet pours water from a spring 150 feet up the mountainside.

The two tours are identical, with the exception that the normal tour also gets to see the kitchen and is routed through two(!) gift shops on the way out.

We get a bit lost on the way back and end up back in Munich well after dark.
Since we have the car till the end of the trip, the next day is another day trip, this time to the northern Italian town of Bolzano for lunch and to see Otzi.

It’s around a two hour drive on the autobahn...which turns into the autostrada in Italy...over the Brenner pass through the alps. Into the center of Bolzano, we turn into an underground car park and make our way to the central plaza where we dine on pasta, pizza, and shrimp.

A couple of blocks away is the Archaeological Museum and the home of Otzi. Back in 1991, a couple were hiking in the nearby mountains and saw a body at the edge of a melting glacier. The authorities were called, because it looked like an avalanche victim was uncovered by the spring thaw. The body was taken to the local examiner where it was discovered that this was actually a 5,300 year old body.

Today, the museum focuses on different types of mummies, with its main attraction being that 5,300 year old found in the mountains...Otzi.

There are many human and animal remains on display here with various types of mummification methods. It is completely wheelchair accessible and there is even an in-floor lift that raises you and your chair up so you can see into the vault where Otzi’s body is stored. If this all sounds a bit morbid, it’s not. It’s just another very interesting museum that lacks any sense of the macabre at all.

One more drive back to Munich, and one more chance to get lost, which we do when the autobahn ends and I can’t find a sign pointing us back to our neighborhood. A Best Western hotel is nearby and the desk clerk helpfully points me in the right direction.

Our last day is spent wandering again around the center of Munich, taking in the surfers and naked people of the Englisher Garden; spending another lunch hour in the beer garden of the Viktualienmarkt; seeing the devil’s footprint in the Frauenkirche (Munich’s cathedral and tallest building); the puppets of the Glockenspiel, and of course, having one more lingering dinner under the chestnut trees of the Augustinerkellar beer garden before going home.

Copyright 2009 - Darryl Musick
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