Day 79 – 6.8.2016
Bukfurdo (Hungary) to Niedernsill (Austria) via Salzburg (Austria)

We drove from Bukfurdo to Salzburg City Centre. We managed to find a free parking space perhaps on account of it being a weekend. After parking the car, we walked towards the City Centre. We were amazed to see the number of tourists that were around.

Salzburg is the fourth-largest city in Austria, on the banks of the Salzach River, at the northern boundary of the Alps. We walked towards its “Old Town”. We could find quite a lot of universities and large population of students around, besides a lot of tourists.

Salzburg was the birthplace of 18th-century composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Salzburg has been known for being one of the settings for the movie “The Sound of Music”.

Salzburg is the point where the Italian and German cultures met and played a crucial role in the exchanges between these two cultures, which is evident from the visible architectural buildings, churches and monuments around.

We walked around its baroque towers and churches and the massive Festung Hohensalzburg.

The Franciscan Church located at the intersection of Franziskanergasse and Sigmund-Haffner-Gasse opposite the Franciscan Friary in the old town is one of the oldest churches in Salzburg. The first church on this site was erected in the eighth century. Between 1408 and 1450, a Gothic choir replaced the Romanesque choir. A slender Gothic tower was added between 1468 and 1498. The church was dedicated to the Virgin Mary and served as the parish church until 1635. It was ceded to the Franciscan Order in 1642. Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach redesigned the church interior in the baroque style in the eighteenth century

A sea of padlocks were attached to the fence just below the railing all over the Makartsteg bridge spanning the Salzach River, Austria’s most modern pedestrian bridge, where thousands of infatuated couples have left their amorous thumb prints by engraving padlocks and tying them onto the bridge, leaving behind their legacy of love.

Fortress Hohensalzburg is a real eye-catcher and we could see it from a distance peaking out high above the baroque towers of the city. This castle in Salzburg is an unmistakable landmark providing the city’s world famous silhouette. Even from afar we could appreciate the might of this edifice.

Salzburg Cathedral is the seventeenth-century Baroque cathedral of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Salzburg dedicated to Saint Rupert and Saint Vergilius. It still contains the baptismal font in which composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was baptized.

The body of the church is made of dark grey stone with ornamentation and facade of bright Untersberg marble. The richly decorated facade is framed by two towers and topped by a curved gable. The north tower houses an old oven used for baking communion bread. The facade is divided into three horizontal sections. The lower section has three high round arches or portals that provide access to three bronze doors, representing the three divine virtues of faith, hope, and love.

The figure group on the pediment represents the Transfiguration of Jesus on Mount Tabor, showing Christ as Salvator Mundi, with Moses holding the tablets on the left and the prophet Elijah to the right. Along the balustrade above the entrance are statues of the four evangelists—St Matthew, Saint Mark, Saint Luke, and Saint John—who represent the salvation offered through their preaching.

St. Peter’s Abbey is a Benedictine monastery in Salzburg. It is considered one of the oldest monasteries in the German-speaking area, and in fact the oldest with a continuous history since its foundation in 696.

It was now time to say bye to this beautiful city with its lovely scenic skyline, the old town’s mosaic of graceful domes and spires, the formidable clifftop fortress and the mountains beyond, to travel about 117 kms (approx 2 hours drive) to our next destination Niedernsill, where we would be staying for the night.

The drive from Salzburg to Niedernsill was very beautiful through valleys and mountains.

Niedernsill is a town located in the Zell am See district in the state of Salzburg in Austria, best known for its winter sports of skiing and its summer activities of hiking. Did not know much about this place until we arrived there, as we had booked this place through AirBnB.

Niedernsill, we understand, is a village in the Pinzgau area of Salzburg, having its own small skiing area and a total population of approximately 2,500. The name Niedernsill meant “lower settlement”, as opposed to Mittersill which meant middle settlement, which we passed through.

We had arrived quite late since we had stopped over at Salzburg and we wanted to know if we could get some dinner around. Romona quickly jotted name of a small restaurant round the corner and guided us on the map. We walked to the restaurant and managed to find its kitchen still open. While we ordered food we happened to chat with a German couple sitting at the next table. They had arrived in Niedernsill on Bicycles riding about 80kms daily. Listening to them we were surprised and amazed at the energy levels that they had to ride around on a holiday on Bicycles. Also came to know from them that they have been doing this since 35 years. They advised us to see the Krimml Waterfalls in the morning.

After dinner when we were walking back we came across a local narrow gauge railway of the Pinzgauer Lokalbahn. We also saw a train approach the station.

Went back to the room and retired for the night as we had an hectic travel that day.

Day 80 – 7.8.2016
From Niedernsill (Austria) to Vaduz (Liechtenstein) and Basel (Switzerland)

Early next day after a lovely breakfast prepared by Romona and her team, we wanted to visit the Church just across the road.

Romona was available for every small thing. It was very nice to spend our day with them. We also met a family who were Romona’s close friends. The family were on a vacation from Calgary and were joined by their parents from Prague. All of them were very excited to hear about our trip, wished us luck. Romona also requested if she could to put our picture on her Facebook page.

We then walked to the Church which happened to be a Roman Catholic Church, unfortunately reached late. After a few pictures around the place, we bid goodbye to Romona.
She presented us with water bottles as souvenirs each for our journey and then we left from Niedernsill to Liechtenstein. She was a real good host and made us absolutely comfortable. Wish we could have spent some more time at this place.

We then left for the Krimml Waterfalls on the way, before we head to Liechtenstein.

The Krimml Waterfalls are from a height of 380 metres and are the highest waterfall in Austria.The falls are on the Krimmler Ache river and are located near the village of Krimml in the High Tauern National Park in Salzburg state, which is a glacial stream, the flow of which then joins the river Salzach, which flows to the Inn, then into the River Danube and finally to the Black Sea.

Basically the Krimml Waterfalls is a tiered waterfall. It begins at the top of the Krimmler Ache valley, and plunges downward in three stages. The upper stage has a drop of 140 metres, the middle of 100 metres, and the lowest a drop of 140 metres. The highest point of the waterfall is 1,470 metres above sea level.

 

The fall had a misty spray and the camera lens was getting wet even then everyone tried to click a picture near the waterfall.

We then restarted our journey to Liechtenstein.

Liechtenstein

Liechtenstein is situated in the Upper Rhine valley of the European Alps and is bordered to the east by Austria and to the south and west by Switzerland. The entire western border of Liechtenstein is formed by the Rhine. The country south to north is about 24 km long. Its highest point, the Grauspitz, is 2,599 mtrs. Despite its Alpine location, prevailing southerly winds make the climate of Liechtenstein comparatively mild, but when we arrived it was pretty hot. In

We drove up to Vaduz Castle (German Schloss Vaduz) which is the palace and official residence of the Prince of Liechtenstein. The town of Vaduz got its name from the Castle. It is the capital of Liechtenstein. It overlooks from an adjacent hilltop.

Despite its limited natural resources, Liechtenstein is one of the few countries in the world with more registered companies than citizens; it has developed a prosperous, highly industrialized free-enterprise economy and boasts a financial service sector as well as a living standard that compares favourably with those of the urban areas of Liechtenstein’s much larger European neighbours.

The gross domestic product (GDP) on a purchasing power parity basis is $5.028 billion, or $89,400 per capita, which is the second highest in the world.

Very low business taxes as well as easy Rules of Incorporation have induced about 73,700 holding (or so-called “letter-box”) companies to establish registered offices in Liechtenstein – or twice as numerous as its 36,000 residents, providing about 30% of Liechtenstein’s state revenue.

It’s a small, nice and beautiful country.

Basel, Switzerland

We then continued our journey to Basel in Switzerland. We drove through Zurich where we came across traffic and were thus delayed by almost 45 minutes. We wanted to stop over to admire the scenic beauty, but could not find any spots to stop. We managed to get a few pictures from the car and we continued our drive to Basel.

After arriving at Dorint hotel, we parked the car in their basement parking for CHF 26 and then checked in at the hotel. The receptionist provided us with the Tram tickets to go to the Centre. After keeping our bags in the room we took the 14 no tram and we got down at the Market place.

The city looked absolutely dead to us. No vehicles were allowed around the city centre except trams, buses and taxis. Everything was almost closed except for some local youngsters climbing the bridge to jump into the river.

We saw the City Hall of Basel, the Cathedral and the bridges. The sun was almost setting, hence we got a chance to see it lit up too.

Tomorrow we leave for Heidelberg, Germany. Then, we head to Rotterdam to meet Bob and his family.

Day 81 – 8.8.2016
Basel (Switzerland) to Heidelberg (Germany)

In the morning we went to the reception to collect our ice packs and bumped into some Indian guys having breakfast. They were very stressed out. On talking to them, we realised that they were friends from college but now in different parts of the world. They had planned a holiday together – one was from US, the other 2 had come from Norway and the fourth guy was supposed to join them from Hyderabad. Reason for their stress was accidentally their car key had fallen in the booth while the car was locked. Inspite of the issues they had, they were all excited to hear about our journey. Each of them wished good luck & we clicked some selfies together. We then left the hotel for our onward journey to Heidelberg.

We drove about 238 kms before we arrived at the Boarding Hotel at Heidelberg. After completing the check-in formalities, we went to a nearby mall in search of a restaurant for lunch. After lunch, we walked towards Rohrbach Tram station where we bought our tickets at the Kiosk and boarded a tram to go to Bismarckplatz from where we walked towards the lively, appealing Old Town.

Marktplatz is one of the oldest squares in the city and served as a market too.  It is cut off in the north and south by rows of houses, in the east is the Town Hall and in the west is the Church of the Holy Spirit.  In the middle of the square is the Hercules Fountain, built between 1706 and 1709.

Heidelberg is on the Neckar River connecting the Rhine, known to be a jewel among German travel destinations. It is in the Neckar river valley right where the legend-rich Odenwald (Forest of Odes) opens up towards the plains of the Rhine Valley. Heidelberg is an academic city with a long and rich history and is similar in many ways to cities such as Cambridge or Oxford. It also has one of the oldest university in Germany (est. 1386) – Ruprecht-Karls-Universität with 28,000 students.

During World War II, the city was almost completely spared allied bombings which destroyed many of Germany’s larger inner cities. As a result, Heidelberg has retained its baroque charm of narrow streets, picturesque houses and of course the world-famous Schloss (castle ruins). We understand that every year hundreds of thousands of tourists flock to this city which makes Heidelberg a truly culturally diverse and international destination, despite its small size.

We could see that there was a Heidelberger Bergbahn funicular railway which could take us to the Castle, but someone informed us that it may be closed so we decided to take the scenic way to walk up to the castle, through a steep, small and winding staircase with 315 steps. We did not have to count the steps as each step had a number on it to show our progress. It was a bit strenuous, but we managed to reach to the Castle.

Heidelberg Castle (Heidelberger Schloss) a ruin and landmark of Heidelberg located 80 metres up the northern part of the Königstuhl hillside, dominating the view of the old downtown. It has been the most important Renaissance structure north of the Alps.

The ruins of the gardens as seen now, once famous for the landscaping and horticultural techniques involved in its design across Europe during the 17th century. At that time it was known as the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’, and has since been termed ‘Germany’s greatest Renaissance garden.’

After walking around town we made our way to the river passing through the Old Bridge Gate. At the start of the bridge, we saw the famous mandrill (like a baboon), sometimes referred to as the Brass Monkey of Heidelberg, this sculpture “guards” the Old Bridge Gate to cross the Neckar River.

Church of the Holy Spirit stands in the middle of the market place in the old center of Heidelberg not far from the Heidelberg Castle. The steeple of the church, rising above the roofs, dominates the town. It was used by both Catholics and Protestants, even simultaneously. Starting in 1706, a partition was inserted so that both congregations could hold their services without any mutual disturbance. In 1720, Karl III Philip, Elector Palatine came into conflict with the town’s Protestants as a result of fully handing over the Church of the Holy Spirit to the Catholics. Karl Philip gave way, due to pressure for Prussia, the Dutch Republic, and Sweden and repartitioned the wall. In 1936 the separating wall was removed and the church is now exclusively Protestant (Evangelical Church in Baden).

Hotel Ritter building, constructed in 1592, is the oldest surviving house in Heidelberg. It is also the only townhouse that the great fire of 1693 during the Nine Years’ War has survived because it was built as a single stone

Jesuitenkirche is the main Catholic Church in Heidelberg with its exterior made of local red sandstone and the interior completely white. Only the capitals of the columns are partially gilded green. There are three frescoed altars and a marble pulpit. At the main altar, the miracle of Pentecost is presented and the others with Assumption of Mary into heaven and Joseph as the patron of the Catholic Church. The altarpieces date from the year 1871.

The Kurpfälzisches Museum (Palatinate Museum) is a museum of art and archaeology in Heidelberg, Germany. It is located in the Palais Morass. It was founded in the late 1870s, when the city of Heidelberg purchased the private collection of the artist and art historian Charles de Graimberg.

We then had some Chinese food for dinner before leaving the Marketplace. On the way, we met Rama, an Indian-origin German, cycling around with his German wife. We got chatting with him and Louis wanted to know if he knew some Rita (who had communicated with us from Heidelberg). Coincidentally he knew one Rita and got us to speak to her. She was a Mangalorean, but did not seem to be the same person who had communicated with us. Nevertheless she invited us to her home. Rama was kind enough to give directions to the taxi driver and we landed up at her home. We spent almost half an hour talking with them and then they drove us back to our hotel.

Day 82 – 9.8.2016
Heidelberg (Germany) to Rotterdam (The Netherlands)

We walked to a cafe at a mall nearby for some breakfast and coffee. After breakfast we came back to the hotel, took our bags and left for Rotterdam.

We drove about 537 kms to Oostvoorne, Netherlands. The original hotel booking had got messed up and finally, we landed up at a motel which was quite nice. After freshening up, we were planning to walk around, when Bob and his wife walked in. It was so wonderful to meet up with both of them after a long time. Bob could not believe that we actually drove down from India in our car. They took us to a nice restaurant for dinner. After dinner we went over to their house. We spent more than an hour chatting over coffee, while Bob and Louis had Rum and Coke. They then walked us back to the motel.

Oostvoorne is a town in the Dutch province of South Holland. It is a part of the municipality of Westvoorne, and lies about 9 km north of Hellevoetsluis.

Day 83 – 10.8.2016
Rotterdam (The Netherlands) to Brussels (Belgium)

Next day morning, after breakfast we went across to the Church and explored Oostvoorne a little.

Oostvoorne, since World War II, was the only location in the Netherlands where automobiles were permitted on the beach. In 1992 it was proposed to close the beach to cars resulting in consultations and negotiations lasting many years. The provincial government finally decided to close it permanently on October 15, 2004.

We passed through the port of Rotterdam which is the largest port and industrial complex in Europe with a total cargo throughput of 435 million tons in 2011. It consists of a combination of different harbors and industrial sites that are at the service of loading and unloading of goods from the ports established petrochemical and other industries, and the storage and handling of third party goods for further transport. Rotterdam was the largest port in the world between 1962 and 2004, but this position was taken over by Shanghai . However, the port of Rotterdam is the largest in Europe.

We were driving to Brussels and from a distance could see the Rotterdam Euromast, the tallest tower in the Netherlands at 185 meters tall and easily recognizable in the skyline of Rotterdam.

We were now getting restless to reach Brussels as quickly as possible. We wanted to see Olivia, our grand daughter, for which we had been waiting for such a long time.