Advice


John Smith and “John Smith”

After church yesterday (7/10/16) we decided to check out the sites at Historic Jamestowne. It’s always fun to see the progress they’ve made on the digs and continue to examine the artifacts they find.  It is, however, different traveling with a six year old instead of older kids.  For him, the joy was seeing turtles and tadpoles in the shrinking water under the bridge or just being able to wear his John Smith costume and see him and Pocahontas (a movie that he loves, despite its glaring historic inaccuracies–at least they made the Susan Constant look right.  If you’re wondering, “What glaring inaccuracies?” John Smith was actually about 40 and Pocahontas roughly 11–they weren’t romantically involved.)  Corban also enjoyed a scavenger hunt in the museum, but we didn’t stay a long time.

img_5005Today (7/11/16), we headed into Virginia Beach to give Corban a look at the Atlantic Ocean.  We drove to the end of Atlantic street where there’s easy, free parking right on the beach front.  Definitely one I’d recommend.  You take 264 to where it turns into 21st street, then go right on Atlantic.  It’s a tricky parking lot to get to, but if you stay to the right around 4th street (Keep on Atlantic), you’ll loop around to 2nd street where you can park.  It’s the Grommet Island park–right on the beach with a huge kids play place.  We literally unloaded our stuff in a sled on the bank (much better for pulling than anything with wheels), and walked about 50 yards to the water.

While there were surfers on the edges, it wasn’t too crowded, and the life guards kept everything in order (complete with Baywatch red suits and red rescue flotation devices.)  Other than losing one of my shoes to the ocean, it was a lovely day.

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Courtesy of HWMoore

Courtesy of HWMoore Quincy Adams Station

After being up late, we got up early Friday morning (8/8/14) to head into Boston with much fear and trepidation on the part of my mother. The main concern? We had no idea where we were going. We had planned to do the park and ride at Quincy Adams Station, but could not find an address anywhere. Google maps gives coordinates; even customer service didn’t know the address and gave us the address of a pediatrician 1 mile away–apparently, that was supposed to help us find it. Additionally, we didn’t know for sure how to work the subway cards, so that was another unknown. But, we set off anyway, determined to figure it out.

We made it to the pediatricians and kept going a bit to see if we could see anything, putting the Google coordinates in the GPS. What we saw was a kid jumping down from a 12+ foot fence. When we’d made the block without finding anything, we saw the same kid, so we asked for directions. He told us it was a pain in the butt to get to, but proceeded to tell us anyway. After we’d executed a series of twists and turns, we saw two construction guys sitting outside who directed us the rest of the way to the parking garage conveniently located right off Thomas E. Burgin Parkway. It’s also right next to a Home Depot, which would have made an easy GPS location. (Since returning, I used that to determine the REAL address. It is 450 Centre St. Quincy, MA 02169.)

Courtesy of Boston Tourism

Courtesy of Boston Tourism

With the first leg completed, we tackled buying a Charlie Card. We had determined that this would be the best, as it allowed us access for any subway, bus, or ferry for 24 hours. Not knowing what we’d tackle in Boston, we purchased this for $12 and set off. (We actually only ended up taking the subway there and back, so we’d have been better purchasing individual rides, but we were able to give our passes to a man and his son when we returned, so that was nice.) We boarded the red line, only to be delayed by another train with trouble. But, we eventually arrived in Boston.

We got off at the Park Street Station, which is right in the middle of the Boston Commons where we were to meet our Freedom Trail walking tour. The staff at the Visitor’s Center there was immensely kind and helpful, sending us to activate our trolley tickets, helping us get rid of additionally tickets, and in every way walking us through the process. Once we got our trolley tickets, we were ready for the Freedom Trail tour (Both were included with the Go Boston card.) Our tour guide was hilarious and gave a ton of great information.

Meeting the Tour

Meeting the Tour

We started the tour at Boston Common which, established in 1634, is the oldest park in America. William Blackstone (Blaxton) was the first European settler in Boston, where he moved to be alone. But, when the Puritans came in, he invited them to share his land. They did, then had problems with him because he was an Anglican minister and ordered his house burned down. With such neighbors, Blackstone decides to move to Rhode Island (pre-dating Roger Williams) and sells Boston to the Puritans for 50 pounds (about $100,000 today). To this day, it is legal to graze cows, do laundry, and settle duels in the Commons. Another fun fact is that the playground was originally the site of hanging tree (lost in 1847). It also served as the militia training ground. One thing I didn’t realize is that Boston today is quite different than it was on Apr. 18, 1775. What is now Charles Street was the Charles River. In fact, 70% of Boston is landfill, Boston previously being only one mile square.

Massachusetts State House

Massachusetts State House

From the Commons, we headed to the “New” statehouse. Built in 1775, it used to be John Hancock’s cow pasture. Apparently, he was quite the character. John Hancock was the second best smuggler of the day, naming his ship “The Liberty” to spite the British, and he was the richest man. He had inherited 50,000 pounds (about $5,000,000 in today’s economy.) He loved spending money, throwing parties, and being influential. This may be another reason for his large signature. He wanted to be commander and chief of army, but Congress wanted someone with war experience. When the war is over, he makes a bid for president. Congress refuses. Hancock was furious. Interestingly enough, when Washington goes to Faneuil Hall, John Hancock won’t come greet him. Since his son is named John George Washington Hancock, one would think he’d forgiven him, but apparently, his wife did it to spite him–she’d also made John wait 10 years to marry her in a day when the average lifespan was 42.
The dome of the statehouse was initially wood. It was later covered by copper, made by Paul Revere, who got the job because Sam Adams was in the government. Later, it was gold leaf, painted black during WWII to prevent it from being seen by invaders, then returned to gold leaf after the war.

Grave of Boston Massacre Victims

Grave of Boston Massacre Victims

From the Statehouse, we headed to Boston Cemetery. This also was part of John Hancock’s pastures. There are a number of bodies in the graves, but the stones don’t necessarily coordinate with who’s buried under them. In addition to the practice of burying members of a family together under one stone, they also didn’t have burial rules, so graves might be a foot and a half deep or ten feet deep. When the shallow graves started to show the bodies, the government ordered the cemetery cleaned up. So, they moved the stones into straight lines, but did not move the accompanying bodies.Every one of the 2,300 stones represents 6-10 people.

One of the most famous stones is the marker for the casualties in the Boston Massacre. Edward Garrick, a wig maker’s apprentice was walking home when he saw Captain John Goldfinch. He accused Goldfinch of not paying his bill and asked for money owed.

Boston Massacre site

Boston Massacre site

Private Hugh White came to the aid of Goldfinch, saying that his Captain was a gentleman and would pay his bill. Garrick responded, “There are no gentlemen in 29th regiment.” White hit Garrick in the face with the butt of gun. Other civilians pushed White against the wall where he called for aid. “Turn out Captain Preston!” (British soldiers aren’t allowed to fight without their officers–a reason the Americans would pick off officers first in the American Revolution.) Preston will first order his men to load their guns, then to fix bayonets, which his men will use to keep the crowd at bay. One citizen tells him, “I hope you don’t mean to fire.” Captain Preston responds, “No, my place is in front of my men. I’d be a fool to give that order, as I would be a sacrifice then.” Something is thrown, which strikes one of the officers who fires his gun. Preston turns to ask why he fired without orders and is struck with a bottle and knocked down, at which time the soldiers, hearing the cry of “Fire” from the angry crowd, assume it to be Preston and fire. Though only 5 will die, Sam Adams makes them famous. Henry Pelham will make the artwork which Paul Revere will engrave (apparently without Pelham’s permission, as Pelham will write him a scathing letter accusing him of highway robbery!) This early piece of propaganda will display a street scene. But, Preston is behind his men, the British soldiers are smiling while the blood runs, and there is a dog, the symbol of innocence. Definitely an agenda there.

Revere foot stone

Revere foot stone

Another famous grave is Paul Revere’s, which showcases the original footstone. On April 18, 1775, the British are going to Lexington to get both Samuel Adams and John Hancock. Paul Revere finds out the direction they’re heading (Courtesy of the lanterns) and goes to Reverend Jonas Clark’s house to warn them. On the way, he cries “The regulars are out.” He does not say, as Tennyson popularized, that “the British are coming,” since we were ALL British at that time, and the phrase would have had no meaning. The Regulars are the British army. On the way, however, Revere meets a patrol. One soldier shoots at Revere and misses. Samuel Prescott, who is with Revere, will complete the midnight ride as the only one to reach Concord. Revere is captured by six British officers. Major Mitchel put a pistol to his head and asked him a variety of questions. Revere tells him he’s already warned the cities of the British plans. Mitchel tells Revere to escort them back to Lexington. When they get close, they hear gun fire. Mitchel asks Paul what it is. They run off to see what is taking place, and Paul leaves, though they’d captured his horse. He’s able to see the whole thing, though.

The Old Statehouse

The Old Statehouse

From there, we went to the old statehouse. It is here that James Otis, called by John Adams the patriot’s Martin Luther, spoke against Writs of Assistance for 4 hours. Otis, who was both a lawyer and a speaker, is a volatile man. He railed against search and seizure. At this time, if you refused entry to a soldier looking for contraband, the militia can break down the door. He states that Americans are not second class citizens, so we deserve the same rights as Englishmen. He demands representation in parliament. In fact, James Otis will coin the phrase “Taxation without representation is tyranny.” He does have an interesting life story, though. On September 5, 1769, he gets in a fight with British officers in a British Coffee House. One will bash in his head. Dr. Joseph Warren fixes him up, but puts a lead plate in his head. Otis will go crazy either from the head wound or lead poisoning. He supposedly told his sister that he hoped God would take him in a flash of lightning. Ironically, he will die struck in the head by a bolt of lightning.

Faneuil Hall

Faneuil Hall

We concluded our tour at Faneuil Hall. Peter Faneuil wanted a marketplace, while the government asked for meeting house. The solution Peter offered was to do both at his own expense. So Faneuil Hall offers shopping on the lower level while the government meets on the upper level. Many speeches by many famous Americans were given here, yielding it the title the “Cradle of Liberty.” This concluded our Freedom Trail tour.

Since we were by the Statehouse, we decided to visit the museum there, which is an incredible treat. When you walk in, you are given a new identity as a Revolutionary character (Mine was Phillis Wheatley.) The card gives you your description, social connection, and additional information. As we walked through the display of artifacts and facsimiles from the time, one item caught my eye.

Melville's tea

Melville’s tea

We had learned at Arrowhead that Herman Melville’s grandfather had been part of the Boston Tea Party, and when he returned home, brushed the tea off his boots and put it in a vial, which he kept as a souvenir. Imagine my surprise when that very vial was on display in the statehouse museum! It has amazed me how often on this trip I have discovered something of one historical figure intertwined with information about other historical figures!

From here, we decided to catch the Trolley tour, which turned out to be a mistake. Not that it wasn’t interesting–we had a snarky tour guide whose stories mainly focused on being poor and going to bars instead of actual history. But, the problem was that we caught the tour at stop four, desiring to visit stops 1-3. Unfortunately, the trolley had 13 other stops to make before starting over at stop one. We should have walked the short distance from stop four to one.

Paul Revere and the Old North Church

Paul Revere and the Old North Church

Instead, we spent an hour and a half on a bumpy trolley, which put us behind in the sightseeing department.

When we got off, we headed to the Old North Church. This was one of the places I’d especially wanted to go to get my own pictures of the Paul Revere statue. The Old North Church is an incredible piece of architecture and gives a lot of good information on those who participated in the events prior to the battles of Lexington and Concord. One thing I especially admired is they have an array of dog tags in the courtyard representing each soldier who has fallen in Iraq and Afghanistan. Definitely an incredible tribute!

From there, we walked to the Paul Revere House. This amazing example of 17th Century architecture is a jewel, containing many originals examples of Paul Revere’s work. Though you cannot take pictures inside the building, it is well worth the minimal admission ($3.50–included the GO Boston Card)

Paul Revere House

Paul Revere House

One thing that fascinated me was the fact that Paul Revere had three descendants who fought in the Civil War. The museum shares their story as well. It’s hard to believe that Paul Revere had 16 children (8 by each wife), but apparently they didn’t all live in the house simultaneously.

When we finished the tour, it was about 4:00, and we knew the trolley stopped running at 4:30. We debated trying to get up to Bunker Hill and the U.S.S. Constitution, but didn’t want to have to make the long walk in either direction. So, we checked out the print shop and a chocolate store and finally opted to go home. In retrospect, I should have pushed myself because I discovered that the U.S.S. Constitution is leaving for a three year restoration process after this season, so we missed our chance to view “Old Ironsides.” But, at the time, our throbbing feet were the priority. And so, another amazing time comes to an end. Until next time, may all your adventures be breathtaking!

Swiss Traffic jam (viewed from the gas station)

Swiss Traffic jam (viewed from the gas station)

We recently (7/27/13) left Italy to head over to Germany. The drive is about 7 hours, so we planned to leave early, go by way of Switzerland, enjoy the many photo opportunities the alps had to offer, and make it to our next destination by early evening. Alas, the best laid plans…

We made it into Switzerland with no problem, and enjoyed driving through Italy away from the city. Crossing the border was fairly easy, though you do have to purchase a 40 Euro sticker to drive in Switzerland. I think it’s good for a year since this one had a 13 on it (and we didn’t have to say how long we intended to stay like we did in Austria) So, we affixed our sticker and headed on our way. For a while, it was the beautiful scenery we expected (though as I was driving, and there were no pull outs, I got no pictures.) Then, we got to the San Gottardo tunnel (which I think sounds like retarded for a reason). It was a nightmare. It quite literally took almost three hours to get to go through. While it is long (16,942 meters), the line to drive through it was a major traffic jam, completely stopped with people peeing on the side of the road. Apparently, this is normal for summer. So, instead of enjoying a picnic lunch overlooking beautiful Swiss scenery, we ate our lunch in the car with the windows open.

View from the balcony of our German flat

View from the balcony of our German flat

Finally, we made it to Germany (this border we just drove right through) and found our lodgings. Since this is short, I decided to include some tips I’ve learned for driving in Germany and Austria (in no particular order.)

1. Stay in the right lane unless you’re passing–then, watch out.
2. Bus stops are marked by a green H in a yellow circle surrounded by a green circle.
3. Eingang/Einfahrt = Enter Ausgang/Ausfahrt = Exit
4. The white arrow in the blue circle tells you which area of the road to drive on.
This is especially helpful at medians, roundabouts, and other places you might be
confused.
5. Lights turn yellow both before and after they turn green.
6. Yellow lines are only used in construction or to indicate the fast pass lines.

Alas, no shoulders

Alas, no shoulders

7. White lines close together show some degree of separation (either an exit or traffic
going both ways. If the broken white line looks like the States’, it’s a one way.
8. A black forward slash or 3 lines of a forward slash indicate end of or leaving (This
one is sometimes red too.) For example, you’ll have a speed limit sign (black
numbers in a white circle with a red circle around it). Then, a bit down the road,
you’ll see the same number with 3 forward slash lines. This means that speed limit
no longer applies (watch out!)
9. Blue lined parking is paid parking (or the credit card line in a toll booth), while
white lined parking is business or residential. You usually have to use paid
parking unless you are going in the business.
10. Be aware that very few roads have a shoulder. Often times, houses will mark the
end of the lane. Additionally, cars may park halfway in the street, taking up part
of an already miniscule 2 lane road. Small towns aren’t fun for driving…

Tips in Italy: Be fully aware of everything–especially motorcycles, which do not drive in the lane like they do in America, but often between two cars going in opposite directions on a tiny road.

Uffizi Gallery

Uffizi Gallery

Today (7/23/13) started off a bit slowly; not because we weren’t ready, though we did sleep in. We are quickly learning that transportation in Florence is either, as my mom calls it, “walk your fool self to death” or wait forever for a bus to pick you up (A bus, mind you, that may come every 20 minutes (undoubtedly you just missed this one), every hour, or not at all (meaning it stopped running sometime right before you arrived.) At least that’s the case with us. To arrive where we wanted, we drove to Piazele Michelangelo, dropped off our car, took the bus back home to catch another bus to take us to the right part of the city to buy Firenze cards. This process took us 2 1/2 hours. (each leg of the journey should take between 10 and 15 minutes).

So, by the time we got our Firenze Cards, we were already tired. We did decide to go ahead and get the Firenze card, even though they just recently changed the price from 50 Euros to 73 Euros. If you look at bus ticket prices and entrance fees to the major places, it still saves you money if you’re going to be in town for a while.

Victory by Michelangelo

Victory by Michelangelo at Palazzo Vecchio

We started at the Uffizi Gallery. Unfortunately, you can’t take pictures in this area, so I only have a photo of the outside. It is a virtual feast of artwork, from incredible sculptures to famous paintings, including the Birth of Venus by Botticelli, to more modern pieces, virtually any great artist you learned about in Art history is represented here. I will say, I have seen enough nakedness to last a lifetime, so if you come, be prepared to see a lot of nudes. One of the things that most struck me was a throw back to reading The Agony and the Ecstasy (story of Michelangelo.) I remember them talking about how both Michelangelo and Leonardo Di Vinci dissected corpses in order to understand the way the muscle structure worked. Why I was reminded of this grotesque fact is that as I was looking at sculptures and art work, I could definitely tell which artists had dissected and which hadn’t. I know that sounds weird, but there is a way muscles work underneath the skin that you can’t really understand unless you’ve studied anatomy. Thankfully, we have the computer to see diagrams.

Museo Nazionale del Bargello

Museo Nazionale del Bargello

From the Uffizi Gallery, we headed towards the Duomo (Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Flore), but stopped at the Museo Nazionale del Bargello along the way. This area had a gorgeous central courtyard of statues and shields, but also boasted a collection of antique weapons. What most interested me was a statue on the first floor: Bacchus by Michelangelo. Having read about him in junior high, I was amazed to be close enough to his statues to touch them. They weren’t high over head or out of reach, but eye level and in vivid detail. (I do want to mention here that it is one of my pet peeves when people call him Michael Angelo instead of Michelangelo (short i). His first name is not two names, and he does have a last name: Buonarroti. Anyway, that’s my rant…)

Duomo Cattedrale di Santa Maria

Duomo Cattedrale di Santa Maria

Leaving the museum, we continued our trek to the Duomo. While the outside of this cathedral is awe inspiring, the inside is nothing to write home about. After all the incredible artistry we have seen, the inside of the Duomo was, well, drab. It was 90% stone with no embellishment or decoration other than the amazing dome. It does have free admission, but is also a “No Hoochie zone,” so cover up or you’ll have to by a cover there. The Baptistery, on the other hand, had all the artistry I’d expected the Duomo to have. Gorgeous gold inlaid mosaics decorated this smaller structure outside the Duomo. Definitely worth seeing!

Pieta by Michelangelo in Museo Dell'opera del Duomo

Pieta by Michelangelo in Museo Dell’opera del Duomo

Leaving the Baptistery, we made our way to the Museo Dell’opera del Duomo. Tucked away behind a wall of construction, this museum, I had read, contained Michelangelo’s Pieta and Lorenzo Ghiberti’s Doors of Paradise. We saw the doors right as we walked in–the ones on the Baptistery are replicas. When we reached the second floor, we saw the Pieta. It wasn’t the one I was expecting–the classic one with Jesus laying on Mary’s lap. This one had more people in it–and was rough and unfinished. Apparently, Michelangelo found something wrong with the grain of the marble (broke a chunk off of Mary’s arm) and declared it not good enough to finish. I think it’s beautiful.

We ended our journey with dinner by the Palazzo Vecchio, former Medici residence and current town hall. After dinner, we decided to tour the museum here, which is open until midnight, except on Thursdays. The central area in the Palazzo is incredible! Statues line the walls in front of gigantic masterpiece paintings, topped by a golden inlaid and painted ceiling. Unbelievable.

Palazzo Vecchio's central area

Palazzo Vecchio’s central area

Having finished as much sightseeing as we could for one day, we set out for home, only to discover the busses within the city stop running at either 6 or 8 (it was 8:30). So, after another long trek, three busses, and a car ride, we made it home. We still have two and a half days left on our Firenze card, so we’ll see what other mischief we can get into.

First looks at Siena

First looks at Siena

We headed out this morning (7/22/13) for Siena. We are loosely working off of Rick Steve’s guide book, and this is one of the areas he covers that we thought would be fun to check out. The drive out was good for me (though we passed two accidents) until we got into Siena. We had very loose directions from the guide book on how to get to parking, and it was challenging to reconcile the guide books, the map, and the GPS. Finally, we opted to scrap all three and just follow the signs and figure it out. This worked far better (though was much more stressful for mom.) But, we made it to the parking lot we were trying to find and started the long walk into the city, accompanied by the sounds of piano and opera from the University across the street.

We finally reached the Duomo, an incredibly beautiful structure dating back to 1215. We purchased the Opa Si Pass for 12 Euros which allowed us to view the Cathedral, Library, Baptistery, Crypt, Museum of Opera, Oratorio, and Panorama view. It was a bit more than normal due to the exhibition of John the Baptist (Youth with a Ram) painted by Caravaggio in 1602.

Siena from above

Siena from above

We started our tour with the Museum, as advised by the ticket agent, since there wasn’t much of a line. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take pictures inside the Museum–only on the top. The Museum is filled with amazing statues and other items preserved from the Original Duomo–You can even see the original Stained glass window. It was interesting to see the way the sculptors carved each apostle differently. Also, I got to see my first reliquaries–I’ve never seen the bones of a martyr before–definitely a unique experience. After climbing the many steps through the Museum, we ended up in the line to the “Panoramic view.” Silly us–we assumed from how high we were that we merely needed to go out on a deck of sorts to see the view from the top. Not the case. After climbing up a narrow spiral staircase (probably two feet wide with steps starting close to the center pole at about 3 inches and working out to about 10 inches) Pretty crazy! And that was just to get to the first deck. You could climb another 70 stairs to another tower point. We decided we’d had enough stairs for one day.

Duomo Siena

Duomo Siena

From there, we went to the Duomo, where you are allowed to take pictures. The Duomo is a gorgeous building both outside and in, and offers many treasures to see. Be aware, though, the Duomo is a strict “No Hoochie” zone. In other words, if you’re a female, you’d better have both your shoulders and knees covered. Go in shorts and a tank top, and you will receive something resembling a cotton poncho to cover up with. If you’re a man, you merely need to remove your hat. Thankfully, we knew this ahead of time and dressed appropriately. While some may find it offensive, I think it’s neat that some cathedrals still have standards of dress. It is also expected to be a place of reverence and quiet. I think the view itself will accomplish that–it is literally breath-taking.

St. Paul by Michelangelo

St. Paul by Michelangelo

Some of my favorite treasures in the Duomo were the inlaid floor tiles (be careful–these are roped off, and the iron poles are easy to trip over when the visitor is looking at the ceiling–i.e. me…), the intricately carved figures on a pulpit dating back to 1268, and small carvings made by Michelangelo himself. The one referenced in the guidebook is St. Paul who is said to look like a self-portrait of the sculptor himself–you can be the judge on that.

From there, we went to the crypt where we got to see the painting of John the Baptist–an amazing piece. The crypt also contained places where the old frescos were still visible. Beautiful. Alas, no pictures in there, either. We also walked through the Baptistery, which was a tiny area, but beautifully painted as well.

Finishing that, it was time to try to find our way to our car via the Il Campo–the heart of Siena. It was a neat square edged by the city hall–the largest secular tower in Italy. The chapel at the base of the tower was built in 1348 to thank God for ending the Black Death, which had killed 1/3 of the population. An amazing site to see!

Il Campo

Il Campo

We returned to our car, paid our parking ticket, ate lunch in the car, paid our parking ticket again (apparently, we had exceeded the amount of time you’re allowed to linger in the parking garage after paying), and headed to San Gimignano. We’d read in the guidebook that the medieval towers were incredible, but it wasn’t worth going inside the city, so we decided to take a drive by. It ended up being a lot longer drive than we planned–twisting and turning–but with gorgeous scenery. We had debated going to Volterra, which was also reported to be an incredible drive, but we wanted to get home to get our Florence tickets.
Views along the drive

Views along the drive

Apparently, Volterra has gotten a new boost of tourism due to the Twilight movies (Volterra was supposed to be the home of the the Volturi in New Moon), though most of filming was done in Montepulciano. But, alas, this was one side trip we had to skip. Since Rick Steve’s called this a windy road (and San Gimignano was windy enough), I was okay to skip it.

Sunset in Florence

Sunset in Florence

We returned to Florence in time to walk around the city and affirm that nothing is a short walk and the maps are deceiving (leaving mom a bit less of a Rick Steve’s fan…) But, we ended our day back at our amazing cafe by Piazzale Michelangelo watching the sunset.

Despite the fact that rain was predicted for this morning (7/18/13), it was a beautiful day when we got up. We debated taking the drive through Zell am See, but decided to stick with our original plan of trying to find a second hand store. There are some amazing Austrian clothes that traditionally cost around 100 Euros, so we wanted to see if we could find them cheaper.

Austrian Second Hand Store

Austrian Second Hand Store

We were in a bit of an unfamiliar driving territory, and at one intersection, traffic was coming from 4 directions. I saw an opening and took it, maneuvering around crossing pedestrians to do so. The next thing I knew: Polizei. Yep, that’s right: Police. Mom’s biggest nightmare (that and pickpockets…) So, I pulled over. The nice policeman approached and immediately started speaking in German. When I said, “I’m sorry,” he asked if I spoke German (in German), and I said, “No, English.” He switched and asked if I had noticed the pedestrians in the street. I allowed that I had, but had also noticed the cars coming swiftly towards me while I was in the intersection. He took my international driver’s license, which by good fortune I had put in the car that morning, my regular license, and my vehicle registration. Finally, after I’d taught him the English word “Crosswalk,” he explained that if there are people there, you need to let them go. (Incidentally, giving pedestrians the right of way is the only question I missed on my Indiana driver’s license test–In Ohio, they don’t have the right of way.) Thankfully, he let us go with a warning to watch out for people. Lesson noted…(I didn’t ask for his picture, though the thought did cross my mind…)

A block later, we arrived at the second hand store. This one was a small place, but had good Austrian clothes and shoes–unfortunately, none in my size or that mom would wear. The lady did direct us to another second hand store, and we headed there. This one was a lot larger. It had the kinds of things you usually find at thrift stores in the states: books, knickknacks, clothes, shoes, paintings, etc. We found a few interesting things, but nothing we had to have. Definitely a fun experience, though!

Celtic Charioteer (holding his enemy's head)

Celtic Charioteer (holding his enemy’s head)

From there, we headed back to Hallein to the Celtic Museum (Keltenmuseum Hallein). We had wanted to see the Silent Night Museum, but first were told it was only open at Christmas time, and then were informed that it’s open the second Friday of every month. So, if you happen to time your visit right, you can see where Silent Night was written. Parking in Lot 1 was free (after we actually managed to locate Lot 1–there are signs, but they’re hard to find.) Entrance to the museum was free, as well, because we had been on the Salt Mine tour. Traditionally, adults cost 6 Euros, but if you want a guide in English, you have to pay an additional 1.50 Euros. Since there is nothing in the museum in English, you really need the guide, though it covers mainly the story of salt production and leaves out a number of other artifacts.

Grave of Celtic Nobles

Grave of Celtic Nobles

There were a few things I found especially interesting. The first was a gravesite displaying a noble husband and wife. They were buried, as was tradition, with a great deal of jewelry and weapons. In fact, there were a number of graves that started being excavated in the 1930’s. Many artifacts are on display that were found in these tombs. As the tombs were found around one of the salt mines, they also display another skeleton of a man preserved in salt.

Hitler at a ground breaking ceremony

Hitler at a ground breaking ceremony

Another interesting area contained three rooms where 74 oil paintings are displayed. These paintings, which were commissioned by the prince-bishop, are of the salt miners and salt mining process and are painted directly on the walls of the room. These are beautifully done. The room also contains cases of hand painted playing cards of some kind, but there was no information on them in our guide book.

The final thing I found most interesting were cards of people in one of the display cases–two of them portraying Hitler. One of them merely shows a picture of Hitler with the Caption of “The work he provided” (Rough translation off Google Translate. The second is a ground breaking ceremony, which from translation seems to be some kind of factory or rail station. It struck me as an oddity to find a picture of Hitler at a groundbreaking ceremony in the midst of Celtic History.

The Celtic Museum

The Celtic Museum

There were many more interesting items: Log books from ships dating back to the 1500’s, The seals of Salzburg rulers, and signs of tradesmen to name a few. But, it is time for us to leave Austria, so we said goodbye to the Celtic Museum and headed back for an early dinner and to pack to go to Italy tomorrow.

In the Liechtenstein Gorge--Walkway visible (R)

In the Liechtenstein Gorge–Walkway visible (R)

We were blessed with another warm and sunny day today (7/17/13) despite weather forecasts to the contrary, so we set out for the Liechtenstein Gorge (Liechtensteinklamm). Our concierge said we could walk there from our hotel–We think they have a different sense of what is a “walkable distance” than Americans do–or else they know a shortcut. We opted to drive, and about 15 minutes later arrived at the parking lots. After parking at one of the first ones we came to (the closer ones being full, we thought), we began the hike up to the entrance. When we finally arrived at the entrance (after a long “American walk”), we discovered there were parking places right next to the entrance. So, always check the closest spot. Also, it seems that Austrians also have a habit of creating their own parking spaces, as we saw numerous cars parked on the side of the road, in pull outs, or other random places.

Waterfall at Liechtenstein Gorge

Waterfall at Liechtenstein Gorge

There is no charge for parking, but a $4.50 Euro fee to enter the gorge, which we paid and set out on our way. The Liechtenstein Gorge is thus named because Johann II (Johann the Good), who was the Prince of Liechtenstein from 1858 to 1929, had the walkways installed in 1875 so that visitors could walk through the Gorge. It is, therefore named for Liechtenstein (and I’d assume Sankt Johann is named for him as well…) It is an amazing walk through caves and over wooden walkways, all interspersed with breathtaking beauty. They estimate this walk will take about an hour and a half, and we made it through at a leisurely pace in two hours, so the estimate was pretty accurate. Whatever you love in nature, you will probably find– blue-green crystal water, rocks in incredible colors and designs, trees, flowers, mountains, sky, waterfalls–you name it. Even though the sun wasn’t shining on the waterfall, it was still beautiful.

Hallstatt

Hallstatt

From there, we decided to take a scenic drive (recommended by Rick Steves) down to Hallstatt. It is considered the oldest continuously inhabited village in Europe and has a large exhibition of prehistoric items. It is a beautiful drive, albeit down windy roads, into the quaint little town. We passed a number of cars parked in pullouts or the side of the road on the way into town. This made sense when we passed the parking for $18 Euros parking lot. We considered ourselves blessed to have found $2.50 Euro an hour with a maximum of $7 Euros at the absolute farthest parking lot from the town until we walked down to the lake and discovered free parking for 30 minutes. We debated on walking up to the old town, but in the end (and watching our time) decided to just take a few pictures and drive around the lake.

The other side of the lake (with free parking)

The other side of the lake (with free parking)

After we found our way back to the car, we headed across the lake, only to find a large area of free parking on the other side of the lake. It is a spot where apparently you can swim, a since many people were. Additionally, there were picnic tables and a lovely place to sit and view the mountains. So depending on the reason you visit Hallstatt, you may want to park there instead of on the town side, though I’m not sure how to walk from there to the old village. All in all, another beautiful day. Tomorrow, we are planning to head to the Celtic Museum, especially if it does, in fact, rain. We may also try to locate an Austrian Second-hand shop, then pack for Italy. More adventures to come!

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