Wow, that was fun.
We were a great quartet on the road through France (Alsace), Switzerland, Germany, Austria, and Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic. We majored in Munich and I think the other three are glad we did: had to major in something during the 12 days, might as well be Munich, thought I. Biggest hit there was the Viktualien Markt behind the Marienplatz: all manner of exotic food stalls and a biergarten. Well . . . Hofbraühaus was fun for all, too (I've managed to outgrow my innate snobbishness, but I did take them to a less well known beer hall first. Just to make sure . . . ). Only problem was that Erin and I seemed to be the only ones who knew words and tune to "Ein prosit . ." which the band played every twenty minutes--too damned many touring furrigners . . .
Biggest surprise to start with was an upgrade on the car from a Beemer 5 Series wagon to the Beemer X5 SUV with inline 6 turbo-diesel and an incredible navigation system. It held all of our luggage with even a little room to see out the back window and was very comfortable, even in the back seat. And did that sucker scoot: Gene got it up to 220 kph with pedal room left, but it seemed that every time I drove it there was either rain or a lot of construction so I only got to get it to 180. Sigh. Such travails.
Oh. And we did eat, drink and make merry, the highlight of which was a great Italian restaurant in Munich where we could watch the cook and sous chef work and listen to them holler at the waiters, the customers (all of whom seemed to be Italian) and each other. The chef/owner forced some very smooth grappa down my gullet for free during one of his smoke breaks at an outside table: he and his son-in-law thought I was the best American they'd ever met because I could speak both German and Italian. They may be right. The Colwitz's and I went through three bottles of wine and a dessert shot of grappa each. I had the worst hangover of the bunch the next morning. Groan. I'm back to asceticism, thank goodness.
So that's the important stuff to us guys: cars and food. Gene even liked the Munich beer and now he knows where Wisconsin got its brats. The unimportant lady piffle wasn't bad, either--city tours, quaint walled cities, experiencing the best social democracies outside of Scandinavia, museums, shopping for Bohemian crystal in CZ, and Munich's smooth, fast rapid transit. The highlight of the tour was High Mass on Pentecost Sunday at St. Stephens in Vienna. The resident Cardinal officiated, the chorus and professional orchestra did Haydn's Harmonie Messe (damned well, by the way), the air was suffused with smells and bells and the place was SRO (Pentecost is a big deal in Europe). All in all a real cultural thrill for the three Catholic Colwitz's and even for this lapsed Lutheran. Also in Vienna, it was great seeing USC Chamber Choir alums Melanie Heyn and Gabe Wyner, who have been there quite a while studying opera and voice; they showed us around the inner city and we had fun at dinner together talking about their studies and their lives as ex-pats in Deutscher Land.
For me, the most fun was using my German daily after over twenty years. It came back fairly quickly and I was never mistaken for American; if nothing else, my pronunciation is very good, guided as it is by my musician's ear. Gloat.
So cities, in order: Colmar, Bern, Geneva (with a short side trip to Montreux--Lord, what a beautiful location), Munich (including Dachau concentration camp), Salzburg, Vienna, Cesky Krumlov, Munich again, Dinkelsbühl (and Rothenburg), Frankfurt. Total of four nights in Munich, two each in Geneva and Vienna, one night each elsewhere, except Bern, which was just a morning stop-over from Colmar to Geneva. Hotels ranged from one 4-star (Vienna) to a cutesy B and B (Dinkelsbühl). The rest were great except for the second Munich one, which sucked despite the three stars it seemed to have earned somehow.
For more pics, see Viking Goddess's album at picasa.google.com. Since arriving home, Erin has been busy acquiring leadership of a fine community chorus here in town (three cheers for her), and running rehearsals for an opera and a musical most nights. I've been busy acquiring her birthday present: a new 2008 Wolfsburg Edition VW Jetta. Red. With the two-liter GTI turbo motor (200 bhp). Got ground effects all around, plus a lip spoiler on the trunk lid. Snakey little thing. Premium, 10-speaker sound system with Sirius radio, too. Only problem is some hail dimples on all horizontal surfaces from the last big winter storm, but that lowered the price mucho plenty. We'll leave them there for the time being, until we have enough money to get paintless dent removal. We donated Erin's nine-year-old Mitsubishi with 170k miles to our local NPR station for the tax deduction.
Bis nächstes Mal: wiedersehen.
Bis nächstes Mal: wiedersehen.