Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Vida Vegan Con!

Before I finish writing about my travels, I thought I would throw in a plug for the mega awesome conference happening in my city this weekend, Vida Vegan Con!!

A whole weekend dedicated to the vegan blog world? Hell yes!! I couldn't afford a ticket and procrastinated on attempting to win a scholarship, but the awesome ladies putting on the conference are happily accepting sweat labor so I jumped right on it.

I'm incredibly excited about meeting the writers behind so many blogs that I read daily, going to different classes and swankin' it up at the Galarama! I feel so lucky to live in such a city that would afford the opportunity to put something like this on!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Keep Salzburg Weird!

So, Portland has a slogan that was unabashedly stolen from Austin. 
 You can find it painted, plastered and lettered onto walls, stickers and signs. Sometimes one can find a variation, such as "keep Portland beered!" or "keep Portland beard!" but usually we stick to weird. I love my weird city! This intro will absolutely make sense in a bit.

When we first arrived in Salzburg, we had a really tough time finding our hotel no thanks to the pouring rain and Google walking directions. We finally just bought a map at a gas (petrol?) station and used that, drinking really crappy, cheap vodka along the way. It was that kind of day. So, my first impression of Salzburg was not good.

And then it came time to explore it.

Our hotel was situated somewhat close to the city center, but you had to walk through a mountain to get there. It was eerie, but awesome. I should have known it was a sign of what was to come.
Upon our emergence from the tunnel, the very first thing we see is this cute little square. FULL OF PONIES.
I mean, look at those paintings! They're so magnificent. Obviously, I love horses. I had one of my own and I just FEEL right around them, even in art form.I just knew right then Salzburg was a million times better than my first impression. The building across the street from the pony square (as I lovingly call it!) did not escape the equine touch.

Salzburg's squares are somewhat spread out around one giant building, so we just headed for the one closest to the castle. Oh yeah, there's a castle!
Here are just some of the sights around the square. Salzburg is just so random. Everywhere you turn you find something new and exciting.
 After taking in the gold ball and giant chess set, we started to hike up to the castle. It is possible to take a tram to the top, but if you'd like to burn off the 4 beers (or 7 fry cones) that you're having later, I recommend the hike! It's pretty.
 The castle walls were SO TALL. I tried to put Jeff up next to it for perspective.
 The castle was not immune to Salzburg's weirdness. It houses a marionette museum, which turned out to be SUPER CREEPY.
 A wishing well....with dead marionettes?

 Some kind of dying statue.
After we shook off the chills and discussed our potential nightmares, we set out to explore more of the city. We wandered across the gross gray river (it kind of looked as if a whole bunch of washing machines exploded at once) and discovered a stairway begging to be climbed.
The stairway spiraled around another mountain and eventually led to a church. The path was littered with statues depicting scenes from the bible and very empty. A little spooky, if I must be honest. And then we saw a sign announcing another castle perched on the top of this mountain! We were the only ones making our way up through the forest, which was very nice. It was a much harder climb than the first castle due to steep, broken steps, but we soldiered on. Ok, I soldiered on, Jeff was fine the entire time.
 When we reached the castle, we were dismayed to find out it was actually a really expensive restaurant. Talk about false advertising. But the views were great!
On a final note, on our way back to the hotel we got hit by another rainstorm. Look at those nasty clouds hovering over the gross river. As soon as the drops started to hit, the crowds bolted for the closest stores and cafes they could in an attempt to stay dry.
I will admit to running for cover! We don't tend to get nasty rainstorms in the NW and I wasn't exactly up to getting soaked AGAIN. In our haste to get out of the path of the rain, we ran past this.
It's kind of awesome how we can find things without even looking!

Annnnnd that's kind of it for Salzburg. Most of our time was spent hiking up mountains and wandering the streets and while I took a shit ton of photos, I kind of feel that this post is pretty long as it is! I do have a couple more posts in store, do not fret my gentle readers. I also plan to have a wrap up on the beer/food aspect of the trip.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Barreling through Munich

Aaah! You know when you get really busy and days just fly by and you forget to update your blog? Well that happened to me, minus the busy part. I just didn't post.

The problem with travelling all over a beautiful country such as Germany in a short amount of time is the sad fact we didn't get to see very much at all. We had two full days to spend in Munich, one reserved to visit Neuschwanstein. The remainder of that day and the second day we saved to visit a beer hall and explore the city. Well, castle visiting went much longer than we thought (thanks to waiting for the required guided tours) and we had to leave Munich at a somewhat reasonable time to get to Salzburg early. As I will explain soon, this backfired no thanks to some shitty Google walking directions.

We arrived in gorgeous, sunny Munich exhausted from train riding and not expecting the heat. Our hotel was quite a hike away, but we didn't feel comfortable attempting the subway. So we hoofed it. Along the way, my grumpy, sweaty self was excited to see this:
In case you can't see the date, it was founded in 1397! A brewery older than the US! Long before Columbus sailed the Ocean Blue! If you're not from a somewhat "new" country like the US, it probably means nothing to you, but I cannot get over the history of the place. I knew that Munich and I would get along despite the sun. We finally reached our hostel (Hotel Nymphenburg, which I STRONGLY recommend, despite the hike) and the very sweet staff directed us around the corner for food. We settled on an Italian restaurant (a cuisine Germany is VERY good at) and were not disappointed. Something we've learned over the span of our travels: choose a place that's busy. You're almost always guaranteed good food and service, even if you're cheap like us! I had plenty of vegan options in Germany thanks to Italian restaurants and the beer purity laws. That's right, they don't see the need to add shit like gelatin, milk powder or eggs to their beer. I *heart* Germany.
And that was kind of it for our first night. I think we were both pooped from travelling and had an exciting adventure to get up early for the next day.

The train from Munich to Fussen (the town outside of Neuschwanstein) was something like 3 hours. It was a very pretty ride, but when you share the train with other obnoxious tourists, it kind of makes you crazy. The gorgeous scenery helped (and the fact you can drink beer on the train).
 We got to Fussen, bought our tickets and figured since the (required) guided tour didn't start for another couple of hours we would hike to the castle. It was about a mile up, no worse than hiking to our very own Multnomah Falls, but it was HUMID as hell. Humidity is not something Portland offers. This lady made me feel even worse about my uncomfortable hike:
C'mon, HEELS?! And a hat?! It took everything I had no to strip off all of my clothing. Well, and Jeff told  me not to. We finally made it, though, sweaty and stinky and thirsty. And it was SO WORTH IT.
I rank this castle higher than Versailles any day. Ludwig planned it as a tribute to Wagner's operas, and all of the detail that went into it was just so amazing. Unfortunately, no photos allowed inside, but you must go. Right now. And then have this after, because it is uber sticky and hot up there at the top.
Our last day in Munich was spent stashing our bags at the Munich train station and searching for Hofbrauhaus, one of the oldest beer halls in Munich. It also happens to be a site where Hitler held one of his first meetings for the Nazi party. Just the thought of being in a place where something like that happened gives me the chills.

Because Google walking directions suck major ass, we got lost. And then, like almost every other time we got lost during this trip, it began to pour. Now, I'm used to the rain. But when you're lost and the surroundings are unfamiliar and it starts to rain, it feels as if the world is conspiring against you.
Somehow, SOMEHOW, we found the right street and subsequently Hofbrauhaus. It was AMAZING. The seating was family style and the room was noisy and raucous. We sat next to a German couple from Frankfurt that didn't seem to mind our wet company and swapped travel tips (they told us about Frankfurt - good for shopping - and we told them about Hway 101 and Route 66 - good for driving). Munich, I officially want to come back.

I hope to have a post up about Salzburg today or tomorrow. In my opinion, Portland and Salzburg should be sister cities in their weirdness.