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Written by: sharondawson14

21 December 2000

We met Jeanne and Vic at the Newark Airport on Monday that day and all flew together to Zurich, Switzerland. The flight to Zurich was about 8 hours; we lost time by flying east. We were met by the bus from Educational Opportunities which took us from Zurich to our home for the week, a small Austrian alpine village, Steinach, near the border with Italy. Because Switzerland is not part of the European Union, we had to show passports at the Swiss/Austrian border. It was a long trip for all. Dinner and early-to-bed felt good since we were scheduled for the Passion Play the following day and had to be at the bus by 6:30 AM. Breakfast was served at 5:30 and we didn’t want to miss that!

On Wednesday we travelled by bus for about 1 1/2 hours to Oberammergau, Germany and parked in the south parking lot, taking a tram to the main part of the village and the theater. The driver had a long flowing beard and we guessed that he was a participant. People of the village must be residents for 20 years before they can audition for a part in the play and the men start growing facial hair in the fall since no wigs or false hair pieces are used. The guide said that often there will be signs posted saying I’ll be back in one hour and one knows that the shop keeper is performing at that time.

We had purchased copies of the play in English so we could follow along with the text. The Chorus was most impressive as were the costumes and scenery. Some found it hard to stay awake as we were jet-lagged and the seating was crowded and confining. The audience sat under a covered area but the stage had no shelter. When it rains, the performance goes on in the rain. The theater was new and held about 4,000 guests.

There was an intermission about noon and the group jumped in a shuttle and went off to a lunch at a restaurant a little way out of town. The lunch was like a strogonoff but the drinks were not included which was a shocker to the ladies. There was a rope swing outside for children to use and a few younger members of the OE group took a turn. Taking the shuttle back to Oberammergau, there was some time for shopping and looking. Jeanne bought a nut cracker for Bradley and Sharon was checking out prices on wood carvings for Tim.

The lines for the bathroom were always long but never ever longer than at the play. All were worried about fire safety as there was one long corridor that the women had to pass through to get into the bathroom.

The afternoon session started about 1:30 and lasted until 6:10. We had the fast Jesus as the main parts in the play are double cast and this man spoke faster than the other lead who would finish at 6:15. The weather was warm and got warmer and Sharon started shedding clothes during the afternoon. The woman in front of her was a bit worried. After the play, it started to rain and we got on the bus and returned to the hotel and dinner. All really slept well that night.

The following morning it was raining. We were headed for Innsbruk that day, the city of the winter Olympics of 1964 and 1976. The 2000 summer Olympics in Sydney were going at this time and we enjoyed watching the events on CNN and a German station. Go TEAM USA!!!!!

In Innsbruk we had a tour of the Imperial Palace where Maximilian displayed large bronze statues of famous people in Austrian history, mostly his ancestors. His tomb is there but he is buried elsewhere. We then walked the medieval streets of Innsbruk to the Golden Roof. Our guide, Barbora, was insistent that we know that there were 2,657 golden tiles on the roof and quizzed us often during the rest of the week. This balcony was where the royal court convened to watch tournaments and amusements in the square below.

We visited a Swarovski crystal store which was three floors of glittering treasures. Our lunch was in an upstairs bar where we had soup and bread. We used the restrooms and headed back to the bus.

It was still raining and our next stop was Swarovski Crystal World, a
display of crystal art and scuplture. We walked through a large face built into the side of a hill and into various rooms which were designed to stimulate all the senses. We never did get to taste anything, much to our disappointmen, however. A member of our group slipped on the wet pavement and had to be taken to a local hospital for stitches over her eye. Caroline had quite the shiner but felt fortunate not to have broken any bones. Local Austrians were quite helpful getting her to the hospital.

We had dinner where Freddie was the dining room host. Freddie liked to have things HIS way and we soon learned who was in charge. There were certain places you could sit and certain places you couldn’t sit….Freddie knew and soon you knew, too. The food was quite good the entire week. We had breakfasts and dinners each day at the hotel.

On Thursday night we went down the street to an evening of Tirolian music, complete with alpine horns AND an accordion. There was singing and dancing and we enjoyed the evening. Sharon was not asked to play! The local band played first.

The beds had warm down comforters on them. We slept with the window and door open and even though it was cold, the down kept us snug and warm.

On Friday the weather was clearing and we were delighted to see a dusting of snow on the high peaks above us as we travelled through the valley. We visited the largest baroque church in the Tirol region. It was the Monastery of Stams and was quite elegant. The church has never been artificially heated and has, therefore, required no cleaning or retoration other than by washing the frescoes with bread and water. The colors were pastel and lovely and the altar, breathtaking. There is a sports academy adjacent to the monastery and many of Tirolas youth come here to train. Our next stop was a spaghetti lunch at Landeck Castle. It was simple but we ate it all!
The dessert was sachertorte, chocolate and apricot with the pieces much too skimpy!!!!

The castle was primitive and very old, probably about the 15th century.
There were many artifacts that showed how people lived and farmed in those days. Many things were ornately carved and decorated. That’s probably what they did in the middle of winter. We were interested in the toilet which was a seat on the second floor that emptied to the ground below. There was a magnificent panoramic view of the surrounding countryside from the tower above.

Our weather just got better and on Saturday we went to Liechtenstein, a tiny principality between Austria and Switzerland. Neither Liechtenstein nor Switzerland are in the European Union and they use Swiss currency so we were
busy converting from Swiss francs to Austrian schillings to US dollars. It was enough to bust ones brain!

We walked around the main street of the capital, Vaduz, and had a soup lunch at an outdoor cafe. Sharon was always ordering beer and stealing paper coasters for her souveniers. She was never once arrested!

Liechstenstein is famous for stamps, dolls and for having international corportations headquartered there to avoid taxes in other countries. Sharon and Marietta paid to have their passports stamped.

We stopped at a lovely ski village, St. Anton where the rum raisin ice cream was legendary. But alas, it was all gone. Most of the shops were closed on Saturday afternoon but we peeked in the windows anyway and headed home.

That night we walked to the cemetery in Steinach (I told Vic many times it was just around the NEXT corner!!!!) where family members come after dark to light candles for loved ones buried there. It was quite lovely. All the cemeteries in Austria are beautifully decorated with flowers and grave markers.

On Sunday morning we went back into Germany to the beautiful Wies Church, which is called “The church in the meadow.” They were having a Sunday mass and the choir and organ were outstanding. Then on to the original Cinderella castle, Neuschwanstein. (Disneys Fantasyland castle is modeled on it) .
We viewed it from afar and learned it was built by mad King Ludwig II who was greatly influenced by the French King, Louis XIV. We went on to visit the Castle of Linderhoff which was Ludwigs primary residence. The grounds were lovely and the interior was like a mini-Versailles. Ludwig built a grotto complete with an artificial lake, waterfalls and electric lights (before Edison) so he could enjoy opera there. He never invited guests; the elaborate operas were performed for him alone.

Our last day was Monday when we went to Salzburg, the birthplace of Mozart. Salzburg is charming with many public squares, magnificent churches, public fountains and narrow streets. There is a statue of Mozart and the famous Horse Fountain. The Sound of Music was filmed near Salzburg and we visited the old cemetery which was duplicated for the film. St. Peters Cathedral is where Mozart was baptised and is a magnificent structure which was rebuilt after being damaged in World War II. We had a tour of the city with a local guide and then had soup and sandwich lunch in a square where we could sit and watch the people. We were very happy to buy Mozart balls, chocolates wrapped in gold foil with Mozarts picture on them. A bit of shopping followed and Sharon looked at a down comforter cover (which was $170 US) but happily settled for a green, boiled wool coat to keep her warm in the Oregon winters. (Vic could not have seen her sleeping comfortably under that expensive sheet!!!)

We had a 2 1/2 hour ride back to Steinach and then dinner, followed by a musical presentation in the local hall. Three opera singers sang Austrian opera for us and then songs from the film, The Sound of Music. It was a late evening and moreover, we had to be ON the bus at 3:45 AM the next day.

We received a 3 AM wake up call and a “box breakfast” and were off to Zurich, after picking up other EO folks from other hotels, for our return flight home. Henry said we were on the “California extension.”

We stopped at the Swiss/Austrian border to have our VAT (value added tax) forms stamped so we could send in for tax-free refunds. We arrived in Zurich and bid “auf wiedersehen” to Europe.

Vic and Jeanne could not get their boarding passes all the way to DesMoines because they were flying Continental to Newark and then United to Chicago and on to DesMoines. The Zurich flight was to be delayed two hours because of weather conditions in Paris, so they would miss their connecting flight in Newark. We set them up with wheelchairs to speed them through customs and from the international to the domestic terminal in Newark and it worked! They made the connecting flight and returned to DesMoines about midnight on Tuesday. The motel paid for a taxi and they picked up Jeannes car the following morning, driving to Hampton where Vic had her car and Jeanne returned to Britt.

Marietta and Sharon also missed the connecting flight to Los Angeles in Newark but fortunately, there was a later non-stop flight which Continental held for them and the others on the Zurich flight. They returned to LAX about 9:30 PM and caught a shuttle with the other Fullerton folks to their front door!

It was quite a trip! We figured Vic was the oldest at 87, Marietta next at 83 and Jeanne was the youngster at 81. All three ladies went everywhere, saw everything, and we all had a great time!