Buongiorno! After spending a few days in Munich, we headed south to the beautiful city of Venice. What a city! Truly a unique city with all of its canals, gondolas and tourists all over the place. The weather was hot and the tourists were in full force during the day. As the sun started to go down though, the tourists not staying on the main islands left and everything felt a little different. We enjoyed walking along the waterfront trying to decide which pizza and gelato place to get dinner from. We purposefully got lost a few times wandering around the city streets and over the countless bridges.
We went to The Palazzo Ducale which is an elegant palace where the Venetian Doge (chief magistrate) lived. He was mostly a figurehead but he had a nice waterfront to live in (couldn’t take pictures unfortunately). We went to two other museums about Venice’s history but in retrospect, the main attraction was really just the city itself with it’s extremely unique location and charm.
I have always enjoyed the look and feel of Audi’s cars. I bought a 1997 A4 back in 2009 and have enjoyed driving it ever since. Trusty old Pearl has been a good car so far and with only 135,000 miles it will hopefully still last quite a while despite already being 15 years old.
We hopped a train out of Munich for a quick 45 minute ride to Ingolstadt, where the Audi headquarters and the Audi Forum are located. We took a tour of the factory where they produce A4s, A5s, and the Q5. Might’ve even been exactly where my car was built since it was built in Ingolstadt. It was an awesome tour! We couldn’t take pictures unfortunately but it was amazing to see their efficient assembly process which is 98% automated! The combination of robots, computers and new Audi cars was a paradise for a nerd like me.
The Audi museum had cars and motorcycles from the beginning of the company. They even had the A4 B5 model on display (that’s what my Pearl is). Guess my car is getting a little old if it can be displayed in the museum.
For our second day in Munich we took a “field trip” to the town of Füssen and Hohenschwangau where the famous Neuschwanstein Castle is located. The castle is perched up on a hill top looking over a lush green valley and a number of lakes. The area is also known for Swans. We toured the inside of the castle which was more modern had a darker style than an opulent castle like Versailles. It was a gorgeous castle from the outside one can definitely see how it inspired the design of the Disney castle. It was a great trip out of Munich and easy to get too but the 4 hours of train time was a little long. Fortunately, we passed the time watching 2 movies on the iPad.
We knew we couldn’t leave Europe without visiting some important historical site relating to World War II. It was quite a sobering experience to visit the Dachau Concentration Camp just to the west of Munich. It was disturbing to be at a place where so many people were forced into slavery essential and tens of thousands were murdered. The camp was overpopulated throughout WWII leading to especially bad living conditions for the prisoners. It was terrible to read about the science experiments conducted on prisoners, the 70×70 cm prison cells which forced a prisoner to stand for days at a time and see the gas chambers disguised as showers. It was a very sobering place to visit but good to see that camps like these are now free Memorials visited by millions annually which serve to educate current and future generations about the atrocities of the Holocaust.
We spent our last day in Zermatt taking a hike along a trail to the Matterhorn. We hiked up a ways above the city and came upon some Chalets built away from the city. Must be a nice lifestyle to living on the edge of the Alps in a secluded area. Zermatt was also hosting it’s annual tennis Open Tournament so we got to watch some decent tennis matches. We enjoyed our time in Switzerland a lot and Mich was sad to leave the beautiful mountains!
Yesterday afternoon we took a series of cable cars from Zermatt up to the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise. It really was a mountain paradise! The cable cars start in Zermatt and run through a series of 5 stations at increasing elevations. Zermatt is at 1620 meters (5300 ft) and the final stop is at the top of Klein Matterhorn at an elevation of 3883 meters (12,740 feet)! The ride took about 45 minutes and the views became more and more marvelous as we went up.
One of the most incredible things were the buildings at the top of the mountain. There was a full restaurant, viewing platforms and even a Glacier Palace with ice sculptures carved into the top of the mountain. Not quite sure how they built the place but it must’ve taken a lot of helicopter flights judging by the amount of concrete structure up there.
Ironically, we met a pair of honeymooning Gators at the top! The woman was even a 1st grade teacher from Gainesville. Once again, the GatorNation really is everywhere.
We are sad to be leaving the beautiful mountains of Switzerland tomorrow but are excited to head to Munich and explore southern Germany.
After spending 4 days in Paris, we hopped on a TGV train headed for Switzerland. Two changes later and a steep uphill train ride, we arrived in Zermatt, Switzerland, at the base of the Matterhorn. What a view! Zermatt is a really cool village of about 6,500 people where there are no cars. Just a handful of electric taxis and trucks. This makes it a very quiet city with bird chirping and the occasional church bells being the only sounds in the air.
On our last evening in Paris we took the obligatory trip up the Eiffel Tower. We actually only went half way up the tower since the only reserved tickets we could even buy in April were just for going half way up. The lines, even at 10:30 at night when we went up, we’re about 3 to 4 hours long just to buy tickets there! We even meet some random Florida Gators while up the tower. The GatorNation really is everywhere!
The Pont de l’Archevêché bridge from Notre Dame to the Left Bank of the Seine River in Paris has become well known for the “Love locks” that are attached by lovers from across the globe. Lovers attach a lock to the bridge and throw the keys into the Seine river below. Mich and I accidentally stumbled on this bridge although Mich had read about it before our trip and wanted to attach our own lock to the bridge. We bought a lock at a store nearby and the lady had a sharpie we borrowed to write on it. Now we have our own little momento left behind in Paris!
Let’s just say that the Louvre is ginormous. It used to be the largest building in the world and currently has a display area of 35 American football fields. Sure felt like we had covered a lot of ground after traipsing around for a few hours. We crammed in with all the other crazy tourists to take the obligatory pictures of the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo and the Winged Victory. It was a lot of fun to walk around a building with so much history and so many incredible paintings. This huge canvas was one of my favorites though since it was literally a huge painting of other paintings. The detail was incredible: