A Bavarian Odyssey
wasn't my German heritage that stimulated my desire to travel to Munich,
nor my Alpine expertise to see Innsbruck or love of everything Mozart
to see Salzburg. My admiration of the art produced in those regions
and the renowned art museums were the initial inspiration for our journey.
Along the way we would be sure to experience delicious food, beer and
wine and learn something of the culture, history and scenery of some
of the most beautiful regions in Europe.
My wife Anne and I have traveled in Europe enough to
know that the going can be a challenge for someone in a wheelchair.
With cobblestones, inaccessible transportation and abrupt street corners,
many journeys we have taken proved to be an arduous experience that
made the trouble of traveling barely worthwhile. Early spring is also
a chancy time to visit and we anxiously kept track of weather patterns
before we left, adding more clothes and rain gear to stave off the unpredictable
Marienplatz in Munich
I'm a C5-6 quad. Roughly, that means I can push myself
fine on level ground or inside but it doesn't take much of an incline
to slow me down. Anne has pushed, lifted, dressed and otherwise made
all this happen with unending patience and good humor. Our guiding principle
is "Go with the flow" and we usually find our groove after
a day or 2. My chair collapses and I usually take wheelie bars in case
I need take the wheels off temporarily for a tight squeeze. This time
we also brought along a "Comfort Carrier", www.broadenedhorizons.com/
it's a straightjacket-like affair that offers 6 points of handles and
made getting on and off the airplane a snap.
We first flew to Zurich and picked up a 2-door hatchback
from Hertz that had plenty of room for our bags and my chair. Our smartest
purchase was a GPS system that was an absolute dream come true in locating
our destination and keeping us on the right track. Since we'd be flying
back home from Zurich we reserved the last 2 days to explore here.
English Garden, Munich
The Swiss countryside on the way to Munich is the rural
pastoral we are familiar with through "Sound of Music" and
"Heidi" and is evoked with yodeling and lederhosen. For our
several day stay in Munich we had booked an apartment through Vacation
Rental by Owner, www.vrbo.com. We've used their service before and were
pleased with the locations and people we encountered. This time Josef
and Gabriele would make us feel at home with a fastidiously clean space
not 3 blocks from the nearest subway stop.
It's nice to have the quieter feel of an outlying neighborhood
to start and end the day at and since the subway is so accessible and
convenient we didn't need our car at all. We took some time to stock
our cupboards and Anne began her collection of different tubes of specialty
mustard. She had used up the ones she got last year in Vienna and had
vowed to bring back a few extra. The different sausages, cheeses and
breads were fabulous and I started tasting my first real German beers
Gabriele had put out apple strudel for her guests in
the morning and we lucked out with the weather but encountered our first
confusion at the subway stop. We couldn't figure out how the electronic
ticket kiosk worked so took the elevator to the platform to seek assistance.
There was no one apparently managing the station so we just got on and
decided to buy our tickets at the central station when we transferred
to a different line. There is a stiff fine if you're caught without
a ticket but we ended up not bothering until we took an above ground
tram. Konigsplatz is the museum quarter and is also the site of the
book burning of the Third Reich. No such animosity exists now and the
grounds of the former parade grounds have a grimly classical solemnity.
Livelier is the park that borders the Alte Pinokoteka,
the Neue and Modern Pinokotekas with lounging students, football players
and picnicking families. My study of art history gave me a hint of the
treasures within Alte Pinokoteka but I was still bowled over by the
depth of the collection and amazed at the architectural details of the
galleries. Masterpieces by Rubens and Rembrandt, Durer and Bruegel,
even an exquisite Madonna and Child by Leonardo delighted my eyes. It
seemed a bit of a shame to spend so much time inside on such a beautiful
day but I was on a mission and planned on seeing the Neue Pinokoteka.
Here we did encounter some steep ramps but I probably could've gotten
around by doubling back to the lift if needed. The collection here leans
heavily on the German realist painters and I particularly enjoyed seeing
key works by Lovis Corinth and Caspar David Friedrich as well as the
painters of the Romantic School.
We would save the Modern Pinokoteka for another day
and started heading towards the old town center of Marienplatz and dinner
at the famous Hofbrauhaus. Munich is quite level and the bicycle lanes
make crossing streets in a chair fairly easy, even when crossing over
the tram tracks. Marienplatz is much like other large European plazas
we've enjoyed with ornate details on the Old Town Hall and the decorative
Glockenspiel adding a special dimension. Tourists and locals intersect
and souvenir kiosks and overpriced cafes line the perimeter. We snap
requisite photos and explore side streets and get our bearings.
The worst of the cobblestones are in front of the Hofbrauhaus
but we soon forget about that minor inconvenience and with gusto grab
a table by the band and literally soak up the atmosphere with the house
brew and a heaping plate of pork and cabbage. It's April 20th and I
wonder how many patrons are aware that this is Hitler's birthday and
that he plotted his coup at one of these tables and set the world on
fire. Later we would visit the Staademuseum where a special exhibition
detailed the rise of National Socialism with banners, uniforms and swastika-laden
paraphernalia. Other comprehensive exhibits here include an amazing
collection of musical instruments and a floor of all manner of puppets.
Brom & Anne above Innsbruck
The main cathedral, Frauenkirche, has an accessible
ramp but none of the others we visited were readily accessible. The
nearby English Gardens were accessible though and the hard packed trails
provided a couple hours of peaceful tranquility amid the bustle of the
city. Other sites near Marienplatz that should not be missed is the
Victualienmarkt, with dozens of vegetable, meat, cheese, flower and
bakery stalls surrounding a large beer garden with a tradition maypole.
Our favorite dining spot was Volkmeier, near Marienplatz that was highly
recommended and didn't disappoint. We arrived a little early to avoid
cigarette smokers and enjoyed a sensational meal without the rush and
Our last day consisted of visits to more museums of
art and an excursion to Nymphenburg Palace. The palace is well maintained
and will soon be much more accessible than it is currently. We were
able to tour the grounds, the adjoining Natural History Museum and the astounding
Salzburg is barely an hour away by car and in retrospect
we would have been just as well off staying in Munich and taken day
trips but it was great to be more relaxed and have 3 full days to explore
Mozart's hometown. The Renaissance Hotel is not close to old town but
did have an accessible room with a large bathroom. It was near to the
bus station and we quickly learned to buy 2 all day Salzburg passes.
These will give us unlimited bus service and free admission to many
The fortress Hohensalzberg dominates the skyline above
Salzburg and though the street leading to the funicular landing is a
climb, once aboard, the two-minute ascent deposits one at a tremendous
viewpoint. Most of the fortress is inaccessible but we had a memorable
meal in the outdoor café with an outstanding panoramic view of
the river valley below. An equally impressive view can be had at the
other end of old town on a terrace above the Modern Art Museum.
Credit: Courtesy Salzburg Tourism
Our Salzburg card gained us entry into the opulent Royal
Residence that has recently been restored to its former glory and to
the surprisingly delightful Hellbrunn Trick Fountains. This summer retreat
for the royal family has a sensational series of ingenious mechanical
contraptions that are all powered by the streams running through the
grounds. We were able to catch the last tour of the day and marveled
at the whimsical characters that danced, the stone serpents that sprayed
water and a grotto that gave an object lesson to young royals. A spurt
of water would elevate a crown that would rise and fall, thus demonstrating
how power can wax or wane depending on the whims of fate.
The weather decided to take a turn for the worst and
we sought indoor attractions. The Spiegel Brewery is continuing to expand
its grounds and though the tour of the operation was not accessible,
we were able to visit the museum and had a terrific meal in their restaurant.
We easily could have spent a few more days seeing the sights but our
itinerary required us to depart early the next day for Innsbruck.
Some of the most magnificent glacial scenery I've ever
seen appears all around us as we approach Innsbruck and I catch sight
of a sign directing us to the Swarovski Crystal Factory in Wattens.
Dazzling displays in a creative series of pavilions demonstrate the
artistic capabilities of light, color and sound and we spend several
hours (and quite a few Euros) in the exhibits and factory store.
Innsbruck is only a few kilometers further and soon
we are ensconced in the downtown Hilton with an outstanding view of
the Alpine horizon and within easy walking distance of the old town.
The streets are fairly level and the promenade along the Wipptal River
is terrific with colorful building facades and gingerbread flourishes
among the architectural embellishments. Our main interest is to take
the cable car to the nearby mountaintop but it's late and we'll wait
until early morning when the crowds will be lighter and the weather
better. Our hotel recommends a nearby Italian restaurant and we suspend
our agreement to simply order one entrée when eating out and
splitting it along with a salad. We both bring leftovers back to our
room and I will enjoy cold risotto for tomorrow's breakfast.
The unusual terminal for the cable car was designed
by Zaha Hadid and is evocative of snowdrifts in its structure. We gradually
ascended to an intermediate level that gave a hint to the spectacular
view further up. Those with a fear of heights might pass on the next
leg of the ascent, as the precipitous climb is nearly vertical. The
panorama of the entire Alpine Range is a worthy reward for a mild case
of acrophobia and we are amazed at those who nonchalantly hop of the
lift, strap on skis and schuss straight down the slope.
When finally we descend there are large groups of men
congregating in traditional Tyrolean costumes with brass bands, muskets
and paraphernalia from their particular regions. We never did discover
the reason but it made for quite a spectacle to see groups of men in lederhosen
marching around town in lockstep to the strains of brass bands.
After lounging in the city's delightful park and sipping beers in the
historic square we shop for picnic essentials and set our GPS for Liechtenstein
and drive towards the headquarters of the International Association
of Mouth and Foot Painting Artists, the main sponsor of my artwork.
This illustrious group is over 50 years old and provides a livelihood
to 400+ member artists around the world through the sale of greeting
cards, calendars and other products.
We have enjoyed many wonderful experiences at the conventions
that are regularly scheduled in capitals around the globe. It is a pleasure
to spend time with our friends and to tour Vaduz, the capital of Liechtenstein.
This fairy tale land is surrounded by majestic scenery and dominated
by the royal castle above town. No tours in the residence but the brand
new art museum and stamp museum have treasures galore. We were taken
to a far off cliff face for lunch where we could see Liechtenstein,
Austria and Germany all at the same time.
We stayed overnight and the custom of low, hard beds
in many of the hotels is somewhat surprising. We were prepared and had
an inflatable pad for my hip but it was still an unpleasant night's
sleep and a difficult transfer for Anne.
Our last stop was Zurich where we managed well enough
in a spartan hotel with few amenities. The price was higher than anywhere
else so we stayed 2 nights was able to get a taste of the place. I'm
sure we missed some terrific attractions and were unable to access either
the Chinese or Botanical Gardens easily. The art museum is truly outstanding
and the comprehensive collections were a delight from start to finish.
Masterpieces by Fuseli and Hodler and other noted Swiss artists share
space with schools from all periods and countries. I had never seen
a full-scale version of Rodin's "Gates of Hell" before but
just outside the main entrance it looms. We spent some terrific time
in the large park south of town and would've taken a ferry around the
lake but heavy weather came and we headed back with groceries in a downpour.
It can be hazardous crossing over the many rail tracks
for the city's mostly accessible transportation system and we struggled
with cobblestones here worse than our other stops. The city is beautiful
though and I hope to return to sample the other cultural attractions.
Typical Swiss efficiency meets us at the airport the
next day and we're pleased to get a few perks reserved for the disabled.
It has been an amazing journey with my beloved and we are deepened by
our experience. Though my chair posed special problems at times we were
rarely disappointed and met some wonderful people who helped to make
the trip a joy.
Visit Brom at www.bromwikstrom.com.