Yvonne and I left for Europe on May 2, 2002. We went through Atlanta, and then Paris, before finally ending up in Frankfurt after a gruelling 20 something hour travel day. We had originally planned on arriving in Prague, but learned at the last minute that the Czech government only recently passed a law that Canadian visitors must purchase a visa through the Czech government before visiting that country. We found out later that the reason for this new visa requirement on Canadians was that a few years ago a Czech broadcasting corporation once aired a television show showing the Roma in their country (Roma are also known as Gypsies, though they deem that an offensive term), who believe they are a mistreated minority in the Czech republic, that they could have a much better life if they all packed up and moved to Canada and that Canada would support them. After a thousand Roma sold all that they owned to buy one-way plane tickets and started arriving in Canada and declaring refugee status (all within several months), Canada made it that Czech citizens now need visas to enter Canada. Czech, in turn, added the same requirement for Canadians. We only learned this after arriving in Europe, of course (our travel books had not yet updated this information), so we had to make some fast last minute arrangements and finally ended up in Frankfurt.

Having seen Frankfurt before (in 1996), Yvonne and I decided to take an overnight train (since we arrived in the evening) to Salzburg. We got to Salzburg early in the morning and stayed at one of the first hotels that we could find that was close to the center of town. Since a breakfast came included with the stay, we stayed up for a few more hours until 6:30 or so when the breakfast commenced - which was a feat considering we had been awake for over 24 hours at that point. We ate breakfast and then went back to sleep until the afternoon.

Salzburg was awesome. It was my first time there and I found it to be a very beautiful city. It has some very nice churches and an excellent castle atop a hill in the center of town - many cities in Europe share these same structures. In general, it seems that from what I've seen, Austria has become one of my favorite countries in Europe. There is lots to see and do there and everywhere you look you can find very beautiful scenery.

1. Yvonne standing by the castle wall overlooking Salzburg.

While we were in town we ate at a place called the Stieglkeller which is a biergarten near the old Salzburg castle. They had some excellent food and great beer (Stiegl is a local Salzburg brew). In fact, the place was so good that on our second night in Salzburg we looked around for a good restaurant downtown and, finding none, returned to the Stieglkeller to try out two different dishes. The beer, of course, was the same.


1. me holding some Wiener Schnitzel and a Stiegl beer.

2. Yvonne holding up a plate of Salzburger Nockerl (Souffle).

On our second day we were in Salzburg we took two organized tours. The first tour was a tour of the Bavarian mountains (the bus crossed the border into Germany) with a quite jovial guide named Walter. We went to the Obersalzberg, the Nazi's southern headquarters, which is located near the Eagle's Nest which is a fortress high atop the Kehlstein mountain. While we were in the region we went to a very nice town called Berchtesgaden.


1. Yvonne on the streets of Berchtesgaden.

2. me sitting on the road in Berchtesgaden. One thing that I noticed was that people in Europe in general seem to be very into flowers and prettying things up by using them.

3. Yvonne seated on a ledge in Berchtesgaden overlooking a valley.

After touring the town we went to a genuine working salt mine. This was a very fun experience - I realized while taking this tour that we did things that tourists probably wouldn't have the opportunity to do in the States. For example, we took a mine train deep into the mountain. We were sitting on carts that went through a very narrow crevice. If someone were to move their head too far to the left or too far to the right, it would probably be taken off by protruding rock - it was truly a lawsuit waiting to happen. Not to mention that the train was clipping along at a decent pace, which was quite exciting. At any rate, while in the salt mine we got to wear some traditional mining uniforms, see some cool machinery, smell some interesting smells, and we even slid down some slides constructed to speed workers deep into the mineshafts.


1. Yvonne in the salt mine near an English language sign. Since our guide within the mines didn't speak any languages other than German, he would give his spiel in German and then press a button on the wall. The English speakers (there were 6 of us out of about 35 people) would look for the English sign and then crowd around the nearby speaker to listen to the spiel recorded in English.

2. me in the mines playing with some cool mine machinery (it didn't actually work - darn).

3. Yvonne and I on one of the slides within the mine.

That's it for now - more to come later.