While the attempt to introduce a new Health Care Bill dies in Washington, we are enjoying the attractions in Germany and Austria!
First stop was Stuttgart to see the Porsche factory and Museum. If anyone had told me I could spend 8 hours in a Porsche facility I would have told them they had lost their marbles. But we did and I enjoyed every minute. First, there is the factory itself – with floors that are so clean you could eat a meal on them. The tour takes you through the entire line so you get to see each stage of the production of the cars built in Stuttgart – Boxster, Cayman and 911s. When the chassis gets paired with its body, they actually call it the “marriage.”
After two hours with a wonderful guide who could answer every detailed question and seemed thrilled when one of the group knew a technical answer, we went to have lunch in the elegant restaurant above the museum called Christophorus. I never expected to have a gourmet meal at a car factory. But we did and discovered that there are some very excellent German red wines from the Trocken area which were dry and very smooth without being fruity or sweet. The food was fabulous – especially the “surf and turf” which was a lobster and filet that easily fed two and a goose pate that melted in the mouth. The best part though was overlooking the circle where the sculpture sits of three Porsches high in the sky and watching various Porsches, BMWs, and Audis whizz by underneath us.
The museum was our last stop of the day where we spent several hours with a private guide taking us through the history of Porsche and getting to see all the cars up close. They even have trial buttons for one to punch to hear the sound of a racing car engine or a tractor. (Yes, Porsche made tractors for a while. They even have a fire truck on display which still runs.)
We discovered that at our hotel, Althoff Hotel am Schlossgarten, was a small wine bar and bistro that made excellent food and also served a Trocken wine under their label. The chicken was perfect – moist and full of flavor with fresh local vegetables as were the various sausages that we had for hors d’oeuvres.
One night we went to the highly rated Olivo restaurant for an eight-course meal. It was superb. My companion and I had a slight difference of opinion – he thought it was as good as Epicure in Paris but I thought it was a notch down – either way, it was delicious and the amusement was that the German chef had once worked at Mar-a-Lago.
Then it was off to Salzburg – a city that is nestled in the mountains and is absolutely beautiful. We did not do the “Sound of Music” tour but instead wandered the old city streets, went up the funicular to the Fortress Hohensalzburg which has a magnificent view of the valley and has never been breached which is totally understandable once you stand at the top of the fortress and look down the sheer rock face. There is no way to get up unseen. Much to my surprise, the luncheon restaurant next to where the funicular deposits you atop the mountain turned out to be an excellent source of a large plate of various sausages with saucer kraut, fresh shaved horseradish, and exquisite mustard. Who would have thought?
Another place to visit is St. Peter’s cemetery or Petersfriedhof. It may sound maudlin but it isn’t. The plots and mausoleums are beautiful with fresh flowers and amazing carvings at each space. In addition, the cemetery has catacombs that date back to the late fifth century and are amazing to wander through.
We noticed a tent sign on one of our walks for a Mozart concert that was to be at three in the afternoon. We found the Alten Residenz and bought two tickets (18 Euro each) and were seated in a small room that had a domed roof and white washed walls. Sitting at the corner of the “l” shaped room was a harpsichord. We were the only ones there. Just before three, someone came to apologize that since there were only the two of us, the concert had been canceled but we could come back at 5 for a later program. We decided to try once more and how lucky we were. In the same room, there were about 20 people and two musicians – one on harpsichord and the other on violin. Tatiana Aleksandrova on the harpsichord and Lutz Bartberger on the violin. They played three sonatas and it was heaven to hear Mozart in his birth city up close and personal with two excellent musicians who clearly loved their art and instruments. Aleksandrova gave introductions to each piece in German and English and accompanied the information with interesting funny tales of Mozart. They do the concert daily – but we suggest don’t try the 3 pm just go for the 5 o’clock!
We decided to avoid another large fancy meal and so went to our hotel’s recommendation Pizzeria Il Sole which was a down-home Italian restaurant that served excellent carpaccio and pasta. (A good sign was that Italians were also eating there.)
If you are ever in Salzburg, do stay at the Goldener Hirsch. It is elegant and is a fascinating web of halls and rooms since it is three townhouses put together, the oldest being from the 1400s. The atmosphere is traditional (but with updated bathrooms) and the staff is extremely helpful. One night we ate in their “international” dining room and had delicious smoked salmon, spinach pasta and homemade vanilla ice cream that was mouthwatering without any need for chocolate sauce to be added. The bar is delightful and luckily for me stocks Glenmorangie. For others, they keep a large bucket of ice with multiple bottles of champagne at the ready.
We headed for Vienna but stopped at the Melk Abbey on the way. Perched near the Danube it is an awe-inspiring building that not only houses an exquisite High Baroque church with enough gold leaf in it to fill the coffers of a US city for a prolonged period of time, but it is also a living Benedictine abbey with monks, a convent, and a high school for approximately 900 students. It is a beautiful building with lovely gardens and a new restaurant that serves absolutely delicious food – including an Abbey soup that is a beef broth with fresh vegetables and herbs from the gardens on the property with vermicelli noodles thrown in. It is listed as an appetizer but is a meal unto itself.
Next week: Vienna and Munich!