Salzburg, Austria and Bolzano, Italy
April, 2004

 As we drove through Germany, Austria, Italy and Switzerland we noticed a lot of people looking us over.  Either our driving style was different, or we stood out as tourists.  We weren't sure what it was, and then Ed thought maybe it was just the rental car.
He asked a couple of guys looking at us, and sure enough, it was the car.  Cheryl got a free upgrade for renting via the Internet or something.  We got an Audi that is apparently highly regarded in Europe, and perfect for the no-speed-limit Autobahn. 

The car has airbags for each wheel.  We could adjust the height and cushion of the ride, but we noticed that when we drove above 130 kilometers per hour that the bags automatically deflated to lower the center of gravity.  You can see on the speedometer that we're doing 190 kph.  Our top speed was 200 kph (125 mph).  Usually we cruised between 140 and 160 (87 - 100 mph).  It makes getting around a lot faster.   It felt safer than driving in America because it's illegal to pass on the right side.  You don't have anyone swerving left and right through the lanes.  However, at 125 mph you really have to watch the road.
A slow truck, say doing 45 mph up a hill, comes up mighty fast.  We found ourselves coming up on them at 80 mph to be exact.

The car also had a cool navigation system -- very helpful for the spaghetti-bowl roads we'd run into.   She, (the female voice with a British accent,) would keep us well informed of every upcoming turn, any traffic congestion and road construction areas.

Onward to Salzburg

Salzburg, Austria is known for Mozart and the VonTrapp's "Sound of Music", but we decided to visit a place that sounded like more fun.  We toured the Berchtesgaden Salt Mines.

It wasn't until we looked for some salt and pepper at the store that we realized Salt in German is Salz; hence "Salt" burg; duh.

 Everyone is provided with a traditional salt miner's uniform, including a small leather apron. Then we rode a little open-air train deep into the mountain.
The tour included a boat ride on a subterranean lake and demonstrations of how salt is mined. For the most part, the salt walls are sprayed with water, the water is pumped to the top, and the salt removed from the brine.

To get to some of the lower parts of the mine, we had to slide down two very long, slick, wooden banisters.  It was fun and fast -- but the friction was a little warm on the rear-end.

Oh, that's what the leather apron is for -- you're suppose to sit on it -- duh!

Salzburg is a great tourist town.  Easy to get around and lots to see.  In the summer there are many music festivals. 
The huge building on top of the hill is Hohensalzburg Fortress.  We read that it was so strong and scary looking, that in over 1,000 years, it was never attacked.  (We'll describe really scary castles when we get to Bacharach on the Rhine River.)
Our next stop was the city of Bolzano, in Northern Italy and the beautiful Dolomite Mountains.

The local craftsmen are famous for their woodcarvings.  We passed this unmarked statue placed along the side of a mountain road.

The Dolomites were an unexpected surprise.  As beautiful as the Alps, the area is full of small towns and ski resorts.  This is where the famous Italian skier, Alberto Tomba, is from.  He won a bunch of downhill skiing gold medals in the 1992 Olympics.

Another unexpected surprise was the awesome city of Bolzano, Italy.  Population 100,000, it's claim to fame, (and the reason that we planned a stop here,) is the South Tirol Museum of Archaeology.  This is the home of the famous 5,500 year old Ice Man found by two hikers in the 1990's.

We stayed at the Stadt Hotel Citta.  It's the pink building in the town's square.  The square is called Piazza Walther and is the place to sit and people-watch.

Most people have seen photos of the Ice Man.  He's been the subject of documentaries and on the cover of National Geographic.  Here's a photo of what he would have looked like the day he died.

The Discovery site has an excellent feature on the mystery of the Iceman.

and here's the official South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology website in English and Italian.

Another great walking and shopping town.  In both Salzburg and Bolzano you park your car in a garage and forget about it until you're ready to leave town.

Great food here.  We were finally in the land of pizza and spaghetti instead of the land of wurst and kraut.

Here's another view of Piazza Walther.

We highly recommend Bolzano if you're visiting Italy.  The Museum was excellent, and you are actually able to see Oetzi the Ice Man laying out in his custom freezer.  (Unfortunately, we weren't able to take photos.) 


Looking down from our hotel room balcony.  Another picture to add to our unique collection.

Though we hated to leave Bolzano so soon, the next morning we headed off to Venice.
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