MNA members travel to Germany and Austria
From the Massachusetts Nurse Newsletter
February/March 2011 Edition
By Carol Mallia
Nurse and Avid Traveler
MNA has enjoyed nine wonderful years of offering European tours to our members and their friends and families. This past autumn, I had the pleasure of leading a group of 33 travelers to Austria and Bavaria. We departed on Sept. 15 and flew to Munich through Zurich on Swiss Air.
We were greeted in Munich by our first tour escort and set off for our hotel in Innsbruck, Austria, via the beautiful countryside of Bavaria to see the Alps of Tyrol. We checked into the Hotel Grauer Bar (Gray Bear) for some rest before our welcome reception and dinner. The hotel was located in the heart of Innsbruck and just steps from the city’s old center square. Many of us enjoyed an evening walk in the large park located behind the hotel before retiring for the night.
After a hearty buffet breakfast the next day, we set out to explore the valley of Innsbruck. We first visited “Crystal World” at the Swarovski Factory to view its impressive modern art collection, including its amazing glass and crystal displays. We then returned to the old town to meet up with our local guide, Alexandra, for a walking tour that included the Hofburg Palace, Innsbruck’s ornate cathedral, and the famous “Golden Roof.” We had free time in the afternoon to explore the town’s cobbled streets and shops at leisure. Some of the passengers visited the Olympic ski jump, which offered spectacular views of the city. A three-course dinner was offered at the hotel that evening.
The next day we headed out to the magical city of Salzburg, home of Mozart and The Sound of Music. We met up with another local guide who showed us the city, shared with us the history of Mozart, expanded on the city’s wonderful architecture and historical sites, and led us to countless beautiful shops. Many of us used our free time in the afternoon to ride the cable car up to the monastery at the top of the hill, which was featured in The Sound of Music. We later returned to the hotel for another wonderful three-course dinner.
Next up were tours of Vipiteno and the Dolomites. We traveled along the magnificent Dolomite Mountains to Lienz for lunch and on the way we passed Austria’s highest peak, Grossglockner, and the famous ski resort of Kitzbuehel. Later, we stopped in Vipiteno for some shopping before heading over Europe’s highest road bridge, the Brenner Pass, to return to Innsbruck for dinner and a leisurely night.
Our next day was the highlight of the trip for many MNA travelers: our visit to Munich during Oktoberfest. The day began with a tour of Munich center with some free time for exploring the markets and local sites. In the afternoon, we headed to Oktoberfest. The event was even larger than expected since it was the 200th anniversary of this annual two-week festival. It is one of the city’s most famous events and it is the world’s largest fair, with some 6 million people attending annually. We had a reserved section in the Hippodrome tent and enjoyed the impressive variety of food and beer that was available. We ate, danced, mingled and shopped and returned to the hotel late in the evening.
The weather was perfect for our trip to the Eagle’s Nest in Obersalzberg and Lake Konigsee. The Eagle’s Nest, which was the summer retreat of Adolf Hitler, is perched high in the Bavarian Alps and it provided us with amazing views of both Germany and Austria. We then headed to Lake Konigsee, known as the King’s Lake, which is the deepest and cleanest lake in Germany. We took a charming boat cruise on Konigsee, to eat lunch at an outdoor restaurant. The quiet, electric-powered boat returned us back to the wonderful shopping area and we explored the countryside before heading back to the hotel for dinner.
On our last full day in the region, we crossed the border into Germany and traveled to the fairytale-like castle of Neuschwanstein. This magnificent castle is probably the best known of King Ludwig’s many monumental achievements. It was also the castle where the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was filmed. We took a guided tour of the castle and then many of us enjoyed a horse and buggy ride back to the base of the mountain to meet the bus. Fromthere, we headed to the town of Garmisch Partenkirchen and the home of the Passion Play, Oberammergau. We wandered the quaint shops and after picking up a few treasures returned to Innsbruck and enjoyed a special farewell dinner with our traveling companions.
Our trip home was calm and smooth, with everything running on schedule and as promised. Thinking back, this tour had the right combination of natural beauty, historic sightseeing and just pure fun. Staying in the beautiful city of Innsbruck at a wonderful hotel only added to the value of the tour.
If you missed this tour and would like to participate in the next MNA trip, e-mail Carol Mallia at email@example.com and request a 2011 flyer. We head next to Sorrento in May and Paris/the French countryside in October.