For the past month I've been pretty busy. I have been using weekends wisely and have made several short trips to Amsterdam, Munich, Salzburg, Vienna, and Bratislava.
I was in a small town near Munich for work. I go there a few times a year actually. But this was the first time besides Oktoberfest when I actually had enough time to see the city. That being said, I was only there for a few hours. I walked around a bit, saw the glockenspiel, and ate a pork sandwich. Nowadays I really struggle to find interesting things to see in all these European cities. I usually don't go to any museums or monuments anymore unless I happen to stumble upon something good or it's really famous. It's not that I don't like these things. It's just that usually, after I go home and return to my life, these are not the things I remember; these are not the places that stay in my mind or the experiences that change me. Instead, I try to search for the more interesting things. So what I did find worthwhile in Munich was the permanent wave in the Eisbach river and the group of surfers that ride it. The wave is manmade and I guess is formed by other water coming from an underground tunnel. The surfers are a group of locals who all seem to know each other and always have a crowd watching them. I only watched for 20 minutes, but this is what I will remember most from this city.
The next few days I traveled around Salzburg, Austria. The first day I spent hiking in Berchtesgaden National Park in Germany, and marveled at how much gear people think is necessary to bring in order to hike halfway up (people usually take the gondola up the first half) and all the way down a small mountain. Most groups had a full large day pack and two trekking poles per person. It's good to be prepared and all, but you don't need this much stuff for a 6 hour hike in a well populated area. This goes with my personal stereotype that most Germans are overly prepared and like having and using a different tool for all occasions. The last day near Salzburg I went to Eisriesenwelt, the largest ice cave in the world. An ice cave is any cave with significant amounts of ice year round. The tour for this cave starts at 1641 meters up the mountain and goes through the first 1 kilometer of the cave. Inside is a world of natural ice formations which are constantly changing as new water leaks through the walls. I've been in lots of caves before and this one was the best and most unique. Unfortunately pictures were not allowed, but go here to see the majesty.
On another trip I went to Vienna, Austria with Stefanie and some of her friends. We spent most of the time in cafes and museums. I tried the wiener schnitzel, which supposedly comes from Vienna (spelled Wien in German), and lots of other regional foods, but nothing really stuck out as being exceptionally good. It's a bit sad, but I can't really think of anything really noteworthy about the city. It's nice, very historical, plenty of things to see, but I never found anything really original or exciting. While I was there, I did take a day trip over to Bratislava, Slovakia by myself, and I actually found it more interesting than nearby Vienna. To me it looked like an East European town with Mediterranean and West European influences and remnants of the Soviet era. It's a relatively quiet small town with not too many tourists. I liked walking around and even popped my head into two different church services to check things out.
All in all I consider Austria as Germany's less popular but very similar cousin. Other than a different accent, I didn't find too many real differences between the two. I had a good time, but I was disappointed that I never heard anyone talk like Arnold Schwarzenegger.