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Leipzig

I went to Leipzig on my way back from Dresden.  I didn’t stay overnight in Leipzig, I just took a few hours in between trains on the way back so I could see a bit of the city.

My first order of business was taking the number 15 tram to the Völkerschlachtdenkmal, known in English as the Monument to the Battle of the Nations.  This is a monument to commemorate Napoleon’s defeat at the 1813 Battle of Leipzig.

I only wish I’d had better conditions for photography.  The sun was behind the monument, which made getting a clear shot very difficult.  There are some really beautiful pictures of the Völkerschlachtdenkmal on the Internet.  Mine isn’t one of them.

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Coming back into the center of town on the tram, I stopped by the Panorama Tower, seen on the left.  It’s the tallest point in Leipzig, and for three Euros, you can go to the observation level at the top.

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I was there on a really hazy day, but I still got a few nice shots from the top.

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The tall church visible in this photo is the Nikolaikirche (St. Nicholas Church).

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The Leipzig Hauptbahnhof is absolutely enormous.  I noticed the size of it when I arrived, and thought that perhaps it was the largest I had seen.  It turns out that I was correct-  according to Wikipedia, the Leipzig main station is the world’s largest railway station measured by floor area.  Here’s the outside, as seen from the Panorama Tower.

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Here’s my attempt to capture the inside of the Leipzig station.  It was simply too big for even a single photograph to capture.

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In every city I’ve ever visited, someone has been playing music for money.   Leipzig was no exception.

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These next two photos are of statues inside the Auersbachs Keller Leipzig which were interesting to me.  The statues face each other.  The first depicts students bewitched by Mephisto.

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The second depicts Mephisto and Faust.

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Walking through the city, here’s Nikolaikirche up close.

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On the side of the Nikolaikirche, opposite the Bach museum, is a nice statue to Bach.  Between Bach, Mozart, and Goethe, I’m collecting the whole set.

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I think this is the New Town Hall.

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Even if it isn’t, I liked the clock in this tower.

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Have you ever been to Leipzig? 

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Dresden

During the last weekend in March, I went to Dresden and Leipzig. I partly went because I wanted to knock off two more Category One stations from my list, but I would have gone even without the stations- I’d heard nothing but good things about Dresden, and I was really looking forward to seeing it.

My walk through Dresden was a big counter-clockwise circle.  I started by taking the tram over the Elbe river and walking toward the Augustusbrücke and the Golden Rider.  On the way, I found a puppetry museum.

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I thought I would have a difficult time finding the Goldener Reiter, but it turns out he wasn’t subtle at all.

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There were lots of interesting statues all over town.  I particularly liked this one, near the Augustusbrücke.

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Walking across the Elbe on the Augustusbrücke from the north, this is the view into the city.   The structure on the right is the Catholic Church of the Royal Court of Saxony.

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This statue is in the courtyard to the left of that church.

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When I reached the end of the bridge, I stumbled across a protest.   The little girl behind this sign was honking a noisemaker and there were cymbals and that sort of thing.   One of the people protesting came to talk to me about it- apparently there’s an upcoming rule that will prevent midwives from working due to insurance regulations.   For the curious, here’s a site detailing the protest, a FaceBook group about it, and a Bundestag petition fighting it.

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Continuing my walk around the city, I snapped this picture because I thought it would look awesome.

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This structure was directly across from the Church.  I’m still not entirely sure what this was.

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The protest and parade backed up traffic a bit.  I’m glad I wasn’t on one of these trams.

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My next stop was the Zwinger, an old palace which is now the home of several museums including my destination, the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister (Old Master’s Picture Gallery.)

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While inside, I walked past Boticellis, Vermeers, Rembrandts, Rubens, and more.  A particular highlight was Raphael’s Sistine Madonna, a very large painting which most people know from the two Cherubim in the bottom.  There’s a picture of the full painting over on Wikipedia if you’d like to see it.  The main entrance to the gallery is in this archway.  I walked right past it into the courtyard at first.

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From the Zwinger, I went on to one of the most well known landmarks in Dresden, the Frauenkirche, or Church of Our Lady.  The church was completely destroyed during the bombing of Dresden in World War II, but was rebuilt after German reunification in 1990.

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For a small fee, you can ascend to the top of the Frauenkirche.  There’s an elevator for the first chunk, then a smooth ramped walkway circling the dome, then stairs at the very top.  Great views from the top, though.  This one contains the Augustusbrücke and the church I mentioned earlier.

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After I got back down from the dome, I wanted to see the inside of the church.  This image amused me terribly.  I guess angels really are everywhere!

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Inside the rebuilt Frauenkirche.

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Across the square from the Frauenkirche are plenty of other picturesque buildings.  I saw this one just before I went for lunch at the Canadian steakhouse.  I had a tasty bison steak.

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There are always people in major cities doing things for money.  Like these two.

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A short distance from the Frauenkirche, back toward the Elbe river, there’s a rather nifty sculpture with a bunch of representations of the planets in the ground.  It’s not a full representation of the solar system though, and I’m not quite sure why.

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This is the view of the Augustusbrücke from the planets sculpture.

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On my walk back toward the hotel, I noticed that Spring has well and truly come to Germany.  You can tell because any time it gets sunny and warm, lounging Germans appear all over green spaces in Germany.  This isn’t very crowded, but give it a few more degrees and you won’t see very much green through the sunbathing people.

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Have you ever been to Dresden?

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Day Trip To The Zugspitze

The Alps are just a few hours away from Regensburg by car or train.  Nestled within the Alps is the Zugspitze, Germany’s tallest mountain.    The Zugspitze is 2962 meters (9718 feet) high.  From the summit on a clear day, you can see mountain peaks in four countries.

Since I love tall places, of course I had to go and see it.  There are trains between Munich and Garmisch-Partenkirchen almost once an hour, so getting there is pretty easy.  As you approach the mountain from Garmisch-Partenkirchen, you can see a ski jump.  The 1936 Winter Olympics were held here, opened by Adolf Hitler.

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Once you arrive in G-P, you walk from the Bahnhof to the Zugspitzbahnhof right next door, to pay for your ticket up the mountain and back.  The first part of the journey is by cogwheel train, until you get to Eibsee.  From there, you take the Eibsee Seilbahn cable car up the side of the mountain.

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When you reach the peak, the views are amazing.  On one side, you have a separate cable car that goes to and from the Schneeferner glacier below.

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There’s an observation deck at the very top, with the highest beer garden in Germany.

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This weather monitoring and research station helps to monitor climate change.

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There are cable cars coming up from both Germany and Austria, since the mountain sits on the border.  Part of the summit faciliites is on the Austrian side-  I walked in and out of Austria twice before I realized it was a border crossing.

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Despite it being t-shirt weather at the base of the mountain, there was snow and ice at the top.

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The wind at the summit does very interesting things to the ice formations.  This is on a bit of metal stairs.

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The actual peak is accessible to people who want to climb up to it.  It’s set aside from the main facilities and does involve some climbing up in snow.

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At an altitude of 2952 meters (9685 feet), the Gipfelalm is the tallest restaurant in Germany.  Their food was not over-expensive, but it was kind of mediocre in flavor and quality.

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The lake on the left is the Eibsee, and the little town to the right of it is Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

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After you take the cable car from the summit down to the glacier, you can also choose to eat at Sonn Alpin, at 2600 meters.  We stopped here for dessert.

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…and shared our dessert with the aggressively snackish birds.  One of them actually stole some of our kaiserschmarrn right out of the bowl when we didn’t offer it to them.  Cheeky little bastards.

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While we were at the Sonn Alpin, I got to see a small avalanche first-hand. The snow falling down the mountain here was tremendously loud.

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Where there is snow, there are snow-people.

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Have you ever been to the Zugspitze?  What’s your favorite mountain?

Paris In Less Than Four Days

It took me almost two years to get around to seeing Paris, but I spent a few days there in the month of August.  I lost pretty much my entire first day to a stomach bug of some sort.  I did about 60% of a Louvre tour before I went back to the hotel to sweat out a fever or three.  I skipped a tour I’d booked for the Eiffel Tower that afternoon, and started over on the second day.

I have a few thoughts about visiting Paris that I’d like to share with you before we go on to the photographs.

Don’t go to Paris in August.  Seriously, it’s not an ideal time.  For one thing, July and August are the hottest months to visit and that’s just… sticky.   For another, that’s when the tourist levels are at their highest.   If you’ve ever walked into a restaurant immediately after an entire Japanese tour bus was seated, you know what I’m talking about.  Wait times for big draws like the Eiffel Tower or the Louvre can go up to several hours in August.  Just pick another month.  You’ll be glad you did.  I’ve said this about other cities as well, because it holds true in any city that gets a lot of tourism:  Skip-the-Line tours are worth their weight in gold.  Book them wisely.

Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport is not as confusing and horrible as people say.  CDG, sometimes called Roissy Airport, has a reputation for being an awful, terrible, very bad airport.  People say it’s confusing and lacks good signs.  I didn’t find this to be the case.  I found the airport to be logical and simple.  The big problem with Roissy Airport is the sheer size of the place.  Charles de Gaulle is roughly the seventh busiest airport in the world, and the place is improbably huge.  A walk from terminal 2C to terminal 2F can take you fifteen or twenty  minutes, although there’s a free shuttle at regular intervals.  In other words, you need to figure out what terminal you’re going to ahead of time, or you need to allow yourself enough time to move between terminals.   If you plan ahead and give yourself plenty of time, CDG is easy as pie.  Pie with lots of walking.

Parisian waiters are not rude to tourists.  Not exactly.  I found them to be friendly and polite.  I think a lot of this misconception is because Americans aren’t used to European dining mores.  In Europe, wait staff will not hurry you along.  To an American used to dining in restaurants where they bring you the check before you finish and check on you every ten minutes, this can seem like you’ve been forgotten.  That’s not the case, however, and you simply need to get your waiter’s attention to call him or her back over.  So no, Parisian waiters aren’t rude.  However, I did find that I was shortchanged no less than three times in a four day span.  I could chalk it up to a language barrier if I was feeling charitable, but I suspect that they heard my English and assumed I was just another dumb American tourist who could be easily fooled because he isn’t used to the Euro.

On a side note,  Paris is officially the most expensive city I’ve ever visited.  More expensive than London or New York City by an order of magnitude.  At one dinner, I asked for a large Sprite.  The dude brought me an entire liter in a giant mug, then charged me €16.  The entree was only €9, so you can imagine my surprise at the beverage costing almost twice the food.   That was the first full meal I ordered in Paris.  It was also the last full meal I ordered in Paris.

I also took pictures!  I took about four hundred shots, most of which are not in this post.  If you really want to look at the rest of the pics not in this post, there’s an entire gallery over here.

Let’s move on, shall we?

This is the front entrance of the Louvre.  Or rather, it’s the archway in front of the glass pyramid in front of the doors to the Louvre.

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The Louvre is the world’s most visited museum.   It’s also one of the world’s largest museums- a collection of enormous buildings full of antiquities and master works.  If you stopped to view each item in the Louvre for three minutes, you’d be there for roughly three months.  Here’s a Sphinx.

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Here’s the Venus de Milo, one of the best known pieces in the museum.

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This one is called The Nike of Samothrace.  It’s considered a symbol of triumph, despite the fact that the head and arms have never been found.

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This hallway contains a lot of things from the French nobility.  Crowns, swords, tables, and so forth.

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Last but certainly not least is the Mona Lisa. Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece from the early 1500s is situated behind an enormous pane of bulletproof glass.  I took this picture from a good distance and didn’t get to spend any time looking at her up close because this was the point at which I abandoned my guided tour and ran for the exit before shuttering myself into the hotel for the next eighteen hours.

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The next day, after I was done with the worst of my sick time, I had a tour booked that I’d been looking forward to for a while-  a Segway tour of Paris with Ellie from Fat Tire Bike Tours.  This proved to be fortuitous- I wasn’t really up to a walking tour yet after being sick the day before; my energy levels were still pretty wrecked.  Riding a Segway was a fun, less strenuous way to see large swathes of the city.  (Except the parts that were closed while they were shooting scenes for a movie. I wish I’d actually seen some filming- I heard there were people in period costumes with old cars from the early 1900s.)

But anyway-  Segways!  They’re fun!  They’re also pretty easy to ride- the hardest part is in the first two minutes, including your first mount and dismount.  I was comfortable enough for basic movement in about five minutes, and I felt like an experienced rider after twenty minutes.  The weather was absolutely perfect for this tour.

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What visit to Paris would be complete without seeing Notre Dame de Paris?  I didn’t actually get to hear the famous bells of Notre Dame, but I think I’ll live.

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The Eiffel Tower is not the only super tall place in Paris.  There’s also Montparnasse 56, which is this building here.  The top floor is an attraction called Tour Montparnasse, which is an indoor observation level with a stair up to a rooftop observation level.  Since I have a tendency to love tall places, of course I went there.

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This is the view of the Eiffel Tower from Montparnasse 56.

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The Paris Metro is kind of strange. Most of the cars are an older type where you have to lift a little metal handle to get off at your stop, and some of them use rubber wheels like this instead of train style all-metal rail wheels.  It’s very odd.  It’s also the second busiest metro in the world, and it’s pretty much all Art Nouveu inside the stations.  Charming, yet disconcerting.

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On my third day, I tried to go to the Cinémathèque Française, a museum of cinema.  They have a lot of very interesting exhibits that I was curious to see, but it turns out that the museum was closed for a few weeks.  My timing astounds.

Instead, I went to Père Lachaise, perhaps the most visited cemetery in the world.   I initially misread the map near the entrance, and so I wound up walking around a bit less efficiently than I would have liked.  That’s ok, though, because this little fuzzball totally made my day when she walked over, sniffed my hand, then sat with me for a few minutes.

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Let’s talk famous people.  Père Lachaise has a bunch of ‘em.  After I figured out that I’d misread the map, I was easily able to find Abelard & Heloise and Oscar Wilde.  I was unable to locate Balzac‘s grave.  And I got turned around looking for Jim Morrison, but I don’t feel badly about that because that’s when I stumbled across Frederic Chopin’s grave.

There are many non-famous graves in Père Lachaise also, and it’s possible to walk around for hours without becoming bored.  I took fifty or sixty photographs inside the walls of the cemetery.  I particularly liked this symbol, on one of the tombs, because I like the symbolism of time slipping away on feathered wings.

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Speaking of angel wings, this gravestone was positively gorgeous.

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So was this one.

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After a few hours walking around Père Lachaise, I decided it was time for a break.  I went back onto the Metro, to the area near Montmartre, where I had a nice crepe with butter and sugar for lunch.  I was still recovering my strength from being sick, and so that sugar was entirely necessary.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

After lunch, I took the Funicular up the hill to see Sacre Coeur Basilica.

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There were a ton of people hanging out around the Basilica.  This guy was practicing antigravity with his soccer ball on the steps.  He was talented enough to catch my attention for a while.

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A short distance from the Basilica is Espace Dali, a substantial and amazing Salvador Dali museum.  Again, I took a metric pantload of pictures, but I’m only including one here- one of Dali’s famous melting clocks.

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The Espace Dali had a photo booth that would superimpose your picture into Dali imagery.  I got this one.  If I’d had another €3 in coins, I would also have gotten the one that puts Salvador’s mustache on you.

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Walking back down the hill from Montmartre, I saw this graffiti on a building.  Come to think of it, I saw a lot of cat-centric graffiti on buildings on this trip.

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Meanwhile, back on the other side of town, there’s a little known archway called the Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile.  It’s much larger than I thought it was.  Also, you can climb it.  I didn’t realize at first that there were people on the top, looking down.  I’ll come back to this.

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I spotted this building on my walk back to the hotel, and I thought it was kind of interesting.  It certainly didn’t match its neighbors.

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This is the dome of L’Hôtel national des Invalides, which is also the tomb of Napoleon.  Yes, that’s real gold.

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This is the Musée d’Orsay, an old train station which has been converted into a gallery full of the world’s finest Impressionist painters, including Monet, Renoir, and Van Gogh.  I didn’t actually have time to go into this one, but it’s a lovely building.

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This is just a street.  There’s nothing particularly special about this street, except that it’s in Paris and it looks kind of nice.

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This is some of the bouquinistes, or permanent used book stores attached to the side of the River Seine near Notre Dame.  Apparently, the wait list to acquire one of the 250 locations along the Seine is about eight years.

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This was along the river also.  I just thought it was neat.

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This tower marks the location of the Bastille, but the prison itself is long gone.  After the prison was torn down, the bricks from the Bastille were used to make one of the bridges across the Seine.

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I mentioned I’d get back to the Arc d’Triomphe.  When I finally went back, I stumbled across a nightly ceremony to relight the flame on the grave of the Unknown Soldier from the Great War.

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Next, I climbed the Arc, because it was tall and because that’s what I do.  This is what the famous shopping stretch of the Avenue des Champs-Élysées looks like from the top.

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Last but not least is the Eiffel Tower.  I had blown my pre-booked tour (and lost about eighty bucks) by getting horribly sick at the start of the trip, but I gave it another shot on my last day, before I flew back to Germany.  The first elevators to the summit opened at 9am, so I got in line at 8:30.  Good thing I did, because I was definitely not the only one who decided to get an early start.  By 9:30 I was in the structure, and by 10:30 I was back down.   I took pictures from the summit, but they don’t look that different than my pictures from Tour Montparnasse or the Arc d’Triomphe, so I won’t put them in this post.

I will, however, put a picture of the counterweights here.  The gargantuan elevators that go up and down the corner pillars of the Eiffel have these huge counterweights that were just amazing to see.  According to Old Man Wiki, the counterweights are 200 tons each, and sit atop hydraulic rams for the lift system.  I’ve read a description of the hydraulic lift system four times in a row now, and I still don’t quite understand it, but it’s amazing to see in action.  I wish there was something in this picture to give you a sense of scale-  the counterweights were easily three times my height.

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One final picture, looking up from near the center of the Tower.   They’re building new stuff.  There’s also a cafe on that first elevated level that I didn’t have time to check out.

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What’s your favorite part of Paris?

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The Untersberg

Sixteen kilometers (ten miles) south of Salzburg is a mountain called the Untersberg.  From the city center, bus line 25 will take you all the way to the cable car station at the base of the mountain.

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The cable car that runs up the Untersberg is called the Untersbergbahn.  Naturally.

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Some examples of the cables in use for cable cars.

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Today’s weather on the Untersberg.   From top to bottom, it’s “sun, bright, cloudy/overcast, rain, fog, snowfall, light wind, strong wind.”  I should have known before I went up that nebel meant fog…

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The height of things. The cable car covers 2.5 Kilometers across ground, and brings you to a station at 1,776 meters up the mountain.

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This is what the cables look like from the station at the base.

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Because of the fog, it looked like it was just sort of going up into nothingness.

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The mountain looked fascinating from the cable car- at least the bits I could see before we ducked into the fog and cloud cover.

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…and this was the view from the top.

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Seriously, there could have been an alien civilization just past that low rise, and I would never have seen it.  I did catch this picture just as the snowball thrown by man-in-red hit man-in-grey.  Snowballs in late May when it’s raining on the ground are kind of comical, but that’s mountains for you.

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I’m sure on a clear day, this is a beautiful place to have a drink.  The bus stop sign (the H in the circle) cracks me up.

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And finally, the view back down the mountain, looking out from where the cable car leaves the station at the top.  This builds confidence, wouldn’t you say?

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Have you ever been up to the top of a mountain? How was the view?