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Routes in Google Maps & Website Update

On 30 September 2007 from Amsterdam, Netherlands | comments closed

To allow an accurate display of my routes in Google Maps, I modified the Gallery 2 Google Maps Plugin to allow the display of KMZ files in my photo gallery. For two albums it is now possible to view the route I traversed:

I also brought my website fully up-to-date with the latest open-source scripts [updated 28 October 2007 & 25 November 2007]:

VariousCruisin’ Central Europe

On 2 September 2007 from Reuver, Netherlands | comments closed

What to do when one gets to switch cars and drive a Renault Mégane CC convertible for 4 weeks? A lot of cruising! Whenever I had the chance, I opened the roof on the way to work in Utrecht and Brussels. The only weekend with nice weather we went to the Belgium coast, cruising to Oostende and back to Amsterdam through Zeeland. But the Netherlands and Belgium are not the best cruising countries, with boring straight highways, and generally bad weather, especially this summer.

So I planned a 9-day trip through the foothills of the Alps, all the way to Slovakia. It gave me a chance to explore some of the sights of Central Europe that I had always wanted to visit: Mount Säntis (Switzerland), Neuschwanstein Castle (Germany), Mount Kehlstein in Berchtesgaden (Germany), and Bratislava (Slovakia). On Saturday 11 August I took off on my journey with the drive to Jacobsbad in Switzerland. There I put up my new 3-second tent on a campsite. Next day I drove to Schwägalp, where the funicular railway to the top of Mount Säntis starts. The town was totally overrrun with Swiss watching the Schwägalp Schwinget, a Swiss wrestling competition. I made a 4-hour hike over the rocky top of Mount Säntis before returning down, and watching part of the competition as well.

On Monday I cruised the Swiss country roads to Liechtenstein. When I asked a local girl about the things to see, she answered me it was only the shopping in the capital Vaduz. At that time I understood the reason I had never been to the Principality of Liechtenstein before: there is simply nothing to do and see in this valley between the mountains of Switzerland and Austria. So I continued my cruise, and drove the German country roads to Schwangau, where I put up my tent at the Bannwaldsee.

Tuesday I drove the short distance to Hohenschwangau, where the Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein Castle are located. Neuschwanstein Castle is the major drawing card of this area, a fairytale castle with a superb location in the Bavarian hills. The castle was built by Ludwig II of Bavaria as a retreat and as a homage to Richard Wagner, the King’s inspiring muse. The castle was close to completion when Ludwig died in 1886, shortly after he was declared insane. It is the most photographed building in Germany and is one of Germany’s most popular tourist destinations. Luckily I already reserved my tickets online, so I did not have to queue up there. With the accuracy only found in Germany and Switzerland the tours started exactly on time, and gave a good overview of both castles. After these visits I cruised through the busy tourist town to another tourist town: Berchtesgaden. Since I was only spending one night there I got myself a room in a small pension. In the evening I visited Schönau am Königssee, a small village located next to Germany’s deepest and most scenic lake.

Berchtesgaden is a town with a dark history, since it was home of the Southern Headquarters of the NSDAP, Hitler’s political party. A large mansion (the Berghof) was built for the leader with a huge panorama window offering a great view of the mountainous surroundings. Unfortunately the Berghof was destroyed by the Allies at the end of the second World War. Preserved was the Kehlsteinhaus, also known as Eagle’s Nest, on top of Mount Kehlstein. This tea house with amazing views was constructed for Hitler’s 50th birthday, but he rarely visited it. To get there, a new road was constructed in 13 months, as well as a 124m tunnel in the mountain, leading to an elevator taking the visitor 124m up to the Kehlsteinhaus. The great surroundings would be reason enough to visit Berchtesgaden. However, I also wrote an essay about it in elementary school, and since then I have always wanted to visit the place. That is exactly what I did on Wednesday morning. First I visited part of the Documentation Obersalzberg museum with exhibits on the mountain and the Nazi era. Although interesting, I got anxious to get up to the Kehlsteinhaus. The long queues in front of the ticket office showed I was not the only one. Four buses at a time are going up, and four are going down, crossing halfway where the road is wide enough. From the parking lot at the top I walked through the granite tunnel and got into the brass elevator up to the Kehlsteinhaus. The views were indeed amazing. Afterwards I visited the remainder of Documentation Obersalzberg before cruising through Austria to Bratislava, capital of Slovakia.

After the breakfast buffet at the 4-star hotel (I like some variation in accommodation) on Thursday morning I took the bus to the city centre. There I explored the Castle, Michael Tower, and wandered around the old city centre. The sunny day and the terraces in the streets gave the city a really nice charm. I stayed in the city centre till late, because in the evening there was a festival with bands playing a various locations, giving the city a very lively atmosphere. Friday morning I went to Devín Castle with two Polish friends who just arrived in the city. We wandered around the castle ruins, and enjoyed some demonstrations that were part of a festival at the castle. After I brought them back to Bratislava, I crossed Austria again to return to Berchtesgaden. After all, Berchtesgaden had more to offer than a visit to the Obersalzberg.

Saturday morning I climbed up Mount Jenner, enjoying the views of the Berchtesgadener Land for an hour. To reward my exercise, I went to the Watzmann Thermen, where I relaxed in the thermal pools and saunas. In the evening I enjoyed the German food once more in a beautifully decorated restaurant on the Buchenhöhe. Sunday I spent all day driving back home, completing the 3100km cruise through Central Europe.