Introduction. A few years ago, our long-time friends, Scott and Janet Magers, arranged a September reunion for retired Army Judge Advocate officers who had been stationed in Germany. They stayed at the Army-run Edelweiss Hotel in Garmisch-Partenkirchen (Garmisch for short) for a week. Garmisch is in the heart of the German Alps near such major attractions as Oberammergau, Linderhof, and Neuschwanstein, so there was plenty to do, even attending Oktoberfest in nearby Munich. The reunion was repeated in 2012. We were not able to attend either time. When the Magers announced the third reunion, though, we put it on our schedule at once. We were so eager, in fact, that we bought our plane tickets in November 2013, ten months in advance.
One reason for the rush was that we wanted to use frequent flyer miles for Jane’s ticket. We also wanted to tack on some other travel in Europe while we there, but we booked the flights before we even knew what we were going to do. Eventually we decided to visit our Italian friend Rosa in Verona before the reunion. We had not seen her since 2009. She was very excited about our visit, as were we. Tragically, Rosa died suddenly in April 2014.
We decided to go to Verona anyway to pay our respects to her family, but it would be for a shorter time than we had originally planned. Thinking that perhaps this would be our last visit there, we decided to use the extra time to visit places in northern Italy that we had known and loved in the 1960s and 1970s. Of course, we also had to include a visit to Elfie Ditore, another dear friend we had known for 50 years. The places we would visit in the German and Austrian Alps were also very familiar to us from prior visits, and we had even been to the Oktoberfest in Munich before. So the entire trip was brimming with nostalgia.
Getting to Verona
Sunday, 14 September. We left our home in Massanutten late morning and drove to Culpeper where our son Joseph and his wife Julia live. After we had lunch there, Joseph drove us the Washington Dulles Airport, where we arrived about 3:00. Our United flight left just after 6:00. Our Economy Plus seats were comfortable, the food was so-so, and the flight was uneventful.
Monday, 15 September. Unfortunately, we had to change planes at Heathrow (London), arriving there at 6:20 a.m., so we got even less sleep than usual. We continued on to Munich on a 7:40 Lufthansa flight, arriving about 10:15. Of all things, Jane’s luggage did not arrive. After a long wait, we were told that it would arrive in Verona, Italy the next morning. (The wait to locate the luggage would have been much longer, but a very nice woman from Lufthansa’s First Class office took pity on Jane and took her ahead of a dozen others who were ahead of us.)
We then picked up our rental car, a brand new Kia Forte 6-speed hatchback. With great difficulty, we found the car in the bowels of the terminal where there was almost no light and no one to help us. I had trouble even opening the door. We finally started driving south about 3:45, four hours later than we had expected. Our son Dennis had loaned us a GPS with maps of Europe, but it did not pick up a signal until two hours into our drive. Luckily I recalled the route fairly well from having looked it over on the Internet a few days earlier. We just followed the road signs to the intermediate places I remembered.
As the Internet map had recommended, we took the all-autobahn route, rather than the much shorter route through Garmisch. It probably would have been better to go through Garmisch because so much of the autobahn was under repair and had an 80 kph speed limit, less than the regular highways.
After Rosenheim and just before crossing the border into Austria, we had to buy a “vignette” allowing us to use the Austrian autobahn. From that point on we enjoyed beautiful alpine scenery. (It may have been beautiful before that, but the traffic was too nerve wracking for us to notice.) The autobahn followed the Inn River Valley from Kufstein to Innsbruck so there were mountains of widely varying shapes on both side of us.
Because of the delay in Munich, unfortunately, we were in such a rush that we could not enjoy a leisurely drive through this area as we had planned. As we neared Innsbruck, I finally used my cell phone to call Marco, our host for the next couple days, and tell him we probably would arrive shortly before 7:00 p.m. That was just a rough guess.
We did get to Verona before 7:00, but then, due to more GPS problems, it took me close to another half hour to find Marco’s house in Montorio (a suburb of Verona). By then it was 7:15 p.m. Marco is Rosa's oldest son. He and his lovely wife Federica have two sons, Andrea, 15, and Luca, 12. They could not have been more gracious and hospitable. As we unpacked the car, we discovered it had a built-in GPS.