Category Archives: travel

Welcome to Vienna!

 

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Salzburg made me swoon. 

When we last saw our intrepid traveler she was in Salzburg, the little city which stole her big heart. Since then there have been two more cities, including one in yet another new-to-her country. Let’s pick it up with Vienna…

We arrived mid afternoon on Monday, following a scenic and comfortable train ride, and managed to find our flat without difficulty. After traveling with my son almost a week at that point, I knew to stop on the way at a grocery store for a couple of items, namely yogurt and another bottle of grüner veltliner. We quickly settled in and set out on foot to explore without any true destination, other than the ticketing office where we needed to collect out Hop On/Hop Off tickets which I had booked online. We went with the 3 option package which included 24 hours of the bus and two additional attractions of our choosing.

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There were so many blooms but these smelled particularly fantastic.

I left Liam in charge of navigation, something he really does quite well, and we meandered our way through the beautiful rose garden to collect our physical tickets near the Opera House. We seriously got on the bus at the exact right time because the skies just opened up and rain poured down. By the time we had done two loops, the rain had stopped and we felt a bit oriented. Time to walk.

FD9D5B65-EB36-44CB-8B15-F244EC607F01While my love for Salzburg is true, Vienna also had some very appealing characteristics. Again, the architecture is phenomenal with elaborate buildings complete with colorful flowers. We stumbled upon St. Stephen’s Cathedral and for the first time of the trip, I wished I hadn’t neglected to bring my Nikon. That roof! The gargoyles! It was just stunning.

627B08D3-C55F-44AE-BC81-46AA68EEE155We came upon some primo shopping with all of the high-end stores represented, and enjoyed walking on the pedestrian only streets window shopping. In every direction we looked there were beautiful buildings. We finally settled in at the Museums Quartier to watch as the sky put on a post-storm show that my phone couldn’t quite capture. We found our way to our Vienna home and turned in fairly early to ensure a first thing in the morning start for our only complete day in the beautiful city. We would discover that the tram, which ran directly in front of our flat, was quite an effective alarm clock, which was fine because we still had a lot to see. CBDF1BEE-0624-4E46-B652-DCDC5FA4652C

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Filed under Austria, beauty, Europe, Flowers, Gardens, Observations, travel, vacation, Wine

Salzburg run

While I’m a big fan of public transport while exploring Europe, my favorite mode of travel when I’m visiting a new place remains my own two feet. Other than having a personal tour guide, I can think of no other way with which to become familiar with a city. I love setting my own pace, having the freedom to impulsively take a turn down a street that beckons and stopping for a drink or bite to eat when the urge hits me. Plus, it’s free!

Visiting four cities in 11 days makes for a lot of walking, but it has also taught me that I need three days in a new city before I feel an undeniable urge to run. It’s something about achieving a level of comfort and sense of where I can get in a few miles with limited risk from cars or other potential dangers, I think. Of course this means that I’ve thus far into my trip only had a single run. I’m trying to not chastise myself touch for my lack of exercise, since I have been walking my ass off. I find a glass of wine or two and a pastry helps with that guilt.

In Salzburg I had a chance to run along the Salzach River. There’s a great path for pedestrians and the view was pretty sweet. I initially ran north on the west side of the water and as the miles passed, the scenery became increasingly less populated. I went with my gut and crossed a bridge to the east side at a point when I felt my opportunities to cross the water were becoming less frequent. It was hard to turn away from the Schloss set high on the hill which had been enticing me to continue north, but I was rewarded by the views from the new to me east bank of the Salzach.

I ran, as I always do in a new place, with the knowledge that I might not ever have this same opportunity. My health and physical strength will gradually (I hope!) decline, the opportunities to travel may diminish, perhaps the weather won’t be as inviting as I’ve often been fortunate to experience…whatever. Lots of things could happen to prevent me from lacing up my Altras and hitting the sidewalks, but not that particular day. That day, I ran and my heart, eyes and legs all appreciated the effort. It was a terrific run and will be a wonderful memory forever.

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Filed under Austria, beauty, Europe, Exercise, favorites, running, Summer, travel, vacation

Riding that train

Most of my recent trips to Europe have been with my uncle and aunt, which means that I haven’t had to really deal with transportation once I hit the ground. Our primary means of travel has been by auto and I’ve only had to buckle up and sit back. Easy.

This trip has been quite different but surprisingly almost as effortless – Europe knows what they’re doing when it comes to transportation. Aside from our inner city travels, also fairly priced and convenient, we’ve traveled between 4 cities in three countries and it has been a piece of sachertorte.

In an increasingly frequent leap of faith, I opted to not book any tickets in advance. I’m not sure if there were any financial consequences to that decision, but I found the prices for tickets to be reasonable, even a bargain when you factor in the quality of the trains. I’ll get to that, but first the prices: from Munich to Salzburg (for two without any discounts) was 31 euro, from Salzburg to Vienna 53.80e and Vienna to Prague via Linz was a combined total of 68e. I think that converts to about $185 give or take a little, a deal when you consider it would have cost us almost $170 for two to travel from Albany to NYC on Amtrak.

The ticketing process is super simple. I downloaded the Trainline EU app when I was in Munich and set up an account. Searching for tickets is easy and you can choose which criteria is most important to you – time, price or speed. Most of the time I went with what was direct and cheap. There definitely were faster trains at higher prices, but our longest journey was a total of 6 hours when we went from Vienna to Prague. There was a nearly one hour layover in Linz, though, to factor into that. It was actually a welcome bonus for us because we had sufficient time to pick up some food for the trip from the Spar market in the bahnhof.

Other advantages of train travel? Well, there’s the pleasure of stretching one’s legs and walking around rather than being crammed into a car. Pit stops for bathroom breaks are unnecessary since the train has WCs available and speaking bathrooms, the bathrooms on the trains we were on were cleaner than 90% of the bathrooms I encounter at home. Immaculate, well stocked and modern with automatic water, soap dispensers and hand dryers. The contrast with what I’m unfortunately accustomed to on trains in New York, is dramatic. Eating and drinking is also a comfortable option with many of the seats set up in little booth arrangements.

The train stations are so pretty…

In addition to comfort, there are amenities such as power outlets and WiFi on most trains. I was a bit bummed that we didn’t have WiFi on our lengthiest trip, but the friendly guy sitting near us said it was a good introduction to the difference between Austria and the Czech Republic. I can live with that since the ride was scenic, my legs could be extended and I had the cutest little table to eat my grocery store lunch upon.

…and quaint!

One final advantage – I don’t seem to suffer from motion sickness while writing or reading on a train. If I were in a car, I wouldn’t be able to relax and bang out a few posts. Reasonably priced, reliable, clean, comfortable and scenic makes European trains right on track.

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Filed under Austria, beauty, Czech Republic, Europe, family, Germany, Observations, Recommendations, Summer, travel, vacation

Smitten with Salzburg

B72CE3D0-3C28-478F-8CA4-3B2E81DDB72DAfter spending a couple of hours becoming familiar with Salzburg’s historic and beautiful city center, I returned to the flat and collected my son. There was so much more to experience! We didn’t really have a plan, but I wanted him to see this picturesque city and there seemed to be plenty with which to keep ourselves occupied without the need for an itinerary.

We traced my earlier footsteps and went along the river where vendors were set up displaying and selling their artwork, artisanal food items, clothing, jewelry and crafts. While there was nothing that I was interested in enough to commit to carrying it home, there were lovely items available and the quality definitely seemed high. Continuing past the market, I shepherded Liam to the tourist office so he could collect brochures and, after some consultation, we decided that the funicular to the Fortress Hohensalzburg was a must do. Twenty minutes, and about 22 euro, later we were on top of the city.

8A1E4474-351D-4A0E-9E04-BC6162F71D07The views as we walked up to the castle were fabulous and as we went by the cafe’s terrace an open table near the vista beckoned. Sitting there in the sun sipping on a glass of gruner veltliner was a perfect moment that I hope to never forget. The castle itself, open since 1077, was great. The video presentation which told the history of the fort was really well done and the artifacts and limited furnishings were tremendous. The torture devices on display were interesting, but, for me, it was all about the view.

 

We walked down to the city center rather than taking the funicular again, and sought out a spot for lunch. I had a craving for trout and we came across Restaurant Elefant that offered a wonderful seasonal preparation with a simple brown butter and chanterelle mushrooms. It was really fantastic, perfectly cooked and fresh as hell, as was the simple green salad that I had also ordered. We finished with a local speciality that Liam had noticed, the Salzburger Nockerl, a raspberry and meringue dessert that was massive, yet fairly light. We were unable to finish it, but I’m glad we splurged on something we had never before tried.

 

It was about 4:30 when we finished lunch and I was ready for a nap or another glass of wine. Since I needed wanted to run that evening, I went with the first option. Liam was interested in a Mozart musical thing that began at 8:00, so we returned to the flat where I settled in for a power nap and he relaxed a short while before leaving solo to see his performance.

My run is a whole ‘nother post, mostly just visual, but just to give you an example of why I am so smitten with this city, I’ll tell you this – as I was running back north after covering a few miles on the east side of the river, who did I literally run into? My son. How crazy is that? I paused to chat with him for a moment and we made a plan to meet after I showered. I ran the rest of the way home with a huge smile on my face and anticipation for yet another round of gelato. How can I not love this place?

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Salzburg morning

1879C803-5B5E-4856-A45E-95DF66529221You know how sometimes when you have no expectations you receive the most wonderful surprises? That’s what Salzburg has been for me. When we originally planned to visit Austria, Salzburg was on the top of my son’s list because of his fondness for The Sound of Music. In advance of our visit, I booked the Fraulein Maria bike tour, which we’re taking later this morning, but that was the extent of our planning. 

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The view from our flat

We arrived Friday evening, purchased some groceries and headed to our Airbandb on the west side of the river slightly north of the historic center. I awoke early Saturday morning, dressed and set out for a walk with the daily outdoor market as a destination. I quickly went off my mapped directions preferring to wander, something easy to do when you’re completely on your own. I found my way down to the river completely charmed by the architecture and natural beauty of this small feeling city. The alps are absolutely breathtaking.

B70F0AB5-4BAA-4406-90EA-1B68F4E75193I left the river and made my way through the narrow streets to a bakery where I bought the day’s first treat – a cheese pastry and a cafe au lait. Perfect. Appetite temporarily satiated, I went back to my roaming around soon finding myself in the Mozartplatz. It was still early, maybe 8:30, and the large square was almost mine alone. There was just so much beauty everywhere around me that I felt almost overwhelmed. 

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E4743562-3A8D-49F6-8850-CD038AD82A9CI stumbled on the market on my way “home,” and leisurely took in the stalls filled with flowers, meats, crafts, schnapps and other locally grown and produced goods. Remarkably, I found my way to the apartment without misstep – pretty crazy for a woman who has been known to get herself turned around and requiring directions on more than one occasion. Salzburg just felt easy and I could barely wait to see more.

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Moments in Munich

Spending 48 hours in a city like Munich, especially when the weather is outstanding, is practically criminal. I should be embarrassed by how little I actually learned about the city or how to navigate my way around it. I concluded, though, that I do better with that sort of thing when I travel solo. If I have someone else willing to study maps and figure out directions, then I have more time to sit outside, drink beer and people watch. That’s really what I’m there for anyway.

Without a doubt, the most important part of my stay was the time spent with family and a friend from many years ago. Catching up on the last year or 26, was just awesome. Isn’t it amazing how there are people we don’t see for months or even decades, yet the connection and comfort with one another remains? Life lesson: that soul filling is worth every effort it takes to travel and connect with those kind of people in your life.

We did do a few traditional tourist things beyond consuming beer and pretzels, though, such as…

Lots of walking around the city center. The buildings are beautiful, the streets are cleaner than a New Yorker can imagine and there are bright flowers everywhere you look.

We watched Croatia beat England while we sat at a sidewalk cafe with a television monitor and a diverse and fun group of soccer fans. C0A0E0C4-442D-469F-8620-06E69A883AA3

I ate gelato, more cheese than I typically eat in a month, and a terrific white wurst served with sweet mustard. For the train ride out of town, I picked up a falafel sandwich which was dynamite, if a bit messy. I neglected to eat any pastry or cakes. Personal fail.

We spent a good part of one day visiting Dachau, but that’s another post. After that excursion, I was left wanting little more than warm sunshine and cold beer. My son went to visit Bayern-Munchen’s stadium while I indulged myself and he seemed to really enjoy the tour he received and his independence to go do something of interest to him.

C2D7DD47-A497-44D5-8DDE-19292D6488F9Our last morning and early afternoon was spent hitting a couple of spots – the BMW museum and Olympic Stadium are in the same area and we checked both of them out prior to leaving for Salzburg. For me, one engine looks like another one so I may have under appreciated the more mechanical aspects of the tour, but the cars were pretty and BMW does own Mini these days so I’m practically a shareholder, aren’t I? We didn’t really have the time to commit to a stadium tour, but did walk around the Olympic Park and saw the memorial to the athletes from the ‘72 games.

62DB0B5A-C584-47A8-9041-C49E151DB1CAWe finished with a walk through the Englischer Gardens and a last weisse beer for me. I did no shopping, nor did I splurge on any spectacular food or experiences, but I boarded the train feeling richer from my time spent in Munich and confident that one day I’ll be back.

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Filed under beauty, beer, Boys, Europe, family, friends, Germany, Observations, Recommendations, relationships, Summer, travel, vacation

Scattered

I’m feeling scattered. The end of the school year brings lots of activities that (often delightfully) disrupt my work days and my personal life has taken a positive turn which has caused unexpected, but very much appreciated reverberations. Summer is looking really good and I’m so ready for it.

My middle son’s upcoming trip to Thailand has been my focus recently and I’ve spent very little time working on my own trip to Europe this summer. Gathering the necessary documents for his required visa has taken some work and I’m constantly checking in with myself and him about what is his responsibility and what I should be taking on on his behalf. It’s a balance that is kind of new – next stage parenting, I suppose.

My oldest son and I will be visiting Munich, Salzburg, Vienna and Prague. Other than Munich, which I visited in 1992, I haven’t been to any of those places before and I’m pretty stoked. The big stuff is done – a plan to meet with family, our accommodations, an outing or two, but I haven’t even looked at details such as transportation or scouting out where we’ll want to eat or what sites we won’t want to miss. I think we’ll be winging it. Suggestions are welcomed.

For a period of time next month, all three of my children will be on different continents. I’ve been trying to process this fact ever since it occurred to me a couple of days ago and I’m still not quite there. Wow. How did I/we ever get lucky enough for this to even possible much less accurate? It’s amazing to me and I don’t take it for granted on any level.

Somehow, I have children who are comfortable and excited by adventure. They are interested and curious about history and people and the world we live in and that prompts me to be so very proud of them. I appreciate that the experiences I’ve cultivated with them have been influential, but it certainly isn’t all due to me. These upcoming trips were inspired by Anthony Bourdain (Thailand) and the Von Trapp family (Austria) and I can’t tell you thrilled I am that my sons are eager to collect their own memories of places around their world and that sometimes I get to be a witness to their wonder.

Scattered isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially if you think about stars and seeds. Here’s hoping that summer 2018 brings light and new life to each of us.

 

 

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