It’s been such a long time since I participated in this project and I’ve missed it. I’m so happy to be able to jump in this month and join these extremely talented women in this beautiful monthly project. My husband and I have been talking about taking our kids to Europe for almost 20 years to see where he grew up and to meet his extended family who live in Vienna. We’ve always had an excuse; it’s too expensive, the kids aren’t old enough yet, we can’t fit it into our schedule, etc… Now that our oldest is starting her second year of college, we knew time was running out and it was now or never. So we booked the flights and started planning last November and we just returned home a few days ago with sore feet, lingering jet lag, and a slurry of photos to show for it. It was truly the trip of a lifetime and more amazing than I could put into words. I have far too many images for this post but after culling several times, these are the images that tell the story.
If you don’t make it to the end, please continue through our circle this month by visiting my sweet friend and crazy talented photographer Summer Murdock.
One of the most amazing things about this trip might just be the fact that we packed all of our things into 5 carry-ons for 6 people for 2 weeks in Europe. That alone saved us hours of time waiting at baggage return and quite possibly lost luggage. Due to two cancelled flights on our way over, it took us 37 hours from door to door before we arrived in Vienna. It was exhausting and a few of us were wondering if this was really going to be worth it.
(My phone was my primary camera the first few crazy days of our trip)These next two photographs were taken 24 hours apart. After the first flight was canceled and we spent more time than we wanted in LA. Yes, we were still wearing the same clothes…On the outside I was trying to keep it together. On the inside I felt more like this…But we finally made it to Vienna for a quick nap before heading to a beautiful outdoor Weingarten for schnitzel, knoedel, and apfelsaft gespritz with the family.As we fought the first day of jet lag, we forced ourselves to stay awake until dark by visiting the beautiful town of Mödling where my husband grew up.We managed to fit in a little road trip down to Italy during our stay. First stop, Mauthausen Concentration camp, just outside of Salzburg, where the kids’ great great grandfather was held during World War II. It was fitting that the day was dark and rainy during our visit as we walked through the bunkers, the crematorium, the gas chambers, the memorials, and the museum. We also walked down the infamous “stairs of death” to the rock quarry where prisoners were worked to death by carrying huge rocks up and down the stairs. Mauthausen is one of only 2 camps labelled as “Grade III” , which meant that they were intended to be the toughest camps for the Incorrigible Political Enemies of the Reich. The other one was Auschwitz.
Salzburg was our next stop where did the Fräulein Maria’s Sound of Music Bicycle Tour with Rupert. Although it sounds like the ultimate tourist experience, it remains one of the highlights of the entire trip. I fell a little in love with Salzburg after having bicycled through the countryside.
From there we drove through the bottom of Austria into Venice, Italy. I can’t describe how surreal it seemed to me. It felt like the movie set of a motion picture because everywhere we turned was a beautiful waterway with breath-taking old buildings of crumbling plaster and worn brick stacked so close together you could touch both buildings as you walked through the cobblestone roads.
I was a little sad to leave Italy so we stayed a little longer and headed to the Italian coast, to Jesolo, to dip our feet in the Adriatic Sea.
On the way back to Vienna, we stopped for lunch at the foot of Gerlitz Ski Resort and realized that we could take the gondola and then the ski lift 9,000ft to the top of the mountain. So we did. Just for fun. It didn’t occur to us until we saw people coming back down dressed in coats and hats and mittens, that it might just be a little bit chilly up on the top. We were the only silly foreigners wearing shorts and flipflops.
Our plan was to stop by the Hochosterwitz Castle on the way back to Vienna, but because we took the ride up the mountain, the castle was closed when we got there. But I did have to take some pictures anyway.
While we were in Vienna, we were able to stay in my husband’s grandmother’s home. Although she has passed on, the home remains in the family and is used for guests as well as vacationers. It was fun for my husband to share his memories of spending his childhood at the home with the pond and the yard and the shed where he unearthed the wooden gun that his grandfather helped him make as a child.
The U-Bahn was our primary mode of travel into and out of the city during our stay.
And can I just say that I ate more gelato on this trip than I could have even imagined? Our favorite treat was sharing a pint of a rainbow of flavors between all of us after a loooooong day of walking.
Staying in Omama’s home, we lived like the locals and frequented the grocery store every couple of days for fresh bread (oh that delicious bread!) and apfelgespritz. It was so interesting to see the different brands and foods that were stocked on the shelves.
We’re huge Amazing Race fans so one day when we were in the city, we had to visit the Donauturm where the contestants last season were supposed to bungee jump but couldn’t due to the wind. While we were at the top, we were able to watch a jumper make the leap. A visit to the Danube was next on the list followed by a dinner of schnitzel, goulash, and Çevapçiçi.
Ralf’s other grandmother and grandfather lived out in the country in Göllersdorf so we headed there one morning to visit their former home and to light a candle at the gravesite.
In the center of most towns in Austria you’ll find a Pestsaule (Plague Column) dedicated to the Black Plague which is thought to have reduced the population of Europe by one third.
By the end of our trip, the kids were craving American food so we stopped into a McDonalds just outside of Göllersdorf. It was the nicest McDonalds we had ever been to. It had a McCafe with a barista and pastries as well as high end furniture and a wait staff to bus the table.
As if we didn’t get enough walking in, we headed to Mödling one afternoon to hike in the Vienna Woods. On the way we stopped into the church where Ralf had his first Communion, passed by a ruin that has been transformed into a family home (how cool is that?!) and ended up at the 15th century Castle Liechtenstein.
On our way back to America, we had an afternoon in Rome before our next flight so we did the quickest walking tour of Rome you’ve ever seen. I think Rome might be the hottest city I’ve ever experienced. But it was by far one of the most fascinating places I’ve been. It was hard to wrap my head around just how ancient the buildings were and the juxtapositon between Ancient Rome and modern Rome. I hope to go back one day when I have time to really see and appreciate the history.
This trip was more than I had hoped for. Spending time as a family with limited wifi in a foreign country discovering new places and foods and languages and people forced us to stick together and rely on one another. It could not have come at a better time for us and I know we will always remember and cherish these two weeks we spent together. We now have a whole plethora of jokes that only we “get”. We were able to get through the flight ordeals with very few tears. And we are closer for having shared such a fabulous adventure abroad.
If you’ve actually made it all the way through, I’m super impressed and equally honored (and might just be wondering if you’ve got too much time on your hands). Please continue through our circle this month by visiting Summer Murdock to get a glimpse of her beautiful life this past month.