Sunday, August 1, 2010

Austria 2010

Jason and i were lucky enough to travel to Austria this week. State Farm has a travel-rewards program providing an awesome trip each year to qualifying agents. we stayed in Vienna, a city rich in history, some i knew and some that was new and fascinating to learn. we got in on Sunday around noon, so we hit the ground running. i would not let Jason sleep, insisting that we acclimatize to the Austrian time as soon as we could. (i am kind of a jet-lag natzi) we began our trip riding the Ringstrasse, a street that basically circles the center of town. there is something about Europe that really speaks to me. i love the architecture, the unique influences of each culture, each century. America, as such a young country, just doesn't have the same flavor. a note about the weather: the days before our trip it was 90 degrees in Vienna. everyone who went before us sweated. the forecast on called for more of the same. as a "just in case" we each packed 1 pair of jeans. i don't think it cracked 70 degrees our whole stay! and most the time it was a little gloomy and sprinkled. don't get me wrong, we loved the weather, it was beautiful. we just weren't packed properly.
on day two we headed to the center of town and took a tour of the opera house. this may have been my favorite part of our whole trip. our tour guide was awesome, and we got to go back stage to see the inner-workings of the opera. they truck everything in for the sets, they can park 4 semis in the back stage! wow! then we went to St. Stephen's and climbed the tower. even though it was overcast, we saw the whole of Vienna sprawled out before us. on to Shonbrunn Palace, the summer palace of the Hapsburgs, the ruling family of Vienna. (many many European monarch were offspring of this family.) this quaint summer home boasts over 1,000 rooms! it was LARGE. we did the "small tour" and it took over 2 hours. the grounds are the true jewel of this palace. they are lovely, and crowned with the Glorietta, the Empress's version of a gazebo. up on a hill outside the palace, this was an even better view of Vienna. that night we had a fun reception back at the hotel for first time travelers.
day 3 was dedicated to art! there are so many museums in Vienna! i had to whittle it down quite a bit for the sake of time, and Jason's sanity. he doesn't quite share my passion on this one. luckily the museums themselves are so beautiful he can inspect the architecture while i wander the galleries. we started at the Hofburg, or regular palace. by this time i was intrigued with the Empress Elizabeth, and so we went to the Sisi Museum, which was basically her house in Vienna. man, this was one complicated woman. i'm about halfway through her biography right now, but man getting married at 15, moving from Bavaria to Vienna, holding court with a bunch of stuck-up aristocracy who hated her, losing her first child, all did a number on this girls head. she was a mess!

then we hit the Albertina Museum and got to see an amazing collection from Monet to modern photography! fun for me. on our way to the Kunsthistorisches we serendipitously found Schmetterling Haus, a butterfly exhibit! in case you don't know, i have a minor obsession with butterflies. i used to nanny for this German family and the kids taught me how to say butterfly, "schmetterling" so when i saw it on the sign (plus the huge butterfly) i knew i had to go in. it was basically a photo safari for me. i spent way too long frolicking among children (pretty sure this is a children's museum) chasing the perfect shot, trying to capture each individual butterfly. i had a blast!

the Kunst is basically the Austrian Louvre. it is large and comprehensive. it was lovely and exhausting, by the time we left my feet were in the shape of my shoes and Jason was about to pass out. (he had not followed my anti-jetlag plan). so, against my better judgement, we went back to the hotel to rest. on the upside, i got to catch up on some East Enders and catch a little Jonathan Ross! British tv is truly a delight. once Jason was back from the dead, we hit the Prater. a park made famous in the Orson Wells' movie The 3rd Man. there's a cool ferris wheel that circles around really slowly, offering amazing views of the city. we ate fun fair food and Jason drove the go carts!

day 4. State Farm was kind enough to take everyone on a Danube cruise. and by everyone, i mean 15 buses full! we went to Melk, toured Melk Abbey, and then cruised along the Danube to Krems. along the way, we saw so many interesting churches and castles, many of which are privately owned. so, i added to my list of things to do: look in to owning a castle.

Day 5. a dream come true. on Thursday, we rented a car and went to Salzburg. that's right Mozart's birthplace, and the city of the Von Trapp family. this was the day that we really regretted poor packing. when we woke in Vienna it was warm and sunny for the first time. so, we slipped on a sundress and shorts respectively and were on our way. Jason even took his sweatshirt out of the backpack, big mistake. about halfway into our drive, it started pouring! and it didn't really stop all day. also, the storm followed us back to Vienna. so, we missed the only sun of the trip!

on our way to Salzburg we stopped at the Mauthausen concentration camp. i'd been to one in Germany before so i knew it was a great experience i wanted Jason to have. no matter how much you know about WWII and the Natzis and their systematic extermination of Jews, and others who didn't agree with them, it makes such an impact to see first hand an instrument of their evil. though i'd seen Dauchau, Mauthausen was bigger and served as a hub for all the Austrian camps. as Jason noted, the organization and planning that went into this kind of death and destruction was monumental. after paying out respects, we got back on the road.

have you ever been electrocuted? okay, so it was more like being shocked. but i saw this gaggle of geese on the side of the road and just had to have a photo. i jumped out of the car and in my haste did not notice the little rope about 6" off the ground serving as an electrified fence. it got me. it wasn't pleasant and as a result my photo is not to my liking.

Salzburg however, was simply wonderful. i wish we could have stayed here all week. one day was simply not enough time to ramble through it's cobblestone streets. it was enough time though for a quick glimpse of my favorite Sound of Music sights. our trip back was marred by rain, and a wrong turn. we got into Vienna at 10:30pm but didn't make it to our hotel until 1:30am. ouch!

day 6. wow, i'm exhausted just posting all this stuff. no wonder i still haven't quite gotten life back to normal. our last day in Vienna was dedicated to shopping! and eating!! and we had one more spot which we hadn't hit on art day. the Belvedere Palace was beautiful and my favorite gallery by far. i'd been dying to see Klimt's Kiss in person and it didn't disappoint! we got the girls some dolls, got my parents some yummy, yummy chocolate, strolled our favorite strasses, ate some bratwurst, and got to bed early since we had a 2 am wake up call! yes, this was the only disadvantage of the trip, not being able to plan our own flight. we drew the short stick and had the earliest one. oh well, we survived!

so long, farewell, auf wiendersehen, goodbye!


Castle Family said...

Simply amazing. I want to go!!!

erinTphotography said... jealous! Sound of Music, Salzburg.... awe, I wanna go!

Carroll Family said...

OOooohhhhhhhhhh....I SO love Austria!!!!!!!!!!!!

Joanna said...

Great post! You and Jason are living a great life together and together with kids. I love it.