Friday, December 19, 2014

Vienna and Salzburg

I had a heated discussion with Andy about the meaning of continental Europe before I left. I’ve been to Europe before (I studied abroad in Ireland and went on a family vacation in London), but I said something about it being my first time in continental Europe and Andy nearly choked on his coffee. It’s all continental Europe, he said, laughing at me. I’m right, though! Hear that, babe? I’M RIGHT.

Back in August my parents told us we wouldn’t be doing a big family trip in 2015 like we had all hoped. Miss “I’ve got the travel bug” over here was really disappointed. Then, one day in October, my sister called and told me knew how bummed I was that we weren’t doing a trip. She mentioned the Christmas markets in Austria and how mom thought it would be fun to do that for her 60th birthday and take us girls, so... did I want to go? I burst into tears. Wait, what? THIS Christmas? A few days later, our tickets were purchased. It was crazy, I tell ya! I was so overwhelmed by it all that I kept the news mostly to myself for a while. 

Anyway, on to the trip! There is so much to share, but I’ll stick to things that stand out in my memory and share more little details in personal conversation.

Our first stop was Vienna. We arrived the morning of Dec. 2nd and stayed until midday Dec. 4th. We then stayed in Salzburg for three nights before heading to Innsbruck on Sunday, the 7th.

A few highlights from Vienna:

If you stand on any street and spin around slowly, you’ll take in at least one incredibly ornate building or beautiful park or crazy statue. OR all three. Vienna was simply glorious. Walking down each street felt like a new adventure! There were lots of skinny alleyways with shops tucked inside and cafes everywhere. 

We had great goulash and wiener schnitzel in Vienna, but my favorite meal was at a tiny Italian restaurant called Cantinetta La Norma. A friend of ours had been there and recommended it, and we weren’t let down. I also loved the hot dog we had outside of St. Stephens. The vendor took a baguette, skewered it with a rod, squirted mustard and ketchup inside the middle and then shoved a long skinny hot dog down into hot, sauce-y bread. (Is it just me or does that sound like a violent way to make a hot dog?) Well, it was fabulous. My sister ate at that same hot dog stand five years ago and had been dreaming of it ever since. I can see why!

Part of the fun of being in Europe in the winter was seeing everyone all bundled up and sporting cute boots. People were out and about at all times of day and night and every glühwein stand was PACKED.  ’Twas all very cozy. :)

A quick rundown of what we did (not in chronological order): walked in, around and on top of St. Stephens, explored multiple Christmas markets, listened to a opera soloist accompanied by a harpist at the beautiful Vienna State Opera, viewed training of the famous Lipizzaner stallions and walked through the grounds at Belvedere palace.

A few highlights from Salzburg:

The coolest thing about Salzburg is seeing the fortress/castle everywhere you go. Unless of course, you’re inside the fortress, and then you have an incredible view of the city and surrounding countryside. We were in Salzburg for three nights and we went up to the fortress three times. On our first night we took the funicular up and we practically had the whole place to ourselves. The next day we walked through the city and up to the castle. It was a steep walk. We spent a good chunk of time walking through the various rooms, checking out the little Christmas market inside the castle and doing an audio tour (which was actually really good). On our last day we walked to the castle by crossing the river and taking a path over the Mönchsberg mountain. I would definitely recommend making that hike if you’re in Salzburg!

As if being in picturesque Salzburg wasn’t dreamy enough, we were upgraded from our perfectly lovely and large junior-King suite to THE PRESIDENTIAL SUITE. It had a doorbell. And a huge flatscreen in the master bathroom. And a dining room table. We also had access to the hotel’s VIP lounge, where we could eat and drink whenever we so pleased. Free beer on tap. Champagne at the ready. THE best hot chocolate I’ve ever had. Plus, we were served by a really sweet girl who snuck us snacks out of the kitchen just to make our stay even more delightful. My mom asked her where the hotel bought their stollen and she brought out a box for us to take home, on the house. She also introduced us to Nic-Nacs, crispy-coated peanuts that quickly became my new snack obsession. It’s embarrassing how many bags of peanuts I stuffed into my suitcase...

One night we ran into a group of TERRIFYING costumed creatures that we later found out were Krampus. (The server I mentioned told us she was afraid to walk home after work because the Krampus scare her so much. Kind of like this.) Thankfully, none of us were whipped!

Other than exploring the castle, we also walked up and down the streets of the Old City and did a bit of shopping, lots of Christmas-marketing, walking inside churches with our heads back and mouths open, checking out Mirabell Gardens and devouring the best apple strudel at Café Tomaselli (the oldest operating coffee house in Austria). We also took a bus to the Christmas Market in Hellbrunn, just outside of Salzburg. (Notice the Advent markings on the windows.)

Oh, and WE WENT ICE SKATING! In SALZBURG! Somebody pinch me.

a few more pics...

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


I miss that view! I miss rows of brightly-colored houses, ducking into alleys and constantly thinking is this real life? I miss holding hands with my mom in the markets and wigging out over food and drinks with my sister. (Three words: goulash, glühwein and weihnachtspunsch!)

Oh, but I missed my little family, too. I can’t seem to stop hugging the dog and saying “hiiiiii! I’m home!” to Andy. I unpacked my bags THE DAY AFTER I got back, so apparently the trip turned me into a responsible adult. Maybe it was the Alpine air? WHO AM I?

My birthday was a bit of a flop. I threw up from feeling nauseous on the plane, cried a bit from seeing lots of mommies with their babies aaaand my van was rear-ended on the drive home to Frederick. Womp womp. I called Andy sobbing and sputtering, I just want to be home.

For all that drama, though, the day ended rather nicely with me reading in bed next to my pup and my guy. Saturday night we went out to eat downtown to celebrate and we took a stroll through Shab Row, which was all decorated for Christmas. It was fantastically romantic.

I was doing rather well this weekend, thinking I had the whole jet-lag thing under control and feeling quite on top of my emotions. Then yesterday morning happened. I woke up and was immediately hit with the longest anxiety attack I’ve ever had. Showering will help, no? No. It didn’t help. A protein-packed breakfast will do the trick. Nope. So I cancelled my afternoon sub job and cried, feeling sorry for myself and wondering why on earth I was shaking and crying. Except, I shouldn’t have been surprised. Jet lag + heavy heart + PMS + coming down from the high of a trip can’t possibly equate to things being easy peasey.

I don’t want to be a broken record, constantly saying how hard it is or how anxious I feel or how I’m ready to get out of this limbo. I feel I am ridiculously high maintenance, and who wants to feel that way? But I also don’t want to be that girl who plasters a smile on her face and doesn’t let anyone see the pain she feels inside. (I am that girl sometimes, and it’s exhausting. Spilling my frustrations is tiring too, but I usually feel a bit of relief afterwards.)

Thank God for my sweet friend Kristen in Florida who, immediately after receiving my “having crazy anxiety right now” text took charge and ordered us dinner so I could rest. Man, I’m crying again just thinking about it. Isn’t it wonderful when your people show up for you?

I hope I am stronger today. I hope I can fill out the medical history form at the spa without crying or internally screaming at God. (I can’t tell you how many people have seen the “c-section” note and asked me how my kids are.) I hope I can make it through the line of the grocery store without being tempted to approach the pregnant teenager in line behind me. Can I have your baby? I hope I can make dinner and have a smile on my face when Andy walks in from work, and I hope I can honestly say, “I had a good day.”

If I just can’t take it, if I fall apart and rush home and surrender to the tears, there are always vacation pictures to thumb through. HGTV to watch. Puppy fur to bury my face in. Large manly feet to place my feet on top of and a yummy-smelling chest to lean against as we shuffle-dance in the kitchen. And really, that wouldn’t be so bad.