So, we are 10 days into 180 days….and….we are well!
So far we have had one plane, many many metro and city trains, 2 international trains, one overnight disaster train, 3 busses, 1 bicycle tour, many kms on the bikes and many many kms on the feet! You would think we would be skinny! The beer and wine and icecream as well as trips to the bakeries are helping us stay “well”.
We are currently on the train to Venice Italy. It was a 10:56 train from Salzburg to Inssbruck Austria followed by a 40min CRAZY bus ride through the Brenner Pass….
FIrst impressions -we started out in the cleaner countries in Europe. Luxembourg was really beautiful with the old city, the tiers of land separating the old and new. We enjoyed the heat, the fountains and playgrounds. The Casemates (old tunnels) were very cool (literally – on a hot day) and the trip to Vianden castle –will be one of many castles.
Next stop Munich. Seeing the Olympic stadium and remembering the tragedy of the terrorism there as well as so many memories of the war and Nazi Germany. The kids didn’t really get it…actually – they understood more when in Austria wrt to Sound of Music. Munich met us with a VERY big city feel, but safe – a lot of public drinking – easy to navigate city train system (all from the main HBF just 400m from our hotel) and a gorgeous sleep/shower/stay at ViVadi hotel. The water park in the 30+deg heat was an added bonus.
Latest stop –Salzburg Austria –so far my favourite. The apartment we had was 5min walk from the Hbf and there was a SPAR grocery store right at the station. We had a lovely apartment with two bedrooms, two queen beds, two bathrooms and a large backyard. There was no a/c …but it had fans and once we were home after exploring for the day – the open windows let in a nice breeze. Europe is in a heat wave 30+deg everyday. The owner of our apartment (Dietmar – a local obstetrician!) said it hasn’t been this hot in 40years. Dietmar was remarking how his palm plants in the back yard had never looked so good!
We had the use of 3 bikes from Dietmar – and made good use of them. The apartment was one small block from the river —which is the main to and from the downtown/oldtown. On either side of the river is a walking and cycling path and many bridges to cross back and forth. I had three beautiful early morning runs (before it got too hot…but still a sweaty mess!). We also had laundry – it dried outside in the sun in 30min!
Salzburg highlights included learning more about Mozart and his family – who new his sister was a musician prodigy too? HIs life sounds hard actually –always trying to please others and finding fame/wealth, losing fame/wealth and never really finding love. We walked through his residence and heard music he composed when he was 8 years old. We even saw the organ he used when he was a child.
The Sound of Music was the other drawing card for Salzburg. Rich gave the kids options of “bus tour”, “bike tour” or self guided tour. They both chose bus tour….so we went on a bike tour! Lauchlyn found the bikes difficult to steer (b/c the handlebars were so wide and far away –I agree –it was strange to get used to). She ended up riding a tandem bike with Rich. Thank goodness for DAD…or I would have been hauling her up and down the Salzburg cobble stone hills. Wilson rode his own (also – phew!) and I rode mine. They were actually nice bikes – gears that worked and brakes that worked too. Much of the biking was on flat ground and the bike paths that they have are super extensive – taking you away from traffic and to all the major attractions (they have done this before!). We ended up biking 10.8miles on our 3.5hr tour. It was almost 9pm when we were done –kids were DONE…but all in all a good experience. (minus the “jumping” into the 1000yr old Roman canal which had a CRAZY current…..Rich jumped ….anticipating Wilson and Lauchlyn to follow –they chickened out…then Wilson jumped but in a different location and right onto a metal bar (hidden below the water!)…screaming and crying….and a rescue in the current….then back on the bikes to finish the tour –with one very upset 12yo!)
Along the tour we saw the monestary where Marie was a nun, the place the filmed the back of the VonTrapp family house on the water (the Jewish director never went into the house b/c it had been taken from a Jewish owner by Hitler during the invasion), the Do-re-mi steps, the gazebo, the other filming site of the VonTrapp house (the front gate where Maria arrives and where they push the car out at the end) and the catacombs.
Rich had downloaded the movie (thanks Kelly!) ….so we had watched it the day before….it definitely helped us remember what to look for.
We also rented a car for a day (instead of going to Vienna by train) and headed into the Alps to explore. Rich in the driver’s seat (manual – apparently neither child remember us having a manual car…they asked a lot of questions about the shifting) and me navigating. Another shout out to Daniel for the “Here we go” app (navigation off line!)…it was AWESOME and got us where we needed to go. An added extra benefit is that it beeps whenever RIch is going over the speed limit….the kids and I love that feature! (Rich – not so much!).
We went to the Schafberg train – that I had read about online. It is a cog rail train that takes you 2000m UP into the mountains. For 84Euro/family I would say the guy who decided to hire migrant workers to build this totally chaos uphill track was a genius! The trip took 35min (and a lot of ear popping!) and included a few “stops” for the conductor to jump out of the train and flip the switch for our track vs. the train coming down hill towards us! There are three areas along the path to “pass” eachother. I think there were 6 trains running (3 up and 3 down at any one time)….once again….he is basically printing $$$.
The views were fantastic. Rich hiked up to a peak FAR away….and too nerve racking for Wilson who decided to stay and build an Inukshuk with me (and Lauchlyn who bailed on “hiking that far”). We spent about 2 hours up on top —a beautiful and cool day up there. After the mandatory beer and icecream stop (again….printing $$)..we headed down 35min (warmer and warmer and hot by the time we were down…ps RIch CAN sleep anywhere!). Lake Wolfgang is at the bottom. It would have been great if we had planned a whole day and swimming. The water is beautiful tourquoise like Lake Louise in Alberta.
We then drove through the mountains, winding our way to Hallstatt. This is a Unesco heritage site (I believe) and a very picturesque town on the side of a lake. You get to the town through a carved out tunnel…cool but a little anxiety provoking. There is no parking in the town –so paid to park in one of the many blue P areas. Once we got out of our car we quickly noticed the overhead sound of helicopters. These helicopters were carrying big red “bags”…oh and flying in circles. Over to the beautiful lake…filling up their buckets …and then dropping them on the forest fire on the side of the cliff! YIKES. You could smell the smoke and see the flames in the forest/bush 1/2 way up the surrounding hills. Apparently – they weren’t evacuating the small town – but still….is this really a place we want to hang out on “this side of the tunnel” for long? We went to the lake to watch the helicopters fill up…very cool really —and our first “close up” forest fire. (add that to the firsts!). We were planning on walking into the little town, finding supper and then heading back to Salzburg before dark. It was already 6pm! Our plans were thwarted – not by forest fire –but by tire swing! Lulu and Wilson were enjoying the playground beside the lake – when Wilson hopped off the tire swing…leaving Lulu careening into the centre post and squashing her foot between tire and post! Oh the screaming! …..that’s both children….one foot injury each! Wilson’s is black and blue now and Lulu says she can’t walk (and she is crying uncontrollably —Rich and I give eachother the sideways look of …”great…we may be going to the ER in Salzburg later tonight!”.
We pack up into the car….at least parking only cost us 3 euro!…and head back through the tunnel towards Salzburg. Perhaps her injury was a blessing in disguise…I am happier leaving the forest fire behind. We stopped at a road side Gustof restaurant –and had a very pleasant meal outside – looking at the Alps…and watching Lauchlyn slowly slowly decide to take steps onto her left foot. “Why do I only hurt my left side she asks?….her left wrist splint just got thrown out yesterday! She seems to be improving….thank goodness.
We didn’t make it home before dark…and “Here we go” didn’t let us down – but took us on a very interesting 5.8km one lane (but two direction) road through the countryside – past cows, homesteads, one land bridges and the like….dark….but fun! RIch drove well – the app helped show all the upcoming turns and twists in the road. The highway was a welcome sight…but the speed is ridiculous…130kph (and then people speed on top of that)!
Yesterday – Lauchlyn is bruised but not broken. Wilson is bruised and not broken. Rich and I have enjoyed our Austrian wine and beer….and wifi….and cribbage! We took a last adventure with the car to Hellbrun castle and trick fountains. OMG that was so worth it!23eur/family for a tour. The dude who built this place was manic for sure –and built surprise water spouts everywhere –the guide tells you the story about him and his guests..while you walk…and then get hammered by spraying water. It was 10am and already 26deg…so we enjoyed getting wet (and had worn our swimsuits in anticipation…those poor suckers wearing jeans and not protecting their good camera gear 🙂 (click on the link for the movie I think?!)
Wilson and Rich finished off Salzburg with a cooking class….Apple strudel. Really good. Lulu and I hung out and did laundry!
One last trip to a beer garden…..using Rich’s “man compass” while biking through Salzburg to find “THE BEER GARDEN”…..it took one stop to ask for direction, one return home for wifi…and then a “let’s wait here kids while dad walks around to try to find this place”….but we found it. Good “wiener”, “blackfish”, “pomme frites”, quinoa salad, German potatoe salad (tastes like mine from home – but cold and without bacon) and Rich’s “meat platter and beer stines”.
Thanks Austria….a great stop….and a great start to our second week on the road! Off to Italy.