European Travels Sept-Dec 2016

Hi friends, I just thought I would pop in and post a map I made shortly after returning from Rome in December.  I feel so blessed to have been able to experience so many cities in such a short about of time; I truly did learn so much from my travels.  I can’t want to go back and check more cities off my list! best, Lauren

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Vienna, Austria (Pt. 2)

I’ve been trying and trying to get this last Pre-Italy post out for days.  As many of you know, I’ve now been in Italy for almost a week, traveling from Venice to Verona & Vicenza, but the WiFi in Italy has been spotty at best, and so here I am with the last installment of the “Road to Rome” series.

The second day in Austria, we woke up and we were off to visit the Habsburg Summer Residence, Schönbrunn Palace.  Schönbrunn is the most frequently visited palace by tourists, and we could see why upon our arrival.  The palace is beautiful, and the grounds are out of this world.

Pro Tip: Because we bought a combined Palace ticket at the Imperial Palace, we got to bypass the crowds and get into the Palace much quicker.

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Schönbrunn (“Beautiful Spring”) was originally built in 1740 as a hunting palace, outside of the city of Vienna.  The palace was a gift to Empress Maria Theresa as a wedding gift.  (Pretty nice gift, I’d say..)

Side Note: Maria Theresa was the only female leader of the Habsburg family.  She had 13 children, 11 of which were girls and they all had the first name “Marie”.  Her youngest daughter was Marie Antionette.

Any way, we had a great time touring the castle.  It’s really beautifully decorated inside, but I unfortunately couldn’t get any photos.

After touring the inside, we picked up some sandwiches and headed to the “backyard” for some exploring.

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This image was taken from the back porch of the palace.  Can you imagine this being your view everyday? The structure in the background is called the “Gloriette” (French for “little room”) and it was more or less built to be an object to look at from the Palace.

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This is the more formal “French” part of the garden, and in the following pictures we explored some of the wild “English” part of the garden.

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After we finished enjoying the garden, we headed over to another of the Habsburg Palaces, the Belvedere.  The palace complex consists of Upper Belvedere, Lower Belvedere, and the gardens in between the two.  Lower Belvedere was first constructed in 1697, and Upper Belvedere was constructed in 1717.

It has since been converted into an art museum, which we visited as well.  It’s much smaller than the other two palaces, but it is my favorite of the Vienna Palaces.

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Upper Belvedere

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Lower Belvedere

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We even saw “The Most Famous Kiss in the World” but of course No Photography was allowed, and security was very high.

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I did sneak some photos of the lobby – love the white and black 🙂

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We love you Belvedere! And your Eiskaffees!

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After a nice slower day in Vienna, we prepared for our last train ride to Venice to meet up with our professors and classmates and start our school program.

Here’s the log we kept of all the trains we took.  We bought an 8-day Eurail pass that we could use to hop on and off the train, and it worked so perfectly!  I could not recommend getting a Eurail pass enough!

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Hopefully soon, I’ll have a Venice & Northern Italy update.  If you want the live-action, real-time shots, you should consider following me on Snapchat! Until then, arrivederci!

Vienna, Austria (Pt. 1)

By the time we made it to our Vienna Airbnb for the night from Salzburg, we had walked a whopping 10.5 miles.
We were excited that we were going to be in Vienna for 3 nights and have 2 entire days of exploring the city.  We haven’t spent that long in any of the cities we’ve been in yet, and so for our last city on our Alps by Train excursion, we were so excited to spend 2 days in Vienna.
Vienna is the capital of Austria and was formerly the capital of the Habsburg Empire for several centuries, as the seat to the Holy Roman Empire and then to the Austrian Empire before its fall in 1918.  Needless to say, Vienna has long been a cultural and economic center for Europe.
Our first morning in Vienna, in search of breakfast and coffee, we set out for the Stephansplatz, the center of town and the location of the famous St. Stephen’s Cathedral.
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We have been very much enjoying all of our coffee and meals outdoors in the squares.  I don’t think we’ve eaten a meal indoors since we’ve been abroad.
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(I like the way they put photographs of the exterior on the boards where they are restoring the facade.)
St. Stephen’s Cathedral was built in the mid 1300s.  Standing at 446 feet tall, St. Stephen’s south tower is one of the tallest in Europe.  I guess until 1955, a watchman occupied the tower at all times to spot fires within the city.
Its beautiful roof has become a well recognized image of the city.
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After we looked around the interior, we paid to go up in the tower (we took the lift this time).
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Upon returning to the ground, we wandered over to the Hofburg Imperial Palace.
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This is was the Habsburg family’s normal, everyday palace in the city center.  We toured the Imperial Apartments, the Sisi Museum, and the Hofburg Silver Collection.
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We learned a lot about Empress Elizabeth “Sisi”, married to the last Emperor of the Austrian Empire, Emporer Karl Josef.  Due to her beauty and recluse, she was highly liked by the Austrians, and when she was tragically assassinated in 1898, she was immortalized.  Many artists all over the country made sculptures and paintings of her.  And to this day, she is a mystery.
After our tour, we naturally had to go to the Empress’ favorite bakery, Demel, and pick up something to eat.
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We wandered for a bit over to the Museum Quarter and found a nice park and a greenhouse.
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Audrey has been talking about going to the Secessionist Building (“The Golden Cabbage” as she calls it) since the formation of this trip and alas the time had come.  It is pretty cool.
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We found a wonderful pub in the park and finally had ourselves an Eiskaffee.  People, America is doing Iced Coffee wrong.  We need to start putting ice cream in our coffee!  And oh the whipped cream! So much better than in the States!  I mean look at how beautiful this is!  And I had only been talking about getting one since Heidelberg, so it was time.
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My life has been changed.
Last stop on Day 1 in Vienna was Karlskirche (or St. Charles Church).
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We slipped in while they were holding Night Mass, and stayed a little bit, but unfortunately it was in German so we had a hard time following.
Vienna (Pt 2) is coming soon, feat. two more of the Habsburg Palaces.
 
 

Salzburg, Austria

From Munich, we took the train to Vienna and stopped in Salzburg on the way.

In preparation for our trip to Salzburg, we watched a bit of Sound of Music, which is set in Salzburg, Austria.  It took us 3 nights to watch the entire 3-hour movie because we kept falling asleep 🙂
 
Our first destination in Salzburg was the Mirabell Garden where Maria and the children sing Do Re Mi.
 
Remember this scene?
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The garden is still quite beautiful.

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You can just barely see it, but the Hohensalzburg Castle sits up on the hill in the background.  The castle was built around in the 1000s, and thoughout the years became one of the largest in Europe.  Maria’s Abbey that appears in the movie sits up near the castle.
 
In search of something for lunch, we found the river and started walking toward the center of town.
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Unbeknownst to us, we stumbled upon Salzburg’s Fall Festival, which was a delight.
We got some bratwursts and sauerkraut at a little street place (which are in my opinion, the best places to eat).
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We then picked up some Cannolis, and we were off to find Maria’s Abbey.
After some wrong turns & dead ends, we found the hill that leads up to the Abbey.
The climb was difficult, but the views out to the city and the Alps were pretty spectacular (a common theme in this trip..)
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The Benedictine Convent on Nonnberg is the Abbey they used for outside shots in the movie (the interior was created in Hollywood.)

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We couldn’t get all the way up to the Hohensalzburg Castle, but we got pretty close.
Some other interesting facts about The Sound of Music Movie (from Rick Steves https://www.ricksteves.com/watch-read-listen/the-sound-of-music-debunked):
  • “Edelweiss” is not a cherished Austrian folk tune or national anthem. Like all the “Austrian” music in The Sound of Music, it was composed for Broadway by Rodgers and Hammerstein. It was the last composition that the famed team wrote together, as Hammerstein died in 1960 — nine months after the musical opened.
  • The Sound of Music implies that Maria was devoutly religious throughout her life, but Maria’s foster parents raised her as a socialist and atheist. Maria discovered her religious calling while studying to be a teacher. After completing school, she joined the convent not as a nun, but as a novitiate (that is, she hadn’t taken her vows yet).
  • Maria’s position was not as governess to all the children, as portrayed in the musical, but specifically as governess and teacher for the Captain’s second-oldest daughter, also called Maria, who was bedridden with rheumatic fever.
  • The Captain didn’t run a tight domestic ship. In fact, his seven children were as unruly as most. But he did use a whistle to call them — each kid was trained to respond to a certain pitch.
  • Though the Von Trapp family did have seven children, the show changed all their names and even their genders. As an adult, Rupert, the eldest child, responded to the often-asked question, “Which one are you?” with a simple, “I’m Liesl!” Maria and the Captain later had three more children together.
  • The family didn’t escape by hiking to Switzerland (which is a five-hour drive away). Rather, they pretended to go on one of their frequent mountain hikes. With only the possessions in their backpacks, they “hiked” all the way to the train station (it was at the edge of their estate) and took a train to Italy. The movie scene showing them climbing into Switzerland was actually filmed near Berchtesgaden, Germany…home to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest, and certainly not a smart place to flee to.
  • The actual Von Trapp family house exists…but it’s not the one in the film. The mansion in the movie is actually two different buildings, one used for the front, the other for the back. The interiors were all filmed on Hollywood sets.
  • For the film, Boris Levin designed a reproduction of Nonnberg Abbey courtyard so faithful to the original (down to its cobblestones and stained-glass windows) that many still believe the cloister scenes were really shot at the abbey. And no matter what you hear in Salzburg, the graveyard scene (in which the Von Trapps hide from the Nazis) was also filmed on the Fox lot.
  • In 1956, a German film producer offered Maria $10,000 for the rights to her book. She asked for royalties, too, and a share of the profits. The agent explained that German law forbids film companies from paying royalties to foreigners (Maria had by then become a US citizen). She agreed to the contract and unknowingly signed away all film rights to her story. Only a few weeks later, he offered to pay immediately if she would accept $9,000 in cash. Because it was more money than the family had seen in all of their years of singing, she accepted the deal. Later, she discovered the agent had swindled them — no such law existed.  Rodgers, Hammerstein, and other producers gave the Von Trapps a percentage of the royalties, even though they weren’t required to — but it was a fraction of what they otherwise would have earned. But Maria wasn’t bitter. She said, “The great good the film and the play are doing to individual lives is far beyond money.”
 
We walked all the way back to the train station, and we were happy to sit on the train for 2 1/2 hours to Vienna.  
Sometime, I’ll have to go back and take the full Sound of Music tour.. Until next time Salzburg!  A post about Vienna is coming soon 🙂

München (Munich)

After we returned from Zugspitze, we picked up the packs and we were off to München for the night.  The closer we got to the city, the more and more men we saw in lederhosen (Munich is currently celebrating Oktoberfest).  The old men were especially cute in their traditional Bavarian attire; the Americans… not so much..

Getting off the train, we went straight to Marienplatz, the main square in Munich, to see the Rathaus (“City Hall”) which is home to the famous Glockenspiel.

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We went around the corner to St. Peter’s Church.

This version of the church was built in 1327 after it was expanded and later destroyed by a fire.  Parts of the church were destroyed in the bombings of WWII, but it has been restored to its former glory.

We climbed the tower to get a better look at the city, and the views did not disappoint.

 

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With very tired legs, we walked back to the station, picked up our packs and walked to our new Airbnb.

The next morning, we went back to Marienplatz to watch the Glockspiel ring at 11am, and I picked up a nice lithograph image of the Rathaus.

Then we were off to visit the Nymphenburg Palace.

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The Nymphenburg Palace was just outside of the old city limits of Munich and was the summer residence of the Ruling Widdlesbachs of Bavaria (think Neuschwanstein’s Ludwig II’s family line).  They had a normal, every day palace within Old Munich.

The view off the Tram was remarkable, and it just got better as we got closer.

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This place is huge.. and this is just the front yard.  Wait until you see the backyard.

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We took a tour of the palace, and here is the Great Hall.

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This place feels like it reaches to the ends of the earth, as this painting suggests.

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And here just a tiny section of their backyard.. We wanted to explore it more, but alas our stomachs were growling, and we had more of the city to see.

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Audrey and I laughed about this Happy Lion for a little too long…

We explored the English Garden in Munich, which is twice the size of Central Park in NYC.

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And here is the famous Hofbräuhaus, opened in 1589 by the Duke of Bavaria, Wilhelm V, and owned by the Bavarian state government.

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We would have stopped in, but we were tired and cranky and needed to go home.

Next Stop: Salzburg & Vienna, Austria (our last city before Venice!!)

Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Neuschwanstein & Zugspitze

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From Innsbruck, Austria we took the train back up into Germany to Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

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It’s been colder and rainy the last few days, but we’re happy for the cooler weather, and this PNW girl loves the fog.

Garmisch-Partenkirchen is a charming little mountain town on the border between Austria and Germany.  We arrived on Sunday afternoon, and most of the town was closed, so we found a place to eat a warm meal, and we were happy to spend most of the evening in our hotel room.

In the morning we were off to catch a train to Reutte, Austria and then a bus back into Germany to see Ludwig II’s famous fairy castle Neuschwanstein.

Schwangau (“Swan District”) is the home of the castle Neuschwanstein and the lesser known castle Hohenschwangau.

Based on the German’s punctuality and organization, they had us visit Hohenschwangau Castle first.

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Hohenswangau was first mentioned in historical records in 1397, but its interior was remodeled in the mid 1500s as it remains today, with restoration happinging in the 1800s.  The Wittlesbachs of Bavaria (the ruling family of the time) used the castle primarily for hunting season.

As a young boy, future King Ludwig II came to stay at this castle often in the summers with his parents, King Maximillian and Queen Marie.

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When his father died, Ludwig suddenly became king of Bavaria at age 18.  On the tour they told us that his hobbies were reading, sleeping, and building castles.  He commissioned the construction of two lavish castles, one of them being Neuschwanstein, which he could watch being built from his bedroom window.

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After we were finished at Hohenschwangau, we took the hefty hike up to Neuschwanstein.

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Neuschwanstein was built on the site of two medieval castles that Ludwig always wished to build on.  As the years went on, the plans for the castle grew and grew.  Construction started in 1869.  In 1882, the gatehouse was finished, allowing Ludwig to move in there temporarily until the rest of the castle was finished.  In 1884, Ludwig was able to move into the main castle, and lived there for only 176 days when he mysteriously died in 1886. The castle was never finished.

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We walked up the Marienbrüke (“Marie’s Bridge”) for the iconic Neuschwanstein shot, a bridge built for Queen Marie who loved mountaineering.

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Views from the castle (I’d live here.. 🙂 )

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Oh, and here’s a sad puppy in the rain.

The next morning, we headed up the Zugspite, the tallest mountain in Germany.

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We took the train to the gondola platform, and then we took the gondola all the way up the mountain.

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Another nice foggy day in the Alps.  The cables disappeared right into the fog!

 

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Soon we were surrounded by white in the gondola as we went up and up and up.

And then we saw the snow.

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The fog and the snow was fun! I’ll have to go back again some day when it’s clear so I can see the sorrounding mountains!

Next stop: Munich, Germany!

 

Vaduz, Liechtenstein & Innsbruck, Austria

Though we were sad to leave Lucerne, we so much enjoyed the train ride deeper into the Alps.  All we said over and over again was, “Ohh my… wow… stop… so beautiful.”

Y’all need to take a train through the Alps.

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When Audrey & I started planning this trip, we saw that we would take the train very close to Liechtenstein.

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Vaduz, and the rest of Liechtenstein, is nestled in the heart of the Alps between Switzerland and Austria.  It is so tiny, in fact, that many Europeans don’t even know it’s a country.

Eager to add one more country to our list, we decided to hop of the train and eat lunch in Vaduz, the capital of Liechtenstein.

 

Vaduz Castle sits up on a hill overlooking the city, where the Prince of Liechtenstein still resides.

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While we were researching Liechtenstein, we found these facts about the country that are more interesting than our visit was. (Read more at: http://mentalfloss.com/article/69736/13-fascinating-little-facts-about-liechtenstein)

1. THERE’S VERY LITTLE CRIME.

2. SWITZERLAND ONCE ACCIDENTALLY INVADED IT.

3. ONCE A YEAR, ALL THE RESIDENTS ARE INVITED TO PARTY IN A CASTLE.

4. THEY SPEAK GERMAN, BUT NOT EXACTLY.

5. YOU’VE NEVER HEARD OF ITS MOST POPULOUS CITY.

6. IT’S THE WORLD’S LEADING MANUFACTURER OF FALSE TEETH.

7. AT ONE POINT, YOU COULD RENT THE COUNTRY BY THE EVENING.

8. THE NATIONAL ANTHEM IS SURPRISINGLY FAMILIAR.

9. THANKS TO A PROPERTY DISPUTE, LIECHTENSTEIN DIDN’T RECOGNIZE THE EXISTENCE OF THE CZECH REPUBLIC OR SLOVAKIA UNTIL 2009.

10. THE COUNTRY IS NOT ONLY LANDLOCKED BUT DOUBLE-LANDLOCKED.

11. QUIET TIMES ARE IMPORTANT.

12. THE CURRENT OWNERS NEGLECTED IT FOR A WHILE.

13. WOMEN ONLY RECENTLY GOT THE VOTE.

Our trip to Liechtenstein was longer than we antipated because of a missed bus, and a train that only leave every 2 hours, so all in all, though we’re glad we stopped, we overstayed our welcome.

This cute little dog wearing a wreath around his neck running down the alley toward our table almost, almost redeemed our trip. He was pretty cute.

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Finally around 6pm, we started making our way to Innsbruck, Austria, arriving to our Airbnb after dark.

In the morning, we picked up some coffee and croissants and strolled around Innsbruck, and let me tell you, it felt like a fairytale.

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We toured the Imperial Palace in Innsbruck, which was the summer residence of the Habsburgs of Austria, originally built around 1460.  We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside, but I snuck a few.

When I told my mom about Innsbruck, I said that it’s a fairytale, and I would be happy to come back and spend more time here.  She replied that I’ve said that about everywhere so far.. but really, Innsbruck is beautiful!

Now I’m off to read up on my Austrian Habsburg history.

Next stop: Back to Germany! Garmisch-Partenkirchen where we visit the famous castle Neuschwanstein and up to Zugspite, the top of Germany