Time passes in strange ways when traveling.
Instead of blogging every day I do a round-up of each country we visit once we are on the way to our next stop. You’d think it would be easy enough to remember what I did three days ago but it feels like a lifetime has passed.
That’s the beauty of travel, one truly must live in the moment.
Nina and I are in our Peugeot and on the way to Prague, our penultimate stop. This is the part of the trip where I feel like a polestar, meeting up with my celebrity besties in an exotic locale … but I shouldn’t get ahead of myself.
We hightailed it to Hallstatt after leaving Obersee and spending the night in Salzburg. Nina just gave me some of the pictures she took.
FYI, I would be incapable of remembering the order of our travel without Nina to act as my backup memory. Thanks Nina! For everything, really.
My sweet mother-in-law asked me about my itinerary two hundred times prior to leaving. Every time I mentioned Hallstatt she said, “Oh, I know that place. It’s beautiful. I wish I was going with you.”
Now I see what she meant, Hallstatt was incredible. It’s an UNESCO World Heritage site (which now is criteria for future travel) and is one of the oldest inhabited villages in Europe.
Per Wikipedia, “The market municipality was already inhabited in the 1st millenium before Christ: during this period – the iron age – the civilization flourished. Hallstatt is known for its production of salt, dating back to prehistoric times, and gave its name to the Hallstatt culture, a culture often linked to Celtic, Proto-Celtic, and pre-Illyrian peoples in Early Iron Age Europe, c.800–450 BC. Some of the earliest archaeological evidence for the Celts was found in Hallstatt.”
Fortunately cars are not allowed in the city center during day because Hallstatt is built for walking and a little rain didn’t stop us from loving the city.
Nor did the rain stop the flood of Asian tourists. It was easily 90% Asians, Nina being the outlier. I am only 1/2 outlier.
They must market the shit out of Hallstatt in China because the gift shops even offer calendars in Chinese. It turns out that the Chinese have created a copy of the ancient salt mine village. That’s love.
Also, Americans are doing it wrong if they aren’t checking this place out.
We got lost in our own fantasies of living in a place like this, wondering what it must be like. It was a dream.
We reluctantly got back in the car and arrived in Vienna at dusk. Nina has nerves of steel when it comes to city driving and I did my best to make myself very narrow and silent as she powered through the tiny lanes.
I felt like I was going to see someone die that night. Europeans are crazy drivers.
She did her homework about parking; the 25 Hours a Day hotel offered parking for $30/day so she opted to park in a public lot underneath the Museum Quartier two blocks away.
We travel lightly so it’s no big deal to walk two blocks with our luggage, especially when we only ended up paying $2.50 a night. She also threw a major fit when the hotel WIFI went down and scored $120 worth of free breakfast for the both of us.
She warned me that she was going to get extra mean at the front desk so I sat far away as she did her best impersonation of a hyperventilating rottweiler.
I knew that I would be all, it’s okay, it’s not a big deal, shit happens, even though it’s basic policy to offer freebees when stuff doesn’t work. It’s what I do at my Airbnb when anything goes remotely wrong and I don’t make my clients ask.
But still, I’m a softie and I would have totally ruined her game.
She stormed up to me after scoring free breakfasts and raged about the inconvenience and how was she wasn’t going to get work done and I was like, “Calm down, Nina, it’s going to be okay, let’s just go for a walk and enjoy the city,” but she was like, “Shh. This is how you get breakfast for free. Let’s get out of here!”
We had to walk off her rage because homegirl is method AF*. I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t turn me on a little. It would have been even better if it had been in Norwegian.
(*As Fuck, Dad.)
We unpacked and took to the streets for dinner, finding a really nice Greek place. We struggled through the menu using Google translate until the waiter handed us menus in English.
We’ve been eating strictly German/Austrian cuisine so it was nice to have a change, and to find some good vegetarian fare. The only downside to Austria is they haven’t gotten on the non-smoking bandwagon. It’s supposed to go into effect in 2018 and it only makes me more grateful for America’s strict policies.
We slept like the dead that night in our circus themed hotel. WIFI issues notwithstanding, I really dig the 25 Hour Hotel chain. It would be an otherwise depressing and outdated 70s era building, but the fanciful decor and humorous touches made it feel hip and fun.
The 80s lobby music made me feel right at home with Tears for Fears (Pale Shelter) and REM (Near Wild Heaven) rather than vanilla lobby music. The rooftop hotel was hopping and there was a young vibe to the place.
We walked around Vienna and did the tour of Hoffbrun Palace.
I’ve never used the audio guides before at museums and I was pleasantly surprised at how much it added to the experience. I loved learning about Franz Joseph’s wife, the Empress Sissi, and the intimate details of her life.
Who knew she had stall bars and rings in her room for calisthenics? Not me.
I was sad the tour ended when it did.
Vienna is a very walkable city and I couldn’t help but feel dwarfed by the enormous buildings the size of city blocks everywhere.
Each building was ornately festooned with statues between every window and heraldic chariots on the roofs. Vienna is truly a feast for the eyes.
Speaking of feasts …
Nina and I decided to eat all the pastries. We were not going to hold back because if there were ever a place to indulge, it’s Vienna.
We pretty much ate cake at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Sometimes instead of one of those meals. And we never ordered just one piece, we usually ordered two each because why not? Pastries were shockingly reasonable at $5 for the most time consuming confections.
Brandy and wine was also cheaper than tea so in the name of frugality …
Seriously, we had the best time.
We went to the ballet the second night at the Vienna opera. Again, Nina researched the show carefully and even sold our original tickets in favor of getting in on a better show.
The ballet was in three acts. The first one was a slow moving, minimalist and classical piece which was hard to relate to.
The second act was post modern with live music on-stage, spoken word, boxes that the dancers danced on and manipulated … and cacti. It was interesting and I appreciated what it was doing but it didn’t resonate with me.
The third act was wonderful. It was modern (no pointe shoes) and beautiful and kinetic and the costumes and choreography were moving and satisfying. It was the perfect way to end the evening.
This is a wonderful video of all three acts.
I woke up the next morning at 6:30 – proof that I’ve assimilated to the time zone – but there is nothing to do that early in the morning and I really want to be able to stay up late, so I managed to get back to sleep until 9:30.
We spent the day walking around the city, buying art and gifts, and then went to yet another palace, this time Schönbrunn Palace.
I flashed back to Dangerous Liaisons as we wandered around the vast gardens and got lost in the topiary maze and the ceiling murals were to die for.
And yes, we had cake at the zoo café.
Speaking of zoo cafés, I had a delicious baked potato with herbed cream and fresh vegetables, garnished with edible flowers.
America, I love you but you suck when it comes to casual dining. There was nary a slice of pizza, corn dog, or chicken nugget to be found.
We met up with a German friend of Nina’s at Café Salieri for a divine Italian meal. Of course it was only an hour and a half after we polished off four slices of cakes (all different) and three macarons but hey, we are walking a lot, and as you can see, all the buttercream hasn’t done a thing to our figures.
Again, I’m not going to feel bad about eating everything in sight because much like going to fancy German spas, it’s a rare treat and if you are going to indulge, you might was well as indulge in the best.
That said, I think I’ve gotten my fill of pastries for a while and would really like some more salads.