Monday, May 23, 2011

Euro Trip 2011: Part 7

We are home now, all unpacked and recovering from jet lag so the documenting continues.
We left Vienna on a train May 11th and arrived in Prague!  The train ride was beautiful with fields of yellow flowers for miles and little towns.  I love trains in Europe, they are efficient and the journey is relaxing and beautiful.  When we arrived in Prague, there was a man waiting to drive us into town to our hotel.  The hotel was up a cobble street road, right next door to the US Embassy, where our brother-in-law worked a few years ago.  Hotel Sax was unique from all the other places we stayed, with its fun, inviting retro decor. 
For dinner we journeyed up the cobble stone path behind our hotel and ate at an authentic pub, I went with the safe bet and ordered schnitzel, Scott went for the house special, an assorted meat plate complete with pork knuckles, duck and more.  After dinner we ventured out to get a feel for the town, walking along the river, before heading off to bed.  
The next day, we explored Prague Castle which is considered the biggest ancient castle in the world.  We were impressed by the beauty of the St. Vitus Cathedral on the castle grounds with its gothic architecture and large clock tower.  Inside the cathedral we loved the stained glass windows, the most impressive was designed by Czech artist Alfons Mucha, who also has a museum of his work in town.  As we explored the rest of the castle grounds, we saw the Czech crowned jewels, the Basilica and Convent of St. George, which is the burial place of Czech royalty, and the Lobkowicz Palace, where we saw how the royal Czech Family lived.  As we were exiting, we saw a toy museum and decided to take a look.  It was filled with toys dating back to the 19th century and an incredible Barbie collection with one of the 1959 first edition  dolls.  We even found a BYU cheerleader Barbie! 
We headed across the Charles Bridge for lunch and then made our way to the Old Town to explore.  We saw the Old Town Hall Tower with the Astronomical Clock and waited with a crowd of onlookers to see the clock strike the hour.  Every hour the little characters on the clock move and make noise which is quite entertaining.  As it started to rain, we headed for shelter and ate a delicious Belgium Waffle with chocolate and strawberries for dessert.  We tried to see a few more sites but decided to head back because of the rain.  After the rain stopped a bit, we went to this delicious cafe for dinner and I had the best goat cheese salad.
With a little more sun on our side, we woke up the next day and headed out to see the Jewish Ghetto.  On our way, we walked to the top of one of the Towers of Charles Bridge, where we saw the bridge with all the people, street venders and statues from above.  We explored the Jewish Ghetto next, where we learned about the concentration camps in the Czech Republic and the treasures of these people.  The cemetery was fascinating and really made me realize how little disrespect these people had in their very own country.  In one of the museums, there was artwork from children while they were in the concentration camps displayed, it was hard to read what the children had to face in their lives and how they didn't know what was to become of them.  It made me realize the great blessing it is to have freedom in our country.  We had Bohemia Bagel for lunch (thanks Kelsea for the recommendation, loved the endless Diet Coke!)  Then we went to the top of the City Hall Clock Tower, it was the best view of Prague.  There was a hockey game being broadcast in the main square so people were packed in and cheering loudly.  As we crossed the Charles Bridge on our way back, we learned more about all the statues along the sides, thanks to Rick Steve.  Near our side of town, we went to see the Lennon Wall which is so fascinating.  I love all the quotes, colors and extreme artwork.  We ended the night with dinner at an Irish Pub and a beautiful walk along the river watching the sunset.  
The last part of Prague we still had to see was New Town.  We took our Rick Steve’s tour of New Town and went to the Communism Museum.  The movie inside the museum was very moving and interesting.  It really opened my eyes to the state of the Czech Republic within communist rule and how recent it was a communist country.  We had lunch at CafĂ© Colour, which was delicious, especially our dessert of strawberry chocolate crepes.  Then we headed back to our hotel to pack and get ready for our flight in the wee hours of the morning to PARIS!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Euro Trip 2011: Part 6

We arrived in Vienna after a short train ride from Salzburg.  We were excited to explore another city and see what it had to offer.  After getting checked into our room, we quickly found a delicious restaurant around the corner from our hotel, right outside the gates of the Schonbruun Palace.  We had one of the best meals of the trip at this delightful restaurant sitting on the patio.  Scott had a special named after one of the empresses of the palace, Maria Theresa which was chicken stuffed with feta cheese, wrapped in bacon with a creamy sauce.  I had the best chicken wings which were marinated in a light, tasty sauce with delicious potato wedges.  After our taste buds were completely satisfied, we went inside the palace gates and took an audio tour of the Schonbruun Palace which included the fascinating story of the Habsburg Royal Family.  On the grounds of the palace, there are beautiful gardens, fountains and hedge mazes which entertained us for quite a while.  In one of the mazes, two large rocks were placed by a famous Feng Shui Master to represent a male and a female.  The master said, if you embrace the opposite rock, you will have peace in your relationship, it has been working quite well.  After a delicious magnum ice cream bar for dessert, we headed back to get a good night sleep for our second day in Vienna.  
After getting into the center of town, the next day and figuring out where we were on the map, we had lunch at a little cafe that was very popular.  We quickly realized, if we wanted a table we were going to have to fight for one.  We staked out our territory and after a bit of waiting, swooped in on a table and were able to enjoy some  delicious sandwiches.  After lunch we took Rick Steve's tour of Vienna which was filled with fascinating sites.  St. Stephen's Cathedral was very unique, although it was under a lot of reconstruction, the stained glass was remarkable.  When we finished our walking tour of the city, we headed over to a cafe for some dessert.  I had the royal tart, Scott had an apple tart and we shared a banana milk shake, it was all very good, I especially liked my royal tart covered in raspberries.  We wandered around the city, exploring a little more, before heading back and getting some sleep for our trip to Prague in the morning.    We were pleased by the delicious food, interesting history, beautiful sites and especially the classy feel of Vienna and hope to return again.  

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Euro Trip 2011: Part 5

We arrived at 4am in Salzburg, thankfully our hotel was close so we took a quick taxi ride to Hotel Mozart.  Scott did it again and booked the perfect accommodations for our stay.  Since it was so early, we fell right asleep.  We woke up after some much needed rest and had a delicious lunch at an Austrian Pub.  Scott had cordon bleu and I had fried chicken and fries.  Their spring chicken is fried to perfection, not greasy or over breaded at all.  After we took a walking tour of Old Town with our trusty Rick Steve Guide Book as our Tour Guide, Salzburg is gorgeous.  The views were incredible!  During our tour we stumbled across a Russian choir group touring and Scott was thrilled to chat with them a bit.  Scott said while they were singing "they were throwing down verses, Sound of Music style".  For dinner we went to another pub/brewery style restaurant and Scott had a pumpkin breaded cordon bleu dish that was delectable.  I ordered dumplings, a bowl full of fried bread, not that tasty.  We loved our first day in Salzburg and are excited for the next.
After breakfast at our hotel, we headed to hike the hill up to the Hohensalzburg Fortress which sits on top of the Old Town of Salzburg, the history was interesting and the view was the best part!  While we were in town there was a festival going on in Mozartplatz, one of the popular town squares.  We had a delicious lunch of rotisserie chicken (best I have ever had!), fries, and live music.  There were tons of locals there to enjoy the festivities and for one of the songs tons of people both old and young joined in, clapping, singing loudly and dancing, I think it was an Austrian favorite.  After lunch we went on our Sound of Music Tour.  Our tour started with a drive, our tour guide, a local born and raised, explained history of the city while explaining facts about the real von Trapp Family as well as facts about the movie.  We then made stops in varies places where footage from the movie was taken.  It was exciting to see the beauty I had seen in the movie all growing up in real life, the movie didn't even compare.  As we drove up into the mountains being completely amazed by the views, we stopped and were able to go on an alpine slide.  Scott is an experienced rider but it was my first time, I loved it!  We will be taking full advantage of the slides in Park City.  As we drove through the mountains, on the edge of the Alps, we saw adorable homes with wooden carved details that looked like they should be in a storybook.  We stopped at a little cafe that looked out over a breath taking view of a lake town and mountains all around, that was the topping on the cake, absolutely perfect.  As we took in the view we enjoyed the best apple strudel and the company of another couple on our tour.  I was sad for our tour to end and even more sadden by the end of our stay in Salzburg but Vienna was calling so we had to continue.  

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Euro Trip 2011: Part 4

After leaving our little home in Rome we took a four hour train ride to Venice.  Although we slept, we also enjoyed the beautiful Italian countryside as we traveled.  When we arrived in Venice, we took a water bus near the Rialto Bridge and made our way to Locanda Casa Petrarca, the Bed and Breakfast we stayed at for the night.  After getting settled in, we decided to explore the town and find dinner.  We decided on American food and went to the Hard Rock Cafe and enjoyed a burger, chicken and fries.  We walked along the water and found ourselves in little cobble stone streets and squares where locals and their children were playing soccer and enjoying each others company.  Of course we had to get our fill on gelato, I tasted a new cookie flavor that was delicious.  After ending the night in San Marcos Square, we were anxious to begin our second day in Venice.  
I love Italian breakfasts, well at least what we are fed at our B&Bs so far.  Delicious juice (blood orange is my favorite), hard boiled eggs, croissants (they are covered or filled with goodness), fruit and toast with nutella spread perfectly on top, doesn't get much better than that.  After another perfect breakfast, we headed out to enjoy Venice.  Making our way to Frari Church, we strolled through small streets lined with shops, squares and small bridges to cross, where you could look down and see the little homes on the water.  We listened to Rick Steve's walking tour of Frari Church and learned all about it's Gothic beauty.  After our tour, we saw a crepe stand and I was over joyed to eat my first crepe on this trip to Europe!  It sure hit the spot!  We made our way back to San Marcos Square and went to the top of the light house where we realized Scott had left his IPhone at Frari's Church a ways back.  After enjoying the view from the light house as much as possible in the circumstances, we trekked back to the church in hopes of finding the lost phone.  Some one had returned his phone, an answer to our prayers.  What an amazing tender mercy!  Being throughly relieved, we decided to go on a gondola ride.  It was a beautiful relaxing journey through the canals and under beautiful bridges, one of my favorite parts of Venice.  After our ride, we had our last Italian dinner of pizza, spaghetti and gelatos.  We ended our stay in Venice with our Rick Steve's tour of San Marco Basilica, which was one of Scott's favorite churches so far.  We collected our bags from our B&B and made our way to the train station to take our overnight train to Salzburg.  I was fully impressed by our room on the train, complete with a sink, snacks and breakfast at 3:30am before we arrived in Salzburg at 4am.
The waters of Venice were beautiful and now we are in the hills of Salzburg, that are alive with music, European traveling is the best!