Friday, October 31, 2008

Salzburg, Austria

Okay, okay. I have to confess. The main reason we decided to go to Salzburg wasn't for the Mozart balls or to see Mozart's birthplace, it was to................go on the SOUND OF MUSIC TOUR!!!!!!!!!!!!!

YES. The moment we got to Salzburg we dropped off our things at Yoho International Hostel and headed over to the Sound of Music Tour Bus. The tour was 4 hours long and consisted of seeing key sites where the Sound of Music was filmed. We first visited the house and lake where the children and Maria fall into the lake. The next site we got to see was the gazebo where they shot the song ''I am sixteen going on seventeen...''. We also visited the church where Maria and the Barron got married and the front of the house where Maria sings the confidence song. We also got to see the Abbey where Maria Von Trapp actually lived. There was definitely a lot of singing, and there was even apple strudel!

The next day we went to the salt mines. It was magnificent and so much fun. We got to go underground and go down HUGE slides. Just wait until you see the pictures. Salzburg was just so much fun!

Tonight we leave for London. Pray for our safety as we fly on RyanAir!

Vienna, Austria

Luckily on the train from Prague to Vienna we met some American girls who were studying in Florence but on fall break and actually staying at the same hostel as us in Vienna. It made it so much easier/safer finding our way to Wombat's with 5 girls late at night. Thankfully we made it with the crappy directions we had.

I didn't know what to expect from Vienna, or Austria for that matter. I had heard about the Opera houses, and Mozart, and the great chocolates, but did you know that Arnold Schwarzenegger is from Austria?! Who woulda thunk it! That was definitely one thing that I learned while in Vienna. Crazy, considering he is OUR Governor!

Vienna had a lot of great sites to see. There was obviously the great Opera house, then there was the Hofsburg Palace, the Mozart statue, the Momument of War and Fascism, St. Stephen's Cathedral, and of course the English movie theatre!!!!!! Yes, I'm disappointed to report that on our first night in Vienna we saw a late viewing of Eagle Eye in English. We were just in need of some normalcy when we found the English Theatre and we couldn't resist. But dont worry the next day we more than made up for our American-ness.

We saw all the sights I mentioned above, and even made time to see a ballet in the Opera House? Yes, it sounds strange. Unfortunately there was not an opera playing the night we were there so we went to the ballet instead. Since I had heard so many good things about the Opera houses in Vienna, half the fun was just seeing the beautiful inside, and BOY, was it gorgeous! We got cheap balcony seats and only stayed for 2/3rds of the show but we were tired and were leaving early the next morning for Salzburg. Overall the trip to the ballet in the opera house was well worth it.

Fun fact: we tried Mozart balls (a famous chocolate delicacy in Austria) sitting in front of the Mozart statue.

Prague, Czech Republic

Thank you to everyone who prayed for us! Your prayers have truly helped us indeed.

Prague is one of those cities that people rant and rave about but that you truly dont understand how special it is until you experience it's magnificence. Unfortuantely it was very cold and overcast during our stay in Prague but I loved it nonetheless.

We stayed at this quaint little hostel called Miss Sophie's that was delightful. It was recommended to us by my parents missionary friends in Prague, the Olsens. The rooms were clean and spacious, and the bathroom was AMAZING. I'm talking about a quality shower, sink, and toilet (not very prevalent in Europe). The staff was so kind and helpful and we definitely took advantage of the FREE internet. (Nothing is ever free in Europe, not even the public restrooms.) The hostel location was perfect walking distance into Wescelas Square and to the Old Town, which we definitely enjoyed.

When we got back to our room on our first night in Prague we walked into our room and found a ''Twilight'' book and a purse from Target on one of the beds. We immediately knew that we would be joined by fellow Americans, and boy were we thrilled. Ironically, we've barely met any Americans throughout our travels, mostly Australians or Canadians, so we were pretty excited. Later on we met our roomates and let me just say how much of a blessing they were to us! They were Jen, Jess and Dan, three American college students from Minnesota studying in Salzburg, Vienna but on fall break and traveling all over. It was so nice chatting with them and getting to know them. Since we were heading to Vienna and Salzburg they gave us many helpful tips and ideas on what to do to maximize our time in Austria, and the girls even gave us their October bus passes so we could use them in Salzburg!

On our second day in Prague we woke up early and did some much needed laundry and I was able to send some souvenirs back home to the U.S. After our errands we took a FREE walking tour of Prague in the afternoon and were able to visit the largest castle in the world there! Yeah, it was pretty amazing. The 264 steps getting up to the castle were also amazing, to say the least.

We did some shopping in Prague because everything was a lot cheaper there than in other parts of Europe, but Jessica and I made sure to reevaluate everything we wanted to get. We have quickly begun to see that our budgets are dwindling much faster than we had anticipated, or even hoped. Our latest excuse has been: ''I guess we won't be getting any Christmas presents...''. We laugh it off, but we know it's more serious Mom and Dad.

Prague was definitely a success. Now we are looking forward to what Austria will bring.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Berlin, Germany

Berlin is such a neat city. It has so much history and is well worth the time spent there. Other than Jessica and I having the worst night of our lives EVER last night, Berlin sure than ever made up for itself today during our FREE walking tour of the city and the California Burrito place (Chipotle-esqe) that we found and are going to for dinner tonight. Let's just say I'm ready for something California.

Tomorrow we head to Prague, which will be an exciting journey. Please pray for us!

Frankfurt, Germany

Don't ever go to Frankfurt. Let's just say we walked out of the main train station to bums with a dog leash in one hand and an alcoholic beverage or cigarette in the other, walked a minute to our hostel, which was conveniently located right above LIVE NUDES and next to a SEX SHOP, and checked in. Needless to say it wasn't our type of city and ended up leaving the next day.

The only mediocre thing that we did was an overpriced bus tour with an old white couple, an Indian couple, and two women in their early 30's. We fit right in. Oh, and our roomates were cool, but that's about it.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Amsterdam, THE Netherlands

Going to Amsterdam I really didnt know what to expect. I saw it as a town for people who were not like me, but slowly realized it was a town for just about everyone.

Upon arrival to Amsterdam we checked into our hotel, the quaint Quentin Hotel near the happening and convenient Leidensplein. We loved our hotel and arguably had one of the best rooms in the place, looking out over one of the many canals there, but were disappointed in the hotel staff. They were certainly not friendly and not very helpful, but we managed to avoid them as much as possible.

The first night in Amsterdam we went to this great restaurant called Wok the Walk, which was some awesome Chinese food. We were warned early on in our trip that Dutch food was not very good, but that Amsterdam had many good ethnic restaurants to choose from. After dinner, we decided to go on Randy Roy´s Red Light Tour, which we discovered in a magazine we got from our hotel. We met our tour guide Kimberly in front of the Victoria Hotel and then ventured our into one of the darkest parts of Amsterdam (except for the red lights) with the most random group of people. Although I admit I was quite nervous to go on the tour it ended up being very informative and eye-opening. Amsterdam is so rich in history, and just plain ole rich. But I have to admit there were awkward moments, especially when walking by women standing in windows half naked. Honestly it was just so sad. I am glad I went on the tour because it was verz interesting.

After the tour Patti, Jessica, and I strolled around Dam Square where there was this huge carnival going on. Dam Square was definitely hoppin. The rides were sick, and the food was delicious. Jessica and I were eyeing the chocolate covered Belgium waffles and decided to split one. Man oh man was it delicious!

The next day Patti went off on her own to see Rembrandt`s house while Jessica and I went on a free 4 hour walking tour with the New Amsterdam tours. Our group was a younger crowd and our tour guide Neil was awesome. Think Ryan Gosling meets Ryan Reynolds. The tour took us all over Amsterdam starting in the Red Light District and ending next to Anne Frank`s house. The tour was completely interesting and Jessica and I loved every second of it.

That night we went to the Hard Rock Cafe for dinner and it was just what we needed. After dinner we dropped Patti off at the train station and Jessica and I went to this improv show at Boom Chicago in Leidensplein Square called Bye Bye Bush. Our tour guide Neil told us about it and gave us discount cards. We were warned in the beginning that it was neither Republican or Democrat, more on the Independent side. Nevertheless we went. It was kind of awkward in the beginning, but was certainly entertaining and funny as the show went on. We even saw our tour guide Neil there.

After Bye Bye Bush, Jessica and I went to the carnival in Dam Square again to possibly go on a ride a two. When we got there we decided not to go on the swings and chose a really fast swinging twirling ride instead.
Big mistake. Dont get me wrong, it was fun, but it began to rain when we got on the ride and since no one was in line they let us go on forever. The poor kids across from us were about to puke, and luckily they didnt because I dont think I could have handled that. When the ride finally stopped and Jessica and I were getting out of our seats I slipped because of the rain. Luckily no one saw that, BUT people did see when I was walking down the ramp and literally slipped on my butt and slid down the entire ramp. I just sat there in the rain while Jessica laughed her butt off. We both felt sick after the ride so we left the carnival and walked back to our hotel in the rain.

At 5am the next morning Jess and I were woken up by a very loud noise coming from our hotel. Could it have been the fire alarm? YESSS! WE both got up and didnt know what to do. We stayed up until they turned it off but didnt get much sleep after that. It was such a nightmare.

Overall I really enjoyed Amsterdam. It definitely wasnt what I thought it was going to be. It was awesome. Now Jessica and I have a lot of crazy memories to think back on, probably not the same ones other people have from Amsterdam, but they will be memorable nonetheless.

Tomorrow we head to Germany.