Wien, wein, a schloss and a Ferris wheel.

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the stroller is ready to take on Vienna anyway…

So we didn’t really have much explicitly planned for Vienna. Part of this is because, despite what it may look like from this blog, neither Erin or I are really good when it comes to planning these types of things (we still don’t have a place to stay on our last night here). Also, when you are traveling with two small children, reality, naps, and diapers can make short work of your plan. I also realize that the posts on this trip have featured my kids in pictures extensively. Sorry not sorry. This is a different kind of trip than our soirees to Thailand, and we like to take pictures of those little buggers.

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Darling, do leave the pigeons alone won’t you? (Schloss in the background)

The plans that we did have in Vienna were centered around going to parks and eating. We started the morning out by cooking breakfast in the apartment and heading west across the city center towards the Heldenplatz (Hero’s Square) and Volksgarden (People’s Garden). These two large public spaces are situated in front of the building that is basically Austria’s White House (at least the West Wing), and has been the seat of executive, dynastic, or imperial power in Austria, in some form or another since 1200 and something. We checked out a few statues; there was a fountain…pigeon’s were chased.

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Nachtmarket kinda

We then cut due south to the Nachtmarket, an outdoor market that has existed in Vienna since the 16th century. I was expecting this place to be very touristy, but was pleasantly surprised to find it packed with what appeared to be locals, but who knows. I was also happy to see that apple-computer-guy-sitting-solo-at-the-cafe/bar-pounding-out-the-next-big-thing is not a solely American phenomenon (and yes, I realize that sometimes that guy is me). While much of the two blocks that we walked were restaurants (Uzbeki food anyone?), there was still a farmer’s market vibe with folks selling their wares. We bought some dried fruit..out of which the pineapple was deleted almost immediately by my son…and sat down to a lunch outside…with wine…because the kids were being really good…

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the lovely ladies at lunch, one corked, the other uncorked

…the kids were starting to fall apart, so we settled up our bill and headed back to the place to relax a little bit. When everyone (and I mean everyone) woke up, we headed towards the U station to take the subway northeast of the city center. R is at the age where he wants to continuously split himself into several different people and participate in all options for everything all at once. For example, when given the chance to decide between elevator, escalator, or stairs, he may choose escalator, but then after being on said escalator will immediately conclude that he wants to get off and get on the elevator…he is also willing to burn down the entire city in order to do so. This…adorable…behavior, which also leads to multiple elevator stops…because why push one button when you can push some number more than that…makes what should be a 5 minute subway trip, considerably longer. And, you just want to scream because the whole reason we are at the subway in the first place is to take him somewhere where he will have fun. #parenting …ok…better now…

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Vienna from the top of the ferris wheel…St Stephan’s is that big pointy thing on the right

The Prater amusement park is like a permanent carnival located in one of the more northern parts of Vienna. It’s big claim to fame is that is houses the oldest functioning ferris wheel in the universe, or something. The area itself has some pretty cool history as well, something about hunting grounds for rich folks and a World’s Fair. Today its full of B-side attractions. I kid you not, there was one called “Daytona Beach” (don’t step on the needles!?), and another where you ran through a Michael Jackson themed fun house, presumably trying to get away from him. Despite the age of the rides, the whole place had a distinctive charm and we found ourselves having a really good time. R rode a couple of coin-op cars, and the two of us rode a culturally insensitive American West “rollercoaster”.

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Go west young man, haven’t you been told. California’s full of whisky, women, and gold!

All of us did ferris wheel and had a dance party in front of the aforementioned king of pop fun house. We skipped the gypsy-fortune-teller-henna-tatoo-palm-reader (we are getting pretty East here and Romania is just one Hungary away…who is being culturally insensitive now) and the really really really ridiculously high spinning swing (of doom), but we did eat (surprise!) some sausage-stand Kasekrainer’s (Frankfurter filled with chesse) for dinner.

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Daddy, look at those lunatics!

We got back on U and headed home. R and I had a brush with physical injury disaster as I was trying to get him situated in the subway. It started to move, quickly, and I was off balance and still holding him, flinging me forward (backward?) into the seat divider, him in between me and it…I got my hand out quick enough though to avoid any serious harm…people looked at me like I was an idiot anyway…and they’re probably right.

Exhausted from what was probably our longest day yet we all crashed hard. The next day would start slow, but end up being, as far as these things go, magical.

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Train to Wein

The next day…we woke up and had our final breakfast at the Auersperg Hotel & Villa and bid auf wiedersehen the staff as we made our way by taxi to the train station. After a brief bit of confusion on where to go we purchased two tickets to Vienna…the kids were free!

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L helping close a suitcase….

We got on board the train and settled in, which isn’t easy considering we are carrying with us two suitcases, a car seat (for our impending Italian adventure), a stroller, a diaper bag, two backpacks, and a…well, another bag thing. All in all, it actually doesn’t seem like a whole lot, but my back might say otherwise.

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this face translates to: “we just went into a tunnel”

We found 4 seats that gathered around a table on the top level of a car in the back of the train and we got over feeling like we had someone snuck into 1st class; we hadn’t. We watched as the length of Austria passed by outside our windows; rolling hills and Edelweiss, the Alps out to one side. It was very beautiful.

Two and half hours later we arrived in Vienna and lugged our stuff out to the taxi stand and got a ride to our Airbnb. The differences between Salzburg and Vienna were immediately apparent. Where Salzburg was a sleepy little town dominated by a fortress and some gardens, Vienna is a World City with ornately architected buildings, a long and colorful history, and a melting pot of modern cultures.

After getting situated and some groceries, we headed out into the city to explore. We ended up spending a bit of time at Stadtpark, just east of where we were staying. There were two really solid playgrounds here so the kiddos got to stretch their legs and mom & dad got to relax a bit. R and L played with kids who spoke French, Russian, Chinese, and German. World City.

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climbing this was a huge achievement…for dad, whose nerves didn’t get too rattled…

The sun was already going down, and everyone was pretty tired from the day of travel so we made our way back, stopping once to get a proper frankfurter for R for dinner, which was bigger than his face. Street meat and coffee houses in Vienna are some of “the things,” and as you may remember, Erin was more than happy to partake in the former.

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she is always sleeping when he eats…

Erin and I were still hungry so I went back out to get some take-away Ramen from a place around the corner. I had already changed in my PJs when that craving hit, so thats how an American wearing flip flops and sweat pants ends up sitting next to a Slovakian and ordering Japanese food in Austria. Like I said; World City.

We have two full days here and we are hoping the weather holds. So far, it looks good!

Climb Every Mountain

On our second full day in Salzburg we had planned to take in the fort that sits on top of the imposing hill jutting up south of the old town. It’s slow going in the morning for the four of us but we had an uneventful (in a good way) breakfast at the hotel, and set out to walking to the funicular that takes you up the hill.

The first stop was the Mirabell Palace. More specifically, the expansive gardens featured in The Sound of Music. Mozart composed music here, a bunch of Dukes were probably married here, and it goes way way way back…but it was raining so we hustled through it about as fast as you can. After walking through the “tunnel” (R’s word) of vines we found a “hidden staircase” (R’s word) which led down to a playground. We stopped for a bit to let the kids have a swing.

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crouching L, hidden R

Pressing on, we crossed the Salzach and made slow time towards Kapitelplatz, stopping to get R a pretzel and Erin a wurst of some kind. We finally came into Kapitelplatz and paid our fare to go up the hill on a route that has been in existence since the 16th century.

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pretzel’s and naps…

Festung Hohensalzburg was built by “the church” in the 11th century as part of the BSD contest that was the middle ages. The white washed stone, twisting alleys, and multiple rings of defensive walls make for an impressive fortress, but it was never really used as a combative military installment. Today it houses a marionette museum, which we went into, and an exhibit on “enhanced interrogation” which we did not. There are also a couple of cafes I guess… We were content with the incredible views that the vantage point offered, both of the city to the north and the Salzburg suburbs with the Austrian Alps as a backdrop to the south. This was also a good time to let the kids run around in the main courtyard outside some church of so-and-so-or-another.

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Salzburg from up top
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selfy shot of the team looking south to the alps

We made our way back down the hill and over to the East side of the old town. The day before we had spotted a few nice cafes over here. A place called Zirkelwirt had the right combination of being open, serving coffee and beer, and being mostly empty so it earned our business. We spent a long time here resting because the kids were being (mostly) fun and because the food was good. Erin ordered some Spatzl and I had, you guessed it, more schnitzel…though this time around it had ham and cheese in it as well…like a Cordon Bleu. The kids hadn’t really napped and were starting to turn into demons so we decided to head back to the hotel.

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fun times at the Zirkelwirt…its fun to say…Zirkelwirt…

So, you know that room in hotels that has the movie library that you never use and has all the tourist pamphlets? It also has that free computer that will almost certainly put a virus all up in your business? Well our hotel had one too, but in addition to those amenities, it had some toys for the kids to play with. We convinced R and L that it would be a good idea to just hang out for a little bit and play. The room also happened to have a few tables and chairs and was adjacent to the bar.

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toddler happy hour

The bartender, bless him, had no problem serving us in the playroom so we hung out for a few hours while the kids, particularly L, came up with a whole slew of new ways to injure themselves. We put 3 “mommy and daddy” drinks down range and headed up to the room to put our kids down for the night and finish The Sound of Music which we had started the night before. Oh and then Erin sent me out for a Döner Kabab, so I wrote her a poem.

Wind blows and fire burns.
Seasons change as the Earth turns.
When beers have been had, the night’s not complete.
Until Erin gets her street meat.

Tomorrow we head for Vienna by train which means lugging our baggage around again. Wish us luck!

Rain drops on Roses

On our first full day in Austria, we woke up a bit a earlier than expected…oh wait, no, thats right…this was the first day in like 2 years that we haven’t had to wake up to an alarm clock, a crying baby, or a toddler trying to climb into bed with us, so we slept in. …to be fair the crying baby and half-asleep toddler could still have happened, but they did not because it appears this a god after all (though, maybe only in Europe).

We picked the hotel we are staying in because it provided us a bit of a soft landing. After traveling with 2 kids the last thing we wanted was to worry about stocking an AirBnB with groceries for breakfast…or really doing anything at all I guess. The place was stacked with a crib, and couch bed for R, it had a TV and Bluetooth sound system, and a Nespresso coffee machine which was probably used (by me) more than any of the above.

So, breakfast was included and after we go through the 45 minute ritual of getting the kids up, cleaned, and dressed in the clothes that they would ruin during their meal, we went down to eat. At this point, true to prophecy, we lost another of L’s outfits to exactly what you might expect.

The weather in Salzburg is supposed to be absolutely gorgeous…as soon as we leave town. In the meantime we are stuck with 40-60 degree weather and lots and lots and lots of rain. Fortunately, Salzburg has things to do with kids in this scenario, so we got a cab and headed to the Haus der Natur, or Nature Museum, which was 4 delightful floors full of exhibits like, such as:

  • Stay dry while looking at these snakes!
  • Here is stuff about space and you won’t get rained on!
  • Check out this Tibet display where it is also not raining!
  • Dinosaurier ohne Regen!
  • Cafe. With a roof!
  • Aquarium: featuring water in tanks and not on your face or head.

We kicked it here for a good part of the morning and ended up eating a late lunch in the cafe which had a sweet little area for the kids to play, where they did, with some other kids.

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fisches

We walked out of the museum and found ourselves on Greissgasse, one of the main roads on the south side of Salzach river, flanking the old town. There was a break in the weather so we decided to push our luck and explore for a while. We pulled up a walking tour and followed in towards Gertreidegasse by Mozart’s birthplace, around by St Peter’s Cathedral and the Kapitalplatz, down through the university, and out again by Mozartplatz…oh yeah…Mozart…pretty big deal here.

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a requisite picture of a big church

At this point we hadn’t been rained on at all and we probably should have headed back to the hotel for naps for the kids. L was pretty beat and R was ready to pass out at any moment. A nap didn’t sound too terrible to Erin and I either…but instead we charted a course to an old Augustinian Monastery on the western slopes of the Mönchsberg hill. We walked along the pedestrian path that followed the Salzack before cutting up the hill (still pushing that stroller ya’ll), probably making some grand over-reaching comment about how nice it is “here” that cities have “these types of things.” Oh…why a Monastery? Because it is now a brewery of course.

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there are even lockers on the wall to keep your stein in…

The Augustinerbräu is a massive complex where beer is brewed and served on site. From the looks of it, they have the capacity to serve the whole of Austria. On the floor we were on, there were 5 large halls filled with thick wooden tables at which sat various groups of mostly men; there were at least 4 floors. The complex also featured an expansive beer garden, but due to the weather, it was shut down.

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the stroller is around here somewhere…

In classic fashion, Erin and I charged it. After getting our bearings on the place, I folded up the stroller and trudged it inside, leaning it against some random section of wall. It was the kind of operation where you grab a few steins and they pull the keg for you, so I did that while Erin went into a hall and claimed a seat. Turns out the seats we had were quite reserved (despite and attendant half-saying we could sit there), but we ended up sharing the table with some older gentlemen with whom I could not communicate with. I don’t think they minded us being there, but they were not happy about it. Erin and I drank our (to be truthful, mediocre) beers while R and L drank some water and had a pretzel (still too young for Radler). We finished up and walked out before the stares actually burned holes in the back of our heads. Life goals: Bring a 1 and 3 year old to a beer hall. Check.

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At this point the sky had opened up so we quickly hailed a cab on the opposite side of the street and headed back to the hotel for those naps…it was like 4pm already…what’re ya gonna do?

When we woke up, we were bordering on hangry so the four of us ventured back out into the rain (which had picked up considerable) for a quick 2 block sprint (literally) to the S’Kloane Brauhaus. I had a turkey schnitzel with the standard cranberry sauce and potatoes while Erin had this goat cheese dumping thing. Both were excellent and the kids got none of it because they were being jerks. The food was good to be sure, but the beer here stole the show; particularly the wheat beer, brewed on site, was worth the trip itself. Also, the dessert…serious, go here and then eat six times.

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no, i did not thieve that mug from the other place…

Back at the place we were still all suffering from jet-lag and weren’t quite tired so we grabbed The Sound of Music from the DVD library in the hotel and started watching it, till we fell asleep…

Gablerbräu Eats

We woke up from our post-arrival pass out nap, got the kids together, and absconded out into the city for something to eat. We are staying on the opposite side of the Salzach river from the old town of Salzburg in the shadow of Kapuzinerburg, a small rocky hill that perforates this side of the town. Old enough in it’s own right, this part of the town has your classic twisty-turn alley ways and hidden doors to nowhere.

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it’s go time

It was to be a short evening; really just dinner and some poking around since it was already about 8pm. We headed south-ish along Auerspergstraße and the west-ish to the foot-traffic only Linzer Gasse (sometimes things are written like ‘ss’…sometimes the ß is used…go here: The ß) to a restaurant called Gablerbräu, that we were told would serve classic Austrian food (schnitzel you guys…all the schnitzels) in either a modern or a traditional setting.

We opted for the traditional setting and sat down in a rather large wooden U-shaped bench with cushions that looks like they had been around since the Hapsburgs. The room it self was fairly ornate. There was carved wooden wainscoting, candelabras, and (R’s favorite) angels with moose and dear antlers for wings. There was also the obligatory stuffed crow in the corner which was a little creepy.

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wait, are they on a date?

Food was good, beer was better…or maybe just more welcome. Erin had the wiener schnitzel (like Wien, that place in…you know Austria…get your head out of the gutter) and I had some boiled beef. Both came with potatoes and cranberry sauce; mine was a hash also served with creme of spinach suppe. The hero of the night was the potato & leek suppe that Erin got for starters. What did the kids eat? See above. That’s how we roll…for now anyway.

The small square outside the restaurant had a water fountain installment that R was enamored with, so we let the kids amble around a bit before exploring up a little alley way, Steingasse, that climbed up the south side of Kapuzinerburg. The going was tough up hill (double stroller + cobblestones you guys) but we were rewarded with a really nice view of river, the Salzburg Cathedral (or St. Peter’s), and the imposing fortress that looks down at the city.

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fort

Figuring we weren’t going to do much better than that, we headed back to the hotel for the evening.

The Austria & Italy Kickoff Meeting

Over the next few weeks the entire team, including our 3 and 1 year old, will be traveling to Austria and Tuscany.

Why do this? Why load up your two children, a bunch of stuff…way less than you’d like, but way more than you need…and pile it all on a plane, and then fly six timezones away for vacation. Why put yourself through all of that? Can’t you you just stay home? Can’t you just go to the beach for a few days?

Well. I suppose we could…

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Let’s do this!

…but no. That would not be us. We believe that GingTFO is the only way to take a real break from “life”…even if it takes a few days to get out of the routine (rut?) to let yourself chill out. We do this because while it may be “hard” at times, getting through those parts ultimately brings everyone closer together. We do this because we want our kids to grow up with positive memories, opinions, and dispositions about the world and all the people who live in it…about adaptability and solving problems…though, we mostly do it because we like it.

It’s a good thing we like it. On the trip over, we sacrificed a set of Lily’s clothes to exactly what you would expect, my North Face jacket to negligence (which is a real shame since my entire packing and wardrobe strategy centered around that jacket), a shred of sanity to the inefficiency of the Frankfurt airport (yeah I know), and an entire night’s sleep to making sure L didn’t take a header out of the bassinet on the plane…see, when normal people sleep she becomes possessed by a wet noodle demon that has no regard for its host body.

But we made it to our place in Salzburg, stop number one, safe. Tired, but safe. We dropped our stuff, dropped out of our clothes, and we all took a well deserved nap…

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Made it!

This is the intro post, so I’ll quickly run done a few other things for tradition’s sake. I started writing this blog when Erin and I went to Europe in 2009. That was an experiment in blogging, but also in blogging from an iPhone. Over time, the cell phone turned into an iPad. In hindsight, this was pretty stupid and time-consuming so I have a computer this time around. Also, I don’t know whats up with the Google Maps stuff. I moved a lot of the posts’ maps over to their new API but it just doesn’t seem to want to work all that great…I’ll see if I can’t sort it out.

Okay! Here we go…