After 21 days of being abroad, Jess and I have finally returned to the States and sleeply little Cottage Grove. We had an amazing trip, it was truly a nonstop sensation of awe. Time seemed to meander before the trip started but sprinted throughout the entire trip, before we knew it we were in our car on I-5, Grove-bound.
So here’s the recap, the wrap up, the final analysis:
We really didn’t find any snags on getting over to Vienna, Austria. The only issue we had was the 11 hour layover in Los Angeles, but we were aware of that when we booked. Miles had been cashed in for our tickets, so when that happens the scheduling of the flights is loose, at best. I read most of a novel in LAX in between in the times that I was sleeping where ever I could stretch out. Here I am at our gate:
Despite the long ours in the airport, it wasn’t that bad. I’m not sure if it was the energy and enthusiasim of the trip or what, but the 11 hours really didn’t feel any longer than 10.5 hours.
Our flights were good, especially from LAX to London. I slept like a rock in between the times when they fed us and I watched the occasional movie or did the occasional crossword. We ended up getting into Vienna at about ten at night which was perfect because we went to our hotel and slept. The timing of our arrival helped both us have minimal effects of the nine hours of timezone chaning.
Honeslty, I was a little overwhelmed at first when we left our hotel room the first morning. Vienna, by any means, is not a small city. However, once we walked around, got our feel of what we could see things started to feel a little more natural. The city is consitantly beautiful, the bulidings are old and there were a lot of artful touches to their design. Luckily, we had come in a day or two after the EuroCup, supposedly a big to-do for the soccer fans in Europe. Apparently, Spain had just beaten Germany. The day before we arrived, the city was clogged up with soccer fans and all of their insanity. Sorry we missed it.
We saw some sights while in Vienna, most notably would be the Schonnbrunn Palace, which was the childhood palace of Marie Antoinette, before she moved to France and before she was dispatched minus her head. It was a very ornate palace, as well as very crowded. See below:
After a couple of days we departed for Salzburg, Austria which turned out to be one of our favorites. Salzburg is situated kind of in a valley. Looming overhead of the city is the Festung Hohensalzburg, which is a fortress. It is a quick walk up to the fortress or an even quicker funicular ride, we opted for the walk:
There was a lot to do in Salzburg, as well as around it. We went into every cathedral in Salzburg as well as each of their crypts. Nothing like being surrounded by a lot of dead archbishops to help you get a feel for a country. Each of the catherdals had their own feel, while some were incrediable decorated with gold and paintings, some were less ornate and were more simple. One of the favorite things to do was to get pictures of the candles that people light in rememberance of a loved-one, for a tribute to a saint, whatever the reason, I took far too many pictures of the candles. Jess said that if she couldn’t find me in the cathedral, she was knew that I was crouched over a row of lit candles; here’s one of the products of said crouching:
Overall, the Austrians were so warm and inviting. I used a little bit of my two years of German from college, but many people were happy to speak English. I did throw in some comments in German when I could, but there is only so many times you can ask where the bathroom is. Jess and I both had wienerschnitzel, nothing like stuffing pork with cheese, onions, bacon, and then breading it and frying it. And yet people were so thin, it must be the smoking.
From Salzburg, Jess and I took an overnight train to Zurich, Switzerland and then hopped a subway train to the airport to meet my folks. The overnight train was fun, especially the part where we shared a compartment with four other people and it smelled like their breath, that coupled with the warmth ensured that I didn’t sleep at all. But it was fun to watch a young Japenese couple, or at least watch the wife (or girlfriend) pamper her significant other. She fanned his face as he slept, held his feet for him, gathered a towel and set it under his head. I informed Jess that this was how a husband was to be treated and that she should get her act in order. She had a good laugh about that one.
Once we met up with my parents we hopped a quick train to Luzern, Switzerland. Sadly, when we got there we were not able to check into our rooms, so we had to raom for four hours which was miserable (although pretty) because I hadn’t had an ounce of sleep. Eventually I did get a nap and everything was well after that. Everyone agreed that Luzern was one of the best places, the slower pace, the attitudes of people, the constant stunning scenery. Luzern is especially known for its Chapel Bridge, which is an old bridge (well, actually, it is the rebuilt replica of the old bridge that burned down in the 90’s) that crosses the water that splits the town. One night, we had just gotten up from our dinner when we witnessed a double rainbow over the lake and thus over the bridge. take a gander:
One of our favorite places outside of Luzern was Mt. Pilatus. There were several ways to get to the top of Mt. Pilatus, take the five hour walk up, take the cog train or take the tram. After the boat ride across the lake we took the cog train up the mountain. Sadly, it was so cloudy that you could see about 200 feet ahead of you during a good moment. We didn’t let that stop us, we went and did all of the different trails and hikes that were at the top of the mountain. About thirty minutes before we had to leave the mountain, right as the final realization that we weren’t going to be able to see much, the clouds evaporated within minutes and left us in awe at what we would see. You could see the lake and far beyond, as well as down into Luzern. One of the most remarkable things to see was the little chapel perched on the edge of one of the outcroppings on Pilatus:
We actually came back to Mt. Pilatus the next day, mostly for the summer tobaggin runs (which were too fun). After we had all tobaggin-ed, we decided to hike down the mountain. On our way down, we came across the most laid-back cows you had ever met. They didn’t even really get up when we approached, they enjoyed being scratched and petted. They also posed for many pictures, the camera loved them:
Another thing we did while in Luzern was a glacier museum (which contained only about 20% glacier). Some how, the designers of the museum thought that a hall of mirrors fit the decorum of a glacier museum, so we went through. To be truthful, I was reluctant but since everyone else wanted to go through it I tagged along, thankfully so. The hall was very well done (and 100 years old), we had such a good time in it that we went through twice:
The hall of mirrors was also next to one of the other famous sights in Luzern, the Lion Monument was was erected by the French in rememberance of the Swiss troops who were slaughtered while helping France:
Well, to be more honest, it was just Paris. Paris was just as wonderful as it was the last time we were there. There is always so much to do and see that you always run out of time. How ever, I am diligent about seeing the other parts of France, especially the portions that are rife with World War II history (yes, I know Paris was a very big par tof WWII). We had come into Paris a couple of days before Bastille Day, so the city was in a frenzy over that. There were countless numbers of police and military every where. On Bastille Day (July 14th) we were lucky enough to see the military aircraft make a slow, low pass over the Champs Elyesse as part of the huge parade (oddly, they didn’t throw candy). Because of the holiday, the Eiffel Tower was cast in a constant blue light at night, which was unusual but actually quite pretty:
While in Paris, we took my parents around to many of the usual stops and sights. Although for some reason, my mom didn’t want to go through the Catacombs, so we took my dad to see the countless pieces of human remains:
On our last night in Paris, we crowded in with the thousands upon thousands of people to see the Bastille Day fireworks which went on for a half an hour straight, as well as set to five or six different opera peices which were performed live:
We actually took a day trip to Luxembourg while we were staying in Paris. Luxembourg is to the north of France is a teeny country. It took us all of thiry minutes to walk across their capital which was also their largest city. It was a beautiful city which had many of its old fortified walls up which we wandered:
After my parents caught their taxi to the airport, Jess and flew down to Barcelona, Spain to cap off our trip. Barcelona was very much like I expected: warm, sunny, crowded, and tons of beaches. Although, one of my favorite parts of Barcelona was the Tapas. From what I understand, it is typical to go out to a restuant around 6 or 7 get something to drink and some Tapas which are like appitizers. They had Tapas made out of just about everything. My favorite were the peppers which where coated in olive oil, salted heavily and then roasted. It went really well with humus. Jess and I saw the Sagrada Familia, a catherdral that is still under construction despite being built in the 1880’s:
While in Barcelona, Jess and I stayed in the Gothic Quarter, which is an area of the city that is a patchwork of narrow, winding streets that interlace around the entire quarter. Many of these buildings had been around for a very long time, which cast the area in a dark, yet beautiful light:
On our final day of Barecola and our trip, we wanted to end with the utmost relaxation, so we headed to the beach for the majority of the day. We laid on the lounge chairs and just enjoyed the sun and the warm water. We had realized that in European style, there could be some less-than-clothed people at the beach, but at one point we found ourselves amoung many different people (almost all men) who were wearing absolutely nothing. Which started our discussion on some very uncomfortable areas to be sunburned… sorry, no pictures of the people but here are some shots of the beaches:
Although we absolutely loved our trip we were ready to come back to the States and the Grove. Flying from Barcelona wasn’t a problem but things got sticky in New York City once we arrived. We had managed to get a flight home to Portland on the same day (we were originally scheduled to come home the next day), th eonly thing was that we had to be in LA by a certain time but we had a couple hours of buffer, just in case. Our flight to LA was delayed slightly and by a lot due to the mechanics on board. Finally, they said that they were bring us a different plane. I jokingly said to Jess that it would be funny if they said this new plane couldn’t leave on time either beause of a mechanical problem. Lo’ and behold, I had cursed ourselves. The second flight was grossly delayed because of a mechanical issue. Eventually, Jess and I hopped a flight home direct from New York to Portland and landed just before midnight, still getting in almost 10 hours ahead of schedule.
We were happy to be home, to sleep in our bed, and to especially to see our big goofball of a dog.
Through our trip, the one part that I was most looking forward to was climbing Mt. Pilatus, outside of Luzern. Yesterday, we debated and questioned the timing of when we went up the mountain. This morning, we thought we would take a chance despite the overcast conditions. The entire time, I secretly prayed for the clouds to part and burn off. We took the cog train up and hit the clouds. Walking up at the base of the mountain, shrouded in clouds. We hiked up to the the highest point, we couldn’t see more than 100 feet in front of ourselves.
Only when we were about the leave after taking the last of the hikes, a little sunny spot opened up. From then on, the burn-off of the clouds had started and the whole panorama of the lakes, Luzern and everything around was visibile. It was truly awe-inspiring. The best of all, was this tiny little church that was situated within a breath of the edge of a 7,000 foot drop. It was like somone had decided that going through the hours of fog and disappointment of the clouded view, they said, “just wait awhile, you’ll appreciate it more.” We certainly did, it was a truly amazing day.
On a funny note, we were trying to decide if a dessert was in order after dinner tonight. Gasping, my mom said, “Oh, Jess, take a look at that…” pointing to the tray of a waiter as he walked by. The dessert my mom was so struck by was this ornate, beautifully prepared stacked ashtrays with a dirty washcloth balled up in it. Strangely, Jess didn’t order that dessert.
Last day in Luzern tomorrow and then Paris.
Although my mom has said on many occasions, “How come in Sweden…” we’re still in Switzerland. We had a great day, went out to Stansstad, walked around, went to Glacier Museum (which only contained 10% glacier), and saw a remarkable rainbow just after dinner. Switzerland is just simply amazing, we have yet to have a bad dinner (or yet to have a bad hot dog in baguette).
Contrary to what I would have usually done, we went to the Glacier Museum and it had a hall of mirrors. Had everyone else not been so interested in it, I probably wouldn’t have gone. Luckily, I wasn’t in charge. As I learned, the the hall was over 100 years old and it was fantastically done. The mirrors were so clean and so well positioned, there was one time I was hurrying through the halls and I had to come to a screeching halt when I almost ran into myself… I distinctly thought, “damn, I almost ran into that guy.” We like it so much we went through twice.
Overall, we’re having a great time. I really love the overall feeling and tenor of being in Europe. They have a lot of things right here. The transportation. the structure of society, the government subsidized beer. The US could learn a lot, but it they are going to subsidize beer, please… no budwieser.
Hello from Switzerland.
Jess and I met my parents in Zurich this morning and are now in Luzern. For the last five days, Jess and I had been in Vienna and Salzburg, Austria. I had actually updated from Salzburg but for some reason, it never took… pictures and all. Oh well. Austria was astounding. Jess and I had such a wonderful time, it is an amazingly beautiful country, especially during thunderstorms in Salzburg.
We’re now sitting in my parents’ hotel room, sharing some hand-crafted liquors that we bought… I have to say, the apricot is my favorite. Tomorrow (weather permitting) we’ll head up Mt. Pilatus to do some hiking. Coming up is Paris, Luxembourg, and Barcelona. Sorry about not having pictures right now, but I’ll try to get some put up by the next time.