Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Family Vacation – Part I

When my parents found out that I would be living in Vienna for four months, they decided to plan a vacation to come and visit me. So, my dad planned out their ‘travel route’ and I planned my schedule so that I could do some traveling with them. They arrived in Vienna on 18.10.2005 and had some interesting stories to tell about the flight over and trying to find the pension that I had booked for them. (Apparently, my directions weren’t quite as good as they needed to be and my father doesn’t like to ask for directions, so my mother said he made her walk all around Vienna.) I met them at their hotel after my class, and I was so happy to see them! My mom (being the wonderful mother that she is) brought me a suitcase full of things that I had requested. She’s so good to me! We went out to dinner that night, and I got to hear all about their adventures and how the rest of the family was doing.

Over the next few days, my parents did some sightseeing around Vienna and generally entertained themselves because I had class. At night, we would find a new place to have dinner. On Wednesday night, Lara came to dinner with us and we went to a little Italian restaurant that I had found called Cantinetta La Norma. I had been there one time before, but the waiter remembered me and he treated us so well for the entire evening. It was a nice treat for all of us, especially when he brought us little glasses of amaretto at the end of the meal.


On Friday 21.10.2005 (Dad’s birthday!), we took a train to Prague. It was a lot of fun for me to see how much enjoyment Mom got out of the train ride – she enjoyed watching the landscape as much as I do. We talked about what a nice way it is to travel, but unfortunately, I don’t think it would work as well in the States. The train ride took about four hours, and we arrived in Prague around 3:30 pm. We took the metro to our hotel, and it was very nice and located right around the corner from the Old Town Square. The desk clerk told us that the building was built in the 15th century. Our room is very nice, and it has a wonderful mural painted on the wooden ceiling beams.

After getting settled, we ventured out to find a restaurant. We had a wonderful dinner of goulash with bread dumplings and potato pancakes and a beer. Yes, that’s right, yours truly drank a beer – and it was very good (the Czech Republic is known for its beer so I figured that I had to try it). After dinner, we walked around the city for a while. Many of the buildings, including Prague Castle, were lit up and they were beautiful at night.

On Saturday, we started the day with a visit to Prague Castle. There is a beautiful cathedral there, and Dad and I climbed to the top of the tower. We were able to see the entire city from the top of the tower, and I was surprised by how big Prague really is. It was such a pretty day, blue sky with no clouds in sight, and we got some wonderful pictures of the city below the castle. After visiting the cathedral, we watched the changing of the guards at the castle gates, and it was an impressive sight. After the changing of the guard, we toured the Old Palace and the Golden Lane.

After visiting the castle, we walked to the Charles Bridge and climbed the Lesser Town Tower. it was really neat because it had an exhibit that told about the history of the Charles Bridge. I had no idea that it had been rebuilt so many times! After the visiting the bridge, we found another restaurant for lunch and then I did some shopping before we went back to the hotel to collect our bags and go to the train station. Our night train (to Munich) was leaving at 10:00 pm, but we wanted to get to the train station before it got dark. Once we got to the train station, we had an interesting experience. Apparently, a lot of interesting people hang out at the main train station in Prague, and we got to see quite a few of them as we waited for our train. In the end, we made it to our train safe and sound, and were on our way to Munich.


We arrived in Munich around 6:30 am on Sunday (23.10.2005) and we had about three hours before our train left for Fuessen. Since I had visited Munich the weekend before Mom and Dad arrived, I was able to give them the 50 cent tour through the historic district. We also had some breakfast before catching the train.


We arrived in Fuessen around 11:00 am and checked into another wonderful hotel. So far, I had been batting 0.1000 since I booked all of the hotels for Mom and Dad. This one was particularly nice because we had a sitting room with a TV attached to our room. After finding some lunch (at the Pizza Americano restaurant), we decided to take a walking tour of Fuessen. It started to rain lightly, but we still enjoyed seeing the historic sights in the town. Dad lent me his hat so that I could stay dry, but I don’t think I can pull off the “Aussie hat” look as well as he can. After another wonderful dinner, we decided to go to bed early since we had a full day planned for Monday.

Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein Castles

On Monday, we left our hotel early to go to two of King Ludwig II’s castles. Hohenschwangau was his boyhood home and Neuschwanstein was his dream castle that was never completed. I had visited Neuschwanstein when I was in Europe in 1997, but I did not get to visit Hohenschwangau then, so I was looking forward to it. We visited Hohenschwangau first and I really enjoyed being able to see the castle and its furnishings – it seems to bring the history to life when you are able to see it in person, versus just reading about it and looking at pictures.

After visiting Hohenschwangau, we took the bus to the top of the mountain that Neuschwanstein is located on. We went to the Marienbrucke, which is the bridge that Ludwig used to visit so that he could watch his dream castle become a reality. Then we walked down to Neuschwanstein. This castle is truly amazing, and I can see why Walt Disney modeled Cinderella Castle after Neuschwanstein. The castle was only 1/3 completed when Ludwig II died (under questionable circumstances), and the Bavarian government started giving public tours in it within six weeks of his death (Ludwig had used a quite a bit of money to build the castle, and the government wanted to recoup some of it). After seeing how incredible the castle was in its unfinished state, I cannot even begin to imagine how it would have looked if it was completed.

After visiting the castles, we took the bus back to Fuessen so that I could get my bags and catch my train. I had to travel back to Munich, and then on to Vienna so that I could go to class on Tuesday. We went back to the hotel and had a picnic lunch, then Mom and Dad walked me to the train station (I guess they didn’t want me to get lost). I hopped on my train and headed back to Vienna. Mom and Dad were staying in Fuessen for the night before heading down to Venice for a few days. I was sorry that I wouldn’t be able to go with them, but a little bit glad to have a few days “off duty.” This ‘tour guide’ stuff is hard work!

Well, this is the end of the first part of our family vacation. At least I was able to rest for a few days before the second part began. Hopefully, I will be able to finish the story of our travels over the next few days. If you would like to see additional pictures of our family travels, click on “Andria’s Travel Photos” and look in the folder labeled The Family Vacation.



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