Italy and Austria 2017: Day 13 — Berchtesgaden

Thing 2 and I were up and at ’em again nice and early today. However, we did get to sleep in a bit because the meeting point for our tour was only just around the corner from our hotel and maybe a five minute walk total.

The air as set out was nice and cool, which we just loved every time we walked out the door. Our destination was Berchtesgaden, which is a small German town in Bavaria. But it is also famous as being the town nearest to Adolf Hitler’s alpine compounded name the Eagle’s Nest. It was at the Eagle’s Nest that he entertained high-level dignitaries on occasion. I saw “on occasion” because Hitler didn’t really visit at much as others in his set, like his girlfriend, Eva Braun. In German, the name of the house is Der Kehlsteinhaus, and builders were in a rush to finish it before Hitler’s 50th birthday.

To enter the house, it is first necessary to walk through a long, damp tunnel into the mountain on which it is built.

From there, one enters in a large elevator, with the inside walls and ceiling plated in brass, shiny enough to use it as a mirror. The operators of the tour made sure to cram about 40 to 45 of us into the elevator, although in Hitler’s time, he would never allow more than six to travel with him in the elevator at any time. Why the brass mirrors and over-large elevator? Supposedly Hitler was both claustrophobic and afraid of heights, so this particular set up help him cope with that. The elevator let guests out in a hallway and immediately the smell of good German food wafted into our nostrils. The area of the house that is now in use as seating for the restaurant guests was once Hitler’s large entertaining room. There’s a fireplace in the room that is original to the room, with red marble for it donated by Mussolini.

A little room off to this mail room is a room that Eva Braun used for entertaining the female guests while Hitler was busy with their husbands. A sun terrace was built off that room, which has now been enclosed in class to make a short of viewing terrace. It was from here that we went outside and began walking around on the mountain peak itself that this Kehlsteinhaus was built onto in 1938.

To say that the view literally took my breath away is somewhat true, in that it was so cold at the summit that I found it hard to talk without shivering or take my photos. And, it is beautiful.

It was only 10º C at the peak (which I walked up to) at about 10:30 in the morning. That means it was a mere 50º F at the peak, which is a temperature I haven’t experienced for a long time. It never is that cold during the day where we live. I think the last time I was out for any length of time in 50º weather was when we had a cold snap over Christmas two and a half years ago. It. Was. Cold.


After exploring and taking breathtaking photos of the Alps, we bought some gifts and souvenirs. We headed back down Hitler’s elevator, and we entered our tour bus again to make our way down to the town of Berchtesgaden itself. There, we had a bit of time eat and pop into look at shops.


I bought a trachtenblusen, which is like a cute female equivalent of a shirt/blouse that could be worn with lederhosen, if ladies wore lederhosen, which they traditionally don’t. (Those are for the guys. The lederhosen are the leather shorts that they wear with a shirt.) However, I did see some cute jeans that ladies could wear with embellishments on them that would look like male lederhosen. Anyway, I got one of those cute blouses. I can wear them to work.

Berchtesgaden is not that far from Salzburg, along the Alpenstraße, so it only took us about 30 minutes to get back to Salzburg. I had to quickly run across the bridge from our hotel into the Old Town to see about getting validation for my tax-free receipt for the dirndls, and I bought two more presents for home. After that, we took a taxi to the Hauptbahnhof, and caught our train for Munich. The train was PACKED. Thing 2 and I had to sit separately, and I think I was sitting next to a Hungarian woman and her granddaughter. They certainly weren’t speaking German, and Grandma was working on a crossword with accent marks on letters that looked like it might be Hungarian. (I am not sure where that train originated.) Unfortunately, even though our ticket said “München Hauptbahnhof” the train only went to “München Ost,” which was the eastern Munich train station. From there, we had to haul our luggage off the train and switch to their tram line to get the “München Hauptbahnhof” which was a drag. Luckily, our hotel was RIGHT near the Hauptbahnhof, so we didn’t need to catch a taxi this time to take us to our hotel. It was literally across the street.

We made it to our room, dropped our stuff off, Thing 2 got comfortable, and I decided to go out and explore Munich a bit. I was also on the hunt for a large bag that I could put our dirndls into, since I couldn’t pack them. (I had to show them to a customs official upon leaving the EU. Also, I really couldn’t fit any more in the way of souvenirs and stuff into my suitcase; it was getting overloaded!) So, I found a German department store, made my way there, and then kept walking some more up the main drag toward a city center called Marienplatz. I just wanted to see all the stops and look for Munich manhole covers for my dad. (Have I mentioned this yet in any of the posts? My dad is a photographer, and he has started a collection of manhole photographs from cities he’s visited. I snapped some distinctive ones in Rome and Florence. Vienna and Salzburg didn’t have distinctive ones, but Munich’s manhole cover has a monk on it, holding the “rules” of the city.) As I walked closer to Marienplatz, it got more and more crowded. There was a beer fest going on, and a stage with live music.

The Rathaus in Marienplatz; a Rathaus is like a town center building.

Different vendors were selling all sorts of traditional German food. I didn’t know what they were celebrating, but it was crowded and looked fun. But I was getting tired, so I made my way back to the hotel, showered up, and got comfortable reading one of the books I bought, Brunelleschi’s Dome, about the construction of the dome on the cathedral in Florence. I drifted off to sleep, happy in the knowledge that Thing 2 and I didn’t have to wake up at the crack of dawn the next day. For the first time on our trip, we could actually sleep in a bit.

All in all, another great day.

Italy and Austria 2017: Day 12 — Saalfelden am Steinernen Meer

This morning we had to wake up early — again. It had rained overnight, and it had just stopped raining again as we set out. The train taking us to Saalfelden was due to leave at 7:05 a.m. Because the trains here run on time to a fault, we knew we couldn’t be late. We took a taxi from the hotel to the Hauptbahnhof, and then we were on our way.

The train trip was going to take almost two hours. It was not a high speed train like our trip from Rome to Florence. It had to slowly make its way up in elevation and wind through mountain passes, so we were moving pretty slowly. Not many traveled this route, so our train car was roomy and quiet. Thing 2 slept while I alternately read and watched the scenery pass me by. It seems that dog agility training parks are common. Most houses had firewood chopped up neatly at the side or backs of the gardens. It rained a bit as we traveled.

Luckily, it had stopped raining by the time we actually pulled into the station. It was threatening to start any moment, though. That meant that our summer tobogganing excursion (sommerrodelbahn) was not going to be able to take place. ☹️ Undeterred, we moved on to the next item on our itinerary: visit Saalfelden’s graveyard to find the Bischetsrieder family tomb. (Bischetsrieder was my family name before I married.) We stopped in at the town’s tourist info center. The town population is about 16,000, and people come to visit as they are passing through on bikes or hiking excursions. We got a map of the town and the attendant was able to point us in the direction of the friedhof (cemetery). The town was so small that we were able to walk there in a matter of minutes. There is a small chapel in the center of the cemetery; I remembered seeing that from family pictures. So, I snapped new photos of it for my dad. I went in to the chapel and photographed both the altar piece and the ceiling. Then I set to work trying to find our family’s marker. I had no idea where to start, but luckily it was a rather small cemetery (compared to Fullerton’s TTT), and it was the only one in town. So we had that going for us, which was nice.

Thing 2 and I divided up the cemetery into quadrants and set out walking through the rows of graves and crypts little by little. As we worked, various local citizens came to the cemetery to tend their loved ones’ graves. They take REALLY good care of the graves. Nearly all of them had one or two candles present, some of them even lit. All had lovely flowers or small shrubs planted and dark, rich planting soil for the plants. Many also had small garden ornaments or decorated stones placed attractively among the flowers. Several of the graves had small watering cans behind the headstones, although the cemetery had some on hand for people to borrow if they were working there and didn’t have their own. About half-way through our search, it started raining again — pouring this time. So, we took shelter under the overhang of another chapel at the back of the friedhof; we waited about twenty-five minutes until the rain passed, and then we set out looking again. It became clear, though, that we were looking at graves of people who had deceased more recently. We needed the oldest part of the graveyard, but we just weren’t having any luck. While we were waiting for the rain to pass, I tried everything I could to find information that would help me find my family’s marker. I tried various Google search terms; no luck. I wanted to text my dad for information, but it was only 2:30 a.m. in Los Angeles, and I didn’t want to wake him up. Instead, I posted a message on my aunt’s and my uncle’s Facebook walls, respectively, asking them for help if they saw my message. They were on Eastern time, so they may have seen my message sooner to help.

In the meantime, Thing 2 and I resolved to have some lunch. After lunch, we were going to check the grounds of the church to see if there were any older graves there. We went to Saalfelden’s Stadtcafe. It was basically a burger place, and they were so good. I got the “Westernburger” and Thing 2 got the “Route 66” burger. We each got fries and pretty much gobbled it all up. (As we’ve been traveling, we’ve really only been eating about one meal a day – either lunch or dinner – and getting a snack at some point during the day to tide us over. So, when we eat, we eat it all.) The church also did not contain my family’s graves, so we then turned to shopping. Saalfelden is so cute! I don’t know why my people left — except by doing so, they avoided World War I and World War II, so that’s a good thing. It is just such a beautiful and tranquil world here.

Any time we saw a store that sold trachtenmode (what Austrians call traditional dress of lederhosen [for men] and dirndls [for women]) I wanted to stop to look, at least in the windows. Some of the women’s dirndls are so expensive. One of the finest quality dirndls can sell for up to 800 € (about $895). A mid-range, but still quality, dirndl sells for about 250 € to 400 €. And that’s just for the dirndl. After that, a woman still needs to buy a dirndl blusen, which is about 29 to 49 €, to as much as 79 €. In addition to that, they also sell trachtenblusen, which is similar to the collared shirt a male might wear with his lederhosen, only cut for a woman to look more feminine. They’re really nice shirts, and I wanted a few because I could also wear them to work or to dress up a pair of jeans. I also wanted to get a little prize or treat to bring home for Mr. T. He was the only one of my family for whom I hadn’t yet bought a souvenir.

Meanwhile, I had continued to check my Facebook notifications on my phone to see if anyone had responded back to my plea for help to find our family’s grave. One of our cousins who lives here in Austria, Peter, gave me a bit more direction. Getting short on time, though, Thing 2 and I made our way back to the cemetery, looking again at graves and crypts based on his reply to my post. We still couldn’t find what we were looking for. To say that it was a huge disappointment is putting it lightly. I had come. all. this. way. and came so close, and yet I didn’t find that for which I was looking. I wanted to cry. Thing 2 reminded me, though, that I had found our family’s chapel in the cemetery, and that was better than nothing. This was true.

Since we cut it too close on time searching through the graveyard one last time to make it back to the Hauptbahnhof on foot, we called a taxi to take us there. Literally, as I was sitting on the platform with five minutes before the train was due to pull into the station to go back to Salzburg, my dad texted me back with old photos of the family crypt marker. Nothing we saw in the cemetery looked like our marker. From the old photos, I knew I was in the correct cemetery. And, as I mentioned, there was only one. However, the height of our crypt marker rose above the height of the walls of the friedhof, and there were no current markers in the cemetery that rose above the height of the walls. That I knew for sure without a doubt from looking at everyone one. Now I didn’t feel so bad that I didn’t find it. There was nothing there that looked like the photo in the marker. 5So, what happened to our family’s marker? I am not sure. I wasn’t able to figure that out. Since the crypt probably hadn’t been used for more than 100 years, did the move the remains and marker to another location to make space for new citizens’ burials? I know the Pére Lachaise cemetery in Paris is like that. I am not sure what Saalfelden’s policy is. The other Bischetsrieder family members have been buried in Vienna, not necessarily Saalfelden.

Once again, our train trip back was quiet and beautiful. Thing 2 feel asleep, and I went back to alternately reading and viewing the countryside. When we arrived at Salzburg’s Hauptbahnhof, we caught the bus back to our hotel.

We had about two hours to rest before the last item on our agenda for the day: a performance of The Sound of Music by the Salzburger Marionette Theater. The theater was right across the street from our hotel. When it was time, we dressed and started to walk over. There was also a regular theater performance of The Sound of Music going to start with regular human actors, so there were a lot of people out on the street in the early evening moving in the same direction. The Austrian’s (and Sound of Music fans) take it very seriously. Men and women were dressed up in trachtenmode to attend the theater performances. Thing 2 and I could have worn our dirndls and no one would have looked at us strangely by any means.

The performance was great, and I am not a big fan of that musical. The marionettes themselves were quite tall, about 30 to 36 inches, and each had their own operator. Different actors provided the vocal performance. Unfortunately, we were sat in front of a group of school kids, some of whom were obnoxious. Of course, the obnoxious one was sitting right behind us. Even though they understood German (because a teacher spoke to them in German and they all understood her), to each other they spoke Spanish. The obnoxious one chatted the entire performance. Intermission came, and I told Thing 2 that if he continued to talk, I would give him my best Teacher Stare, and tell him in Spanish that I needed him to be quieter. “That will probably blow his mind that I can speak Spanish,” I told Thing 2. Anyway, Thing 2 got some water during the Intermission, and I got a Stiegl beer (traditional Austrian brand) and a pretzel. Thing 2 asked me as the lights were going down, “Are you really going to say something if he starts talking again?” I told her that, now that I had had the beer, I was feeling relaxed so the talking might not have bothered me as much.

But, yes, he started talking again. So, yes, I turned around and told him in Spanish to be more quiet. He didn’t say a peep for the rest of the performance and, as we were leaving the theater, his friends turned around and looked as us and razzed him for getting talked to by me. Don’t mess with a teacher on vacation!

Before going into our hotel for the night, Thing 2 and I stood on the bridge across the Salzach river outside our hotel and snapped some night shots of the fortress that overlooks the city. As both she and I could not stand climbing one more hill or steep steps, we did not visit the fortress. That will have to come on a later visit — because I will be back! We also walked through the streets of the older part of the city. The shops were all closed, but restaurants were still open for a Friday night, and the air was nice and cool. We snapped a few more shots and then called it a nice. Both of us slept like rocks until it was time to get up for our tour of Berchtesgaden and the Eagle’s Nest. More on that in the next post.

Italy and Austria 2017: Day 11 — Vienna, Moving on to Salzburg

I’m not going to lie: It was difficult to wake up this morning. Thing 2 and I are both pretty exhausted. We slip into bed at night with sore feet. Additionally, the swelling of my right ankle really hasn’t gone down since I sprained it on Memorial Day. It hasn’t had a chance because it is getting such a workout everyday – especially the two days in a row we went climbing up buildings in Florence. (See the posts for Day 8 and Day 9.) Last night it was really bad.

So since we took late showers yesterday and basically only went down one floor to eat dinner and then went back up to our hotel rooms, Thing 2 and I did not need to bathe again before we set out for the day. This saved us some time. We both repacked our suitcases before heading downstairs to leave them with the concierge for the day. Check out time was earlier than when we expected to be back for the day.

Today our first destination was Schloß Schönbrunn, the home of the Hapsburg emperors and empresses. The U-bahn was about a block behind our hotel, so we walked there, bought tickets, and made the 15-minute journey on the U4 (green line) to get to our stop to see the palace. It was very easy! Our tickets (bought online) specified that we should enter between 8:30 and 9 a.m., and even after stopping to admire the view from afar once we got through the gates, we entered the palace at 8:30 on the dot. There were hardly any people there, so it was great! We got the “classic” tour, which allowed us to view 40 rooms inside the palace itself. We also got access to the labyrinth in the gardens, and the Gloriette on the far side of the gardens. The tour through the rooms in the house came with a free audio guide. Sadly, we were not allowed to photograph anything inside the palace, so I have nothing to post here. Rest assured, however, that everything was appropriately ornate and gilded. One of the most interesting things found in each room was a tall, porcelain steam heating device. It was white with gold accents and about nine to ten feet tall. It was made to look like a piece of furniture, so that it “fit in” with the decor in the rest of the room. These devices, astonishingly, were in use until the 1980s! I loved the creak of the floors as we walked on them, and the slightly old and musty smell to the house. There’s a very distinct, old house-y smell that I like in places like these. Since we didn’t eat breakfast before we left the hotel, I also got some ham and cheese on toast in the café restaurant on site. I also got a piece of the dark chocolate mousse cake they had. YUM. In the gift shop, I bought a book about the palace so at least I have some photographs of the place.

We could take all the pictures we wanted outside, though, and so we did. We walked all over the grounds, starting with the “small” gardens located close to the house. From there, we walked up the main path to the large fountain on the estate. Above that was the Gloriette, which was a bit of a hike up a hill in the sun. Thing 2 and I were complaining as we walked up, but we tried not to complain that much because, even though it was sunny, it was still nothing compared to the sun and heat we felt in Italy. It seemed warmer today than yesterday, but still a full ten degrees cooler (or more!) than it was in Florence. When I reached the top of the Gloriette . . . what a view! Behind the schloß I could see an awesome panoramic view of Vienna. It was incredible. Thing 2 was getting really tired by this point, so I climbed to the top of the Gloriette myself and took the pics of the city while she sat in a shaded grassy spot below, resting. After that, we made a visit to the labyrinth (where she got lost) before we calculated how to get to our next destination: Zentralfriedhof (the Central Cemetery).

Why did we want to go there? All the great composers are buried there: Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart . . . and Falco (from “Rock Me Amadeus” fame). I found it really ironic that the real Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and the man famous for singing “Rock Me Amadeus” were buried in the same cemetery. We easily found the major classical composers, but finding Falco took a bit more work as he was off the beaten path. But, thanks to Google(!) I was able to find his coordinates and have Google Maps guide us there. Thing 2 and I felt like nerds going there and actually taking a picture of his grave. (He was killed in an accident in 1998.) Despite this, I said to her, “I’m sure we’re not the only ones who have come here to take a picture.” It wasn’t two minutes after that, as we were sitting on a shaded bench a few feet away, that three different groups of people also came to visit his grave. One man even had his wife take a picture of himself with the grave. (We just took a picture of the grave.) After that, we didn’t feel so geeky. (In fact, I don’t even like his signature song. I abhor it, actually. But it seemed too funny to be there and not get a picture of it, considered the real Mozart is buried there, too.)

By this point, it was nearly 15:00 or 15:30, so it was time to head back to our hotel to pick up our luggage, call a taxi, and make our way from Wien Hauptbahnhof to Salzburg. We took the 71 line trolley from Tor 2 (gate 2) of the Zentralfriedhof to a stop right across the street from our hotel. The Hauptbahnhof, and all other public transit stops and trams have been pristinely clean and orderly. In fact, at the entrance to all U-bahn stations, and at the Hauptbahnhof, there is a sign that says “House Rules,” which was cool to see. I found the public transit in Vienna much easier to use, compared to Rome’s, which was horrid. (We didn’t use any public transit in Florence because everything was so easily within walking distance to our hotel.) I made Thing 2 really happy when I told her there was a Starbucks at the Hauptbahnhof and that I would treat her to a Carmel Frappuccino before we bought our tickets and got on the train. This was the first Starbucks we had seen since we left Los Angeles on 5 June. (There were no Starbucks in Italy. I’m sure they disdain the fact that any “commercial” location could make coffee better than their own cafés could.) I’ll admit that it was nice to have something familiar — and cold. Man, I forgot that it is hard to find drinks here in Europe as cold as we get them in the States. Also, water costs here in restaurants; it isn’t put on the table at the beginning of the meal as a matter of fact like it is where we live. The best thing about Rome is that the water was freely running in fountains in the city everywhere. (We still had to pay for water in restaurants, but I didn’t have to pay for water as much because I wasn’t as thirsty, thanks to the fountains.) Vienna had two public fountains for water that we came across; one was in the park and one was outside the schloß. But, because it wasn’t as plentiful, I couldn’t fill up as much. Hence, I was more thirsty and had to pay for more water in restaurants. (Grumble.)

But I digress. Fortified with frappuccinos, we headed to the automatic ticket kiosks, bought our tickets, and ten minutes later, we were on a train to Salzburg. That is where I am now, writing this post. The scenery is, once again, picturesque. Everything is so green; crops are growing. We haven’t hit high elevations and large evergreen trees, just rolling hills and fertile countryside.


Edited to say that we still haven’t arrived yet — 27 minutes until we reach Salzburg Hauptbahnhof — but as I look out my train window, there are two hot air balloons floating along over the Austrian countryside. 😊

Our hotel in Salzburg is the Hotel Sacher. It is famous for its Sachertorte, a rich chocolate cake “invented” in the 1830s. When I booked the room, we could order one to be waiting for us when we arrived at the hotel, so we did. Thing 2 and I are both looking forward to it. It comes in a decorative wooden keepsake box. Yay us! Like last night, I look forward to checking in, taking a shower, finding a place to eat, and hitting the sack. We’ve got to get an early train again tomorrow. This time, we’re heading out to Saalfelden, the town my great-grandparents came from. After a day spent there, we’re going to attend a marionette performance of the Sound of Music at a theatre very close to our hotel. It should be an eventful day. Hopefully, it doesn’t rain so that we can keep our plans to go summer tobogganing in Saalfelden! (This is an 80% change for rain, but only a small amount — .22″ — and a deliciously cool 70˚ forecasted.) More on our day in the next blog post!

Italy and Austria 2017: Day 10 — Vienna

So it is 7:25 as I write this. I’ve just spent the night on the train (the Euro 294). I don’t know if I’ve slept; if I have, it wasn’t much. It is harder to sleep on a train than I thought.  (I thought the lulling motion of the train and my extreme tiredness would combine for a good night’s sleep. I was wrong.) But, I opened the train shade around 6 a.m. to the most AMAZING site . . . We are deep in Austria, and we just keep passing by these picturesque towns on the slopes of the green, green, GREEN Alps foothills. Verdant is the only word I can think of to do it justice. With little rivers flowing past. And we just passed through a town with a MAYPOLE. Yes, the flowers were still attached to it from last month. They still do that here! A maypole.

Interestingly, too, a lot of the homes have at least some solar panels on their rooftops or an array set up in some extra space in their yard — not many, usually only four or five. Some people who have an array in their yard might have as many as 12.

I have this great book I want to read on Brunelleschi, but at the same time I don’t want to read it because I just want to take in all these amazing sights. There are horses, cows, and mountain goats grazing. Mountain goats! Some little cottages have shrines to the Virgin Mary set up in their backyard. A lot of them how flower boxes outside the windows.


Our train car came with our own bathroom with a shower. I was THRILLED to see this, because I expected to be feeling pretty gross after sweating around Florence all day and then getting on a train to Vienna . . . And not being able to shower until we checked in to our hotel the next day. (Poor planning on my part, that.) So you can imagine how happy I was to see that there was a means for me to actually wash off and feel clean. It was quite an experience, though, showering on a moving train. There was a button to press to start the water. It was red, through, so I was afraid to push it lest it summon the conductor for help. It turns out that’s what I needed, though. So, one presses the button, water comes out for a bit, and then it turns off. This is so that there isn’t so much water that it overwhelms the ability of the small shower stall to drain. So, I had to press, lather, press, rinse, press, lather, press, rinse, and so on, until I was finished. All the while, I had to also maintain my balance so I didn’t fall over when the train took a bit of a curve.

Thing 2 opted not to shower. She was feeling really tired and not well. I don’t think the overnight travel agreed with her. I gave her some ibuprofen, and she ate a bit of breakfast, but really didn’t feel up to more than that. I forgot to mention, too, that not only did we get breakfast on the train, in our compartment waiting for us was also some water, some champagne, and other snacks. Nice!

So the train let us off at Wien Hauptbahnhof, which is the main train station for Vienna. From there, we had a quick bite to eat at McDonald’s (wanted something familiar) before we hailed a taxi for the hotel. McDonald’s doesn’t have quite the same breakfast items in Osterreich as it does in the States. Some things were the same, but some were different. That’s okay. We arrived early (about 9:30 a.m.), so it was our intention to drop off our luggage at the hotel and then walk around Vienna a bit until it was time to check in.

Our hotel was kinda swanky, and they cheerfully took our luggage. They gave us a map of the city and we set off. The first place we went was to the Stadtpark, which is where there were a couple of monuments to composers, once of which was Strauss. There were lots of people in the park enjoying the day. We found a nice shady spot to lay down and rest a bit. Thing 2 was still feeling the motion of the train cars, even though we were on terra firma, and I admit I was beginning to feel it too. The weather was a welcome change from the mega heat in Florence and Rome. In fact, I got cold in the shade and moved myself out into the sun where I took a short nap while Thing 2 read. After about an hour and a half, we moved on.

Destination? Shopping for dirndls. Mission: accomplished! We headed to the Original Salzburger Trachten Outlet, where each of us found dirndls, complete with aprons and dirndl blusen. It took us about an hour, but the ladies in the store were very helpful with helping us get the exact, proper fit. Thing 2 got the longer version, and I got a “midi” shorter version. I also got a traditional shawl to wear around mine. It took us a little over an hour, but we left feeling accomplished. We’re gonna look awesome come Oktoberfest time.

Our next stop was to proceed into the old part of the city a bit more to look at an old church, St. Stephen’s Church (kirche). There were lots of tourists in Stephensplatz, which is where the church is located. Thing 2 and I could see a noticeable difference in architecture between this medieval church and those we saw in Florence and Rome. Whereas the churches in Italy were decorated with marble and painting (frescos) on the outside, the churches in Austria were decorated in a more gothic style with more stonework, spires, and buttresses. We went inside, took a few pics, lit a candle in prayer, and headed out after about a half an hour. I could tell Thing 2 was really wearing down, so we hit an Austria souvenir store (kinda kitschy, but hey) and then headed back to our hotel down the main drag. By that time, our room was ready and our luggage was already delivered, so we made a reservation for dinner and went up to shower off and get comfortable.

Our dinner was fine dining, for sure. Sadly, that is the one meal that Thing 2 and I forgot to take a picture of before eating. We had all kinds of starters before our meal actually arrived. We had an avocado-cream cheese thingy, then some kind of other bite-sized thing that was served among heated rocks, of all things. Then we were given a carrot-y horseradish-y thing and some rustic, homemade sourdough bread with butter. It was good. Then we were given a salmon tartar with another kind of cheese(? – it was white stuff) and FINALLY our meals arrived. Thing 2 ordered a Wiener schnitzel, which is NOTHING like what the name implies here in Southern California. Here in Vienna, Austria (Wien, Osterreich), it is actually a breaded piece of veil, deep-fried and served flat. It is NOT a hot dog or any other kind of sausage. Her meal was also served with a small side of cranberries (she likes tart fruits and berries, unlike me) and some potato and cucumber salad. The potato and cucumber salad had a slight vinegar-y taste similar to the German potato salad my mom makes at home. The vinegar taste was more subtle, and it was still good. I had a gnocchi with peas in a cream sauce. I had a taste of Thing 2’s meal, and I can vouch that both meals were delicious. We each got a chocolate cream, raspberry, and marshmallow ice cream confection for dessert, PLUS the restaurant surprised us with even more sweets after that — a chocolate-covered coconut ice cream bar and a nougat-filled cookie.

We rolled out of the restaurant up to our hotel room where we promptly got into our comfortable bed and turned out the lights for the night. We were able to get about 9 hours of sleep to recharge before we had to get up the next morning for the next stop on our sightseeing tour. I was hoping a good night’s sleep would also put an end to the swaying feeling we both still had from the train.