9/14/16

Final Europe post! - part 5


December 25  - still in Austria
Santa found us all the way in Austria!  The kids sent letters the first of December warning the big guy that we wouldn't be home and where to find us, so they were hopeful he might drop by.  They were warned multiple times not to expect anything, because the trip was pretty much what they were getting for Christmas.  To their surprise he still brought them a few little things.  He finished decorating the tree with chocolates, and left a few trinkets in their boots.  We decided our best chance of him leaving anything was to do what the other kids do in Austria on Christmas Eve (leave their shoes out for Old Saint Nick to fill with goodies). 
Grant got some chocolates, a squeez-it (we used to get those as a special treat when we went to Wet-n-Wild) and a wooden sword.
Noah did get a cool watch, some chocolate and a feather pen.
Ava got a feather pen, some stamps and some chocolates.  
I was really nervous that they would be disappointed with hardly anything, but they were thrilled about the tiny tree and so excited with their little loot (Santa had a $10 limit - he splurged on Noah's watch though, naughty guy).  Makes me realize how simple Christmas can be and still be awesome.  This Christmas was so stress free without having to go Christmas shopping.  I love it. 
After we had chocolate for breakfast, we went into Salzburg to see some Sound of Music sites.  First we went to 'The Abbey' (St. Peter's Nonnberg Abbey). We found a place to park and then went up a steep winding road (it's kind of hidden) thinking we would never find it.  We turned a corner and there it was.  Another really old church. Ha.  The Abbey is still a working monastery, so we could really only go inside the church and around some of the grounds.   Where Noah is, is the gate where the von Trapp kids come to find Maria after she left. 
St. Peter is the oldest monastery in the German-speaking world.  Started in 696!! Over 1300 years old - that's CRAZY!!  We tried to find the indoor cemeteries where the von Trapp's were hiding from the Nazis (there are some dark locked gates off to the sides of the pews), but I found out later that scene was actually filmed in California.
SUPER old cemetery in the courtyard.  There is a scene when Maria is walking thru this, but can't remember the exact scene.
Outside the Abbey, looking over Salzburg.
By this point, Adam and Luke were on a sarcastic kick (more than usual), and making fun of anything and everything to get thru the next few days. :)

On our way to the Mirabell Gardens (where the Do-Re-Mi song was filmed), we walked past the birthplace of Mozart. 

Across a lock bridge to Mirabell Gardens.  We actually entered the other side of the gardens (it's a huge park), so we didn't see the fountain that is in the movie and the beautiful gardens. :)  We did find a fun playground though, so the kids were happy.
Beautiful Salzburg!!
HUGE slide.  Would never find this in America - all sorts of safety hazards just to get to the top.  Probably why it's so fun.


Adam and Luke enjoying the teeter-totter together. :)
Luke started challenging Adam with silly games.  This one was trying to stay upright on the spring toy. Harder than it looks.
This crazy contraption is impossible to stand straight up on it.  The closer you get to the center, the more it throws off your balance (it spins).
'Just' another cool church.
Noah is always 50 steps behind everyone else, so I stay back with him and make him pose for all the pictures. He's a good sport about it, because he can doddle longer.
Outside the Mirabell gardens is Mozart's childhood home.  If you look close you can see faint pictures of Mozart in the windows.  A little creepy, I think.
Heading back to our car.

 
We came back to the hotel and the dads took naps, while the kids watched German cartoons.  For dinner we found a Chinese restaurant.  The whole dinner I kept thinking about the movie, A Christmas Story, when they went to a Chinese restaurant for Christmas dinner.  I kept thinking the waiters were going to come sing, "Deck the harrs with boughs of horry, fa ra ra ra ra, ra ra ra".  We had a classic Christmas story dinner. :)
December 26 - travel day from Austria to Czech Republic
Said goodbye to Michon, Matt and their kids (my kids really loved traveling with Madi and Mason).....and Austria.  We stopped in Linz (about 20 minutes off the beaten path) to see where my cousins was serving his mission.  We figured if we were this close, we better stop and leave him some goodies.  We found his mailbox and then walked up to his apartment to leave him a note and some chocolates. 
The drive from Austria to Prague was about 5-6 hours (with stops).  I love driving around Europe and seeing the different terrain.  It's amazing how you can tell almost immediately when you've reached a different country.  The wealth status is evident in the homes and infrastructure.  The Czech is definitely less affluent than Austria and parts of Germany.  Prague is AMAZING though.  The city reminds me a little bit of San Fransisco.  Lots of huge tall buildings, really close together, for as far as you can see. 
We stayed at Hotel Modra Ruze.  Our room was huge and had a great view.  I think we were the room to the right of the blue flag (3rd floor, both windows). 
We walked to the famous Charles Bridge and saw MANY incredible buildings and cathedrals. 
This is the Strasbourg Cathedral and probably one of my favorites from the whole trip.  It was amazing.  The detail and the huge astronomical clock is awesome.  It was pretty dark and looked Gothic, but so cool. 
There was a big Christmas market in the center of this center.  It was crazy because every single building surrounding the market was amazing, old and huge.  Surrounded by cathedrals and thousand year old buildings.  
 
On our way to the bridge.  I think this was the library.  
 
Charles bridge 
Outside our hotel window.  Luke got lost on the way into Prague, so he was ornery and didn't even leave the hotel the whole time we were there.  Adam took Ava and Grant back to the hotel, but I wanted to explore some more.  Noah and I went exploring for a couple more hours before meeting everyone for dinner.  I love having a buddy who is willing to explore with me. 
 
We saw these cinnamon bread roll things everywhere, so we had to try one.  They have little shops and also just coal pits everywhere making these.  Makes everything smell like cinnamon rolls. :)
It's basically just sweet dough wrapped around poles, baked over coals and then covered in cinnamon and sugar, and sometimes Nutella (Europeans LOVE LOVE LOVE Nutella - I don't blame them, I love it too). 
 
Noah loved these street performers.  
 
Lots of meat roasting over fire.  
Window shopping - cute piggy banks I thought my mom would like.

Huge Christmas tree.  Those window ornaments have moving puppets in each of them.
Christmas markets at night are CRAZY busy.  Don't those buildings look fake?  It is sort of surreal when you turn around in a full circle and all you see are ancient buildings.

Creepy statue on the way back to the hotel.
Noah really wanted to try out this mirror maze, so we did that before dinner.

I hated the maze.  How is not knowing which direction you are going, or where you are at at any given moment, fun?
Noah thought it was cool.  There were some weird brain games upstairs that we tried for a little while.
We had dinner at the hotel restaurant, which was actually underground.  Felt like eating in a cave.  Pretty cool.  The best apple strudel of the trip.
 
The kids got super crazy and ran around in our room for awhile before going to bed.  I sure loved hanging with all those Wilson girls (and Luke).  
December 27 - Prague to Rostock
The next morning Jana and I wanted to get some souvenirs, so we left the dads and the kids to pack (surprisingly they remembered everything).  Prague is known for Marionettes (they have a Marionette theater that I wanted to take the kids to, but we didn't have time), and we saw a few stores the night before, so that is what we were trying to find.  We saw this tiny shop (like the size of a small living room) while exploring the night before, and thought we could find it again.  We went up and down streets (most of the shops were closed - nothing really opens before 10 or 11) and almost gave up and then we took one turn and miraculously found it.  These marionettes are hand carved and painted, so they are quite expensive. 

I loved this dragon, but it was like $700.
 
 I don't like to buy souvenirs, just to buy something, so if I'm going to get anything at all I want it to be authentic, preferably hand made, and something that really represents the area.  I debated for about 20 minutes whether to get one and finally just bought one of the smaller hand made marionettes (I think I paid $70 for this wizard). 
 I couldn't justify paying a lot for 3 more for the kids, so we opted for the cheaper ones so they could actually play with them and I wouldn't worry if they got broken.  Ava got a little princess, Grant a little boy and Noah picked the old man. :)  The kids loved them and have put on some fun puppet shows.
One of the Christmas markets in the morning. Aw, much nicer.
We probably only saw <1% of Prague, because we were only there for 1 day, but I loved Prague.  Probably my favorite stop of the entire trip. 
We drove pretty much all day from Prague to Rostock, Germany.  We stayed at the hotel Stadtperle.  Pretty much an old house turned into a hotel.  Most restaurants were closed (it was only 8 or 9 o'clock, but like I've mentioned before, shops close early and often and most are closed on Sundays), so we found a steakhouse open for dinner.  We tried getting tricky and ordering tap water (we spent more on water than I care to admit), but they still brought us sparkling water. YUCK!  What is up with their sparkling water?  Don't they know what regular water is?! Another crazy thing I noticed is that EVERYONE smokes and you can buy cigarettes and liquor from vending machines (must not be an age limit).  That's pretty much all we did in Rostock. 
December 28th - Rostock to Germany
We wanted to catch the earliest ferry to Denmark, so we woke up, ate breakfast at the hotel and stopped off at a super market to get some snacks.  Denmark is really expensive, so we wanted to stock up before getting to Denmark.  We caught the early ferry, and the kids thought it was so cool to drive onto the boat and get to eat food and run around.  The dads thought it was awesome because they didn't have to drive 5 extra hours around the other side of Germany.  The ferry ride was 2 hours across the Baltic Sea.
Once off the ferry we still had a couple hours to our hotel in Denmark (the same one we stayed at the first night of this trip).
We checked into our hotel and then found a park (Churchchillparken) for the kids to play at. It was starting to get dark (3:30 in the afternoon!) by this point already.  I don't think I could handle all that darkness.

 
December 29th - HOME!!!
The flight home was uneventful, and we made hit home safely.  Our cute Nala-tender made us this cute sign.  We had a great trip, but was so excited to sleep in our own beds.  It took a couple days for the jet lag to wear off, but we returned to normal eventually. Some friends invited us over on New Years Eve and we were terrible guests.  By the time 9:00 rolled around we were all zombies.  We tried to stay awake, but had to excuse ourselves around 10:00 to go home to bed.  
Wow, sorry that took 9 months to blog about.  Fun to relive it though.