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Austria: Days 11-14 – Big Family European Expedition

    Day 11 – Czech Republic to Austria

    Today was a drive day, we planned to leave Prague at noon, stop at a castle in Cesky Krumlov, and then get to our BnB by dinner. That was the PLAN.

    This is what actually happened. (note – we were bound to have a few difficult days.  We all survived and someday we can laugh about it. lol)  We packed and left.

    We got on the road and made it to Cesky Krumlov for a late lunch (our drive times seemed quite off today) . We ordered food from an English menu (as an aside, we earnestly tried to use basic phrases and had planned to get by with body language and pointing – but in all of Iceland, Germany and thus far all of Czech Republic, we have been blessed to meet people who  spoke both their local language and also English…not only that, but they were all kindly enough to speak to us upon our first hellos that we attempted). 

    The menu, however, didn’t quite translate. One of the kids ordered a grilled cheese and it was actually just grilled cheese – not a grilled cheese sandwich, no bread just cheese. One ordered lemonade but somehow that was translated to a cafola – a Czech cola- “A carbonated beverage that tastes like wine” (but I thought it tasted like soap).  We finished lunch but couldn’t figure out where or how to buy the castle tickets so we just visited the gardens and grounds.

    When we were back in the van to continue our way to our next home, I had thought we had just one hour left to drive but realized I had entered something wrong in the GPS and we actually had 3 more hours to drive putting us well past grocery store hours and into dinner.   I then proceeded to lose my mind. The kids were able to help me through my crazy by buying me the best chocolate that I’ve ever eaten! Mmmm – and all was well again in the world.  Surprising how chocolate can always do that.

    We found a restaurant for dinner with an English speaking Austrian owner who had lived in San Diego.  He was lovely and very helpful– and sat down to spend time with us and discuss his journey with us and we were able to tell him about our trip.   He was able to help us figure directions and even a place to purchase groceries…in Austria (like much of Europe) grocery stores aren’t open after 8 and not at all on Sundays.

    So as this was Saturday night and we were pulling into a rental with no food and no food shopping until Monday, it all seemed pretty overwhelming! He was able to help us find a local mini-mart/gas station that was open and where we were able to buy some basics food needs (bread, milk, cereal, pasta, butter, cola and as my final kick in the head, while shopping I bought 2 huge bottles of sparkling water instead of still!!)

    We drove through some pretty amazing mountains and arrived at one of the best BnB’s of the trip.

    This was a full two-story home.  The main level had a full kitchen, an eat in dining area, a sitting room the master bedroom and 2 bathrooms one with a Jacuzzi tub.  The second floor had 3 bedrooms and a sitting area/loft will a pull out bed and another full bathroom.  All of that plus a yard and gorgeous mountain views and English speaking hosts  live on site in another separate area of the home.   We settled in and enjoyed some games and the movie “Sound of Music” in English!!

    Day 12 – Austria

    We woke up to the most beautiful view out of our window!   This rental had a backyard Playset and swing so we enjoyed our morning with some much-needed downtime enjoying breakfast and the views.

    We set out to explore an ice cave in Werfen.

    This visit was not for the weak of heart nor for anyone who may be afraid of heights!  We bought tickets on site and started a 30-minute uphill hike to the aerial tram which brought us uphill to another 30-minute uphill hike which bright us to the base of the cave.

    Which included an equivalent of a 40 story building stair climb in 0-degree temperatures!! (pics weren’t allowed inside which was impossibly hard for me – the link provides an idea – it was beautiful).

    Afterwards, we ate at a restaurant at the top of the mountain – the views were gorgeous! The food (including apple strudel and Wienerschnitzel) was delicious!!!

    After lunch, we drove into Salzburg.

    We saw the castle, the gazebo from The Sound of Music (anticlimactic), and the kids played in the park for a bit before heading home where we continued The Sound of Music – Grace was super excited especially at the gazebo song/ dance!

    As an aside- Austria is just absolutely perfect. Cute little houses – all of which have flower boxes and gorgeous geraniums… seriously all. Mountains and gorgeous green valleys, towns with great spired churches. It is just beautiful there!

    Kids were trying to talk us into alpine sliding or ziplining the next day.

    Day 13 – I’m in love with Austria

    I love Austria. I really want to move there.

    We woke up to that view again. No rain. Sunshiney skies.

    We planned a couple different hikes but started with a visit to the Alpine slide, it felt fitting in the Alps   It was the kid’s favorite part of the vacation so far. (Though they keep saying that. Every day, whatever we’re doing is their favorite thing).

    We went on the slide a few times and then I’m not sure how or why but there was also a whole trampoline park set up that was included!

    Kids were thrilled and would have stayed there all day.

    We next drove to Golling waterfall.

    This was a hike 400 steps up to see 2 different falls. All of the water came from a cave we walked to at the very top. So pretty!

    Our last hike was a gorge walk recommended by our host.  Lammerklamm Gorge is an amazing walk built into the gorge … right over the river!

    I was really looking forward to this hike and it was “gorge“ous!  The blue of the water was an amazing shade and the hike was tranquil and beautiful.

    We ate dinner and ice cream of course. And finished our night with games at the house.

    We had to pack up and leave this gorgeous country the next morning. Again with a new language, new food, and new city. And this time no car for the next 11 days!!!

    A few observations:

    • It stands out to me how beautiful and clean everything we’ve seen is. A certain pride here that is very pronounced vs. the US. We’ve literally been asked ( in multiple of the countries we’ve visited) to recycle into 5 different bins to reduce garbage… paper, plastic, glass, compost and garbage. It’s crazy how little actual garbage our family of 7 uses. Why is this not easier in the US?
    • We’ve driven ourselves through 4 countries with 3 differing languages and almost everyone we’ve met and interacted with can speak at the very least 2 languages! Big cities, small towns. Every person! Why don’t we have required second languages in the US?
    • These countries (3 on the continent at least) have crazy long histories, including much of the central locations for both world wars and yet they have buildings, castles, and churches that date farther back than our entire country that are still in use.
    • The homes we’ve stayed in haven’t had central heat or air, but have been lovely even in the summer! They are generally greener than what we currently build in the US
    • My kids have noticed how fit the people are. And we’ve noticed the difference in food available both in stores and restaurants. The fact that they use fewer preservatives and use more local and fresh foods, I assume makes a huge difference too in the health and fitness here. Even the “sweets” aren’t as sweet!
    • I was also thrown by having to pay to use the potty (with 7 that can add up fast!) but again noticed how clean they have been. And how much we take it for granted – always a restroom available in the US with toilet paper and always free.
    • But speaking of always available … water is not freely given at restaurants (it costs), ice is not given (it’s just not), and there are no free refills on the tiny warm bottle of soda or water!
    • We have driven through 4 countries and there have been no bright lights advertising big chain stores or anything that looks gaudy or materialistic. There are few (if any) stores open past 5 (the one we saw today had weekday hours listed from 830-1 and then from 330-6. 9.5 hours with a 2.5 hour lunch!!! ), and no stores open Sunday!

    The history, cultures, and languages have been quite an experience…. that I hope will grow us into better more outward thinking people.

    Terri L

    Terri L

    Terri has been married to her best friend, Scott, for 20 years and together they have 5 children. She has been blessed to be able to be a SAHM since her first was born over 14 years ago. In addition to finding new and creative ways to entertain 5 children, she enjoys date nights with her husband, photography, reading, and traveling with her crew.