Vienna Day 2: Hofburg and Nachmarkt

I woke up day 2 of the road trip in Vienna bright and early.

I started out my day with a run. I knew the Belvedere Palace was near the hotel…but I wasn’t sure where. I ran a short way down the road to an open gate and saw the park and stairs that lead up the back of the Belvedere Palace. I ran around, taking pictures feeling absolutely blessed to start my day this way.

Back of the Belvedere Palace
Back of the Belvedere Palace
Front of Belvedere Palace
Front of Belvedere Palace

After breakfast, I headed out and walked over to the main center of Vienna where the vast majority of museums are located, the State Opera, and Hofburg Palace. It’s also where you can buy tickets for the various tour buses and tickets for concerts at different locations across the city. There are a lot of museums in Vienna, and I wish I’d had more time to visit more of them. In the end, I decided to visit the Hofburg Palace.

Hofburg Palace

Hofburg Palace and the Habsburg Dynasty

I didn’t realize at the time, when I made the decision to visit the Hofburg Palace, which is the former imperial palace and current official residence and workplace of the President of Austria, how learning about the Habsburg Dynasty was going to play a crucial role throughout my road trip. The Habsburg Empire ruled over a huge part of Europe until 1918.

Hofburg Palace 2

I toured the authentically-furnished Imperial Apartments, the Sisi Museum and the Silver Collection. The silver collection was mind boggling. The amount of silverware, plates, the size of the center pieces, candle sticks, and other table setting items was incredible. Every castle and palace I’ve visited as fascinated me; the luxury, beauty, and magnificence of these places are an enthralling look into the lives of royalty.

Silver Collection

Center Pieces

Elisabeth of Austria, or Sisi, was the wife of Emperor Franz Joseph I, and thus Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary. She was an intriguing woman to learn about, and later in Budapest, I learned just how much the people of Hungary loved her. Her beauty was undeniable and her untimely death devastating. The American culture became a bit obsessed with her and produced many movies about Sissi. In one of her salons, she actually had workout “equipment” (different wooded apertures) which she used in order to stay slim and in shape.

Sisi Dress

The Naschmarkt

Once I left the Hofburg Palace, I got on the Hop-on-Hop-off bus and took a quick tour around other parts of the city, where I learned more about Vienna. Upon returning, it was past noon, and I was starting to get hungry. A different line of the Hop-on-Hop-off bus went to the Naschmarkt, followed by Schonbrunn Palace. It took a long time for that bus to arrive, and I was super hungry by then, so it made sense to stop for a late lunch at the Naschmarkt. I’m so glad I did. The food was absolutely delicious.

After my yummy meal, I walked around the market. The Naschmark is a must stop on your visit to Vienna, either for lunch or dinner to ensure you experience some culinary excellence. It’s also a market with 120 stands filled with fruit, vegetables, fish and meats and various delicacies from every country around the world. Even compared to Marrakesh, I’ve never seen a place with more spice and herb selection.

Spices Naschmarkt

I wanted to make it back to Schonbrunn Palace to take the tour I’d missed the night before, but it was getting late in the afternoon, and I didn’t feel I would make it with enough time to get the most out of it.

Instead, I visited St. Charles Church, which was built after a plague raged in Vienna from 1713 and 1714, killing over 8,000 people. Emperor Charles VI, took a solemn vow to build a church in the honor of his patron saint, the “plague saint” Charles Borromeo. Once inside the church, you can take an elevator and then stairs to the top tower.

St. Charles Church
St. Charles Church

I’d had a full day, so after getting some ice cream, I headed back to the hotel. A drive the Budapest awaited me in the morning.

How About You?

Have you ever visited Hofburg and Nachmarkt?  Feel free to comment below or contact Ann’s Adventure Writer and Blogger here.

 

Liechtenstein: Memorial Weekend Hiking

As part of my outdoor adventures, I decided to go hike the Alps in Liechtenstein over Memorial Weekend. Liechtenstein is a tiny country between Austria and Switzerland, and a short drive away from Stuttgart. The 48 km Panorama Trail sounded like a perfect route I could break into three days of hiking, ending each night in Vaduz, the small capital city of Liechtenstein.

Vaduz Castle
Vaduz Castle

A friend and co-worker asked to tag along, and while as you know, I’m not a fan of traveling with others, I went along with it. I think it turned out to be a good thing he went.

First Day

I woke-up to a cool, overcast day. I joined Don for breakfast where we discussed our hiking route for the day. He wanted to stay local. That wasn’t what I’d planned, but because it threatened to rain, I went along with it. We left the hotel and headed into the town center. The town center is small, but also quite interesting because there are pieces of art everywhere.

We found the route we were looking for and started hiking up the mountain. We hiked for almost two hours…and eventually found ourselves in thick fog and snow. The snow was unexpected. The majority of the hike back down was on the road, which sucked. Hiking on pavement is hard on the body.

Ruins early on the hike on day 1
Ruins early on the hike on day 1

I was starving by the time we made it back to town. We stopped at a pizzeria for some pizza before making our way back to the hotel. We were done hiking for the day.

Second Day

On the second day, I wanted to make sure we got back to the original plan and headed up to find the Panorama Trail, aka route 66. We drove to Malbun, where the start of the trail is located but when we arrived, my heart sank. Things weren’t looking good…there was snow everywhere on the ground, and the lift to the start of the trail was closed. Everything I’d read about trail said it was opened from May – September.

Hike Overlooking Malbun Day 2

Additionally, it was actually proving hard to find signs leading to the trail. Luckily, as we were leaving, I finally saw a sign and decided to pursue it. We got out of the car and started hiking. The hike brought us up towards the top of the lift, and eventually along to a trail that was hard to make out…since it was covered in snow. We followed the thin, snowy trail for awhile, the snow was up to our shins until we got to a clearing with a sign for Route 66 pointing down where we can from, and farther up. The visibility was crappy, but I wanted to keep going. A few steps later, the snow was up to our knees, and Don recommended it was best to turn around.

Hike Day 2

I didn’t want to, but I knew it would be dangerous to keep going. I was really bummed out.

We made our way back down, it was lunch time. We grabbed some lunch in a small bakery in the town of Malbun before driving back to Vaduz.

We made the best of the afternoon by visiting the National Museum, which was actually quite interesting, with well organized exhibitions. I was impressed of the quality of the museums, considering the size of the town. It covered the history of Liechtenstein, along with many other basic historical events.

After the museum, we went to the Tamina Therme in Switzerland. The sauna and thermal pools were much needed to help loosen up my tight muscles. It was not at all a good idea to do a leg workout the day before a three day hiking trip.

I slept quite well that night.

Third Day

Don left after breakfast. I hung out in my room for a couple of hours before going out for my final day of hiking. I was really hoping the sun would finally come out…it didn’t. I drove to Steg, where I knew another leg of the Panorama trail passed through. Once there, I followed the sign for route 66, until the trail started leading back down a mountain. I didn’t want to go down, so I followed the signs for another trail that was going up. I was pretty determined to make it to the peak of a mountain. It got a little tricky but I did in the end, make it to a peak!

Moutain Peak

Hiking Trail
The trail was sometimes hard to see…it was about the white and red signs

I came back down, with plenty of energy left in me, so I started tackling another mountain. I hiked up for a solid hour, until I got into snow again. A part of me wanted to keep going, but I knew it was once again best to turn around. I came across a small hiking hunt, which was pretty neat.

Hiking Hunt

Inside Hiking Cabin

Turnstile on Trail 2
Passed through quite a few turnstile, was surprise to see them along the trail.

Back down I went. I got back to the hotel, showered, and had time for nap before going out to dinner. After dinner, I took a little more time checking out the art in the town center and then headed over to the wooded bridge that wasn’t far from the hotel and crossed on over to Switzerland.

Liechtenstein View to Switzerland

Art Nails Vaduz Center

Art Vaduz Center 2

Art Vaduz Center

The trip didn’t turn out the way I’d imagined it, I really wish the weather would have better cooperated because I know there were incredible views to be seen, but in the end, I enjoyed the hiking. I recommend going there to hike, just wait later into the summer!

Morocco: Mountain Biking Adventure

I wrote about my overall Moroccan Mountain Biking experience with more specifics in another post .  I wanted to share more about what this trip meant to me.

I have been heavily pondering over exactly what about my mountain biking trip to Morocco made it so incredible, but have been coming short of a specific answer.

I prophesied before leaving this would be a once in a lifetime trip – and I was right. It seemed like everything was perfectly engineered to make it the ideal trip to bring joy and happiness into my life.

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Every trip I take, I sense God’s hands at play. I always recognize His work and presence in the little awesome coincidences, events and things that happen.

For this trip He was blessing me with His full Glory.

I was the only one who had a new bike…one that turned out better than the one I own. I ended up making the ideal friend to make me laugh, loosen up and keep me company. The weather was gorgeous, the oasis greener than they’ve been in seven years, and I ended with an awesome group of people to share laughs, stories and camaraderie. I discovered I was a better mountain biker than I thought, and answered the question of whether or not I wanted to do a lot more of it.

I haven’t been the same since I came back. I feel more alive, rejuvenated and ready to seek more adventures.

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The Adventure

I belong in the wide open space of the great outdoors. I was so incredibly happy pushing myself pedaling my heart out, absorbing the vastness around me and being free from all thoughts and responsibilities that fill my normal days.

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I love to travel, but there are many different kinds of traveling options.

By far the best one, in my opinion, is the type of traveling that offers me an adventure. An adventure takes me to a foreign land to experience new sights, sounds, and tastes, but it also offers new experiences that require me to push myself, step into the unknown, or maximize acquired skills.

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I wouldn’t call myself a thrill seeker, per se, but I have a desire for things that are challenging, slightly risky and incredibly memorable. I want adventures that leave me feeling satisfied with myself…adventures that help me grow and improve.

The best kind of traveling is the kind that touches you deep into your soul.

Morocco

It was my first time in Morocco, and my first time on the African Continent. Having traveled to many places in and around the world, I could compare some aspects of what I saw/experienced in Morocco, such as the hustle and bustle of daily life, to other places such as Iraq and Thailand, but it also had plenty of unique aspects to it.

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Morocco is a beautiful country. I did not get to experience its beaches, but its mountain and valleys are beautiful.

They felt isolated and mostly untouched. It’s a wonderful feeling to be where most won’t go. The people in the mountains lead lives foreign to the vast majority of us. Even within Morocco, the lifestyles of the people vary a lot.

Waterfall

Traveling by Mountain Bike

If you’ve never pedaled your way through a place, you’re absolutely missing out on a connection with the territory you traverse. Hiking is another way to experience a place in a personal way, but you can’t cover as much ground. We covered anywhere from 25-40 miles a day – up and down mountains, into valleys, through oasis, and crossing rivers. It’s you, and your bike – you find yourself focused on the pedaling, maneuvering, exploring and discovering. Some twist and turns challenge you, scare you and what’s around the bend awes you.

Credit Dries Rengle
Credit Dries Rengle

I spent a good while on my bike simply happy and feeling blessed. My mind was blank, and I existed in the present. It’s a form of meditation.

Eat, Sleep, Pedal, Repeat

This was the most relaxing trip I’ve ever taken. Everything was taken care of by the tour company. I had nothing to worry myself with but to eat, sleep, pedal and repeat the same the next day. It was glorious.

 

Photo Credit Dries Rengle
Photo Credit Dries Rengle

How About You?

Have you ever taken a trip that was one of the best adventures of your life?  I would love to hear about it!  Feel free to comment below or contact Ann’s Adventure Tour Writer and Blogger here.

Schwäbisch Hall: Medieval Germany

Today didn’t quite go as planned, but I’m glad I got out to enjoy what was predicted to be and turned out being – a beautiful sunny day. The plan was to take a day trip to Schwäbisch Hall, (a town a little over an hour East of where I live) followed-on by a visit to two different castles in the area: Schloss Neuenstein and Schloss Langenburg. Unfortunately, as it turned out, both castles were closed and not scheduled to re-opened until 1 April.

Schloss Neuenstein
Schloss Neuenstein
Schloss Lagenburg
Schloss Lagenburg

I was bummed the castles were closed, but I plan on going back another day later in the Spring, once they re-open. The countryside surrounding the castles made for a great drive today, so I can only imagine how much better it will be when nature is in bloom. Plus, the actual castles and the grounds surrounding them, will also be more impressing than today, once the trees are dressed in green, the grass is carpeting the grounds and the flowers are sprouting color and beauty.

Schloss Lagenburg Distant View

My first stop though was to the town of Schwäbisch Hall, and just that visit alone made it worth the drive. We all have images of what a German town should look like, and if you’re like me, it’s resembles something from the medieval time. Schwäbisch Hall does not disappoint, and delivers some wonderfully picturesque views. Its medieval roots are still visible by its towers, impressive wooden bridges, Fachwerk houses (half-timber houses), cobblestone streets and Gothic and Baroque styles buildings dominating the city center.

Schwabisch Hall Edited

Fachwerck House
Fachwerck House

Because I was in a bit of a time crunch to visit my other destinations, I did not spend the time to partake in visiting the museums and art gallery recommended as attractions. A list below is recommended – enough for an entire day, not just a few hours.

  • Michael’s church
  • Shakespear’s globe theater called the Haller Globe theater
  • Hällisch-Fränkisches Museum
  • Kunsthalle Würth arts gallery
  • Hohenlohe open-air museum
Schwabisch Hall Marktplatz
Schwabisch Hall Marktplatz
St. Michael Church
St. Michael Church

Instead, I ended up just walking around enjoying the wonderful architecture and shinning sun. When you go, be sure to also take the time stop in to one of the restaurants, and enjoy what I’m sure would be a delicious German meal…followed by ice cream which Germans love, or stop in to some of the bakeries, or café offering a variety of sweets.

Schwabisch Hall 3

Yummy! Yummy!
Yummy! Yummy!

Doner Kebab StandIn keeping with saving time, I made a quick stop at the window of a Doner Kebab. If you’ve spent any time in Germany, you’ve seen and hopefully have tried a Doner. I’ll admit it…they’re one of my favorite “fast food” places in Germany. It’s Turkish food…not German, but they can be found in just about every town in Germany. Once ordered, they’re in your hands a few minutes later and are totally delicious.

Perhaps I’ll find my way back to Schwäbisch Hall since apparently, there are quite a few festivals that take place there over the summer to include the Schwäbisch Hall open-air theatre festival that’s been going on since 1925.

How About You?

Have you ever visited Schwäbisch Hall?  If so what did you think of this unique area?  I would love to hear from you!  Comment below or contact Ann’s Adventure Tour Writer and Blogger here.

Venice: Carnival 2015

President’s Day weekend was fast approaching, and I had not decided where to go yet… Mr. Stebbins (Ralph) walked in, who by happenstance, started to discuss how much he loves Venice.

Ah yes, Venice, she’s on my list of places to visit and what luck, President’s Day weekend lines up with Carnival.

It was meant to be. Kinda. Sorta. Decisions had to be made…drive, fly, bring Little Man and where should I stay – Booking.com was confirming that plans to go to Venice during Carnival best be made early. Ralph came to the rescue, by sending me a link with flights and hotel packages via Expedia. Cautions to the wind in regards to cost, and a few clicks later, my trip was booked. Little Man would have to sit this one out since I selected to fly.

I scattled out of work early (4pm) on Thursday to get my hair done before my trip. Wanted to look pretty for my upcoming long weekend. Got home, grabbed a bit to eat and began to pack my bag. When I drive, I don’t necessarily worry about packing light but this time, I knew I would be rolling my suitcase down the Venice streets…so I needed to be smart about my packing. I did okay, but let’s just say, my packing shall remain a work in progress.

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I hit the sack early after setting my alarm for 3:21am. My flight left Stuttgart at 7:00am. I had attempted to figure out the transportation situation in Venice from the airport to my hotel the week before, but couldn’t quite make heads or tails of it. Figured it would be easy enough once I was on the ground to figure it out.

Venice Travel was easy enough, and I recommend going the public transportation route.

You can buy a one way ticket on ACTV Bus 5 to Piazzale Roma for 6 euros, or buy a one day or multi-day transportation ticket that also includes the vaporetto or water ferry. You’ll need transportation via the vaporetto – there’s really no way around that. Once you’re in Venice, all traveling is via the water or by walking, and it’s not a huge place, but it’s big enough to need to use the ferry. Plus, you’ll want to enjoy the boat ride on the Grand Canal.

Venice Italy

Google Map is my saving grace when traveling. Eats up my battery, but makes my life so much easier. I located my hotel via Google map and tracked down the appropriate ferry stop. It so happened to be by the Rialto Bridge.

Rialto Bridge

I was checked-in and in my room at little after noon. I was tired but ready to go explore. The sky was overcast, and weather a bit chilly as I made my way towards Piazza San Marco, which was conveniently located 5 minutes’ walk from my hotel.

Piazza San Marco

The narrow street I was following opened up to the wide opened Piazza San Marco, and I ventured in looking in amazement to all there was to see. I walked to the water’s edge to take in more of the view, saw and then began to take pictures of the beautiful people in costumes. I made my way back to the center of the Piazza where there was a stage setup and a Best Mask Contest was beginning. I was in awe of the costumes.

Costumes, Costumes, Costumes

Carnival in Venice is all about the costumes. The costumes are the most beautiful, intricate, and magnificent costumes I have ever seen in my life. The models (individuals) wearing them embrace their roles and pose for their admiring audiences. The audience is a mixture of tourists and professional photographer. To the credit of the models, they are as patient with those who have only phones, as with those with the expensive lenses. The crowds around the models get large – getting a good shot with no one else in the frame is a challenge.

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The themes of the costumes vary but there are quite a few Venetian Period costumes from the 13th -15th century. The mixture of Venice and the costumes acted like a time machine – I felt taken back in time, which is one of the most precious aspects of being in Venice during Carnival.

If life ever affords me an opportunity to return to Venice during the Carnival; I will only do so by renting or buying my own costume and attend a Masquerade Ball. I don’t think the Carnival experience is complete without attending a Grand Ball. They are quite expensive (cheapest one started at 200 euros) and you must be in costume to attend. However, I think it’s at the balls that the true magic of Carnival happens. I imagine attending a ball is a full return to a time past and a taste for what living in Venice was once like.

Slight Disappointment

Let me first say, Venice is all you need – she is incredible in her own right, but this was Carnival, and while I loved the costumes; I was a little disappointed there wasn’t more to it. The stage on the Piazza San Marco had some additional acts aside from the costume contests, but I expected more to be happening in the other squares. I expected more parades, music and overall festivities. I thought I would have seen acrobats, jugglers, playwrights and musicians entertaining the seas of tourists walking the streets.

Mardi Gras in New Orleans is a party everywhere…so I thought Venice would have been similar. It wasn’t so…which left me plenty of opportunity to go exploring.   More about that in another post.

Enjoy this video compilation of my pictures.

 How About You?

Have you visited Venice?  Did you ever get to experience the Carnival in Venice?  I would love to hear from you!  Comment below or contact Ann Bernard, Travel Writer and Blogger here.

Cross Country Ski: Seefeld, Austria

When I was a kid, I remember cross country skiing on my uncle’s property.

We would start out from his cabin, which was by a lake where we would also skate and play ice hockey during the winter months, and ski to a restaurant that catered to cross country skiers and snowmobilers. We would have some hot chocolate and a snack then ski back. This is a memory from well over 25 years ago. This year, for some reason, as winter settled in, my interest in being more active outdoors piqued.  This led me to explore what options were available to create new cross country skiing memories.

My online research lead me to Seefeld Austria, and taking advantage of the Martin Luther King long weekend to plan a trip for some cross country skiing.

Seefeld, Austria has 279 km of runs for cross country skiing, 125 km of which is for skating and 154 km for classic cross country skiing, which is one of the most beautiful and extensive in Europe. They even have nighttime cross-country skiing and various cross country skiing schools.

Unfortunately, as you might have already read in my previous post, I did not get to cross country ski.  However, from what I observed in Seefeld and the surrounding region, this is in fact a great place for cross country skiing. I passed many people out on the tracks skiing or walking around carrying skis on their way to the start of a trail.

The Seefeld official website is filled with excellent information to include links to live webcams, snow reports, events and maps to the trails and update information on what tracks are opened or closed and they are categorized by level of experience. There are plenty of places to rent equipment, also listed on the website.  I contacted a few prior to leaving and none required I book ahead.

My accommodations were at the Apartmenthaus Jagdhof which I found on Booking.com. While I had booked a studio apartment, I was upgraded to a two bedroom apartment. It was way too big for me and Little Man, but it was still a nice and comfortable stay. Linens, towels, and all kitchenware were provided.  However, there was no microwave. I brought food with me, so I didn’t need to eat out (still did for one dinner).

This is definitely an excellent and inexpensive way to travel with friends and as a family.

There was an indoor pool and sauna at the Apartmenthaus Jagdhof; spending time in the sauna and pool were a fabulous way to finish the day after my hikes. I also brought my yoga mat with me to do some yoga, and properly stretch to ensure top performance.  The landscape/views were beautiful. I really wish I could have explored/seen more of it.  The town of Seefeld has restaurants, a couple of bars, and shops to accommodate visitors

How About You?

Have you ever visited Seefeld, Austria? What was your favorite part?  Tell me all about it by leaving a comment or contacting me.