The trip started the Friday of Memorial Day weekend. Around 11pm the night before Steve was busy studying all the loads into Germany...Berlin, Munich, Frankfurt...and even some London flights.
The loads filled up quickly the week before we left, so we decided last minute (like 11:30pm) to go to Plan C - fly to Munich instead of our desired Berlin. So, we rented a car and drove to Washington Dulles, which was about a 5 1/2 hour drive. It sure beat a 5:45am flight, and 10 hour wait at the airport!!!
The plan worked in our favor, and we got some of the last seats on the plane, Ben even got a first class seat...lucky kid!!!
Cici and I were in the back of the bus, and we had a great flight. Her last international flight was an absolute nightmare (Helpless), so I was very pleased this time around.
We arrived in Munich on Saturday morning. As the passengers were deplaning I was chatting with the flight attendants about hotel options, because we had none. As our conversation was wrapping up, they were kind enough to give the kids some donuts!!!
After discussing hotel options with the information desk at the airport, we decided upon Hotel Alfa. It wasn't all that updated, and it didn't have A/C. But, it was available, had four beds, comfortable, clean, close to the center of town, had great breakfast, and was affordable. I would easily stay there again.
After we settled in, we took showers, and headed right into town. No nap for us...the best way to acclimate to time zones is to just force yourself right into it. After some exploration and dinner, we retired around 19:00. The next morning we ate a great breakfast at the hotel, then headed to the train station where we caught a train to Vienna.
|pretzels with butter...amazing!!!!|
We arrived in Vienna on Sunday afternoon. We headed into the main square, saw Mozart's House, and had dinner. I didn't have the best memories of Vienna from my last trip there (2001), but seeing it again this time around really made me rethink the city. It is just beautiful!
|obsessed with watching the spray paint artist|
We hung in Vienna until our 22:50 overnight train into Krakow, Poland. Before dusk fell we played around in a great park about 5 minutes from the train station. The kids, who had been traveling great!, were able to unwind and be kids here. It was nice to just 'be' for a couple minutes.
The kids got to experience their first overnight train ride. Aside from passport control in the Czech Republic (somewhere), the ride was quick and easy and fun, despite the sleepy/pissed off faces below.
We woke up in Poland...beautiful Poland! We waited in the Krakow train station for about 2 hours until we caught our final train to my father's city. After four days of travel, we were finally able to settle for a good couple days. We visited family, drank beer, relaxed, went hiking, played with animals, and drank more beer.
|in the village where my father was born and raised|
|with my cousins|
|playing with baby bunnies|
|the church where my parents got married|
|cherry season - this girl couldn't get enough!|
For the weekend, my father drive the four of us into Slovakia where I was able to reconnect with my girlfriend and her beautiful family. We stayed at Penzion Pramen, which is on Lake Vinianske. The accommodations were very comfortable. The beer and food were great. The views were great. And all the baby forest frogs were making their way from the lake to the forest...it was an awesome site to see. Baby frogs were everywhere!
After the weekend in Slovakia, we headed back to my father's house just for a night before we headed to Krakow. Krakow is Steve #1 city, so we made sure to make time for ourselves there. My father drove us, and joined us in our visit to the world famous salt mines in Wieliczka.
The tour was awesome, and the kids really enjoyed themselves. It started with nearly 400 steps down, and continued on for about 1 1/2 hours. Always fun to visit there!
We took a train back to the main train station, and walked to our hotel for the night. We stayed at Too-Good Apartments, and I can't say enough good things about the accommodations. Ok, the one issue was incredibly slow wifi, but it was an easy thing to overlook. By the time we settled into the hotel, it was nearly 18:00 and time for dinner.
We headed to the square, where the kids played with the pigeons and the best street performers (never had I seen bubble performers before...great idea!!!)
|this was new to the square (from what I recall) and really cool|
|crepes with chocolate...who doesn't love dessert for dinner|
|carriage ride around the square was fun|
We headed back to our room around 21:00. The next morning we went back in the square for breakfast and one last beer before our 12:00 train ride. As fate would have it, my aunt was in the square while we were enjoying that beer! I hadn't made plans to visit my aunt and cousins since we didn't have time, but we got to see her despite any arranging.
Our noon train was to Wroclaw, to see my mother's side of the family. This was our last leg of the trip, before heading to Berlin for our flight home. While in Wroclaw we had dinner, toured the town square at night, had a grill party, and went to a castle.
We took a bus from Wroclaw to Berlin, via PolskiBus. Since there was no direct train we decided to take the bus since it was direct and something new.
We sat in the back of the bus, along with a group that was headed to Lisbon for holiday. Things got super fun when they started offering shots. We had a really fun time! These are the moments when traveling where you are so thankful for the experiences. There are good people in the world. and connecting with goodness is good for the soul.
|I still need to work on my panorama photo skills|
We arrived in Berlin around 18:00, and stayed at the Ibis hotel right at the bus station. After a very lovely dinner at a local restaurant, we made final packing preparations, and then settled in for the night. Our flight the next morning was around 9:30, so the morning was a bit early. There were something like 100 open seats on the flight, so we were calm about making it home. I had my second taste of international first class. and it sure was nice! There were two celebrities on the flight: Jeff Goldblum and Liam Hemsworth, so that was a pretty neat way to end the trip.
The trip was fantastic. We had a great time. The kids did WONDERFULLY! They were troopers and traveled liked pros. We were so proud of how well they did.
Being in Europe is always refreshing to me. It gives me a good, different, and renewed perspective on life. Here are some of my take-aways:
- Family matters.
- Roots matter.
- People aren't glued to their cell phones there, like we are here. Dinner at a restaurant is actual conversation, not someone checking their texts, Facebook, or Instagram constantly. I have been making an effort to not be so attached to my phone. It is refreshing! Try it!
- Being friendly makes a difference in the world. A little bit of kindness goes a long way.
- Travel is renewing. I felt so calm and relaxed when I got home. I feel renewed.
- Travel is an absolute perk of Steve's job. The four of us traveled for 2 weeks in Europe for the bargain price of about $2,000. Note, we stayed at a hotel only five nights since the rest of the time was with family, so that helps with cost. There are plenty of hardships that come with this lifestyle, but being able to fly like we do makes up for it.
We are already starting to plan Poland 2017!