Ahhhhh…Austria. It was definitely worth the stress I was feeling as we prepared to leave. When all the hotel options we found were going to be cramped and expensive, I googled “large family accommodations” and found a fabulous place about an hour outside of Salzburg. We drove through France and Germany spending a mere $75 on tolls. We arrived in Austria at dusk and had to find our way to this small town in the dark, up a steep, winding mountain road. We were helped along the way by an angel, disguised as a customer at a local grocery. She over heard me asking for directions. She spoke English and knew exactly the resort we needed. She was heaven sent because we were exhausted and quite stressed.
Arriving in the dark had an upside. It was like being led to a surprise wearing a blindfold. The next morning it was such a treat to open the blinds and peer out at the snow topped mountains and stunning surroundings. We spent a leisurely day strolling through the small town. I felt like I was in a fairy tale with the quaint houses and shops. The architecture had me on the look out for Hansel and Gretel who I was sure would be around the next corner. We stocked up on groceries, which is a favorite activity for us all. We love looking through all the aisles but especially the dairy section, chocolates and cookies. After lunch at home, the older kids went for a swim in the pool, sauna and spa complex. They were in heaven with the place to themselves. Their imagination had them performing spa treatments for one another. In the evening, what more can you ask for than Hannah Montana and other Disney Channel favorites in German?
We started Sunday morning with Mass at the local church. It is amazing to think that these people, thousands of miles from New Orleans, pray to the same God and profess the same Creed. It is a comfort to find the same images of our Beloved Mother Mary and her Son, so far from home. Many of the gentlemen were wearing the traditional Austrian jackets and hats. Our guidebook said, in Austria, the folk dress is still accepted as formal wear.
After Mass, we headed to Salzburg. Without internet access, it was harder to prepare for our visit and I had left much of the planning to Mark. We found our way without much trouble and arrived at the Schloss Mirabell, the gardens of a former archbishop’s residence. The gardens were made famous when Julie Andrews and the children sang Do Re Mi here, in the Sound of Music. We saw the birthplace of Mozart and the Hotel Sacher, which is famous for the Sacher Torte, a chocolate cake with a thin layer of jam beneath a thick, smooth icing. Delicious! We wandered the quaint, pedestrian-only streets enjoying the window shopping and listening to the many languages being spoken around us. We conceded to an Italian restaurant after much pleading from the kids. Happily, there was Weiner schnitzel and potato salad on the menu for me and we ended the meal with an apfelstrudel. It was authentic enough and everyone was full and happy. We visited the childhood home of Mozart and saw his violin and locks of his hair. Standing in front of that violin gave me goose bumps. There were several original pieces of music in his own hand. There was a child-friendly guide that made the visit meaningful for us all. There were ups and downs, including getting turned around when exiting and ending up in Germany before we realized it but all in all, it was an enjoyable day.
On Monday, we took on the daunting task of visiting Vienna, which is over 4 hours away. In true Zelden style, we started our day at 7 am and ended it at 11 pm, with about 9 hours of driving and 5 hours of sightseeing in between. We enjoyed some sausage (wurst) and Wiener schnitzel for lunch, saw the Hapsburgs’ Palace with the beautiful horses they imported from Spain, the Stephensdom an immense Cathedral at the heart of the first district and did lots of window shopping in the pedestrian-friendly streets in this elegant part of the city. We only got a taste of this amazing place but enjoyed the little time we had to spend there.
Today we are swimming and taking it easy. Tomorrow we head home and it will be a long day of driving to get close to the ferry. On Thursday morning, we take an early ferry across the channel then head to London’s Gatwick airport to pick up Mark’s mom to bring her back to the Isle of Wight.
Thanks for all the prayers. We can feel them helping keep us safe and happy all the way across the pond. Be assured, you are in our prayers as well.