After the non-stop whirlwind trip over Christmas and injuries that followed, we knew we needed a slower paced trip this summer. Unfortunately, our spring breaks did not coincide so we couldn’t travel until the June. We decided to travel on the early end of the summer and our trip almost didn’t happen. My dad unexpectedly passed away a few weeks before we left. The ensuing chaos and family matters almost prevented us from going. Luckily, we got things squared away and left for Austria.
Given our horrid flight experience coming home from Australia, we hoped for better headed to Europe. That illusion ended quickly at the airport. We arrived 3 hours before our flight fantasizing about using extra air miles upgrade to business class, but we couldn’t even get a straight answer from US Airways on which line to stand on. After wasting close to an hour we gave up and just checked in. We headed to security. The line didn’t seem that bad until we turned the corner and saw it stretch all the way down the hall. We quickened out pace and found the line to be never-ending. It turned another corridor and stretched to within 10 yards of being in the next terminal! Fortunately, the line moved at a reasonable pace and we made it to our gate with a few minutes to spare, just a few minutes! Once on the plane, the antics continued. It was like watching Mystery Diners. The cabin crew were all in cahoots together. First there was “our” guy. He informed us he would be sleeping in front of us and that the seats would be reclined (further than usual) the entire flight, so would we like to move? Yes please! He actually moved us up to row 6 and the bulkhead, which is a huge blessing both from the extra room and quick plane departure since we had a tight connection. However, although there was a bathroom right next to us, it was marked occupied for the entire trip. Now, I understand if it’s for first class, they pay more and get better access. Indeed, that’s what the flight attendant told us. However, when first class passengers came to use it, they were told it was broken. It wasn’t disabled enough for each of the flight crew to flip the switch and use it when they wanted to however. When we gently teased the flight attendant about this, she claimed we may know some of their tricks but not all of them. Lovely! When will Charles Stiles expand his business up to 30,000?
Unfortunately, our airline troubles didn’t end there. Although we were first to the baggage claim, there was nothing to claim. None of our luggage arrived. The woman at the counter was less than helpful. Sadly, we left the airport with defeated with a faint promise of hope they might arrive on the next flight.
Needing a few days to recover from the turmoil at home we took our time exploring Vienna. Unfortunately, we had nothing planned. We stayed at an amazingly quaint hotel (Aparthotel Rothensteiner) that were one room apartments with a small kitchen and bath. The photos on the wall were of Austria and the beginning of the 20th century. Much of the décor of the hotel matched. The walls and halls were adorned with memorabilia of the era: a tennis racket collection, vintage luggage, barrels, you name it. Service was great and for a lower cost hotel we were well situated near the Museum district. The only issue is Jennifer and I aren’t museum people. Instead we walked and walked, exploring the historic buildings, unbelievable quaint “suburbs”, until we reached the marinas. One morning we walked all the way to the Danube, but as temperatures rose, we headed to the subway for the return trip. Eventually, our luggage arrived and everything was intact.
For our “One Dress” shot we settled on the Karlskirche or St. Charles Church. However, although we checked out the church during the day, when we arrived at night for a blue light (just after sunset) evening shot there was scaffolding in front of it. We quickly made an executive decision to switch venues and scuttled over to the Opera House.
Perched across the street at a café we waited for blue light. When the timing seemed right, Jennifer headed over and I set up my camera. A few quick test shots and we were all ready. Only a taxi driver had another idea. Just as peak blue light was approaching, he pulled in front of the building. I walkie talkied to Jennifer asking her to tell the guy to move up, but as I did two more cabbies pulled in behind them. So we had to settle for a cropped photo with less than perfect light. You can see it in our gallery for Europe 2015.
Our second stop of the trip was about friendship. One of our joys of travel are the relationships that form. When we went to Hungary in 2010 I had reached out to a local who bought one of my race walking books hoping he would meet us for a meal. He did and we all became fast friends. He invited us to his town and we excitedly joined him in his locale. Over the years we stayed in touch and headed out to his new home. Since the first five countries we were visiting were all in few hour drive of each other, we rented a car and drove out to the countryside. The white knuckled experience was new for me. Our car had about 5 hamsters powering it. We bounced from climbing to descending while whipping through hairpin turns we made as the speed limit jumped up and down like an EKG. The worst part was while sometimes they stated the speed limit, the often stated what the speed limit was not (not 30 kilometers per hour, not 100 kph, etc). Yes that helps!
While we had a little trouble finding Peter’s house, he came out to meet up and steer us in. We got to meet his fiancé Andrea, the most amazing 2 year old, Flora, and their dog Lizzie. Of course, if you call Lizzie, you have to use a melodic voice like Peter and say Liiiizzzzzie and proceed to rub her belly. While the highlight of the trip was supposed to be a sky walk at Hochkar Mountain, what we really appreciated was the kindness of our friends and being a part of Austrian village life. We experienced a summer festival full of salted meats, music, and dancing. Andrea even got me to race walk with her. While really is no such thing as flat where they live, the course was spectacular. We even had Susie milk! Susie is the neighbor’s cow and she is the sweetest according to Flora. However, we did not stop there, Jennifer got to milk her! See the gallery.