Traveling on a Budget

Hello again!  I promised to write a post about traveling on a budget, and honestly I wrote this on the plane from Prague to JFK and I am just getting around to posting it! whoops! I can’t believe our trip was almost 2 months ago now!  I won’t say this trip was cheap, but it certainly could have been much more expensive. I know many of you out there are now thinking about how you want to travel to some of these wonderful places…so I just thought I’d share how we did it on a budget.  Hopefully these tips will help you plan your next trip!

1. Travel with Friends

All four of us @ the Opera House in Paris

Not only does traveling with friends make the trip more fun, but it saves money! We were able to split the cost of most lodging, rental car fees, road tolls, parking, etc. I’m sure we saved close to 2,000 USD at least by splitting these expenses. The boys tracked all the money spent in a spreadsheet (yep they are both engineers!) and we evened up in the end. Also in Germany and Austria, we purchased a “family/group” ticket on the metro for up to 5 adults, which was almost 1/2 the cost of purchasing 4 individual tickets.

2. Become familiar with budget airlines in your destination.

In Europe they have many budget airlines that can get you from one place to another often cheaper than the train system if you are only making a few hops, and sometimes quicker. Although this isn’t the “greenest” approach since trains are much better for the environment. We used Aer Lingus operated out of Ireland and Easy Jet which services much of Europe. Another budget airline across Europe is called Ryan Air but countries may have a line specific to their area too.

3. Familiarize yourself with booking websites abroad and other lodging alternatives.

Josh & Sarah peeking out the window in the room next door at one of our budget hotel finds in Limerick, Ireland.

We stayed in a few hotels during the trip, most of them booked on Booking.com which is a website with discount prices all over Europe. We also used DHR.com for one other hotel. We had no trouble with either one. DHR did require you to print vouchers and bring those with you so booking.com was a bit easier of a check in process.

Bed and Breakfasts can be a great deal too if you are looking to save money and you have a meal included. Obviously hostels can be an option for younger travels, but most have age limits, which the boys were over.

We saved a LOT of money on this trip by renting apartments in Paris, Rome, Vienna, Munich, and Prague through a website called airbnb.com. This website allows anyone, anywhere in the world to list their apartment. All but one of these apartments were just rental properties. There was one that appeared to be someone’s apartment they just vacate when a renter comes. Most of this properties have reviews on-line from past travelers and a few had a washer so we were able to do a few loads of laundry since we couldn’t carry 3 weeks of clothing with us. All the places had clean linens and towels, only occasionally did we need to have our own hand soap or something like that. The one in Rome even included a small breakfast.  Most of the places we stayed were a bit out of the city, so we had to become familiar with the metro line quickly, but our place in Prague, we could walk to pretty much anywhere we wanted to see. It also saved money because we had kitchens, so we were able to buy breakfast items and even cooked a few dinners.

4. Trip Advisor should become your best friend in planning.

I can’t say enough good things about this website, you can see reviews on lodging, hotels, entertainment, etc. And you can also search forums. When we were trying to find a cheaper way to get from Munich to Prague, we found a forum where someone had asked the same question and voilà the answer was there! We will certainly be reviewing all the places we stayed on there and some of the places we went. It will take me a few months to contribute, but I definitely appreciate all the feedback other travelers have put there, so I want to make sure we add ours as well.

5. Eating on a budget?

Döner kebab sandwich at the train station in Dachau, Germany.

This was probably one of the hardest parts of traveling in so many other cultures in a short period of time because a huge part of learning about the culture is indulging in the cuisine! With two days at the most in each place we wanted to enjoy the culinary art in each place. It was much different than traveling in the US because the food at home isn’t too much different.  When we spend a week at the beach & have a kitchen we often cook for most of the week and pick a few days to eat out. Like last year in Hawaii, Dustin and I cooked 6 of our 7 nights on Kauai to save money and then ate out on other islands when we didn’t have a full kitchen.

In Europe we did save money by going to the grocery store and getting yogurt, muesli, fruit, bread, etc for breakfast when we were in the apartments. That’s another advantage to being a bit out of the city. And when a national holiday like Ascension Day pops up where the restaurants are closed, a dinner from the supermarket comes in handy! We also packed granola bars & almonds which lasted us a week or so, then we just picked up more granola bars at the stores and fruit for the road when we went to the supermarket or market. Most days we only had 1 “big” meal.

You can also experience the food culture by eating food from vendors on the street. In Europe food from street vendors is very safe and are much cheaper than sitting down at a cafe. Although as your trusty pharmacist, I still recommend the Hepatitis A shot (if you haven’t had the series already) before you leave whether you plan to eat food at a street vendor or not. Check out the CDC webpage if you want more specific vaccine recommendations for your destination.

6. Tours

In Rome, we wanted to see the Sistine Chapel and the Colosseum, which both tend to have 1-2 hour lines outside. There are all kinds of Skip-the-Line tours and we found a few on-line that were were going to buy beforehand but with our busy schedules before the trip we didn’t have time. It turned out in both places, there were people outside selling tours for 1/2 the price of the ones I found online, another plus to this was we just showed up and the tour was leaving in 15-30 minutes vs. booking a tour at a specific time and having to arrive at that exact time in an unfamiliar place. It worked out much better for to participate in a “walk-on” tour and it save us money!

7. Consider all modes of transportation

I mentioned above that we used some budget airlines, which for our timeline were cheaper and worked out better. Most people think of train travel when they think of Europe trips, which the train can be a perfectly good option especially if you are going to buy a EURORAIL pass, but if you are only hoping a few spots by train it may be more expensive. Before our trip, Josh made a spreadsheet with train prices vs. air prices, vs. rental car prices, which was very helpful! The car was a good option for us because we could go on our own pace and stop along the way at different sites we wanted to see, especially along the Mediterranean coast. One caveat with the car is we had to shop around for pick-up and drop off locations, originally we wanted to pick up the car in Barcelona and drop it off in Munich or Vienna. But picking up the car in Spain was a 1500 EUR one-way drop fee, by picking up the car in France, we only had a 200 EUR one-way drop fee added to our daily rate. That was almost a 2,000 dollar savings right there!

We don’t recommend driving in the major European cities as we mostly drove close to town, or parked in one spot and then saw the city by metro, walking, or buses. In Barcelona we did rent bikes for 5 EUR pp for the whole day, they came with locks and we biked around to see the city, this was fun! Barcelona was a good city to bike, because they had a bike lane along many of the roads. Other cities it might be a bit more dangerous. Europe is very bike friendly with plenty of bike racks, and you can bring your bike on the metro, bus, train, etc.

Hope this was helpful!  I’ll try to post some packing tips soon too!

What are your tips for budget friendly traveling?’

Prague

It’s finally our last day in Europe! We are all glad that the trip didn’t fly by, but we are ready to sleep in our own beds and wash all of our clothes. My first excitement of the day was finding that I had exactly two pairs of clean socks left!

We headed out around 9:30 am in search of a place called the Choco cafe, which I found on Trip Advisor. Our our way we took the road through Wenceslas Square, a famous street in Prague that leads to the National Museum.

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After visiting the square we found the Choco cafe, which is famous for hot chocolate. We thought they would have more breakfast options, but the options were pretty much hot chocolate, coffee drinks, chocolate muffins, croissants with dipping chocolate, and other chocolate delights. Sarah and I thought this was amazing, but the boys left still hungry. Here are a few pictures of the chocolate goodies.

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From the cafe we headed towards Old Town Square, here are a few pictures.

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We also went in one of the churches near by…I told Dustin I want this chandelier for our house.

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He of course said no….so I said I’d settle for this one. 🙂

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Since the boys were still hungry, they spotted a few food vendors, a few were selling this traditional Czech/eastern European roll called a trdelnik.

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Here is how they make them over hot coals.

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We headed over the famous Charles bridge to the other side of the River where the Prague Castle is located.

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We were a little disappointed because some areas of the castle that used to be free now require an admission fee. We still got a great view of the city and took a few fun pictures.

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By this time, it was past noon and we decided we needed a salad or something healthy to add to our diet for the day (you’ll see why in a minute). We had salads and veggies then we headed off to one of Dustin’s highlights of the trip, “Strudl.” According to Samantha Brown of the Travel Channel’s Passport to Europe show, this place has the best Apple Strudl in all of Europe. It was a bit of a hike to get there, we took the metro out past our apartment a few stops, then walked at least 1.5 km to Strudl and then back to the metro.

We walked a lot today, it’s a good thing considering our last day of vacation diet! Tomorrow we’ll get back on track to normal. Here are some of the pictures.

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We each ate 1/2 of a “strudl” then we relaxed for a bit because our feet were aching! Dustin said the trek was worth it, the “strudl” was amazing!

After a few hours we freshened up and headed out for our last European dinner. We decided to have something different, so we introduced Dustin to the world of Thai food at a place called Lemon Leaf, and he loved it! My dish was called Laab Kai and it was super spicy even after I asked if they could use less chilies than normal because it had a “Hott!!!” next to it on the menu and Dustin enjoyed the Phad Thai with Shrimp.

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After dinner we set out to find a jazz club with a swing dancing floor, but the two we checked didn’t have swing dancing and had substantial cover charges. There was also a cool Jazz boat that had a dinner cruise and live music, but we found out earlier in the day it was sold out for the next two nights. We decided to take a walk around again, we had to burn off all those calories! During the walk, we took some pictures of Prague in the evening.

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We ended up sitting at a cafe that had free jazz music with a saxophone and guitar for a bit, there we enjoyed the last few hours of our vacation in Europe. Prague is a neat city, especially if you have a love for classical or jazz music, art, architecture, or Apple Strudl!

We leave Prague at 1:25 pm here tomorrow, 7:25 am EST and will be back in Columbus by 9:30 pm. yay for a 30 hour day tomorrow! I’m hoping to sleep for part of it, but will try to stay awake for parts so I can sleep when we get back. It’s a good thing I have Wednesday off to recover.

Thanks again to all of you for joining us on this journey! We are so glad we could share each day with you. For those of you wondering, how in the world did they plan this trip themselves, or how could I do something like this, when I get home I’ll write a post with some europe travel tips!

Until next time!

Melody & Dustin

Munich to Prague

We packed up and left our apartment around 9:30 am and via the metro headed to the main train station in Munich. Since our group train ticket that would take us into the Czech Republic was good all day, we used it to stop in Dachau, a small city outside of Munich were a large concentration camp was once located. The train station was small and didn’t have very large lockers, so Josh (he had been there 2 times before) waited with the bags while Sarah, Dustin and I walked from the train station to the concentration camp and museum.

Visiting this museum was sobering, with all the european history we’ve learned on this trip, some of which dated back to the days of Christ, it’s hard to believe that this kind of human torture was less than 100 years ago. Our grandparents were alive in the 1940’s when people were being tortured in this horrific way. The museum had a lot of information to read, we walked through the area that was once the shower stalls, then kitchen, we saw the courtyard outside that was the “roll call” area, and we saw the sleeping quarters and bathrooms.

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One historical picture that stuck out to me amongst the darkness was a picture of the prisoners cheering when the American’s arrived to liberate the camp. It makes me thankful for the men and women in our country that together with our allies fought for freedom and human rights. It also amazes me the hope the prisoners had, many in our Savior, despite the grave circumstances.

The hope many of the prisoners had is described in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (ESV), “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” and Romans 5:2-5 (ESV), “Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” I hope these verses can be encouragement to those dealing with trials today.

I’m not sure how to transition to the rest of our day…but here it goes. We took the bus back to the train station because it turned out to be at least a 30 minute walk. We figured out we had about 40 minutes until the train arrived we needed to take on our trek towards Prague. Before boarding we grabbed döner kebab sandwiches from a vendor. When I think of a kebab, I think of stick with meat and veggies, well apparently that’s not quite the Eastern European version. It’s really a huge Turkish sandwich with chicken, lettuce, onions, and sauce. It might have been the best thing we’ve had on this trip yet, it was super messy, so I was glad I was eating it on the train station platform vs. inside the train.

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When planning this trip, I think we expected it to be a bit shorter of a ride to Prague, the direct train takes around 5 hours from Munich and so does the bus. But the bus was around 60 EUR pp, and the direct train was over 100 EUR pp. So we found on a trip-advisor forum, that we could take a train from Munich or Dachau to Plzeň, Czech Republic, then to Prague. The route for Dachau to Plzeň required a transfer in Nuremberg, Germany, and Cheb, Czech Republic and the train stopped at other places along the way, so it took around 8 hours to get to Prague from Munich, but it only cost around 50 EUR total vs. the per person prices, so we saved over 200 dollars. We passed the time on the second half of the trip paying Euchre. The first picture is Dustin on the first train sitting with all our luggage, and then the sunset view on the train in the Czech Rebpulic.

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We arrived in Prague at 9:50pm, and our host from the air bnb apartment was supposed to meet us at 10pm outside the apartment, so we quickly found the metro. Unfortunately the metro ticket machines did not take credit cards and the Czech Republic is not on the EUR, so we had to get Czech crowns from an ATM. Then the machines only took coins and of course the ATM gave us bills, so then we were on a hunt to make change. Every vending machine only took coins and all the vendors in the metro were closed. The boys when out of the station just a bit and found a stand to make change. Then we were able to buy our tickets. Without phone service or wifi we really had no way to contact our host to let him know we were going to be late. That is the only major annoyance of using airbnb is that there isn’t a 24 hour front desk like a hotel, although some places had password protected lock boxes.

We arrived at our building at almost 11pm and our host wasn’t there. Sarah and Josh waited by the building while Dustin and I set out to find wifi or a phone. Skype has been a life saver twice on this trip. I had minutes left over and it allows you to call very inexpensively over wifi. If you have a smart phone and are traveling abroad without phone service, I highly recommend putting some money on your Skype account! At the second hotel we stopped at to try to buy wifi minutes, the man at the desk gave us the password for free. We were able to get in touch with our host and he was at the door in 10 minutes. It was a long day of traveling, but we saw some beautiful countryside in the process & we couldn’t have had the full European experience without a train ride for one leg of the trip!

Dobrý den!

Munich

Today was a bit of a “lazy” day. Sarah and Josh headed out to the Deutsches Museum for a few hours, this museum is very large with all kinds of science and engineering exhibits, Sarah did say they had a pharmacy exhibit, but they didn’t make it there.

Dustin and I went to the market for yogurt, milk, and bread for breakfast the next two days, then we caught up a bit on the blog and email while we waited for my friend Phin to arrive. Phin was one of my suite-mates when I took classes and lived at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio in the summer of 2003. Phin is from Frankfurt, Germany. She came in on a flight this morning to spend the afternoon with us. Dustin and I met her at the Metro Stop closest to our apartment, then we met Josh and Sarah along the way back.

We headed off to the city on the metro and it was crazy! If you remember from the previous post, today was game day, it’s the European Cup Championship, AKA the European Superbowl of Soccer. If you have ever been in Columbus, Ohio on game day imagine that times 50! Fans were everywhere from both the England team and German teams. If they would see other fans on the streets, they would start chanting their team song. Here is a shot of the crowd we came across and almost lost Josh and Sarah.

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As we were trying to find them we spotted the Apple Store. Since Dustin is such a huge fan, he got his picture outside and we went in to see what a german keyboard looked like on the macbook.

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We found Josh and Sarah and then headed towards St. Peter’s church, we wanted to climb the to the top of the tower for a view of the city. Just our luck on this trip, the tower was under construction and we couldn’t go up!

We decided to go to Viktualienmarkt and get some food for lunch and then head to the Englischer gardens. It took awhile for us to decide where to eat, but we got some amazing fresh strawberries grown in germany and then Dustin and I had sandwiches with steak and onions. Not the healthiest of choices, but an authentic german sandwich. Phin was helpful in ordering at the small restaurant because it was packed with “football” AKA soccer fans.

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We found a windowsill to sit on to eat quickly because the park was a pretty good walk from the market. Here is a picture of Phin and me.
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We relaxed in the park for awhile & ate our fresh strawberries. Here is Dustin laying on the grass, catching up on podcasts.

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At one part of the stream that flows through the park, there were people surfing! Not what I would have expected in Munich. Not quite the same as catching a wave in the ocean because it was continuous, it was almost like a surf-skate park.

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We headed over to Hofgarten next to one of the palaces. It had beautiful flowers and people relaxing in the sunshine. It was at least 75 degrees here today.

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Not sure if it was the hot day or just that all the “busyness” is finally hitting us, but we all were pretty whipped today so we headed back to the apartment. We went to the wrong metro train at first and this is that we saw, one of the buses headed for the stadium. The police were there not letting any of the blue fans on the red metro to avoid fights.

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Dustin and I stopped at a cafe to have a smoothie with Phin before she headed off to meet a few other friends in Munich and go back to the airport. Then we relaxed for awhile and did some catching up back at the apartment.

Sarah and Josh braved the crowd and headed out towards the stadium to get a glimpse of the action, while Dustin and I aren’t much for large crowds, we stayed home to relax and walked to the supermarket again to purchase lettuce/salad mix for dinner. This dinner was not quite as extravagant as previous meals, but rings in at 3.50 EUR, certainly the cheapest thanks to the European version of Aldi! We finished the day splitting a Spaghettieis and walked back home to relax. We wanted to watch the soccer game on TV, but of course the only place on this trip we’ve stayed without a TV is here. Oh well…maybe we’ll find it on-line! We are heading to our final stop tomorrow Prague! If you’ve been there before and have any suggestions for us, please leave a comment!

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Also thank you to those that have been praying for my grandma. Her surgery went well and she isn’t too sore now, but her energy is still recovering very slowly. I really appreciate those that have been praying for her!

Tips for Driving in Europe

Yesterday we had to turn in our rental car and here are a few things that Josh and I learned while driving in Europe.

Every car has a clutch
Yep, that’s right, every car is a manual. I learned how to drive a standard when I learned how to drive as I remember my dad saying “You never know when you might need to know how to drive a stick shift car,” well, now I need to know. Thanks Dad!

Speed Limits Don’t Necessarily Need to Be Followed
While driving on small roads to the secluded beaches in Ireland, the speed limit on the winding road was 110kph (nearly 65mph) and I couldn’t go much faster than 50kph. I have found that I have been going under the speed limit more than over it.

Motorcycle (and other two wheeled operators) are crazy
They don’t have to follow the traditional traffic laws and they weave in out of traffic on or off the street. When sitting at a red light, it’s standard procedure for the bikes to weave their way to the front of the line of traffic.

Navigating always takes two people
When navigating through a city, the passenger had to ensure that the driver was going the right way. When backing out of a tricky parking spot, the passenger had to direct the driver out to not hit anything. Most turns from parking lots or gas stations were located at blind intersection so whoever could see helped the drive.

The left lane is only for passing
This this one of the cool things that I will try to bring back to the States. Cars only use the leftmost lane when passing another car. If you want to pass someone, you use the left lane then immediately get back in the right lane. Absolutely no cruising in the left lane.

The small cities have crazy small streets
This causes two problems. The first is that you have to be good with stick shift. As I mentioned before, I learned to drive a standard transmission when I was a teenager and have only used that skill a handful of times since then, until now. While navigating in small towns, most of the streets are wide enough for one car, so one car has to pull off on to the sidewalk (if possible) on a steep hill to let the other car through, then try to start moving forward without rolling backwards and/or stalling on a 45 degree bank.

Another problem is you need to be able to collapse your mirrors since the streets are so narrow. Luckily our rental car has a button that will fold both windows against the car to make it easier to navigate. I’ve have had to do this several times or I would have definitely sideswiped something.

Rarely do you have to make a left or right turn
I don’t think that Europeans like making turns as there are round abouts or rotaries at nearly every intersection. They are actually very helpful for novice standard drivers as it nearly eliminates the need to start your car from a dead stop.

Round abouts are also good for making U turns. If you accidentally miss your turn, then just go all the way around and viola you are now heading in the correct direction. We did this more times than I want to admit!

The roads are not designed for taking pictures
There have been lots of beautiful views that we would have loved to have had captured, but taking pictures in a moving vehicle is nearly impossible. As soon as you get ready to take a picture, a tree, a bush or guard rail suddenly appears and is the main object of the photo.

Some countries use their traffic lights differently
In Austria and Germany, the traffic lights were different than all the other countries. When sitting at a red light the yellow light comes on simultaneously letting you know that the light will turn green in a few seconds, so can start moving. Also the green light begins flashing after the green steady, which means that yellow is coming and you need to start slowing down.

Pedestrians have the right away
Driving in the city is a pain due to everyone walking around. Most locals will cross the street and expect you to stop and not hit them.

Speed cameras everywhere
Our car was equipped with a navigation system that knew what the speed limit was on every road as well as where the speed cameras were. I never saw a cop sitting on the side of the road with a radar gun trying to catch speeding cars. All cars going too fast were ticketed by speed cam and we were glad we knew where all of them were.

GPS devices are a must
At first, we thought we could get by having maps on our iPads to help us navigate around. Those did turn out to be helpful, but the GPS immediately told us when we were off course. Plus by following the turn by turn directions, we avoided going the wrong way down a one way street.

Gasoline costs a small fortune
The prices look like that gas is actually a great deal when the sign says €1.59. That”s actually the price per liter and there are 3.1 liters in every gallon. So that makes the price 4.93 Euros per gallon or $6.90 per gallon. Luckily we are driving a disel machine which is the least expensive option and it is more efficient than the small SUV we drove in Ireland.

No matter how many times we try, you can”t start moving in third gear
We have stalled this car quite a few times or had choppy starts nearly every time we try to start in the wrong gear. Lucky for us, our car is extremely quick to restart with a push start button.

Stalling is a perfectly acceptable way to park
More than once we have pulled in to a parking spot and thought we should pull in the spot just a little bit more. If moving the car forward results in a stall, then we call it good enough 🙂

Salzburg & Munich

The next morning in Salzburg we had breakfast at the B & B, then we went on the hop-on-hop-off Sound of Music tour bus. Sarah and I were both in the Sound of Music in high school so this was fun. Dustin claims to never have seen the Sound of Music, so he was clueless.;) I will make him watch it when we get home! Before the tour we stopped on a small road with a large open field where the mountains were in the background. We spun around and sang “the hills are alive with the sound of music…my heart wants to sing every song it hears!” Here is a picture of Dustin and I in the field.

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Maybe I can convince Sarah to let me post the video when we get home of our short Sound of Music scene. 🙂

We had seen much of the city the day before, so we only got off the bus at a few points which were a bit out of town. We got off quickly to take a picture at Schloss Leopoldkron which is the Palace they used as the from a distant shot of the Von Trapp Mansion. And it’s the pond where Maria capsizes the boat in the film.

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Then we stopped at the Schloos Hellbrunn & Zoo. The gazebo that was used in the film is now located here & some of the gardens here were used in the film.

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We also tried to get off at Nonnberg Abbey, but turns it it was quite a trek up the hill and we didn’t have time since we are headed to Neuschwanstein castle today before returning our car in Munich.

At our last stop where we parked we saw Mirabellplatz & gardens which were featured in the movie. Sarah and I got our picture on the famous “Do-Re-Mi Steps” and we did a short video clip jumping from step to step singing the song. Fun times! From the information we got on the tour, It seems the story line is very close to the actual story, one major difference is they did not just hike over the mountain to Switzerland at the end (that is over 500 km away), they took a train to Italy because the father was born in a town that now was part of Italy so he and the family qualified for passports. Then they went to England, then to America for a singing tour. Here is a picture of Sarah and I on the steps.

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I really enjoyed this city because it’s not just a city, but it’s surrounded by beautiful countryside and mountains that can be seen from downtown. We headed off to Deutschland, AKA Germany. Here is a picture along the drive, we could see the Alps, it was beautiful.

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We arrived at the castle and much to our dismay, they were doing construction on a portion of it and it was covered in scaffolding. Sad face. 😦 In case you don’t know, this is the castle from which Disney modeled the castle at Disney World. We hiked to a bridge which is even higher than the castle, Dustin was being a drill sargent and we pretty much did it speed walking. 🙂 The brochure said the trip up would take 55 minutes, but we did it in 15 minutes. We didn’t have too much time because our car needed returned in Munich at 8pm. Unfortunately all the tours were sold out until 5:30pm and it was only 3:30pm , so we couldn’t see the inside. But the views from the top were worth the climb! Here are some pictures from the area.

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We made it to Munich, dropped our bags off at our apartment, and then found the rental car return. We put over 4,000 km on the car during this trip!

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We made our way to the city center, it is a bit crazy this weekend in Munich because the European Cup Championship game is tomorrow and the German team won tonight. Crowds were everywhere and we walked down a street filled with designer stores and every resturant was too expensive for us. We ended up finding a place to eat called Pfälzer Residenz Weinstube, they were known for wine, so the waiter was not so happy when 4 Americans came and asked for tap water. I don’t know if he thought it was funny but he brought us tap water in their tiny wine tasting glasses. So hear is a picture of our “cheers” with the tap water.

20120519-173429.jpgnThe food was very good, I had 1/2 chicken and he had fish and german potato salad, well it came with his dish but I ate it. If you know Dustin well, you know he has an aversion to eating things cold that can be hot such as pasta salad, potato salad, shrimp, etc. The german potato salad was very good, much better than our mayo versions in the US.

20120519-175753.jpg nThen we headed back to our apartment to relax & get some shut eye! Another successful day, we can’t believe our trip is almost over, 1 more night in Munich, and 2 nights in Prague, then we’ll be boarding a plane back home. At the same time it feels like forever since we’ve been in Ireland. We are very thankful for this opportunity. Have a great day!

Vienna & Salzburg

We headed out around 9:30 am and took the Metro into town for to see the Spanish Riding School. It is the oldest riding school in the world, dating back to the 1700’s. It has become a large part of the Austrian Heritage. Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to take pictures or video inside, it was like the horses were dancing to the music, they focus on making the horse move naturally. Each horse did high steps and side steps across the arena. The horses were all white stallions.

Afterwards we went back to our car near the apartment where we stayed to get on the road towards Salzburg. Today in Salzburg was a national holiday, Ascension Day. We were glad we bought some food for the road because many of the restaurants in Vienna were closed. Somehow we hit 3 countries on national holidays, it was a Bank Holiday in Ireland, Victory Day in France, and now Ascension Day. We looked up to see if coming another time of year would have less holidays, but it seems the Europeans have way more holidays than the Unites States!

We arrived in Salzburg around 4 pm. This is the only place we stayed in a bed and breakfast. It was ours and Rodewalds first bed and breakfast experience. The lady running the place was a sweet lady and it was right by the mountains. Our only compliant was she had cats and the hallway smelled awful! But our rooms were nice and the breakfast was good.

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Since it was Ascension Day, our host explained all the parking on the street was free. A plus for coming on the holiday! The Europeans charge for everything, parking, bathrooms, water, bread at dinner, and probably other things we haven’t realized yet. So free parking was a nice surprise. We parked near town and walked under the tunnel into town. We strolled along the famous shopping street called Getreidegasse where we saw the building Mozart was born in. This street is also famous for the iron signs above the stores.

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We cross the Salzach River and climbed a large number of stairs to a few lookouts which beautiful views of the city & the Festung Hohensalzburg, a castle on the side of the mountain. Here are some pictures.

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We headed back into the “old town” side and walked through some of the famous squares. There was a wind ensemble playing at a festival, presumably a holiday celebration, in Residenz Plaz. There were Austrian food vendors all around, we could have had a huge fresh fish on a stick or rotisserie chicken and of course fried chicken or veal. We passed because the chicken was the only thing that seemed appealing and we had that the night before.

We walked through Domplatz which is were the famous Christmas market is held each year, and Kapitel-platz where locals come to pay chess on a life size chess board. Maybe we should put one of these in Beavercreek or Cedarville!

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We also saw St. Peter’s Cemetery which inspired the Cemetary scene in Sound of Music, although the actual seen was shot in Hollywood.

Our host kindly told us about restaurants that were just a km from our B &B where we could get an authentic Austrian meal for less expensive than in town. So we headed back there for dinner. We ate at place called Gasthause Schachlwirt. My only compliant about restaurants here are the cigarette smoke. We did find a place in Veinna with a non-smoking section, but just like back home used to be, smoke travels to the non-smoking section, so after dinner I had a huge headache. But the meal was good, Josh and Sarah had the cheese Spätzle and Dustin and I have beef goulash with Spätzle. Dustin really wanted the cheese Spätzle, but I convinced him that we need more than cheese and grains at each meal, ha! Since he has had Spätzle for every meal at this point in Austria. I think he liked the goulash more than he wants to admit! And we both enjoyed marinated asparagus and strawberry salad.

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We went to bed early, one because I had a huge headache, and two because the wifi signal wasn’t strong enough in our room to post anything. Oh well I need the sleep, this was the first time on this trip that I’ve sleep more than 8 hours, it was nice!

Auf Wiedersehen!