Sunday, June 15, 2008


I'm so sorry for the delay in getting these last pictures up....I've been working really hard since we got back and found it hard to find extra time. At some point I will post the final notes and opinions. Thank you to those who followed this trip online!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Taken for a ride in Athens!


Our flight to Greece left at 10:30 this morning and to our surprise we were in business class instead of economy! We have no idea how it happened, maybe our travel agent accidentally booked it. Who cares, it was fantastic! As soon as we sat down we were offered drinks, had a great smoked rainbow trout for lunch, and enjoyed being waited on hand and foot! It was a nice treat after the long night before.

Brooke had read about how taxi drivers in Greece are notorious for ripping tourist, and even locals off. The nicest ones were supposed to be some of the worst too. Well..... I guess we had a genuine Greek taxi ride then, because our driver was insane! We got in the taxi, told him where we needed to go, and he told us "7 minutes". Hmmm ok.

When we tore out of the airport and whizzed around corners, even faster than I would, I began to think we might really make it in 7 minutes! The cabbie flew through athens, passing on the shoulders, disregarding speed limits and laws. At one point he was going 140kph and the limit was 70kph! This guy tried to speak some English but it didn't make ANY sense. He didn't understand anything I was asking, either. I think he was trying to play that nice guy act by telling us where things were in the city too....we still had no idea what he was saying.

Well 7 minutes turned into about 30, and every now and then he would lean over and push a button on the meter, bumping the price up a little. We were aware there was an airport toll that everyone has to pay, so I thought he was just figuring that in by adjusting the meter.....Well he bumped it like 5 times and I was going to say something if he did it again. Once we got to the Athens Gate Hotel the meter said 25.77 euro. The smallest I had was 50, so I forked it over and was at his mercy. He blabbed something in Greek and handed me 15 euro back and got back in the cab! ...TIME OUT

...The airport toll was 2 that makes a total of 27.77. He owed me a little more than 22 euro back, shorting me 7 euro (about 12 dollars).

I rushed to the passenger side window and asked him why I only got 15 back. The only word I caught was "toll" (the airport toll that was only 2, not 7). Because he seemed to be having a hard time with basic addition and subtraction ;) I of course illustrated the math for him, "The meter says 25.77, the airport toll was 2, I gave you fifty. You owe me 22 but you only gave me 15." I think he understood me JUST fine, but he got mad and just shouted in Greek. The cabbie started to drive away! Luckily a guy from the hotel was coming out to greet us and help with our bags. Thinking quickly, I got the guy to interpret for me. He repeated what I was saying, the driver angrily handed over a 5 euro bill, and peeled away. So that was a nice semi-victory, he still got away with bumping that meter a little along the way though.

The nice guy that translated for me was impressed that we caught the guy and actually confronted him. He said must tourists don't catch on that fast. The hotel was very modern and chic,I'd say this hotel was in the top 3 we stayed in. Our room wasn't quite ready yet, so they showed us to the rooftop bar for a complimentary drink while we waited. We got a nice view of Athens and chilled out for a while.

First order of business was to take care of our moms. My first idea was to write letters and take a picture, and post that on the blog, but remembered that my little point and shoot camera records low-res video that was perfect size for the blog. We both probably had 5 or 6 takes to get it respectable... we kept crackin' up.

That evening we walked around Plaka area of Athens, the oldest area of the city. Athens was a huge culture shock, but we really started to fall in love it. We ate our first Greek meal ever, and it was great! Both of us had traditional Gyros, which isn't actually wrapped in the pita bread but served in separate portions. For dessert of course we had to have Baklava! The Baklava I've had in the states was flakey and dry. Over here it's served with honey, and not nearly as flakey. I also tried out my newly learned Greek phrases on our waiter, he was amused ;)

Here's a view of Athens from Acropolis Hill. To get an idea of how huge the city is, it would take 8 or 9 of these pictures put together to get a full 360 view.

*Posted from Philadelphia airport, on the way back to Dallas.

Royal Austrian Ballers


Our last day in Vienna was a long one. We started out by taking a local train to the Schonnbrun Palace. The palace served as a "a little summer home" that was in what was the country at the time. It seemed like it was only 10 miles away from their palace in the city. That's how the royal Austrians roll! The country palace was incredibly impressive even though much of the interior decoration and furniture is no longer there. The most famous residents were Queen Maria Teresa (mother of Marie Antoinette) and the beloved Sisi.

Brooke and I walked around the manicured gardens and lawns outside the palace, then toured the inside. The outside of the palace used to be pink! One of the male rulers was so desperate to get rid of the pink color, he used a two-tone yellow paint, the very cheapest color at the time. Yellow became the royal color in Austria, ever since then you have to get special permission to use it on the outside of a building.

This evening we went back to the same restaurant we ate at the first night, the one with the goulash. This time we both ate Wiener Schnitzel and shared a sacher tort. Sooo good!

After a really long day of walking around we wanted to get a good night's sleep, but we ended up only getting a few hours.... The bar located below our hotel room on the first floor had a ton of people coming in and out, shouting, screaming, and singing. Even the guy at the front desk of the hotel got fed up, and tried to keep people from lingering outside the hotel.

*Posted from Philadelphia airport, on the way back to Dallas

Friday, May 16, 2008

Adultery & Classical Music Today


It's estimated Ludwig van Beethoven lived in a total of 80 something apartments in his lifetime, never really settling down. The apartment we visited this morning, was the one he lived in the longest. Beethoven knew the owner of the building, and always had an apartment held for him because he always came back to Vienna. Brooke and I walked through the apartment, viewed one of his pianos, some of his manuscripts, and learned more about this deaf oddball genius. We like to think we absorbed some of the musical brilliance by being in his apartment! In this apartment he composed the 5th, 7th, and 8th Symphonies, Piano Trio B flat major, and "Fur Elise".

Genius chicken scratch.....

Next, it was the Vienna Boy's Choir performance.....For me, it was just ok. It is something unique to Vienna that has was established over 500 years ago, and they perform for half a million people each year, so thats kinda cool. Brooke enjoyed it, but I could have skipped it this time around. They sang in German for most of it, some in Latin I think, and one random song in English(lollypop lollypop.....weird). Ranging from ages 10-14, they are required to attend the boarding school and only see their family on Sundays.

We walked around the baroque Karlskirche church, completed in 1737. We didn't go in, but it's sure interesting from the outside. Later we walked through a popular street lined with cafes, shops, and street musicians. There are SO many people our age here too, its nice!

Here's the church....

One important thing to note. We came across a group holding a candlelit vigil of sorts, for the people of the Myanmar disaster with flowers and candles laid out all over the ground. It reminded me of the Imagine memorial for Lennon, in New York's Central Park.

Such a sad deal...

(BIG GEAR SHIFT HERE)....After having yet another relaxing dinner in an outdoor cafe:) we headed back to the hotel. The windows were open in our room, but the curtains were blocking anyone from seeing in. While I was sitting on the bed working on my laptop I heard a man sarcastically yell out to a woman, "I"M GUNNA PEE MY PANTS". Being a sarcastic person myself I shouted, "WELL, DON'T PEE YOUR PANTS!!" The man replied with a big fat, "F-YOU". Brooke and I were kinda shocked because he was really....well, pissed at me. Later we found out he had just had an argument with his MISTRESS when he made the comment.

It wasn't for another hour or so until we heard him again. This time he was talking with the woman he had the argument with, right under our first story window!
So naturally we start listening in to their serious talk......We heard comments from him like, "It will be hard at first but she(his wife) will get over it"......."I don't know if I can ever love you enough"......."I don't know what to tell you, I'm 54 and your 21, it's difficult". YES, HE IS 54 AND SHE IS 21. They went on arguing about how they were going to work out their relationship. It sounded like she wanted him all to herself, and he was having a hard time with one little detail.....HIS WIFE. I feel bad for her because she probably has no idea. That was the juiciest ease-drop for us!

* I am posting this on the eve of our return flight home from Athens. Greece is AMAZINGLY COOL. I will possibly do a mega post in Philadelphia, where our layover is. I'll have 11 hours to write and edit pictures, hopefully I can get caught up!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

2nd day in Vienna


Today was laundry day, so we slept in ;) When we got up we had to take a subway across town to get to the laundro mat, where we did 4 loads. This place and the place in Italy had weak dryers.....probably on purpose so they don't shrink a bunch of stuff, or so you spend more money on drying the clothes. We loaded up the suitcase with all of our clothes, a few still damp, and headed back to the hotel to drop it off.

After that we walked through an older part of Vienna and a central park that reminded us of New York a little. Vienna is nice because it has a ton of people our age, it's clean, and the buildings are all really old and cool looking.

This evening we craved american food and stopped at a Friday's. American restaurants like that are rare here so when we saw it in on our map and had to eat there.

For dessert we wanted to try the famous Sacher-Torte that Vienna is known for. It's a kind of chocolate cake that was invented by chance in 1832. The chef at the court of Prince Metternich got sick right before they were about to have an important dinner so it was up to the apprentice cook to create a good dessert for them. He came up with the Sacher-Torte. After a lawsuit, the Sacher Hotel is the only company in the world that can call theirs the "Original Sacher-Torte". If it doesn't say "Original", it's not the real deal. It takes 32 steps to make it, and the recipe is locked in an actual safe. To this day, only a few staff have ever seen the recipe!

We also had a coffee with the dessert because the coffee house originated in Vienna (i think coffee beans originally came from Turkey).

This is what Vienna looks like. It's so nice here. Also, excuse the image quality, it was from my little point and shoot camera.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

End of Salzburg, start of Vienna


Our second and last day in Salzburg was a short one because we needed to get on the train to Vienna, 3 hrs away. We woke up semi-early, check out of the hotel so they could start cleaning it for the next people, stored our bags with the front desk, and headed out for a few last things to see.

First, we went to the house Mozart was born in, then we visited the house he actually spent most of his childhood/teenage years in. We were able to see some of his pianos, manuscripts, and letters to his family. His dad Leopold, was a successful musician himself who was a hired composer for the courts. You would think his dad was one of those crazy dads that put tons of pressure on their sons to succeeded, but they sometimes had to actually keep Mozart away from the piano or he would play all day. Leopold was smart though and knew his son was incredibly gifted so he did manage and push his early career. Mozart's career started around age 5! After seeing his houses, we went back to the hotel and picked up our luggage. Lunch was at the train station, and off we went on our last train ride on this vacation.

When we got to Vienna we dropped off our luggage and got a restaurant recommendation. I'm glad we did too because we had an amazing Austrian dinner! I had veal goulash and Brooke had beef stroganoff. I would have never thought I would love veal goulash! During dinner we heard people singing in a nearby cathedral. Then we saw a bunch of catholic priests and congregation walk out of the church in the opposite direction from us. We finished dinner and started to walk back but ran into that same group now coming towards us.

We stopped to listen and watch because it was so interesting. I''ve never seen a group of priest and catholics walking down the street holding candles, singing and praying in Latin. As they went by, an older woman came up to us and asked us to join them. She was super nice, and actually reminded me of my 'Nanny' (grandmother). The lady asked if we were catholic, we said no, but she asked us to come along anyway! She explained to us that they were walking through Vienna visiting 7 different cathedrals where they pray, sing along the way, and have a picnic at the end. It sounded cool and we are open to trying new cultures. We got our candles and book with the song lyrics, and started walking! We stuck out like sore thumbs.... two obvious Americans, me with a Mavs cap on and Brooke with a Pasadena California sweatshirt on haha.

I'm pretty sure it was a form of communal liturgy but I'm not sure if they call this particular event something different. It was really interesting how they came together to do this, and I was really impressed with the dedication and unabashed religious display showed.

Mozart's birthplace

Monday, May 12, 2008

Details of 1st full day in Salzburg

I'm behind again on posting....I'll pick up where I left off, the first day in Salzburg Austria.

Also here's a brief update of the day's I haven't posted about yet.... We had 3 nights in Salzburg and 4 nights in Vienna. We also flew down to Athens yesterday, did a tour of Delphi Greece today, and we fly to the Greek Island Santorini tomorrow.


This morning we got up really early to return our rent car and meet our The Sound Of Music Movie Tour bus in downtown Salzburg. I didn't know what to think about this going into it because it seemed like a real girl thing to do. Before we got on the bus we picked up an Austrian breakfast from a little stand/grill that was quite interesting. When we walked up everyone was eating what looked like hotdogs and rolls.... Well they were eating frankfurters and bread, and we thought it must be the thing to do, so we ordered a couple! We liked it, and would order it again too.

Our tour guide was hilarious and sounded just like Jon Lovitz. We drove around most of Salzburg while he gave a good general history of the city as well as pointing out different spots used in the musical Sound of Music. He also gave an interesting background on the movie itself. Germany actually made an accurate movie about the Von Trapp family first, then Hollywood saw the success it had in Germany and Austria, eventually bought the rights, paid off Maria Von Trapp (because Hollywood's version wasn't accurate), and the rest was history. For example at the end of Hollywood's movie, the Von Trapp family was hiking through the mountains towards Switzerland to escape the Nazis when they were actually walking directly towards Germany haha! In reality the family dressed like they were going on a hike but took a train to Italy, boat to England, then flew to America where they settled in Vermont! The Von Trapp family to this day has a hotel open there and still run by an actual Von Trapp. Despite the huge amount of money generated by tourism, Austrians don't like the movie because of it's inaccuracies and because Hollywood pushed their way onto the scene. Many Austrians haven't even SEEN the movie!

We stopped at the famous gazebo, the walkway were Maria skipped/sang down at the beginning (same one the kids hung from the trees), the house they used for the 'frontal shots of the house' (they used a different house for the back view), and the backyard scene with the lake (FYI- the scene when Maria and the kids fall out of the boat, Grettle almost drowned! When you watch it you see her head pop up a little and go back down). Next we drove into the countryside. On the way we stopped in St. Gilgen to take some pictures then drove on to Mondsee. Here we got to go inside the church where they filmed the marriage ceremony from the movie. We also had our first true Austrian apple strudel with vanilla cream in a local cafe! Delicious! We rode back into Salzburg while they played the soundtrack to the movie....that was funny. Several people sang along too.

After the tour we walked around the gardens in town where they filmed the song Do-Re-Mi, a really pretty place. We walked back to the hotel for a break. Brooke fell asleep and I went to speak with management about switching rooms or getting a discount because the vomit smell had gotten worse than the night before. I almost didn't go talk to them but decided to because we were spending a good amount of money to stay there. I started with honey instead of vinegar by being nice, but the hotel ended up being very difficult and changed their story several times throughout this ordeal.

I approached the front desk and asked for the manager. The manager wasn't there so I went over the problem with the lady at the desk. She said they had NO more rooms to offer and also played dumb about the smell and mold above the shower. She said to wait until the manager got back so I sat in the lobby to get online.

I got on the internet to check our credit card account because a hotel in Venice, that we never official booked, was trying to charge us a no show fee. Our travel agent initially tried booking our stay on their website but they emailed him back and said they didn't take American Express. We had found a better place to stay anyways, and let our agent know. He said he emailed them back to tell them forget it, but they say he didn't....which doesn't matter anyway. If you cannot make a reservation with an American Express, how can you charge that same American Express (that you don't take) a no show fee for a non-existant reservation????? I noticed the charge went through online...... those bastards did it. So I called AMEX to start the dispute process. FUN.

Out of no where, and while I was finishing up my call to American Express, the same hotel lady walked up and offered a 10% discount on the smelly room (the price of a meal basically). That was not good enough because I knew they had another room, plus it was about the awful smell and mold not the money.
THEN they said....."Well, we do have another room but not in 'that' price range". I told them that wasn't acceptable and we wouldn't be paying more. I even said we would downgrade rooms just to get away from the horrible odor and mold.
THEN right in the middle of this process they let someone else switch rooms because it wasn't big enough for them!! They catered to their every need...I got nothing but resistance (probably because I'm young).
THEN the lady went back to saying they didn't have ANY rooms available, which made no sense...
I obviously called them out on 'not having any other rooms' because another couple just switched, leaving one open. Management gave in finally. THEN THE TRUTH CAME OUT.
While the manager showed me to new room, she said the odor is a KNOWN problem with particular rooms in their hotel and they are slowly renovating those bathrooms. So they knowingly do this to people! She didn't think it was their fault though because the building is very old and "old buildings have these problems" .....In Venice we stayed in a hotel twice its age, with elevators, without odor or mold.....

She also told me since our travel agent booked the reservation through, we weren't normally allowed in the main hotel building but only in the sister building with the bad rooms. I didn't know that, but they had to make the situation right and bend that policy. I mean come ON it was gross.

While she was showing me the new room she goes on and on with excuses, and is basically arguing with herself at this point. Once she told me we could move to the better building with elevators, no mold, and no odor, I shut up. She made it out to be OUR problem that we couldn't cope with the odor and mold on the ceiling, instead of owning up to the fact the hotel is behind on renovating known problems and continue to let out the rooms. So I went and woke up Brooke to fill her in on everything. We moved our things over into a smaller, but bounty fresh room with no mold!

The end of the day was very nice though, with a real Austrian meal......Wiener Schnitzel!!! I always thought it was like a bratwurst or something because of the word Wiener but it's pronounced with a "V" not a "We" it's not a weeny at all. It's pan fried veal. I WAS WAY OFF. It is served with boiled potatoes and a lemon wedge to squeeze over the Schnitzel. It might sound a little weird but it was SO good! Another great find was a drink called Almdudler (pronounced ALMDOOODLER), made in Austia. It's the the second most popular drink in Austria after Coca Cola and kinda tastes like ginger ale but better. I've already been searching online for importers in Texas :)

Sunday, May 11, 2008


We JUST got into Athens and decided to do a little Mother's day video. Moms, we hope you like it.... we know we look goofy, but y'all are worth it!