We’ve been so fortunate to have been able to travel to Europe the past three years. Two summers ago, we took a trip that started in Budapest and ended in Berlin. In between we also landed in Vienna and Prague.
When we arrived in Vienna we dropped our bags in our Ikea-laden AirBnB, peeped the charming view from our balcony, and grabbed a snack on the street before heading to our first activity.
Funny thing about these first sausages…I research food a little maniacally before we travel. Unless there’s a dire situation (or we’re in London!) we never eat at chains and we try to avoid tourist traps. On this first day, we didn’t have much time and couldn’t afford to veer off to a place I had bookmarked while on our way to our meeting spot. We knew Vienna was famous for their sausages. These first ones we had were just okay. I remember telling my hubs that I wondered where the best sausages were and that I imagined the ones we got were similar to all the almost identical looking stands we passed on the rest of our walk. Turns out, I couldn’t have been more wrong. While all the stands may have looked similar to each other, we learned from a local that the quality of their products vary greatly. A couple days later we were taken to another stand by our friends Melinda and Thomas. There we sampled some of the most delicious sausages we’d ever had in our lives.
Our only planned activity that first day in Vienna was a bike tour. We had never taken one before and were a bit skeptical; riding bikes in New York City can be super stressful, so it was hard for us to imagine being able to listen to a guide and see a city in a leisurely manner. But, the reviews for the company we chose were really great and we try to be open to new things, so we gave it a shot. Turns out the bike tour was not only one of the best decisions we made, it was also invaluable that we took it on our first day there. Vienna is one of the safest and most wonderful places you can ride a bike. If you’re in a rare area that doesn’t have a bike path, cars expect you to be in the street with them. They look out for you, they don’t scream and beep at you, and traffic seems to just merge together and flow effortlessly. We ended up renting bikes from the tour company almost every other day we were there. We felt like kids again; we had forgotten how fun and free and adventurous life could feel flying around on two wheels.
We saw and learned so much from our fantastic guide on that first tour. There was one thing he shared with us that I’ll never forget because it set the landscape for so many other things we learned about Vienna later on. At one point we stopped in a huge square called Heldenplatz (Heroes’ Square). Hofburg Palace sits in front and there are a couple of large monuments as well. There were large areas of grass behind all the concrete where people were relaxing with books or having small picnics. Our guide pulled a large photo from his pack and turned it over to reveal an image of the square we were standing in, in 1938. It was Hitler’s ceremonial announcement of Anschluss, the annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany. We could see from the photo that thousands and thousands of Austrians were in attendance. Most appeared in good spirits and many were giving the Nazi salute. Our guide then told us that he had been living in Austria for over forty years, but he had never met anyone who was at this Nazi rally, or who had family that was there, or even a neighbor. Obviously this could not be true. Surely he had to have known many people who were there themselves or who were related to people who were there. He said it though to make a point: many Austrians prefer not to acknowledge history they are not proud of. Anything considered shameful–most especially the Nazis, is glossed over, not talked about, and discouraged from being brought up. This attitude became so clear the rest of our trip; there were memorials and sites we would have so easily missed if they were not pointed out to us by our guides; the history is almost hidden in plain sight. As an American, the lack of acknowledgment of history felt completely familiar. But I was glad to see it somewhere else, recognize it, and then contrast it later on when we got to Berlin. Boy do they treat history differently in Berlin!
I consider every little story I have like this part of my wealth. Travel is not only the most wonderful and exciting adventure, it’s also an investment. I don’t think there’s one day that goes by that I don’t reference something in my memory from a place we have visited. Whether it’s hopping on the 2 hour Megabus to Philly , or flying across the pond to spy the Mona Lisa, getting out of my comfort zone and in a place that isn’t home is one of the most valuable things I can do for my personal growth. Also–wanderlust is real. Every couple of months I get terribly antsy to go somewhere. While I wish our work schedules and budget allowed us to travel that often, I am super grateful we get around as much as we do. Right now, we are trying to decide exactly where our next big adventure will be–and that’s where you come in! We will be traveling sometime in May of next year and have three weeks to work with. We’ve got three main contenders in mind right now, but since I have the most amazing and diverse group of reader/blogger friends, I wanted to hear from you all to see what you think. I know many of you either live in or have traveled to some of the places we are thinking about so I’d really find it invaluable to get your advice if you fall into either of those categories. So far, we are considering… (currently in order of what we are leaning most towards):
- Iceland/Ireland/Scotland/England. While we’ve been to London before (and Stratford-upon-Avon), we’ve never been anywhere else in England so we thought we might add one new place to the end of this trip. I am pretty anxious to visit Ireland especially. My mom’s side is almost full Irish and I have this thing about wanting to have my feet in the soil of my ancestor’s home. I have always had this intuition that I would feel something because my blood is there, and I want to find out if that’s true. Plus my hubs is almost 100% Irish on both sides of his family so I think he is game to do a little family history digging as well.
- Spain. I visited Spain for a month with my family when I was much younger but I am extremely anxious to return as an adult. My hubs has not been at all so it would be completely new for him. There is definitely the possibility of adding Morocco to the beginning or end of this trip as well which makes it pretty appealing to me. I know how varied Spain is, there is so much to see, so I think we could easily spend all three weeks just there.
- Africa. Ok, I know, ridiculous. I just listed an entire continent. I’ve done this though because that is how intimidated I feel by it, I really don’t know where to start. South Africa is at the top of the list. However, if we went all the way to Africa, I definitely would want to spend time in more than one country. I’d like to think I will get to go to Africa more than once in my lifetime, but I know that is not a guarantee. It’s a really important trip for me to take some day for the same reason I want to visit Ireland. I just don’t know if I am ready for all the research and planning it will take. That being said–I know that sometimes there are things we never feel ready for and just have to jump into. Although in the past several years I’ll admit, travel has not been one of those things. Usually we start to get some sort of feeling about where we should go when we really get serious about the planning process.
So, let’s hear it world travelers–where should we go? If you’ve got a three week idea that’s not on this list, by all means, let me hear it!! Even if you’re not especially well traveled–any of these especially high on your bucket list? Would love to hear from you as well. I have a feeling by the end of this that intuitive feeling will start to come over me and the hubs as well. Oh, just an fyi–we are definitely city people! I understand some of the places we are looking might include more rural/nature attributes, and that is fine for part of the trip, but cities with culture, food, and lots of things to do always have to be dominant with us. I try to be more in tune and fascinated by nature but it just doesn’t grab me like cities do. Both my hubs and I connect more to architecture than we do to mountains (although I will give him credit, he’s def more in touch with nature than I am!)
Also, when we do narrow it down, you better believe I will be back for some more narrowed advice. Thanks all!! x