All good things must come to an end…

Today is the last day of our trip.  While I will be sad to say goodbye to the beauty and age that is Europe, if I were to continue traveling, I would need a vacation from vacation.  Or a holiday from being on holiday.  (Doesn’t holiday sound so much nicer than vacation?  I remember thinking that during college in London as well).

We once again had a slow start to our day, which we loved.  Have I mentioned my newfound love for putting a little Nutella on my banana?  Probably not a good choice for daily consumption, but a great choice for the last day of my trip. 

Today we headed to Prague Castle.  If you are like me, you might be wondering what the difference is between a castle and a palace, since we saw several of each on our trip.  I will save you the googling effort, and say that a castle was built for defensive purposes, while a palace is built to be a luxurious dwelling place; an ostentatious display of wealth. Word on the street is that Prague Castle is the biggest castle complex (in the world??).  I should really start googling these facts I am telling you to double check them, but instead I just litter my posts with parenthetical question marks. 

Well, the castle grounds sure were impressive.  So impressively large, that as usual we had no idea which direction to head, and picked the wrong way.  It is a wonder that we made it to all our destinations AND home again, with our extreme navigational difficulties this trip.  We toured the St. Vitus Cathedral, full of beautiful stained glass; St. Peter’s Basillica, simple stone beauty; Golden Lane, the adorable tiny row of houses where the king’s guards used to live; and we think we also saw the royal gardens.  We ate apples and siesta bars here.  It was quiet and peaceful.

St. Vitus Cathedral

St. Peter's Basilica

Golden Lane: So tiny and cute!

Despite our seemingly late start and disorientation, we managed to beat the crowds, which was so nice.  Then we found our way to Petrin Hill.  Not an easy task, as Prague likes to camouflage its public transportation stops.  We took the funicular to the top of the hill, where we first found the rose garden.  I use the term “found” loosely, as basically we exited the funicular directly into the garden.  We enjoyed the garden, also with some pigeons and a nice Czech woman, who’s picture I took in front of the flowers.  She then let us in on a little secret botanical garden nearby, hidden from the main path.  This garden is what I imagine The Secret Garden to be like.  It was out of a dream, and overflowing with beautiful flowers.  We fell into our normal flower roles: me taking pictures and Rachel reading, before heading to see Prague’s miniature Eiffel Tower.  I wanted this to be a cuter stop on the trip than it was.  We then wandered along the hill top and stopped to read on a bench that overlooked the city.

at the rose garden

in the secret garden

We enjoyed some people watching from our perch.

People Watching Memorable Moment #1:  Seriously – why do so many people walk carrying bags together – each holding one handle of the bag?  Our favorite couple that did this jointly carried the bag in the middle and each held a GIANT jug of water in their other hand.

People Watching Memorable Moment #2: A biking tour consisting of a family of four and a local tourguide stopped right in front of us.  Here is their exchange:

Mom: Are we going to go across the St. Charles Bridge?

Guide: No.

Mom: Can I ask you a question about it then?

Guide: No.  Bikes are not allowed on it.

Mom: [begins asking question anyways] How… ?

Guide: [cuts her off]: No.  All your questions will be answered later.  [and he gets on his bike and then all follow him, pedaling away]

Our View.

We then walked down a charming street back toward the city.  We passed by a man getting a ticket for driving the wrong way on a one way – but there was a bit of a language barrier, so it was a little amusing. We then stopped for dinner on a cute patio.  My view was of two 14 year old girls dressed in white robes, performing mediocre music on the street on their flute and violin.  Rachel’s view was of a creepy marionette shop with an even creepier puppet outside their front door.

We spent the rest of the evening packing, taking a gelato break, watching a movie, and heading to bed before flying home the next morning. 

I’d count Spinsters Sisters: Europa Edition a successful trip!  Thanks sister!

Karlstejn: A fairy tale? Or a misspelling of my last name?

Today our agenda primarily involved a day trip out to a castle.  The reasons we chose this day trip are two-fold.

Fold #1: the tour book told us this castle is like a fairy tale

Fold #2: the name of the castle reminded us of our last name, or more specifically, ways our last name could very well be spelled by a pizza delivery or on junk mail, or by my horrid boss at Old Navy back in the day.

Clearly, this was meant to be part of our Europa Adventures.

Because up until now we have traveled, learned European history, toured, experienced, seen, and feasted ourselves into a state of tourist exhaustion, we were feeling quite pleased with ourselves that our Prague days were not filled to the brim like the rest of our trip has been.  We took full advantage, and slept in (until 8:00) and leisurely made our way out the door (after 9:30) and worked our way to Karlstejn.

Let’s just say it is a good thing we planned to take our time, because this day wasn’t among the simplest.  But it was among the loveliest.

Sometimes when you are standing on the platform at the train station, you think to yourself, “I wonder if this is really my train I am getting on”.  Well, it usually is, so no worries.  Today we didn’t really have time to even ask ourselves that question, as we got to the tracks 2 minutes before our train was scheduled to depart.  So we hopped on, crossed our fingers, and hoped for the best.

Let’s just say the jury is still out on what exactly went wrong.  I’m not entirely convinced we were completely on the wrong train.  Although if a kindly woman across the aisle from us hadn’t spoken English, we probably still would be wandering the Czech countryside.

hmm... this doesn't look like Karlstejn... confusing.

The train was headed the right way,  Apparently it just wasn’t heading far enough.  We got off at the end of the line (per nice woman’s directions) and waited about 35 minutes for the next train to come through.  We got on that one, rode two more stops, and found ourselves in Karlstejn.  Tricky, no?

Rachel says, "If you fall down that hill trying to take a picture of that flower, I'm not coming after you." What kind of a sister is she??

The tour book told us that the Karlstejn Castle rises up on the hill like a fairy tale castle.  When I looked at the pictures of it, I wasn’t convinced.  So I won’t take it personally if you feel the same way looking at our pictures.  However, it was in fact like we were in Sleeping Beauty (or some other such tale).  I loved it so much: the turrets and parapets, and imposing grandeur.

this castle is almost named after me

The hike up the hill began to disillusion us.  However, just when we thought we were a third of the way up and would likely die before reaching the top in this heat, we discovered we were there!  We didn’t want to pay to go in (I mean, we’ve toured approximately 1,792 castles, palaces, and churches at this point in our journey) but we did wander around the castle grounds and enjoy the view of the village below.

I love me some ivy on a wall

I especially enjoyed this little pocket of flowers brimming with butterfly/moth/something pretty fluttering about.  I will not subject you to the series of 43 butterfly/moth/something pretty fluttering pictures that I took in the next 3 minutes.  You are welcome.  I will however share this one. 

We walked down, stopping in little shops, being mistaken for a couple of Danish girls on holiday, and then bought hot dogs from a vendor for lunch.  They drilled a hole in a loaf of French bread, dropped the dog down into it, and put it in this jovial paper bag. 

We found a cute bench and sat down to enjoy our “feast” and then headed back toward the train station.  We arrived two minutes before the train back to Praha (Prague to you non-German or Czech speakers) and enjoyed the scenic ride back to the city.  One of our favorite scenes was that of a medium sized, extremely fluffly, white dog being toted about on the train in the tinest of wicker baskets.  How it fit in this basket, I do not know.  Why it sat so well in its cramped quarters I also do not know.  What I do know is that I regret not getting a photo of this for you.

We treated ourselves to some gelato from the Restaurant U Prince gelato stand (per my friend Liza’s recommendation) once we got back to Prague.  I had the cookies flavor and the caramel flavor.  It was the most delicious thing I’ve ever tasted.  Especially when accompanied by watching this small child single mindedly chase this pigeon all around the square (seriously, where were his parents?  This is the most crowded spot in the whole city).  Yes, I’m a creeper who took a picture of a child I don’t know.  But seriously, it was an amazing bit of people watching.  He truly had mad pigeon chasing skills, which is impressive as he was not big enough to even have pedals on his bike. 

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

Rick Steves told us to go cruising down the Danube and biking along the way.  He made it look so easy.  Then we tried to figure out the logistics, and well, let’s just say it was a logistical nightmare involving hours of fruitless research.

it all looks so effortless... why isn't it??

We took the train the Melk (mostly easy enough, once we asked at information and were told we would need to change trains, and once the train ticket checker guy told us that the tiny little single car was indeed our next ride).  We, as usual, took the scenic route, walking through Viennese campgrounds trying to find where we could buy ship tickets and rent bikes.  Once we FINALLY found it, the really nice rental girl gave us the student prices!  Win!

the abbey in Melk

We circled around a little shack that had posters of bicyclists on it to try and figure out if it was a place we could rent a bike.  Then we felt nervous and so we went back to ask our friend at the ship tickets.  She said that yes indeed they did rent out bikes at that odd little shed (my words, not hers).  So we headed back over there, and a woman who I thought was just a customer of the little food stand, put down her sewing and rented us some bicycles. 

We set out down the Danube. At first it all was going swimmingly.  The trail was relatively flat, the view of the Danube was lovely; there was even a castle in the distance.  Then suddenly, things took a turn for the worse.  We encountered a giant hill of death.  We thought we would never arrive at the top of it.  I was excited to go downhill on the other side of it.  But then I realized we would be turning around at some point and would have to go up any hill we went down.  This spelled trouble, because basically the whole next leg of the trip was downhill.  Yikes!

We stopped for a picnic lunch along the Danube, gazing out at some vineyards.  It was quite lovely.  Then we prayed for strength to go back, because all we could think of was all the hills we went down, and how we were feeling a bit tired.  Well, prayer works – we only had one giant hill to go up, and then the rest of the ride was a breeze!  We were ultra confused that we did not go uphill most of the way.  It was such a pleasant bike ride!  And we had fun bells on our bikes.  So when other bikers weren’t around (we didn’t want to confuse them and make them think we were passing them) we rung our little bells to our hearts’ content.  Thanks Rick Steves.  I’m sorry for saying mean things about you earlier in the day when we were feeling so lost.

the site of our picnic

After dropping off our bikes, we walked to Tom’s Eis Café on the Main Street in Melk, and sat outside under an umbrella, enjoying some lemon ice cream (sherbet?  Italian ice? It is hard to say.  But lemon ice cream doesn’t sound that great when you call it ice cream) and preparing for the boating portion of our day.  It was a little tricky to order.  I knew that I wanted Zitrone Eis, but did not see just scoops of ice cream on the menu.  After some German, some English, some sad looks, and some smiles, we figured it out and we enjoyed a refreshing treat.

PTL for lemony refreshment.

The boat cruise along the Wachau valley was so incredibly beautiful.  The only downside is that the sun was blazing hot at this point in the day.  We figured out that despite the sun, it was actually quite lovely on the roof deck of the boat, because there was a strong breeze when the boat was moving.  The scenery was heavenly.  We were in a valley, with rolling hills on their side, lined with vineyards, old churches and tiny villages.  I MAY have taken a few pictures :)

gorgeous vineyards and small towns in the Wachau Valley

love the Wachau Valley. Pretty.

We arrived in Krems and immediately set out in the wrong direction.  After a miserable tour in the Bermuda Triangle of our trip, we broke free from the Krems University of Applied Sciences and made our way to the picturesque town.  At this point though, we were so miserably hot, we had nothing in us to give toward meandering through cute shops, and mostly just wanted to go home to our air conditioned hotel room.

the adorableness that is Krems. We wanted so badly for it to be a magical place of adorable meandering. Such potential. Such heat. This is the most half-hearted photo I've ever taken. Slowly, in monotone: "I guess I should take a picture. That street is cute."

Overall, I would give the day 3.7 stars out of 5.  The high points were really high, but the low points were really low.

Being our Fancy Hotel-Staying Selves

We arrived in Vienna in the early afternoon and went to check in at the hotel.  Have I mentioned that I love the perks that come along with traveling with my sister?  We are staying in the executive suite, and we even have a hallway between the living room and the bedroom, which has a marble bathroom.  We do fancy things like relax in the executive lounge, feasting upon complimentary diet coke and gummy bears.  Awesome.

Eventually we tore ourselves away from the hotel (and recovered from all the traveling and settling in) and we set out to explore the city.  Our first stop was Stephens Dom, an incredible gothic cathedral.  It was so beautiful and so different from the other big churches we had been in our trip.  We took a tiny little elevator up the North Tower for a great view of the city.  We also went to Karlsplatz to see Karls Kirche and eat a small dinner in the old train station.  It was my first experience with the pay-to-use Water Closets that I remember learning about in German class.  (Although we got a token from our server to use instead).

The front was undergoing restoration, just like everything else in Europe, so I will show you this miniature version of the St. Stephen's Cathedral

Or I will show you a side view - still pretty much just as impressive as the front?

Next up: Hofburg Palace, the winter home of the Hapsburg Dynasty.  One sad thing about coming to Vienna in July is that the Lippizaners are on vacation from performing and practicing at the Spanish Riding school, the boy’s choir is also on holiday, as is the opera.  There was still plenty to take in just walking around the imposingly large palace grounds.  We relaxed for a bit in the Volksgarten, enjoying the roses, before heading back to the hotel to resume our fancy lives (we did things like sitting on the roof with our free beverages and cooling off in the crisp night air).  We will see more of the city in a couple of days.

We enjoyed this fountain in the Volksgarten outside Hofburg Palace before taking the S-Bahn to nowheresville on our ride back to the hotel

A Comedy of Errors Runs into a Giant Nun

or

A Hitch hiker’s Guide to Salzburg

Our strictly Itineraried Day:

  • tour a salt mine with Bob’s Special Tours
  • Picnic lunch pilfered from breakfast and joined by some fresh fruit from a stand in the city
  • Make our ticket reservations and go check in at our new hotel
  • Take in the grandeur of our hotel grounds
  • Visit the Hellbrunn Palace
  • Go home and change for dinner and the marionette show
  • See the marionette version of The Sound of Music (theater at its finest)

Our actual day:

Today started out perfectly.  We had breakfast in the hidden gardens, and packed a secretive lunch of a hard roll, cold cuts, and cheese in ziplock bags we brought for such occasion.  Then we headed out front and waited for our Bob’s tour van to pick us up.  And we waited.  And we waited.  And we waited for 35 minutes (to be fair, they give a 30 minute window in which they might arrive).

Then Galinda pulled up in her Bob’s van (we were relieved to not take Hans’ special taxi today) and she said, “you can go this afternoon?” and we said, “um, WHAT?!”  that does not fit in with our scheduled itinerary.  After some pleading and begging and crying (or just some polite conversation) Galinda decided to let us join her Sound of Music tour up until they reach Leopoldskrohn Schloss (the mansion/castle in which we are staying), at which point she would drop us off.  Thanks Galinda!  You’re the best!

When we arrived at the lake to view the castle/back façade of the Von Trapp family home, Galinda asked us how we liked her compared to Hans.  I immediately said, “you are much better” and then we told her that while Hans did share some bits of Sound of Music folklore with us, he seemed somewhat disinterested in the Sound of Music and had a lot more to say about Salzburg’s history.  While that was interesting, we just would have like more Julie Andrew’s anecdotes.

For example, today we learned that Christopher Plummer (Captain von Trapp) complained that Gretl was too heavy to carry to Switzerland over the mountain, and requested a stunt double for her.  And we saw the hotel Liesl stayed in.  And that the real Maria came onto the set and demanded to be a part of the decision making to involve more truth and sadness.  The director said, “I love you Maria, but film making is my business.”  Denied.  We also learned about the movie Knight and Day being filmed in Salzburg, and saw the “hotel” Tom and Cameron stayed in, AND Galinda watched them film a scene where Tom Cruise did his own stunt diving into the Salzsach River that runs through Salzburg.  Afterwards, he waved at the people gathered watching the filming.  She said, “I think he especially waved at me.  Can you imagine, Tom Cruise, waving at ME?”  now repeat that in an adorable German accent.  Loved it.  And it seemed like something I would say to a tour group. Or just to my friends, since I am not actually a tour guide.

Continuing on with our day, we arrived at our hotel around 10:20 and dropped our stuff off in our room.  Turns out the “servants quarters” that we are staying in are in the adjacent building to the main house.  And we were expecting minimalistic accommodations.  Turns out our room is SOOO cute.  We love it.  It is decorated in white and silver and purple.  We wandered the grounds, took fun pictures, and then headed to the Hop On, Hop Off bus.  Based on what that man at reception told us when he gave us our complimentary tickets, we assumed this was some sort of shuttle that would take us to the Line 25 bus, which we could take to the Hauptbahnhof (main train station) to get our seat reservations.  We hopped on said bus, but the driver didn’t care so much about our tickets that reception gave us.  He even offered us headphones.  At this point we were very confused, but put on the headphones.  We noticed it had a retractable roof. Then some calming classical music came on, and then a pleasant voice began narrating the journey for us.  The hop on man drove right past our bus stop, and so we took the free ride all the way to Hellbrunn Palace (sight of the gazebo, and more importantly, the trick fountains).

this is my, "what is going on - i am very suspicious of our situation" face

Let’s talk about the trick fountains.  First off, the archbishop who built this palace had no bedrooms in the floorplan – he merely used it to entertain.  Secondly, he had this incredible area of the garden filled with trick fountains (wasserspiel).   We were so stressed the whole time because we were not in the mood to get wet.  We had lots more photos to take during the day and didn’t want to go with the wet dog look.  Walking on edge, we kept a careful eye on where the path was wet, and where the tour guide was at all times.  We were pretty successful.  We were misted upon as we left through an archway of fountains.  It was beautiful!

looking down toward the first trick fountain - a table where the Arch Bishop would entertain his guests and then attack them with water spraying up from the seats around surround the table. Apparently it was good manners to stay seated until your host got up, so his guests were screwed...

Then we caught the line 25 bus to go to the train station and get to those reservations finally.  Then we decided that perhaps we were going to run out of time, and once we finally got oriented to the city and the bus route, we opted to just go straight to Bob’s Special Tours.  Turns out we were going in another taxi van, but this one was a Mercedes Benz (first Mercedes minivan I’ve been in) and it was driven by Markos, who was much less awkward than Hans.

He took us to the Salt Mine, which perhaps will get it’s own post, and afterwards we went to a cute little town.  However, it was pouring rain and so we sat under an awning at an adorable café and drank cappochinos and shared sachertorte and strawberry torte.  Delicious!  On the way back to Salzburg, we went drove along the Koenigsee River (which flows out of the cleanest lake in Austria) and learned that a fishing license in Austria costs 300 Euro.  Yikes! 

Markos was kind enough to drop us off at the train station, where we finally got those reservations, and then we attempted to grab a quick bite of dinner before seeing the Marionette theater show of the Sound of Music.  I think this perplexingly amazingly intriguingly ridiculously awesome experience also deserves its own post, but I will say that a full sized person came out as the Mother Superior Nun, but she moved as if she were a puppet.  It was disturbing to say the least.  But all in all a one of a kind experience that I would totally recommend to a friend.

So there you have it – the day that went nothing like we planned, but other than the dinner complete fiasco which I don’t even want to talk about, it was wonderful!  We felt like hitch hikers because we were riding so many random things today that we were not completely sure we actually had tickets for most of them.  It was all very confusing.  But surprisingly enough, we got where we needed to go!  AND it rained all afternoon, when we’d planned to be out at the palace in the gardens, but those things were rescheduled to the morning, and during the rain we were primarily 600 deep into the mountainside on a salt mine tour.  I’m thinking God consulted the weatherman, and then rearranged things with our Bob’s Tour so that we would have the best day possible.  Thanks!

Touring the Sounds of Music.

The day started out in the best way possible.  We got ready to the Sound of Music Soundtrack, then headed downstairs to the breakfast room, where the most delicious traditional German breakfast buffet awaited us.  We feasted on hard rolls with jam and with nutella, hard boiled eggs nestled in their special hard boiled egg plates, and juice.  Tomorrow we will take advantage of the meat and cheese options to pack a lunch to go :)  We braved the incredibly fancy coffee machine, and came out caffeinated winners.

Then we awkwardly sat on the curb while waiting for our tour guide to pick us up.  He was a chatty fellow, full of historical information.  He really liked talking about various arch bishops and their girlyfriends, and didn’t as much like talking about the Sound of Music.  Thankfully we’d read a lot in the tour books, so we were still able to fully appreciate all the moments of the day.

So, without further ado, I present to you:

The Sound of Music Tour of Salzburg

At the beginning of the movie, Maria is spinning around on a meadow that we drove past, but did not get to stop and take a picture of.  It was lovely, and quite a ways up on the mountainside.

Then she is at this abbey with the little red top: (In real life though, she was a school teacher.  We have a lot in common). 

Then she is off to the Von Trapp family home.  She has confidence while she walks past this fountain, and the next fountain, and this other fountain, and the down a row of trees to the front facade of the house. 

During family dinner, Liesl sneaks away to be with Rolf and they frolic in this gazebo.  Maria and the Captain later kiss here.  In the movie it is on their backyard property.  In reality it is at Hellbrunn Palace, quite a ways away. 

Later, the Captain heads to Vienna and Maria teaches the children to sing in the aforementioned meadow, they cross a bridge to Mirabell Gardens, where they skip through this tunnel, dance around this fountain, and jump and sing on these steps. 

Captain Von Trapp and the Baroness arrive home just in time to see them fall out of the canoe in back of the family home. 

Soon the Captain and Maria gaze into one another’s eyes while dancing and realize they are in love.  Goodbye Baroness, hello wedding.  At this church.  Down this aisle.  (I may have quietly song How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria while walking slowly and bride-like down this aisle) 

The family then escapes by pushing their car out the front drive, performing at the theater, and then climbing every mountain.  Or more specifically, this mountain.  Which is also interesting because in the movie this mountain leads to Switzerland.  Look at a map.  Yep – geographically not happening.  This mountain actually leads to Germany, so I’m glad that they didn’t actually escape that way in real life.  In real life, their home was on the other end of Salzburg and there was a train station in back of it that they escaped via train. 

The End!  It is like you were here with me to experience it all!  Fun!

Raindrops on Roses

You may think I titled this in efforts of preparation for the Sound of Music extravaganza tomorrow, but today we literally saw raindrops on roses as we meandered through the Mirabell Gardens on a day spotted with sprinkles. 

Let me share some highs and lows of our day:

Train Low: Crazy lady and confused people who were in the wrong seats and we had a perfect storm of 3 languages represented, several travelers just picking and choosing seats, and a lot of confusion.

Train High: First glimpse of mountains!  Farms in the foreground, complete with horses, cows, and cute little black goats; purple shadows of mountains in the background.  It warmed my heart.  And made me think of the story of Heidi.

Arrival in Salzburg High: seeing creepy ice cream baby’s twin on our bus ride to our hotel (you might remember the original creepy ice cream baby from our Vancouver pictures).  We clapped in delight!  (in our hearts we did this.  We did not want judgement from our fellow passengers)

Arrival in Salzburg Low: No one being at our hotel when we arrived for check-in. But then the lady came, and we want to be her friend.  We taught her the word Funicular (which we only know from our travel books)

Hohensalzburg Fortress Low:  Getting (figuratively) trapped in a museum of things we didn’t really care about.  “Let us out!  We just want to wander the fortress grounds, not see stick men suspended with weapons.”

Hohensalzburg Fortress High:  The view.  It was amazing. 

Mirabell Gardens High: How can I list them all?  It was beautifully sculpted with flowers and trees and fountains.  We even took our picture with a unicorn!  Which afterwards we realized was the Do Re Mi steps from the Sound of Music!  So great!!

Mirabell Gardens Low: It started to rain.  For a long time though it was just sprinkling, so we sat on a bench under our umbrellas, enjoying a lovely afternoon of reading in the garden.

Mirabell Gardens. Beauty.

Now we are watching a refresher on the Sound of Music so we can appreciate tomorrow to it’s fullest.

Just call me the Dog Whisperer; or Luisa.

Part Eins: Just call me the Dog Whisperer.

The past two days I have taken on a new hobby: visiting puppies while their owners are gainfully employed.  I’m not a creeper.  No, I was invited by these puppies.  Bear gave me a key to the city (or to his house) to encourage our blossoming friendship.  Apparently he forgot to tell his owners he invited me over, because they used the interior trick lock to try and keep me away.  Bear was sad and confused.  As was I.   Fortunately, I had a few tricks up my sleeve (you might refer to it as a cell phone) and I was able to eventually get ahold of the correct personnel for guidance in alternate entry.  We had a delightful time together, running around the backyard, going for a walk (with no puking this time!) and eating toys.  The jury is still out whether he is eating his toy goose or my mom’s dog Maddie.  They are scarily similar in size and color.  Or it is for sure a goose.  The jury is not hung.  During the inside portion of our playdate, he would get a toy, lay in my lap while playing with it, and then get a new one to bring over.  Yes, we have come a long way from the final picture of this post.  Well, I heard that my other puppy niece, Lucy, was getting jealous, so I paid her a visit this afternoon.  She was delighted to see me, and we chatted for a few minutes on my way back into town from my shopping spree at the outlet mall. from my important work of trip preparation. While I was breaking into my sister’s, using a key stolen from my brother because my key was confiscated a while back and never replaced, I also left behind a special present for her.  Which brings me to

Part zwei: Just call me Luisa (with an A).

To help my sister and I get into the traveling spirit, I created for us the soundtrack to our vacation.  Let’s be honest, it is a ridiculous compilation of music.  I won’t pretend all the songs are quality (although I can’t wait till Rachel listens to track number five).   But I will stand by all the songs being appropriate for the daily activities of our European adventures.

I sent my sister an email with this as our playlist description, and told her to guess what each song was.  She only got two of them. Perhaps you can do better?

1.Overture to the Trip
2.  Taking off
3. Hats off to German Class
4. Arriving in Salzburg
5. Seeing Mozart’s childhood home
6. Mozart grew up so fast
7. Sound of music tour
8. Marionette show
9. Salt Mines
10. We are abroad
11. Heading out for the night in Vienna
12. Where all the singles go
13. A day at the palace
14. Biking along the Danube
15. Alice in Wonderland
16. Swan Lake
17. Don’t say it’s over
18. We must head home
19. Saying goodbye to vacation

I informed her that I envision us listening to each day’s song before we set out each morning.  You know, to help us get into the spirit of things.  In case being surrounded by mountains and red roofs and cobblestone isn’t enough.

I also requested that we refer to one another by our German class names: Luisa and Renata (am I spelling that right?)  In 8th grade, I wanted to pick the name Liesl (I’m guessing you can figure out the origin of that dream) but I wasn’t allowed to because it wasn’t on the list.  So I went with Luisa.  A champion of a runner-up name.  Except Frau made me spell it with e at the end.  I think it is prettier with an a, so this is me, taking a stand 10 years later, and officially changing the spelling of my German name.

Back to my brilliant idea to help us recall all our language skills: Rachel of course acquiesced, under the stipulation that we can only use our German names while we are in German speaking countries.  So I guess only in Czech Rep will they know our true identities. Unless of course anyone knows any good Czech names. Brilliant.