Mira, Sonali, and I at the fountain in the gardens of the Schönbrunn Palace
Sonali and I decided to cross another milestone for our family: the first real, more than a week long, family vacation with Mira. Yes, we’ve taken trips before, but they were always either short or in the context of something else like a wedding or family visit. This was the first time we were going to venture into the world, for an extended period, just for fun.
The impetus of this trip was my kind neighbor who gifted us buddy passes. Buddy passes are great, because they are flexible travel. Buddy passes are also bad because they are flexible travel. With our lives, pushing of optional travel was just too easy. Two things became very clear when we tried to use our passes: 1) Europe is a very popular destination right now, and 2) standby travel really wasn’t for us.
After a disappointing day waiting at the airport and a very full looking standby list, we discovered that buying tickets for the next day was the same price as buying tickets for later in the year. Since we already had reservations, bags packed, and the trip quasi-planned, we bought the tickets that night and were on the next plane to Munich!
Arrival in Munich
Mira slept most of the way (albeit added with Benadryl), which meant we slept pretty well on the flight as well. However, jet lag is a thing and we needed a long nap after getting in.
Finally arrived at the Flughafen München
Since we had planned on being in Munich the day before, we already had an AirBnB lined up near the Isator train station. Our flight landed at 8:20, we were checked in and under the covers by 10:30.
One of Germany’s major cities always seemed like the ideal location for our first Euro trip. There’s great transit, almost everyone speaks English, and everything is very efficient. This was validated almost immediately with how easy it was to get from the airplane to the apartment.
In front of our AirBnb on a quiet street minutes from everything
Unfortunately, there were a few downsides. First was the rain. It did not stop for 6 days. Most of the time it was a drizzle, some of the times it was a downpour, but it was a constant companion and put a small damper on things.
Mira is 2 and a ball of energy, but even she gets tired. Everyone was a little slow, especially me since it turned out I had a tummy bug, we didn’t do much the first day. We explored the neighborhood a little and had a meal at Munich institution and tourist trap, the Haufbrauhaus.
Since it was raining and we were tired, we returned to the apartment and played around with the TV. We were prepared to watch our favorite shows in German until we discovered that the TV supported Netflix. The rest of the night went in animated movies.
More sleep, more rain.
I took a solo trip in the morning to the Hauptbhanof to book the rail tickets for our Austria leg. After I got back, we all got ready and headed over to the Deutsch Museum, which was conveniently within walking distance from our apartment.
The Deutsch Museum is an incredible engineering museum. They have exhibits about water displacement, nano-technology, cars, airplanes, the printing press, mining equipment, and more. It is vast and impressive.
A working example of the wakes of different bows
Mira pretending to be inside of a deep see capsule
Me in front of the U1, one of the first submersibles created by the Imperial Navy
The best part of the museum is not just the toys they have on display, but all the cutouts they’ve put into the toys so that you can see the guts of how the machine worked. It’s not just about the end result, but what goes into making the end result so cool (and functional, we are in Germany after all).
Mira found her favorite seat in front of the TV near all the airplanes
A jet engine stripped of it's outer casing to expose its internals
Our nano-person playing near the nano-tech exhibit
Cut out of a Wankel rotary engine
Of course, there were also model trains…
When people thing Germany food, they thing bratwurst and sourkraut and schnitzl. When you’re in Germany, you realize that it’s in the middle of Europe and countries like Italy are very near by. The Italian food can be awesome here and we had a great spagetti and pizza (german style with potatoes and rosemary) after finishing with the museum, followed by more Netflix animiated movies.
End of our first leg in Munich and day of transit to Vienna
It was time to say goodbye to Munich for now and head to Vienna, which was a 4 hour train ride away. I cannot say enough great things about the European rail system. It is so easy to get from one nearby city center to another nearby city center without a car.
Mira was very excited about the long train ride, not surprising given that she wanted to ride every bus, tram, or train that she saw. I sometimes think that she believes that the world is an amusement park especially created for her enjoyment.
Once on the train, her actual enthusiasm became boredom and eventually drowsiness, but not before two full screenings of (mira voice) “Let it Go!” aka Disney’s Frozen.
On the interior balcony walkway of the apartment
The apartment in Vienna was a short train ride and walk from the main station and what a place! When I think Euro apartment, this is it. Old building, questionable exterior, high ceilings, lots of Ikea, and very nice inside. The apartment was in the middle of everything. Nothing was more than a quarter mile walk away.
A statue of Guttenberg at the end of our street
Mira and Sonali in front of the not very blue Danube
After some rest, we braved the drizzle and explored the neighborhood and walked down to the Danube river, which was decidedly the color of river and not blue.
Mira got a treat of ice cream for behaving on the train. This became a trend.
We had pizza for dinner again. Mira was a fan, but not my stomach. We stopped for after dinner gelato at Zanoni & Zanoni, which became Mira’s treat for behaving. For the remainder of the trip, Mira was very keen to point out “Chota behaving,” regardless of whether she had been or not.
Mira's favorite Gelataria
Took a more extensive walking tour around Vienna. We walked through Stephanplatz, down through the big shopping street, Graben, ending up at Michaelerplatz.
St. Stephen's Cathedral
A brass band coming up Graben street
Walking that much is tiring and we returned to the apartment for some napping. Following the nap, we went out again, this time through Michaelerplatz, to the Hofburg Palace, and the Museumplatz beyond.
In front of the Vienna Mozart Haus
Mira running down Blutgasse
On Heldenplatz with the Rathouse in the background
The Austrian National Library, the size of these buildings is immense
On the first night one of the residents in the apartment building told us a great view of Vienna could be had by taking the Ring Tram after dark. The ring tram only runs till 5:30, but it did not get dark till after 9pm. We decided to combine the tram routes 1 & 2 for a similar experience. Vienna did look pretty a night and the highlight was the Eurovision 2015 venue near the Volksgarten.
The Eurovision 2015 venue
In front of Karlsplatz
We capped off the night with some takeaway noodles and took advantage of the apartment’s somewhat limited english DVD selection by watching the Fast & the Furious: Tokyo Drift.
The rain is starting to take it’s toll
The rain still has not stopped! After four straight days of being water-logged, we decided that we were going to visit a few museums. This plan failed. In the time it took to travel three stations the rain had picked up enough to make the prospect of leaving the train station daunting.
Mira being entertained by the led sign in the Karlsplatz station
It didn't feel like it would be long before the real Vienna looked like this model
To entertain ourselves, we rode the trains around a bit and finally ended up at the Schoenbrunn Castle. It was still raining, but light enough were we would be wet, but not drenched. While the rain was tolerable, the line to enter was not and after taking a few pictures, we opted to return.
All of us were starting to get pretty tired, we took the rest of the day pretty easy around the apartment, got some take-away falafel (thankfully taking the time to strip Mira to undies before giving her the hummus), and watched the Eurovision final. Both Sonali and I found most of the acts just above mediocre, but the eventual winner Sweden did do a good job.
Finally a day without rain! Mira didn’t start the day in the highest of spirits and it took a long while to get out of the door, with Sonali taking the brunt of Mira’s “toddlering.”
Panoramic of the left front side of the palace
Panoramic of the right front side of the palace
Sonali and Mira in the courtyard
The primary rooms of the palace weren’t super interesting (no pictures allowed) and we did not really get to enjoy them because Mira was bored. The were a lot of portraits of the Hapsburgs, but a lot of the interesting details of the paintings were lost on me since it’s been 17 years since AP European history. The examples of Rococo art and furniture were also lost to this audience.
The extended tour did have a few impressive rooms, especially the ones covered in carvings and artifacts from other areas of the world, such as far east Asia.
Us in the garden
Me with the fountain and the Gloriette in the background
Us in front of the fountain
The gardens were the super fun part and we were so happy that the weather was nice enough to enjoy them. Along with the streak of rainy days, our streak of not having clothing ruined ended after Mira fell running on the gravel.
The back of the garden featured a large hill, atop which sits the Gloriette. The views from the top of the hill were pretty good, but the views from the Gloriette were even better. Unfortunately, I had to make this trip solo since Mira was tired and Sonali did not feel like making the trip up carrying an additional 30 pounds.
Schönbrunn from the Gloriette
Shot back towards the area of Vienna we were staying in
Mira enjoying the fountains with Mom
Mira enjoying the fountains with Dad
War casualty from tripping and falling on the pebbles
Sweeter than a rose, Mira giving mommy a kiss
Enjoying the crowds in front of St. Stephan's cathedral
That night, I made another solo trip out to capture a few images of the city at night. It was very cool to be out at 11pm and for there still to be life and people walking around.
Our apartment from the outside
The view down our street, Bäkerstraße
St. Stephan's at night
Graben at night
Goldshmiedgasse at night
Travel to Salzberg
We’re now in the home stretch of the trip and what might turn out to be the toughest portion. Until now we’ve been staying in apartments. From here on out, it’s hotel rooms and the associated smaller spaces.
The ÖBB Railjet hitting top speed
'Frozen' was turning Mira into a pro-traveler
We reached Salzburg and checked into our hotel, the Hotel Elephant. The hotel was a glorious old-school establishment housed in a building dating back 700 years. On check-in we were greated not only by friendly staff, but a free upgrade to a bigger room. Fears about space could wait another night.
The back of our room at the Hotel Elefant
The front of our room at the Hotel Elefant
The full screening of “Let it Go” on the train wore Mira out and it was time for the afternoon nap.
We cajoled her awake, braced ourselves for the craziness, and headed out into Salzburg. Like Vienna, our hotel was in a prime spot and everything was a short walk away.
In front of the Salzburg Cathedral
In the Residenzplatz
After touring the squares and getting a breadzel, we took the tram lift up to the fortress Hohensalzburg. The fortress dates back to the 11th century and is situated on top of a hill overlooking the city of Salzburg to the north and the Alps to the south. While there is a very nice museum with some awesome exhibits, we really went up this time for the views.
The exposed terraces on the top of the castle were windy and cold. We heard multiple kids crying because it was so cold with parent’s frantically trying to usher them back to the tram heading down to the city. Mira opted to go jacketless. We also discovered that Mira had learned a new word, since she informed us that we needed to go “shopping” for her milk.
Mira loved climbing up the steps all by her self
Finally calm enough to pose for a picture with Mom
Discovered the selfie mode on my camera
Sonali and Mira with Salzburg in the background
Sonali at one of the observation stations
Mira manned the cannons in her past life
After making our own way back to the town we walked across the Makartsteg bridge to the other side of the Salz river. The bridge was rebuilt in the year 2000 and has become covered with love locks. Mira was of course fascinated by the locks along with the individual in the Mickey Mouse costume walking across the bridge.
Mira was fascinated by the locks
The Markarsteg bridge is covered in love locks
Mira with Mickey, might have been the highlight of her trip
We finally made it to the other side to take a quick tour of the Mirabell gardens. Unfortunately we missed tulip season and caught the garden between plantings. We headed back to the hotel for some dinner and ice cream. I was estatic because I was finally feeling well enough not only for a meal, but a cocktail!
Mira(bell) at the Mirabell gardens
These gardens were featured in the 'Sound of Music'
The gardens are presided over by the Hohensalzburg
We made it back just in time, since it started raining again. I guess 2 semi-dry days was more than we could ask for.
Back over the river Salz
Travel back to Munich
After a nice breakfast at the hotel, I had the concierge translate the train ticket and discovered that we could make our way back to Munich anytime before 3am on the following day.
We decided to take another walk around Salzburg and it started raining again. We abandoned the walk and public transport and took a taxi from the hotel to the main train station.
The Hauptbhanof in Salzburg
This train was a slower commuter train, which worked out because each stop was an event for Mira. This resulted in only 1/2 screenings of “Frozen” on the journey.
We stayed at the Marc Munich for the last two days of the trip and like Salzburg, the Munich portion started with a nap.
Mira had clearly hit a threshold and was becoming more difficult to manage. It was once again cold, but Mira was adamant that her sleeveless shirt was warm enough much to the dismay of her parents and passerbies (including one especially concerned lady in a full burka).
Getting rid of the jacket, despite the cold
The Munich Rathouse
After sprinting from Karlsplatz to Marienplatz, refusing all attempts to put on a jacket, and melting down behind the Rathaus we were able to enjoy a nice dinenr at the Paulanerhaus, where Mira loved the garlic potato noodles and I was finally able to have a Bavarian beer in Bavaria.
Compromise reached, we will no longer attempt to get her to wear a jacket, she will no longer cry
May 27th - Munich
The troops are tired
The Marc Munich has a great breakfast. It’s hard to get off to a bad start when the day starts with espresso and champagne. After finishing breakfast, we endured another meltdown. The trip seems to be taking a toll on overall energy. We punted on the plans to visit the BMW museum and went to the Englischer Garten instead for a little nature walk. I think that Sonali might have had an ulterior motive in keeping me away from the BMW museum’s “gift shop.”
The walk really revealed how tired Mira really was. We intended to head straight back to the hotel, but Mira declared (in a first for this trip) that she wanted lunch and, unsurprisingly, wanted to eat pizza. We got off on Odeonplatz and managed to make the longest walk we have on this trip without spying a pizza joint.
Mira in the Englischer Garten
Exhausted and trying to sleep on mommy
We ended up at the pizza place by the hotel, which was quite good and settled in for… another nap!
Refreshed after an afternoon siesta
Our final night included ticking off a todo from the last Munich visit: paying a visit to Spatenhaus. Sonali and I loved the beer, Mira loved the coloring sheet. We finished off the night with dessert from the pizza place of the second night. The mini tiramisu was worth a second visit.
A Spaten at the Spatenhaus
In front of the theater
Todo item checked!
Actually, we really finished at Rewe to go at the Hauptbhanof where we stocked up on pre-packing snacks and wine. It wasn’t long before we were packed and ready for home.
Waiting for the train to the airport, Frozen already on loop
I love Germanic Europe. Day to day activity hits that “just works” vibe. Trains leave and arrive on time, nobody gets offended if you start speaking to them in English, queues are well managed and short, and the transit systems are awesome. More on the latter, one can just get on and off, without any turnstiles or ticket swiping of American systems. It makes things even more efficient and is a super upside of a culture where rules matter.
There’s also a lot to be said for prices that reflect the true cost. Europe can seem expensive, except in the US there’s an additional 25% on top of the listed price at a restaurant. It’s nice when the final printed bill adds up to sum of the items.
Olaf’s story had been bothering me until this trip. He starts melting at the end of the permanent winter, so how did he survive all those summers when things were normal? I guess it was winter when he was created and he stayed in the colder areas of the mountains until Anna found him.
Vienna is a really awesome city, Munich feels like a great place to live, and Salzburg is a tourist trap. Vienna is high on the cities we need to revisit list.
I really don’t get the actions of the trolls. They don’t recognize Anna, even though a young Kristoff remembered the event. It seems that they should know exactly what was going on. It’s Anna’s memory they erased, not thiers. I also don’t get the end game for the parents. Elsa was going to be queen, so you’d think they’d try something more productive than secluding her. (We watched “Frozen” a lot.)
Touring Europe with a two year old wasn’t that hard. we could train or walk everywhere, meaning there was less time for her to be confined in a seat. It also meant she could feel a lot more independent which helped her demeanor and prevented the long negotiations that occur when attempting multiple trips with a car seat.
That said, our daughter is a character. At Hohensalzburg, she tried hiding from us but her position was betrayed by the other patrons that suddenly started laughing. We couldn’t go far without overhearing something about her running, cuteness, or lack of jacket. She probably won’t remember this trip, but she sure had fun.
Mira took very well to Europe