An Austrian/German Christmas

When we were talking about this year and the things we wanted to see, one of the high points on my list was Germany/Austria’s Christmas markets. I can’t tell you the history of the markets, (year they began, why they began), but this is where the Christmas market tradition began. So we planned a return visit to these countries with the main purpose of checking out markets, and experiencing a nice cosy/traditional German Christmas. I mentioned before that Nathan’s parents met up with us for this leg of the trip, and it was so fun sharing the experience with them J We started off in Vienna, which had markets everywhere we turned. And so much history…we took a tour of the Schonnbrunn Palace, where Mozart played his first concert for the Empress, took a quick peek in St Stephen’s Cathedral, which was also home base for a lot of world renowned musicians/composers (sorry, I am not too into classical music, so the facts didn’t really stick, but I think Handel was a choirboy here, Mozart applied to be the choir master, but passed away just before his term was to start….). Vienna was the place to be if you were a musician back in the day. And the cakes…..mmmmmm the cakes. It was a good thing we were walking so much, because the cakes and chocolates were too delicious not to eat. Vienna was a great way to get into the Christmas spirit and feel like we were getting a little bit of winter. And the Christmas markets were a lot of fun. I think my favourite one was where every booth had homemade wares to sell. There were leather goods, puppets, ceramics; all hand made, and all with something a little different. The boys had some spending money and did pretty good with buying things they wanted as well as remembering that we didn’t have a lot of space in our bags to be filled up with “stuff.”

After a week in Vienna, we headed back to one of our favourite places: Salzburg. The boys were quite happy to be back in a city we knew, and played at the park outside Hellbrunn Palace for a good hour. We checked out some more Christmas markets, and enjoyed some delicious Austrian/Hungarian food. The boys had fun playing in the snow and at the play place outside our lodgings for the weekend. Then it was down to southern Germany, where we stayed at an Airbnb in the country. We did a few day trips checking out the towns in the area, and went back to Neuschwanstein Castle, which we were able to tour this time since tours were not sold out (kinda nice not going at the height of tourist season 😉 ). The boys had fun sledding and playing at a park close to the house, but I think because it was a little colder out, and the sun is setting earlier, there weren’t any other kids their age out to play with. Drove from Wildsteig to Munich, and spent a day there in the main square. Then it was time to say goodbye to Nathan’s parents, and hop on a train to Italy. We are so glad that we went back to this area, and really felt like we got some Christmas and winter in before we head to warmer places. It is going to be different having a “warm” Christmas, and we’re not quite sure what to expect in terms of “Christmas” (decorations, music, etc on the ship and in Dubai), so these two weeks really felt like we got a “home” Christmas.

So that’s it for today…catch you on the next post 🙂

Croatia

 

Hello everyone! So, I’m currently sitting on the balcony of our cruise ship…the MSC Splendida, listening to Isaac and Nathan laughing inside the room, while Jo is upstairs at kids club in Lego heaven. He went up this morning, and told us to come back at 5 tonight to get him 😉 We are docked just outside Rome, but since we’ve already toured the city, we decided to stay on board and chill. There’s just something about a cruise that has that relaxing effect. Anyways, we are leaving Europe, and it’s a hard goodbye, as we so enjoyed our five months here and made so many great memories here; that being said, we also know that there is so more in this big old world of ours to explore, and if we stay in one spot, we’ll miss out on the other beautiful places. So we are heading down to Dubai for the next leg of our trip. We managed to get in a couple of weeks of winter, snow, and Christmas while exploring Austria and Germany with Nathan’s parents, who flew into Vienna to meet us. It was awesome to experience the Christmas markets and countryside with them, and we are so grateful they made the trip out to meet up with us. It always feels like a little bit of home having family with us, so thanks Mom and Dad!

Anyways, this post is to catch up (a little bit) on our weeks in Croatia. We spent 2 weeks there in November. 9 days in Split was bookended by a couple of nights in Zagreb.   Although it was quite rainy in Zagreb, we made the most of our time (and rainjackets), and managed to explore most of the highlights of the city. We even ran into the Canadian ambassador to Croatia, and had a nice chat with him outside of the embassy. It doesn’t sound like much, but it was so nice to connect with another Canadian and talk for a few minutes about home. We had debated going all the way down to Dubrovnik, but I had read that Split was more authentic Croatia, and not as touristy. In the interest of not moving around too much, we decided to just go to Split and stay there for the week and a half. We took a bus/train to Split, where you will find one of the coolest Roman palaces, and one most the beautiful waterfronts. Our apartment looked out over the harbor, and there was a different cruise ship in port every morning when we woke up. Amazing. We met some friends (new friends), who lived a few streets over, and had a boy Josiah’s age, and a younger daughter. Both boys loved having a friend to play football with, and change up the dynamics of just playing with each other for a bit. We spent most days going for walks, sitting at the beach (Isaac, Jo and Nathan went in, but it was a little too chilly for me), and getting groceries. We walked 14 km one day along the coast of Kastell…a cool town with 7 castles along it. So beautiful, and we had the whole place to ourselves since it was definitely not tourist season. It is not hard to imagine why so many Europeans come to Croatia for summer vacation…the water is amazing….crystal clear, shallow, and warm. We also made cookies. Not a big deal to most of you I’m sure, but when you haven’t had a homemade cookie in forever, they were amazing! We also had to work with what we had…no chocolate chips to be found, and no cookie trays… so we cut up chocolate bars, and put tin foil over the oven shelf. I even found a recipe online using only nutella and flour. Yum yum!!! The boys also made supper one night. They looked up a recipe for a common Croatian meal, had a budget, went shopping, and made the food. They are quite the little chefs.

We decided to rent a car for the trip back to Zagreb, so we could stop at Plitvice National Park. All I can say is WOW! The picture do NOT do it justice. We are outdoorsy people, and could have stayed here all day. Water everywhere, and so many hiking trails….we were in our glory J But all good things come to an end, so we head out of the park at closing, and made it back to Zagreb in a couple hours.

We loved Croatia, especially Split and Plitvice. If we could go back every year, I think we would (especially in warmer months).

Speaking of warmer months, I will be offline for the next couple of weeks, as we head down south and make our way over to Dubai. The cruise gets into Dubai on December 23, and we likely won’t have internet until then (have you seen the cost of internet on a cruise ??? 😉 ) Just wanted to say thanks for checking in, and hope you all have an amazing, relaxed Christmas season. We will be thinking of you all, and missing you all (especially during the holiday season), but know that we are having a once in a lifetime experience, and it really won’t be long until we are on our way home saying “where did the year go?” An early Merry Christmas to you all! See you in Dubai 🙂

Serbia and Slovenia

Other than the fact that they just flow together nicely when reading them (is it called alliteration?…my English lessons are not kicking in right now), I am putting our visits to Serbia and Slovenia in one post in the interest of catching up and keeping it simple (see what I did there?  Another “S” word).  Anyways, when we started this trip, Serbia and Slovenia were not on the list of places we planned to visit.  Well, as we started looking at getting from Greece to Croatia, we decided to stop in and check out Belgrade, since we had some time to play with, and thought it looked interesting.  Then we spent a couple weeks in Croatia, and decided to stop in Ljubljana, Slovenia on the way to Germany; again, because it looked cool and we had heard great things about it.

So, let’s start with Belgrade.  We had no idea what to expect, what food was common, what to see….it was literally a last minute decision.  We took the overnight train from Thessaloniki to Belgrade, going through Macedonia (interesting experience, and I highly recommend taking the day train over the night one if you ever decide to do it).  Anyways, arriving in Belgrade, we headed to our Airbnb apartment, and were pleasantly surprised to learn that most people speak English, and were more than willing to help out when we asked any questions.  The barber in the building next to the apartment let us use his phone no problemo when our cells didn’t work to call the Airbnb host.  We spent 3 days in Belgrade, and were in a great area for exploring.  We walked around and checked out the shops, spent a day at the zoo, and ate a lot of really good sandwiches and freshly popped popcorn from street vendors.  Oh yes, and I had a pigeon fly into my head while he was diving to pick up some bread someone dropped.  So that was fun 😉  Hahah.  Anyways, Belgrade has soooo much street life, old buildings, great pedestrian walking areas.   It has beautiful old streets, and we even got to see the Christmas lights lit up the night before we left.  Awesome!  It was a great stop, and we really enjoyed seeing a part of the world we never planned on seeing this trip.

From Serbia we went to Croatia, which I will post about later…and then we had a quick one night stop in Ljubljana, Slovenia.  All I can say about Ljubljana is WOW!  The town centre is sooooo pretty.  It was our first taste of cold weather, and I ended up buying a winter jacket at the market there.  We spent the day wandering around (as we like to do), and checking out the markets.  Then checked into the hotel and took a break before heading out to see the town at night with the lights and evening life.  So many people eating out in the cafes with outdoor furnaces and blankets…just soaking up life and being social.  The smell of roasting chestnuts was everywhere, and the pictures really don’t do the old town justice, but you can kind of see how pretty it is with the last picture up there.  Anyways, if you are in the area, I highly recommend a stop in Ljubljana, even if it’s just for one night 😉

Anyways, hope you are all doing well and enjoying the first day of December.  It’s cold and snowy here in Wildsteig, Germany, but we are keeping warm in front of an iron wood stove.  Miss you all, and sending our hugs and love to everyone!!!