Perhaps it was being in such a gorgeous setting or having just spent a few days with good friends in southern Germany. Maybe it was the effect of visiting the mountains again, an environment which seems to suit my soul despite my Midwestern roots. Whatever the reason, the two days we spent in the Austrian Alps put me into an overwhelming, all-consuming, tears-of-joy-welling-up-in-my-eyes state of complete and total gratitude. I was continuously overcome with appreciation for my family and for the many people who have given us support and encouragement to take this journey together. Sometimes it’s hard for my brain to comprehend we’re actually getting to do this – traveling around the world with our kids, navigating new cultures, taking on a nomadic existence for a while. It’s something that used to be a pipe dream and somehow it’s now a reality. We are so thankful to have this opportunity and even more grateful so many people have been supportive, excited, and willing to help us make this happen.
It probably goes without saying, given my Pollyanna Positive mindset, that the Austrian Alps were awesome. (Cue the “Everything is Awesome” song from Lego Movie here.) We stopped in Salzburg on our way there, which turned out to be quite an eclectic little city. In addition to its fountains, fortified castle, beautiful buildings, and bell towers, Salzburg also has a pedestrian bridge with thousands of locks attached to the railings, a street with the fanciest store signs known to man, and a series of pickle statues.
Of course, the girls probably won’t remember any of this because all their memories of Salzburg will revolve around a turtle. Yes, you read that correctly. We happened upon an abnormally friendly turtle as we were walking up through a residential area. The girls spotted him in a gated yard, and I was surprised when he immediately crossed the length of the property, rather quickly for a turtle, and marched over to the gate to check us out. I finally pulled the girls away to go see the viewpoint we’d been walking toward. However, on the way back down there he was again rushing over to greet us. After feeding him a few flowers and obliging his apparent request for some turtle love by rubbing his outstretched neck, we finally had to depart this little reptilian petting zoo. The girls would have stayed there all day if we’d let them.
After saying goodbye to our turtle friend, we made our way deep into the Alps, driving through beautiful farmlands nestled between the mountains. At one point Brian said, “Do you smell that? It smells like band-aids here?” Ummm…manure, dear. It’s called manure, but good for you that your bizarre olfactory receptors interpret it as band-aids.
We spent two nights at the Aparthotel Montana in Bad Mitterndorf, which included a kids’ toy room, trampoline, outdoor play set, and soccer field. The fact that two horses were also grazing in the pasture next door was pretty much the icing on the cake for the kids. Brian and I were more stoked about our room’s huge balcony and its panoramic view of Mt. Grimming. The hotel also had one of the most polite and helpful front desk managers I’ve ever encountered. He even gave us a bottle of wine as a parting gift from the hotel’s general manager when we checked out.
We took full advantage of our brief time in the Alps. Our first afternoon there, Brian and the girls took a boat out on a nearby lake while I sat on the shore relaxing and enjoying the view. However, I got a lot more scenery than I bargained for when a young couple rode up on their bikes, parked right next to me, and proceeded to remove all their clothing for a skinny dip in the lake. It was an awkward and somewhat surreal experience, especially when they stood around naked chatting for a bit prior to their entry and after their exit from the water. Luckily, they air-dried, dressed, and pedaled away before Brian and the girls came back around the bend from their boat ride. After the abundance of nudity in Croatia I don’t think the girls’ little brains need to bear witness to anymore stranger nakedness for a while….or how about ever, for that matter.
The next day we took the lift up to Tauplitz Alm for some hiking and gorgeous views. Brian and Emily climbed to a nearby peak and came upon paragliders as they sailed off the side of the mountain. That night we ate some of the best pizza we’ve had in Europe at a little hole-in-the-wall place we stumbled upon in the town center. Later we watched from our balcony as one of this summer’s “super moons” rose over the mountains. Everything we did in the Alps seemed to have a little unexpected twist to it.
Our time in Bad Mitterndrof served as a nice rural retreat before our month of urban living in Prague. I found a renewed appreciation for this journey and experienced more abnormalities than I thought possible during a short two-day trip. Salzburg has a thing for pickles and locks, turtles have personalities, nudity apparently follows me everywhere I go, and my husband evidently mistakes cow patties for Johnson & Johnson products.