Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Sniders’ Most Excellent European Vacation, 2014: A summary post with some new photos (and video!)

We’re back – and finally I can post to my blog from something other than my iPhone!  What an ordeal THAT was!  I could post only photos taken with my phone and all copy was entered with my fat paws using that teeny tiny iPhone keypad.  This post will be so much easier – and also likely a whole lot longer – than those posted from my phone while abroad.

Let’s review, shall we? 

Packed bags/sad dogs:


Aaaand we’re off!



Arrival in Munchen.  Guess who was there to greet us? Our “third daughter,” LAURA, who lived with us as an AFS exchange student from 2005 to 2006!  How wonderful it was to all be together again as a family!  Within a few hours of our arrival, all of us found ourselves at the Augustiner braustube:


The next morning, after our first German breakfast (oh, how I’ve missed those!)…


…some of us walked around Munich and the Englisher Garten. 




The theaterskirche was one of my mom’s favorite places in Munich.  We happened to enter the church just as beautiful organ music was playing.  That always does me in!



Then we stepped outside and – oh, the majesty!  (I can’t post videos easily from my phone.  See why I wanted to do this last summary post?!)

Munich’s Englisher Garten is absolutely gorgeous.



This spectacle is also for all to enjoy at the Englisher Garten.  For those of us from coastal environments, this is a bit odd.  But hey, they seem to be having a great time!


Our timing in Munich coincided with Frühlingsfest, the Spring version of Oktoberfest.  And by then Eva, our other adopted daughter (for whom I was an AFS liaison in 2006 – 2007) had joined us too!


This evening was most definitely a highlight of our trip!  No words are necessary.  Just join us virtually!  (Feel free to grab a beer first.  Make it a mass!)




Are you feeling the mood yet?  Yeah, it got… well, here:



Ah hell.  Let’s bring you all. the. way. there.

The next day?  Well, a lot of this…


Those of us who felt OK did some more Munich sightseeing.  I was more on a mission to find a replacement for the Bavarian candle that I burn every Christmas Eve in memory of my mother.


I finally got the second one from the left.  It should last many a Christmas Eve to come!

It was so sad to say goodbye to Laura!  But she promised she’d be back to Seattle soon.  She always has a room at our house and a place in our hearts.


Then our group split up for five days, with Peter, Kat and Aleks heading to Zagreb and Croatia (I stole their photos off Facebook!):

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…and Tom, Elisabeth, and me headed to Garmisch-Partenkirchen and the Zugspitze:

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The Zugspitze isn’t all that tall – not even anywhere near as tall as, say, Mt. Rainier – but it does feel as if you’re at the top of the world!




The region around Garmisch-Partenkirchen is beyond beautiful!  My family has plenty of history there. I could easily see myself in an alternative existence in which this is my home.



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We loved the Hotel Zugspitze!  Their accommodations and breakfast were second to none!  We’ll go back to Garmisch someday just to stay there again!

One full day was nowhere near enough for Garmisch, yet every time I plan a trip there, I only give us a day.  Why do I DO that?!  (Especially this time because Tom and I got in a stupid ass fight there and neither of us enjoyed that day – or subsequent ones - as much as we should have.  Lessons learned about required extra patience and understanding while traveling. So dumb.) 


And then, on to Vienna!  This happy man was just minding his own business at the train station.  I sure hope that younger Bavarians and Austrians don’t let this traditional garb go extinct!

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I’ve been to Europe quite a few times, but until now I had never been to Vienna.

One word: WOW.

Our hotel, the Hotel am Stephansplatz was, again, second to none – especially as far as location as concerned (but the service and breakfast was also phenomenal!).

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There’s so much majesty and history in Vienna that it’s easy to become overwhelmed and glaze over.  And to really do the city right, I think you’d need at least a week there. Knowing that, we got out immediately on the evening we arrived.

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The next morning, I had an appointment with Julia, a provenance researcher at the Albertina Museum, regarding the art collection of my Jewish grandfather.  Julia is researching the provenance (lineage and sale history) of some of my grandfather’s pieces.  If you’ve seen the Monuments Men, this is a different vein along the same topic line – that is, Nazi acquisition of art.  The goal is to make things right, even now, so long after it all happened.  I so appreciate Julia and people like her!

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We also delved a bit into Tom’s grandfather’s Vienna connections and history!  On Ancestry.com I was able to find where Tom’s grandfather grew up before emigrating to the United States in 1923.  We thought we’d only be able to explore the outside of the building (just a stone’s throw from the Stephansdom and our hotel!)…


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…but a resident allowed us inside.  What a treat!


This post could be miles long if I just concentrated on all there is to see and learn in Vienna, a city of such incredibly important historical significance.  Rather than botch an attempt, I’ll just post a bunch of photos of our day.  Awestruck is putting it mildly…




(Hey, there’s our hotel!)


Elisabeth’s boyfriend Danny was able to get a few days off work and joined us in Vienna.  Surprise!


What an expensive city.  Would you believe that four coffee drinks and a piece of Sachertorte cost over $50?!  (But oh, how delicious!  I so miss real Eiskaffee!)


From Vienna, we headed east to Budapest, where met up with Peter, Aleks, and Kat.  Again, we did our first discovery tour in the evening.  What a fairy tale of a city!



The food was incredible in Hungary!  My favorite of all the countries we visited.



During the next two days, we explored the St. Stephens basilica (on Segways!)….



…and wrangled everyone for a group shot.


You can’t really visit Budapest without visiting the baths!  (Though some of us did…)


Almost as famous as the mineral baths is the cat café. 

OK, I lied.  That’s not true.  And it’s a little weird.


After Budapest, another train ride, this time through Slovakia, to…....


…Prague, a city that Aleks had fallen in love with in 2010 when he studied there for three months.  I can see why he fell in love with that city!  I felt like a 21st century intruder, and wanted to apologize to old Prague for all the tourists.  That said, everyone in the world who has a chance to see this place, should!  I know, I have double standards.

Once again, we arrived late in the afternoon, had dinner…


(Czech food is almost as good as Hungarian food – certainly as hearty!)


…and explored the city first at night:


Once again, our accommodations were phenomenal.  This is the place I had looked forward to the most and it did NOT disappoint!  We had a two story apartment at the Grand Hotel Praha, directly across from the astronomical clock in Prague’s Old Town Square.  Just look at our views (inside and outside)!



Having this large apartment allowed for some really fun group evenings!


The next day, some of us went to the Prague Castle…


…while others enjoyed Old Town…


and climbed the clock tower.



(See the top window in the orange building to the left of the blue one, above?  That’s our apartment!)




We also enjoyed (?!) some unique Prague art.


Eva and her boyfriend even joined us in Prague!


  The next day, exactly two weeks after the beginning of our trip, we headed back to Munich.


On our last day in Munich, people pretty much did their own thing.  Mine was meeting Thomas during his stopover from a sailing trip in Turkey.  It’s nice to have a forever friend in him!


At 2 AM on the morning of our departure, I received an email from IcelandicAir, informing me that our leg to Iceland would be leaving Munich late, causing us to miss our flight home to Seattle.  I called customer service and was basically told, “Yeah, sorry…”  Aleks tweeted his disappointment in their customer service as well.  Oddly enough (oh, social media, I love you!), I got an email just moments later from a customer service rep at IcelandAir who was able to find us a Lufthansa (and who doesn’t love Lufthansa?!) flight to Vancouver BC, with a puddle jumper on to Seattle.  Needless to say, we were thrilled!  The Lufthansa flight was wonderful, with two hot meals, free drinks, and just all-around great service. 

After 24 hours of travel, we were happy to be back in Seattle just in time for a LONG SLEEP!


Getting back to our everyday lives might be a bit of a challenge, as for well over a year we were all planning for and looking forward to this trip.

Our hope is that this trip, which we hoped would be a “trip of a lifetime” for the kids turned out to be just that.  We are so grateful to Tom’s Uncle Ray for making it possible and wish we could share our experiences with him!

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