Monday, January 7, 2019

Friday, January 4, 2019: Bratislava to Vienna – Flying to Chicago.

            Our night did not go as planned.  As everyone was getting ready for bed, Cherie began feeling sick.  Within an hour she was in the bathroom. She had a miserable night, in and out of the bathroom.  Since we were in a triple room, we could hear her, thus not sleeping well ourselves.  Cherie was in bed when we left this morning.  We felt horrible about leaving her like this, but at least friends are nearby if she needs help.  We hope after sleeping most of the morning she will be feeling a lot better by check-out time.  We told them at the hotel desk that she may need a late check-out time.       

We had no problem getting to the airport, returning the car and getting to our gate, etc. The airport was busy, but not congested at this time of the morning.
Chicago here we come!  We are seated in the front row of the Premium Economy section, which is wonderful – so much leg room!   
Thursday, January 3, 2019: St Valentin back to Bratislava: 

We were not pushed to get on the road early this morning.  Our first destination is the Melk Abby where public tours begin at 11:00.  After a leisurely breakfast we drove to Melk. Melk is where we stayed for New Year’s Eve, but the following morning we did not want to wait around until 11:00 am for a tour Jan 1.

The Melk Abby is a “must see” if you are in the area.  Our tour guide spoke wonderful English, and she was extremely knowledgeable.  There is so much history to be discussed, with displays and models to show the changes through time.  The Monastery/Abby was begun by St. Benedict in 1089. The current Abbey (Monastery) is home to 30 monks ranging from 22 to 97 years old.  The Abbey has 500 rooms, of which all are used. They have a school for 900 local students and 100 teachers.  The church is one of the most magnificent we have seen on this trip.  Everything seems to be “dripping” with gold.  They have huge libraries, which at one time housed the original Guttenberg Bible, before it was sold to raise needed funds for restoration.  The Bible is currently at Yale University.  This is an impressive edifice overlooking the village of Melk and the Danube River.

Reusable Coffin


Our next destination was Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna.  Thanks to Google Maps we drove directly to the Palace. By the time we arrived it was blowing snow.  Luckily, we found a parking spot within easy walking distance. The earliest tour of the Palace was 3:20, giving us plenty of time for strolling the Christmas market located in the large courtyard in front of the Palace, in the snow.

We were pleased to know the Palace tour is self-guided with the help of free audio players.  There was a crowd going through the Palace, but you could spend as much time in each room as you needed.  It is a beautiful Palace with all the history of the Habsburg dynasty.  We bought tickets for the Grand Tour, enabling us to see more than the ceremonial rooms.

By the time we left the Palace at least 1 ½ inches of snow had accumulated, and it was still coming down. Again, the streets were congested, but with the help of GPS we got out of Vienna as quickly as possible.  We did not know what we would encounter on our drive east to Bratislava, SK, but we drove out of snow very quickly. 

As we had known, our friends had family with them from Doha, Qatar, so we needed to stay in a hotel this time while in Bratislava.  We drove directly to our reserved hotel, just down the street from our friend’s apartment.  Our last meal was eaten at the same restaurant we had our first dinner, after arriving in Europe.  The Loft Hotel & Fabrika restaurant is a wonderful place in Bratislava. 

After dinner we walked to our friends for dessert of birthday cake and to pick up the extra suitcase, we brought from Mt Pleasant, with gifts for them. We are now taking gifts back to Mt Pleasant!

The last job tonight is pre-checking into our flight, repacking suitcases with fragile gifts and getting to bed, as the alarms are set for 5:30 am.  We are flying from Vienna Airport, which is a 40-plus minute drove from Bratislava.

Cherie is leaving from Bratislava airport on January 5.  She will be spending tomorrow with our friends and staying overnight with them tomorrow. The gals (high school classmates) are going for a massage, spa, lunch and whatever else they have planned.
Wednesday, January 2, 2019: St Wolfgang to St Valentin: 

            We awoke to snow! Last night there was heavy rain so when the temperature dropped, it became white!  It is still snowing this morning.  After breakfast, we walked around St Wolfgang again, this time taking photos in the snow. There were no distance photos, due to heavy snow.
View from our Hotel

Carved Figures in the Snow

Our Hotel on the Right

            From St Wolfgang we continue to drive toward Salzburg, stopping at the villages of St Gilgen, Fuschl, and Hof, before driving into the center of Salzburg.  We parked in a parking garage, so we did not have to worry about parking time. 

            We Googled the Free Walking Tour of Salzburg and followed it as we walked throughout Salzburg. The Centrum covers a relatively small area, so we saw a lot in a short time. We saw several Sound of Music locations, several churches, several shopping areas/Christmas markets, several square/plazas, and several locations dealing with Mozart. Salzburg is still marketing Sound of Music! 
Horse Washing Area

Christmas Market


Farmers Market

Austrian Pretzels

French Cathedral with its tall Pillars

It seemed to be getting darker somewhat earlier than usual, but we didn’t think too much about it.  However, while in the Mirabell Castle, we glanced outside and saw a blizzard had just begun.  Blizzard is hardly the word for it!  Everyone was covered in white very quickly, and we still had to walk back to the car. We did dash inside several more locations before getting to the car.
Oldest Restaurant in Salzburg - 803

Cemetery from Sound of Music

Where the Van Trapps hid behind tomb stones

Salzburg Dom

Ancient road through the Alps to Italy

Damage on wall where an American tank tried to enter, WWII

Mirabell Castle

Salzburg Castle from Mirabell

Staircase in Mirabell

Mirabell Marble Concert Hall

            We had a hotel reservation in St Valentin, approximately 90 miles west of Salzburg, on the A1 autobahn toward Vienna. Due to the heavy snow, traffic eastbound was congestion for more than an hour. The streets and highway were snow packed for at least 40 miles east of Salzburg. We finally had open highway.