Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Sam in Vienna

One of the highlights of our trip was getting to experience Vienna with Sam. He was an excellent traveller, and an enthusiastic participant. So, without further ado, here are a whole bunch of cute pictures of Sam from our trip!

With Natasha at the Hundertwasser Haus.

Hanging out in Beethoven's garden.

Eating wurst at the Prater.

Riding a carousel at Stephansplatz.

Riding a horse at a playground in Rüst

Walking with Natasha and Janice at Heiligenkreuz.

Taking a nap during Bill's lecture in the Opera Café

Walking with Willem and Tessa outside the Belvedere.

Hanging out with Dave near a fountain outside the Melk abbey.

Posing in front of the statue of Mozart just off the Ringstrasse.

Getting ready to disembark from the cog rail train in Puchberg-am-Schneeberg.

Waiting for our flight from Vienna to Toronto.

Hanging out in the sky crib during our 9-hour Vienna-to-Toronto flight.

Up next: A taste of Austria!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Puchberg am Schneeberg

After exploring Vienna, we headed off for the mountains, to the alpine town of Puchberg-am-Schneeberg. Dave's vision was of us enjoying mountain hikes, fresh-flowing streams, and beautiful scenery. However, the weather that greeted us when we arrived in town was grey, rainy and very windy. This meant that the cog rail train that usually travels up the mountain was shut down for the day, and so we spent a bit of time exploring the town, and a lot of time hanging out indoors.
A cloudy view of the mountain.
The license plates in town all started with "NK ...", so we looked around town until we found "our" car!
In the evening, we had a farewell gathering for our tour group. This is a photo of half of the group. This was the end of the tour group's time in Vienna, but we stayed on for an extra day, along with Tim, Janice, Tessa, and Willem, and Bill and Mim, and hoped for clearer weather.
The next day was equally grey, but not quite as windy, so we were able to ride the cog rail up the mountain. This is the "salamander" train that took us up to the top.
A view of the mountains on our way up.
We had a brief stop halfway up the mountain. The track was, unsurprisingly, quite steep.
The weather at the top was even colder -- and snowier -- than at the foot of the mountain. This is a chapel that we walked to, near a mountain lodge where we hung out and had lunch. It was so cold, in fact, that Natasha had to buy an extra pair of socks at the lodge!
Natasha and Sam posing in the slightly sunnier weather on the way back down.
Three intrepid mountain explorers, returning to the bottom.

This is the end of the "narrative" portion of the Vienna blog posts. Each of the next few posts will highlight a particular theme from our trip.

Up next: Sam!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Auf Wiedersehn, Wien (Goodbye, Vienna)

Before leaving for Vienna, we fit in a few last sights and experiences.

A statue of Johann Strauss, famous for the Blue Danube waltz (and many other waltzes) in a park on the way from the pension to the Konzerthaus.

In the evening of our last second-to-last day in Vienna, Dave went to a classical music concert. The concert house was, like many buildings that we visited in Vienna, quite opulent.

On our last full day in Vienna, we went to Café Central, which was a hang-out for Vienna's intellectual and cultural elite in the early 1900's.

Sam visiting a statue of Mozart, near the Opera House.

Willem and Tessa posing near a statue of a Viennese general at the Albertina, a museum near the opera house.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Schönbrunn

One of the last items on our Vienna itinerary was a trip to Schönbrunn, the imperial summer palace. This was a very loosely structured tour, with lots of time to explore the gardens, hedge mazes, zoo, and palace as people saw fit.

The first attraction for us were the roses outside the palace -- they were so impressive that even Dave was compelled to stop and smell them!

The palace itself, seen from the main courtyard. The day started out looking a bit stormy, but ended up clearing quite nicely, and we had great weather for exploring the palace grounds.

The Fountain of Neptune, which is a central part of the gardens behind the palace.


One of the parts of the garden that the kids (Willem and Tessa) were most excited about was the hedge maze. The adults figured that we could make our way quickly and efficiently to the raised platform at the centre of the maze, and then help the kids find their way. As you can see from the picture on the right, this didn't exactly work out as planned!


Sam trying out the chimes in one of the playgrounds near the hedge maze. Dave figured out how to play a song or two, but Sam was a bit less interested.

Sam practising walking along the garden path. He hasn't quite figured out how to maintain his balance, though, so this walk in the park was no walk in the park for him.

Our last stop in Schönbrunn was the Gloriette, which sits on top of a hill behind the palace, and contains a very nice cafe.

From the Gloriette, you can look out over the palace gardens, Schönbrunn, and the city of Vienna.

Up next: Leaving Vienna.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Durnstein Hike

The highlight of our time in Durnstein -- apart from the excellent meal, of course -- was a hike up to the fortress where Richard the Lionheart was imprisoned for three years. Braving the warm weather and the steep trail, a small group of us hiked up from the town to check out the fortress and enjoy the view from the top.

Dave had an extra "handicap", in the form of Sam, who was strapped to Dave's chest for the hike up, and his back on the way down.

A view of the town, as we began our hike. As we climbed higher, we were treated to several amazing views of the Danube River valley.

Some farms across the river.

Looking back up the river towards Melk.
Looking out at Durnstein and some hills a bit further down the river.

Small towns in the river valley, further down the river from Durnstein.

Eventually, we reached the fortress itself. Dave thought this view of the valley through a stone archway was cool.

Natasha celebrating after having reached the top.

Dave, Sam, Tessa, Willem and Carol get a taste of being imprisoned. No one looks too concerned, though. Fortunately, everyone was let out after significantly less than three years.

Looking up at the fortress from the banks of the Danube.

After the hike and dinner, we're ready to get back on the bus and return to Vienna.

Up next: Stopping to smell the roses at Schoenbrunn palace.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Danube River Cruise

The next part of our day trip was a cruise down the Danube River, from Melk to Durnstein. Fortunately, the weather was beautiful, so we got to relax, visit, and enjoy the scenery.

Rolling green hills flanking the Danube River.

More rolling hills, this time with a few houses and a small church.

Terraced farming of some kind -- a vineyard? An orchard? In any case, the terraces were an interesting contrast with the wooded hills, and quite scenic in their own way.

Up ahead, we can see the small town of Durnstein. This town is famous for the fort at the top of the hill, where Richard the Lionheart was imprisoned for three years on his way back from the Crusades.

Here we are at the Blondel restaurant in Durnstein, where we had a fantastic dinner. In the background is the main church and a few other houses.

Up next: Hiking up to the fort!