Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Truth About Hallstatt...

Hallstatt, Austria.

Beautiful Hallstatt, Austria

It is beautiful isn't?  I wanted to do a blog posting on what Hallstatt is really like.

While I was planning our vacation, I searched and searched to find out if we should go to Hallstatt or not.  It looked beautiful, but I was hesitant.  I knew that there would be a lot of tourists there (I am fully aware we are tourists too), but we do not like places that are overrun with tourists.  Remember our day in Rothenburg ob der tauber?  Anyway, I had read it could possibly be busy but that we should visit anyway.  We like to do things that a most traditional tourists do not do, so I figured we would be safe.  I mean, how bad can some tourists be?

Boy was I in for a surprise.  I have never seen so many Asians in one spot in my entire life.  I had no idea that instead of seeing any Austrians, we would see so many Asians.  Now, I would like to point out that I am in no way racist against Asians.  One of my closets friends from high school is Asian.  I have no issue with Asian tourists other than the fact that they have zero self awareness, run and push, and are so concerned about rushing to get their picture that they could care less about anyone or anything else in the process.

The moment we checked into our beautiful hotel, Gruner Baum, I had wondered if I had made a bad decision in coming to Hallstatt.  There was an instance where we were trying to enter our hotel's front door and we simply could not because so many Asians were blocking the door and had zero regard for us saying excuse me.  It was bad.  It was so bad that our hotel had Asian music playing during breakfast and even had egg rolls and noodles for breakfast.  It was bad.  It was very clear that Asians make up the majority of the tourists that come to Hallstatt, so it is hard to blame the hotel for catering towards them, but it was still frustrating to us since we wanted local cuisine.

There is so much catering to the Asians that the advertisements for drindl rentals are shown with an Asian girl on the billboards.  It seems as though the entire village has accepted that the Asians are their target audience, which does not bode well for us non-Asians.

You might be wondering why the Asians are so obsessed with Hallstatt.  We learned that a Chinese business man built a replica of the village because he found it to be so beautiful.  I guess it is a status symbol in certain Asian countries to say you have visited the real thing, even if it is for a few hours to take a picture.

My advice to you if you want to visit this beautiful area, is to stay in Obertraun, which is across the lake from Hallstatt.  There area a few Airbnb options in this area and also a few hotels and restaurants.  Our afternoon in Obertraun was delightful.

Our bikes just outside of Obertraun with Hallstatt across the lake.

The view of Hallstatt from Obertraun

If you stay in Obertraun, it will be a lot less busy and possibly a little more enjoyable.  You can take the train to Obertraun or ride the ferry over from Hallstatt.  If you get off the train at Hallstatt, do not worry, it is a short 20 minute walk to Obertraun which is no big deal if you are wearing backpacks.  Wheelie bags might be a different story!

If you do choose to stay in Hallstatt, I would suggest to plan activities that take you out of town during the day.  If not, be prepared to be pushed, shoved, and not to get any pictures of anything you want that does not have a hundred Asians with their Nikons. 

We enjoyed our time in Hallstatt, but it was an area that we will not visit again, which is too bad since it is so beautiful.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Life Lately...

Things have been pretty uneventful the past few weeks. School has started back for me, (yay!) and I am finding a new routine.  

My two loves heading out for a walk while I was going running.  I love that fluffy tail.

We spent last Sunday afternoon at one of our favorite places, Somerset Winery, with some of our favorite people!  We were celebrating my last full time week in the OR.  

The beautiful sunset we got to see on our walk the other night.  There are not many things that I love about Kansas, but the sunsets are definitely one of them!

I have night time clinicals this semester and I had my first one on Thursday this past week.  I woke up on Friday afternoon to this.  I think they were super concerned as to why their overly active mama was sleeping during the day!  Angel had also brought me one of her toy mice to sleep with, what a sweetheart!

That is a peek into our life lately!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Missouri State Fair...

Corn dogs, funnel cakes, carnival games, live stock, and lemonade all in one place?  Sign us up!  Can you believe that Ken and I neither one had ever been to a state fair before?  I guess considering that the Missouri State Fair takes place in August and it is usually in the triple digits might be one reason we had never gone.  With milder August temperatures, we decided to change that.

We woke up on Saturday morning and Ken told me his goal for the day was to win me a prize.  He told me he wanted to go to the fair.  Who am I to deny myself of a corn dog?

We loaded up and made our way to Sedalia, MO for a little fun at the State Fair.

We were both surprised with how large the fair was!

Ready for some fun at the Fair!

We spent most of the day wandering around looking at pigs, chickens, and of course the other people at the fair.  We played a few games, ate a corn dog or two, and enjoyed some beer and lemonade.  We avoided riding any rides because, you know, a basic rule should be to never ride something that can be assembled in less than a day.  Plus, on a girls trip we once met a carney and I have to question this guys ability to problem solve, therefore, he is my only example of the traveling crew, hence no carnival rides for us.  :)

The mule cart show with a lady driver that we watched.  We had no clue what was going on, but we had fun commenting on the carts and the mules.

Ken enjoying his beer at the fair

The proud owner of a stuffed husky that only cost us $30 in games to win, but you know, winning the husky made it more fun!

We definitely had a fun afternoon at the fair!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Happenings Before Vacation...

The week before we left for Europe was super busy for us!  We did a lot of fun things that I want to be sure and document.

After working an afternoon at White House, Sier'a and I went out for a glass of wine to celebrate her recent graduation.  This girl is in the process of applying for medical school and I am so excited for her!

I absolutely adore Sier'a!  We had a great time chatting about everything.  

Ken and I went out for Sunday brunch.  We were wanting to go to the Voltaire, which is amazing, but they do not open until 11:00.  We decided to go to the Royale, which is next door, and it was amazing!  They have wonderful bloody Mary's and our food was to die for.

Sunday brunch at the Royale

We celebrated our favorite teenager having a birthday.  Mr. Braeson turned 15 on our anniversary, so we celebrated with an early birthday dinner.

Between the two of us it is a toss up as to who can eat more sweets.

Our friend Jane had us over for dinner a few nights before we left.  She had done a similar trip in the 90's and had us over so we could see her pictures and discuss things she did while in Europe.  She was so sweet and cooked us a German meal complete with dessert.  We had a wonderful evening spending time with her and are very grateful that she is only one mile from our door.

I love that she decorated with German beer steins!

Delicious dessert by Jane!

It seems like it was forever ago, but it was an amazing week with so many different friends!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Europe 2016: Day 15 and 16...Coming Home...

On Friday, June 10th, I woke up and ran around Vienna. We were staying in Old Town, near the Danube River, so I took the opportunity to run on the trail that runs along the river.  It was a well needed run for what I knew was going to be a long day.

As I had mentioned before, we had not had a lot of luck in Hallstatt and Vienna with the locals being all that friendly.  We had a few waiters be very nasty to us and then a Viennese lawyer that Ken spoke to at the bar one evening who was not rude, but certainly was not fond of the United States.  I think the funniest part of the exchange was the man asking Ken his opinion of Vienna and other European cities and then completing dissing Ken's opinion and basically telling him he is an idiot.

Anyway, we did not have a lot of luck in Austria, with the exception of Salzburg.  The morning of our departure, we had the pleasure of being exposed to a few of the nicest people of our trip.  Ken went down to the hotel breakfast area to order lattes for us.  He was chatting with the waitress and she told him thank you for being so kind and did not charge us for the lattes.  Ken said she was so pleasant and he really appreciated talking to her.  We also decided to take a cab to the airport instead of messing with the train and our cab driver was so sweet.

We talked to him about where we had been and the cities we loved.  He was so pleasant to speak with for the 30 minute cab ride.

Security at the airport was simple. We had a short flight from Vienna to London.  Once we arrived to Heathrow, we had lunch and boarded our long flight to Seattle on British Airways.  I had reserved us aisle seats directly across from each other since I definitely did not want a middle seat with all of the rows being three seats wide.

I ended up sitting next to a British couple, Barry and Maureen, that was flying to the US to go to Montana and Yellowstone.  Barry ended up being my BFF by the time the flight was over.  He and I talked for about half of the flight and Ken and I stood at the back of the plane hanging out with the flight attendants for the remainder of the flight.

We arrived in Seattle and were delayed a bit because of an issue in London.  We were also further held up in customs because sadly, Ken got the black X on his customs card.  The customs officers were super nice and got a kick out of my customs card picture only showing half of my face since I am too short for the cameras.

Sadly, we arrived to our connecting flight to Kansas City just as the plane was pushing away from the jetway.  I have never felt such disappointment in my life.  I just wanted to get home.  There may have been a moment in the Seattle airport where Ken and I thought we might kill each other.  Emotions were running high and we could not make a decision about what we were doing.  We were too tired to think.

Alaska Airways booked us on a flight for the morning and Ken and I ended up staying in a hotel that British Airways reimbursed us for.  The biggest issue was that I was worried about getting Kya from daycare since we would not get home until 5:00 pm on Saturday.  Thank goodness for friends like Michelle.  She and Rob picked Kya up for us on Saturday and dropped her off at home.  I felt such relief knowing Kya would be waiting on us!

We had breakfast at the Hilton on Saturday morning, thanks to British Airways and boarded our flight for Kansas City.  We wished we hadn't been so tired so we could have explored Seattle on Friday night, but we were too exhausted.  I am pretty sure we both were asleep by 8:00 pm!  Next time, next time.

We made it home Saturday evening and had three happy hooligans!

Kya was so excited to see her daddy!

These two were thrilled we were home!  Thanks to Scott and our neighbor Laura for checking on these two.

One of my favorite part about visiting Europe is the chocolate and desserts I eat there.  I was so happy to get some of my favorite chocolate bars to bring home.

My loot.  The blue bars on the front our my favorite.  I bought most of this while we were in Lauterbrunnen and I carried it around for the remainder of our trip.  I was happy it all made it home safe and sound.  That is commitment.  

All and all, we had an amazing trip.  We cannot wait until we can make our next trip to Europe.  I wish I could say we knew where, but we just are not sure yet.  I do know one thing for sure, Lauterbrunnen has not seen the last of the Jackson's!  

Thanks for such an amazing trip Ken!  There is no one else I would rather spend two weeks with, wandering around not understanding a word being spoken, and washing my underwear in the sink with on a trip!  Thanks for working so hard and making this trip possible.  

Monday, July 18, 2016

Europe 2016: Day 14...The Vienna Zoo and the

From the moment I knew we were going to Vienna I was certain of one that we would do, go to the zoo!  I knew that it was the oldest zoo in all of Europe and that they have panda bears.  I like to call that a win, win.

We woke up on Thursday and set out for the zoo.  We stopped for lattes and pastries because you know, we were in Vienna and they are certainly known for lattes and pastries.

My pastry was this delicious chocolate filled piece of Heaven. 

We used the subway to get to the zoo and were greeted with the opportunity to wander around Schonbrunn Palace before going inside the zoo.  I was unaware that the zoo is basically located on the grounds of Schonbrunn Palace.  You can definitely say that I learned a few things on this trip.

We arrived at the zoo and our first stop was to see the panda bears.  There is an adult panda and a younger, more teenager panda.  Sadly for us, the younger panda was napping, but we did get to see the adult panda enjoying a snack!

I was in love with this panda bear!  I had so much fun watching him eat his bamboo.  I kept thinking that he was not real.  He was such a cutie.

My first time to see a panda bear!

Being silly outside the panda exhibit

After our enjoyment of the pandas, we wandered around the rest of the zoo.  We got to see a baby elephant that was up to no good playing in his area.  He was pretty cute.

The darling baby elephant

We visited the monkey house

Before we left the zoo, we stopped back by the pandas to see if maybe the younger panda was a wake.  We were bummed to learn he was still sleeping.  After the animal viewing, we made our way back near the palace for a little lunch.

Schonbrunn Palace

Schonbrunn Palace.  This is the view I remember being a pit stop in an episode of the Amazing Race.

After the zoo, we wandered around downtown Vienna and stopped for a drink before heading back to our hotel to relax.  

Downtown Vienna is so unbelievably charming.

After a nap and me venturing out to buy some chocolate, we took the bus North of the city to visit Vienna's wine areas.  Vienna has vineyards within the city limits and they are called heurigens.  These wine gardens have food to choose from and a great selection of white wines.   

The first heurigen we chose to visit was called Weinhof Zimmerman.  First off, I have to give a shout out to Ken for navigating the Vienna bus system.  He did a fabulous job and a sweet lady on the bus verified we were heading in the correct direction.  

Weinhof Zimmerman had views of the vineyards

The building was super charming

Our food we chose, which was delicious.  We have stuffed red peppers with cream cheese, spinach strudel, fried zucchini, potatoes, and a stuffed red pepper.  It was all so wonderful!

The view of the wine garden.  The couple on the right was totally making out when I first walked up there for a picture.  Awkward.  

I wish I had tried the rose!

So, our experience at the Weinhof Zimmerman ended on a bad note.  You order and pay for food inside, but the wine is brought to your table by a waiter.  Well, this guy did not like us.  Our bill was 5.60 euros and apparently, he thought we were going to leave him a 5 euro tip.  The funny thing is that no one around us was tipping.  We watch for those kinds of things when traveling because in Switzerland and Germany, you do not tip.  Basically, he called us a bunch of jerks in front of all of the other patrons.  He did not say anything to the Austrians, just us Americans.  We were pretty disappointed with the service we received in Austria as a whole.

We walked back to the bus stop and decided to visit another heuriger that was on the main road where the bus ran.  We did not eat at this one, but received much better service and was not instantly disliked for being American.

I know he likes beer more, but he enjoyed his white wine in Vienna.

A cute heurigen that I forgot the name of.

We wrapped up our evening running back to our hotel from the train station since it started raining on us.  We enjoyed our short time in Vienna so much, despite some people not being so nice to us.

I loved our morning at the Vienna zoo!

Up next, we travel home and it ended up being a two day adventure.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Europe 2016: Day 13...Vienna...

I woke up on Wednesday an ran around Hallstatt.  Hallstatt is not that big, but I managed to get a four mile run in.  We packed up and made our way to the ferry to get to the train station to go to Vienna!

Early morning view from our balcony

Saying good-bye to beautiful Hallstatt!

When we boarded the ferry, we were the only non-Asian people on the ferry and it was quite crowded.  All of the other passengers had huge wheely bags and were packed in there.  Ken and I decided to wait until the very last minute to board the ferry, since being trampled by a group of Asian tourists with wheely bags is a real fear that we have.  In that moment, it seemed possible!

Anyway, the ferry driver did not like Ken and me and ended up mumbling "Stupid American" to Ken.  I pretty much lost my shit on him.  Ken had no clue what was going on and thought I was picking a fight with the Asians.  It was a pretty funny situation, but the ferry worker was completely out of line for no reason.  Honestly, we blamed Fritz at the bike rental for wishing bad karma on us.  In other news, the second ferry worker was super nice and talked to us all about the places we had traveled and asked us questions about the United States.

Alas, we were aboard a the train to Vienna.  The ride from Hallstatt to Vienna was about three and half hours and we both took little cat naps.

We arrived to Vienna and figured out how to get to the downtown/Old Town and checked into our room.  We quickly realized that Vienna is absolutely gorgeous!  It is the most beautiful city we have ever visited.

Downtown Vienna

St. Stephen's Cathedral

We really just ended up wandering around Vienna our first day.  We stopped for lunch and topped it off with an amazing gelato sundae.  We later learned that we were staying right by all of the gelato hot spots that were famous in Vienna for gelato.  I have never seen so many people eat ice cream!  It seems as though the Viennese love gelato, wine, and coffee, three of my favorite things!.  I told Ken that I am definitely Viennese at heart.  

Vienna is known for white wine.  

Ken enjoying his wine and the sunshine in Vienna

We had a beautiful blue sky day to sit outside and enjoy wine while we were people watching.

Downtown Vienna.  I really liked the architecture of the buildings with all of the detail.  

Downtown Vienna

After a few glasses of wine, we wandered over to the Hofburg Imperial Palace and gardens.  

Hofburg Palace.  It was stunning from the outside and quite huge.  We did not go inside, but enjoyed wandering around the gardens.

There was a dog park on the grounds and we stopped to watch the dogs play.  This guy here is getting in a lot of trouble and we watched him get a stern talking to.  It really made me miss Kya!  

Enjoying the gardens at Hofburg Palace

The Volksgarten

We found a cute place for dinner and wandered around Vienna a little more.  We were not ready to go to bed yet, so we found a place with outdoor seating to enjoy some more wine.  

It was a lovely evening in Vienna!

The Opera House sets up a TV to show the Opera to people on the streets.  We sat for a few moments and watched, but since we do not know much German, we did not stay long.  It was really cool to see the production that was going on inside the building.

Vienna at night

Us with St. Stephen's Cathedral

Vienna was a welcomed change of pace for us after all of the outdoorsy stuff we had been doing.  We went to bed very grateful to get to see such a beautiful city.

Up Next, another day in Vienna!