1. Day 1/10: Bratislava’s Historic Old Town

    Friday began our first official day of the tour.  We woke up and met our group at a hotel near the Vienna airport.  There are a few members of the group within my age range, but the majority are in between my mom and grandma.  The whole group is comprised of smaller groups - couples, siblings, parents and children (adult children), etc.  I think that every small group has at least one person with Slovak ancestry… as far as I can tell, people don’t see Slovakia as a high-priority tourist destination, but people who descend from Slovakia seem pretty interested in learning more about it.

    We drove from Vienna to Bratislava, the capital city of Slovakia.  We crammed hundreds of years of history into an hour and a half tour of Bratislava’s historic district.  We learned about the various kings and queens who ruled over Slovakia, the changes from one country’s rule to another over time, and lots of entertaining stories and trivia as we explored the (mostly) pedestrian streets.  Outdoor restaurants, famous homes and concert halls, clock towers, statues with quirky back stories, and the opera house were all stopping points during the tour.

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    St. Martin’s Cathedral

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    Winding Old Town streets

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    Old Town Main Square

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    Primate’s Palace

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    Welcome to Old Town!

    We loaded onto the bus and drove a couple of hours to Banská Bystrica, our home base for the next couple of days.  I’m sure I would have loved to see the countryside, but I was too busy sleeping.  I ended up seeing very little of the countryside as we traveled because I am really good at sleeping on buses.

    The group arrived and checked into our hotel.  Mom and I took a short walk from the hotel to the town square, just to check things out and see what we were up for the next day.  The town seemed pretty, quiet, and simple.  Solid start to the tour and first full day in the motherland!

  2. Traveling in Europe

    • Immigration: No, I don't need to see the photo page of your passport. I trust you! I'll just open and stamp a random page without looking at anything.
    • Customs: Pass through Gate 1 if you have something to declare. Pass through Gate 2 if you have nothing to declare. Scout's honor!
  3. Day 0/10: Vienna, Austria

    *Warning: trip updates may come intermittently.  While I’d hoped to get all my Slovakia stuff done BEFORE my next trip, it is the eve of another two week adventure and I’m just getting started on adventure #1.  No promises. 

    Thanks to Mom’s decision to upgrade us to business class, I actually managed to eat and sleep surprisingly well on our “overnight” flight (we left the U.S. at 5:30pm East Coast time and arrived in Vienna at 8:30am Vienna time).  I felt awake and alert as soon as we were off the plane, which I definitely did not expect.  After passing through the most lax Customs & Immigration counters I’ve ever experienced, we hopped in a cab and headed to our hotel.

    With only one full day to explore Vienna, we checked into our rooms and got out into the city.  Our first stop, St. Stephen’s Cathedral, was humongous and gorgeous.  

    We arrived right as the noon bells began to ring, which I really enjoyed.  Mass was going on when we walked in, despite some heavy traffic and LOTS of camera flashes.  I guess the place is big enough that the Mass attendees didn’t even notice too much.

    We took an elevator to the top of one of the towers, giving us sweeping views of the city.  I’m always amazed by how old everything is in Europe.  Despite being a cloudy day, visibility wasn’t an issue.  The detail in the tile roof of the cathedral was also pretty impressive; we don’t take nearly as much time to construct anything like these old buildings anymore.

    From there, we strolled to the Vienna Opera House and ate lunch at a nearby restaurant.  All four of us were ready for a break by this point, so we went back to the hotel and took a power nap.

    Cindy, Mom, and I went for a late afternoon stroll in the park across the street from our hotel, then I continued on to see several gardens, the National Library, Congress, and a few other buildings.

    Looking into Stadtpark

    View of the back of Hofburg Palace from the Burggarten

    Standing in the Heldenplatz looking at Hofburg Palace

    Museum of Fine Arts

    Austrian Parliament

     City Hall

    Overall, a fantastic first day of the trip.  I fought jet lag and feel that I really got to explore Vienna and see some of its sights.  It was impossible to do it all, but I definitely worked within our time and energy constraints to hit some highlights before beginning the Treasures of Slovakia tour!

  4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GuX52wkCIJA#t=196

    BEAUTIFUL video from a former Disney animator.  Amazing!!

  5. "Don’t live the same year 75 times and call it a life."

    Robin Sharma (via severs)

    This hit me like a brick…

    (via knitting-books)

  6. Source: We are Humanity

    Source: We are Humanity

  7. "If you think of someone enough, you’re sure to meet them again."
    Haruki Murakami - Samsa in Love (via murakamistuff)
  8. huffpostworld:

    From major metropolises to charming, overlooked locales, Europe is brimming with cities everyone should visit. But where does a penny-pinching, adventure-seeking twentysomething even begin when it comes to traveling Europe?

    The big players — London, Paris, Amsterdam — are great. Those should be on everyone’s bucket list. For millennials, these 20 cities offer delicious street food, hip hostels, cozy cafes and many glimpses into new cultures.

    Here are the European cities you should visit in your twenties.

    Noted.

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