A Travellerspoint blog

Grecian Holiday

Finally, our blog on Greece is ready! We spent a day in Athens enjoying the ancient sights and several days on the island of Thira enjoying some amazing sunsets. We ate wonderful food, met up with family, and enjoyed a great wedding.

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The city of Athens, center stage for a nation enduring major change once again. It is a gritty combination of iconic ruins and lively streets scenes of all types. Greece is making headlines across the globe as it struggles to break out of a recession and it is taking its toll on the popular tourist industry. With many travelers being scared off by news of riots in the street, we were pleasantly surprised to find Athens more traveled areas bustling with people. While it may not be the banner year they need to help push through the tough times, the people are still hard at work to make tourist feel safe and comfortable. There is so much history to offer and the city is full of people who are dedicated to sharing their culture, any worries should be put to rest. This city will survive like it has for centuries and whether it leaves the Euro zone or stays, it should remain at the top of cities you must visit lists.

We arrived into Athens in the afternoon and we were ready for what ever we would encounter. We had a day and a half to explore the sights of this storied city before we would escape to the islands for a family reunion of sorts and a wedding! With little time in Athens we dove right in.

Our first night in the amazing old city of Athens was wonderful. We enjoyed a leisurely stroll through the markets of the winding pedestrian streets. We dined on delicious greek vegetables and lamb before discovering the best part of Athens, the rooftop restaurants. The tables at these establishments lift you above the chattering streets and give you 360 degree views of the sprawling metropolis. We spent the evening listening to live music rise up from the alley below while sipping red wine and letting the day turn to night. Once it went dark the Acropolis lit up the hill top and Athens was rocking the night away.

The next morning we started out with the hotel buffet breakfast, greek yogurt and honey, and a spread of baked goods. Scott dove right into the greek yogurt and we both enjoyed some coffee and croissants before heeding out for one full day of sight seeing. The first stop on the mad dash through ancient Greece was the Acropolis. The Acropolis is an ancient citadel that sits high above Athens on the rocky hill top. The main attraction of The Acropolis is the Parthenon, a temple dedicated to the Greek Goddess of Athena, but there are also theaters, smaller temples, and tombs that make this sight something to marvel at.

We hiked around this incredible ruin, and were in aww of the phenomenal marble structures that had been built long ago. As we climbed the hill to the top we had a great view of one of the ancient theaters and view out into Athens. We continued the climb up through ancient pillars and through a gate way to the citadel. The first ruin we stopped at was the Erechtheum, a shrine dedicated to the Greek hero Erichthonius. This shrine housed some of the holiest objects of Athens and was a supposed burial place for mythical kings. The South facing porch of this temple is known as the Porch of the Caryatids, also known as the Porch of the Maidens. The columns take on the shape of Maidens instead of the usual cylindrical shape in most major structures in the Acropolis. The slenderest pat of the sculptures are the necks of the Maidens and are capable of supporting the heavy roof while allowing the columns to feel feminine.

The Parthenon sits adjacent to the Erechtheum, and while it has been repeatedly battered by history, it still holds its presence as the center piece of this mountain top ruin. The Parthenon was constructed between 447 BC and 438 BC and is the most important structure in classic greek history. It was built as a replacement for an older temple of Athena and like most greek temples it is aligned to Hyades. This structure is massive and undergoing a serious renovation. The marble columns remain but the sculptures and reliefs that once decorated the ruin have been destroyed, pillaged, or removed for safe keeping. What surrounded the top of the Parthenon once, were a series of relief sculptures depicting the Greeks ride to the Acropolis culminating at each end with sculptures of two main scenes from Athens mythological past. The West pediment depicted the birth of Athena, after a terrible headache Zeus summoned Hephaestus to strike his head, it split open and Athena popped out. The East pediment depicted contest between Athena and Poseidon during their competition to be the city’s patron. Poseidon struck the rock to spring water, but it was salt water, and Athena brought forth the olive tree and of course victory. Each scene was once an amazing piece of art work with great detail, but now only pieces remain and they are kept in the Acropolis Museum.

After the Acropolis we headed south down the hill into the Ancient Agora. An agora was a central gathering place in ancient Greece, and this particular agora was where Socrates spent his days discussing the serious issues of the times. There were several homes, temples and even a Byzantine church that had been constructed after the fall of the greeks. From the Ancient Agora we headed through the Roman Forum and on to the Temple of Olympian Zeus. Construction began in the 6th century BC on this massive temple dedicated to the God of all Gods, Zeus. The columns that remain are massive compared to all other ruins in Athens, it was quite a sight.

After a long day of touring the ruins around town we settled in for some lunch back along the Roman Forum. After lunch McKenna took a rest and Scott headed to the Acropolis Museum that displays the original marbles and sculptural pieces from the Acropolis. It also contains several media exhibits expelling the building and reasons behind this grand citadel. If their was one thing we should have changed about this day it would be to start here before going to the Acropolis. It gave more background than expected and that helped to understand the development of new sculpture techniques and styles that evolved while these temples were built as well as explaining the history of all the temples from construction to present day.

After the museum we headed back to our favorite area of Athens, the roof top restaurants. Again we were treated to great views of the city, the beautiful sunset, and some delicious house wine. We spent the evening relaxing in the cool summer breeze and getting excited to travel to the islands.

The next day we caught the plane to Thira to begin our relaxing stay in the greek isles. The island of Thira sits in the Aegean Sea and is the largest island in an archipelago that formed after an enormous volcanic explosion. The violent eruption effectively destroyed the small settlement on the single island, creating the caldera that exist today. One side of the island has exquisite views of the caldera from high above the cliff top edges while the other side is lined with black sand beaches. The white walled architecture and blue domed roofs are exactly what we pictured this greek isle paradise would be. This would be our last island of the trip and we were excited to be here.

A van picked us up at the airport and whisked us off to Firastafini, a small town north of the main city, Fira. Our hotel was small and colorful with traditional cave rooms and amazing caldera views. We were greeted by a friendly receptionist who gave a room upgrade that had a beautiful view of the caldera and the town of Fira sitting along the rocky hill side. We spent the day exploring the cobbled walkway that connected to the two towns.

The next morning we awoke to exciting times, the day we would finally be reunited with family. McKenna’s mom met us at the hotel, fresh from a long day of travel all the way from Portland. It was a joyful reunion between mother and daughter, it had been almost 7 months since we had last seen Jan. We spent the rest of the day catching up with her, walking the cobbled streets, dinning at a great restaurant called Mama Thira’s, and enjoying the beautiful suset on the island.

The next day we set out to meet up with more family, Mckenna’s aunt and her fiancé. The main reason we came to this island was to see Kristie and Mike tie the knot. We all met up just outside of Fira and headed into town to do some shop browsing and eat lunch. We found a lovely rooftop place to gather for lunch, this time the view was of the other side of the island and just as gorgeous. That evening Kristie and Mike ventured off on a dinner cruise (which is a hilarious story and you should ask them about it if you see them), while we ducked into a quite Santorini spot to escape the blistering winds and tried the traditional moussaka. It is an eggplant dish with potato, beef, and cheese, all baked in a clay pot with some sweet and savory spices. It was delicious!

The next was the day of the wedding, and while the sky was blue and the sun was shinning, the wind had picked up with tremendous force. The wedding was set for the evening so we had a full day to explore the island. We rented a car and headed out to the small town of Oia to do some sight seeing. This beautiful town sits on the northern tip of the island and is home to several of the most photographed churches in greece. With the white and blue color scheme and the view of the caldera it was easy to see what draws people to this amazing place. After a few hours of shopping and lunch we headed north on the island up to the ruins of an old castle. It took awhile to find, but we eventually made it. It was just in time to get rained on, so we hurried back down the hill to the car and headed back to the hotels get ready for the big event.

The wedding went on as scheduled, the rain had cleared and the sun was setting up for the perfect badkdrop. The wind, however, failed to get the message. It kept right on blowing with force. The wedding was moved indoors and the bride and groom exchanged their vows with a beautiful sunset in the background, so not all was lost. After the ceremony we spent a few minutes braving the wind to snap some photos on the back porch over looking th caldera. These photographs turned out to be a mess of hair and great smiles. No wedding photos ever had such genuine smiles before this. What could have been a downer of situation, evolved into a memorable moment with family and friends laughing and enjoying everything the wind could throw at us, which was mostly our hair back in our faces.

That evening we ventured into Fira to celebrate the new couples nuptials at a wonderful greek restaurant hand picked by the event planner. Everything was perfect, the bride and groom were met with a traditional throwing of rice, we drank lots house white wine and the food was great. It was a fitting evening to wonderful day and we wish Kristie and Mike all the best!

The next morning we still had the car for one last day and decided to seek out the black sand beach, the red sand beach, and a winery, of course! First stop were the black sand beaches of Kamari. The beach was full of sun bathers enjoying a break from the wind and soaking up the hot sun. We enjoyed one of our best lunches on this beach. Before heading to the other side of the island to see the red sand we drove up the windiest road on the island to the oldest settlement on the island. An ancient city rests on top of the mountain here and when we finally reached the top, we discovered it had closed about 30 minutes prior to our arrival.

Not to be deterred on this day we set out to find the red sand beach. The red sand beach sits just down form the ruins of Akrotri and wouldn’t you know our luck? The tide had rolled in and we were unable to fully experience the red sands. Strike 2 on the day, but again we pushed through. On our way back we were determined to find a winery with a veranda and picturesque view of the caldera. After passing up several wineries along the way we finally found the one we all were hoping for. We sipped some tasty white wine while viewing the caldera from high above. It was a great cap to a day of a few hits and a few misses.

After a long day we still had wedding duty. The wind had died down considerably so we returned to the same wedding spot to snap some more photos without our hair in our faces. It was a great photo shoot and the couple finally had their Greek Wedding moment captured the way they had dreamed of. After the photography session we stopped in next door to the local cantina and dined on some delicious mexican food. We couldn’t resist a comfort meal, after all mexican food is the one treat we have missed the most on this trip.

The next day we began the strangest part of this entire trip, separate destinations. Scott would be heading off to Spain to meet his brother and McKenna and Jan would be heading to Italy. As we separated for the first time in nearly 7 months it felt strange and sad. We have experienced so much together and to now be venturing off on our own was a little surreal.

Check out more pictures here: Athens & Thira


McKenna & Scott


Posted by mands186 08:52 Archived in Greece Tagged islands food sunset greece athens santorini acropolis fira thira Comments (0)

An Austrian Experience

We spent 8 days in Salzburg, a trip record for number of days in one spot! With music, apple strudel, and mountains it was easy to settle in to this beautiful region of Austria.

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Tucked away in a quite corner of Austria,the stunning city of Salzburg is capturing the hearts of visitors from all over. Salzburg immediately grabs your attention with hill-top castles, grand baroque domed churches, and breathtaking mountain views. Whether you enjoy the sophisticated notes of Mozart, humming the catchy tunes from The Sound of Music, or dinning on crisp apple strudel, Salzburg is your Austrian dream come true.

The most notable part of Salzburg is the Altstadt district, the old city. The Altstadt is split by the Salzach River and is a spectacular representation of baroque architecture. Wandering the winding alley ways of the Altstadt you can find beautiful churches, fountains, museums, and eventually stumble into social courtyards where beer, bratwurst, and laughter are served up on a daily basis. If you let it, Salzburg will slowly work its magic and before you know it a week has passed by and you didn’t even know it!

The train from Budapest to Salzburg was about 5 hours, and McKenna serenaded us the entire way, “The hills are alive with the sound of music,…” Once we reached the central station it was raining and we were not oriented enough to know which direction to walk to get to our hotel. We stood in front of a bus map looking a little confused when a nice woman explained the bus lines to us. They were easy enough to understand after the help and we were soon off and on our way to our pension in the old city. It was well into the evening so we grabbed a light dinner and settled in for some rest.

The next morning the sun shined brightly in Salzburg, giving us a full view of the Alps and the brilliant white fortress that sits on top of the hill, Festung Hohensalzburg. We walked over the Salzach River to check out the amazing baroque architecture that Salzburg is famous for. We started with the Dom Cathedral that stands out amongst numerous beautiful buildings. Redesigned and reconstructed after the Thirty Year’s War by Italian Santino Solari, it boasts some gorgeous frescos that lead your eye to the centerpiece polychrome dome that is a true masterpiece. We toured the inside checking out the frescos and the gorgeous dome. Outside and surrounding the copper domed church are several fountains. These town square centerpieces are heroic size sculptures of angles, demons, and horses.

After the Dom we made are way to the famous Festung Hohensalzburg. This 900 year old Salzburg fortress has stood the tests of time, and is the iconic symbol of Salzburg. It sits on a cliff side over-looking the Altstadt and is the biggest and best preserved fortress in all of Europe. The Archbishopric’s of Salzburg called this fortress home and each time a new ruler took over they remodeled and made additions to the fortress. Leaving their mark in history. When we reached the top we made our way to a viewing deck of the southern side of the fortress to gaze out at the alps. The towering Untersberg Mountain dominates the horizon and the Alps slowly grow behind it.

We took the audio tour of the fortress, which took us through several rooms inside the Fortress. The first room was an old storage room that is now decorated with portraits of the Archbishopric’s that once ruled Salzburg and models of the fortress as it changed over the centuries. We continued the tour through the torture chamber, the watchtower for a view of the city, the bell tower, and the chapel. After the tour we wandered the courtyard checking out a section of the fortress that has been remodeled into apartments. The city of Salzburg pays young artists to live in the Fortress, which I would imagine would be an interesting place to call home.

There are several museums within the complex and one of the more entertaining ones was the marionette museum. Puppetry is best described as perfecting the art of illusion. To give life to these puppets, one must be a dancer, an actor, and a singer. It is no simple task. Puppets were used to act out operas and no one had better operas for marionettes than Mozart himself. In the museum some of the puppets were a little creepy looking, while others were amazingly detailed. You could even practice your skills with one of the marionettes hanging in the corner.

After some goofing around we headed down the hill for some lunch next to the modern art museum. After lunch we took in the Salzburg Museum, which displays a collection of modern art and two exhibits of Salzburg history and religion. After the museum we headed to the birth place of Salzburg’s most famous resident, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The famous composer was born and raised in the city and worked under one of the Archbishopric until moving to Vienna to master his craft. The tiny apartment housed a large amount of family information and a few child instruments supposedly belonging to Mozart himself.

After touring several museums and seeing the great fortress we decided to slow things up a bit and enjoy the cafe culture of Austria. This is where we embarked on our festival of strudel tasting now known as Strudelfest! We dedicated several days to enjoying this famous apple filled pastry and documented each sweet and delicious moment. Be sure and check out our food blog, Strudelfest! for more details! We enjoyed some strudel and coffee before settling in for the night to watch the classic movie The Sound of Music to prepare for the tour of sights in and around Salzburg that were a part of this hollywood masterpiece.

The next day we hopped on baord a bright red bus covered in murals depicting the Von Trapp family singing their hearts out, ready for an adventure we wouldn’t forget. For McKenna it was a dream come true, for Scott it was the beginning of a long day. As the tour began it quickly became one of the best things we did in Salzburg. The tour guide was hilarious, quick witted and full of delightful facts. The first stops along the tour were sights in the movie for the backyard scenes and the street scene from Julie Andrews Confidence song. Our last stop before heading out to the lake country was the Hellbrunn palace. This is a great palace to visit while in Salzburg. The Archbishopric who built this castle had a great sense of humor, and enjoyed pranking his guests. Included in the palace are several trick fountains designed to soak his party guests and are now used to soak tourists. We did not take a tour of the palace, but rather this is the new home of the famous gazebo from the movie. After viewing the gazebo and dancing around it we treated our selves to the bar on board the bus. Scott grabbed a few beers and McKenna sipped some champagne. This made the trip even more fun for McKenna and loosened Scott up for the hour long ride through the mountain lake country complete with a medley of songs from the movie.

Our final destination in the mountain lakes country was Mondsee. A small town that has a beautiful church that was used in the movie for the wedding scene. We toured the inside of the church before heading out to the café’s to continue our Strudelfest. The street is lined with cafés and restaurants all brightly colored and serving up lots of different food, coffee, and cakes. On the recommendation of our tour guide we took a seat at Café Braun and ordered up some apple strudel and coffee. After an hour in this quaint town we took the bus back on the famed autobahn highway to Salzburg. The tour was great, and a must do in Salzburg. It is a great way to get out to the beautiful mountain towns and lakes.

After the tour we stopped at a wine tasting tent before touring Maribellplatz garden. We snapped some fun photos around the Pegasus fountain and the dwarf statues featured in the movie’s Do Rey Mi song. After the park we continued our Strudelfest with a visit to a great Old City café, hidden away in one of the courtyards. Later that night we returned to our new favorite restaurant, Costa for some more schnitzel and goulash soup.

The next morning we woke up to light rain and overcast skies. Not letting the rain discourage us, we grabbed some coffee and croissants at the nearby french bakery and headed out on a hike around Kapuzinerberg park. It was a misty stroll through the cool and damp forest and it reminded us of Oregon. The damp air also seemed to bring out lots of creatures on the path. During our walk we had to avoid enormous snails, slugs, colorful salamanders, and a few birds oddly walking on the path. We walked along the old walls built along the edge of the hill, stopping to look out over the river and the fortress through the mist. The path lead us to the Franziskischloss, an old palace that now operates as a café. We ventured back through the forest to the hotel to get ready for an evening at the marionette theater.

That night we attended Mozart’s “Magic Flute” performed with marionettes. It was an interesting cultural experience in a really great theater. The theater has large chandeliers and intricate details etched on the ceiling and walls. The lights dimmed and the bright red curtain lifted to reveal a tiny stage. The puppets came a live at and danced and gestured dramatic emotions to go along with the music. It was great to hear a piece by Mozart in his home town and to see marionettes in action.

The next day was rainy so we took some time to rest and eat more strudel to gear up for a trip up the Untersberg in the morning. We caught that bus early in the morning to the small town of St. Leonhard at the base of the Untersberg. It is said that Charlemagne, the founder of Europe, rests on this mountains and when his beard wraps around the top three times, the crows leave the mountain, and Europe needs him mostWe boarded the Unersbergbahn, a tram that takes you to the top of the mountain, and off we were up the into the clouds. The tram ride provided magnificent views of Salzburg to the North and the Alps to the South. The ride also proved to be a little scary for McKenna who didn’t appreciate the hight and steepness of the ride. When reached the top we stepped out on to snow for the first time in over a year! There was a fresh dusting of snow from the day before that made hiking along the ridge a little bit more slippery. We hiked up the ridge checking out the view as the clouds burned off and gave way to bright sunshine and warmed us up. After spending an hour on top of the Untersburg we decided to head back down the tram, much to McKenna’s delight. We survived and caught the bus back to Salzburg.

After a great morning on top of the mountain we headed back to the Altstadt to walk around the shops. We ventured into one of McKenna's favorite stores, the christmas store. This store celebrates the holiday all year along with hand painted egg ornaments. The decorations are stacked from floor to celling representing all holidays. It was overwhelming to look at so many ornaments in one place!

After the christmas store we headed to one of the most popular beer gardens in Salzburg, the Augustiner Bräustubl. This popular drinking garden and brewery is run by a group of cheerful monks. We filled up some ceramic steins with the home brew, grabbed some bratwurst from one of the food stalls, and picked out a table in the hall. We had a good time kicking back and drinking some beers before heading back to the hotel. That night we dined one last time at our favorite restaurant, Costa.

We spent one more day relaxing in Salzburg, enjoying some strudel and coffee along the river and running some errands. The last day in Salzburg we planned a day trip to Munich to partake in some of the Champion’s Festival. The Champion’s Festival is a four day festival leading up to the UEFA Champions League Final. UEFA Champions League is a European tournament amongst the top clubs from every premier league in Europe and one of the most coveted trophies. Tickets for the game this year were going for $2,000 a piece, so attending the game was not really an option for us. We hopped the train to Munich and in two hours we were pulling into central station. It wasn’t long before we were at Olympic Park enjoying games, beer, and some street food. We had photo snapped with the trophy and I put my rusty soccer skills to the test in a few of the challenges they head set up. The most fun and challenging one was the penalty kick against an electronic keeper. It appears simple enough, put the ball past the metal cut out of keeper. The keeper is triggered by several sensors and moves almost immediately after you strike the ball. I went 0 for 3, it was harder than it appeared and was a blow to my confidence.

After some fun at the festival we caught the train back to Salzburg and prepared for the train to Vienna the next day. The train to Vienna was packed and we ended up standing for an hour before snagging a seat in the stairwell of on of the doorways for the remaining two hours. Once in Vienna we btw took some time to re visit our favorite sites. This meant McKenna walked the numerous street malls and I headed back to the Kunsthistorisches Museum.

Austria has been a great time and we are sad to leave this land of apple strudel. Our next stop should help us get over any lingering Austrian dreams, we are headed to Greece to meet up with friends and family and we are so excited!

Here are some more pictures of Salzburg and Munich: Salzburg & Munich


McKenna & Scott


Posted by mands186 08:56 Archived in Austria Tagged mountains castles salzburg austria mozart baroque strudel sound_of_music Comments (2)


What's a trip to Austria without trying some apple strudel? We help you figure out what to look for in a strudel and where to find a good one in Salzburg.

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Welcome to our first food blog! We are going away from our typical travel entry and trying something new. This entry is entirely dedicated to food, and specifically the flaky apple filled pastry known as apple strudel. We will return to the normal blog after this, but for now we hope you enjoy this delicious diversion.

Apple Strudel or Afpelstrudel, as it’s called in Europe, is a traditional Viennese pastry made popular by the Habsburg family during their years of influence. A strudel is typically a sweet and flaky pastry jacket filled with an apple based filling. The apple filling most commonly consists of sliced cooked apples, sugar, cinnamon, and raisins. This desert is served in most café’s and pairs best with coffee or tea. Strudel can be served warm or cold and along with vanilla ice cream, whip cream, or a tasty vanilla sauce.

One sunny afternoon in Salzburg we were looking for something different to do. We decided to embarked on a journey through the café culture we had heard so much about in Austria. In addition, we decided to try and compare each café’s apple strudel. What better way to enjoy Salzburg than to try as much apple strudel as we possibly can? This quickly evolved into a week long festival that we now call Strudelfest! So get your Strudel Face on!

Since we were going to be eating all this strudel we thought it would be a good idea to come up with some criteria to judge the strudel. That way we would be able to compare each strudel. Using a scale of 1 through 5, 1 being poor and 5 being great, we judged each strudel on the following categories:  Crust, Apple Filling, Accompaniments, Taste, and Presentation. We also included one category to grade the café, because it is an important part of enjoying the strudel. So we included one last category: Cafe Atmosphere. After we scored the strudel and café we divided the score by the best possible score of 30 to come up with a grade, A+ through F.

Our first café stop was at the famous Maribellplatz and the garden café that sits just inside the sculptured walls. We dove right in and ordered up some cafe lattes and one apple strudel to share. The strudel was served cold topped with whip cream. The crust was not as flaky as we had hoped and the filling had a weak apple flavor due to the complete lack of apples between the layers of pastry. Overall this strudel was underwhelming and did not impress, however the atmosphere at this outdoor café was very good.

Maribellplatz Café:
1. Crust: 3
2. Apple Filling: 2
3. Accompaniments: 2
4. Taste: 2
5. Presentation: 3
6. Café Atmosphere: 4


The next desert spot, Café Tomaselli, is know for its flaky strudel and grumpy waiters. Both were very accurate! The café is located inside the heart of the old city just around the corner from the Salzburg Dome Church. This strudel was served cold and without any accompaniments. The crust was flaky and delicious with extra powdered sugar. The filling had a strong apple flavor well seasoned with sugar and cinnamon, and additionally a few nuts were added to the filling. Overall this strudel was delicious, the café location is great, and the waiters were very grumpy.

Café Tomaselli:  
1. Crust: 4
2. Apple Filling: 3.5
3. Accompaniments: 0
4. Taste: 4
5. Presentation: 3
6. Café Atmosphere: 3.5

OVERALL SCORE: 18/30 *(18/25)
GRADE: D- *(C-)

  • Judges adjustment:  We feel that the lack of accompaniments skews the overall score and unfairly judges this strudel. The strudel itself was much better than most and could have been a contender had it been served warm with a few extras. Therefore we are removing the accompaniment category and giving it an over all grade of a C- (18/25).

While on our Sound of Music Tour we stopped in a small town just outside Salzburg in the lake country, Mondsee. This adorable lakeside town is the location of the wedding scene in the movie and has a quaint and charming central shopping and café street. We took the advice of our tour operator and stopped in at Café Braun to sample the strudel. The strudel was served warm with a side of vanilla ice cream and a warm vanilla sauce. The crust of this strudel was flaky and thicker than the previous two. It also had a delightful criss cross crust pattern. The filling had a strong and tasty apple flavor that paired well with the ice cream and the delicious warm vanilla sauce. This was a great strudel and the café atmosphere is hard to top, sitting on a quaint street across from a beautiful church. This one was going to be hard to top!

Café Braun:
1. Crust: 5
2. Apple Filling: 5
3. Accompaniments: 5
4. Taste: 5
5. Presentation: 5
6. Café Atmosphere: 5


We returned to the old city of Salzburg for our fourth strudel. We turned down an alley that led into a courtyard where Café Wùrfel Zucker sits hidden in the corner. It was rainy outside so we ate inside for the first time at one of these cafés. We ordered up a strudel and sat down in this cute garden level café. The strudel was served warm in a bowl filled with vanilla sauce, ice cream, and topped with whip cream, a trifecta of accompaniments. The crust was flaky and delicious. The apple filling was tasty and had a strong apple flavor. The bowl that the strudel was served had a nice pattern but the bowl of vanilla sauce might have been overwhelming. The café was charming and quiet and the outdoor patio when open would be a nice place to sit. This was a great strudel and one of the best in the town of Salzburg.

Café Wùrfel Zucker:
1. Crust: 4
2. Apple Filling: 5
3. Accompaniments: 4.5
4. Taste: 4.5
5. Presentation: 5
6. Café Atmosphere: 5


With the rain settling in on Salzburg for a day we headed inside to Café Mozart, across from the master composer’s birth place. Immediately we found ourselves in the smoking section of this café, not a great start. We eventually found the non-smoking section in the back of the café. We ordered up some cappuccinos and one strudel to share. The strudel was served warm with a dish of vanilla ice cream and yellow vanilla sauce. The crust was soggy and did not have a sweet taste. The apple filling had a weak apple flavor and the addition of crushed nuts was a poor choice. The vanilla sauce had a distinct film on top and the taste was dull. This strudel disappointed in all categories and the atmosphere of the café was dingy. This was a low point of Strudelfest.

Café Mozart:
1. Crust: 1.5
2. Apple Filling: 1
3. Accompaniments: 2
4. Taste: 1
5. Presentation: 2.5
6. Café Atmosphere: 1


On our last full day in Salzburg we headed to the Café Bazar terrace along the Salzach River with a view of the Fortress. We ordered a strudel to share and some coffee to sip. The strudel was served warm with vanilla ice cream and vanilla sauce. The crust was flaky and delicious. The apple filling had a strong apple flavor with good texture. The vanilla sauce served with this strudel was more of a custard and didn’t impress as much as some of the others. It was enjoyable sitting along the river and the people at this café were extremely entertaining, including an american lady over-sharing her boyfriend problems out loud and a child who decided to lick the back of his chair from top to bottom.

Café Bazar:
1. Crust:  5
2. Apple Filling: 4
3. Accompaniments: 3.5
4. Taste: 4
5. Presentation: 5
6. Café Atmosphere: 5


Since arriving in Austria we have tasted a lot of strudel while enjoying the café culture. It wasn’t until Salzburg that we decided to judge the pastry and the cafés that served them. In all we judged 6 strudels…but ate many more :) The results of Strudelfest showed the best strudel came from Café Braun in Mondsee, and the worst from Café Mozart in Salzburg. We hoped you enjoyed this food blog. If you ever find yourself in Austria, try the strudel, and if you are in Salzburg you now know where to go!

Check out some more photos:


McKenna &Scott


Posted by mands186 08:09 Archived in Austria Tagged food desert salzburg austria coffee cafe strudel apple_strudel Comments (2)

Vienna, Buda, & Pest

Good times with friends in Vienna and a short trip to see the amazing city of Budapest!

overcast 22 °C
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Late in the evening we are faced with a tough question, economy or sleeper car for the overnight train to Vienna? Having learned our lesson the hard way about overnight trains in Australia, we knew better than to go economy. We opted for a more comfortable sleeper car for this journey. The overnight train from MIlan whisked us from Italy all the way to VIenna, Austria. The sleeper car was comfortable, quite, and well worth the extra money. We slept through the entire night and woke up in a new country, a new city, and a new adventure refreshed and ready to go!

The city of Vienna is rich with history and culture, and that is an understatement. The streets are lined with art museums, concert halls, and baroque style architecture. The Habsburg’s, one of Europe’s royal families, is a major reason for Vienna’s obsession with art. The family had a deep appreciation for art and music and during the course of their 600 years reign they amassed a huge collection of classic works. The collection is prominently displayed through out the city. The family was also a huge supporter of classical music, often holding concerts at their palaces. The Viennese have been exposed to the arts for so long that it’s no mystery why great musicians such as Mozart and amazing artist like Gustav Klimt mastered their craft in this affluent city.

We arrived in the morning and quickly figured out the public transportation system. Vienna is one city that gets it right when it comes to transportation. For 20 Euro you can get unlimited public transportation for three days, plus additional discounts at museums across the city. There’s a metro, tram, and bus system that can get you anywhere you want to go in the city. We checked in to our hotel and began the day with some coffee and apple strudel at the famous Cafe Museum. It was delicious and after seeing only chocolate for most of this trip, McKenna was excited to finally be in the land of strudel!

After getting our strudel fix we moved on to one of the finest museums in Europe, the Kunsthestorisches. This museum houses the Habsburg’s extensive collection of classic Renascence art, including works by Bruegel, Dürer, Rubens, and Rembrandt just to name a few. Also included in this museum is an extensive archeological exhibit of Egyptian and Greek artifacts and a spectacular Gustav Klimt archway mural. As we entered the grand museum we were hit with another surprise guest. One of our great friends from Denver, Aaron, was sitting on a bench just inside. We knew he was in the area with his father, but what are the chances that we would run into him at the same museum? We enjoyed the chance meeting and made plans to meet up for dinner later that evening. We had a lot of art to see and we had to get to it.

After the museum we walked the streets looking at the architecture and various museums in the Interstadt and we started planning for the next day. That night we meet up with Aaron for dinner at great Austrian restaurant where we drank a few bottles of wine and chatted. Before we knew it, it was almost 2am! We walked back to the hotel and feel asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillow.

Tired form the late night we slept in and began the day later than usual. First on our agenda this day was to check the Habsburg’s most famous palace, Schloß Schönbrunn. The palace was initially built as a hunting lodge for the family but evolved into a summer home and eventually a grand palace. It is one of the busier sights in Vienna and admittance is staggered through out the day. Surrounding the palace is an enormous park with pathways, incredible fountains, and the Gloriette. The park is free to roam and some of the attractions only cost a few euros if you want to do the maze or go to the roof top of the Gloriette. It can be a good way to spend time before or after the palace tour. We purchased our tickets upon arrival and had an hour to kill before we were allowed in. We took this time to explore one side of this grand park. The first pathway took us to the Schöner Brunnen Fountain, of which the palace gained its name. We ventured up the hill to the Gloriette, which is an elegant structure that sits on top of a hill and over looks Schloß Schönbrunn and Vienna. We spent the 2 euro to walk up to the rooftop and look over Vienna. It was a clear day so the view of VIenna and the palace below were spectacular.

We had to rush down the hill to make our tour time and we arrived just in time. We grabbed an audio guide and begin the walk through the palace listening to descriptions of the life of the royal family, odd facts about the palace, and a few family quirks. A few tour highlights were Franz Joseph furious work schedule, his doughtier Mary Antionette and her famous end, and one small sitting room where a 6 year old Mozart performed for Mary Theresa. After the tour we ventured back through the garden to check out the other side. The trees and bushes were all manicured to perfection. We took some time to admire the grand fountain in the middle of the park, Neptubrunnen, a collection of greek mythology. One thing we missed that we will return for is the maze. It was a few euros and we thought we would save it for our return trip Vienna. After the palace tour and garden viewing we headed back to the Interstadt for some coffee and cake at the well known chain of cafes called Aida.

That night we ventured out to the center of the city, St. Stephens Cathedral. At night this gothic church is quite the spectacle. The tall spires have an eerie white and yellow lighting system that give it a haunted look in the dark. In contrast, the front door is playfully lit up with bright purples, oranges and yellows in a more modern way. It was blustery out and we felt the cold for the first time on this trip. We eventually met up with Aaron for one beer at a local pub and then called it an early night. This time we watched the clock and were home at a more appropriate hour.

The next day we set off to find Gustav Klimt’s most famous painting, “The Kiss.” I am sure you have come across a picture of this painting at some time or another. it’s literally on every surface in and around Vienna. This famous masterpiece is housed in another baroque style palace, Schloß Belvedere. This palace is less know for it’s inhabitants, but saught after for it’s fabulous art collection. This was by far our favorite museum in Vienna. It boasts a unique collection ranging from medieval, Renaissance, to Modern art. The collection has just the right amount of everything and the traditional baroque architecture compliments it all. It’s a perfect cross section of Vienna’s past and present all in one spot. The Klimt paintings were especially spectacular, and we were glad we made the effort to visit yet another museum on this trip!

After Schloß Belvedere we headed to the center of Vienna to see St. Stephen's Cathedral during the daylight. The gothic spires were even more impressive in the sun. Something we missed completely the night before was the colorful diamond pattern roof the cathedral. The brightly colored roof stood out in contrast to the grey and black stone that comprised most of the church. We ventured in side and were treated to a great choir concert and some great stained glass windows. The cathedral was very impressive and takes on a very different look during the day.

After the cathedral we headed to the Museum Quartier, a collection of four museums, cafes, restaurants, and bars. We had lunch at one of the cafes in the courtyard before heading to the Leopold Museum. This museum houses an extensive collection and history of Gustav Klimt as well as another famous Austrian artist, Egon Schiele. Schiele developed his artistic talent in Vienna, and found a mentor in Klimt. His artwork is exceptional but sadly he succumbed to the Spanish flu at the young age of 28. After the Leopold Museum we headed back to the hotel to Skype with friends and prepare for our next travel day.

That night Scott ventured out into the Vienna night life with Aaron where they attended a reggae show. Tarrus Riely and the Black Soil Band were playing at the Flex Cafe along the Danube river. The show turned out to be way better than expected. McKenna would have enjoyed the Michael Jackson cover, but the extra sleep was probably a better choice. Scott didn’t return until almost 2am.

The next morning we caught the train to Budapest, Hungary for a quick trip into Eastern Europe. Again we had some excitement on the train when a group of hoodlums were caught going through one of the train attendants bags. They were kicked off at the next stop, and I don’t think they will be allowed to use the train system in Europe for a while. We arrived in Budapest made a slight miscalculation and exited the train a stop before the central station. We thought it would put us closer to our hotel in the long run. Unfortunately we were incorrect. Without any Hungarian money on us and no ATM in sight we ended up walking a long distance through a light rain. We took a short break to eat some lunch and then finished off the walk across one of the amazing bridges in Budapest.

Budapest is the capital and largest city in Hungary. Initially, two cities developed along the Danube river, Buda and Pest. In 1873 the city of Buda on the west-side of the Danube and the city of Pest on the east-bank joined together to become a single city, Budapest. Pest grew into the commercial and political hub if Hungary while Buda remained the cultural part that featured spectacular royal castles. Budapest has seen violence and war destroy the capital city numerous times over history. In the 1960’s the city repaired the damaged bridges, restored the castles, and began to flourish into a modern Eastern European city.

After we dropped our bags off at the hotel we headed back out into the rain to walk the streets of Pest. We strolled along one of the pedestrian walking streets, Andrássy Avenue, checking out the architecture and making a plan for the next day. We were exhausted from all the walking so we went to bed early that night and rested our legs.

We only had one full day in Budapest, so the next morning we started with the hardy free breakfast at the hotel and headed out on foot. We walked across the Chain Bridge, which is a significant piece of architecture in the city guarded on each end by lion statues. We crossed into Buda and headed up a winding walking path to the top of Castle Hill. Castle Hill is home to the palace complex of the Hungarian Kings and what is known as the Castle District. The Buda Castle sits on the southern end of the hill and the Castle DIstrict with it’s Medieval and Baroque styled public buildings. We walked around the Buda Castle snapping some photos of the great view before moving on to the Castle District.

The Matthias Church is located in the center of the Castle HIll District and has a distinct Gothic style. The roof has a colorful diamond pattern that stands in contrast to the stone facade. Sitting in front of the church is the often photographed Fisherman’s Bastion a neo-Gothic terrace offering panoramic views of the Danube and the city. We walked along the terrace looking for a spot to snap a photo of the magnificent Parliament Building across the River. The Parliament Building of Budapest is one of Europe’s oldest legislative buildings and one of the best known buildings in Budapest.

We walked back down the hill to the Chain Bridge and made our way to St. Stephen’s Basilica, named for the first King of Hungary. The church shines at the end of pedestrian walking street lined with cafés and shops. There is a beautiful dome that visitors can walk up to and get a great view of the city. There was a few euro charge to go in and see the dome so we decided to pass. After a long day of walking we hit up a restaurant on Andrássy Avenue and called it a day.

The next morning we said goodbye to Budapest and headed further west to Salzburg, Austria. We enjoyed our stay in Budapest, and although we missed a few sights we got a good feel for the city and hope to return someday. We’re ready to see some mountains and are excited to be closer to the alps!

Check out the photos from Vienna and Budapest: Vienna & Budapest


McKenna & Scott


Posted by mands186 11:32 Archived in Austria Tagged churches art trains gardens museums budapest vienna palace austria gothic castle hungary europe the_kiss klimt baroque_architecture habsburg's Comments (1)

Too Much Rome, Not Enough Time

Europe is off to a great start! Too bad it's so expensive...good thing there's always money in the banana stand!

sunny 27 °C
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It is just after 1 in the morning in Nairobi, Kenya and we are not resting comfortably in our hotel. We are at the airport, waiting for a plane to take us out of Africa. Normally we would be annoyed at this early flight time, but not today. Today we will be reunited with the world of western comforts and it couldn’t come at a better time. Our adventure is reaching its final continent, Europe, and our first stop is Italy.

Once we arrived at our hotel the first order of business was to shower off the weeks worth of camping filth. After a long nap we ventured out to look for some coffee and pizza. We wandered the streets for a while checking out the beautiful architecture and the ruins that remain from the glory days of the Roman Empire. Just around the corner from our hotel was one of Rome’s greatest ancient buildings, The Coliseum. We found a spot overlooking this monumental amphitheater and watched the hordes of tourist that collect around it everyday. We called it an early night with some delicious pizza and caught up on some sleep.

The next morning we were getting ready to head out for the day when we received one of the best surprises we have had on this trip. While seeking some help from the front desk, one of our best friends, Rachel, appeared in the lobby of our hotel. Rachel flew down from Poland to spend three days sight seeing and drinking wine with us before heading back home to Australia. Rachel has been playing volleyball in Poland and her season ended in March. We thought she was headed home before we would get to Europe but she extended her time in Poland and it was long enough that it overlapped with our trip. We were so excited that she did, it was great to see a familiar face! We spent the rest of the day catching up with Rachel and shopping for some new clothes. Most of the clothes we left with 5 months ago are not the same color anymore.

The next day the three of set out to experience Rome and see the major attractions. We started out with The Coliseum, considered one of the greatest sights of Roman architecture. Originally called the Flavian Amphitheater it was completed in 80 AD under the emperor Titus. It was home to the gladiator and the elaborate games that often took place here ended in death. Once you see the size of this complex, including the underground labyrinth that housed the gladiators and animals, you start to get an idea of what a spectacle these games must have been. The Romans planned elaborate scenes in which to create realistic habitats for the animals or recreate an ocean to reenact great naval battles. This elliptical amphitheater is grandiose and is a great place to get you in the spirit of ancient Rome.

We strolled along the Roman Forum, home to Julius Caesar, and checked out views of the city from the top of the Monument of Victor Emmanuel. We continued our walking tour through the narrow cobbled streets to one of Rome's most impressive fountains, Trevi Fountain. Trevi Fountain is know world wide and collects coins thrown in by tourists amounting to an astounding 3,000 euros a day. Tourist toss coins into the fountain with hopes that it will ensure them a return trip to Rome. We took a break near Trevi for lunch, where we dined on, wait for it...more pizza!

After lunch we traveled to two more famous sights, the Pantheon and Piazza Navona. The Pantheon is home to the the worlds largest unreinforced dome, a title it has held for almost 2,000 years. The only light in the Pantheon is from the sun as it shines through the oculus in the middle of the dome. It is one of the most impressive buildings in Rome.

Not far from the Pantheon is one of Rome's more delightful social scenes, Piazza Navona. This famous piazza is lined with cafes and littered with artist selling copy cat paintings of the major sights in Rome. The fountain in the center is called the Fountain of the Four Rivers and was sculpted by Bernini. The sculptures in Rome are marvelous and it seems that one famous sculpture after another appears around every corner. We stopped here for some gelato and mastered the art of drinking from one of the numerous drinking faucets found around the city.

After an already long day we decided to check out Vatican City to scope it out for a return trip the next morning. Vatican City, a land locked city state, is the heart of Catholicism. It occupies 110 acres of land and is home to a population of 800. This makes it the smallest independent state in the world. We started in St. Peters Square, staring up at Michelangelo’s Dome that floats above the enormous church doors leading into the Basilica. The square itself is magnificent, lined with columns and more incredible statutes and fountains. The line to get into St. Peters Basilica was unreal. We couldn’t believe how many people were lined up with only a few hours of viewing time left in the day. We decided to head around the corner and take a shot at getting into the Vatican Museum to see the worlds most famous fresco, the Sistine Chapel. To our delight there was no line to get in and we were able to work our way through the numerous galleries leading to the grand finale, Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel. The frescos in this room are some of the most iconic and breathtaking pieces of art work I have ever seen. The number of frescos and the quality of the work in the room is astounding. Michelangelo created a masterpiece truly worthy of being considered the best of Renaissance art. Michelangelo painted nine scenes depicting well know stories from the book of genesis, the most iconic image in the series is the hand of God giving life to Adam. The colors, once muted by grime from candle smoke, now shine as vividly as they must have when they first touched the plaster.

After staring in amazement at the Sistine Chapel we followed a tour group out the exit, our so we thought. Some how we ended up inside St Peters Basilica and we are still not sure if that was correct exit to follow. Thankful that we didn’t have to wait in that long line to get in, we decided tour the largest Catholic Church in the world. It was truly impressive. I think we may have missed a few pieces of art in the museum by exiting early, but seeing St. Peter's Basilica and the Sistine Chapel in one day was more than worth it! After a long day of walking we took the crowded metro back to our hotel to relax. That night we enjoyed another fabulous dinner and lots of vino.

The next morning we headed to the Spanish Steps and snapped some photos of the colorful flower arrangements. We also had to avoid more gladiator posers, asking if we wanted to take a picture with them. They are everywhere in Rome. After a a long walk and a late breakfast we gathered up a few picnic supplies, bread, some cured meats, cheese, chocolate, and of course some wine. We took our picnic to a park in the Villa Borghese and spent the afternoon lounging in the park overlooking the city. That night we enjoyed more classic Italian food before bidding farewell to our dear friend Rachel. Sad it came to an end, we had so much fun all together again.

The next day I ventured out before 7am to snap photos of Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, and the Coliseum without the crowds around them. I would recommend anyone visiting Rome to do the same. It is very peaceful and nice to get some pictures without the tops of peoples heads. After breakfast we discovered that it was Italy’s day of independence and the streets were packed with modern day Romans celebrating with gellato and shopping.  We picked up tickets to the AS Roma game before heading out for a morning of shopping on Via Del Corso along with everyone else in Rome. Eventually we made it to the Stadio Olimpico for AS Roma v. Fiorintina. It was a hard fought match that ended in the away teams favor 2-1.  Roma fans left with a bitter taste and what we would guess were some unkind words for the home team. We hoofed the 4 miles back to our area of Rome earning a gellato break and then crashed, exhausted from the day of walking.

Rome is such an amazing city, there are fabulous sculptures, jaw dropping fountains, and incredible ancient buildings on almost every corner. We didn’t even scratch the surface on what this city has to offer. There are so many sights that we missed and classic works of art that we just didn't have time to see. The food is amazing and it is everywhere you turn, which has been good and bad for us. We are not looking forward to summer clothing after a week in Rome. The people in Rome are a source of constant energy, from shopping all day to sipping drinks at their favorite piazza late in to the night. They spur us on to burn the candle at both ends. All we can do now is hope that our Trevi fountain wish comes true so we can come back and finish what we started.

The next morning we bid farewell to the capital city and caught the train headed for Como to visit McKenna’s childhood friend, Jillian. Jillian has been living in Como for three years and has played for one of the most storied clubs in European Women’s Basketball. Our timing was great, that night Jillian had a home playoff game and we got to sit court side for the intense match. Jillian put on a clinic in the fourth quarter leading her team to victory. It was an exciting game and a lot of fun see Jillian play so well.

We spent the next four days in Como just relaxing. We toured the lake and had more delicious italian food, while Jillian impressed us with her fluent italian. It rained several of the days we were there, but that wasn’t so bad. We hit a wall and were in need of some serious downtime. The rain kept us from feeling guilty for being a little lazy. We took over Jillian’s apartment and watched a lot of movies, she was a gracious host. Besideds relaxing a bit we did get to venture out in Milan for an evening of fun at the clubs. We danced the night away in true Milan style. Although our style was not nearly as fashionable as the other party goers! After enjoying some relaxing and fun days with Jillian we were ready to get back on the road and continue this European adventure!

Check out the pictures from Rome and Como here: Roma & Como


McKenna & Scott

Posted by mands186 13:25 Archived in Italy Tagged art food sculptures italy rome michelangelo sistine_chapel Comments (3)

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