If you follow us on Facebook or Instagram, I think by now you know that Craig and I returned from our anniversary trip to Austria! I'm still processing everything that we experienced there together. It's still surreal to me that I was in Europe. That was my first time ever in that continent, and it was beautiful just as I have heard my whole life. Did we take the kids? No. :) This trip was just for me and my love... For the last few years, we've been attending a marriage retreat together as our annual 'husband and wife' trip, but this year, we wanted to go on a 'true' vacation where there's no agenda to celebrate our 12 year anniversary! We wanted a time to reset, restore and rejuvenate ourselves and our marriage. We wanted to relax.... it honestly wasn't a trip where we could relax much physically because we did a ton of touring and walking and walking and walking, but it was more for our mental relaxation and health. Just wanted to get away, take a breather and have mental peace and enjoy one another.
When it comes to traveling especially to a place like Europe, Craig is the expert. As mentioned, I've never been there and I really don't have a lot of experience in traveling, so Craig did all the planning. I mean, ALL of it! (But, if you want to know anything about Disney, ask away! hehe) Even as he was planning, I just didn't know how to comprehend it. I've only of course been to Korea, a few places in the States, Canada and then the Bahamas on a cruise when I was a kid. Oh yeah, Mexico for a missions trip once. That's it! I didn't know what to expect, and I think that was a great thing. As the date drew nearer, I got a little nervous about what to prepare for the kids, my mom, what to wear, what to pack, what work needed to be done, etc... We've never been this far away for this long from our children, so that was a new thing for us too. All the "what if's" came to my mind, so I double checked on our life insurance and all that before we left. LOL! We went shopping for a couple of days to get a few things until we realized that we shopped for spring clothes without knowing that it was actually going to be cold in Vienna! So, after we checked the weather there, we returned a lot of it and went back to buy some gloves and scarves instead. LOL!
Our flight left at 10:30pm ATL time and it was arriving in Vienna at 7:30pm their time, so Craig told me that we had to stay up to 'beat' the jet lag. We did, and although on the first day around 6pm was hard, after that, we had no jet lag at all which was awesome! So, why Austria? Craig has been to Europe several times. A few times before we even met and then for some work opportunities, and he has always shared how Vienna was his favorite city. He decided that rather than purchasing a European tour package, he wanted to just stay in Austria the whole time and really discover it. So, we stayed in Vienna for three days, Salzburg for two and Kaprun for another two. On this blog, we will be covering a few things that stuck out to us in Vienna. (We will be sharing about the other two cities on future posts.)
1. It's beautiful.... Holy cow beautiful!
On our first day according to our Apple watch, we walked 14 miles and burned over 1000 calories. I don't know how much you guys usually work out, but for me, that's a whole lot of calories! Every corner we turned, it was another level of beauty... Looking at the photos, as pretty as those turned out, it's still just not the same than when you're actually there. All the victorian buildings or whatever the word it is to call them, they were so stunning. The details... wow! It's still mind blowing to me that people built things like that! That long ago! With limited resources and technology, it's incredible the will power they had to accomplish something so big. I admire the patience they had to make every intricate detail so perfect. I think it's wonderful that Vienna preserved all these old buildings and adapted them into their modern culture. When I think of a "city", all I can imagine is something like New York City, but Vienna is totally different! Check out these images:
2. Viennese people love bread, yet they stay so lean. Go figure!
I can't speak for all Europeans since this is only place I've been so far, but Viennese are lean. Tall and lean! Craig and I are not the tallest nor the biggest, but we felt very thick there... and broad. I felt like my thighs were twice as large as theirs. And, I'm just scratching my head to figure out how they have such a lean figure when they eat bread after bread after bread... I mean, it was seriously really hard to make this logic make sense, you know? Is it because their bread is so fresh and organic? Is it because they have fast metabolism? Is it because they walk so much everyday and their lifestyle is so different than Georgians? Maybe it's a combo of all those things? I have to admit that I was quite jealous of their figure despite their "not so balanced" diet. I mean, it was seriously very hard to find vegetables... anywhere. Their diet was what was the most shocking to me than anything. Other Europeans may eat differently, but for the most part, Viennese love bread, cheese, coffee, cold cuts and chocolate which are all things that we had to cut out of our diet in order to lose just a few pounds. We did Whole 30 in January, and you can't eat any those things on that list, so I'm glad we didn't go then. :) I just have to say it... it's not fair. Please don't take me wrong though... bread? I LOVE bread! That's my problem! LOL! We definitely carb loaded to the max and enjoyed every bit, and here are a few pics of some dishes and pastries that we had there. What was our trip hashtag you ask? #morebread
We found this link for Vienna specialty dishes and desserts... you're welcome! ;)
3. Speak English? YES!
I'm just so impressed by people who speak English so well as their second language when they don't have to! English is my second language, and it is one hard language to learn, but I had no choice but to learn! In fact, they say it's the hardest one in the world. Because of all the exceptions and rules that are not really rules, it's really hard to make sense out of it. I'm STILL learning and still have to think in my head before I speak and wonder if I said something wrong. I frequently get confused, don't get jokes very quickly or at all, and slangs are what's still hard to understand or "get". It's easier for me to watch movies when the subtitles are on and songs finally make total sense when I look up the lyrics. I was a little nervous about the language barrier, but when it comes to that, I felt right at home because just about everyone we encountered spoke English. We had no problems ordering food, paying for things, asking for directions or anything. Minor things here and there got lost in translation, but for the most part, if you speak English, you are good to go in Vienna, so don't worry about that!
4. Classical music is HUGE here!
I have been a fan of classical music since I was very little. My mom introduced me to it, and I think it's simply beautiful and pleasant to listen to. Does it make your kids smarter? Hm... I don't know about all that, but I do love it. I took classical piano lessons for years, and I love that our girls are loving to play the violin and piano too! Before going to Vienna, classical music is something I didn't really think about. I mean in the back of my mind, I've known that all these composers were from Europe, but it just didn't cross my mind that I was going to be encountered with so much classical music there. Well, when we went, it was everywhere! They are very proud of their classical heritage and rightly so. They have concerts all the time everywhere and I didn't even know that Craig had one in mind until we met a street vendor. He spoke English perfectly and at one look, he just knew that we were tourists. LOL He approached us kindly and was such a good salesman that when we left him, we had two concert tickets in our hands. Although we were hesitant to buy tickets from a stranger in the streets, Craig knew that he was legit from the research he had already done and that in Vienna, street vendors are very regulated. He educated us that Vienna is one of the top places in the world for classical training. That evening, we went to our concert, and you guys.... seriously... the talent was purely magical. My jaw stayed opened the entire time! I wish that I could've recorded the whole thing, but I got in trouble for recording at the beginning. hehe I promise that I wasn't trying to disrespect their rules, I honestly didn't know that it wasn't allowed. Or, maybe I just missed a sign that was in German. ;)
5. It was eerie to be where Hitler once stood.
We all know the Holocaust history, and we can all agree that that history is something that shall not ever be repeated. We went to the Habsburg palace where Hitler gave his speech to his army on the balcony of that building. Visually, it was of course beautiful to be there, but we prayed that nothing like that will ever happen again. Who we follow and who we idolize can determine your life. We follow the One who died for our sins so that we may live... Jesus Christ. He is the only way, the truth and the life and whoever believes in Him will not perish but have an everlasting life. That gift is for all of us... for you and me, and it is our hope that you accept Him into your heart and live in His purpose and love.
6. They're so friendly!
I didn't know what to expect when it came to encountering Viennese people especially as a minority, but wow! They were so friendly! I mean, EXTREMELY friendly! One of the things that we loved experiencing was the personal contact we got with the locals there. For the most part, we weren't in a rush other than museum closing times and our concert time, so we hung out at restaurants and we just loved talking to the waiters and waitresses or people that we asked for directions or whatnot. And you know my husband... he loves talking to ANYONE! ;) As mentioned, they all spoke English well enough to carry on a conversation, so it was great. Once at a market, I was hesitating on what to order because I wasn't quite sure what it really was although it looked yummy. So, the gentleman next to me explained everything without even me asking. I guess I totally looked like a confused tourist. LOL His wife was so sweet too and then he told me to try his bread (of course he's eating bread! LOL) before I ordered to see if I liked it. He insisted! It felt a bit awkward, but I really appreciated the kindness... he then continued to explain more things to us and I remember just laughing and laughing away with this couple. (Wish we took a selfie with them... sigh.)
But, the nicest folks we met in Vienna were our business's famous couple, Mia + Jesse! If you're our client, they are probably familiar to you too! We show their wedding album to almost all of our couples... This couple is the beautiful one that got married in Vienna two and a half years ago. Here, let me refresh your memory:
Well, Mia used to second shoot for us and was our babysitter, so you can imagine how much we have been missing her! She helped Craig in planning our trip so much, AND we got to meet them too! You know the Schonbrunn Palace from their album? We got to go there because it was our dream to have photos taken there too! Mia + Jesse became Craig + Unchong behind the camera and helped us look good. :) It was fun being in front of the camera! We spent the rest of the evening touring the beautiful palace and being rebels for a little bit (inside joke), and for the rest of the evening, we ate and ate and talked and talked... Gosh! It was so fun that we really didn't want the night to end. We shared many things, and we learned so much from them about Vienna, their lives there, their work, their future, etc... Mia + Jesse, from the bottom of hearts, thank you for making the time to meet us. You guys were really the highlight of our trip! We love you guys!
7. What's the rush?
I think we all know that our culture and Viennese culture are quite different. Did you know that Americans are known to live our lives very busy, money driven, workaholics? Um.... I think I can totally agree with that. That's something I know I battle with everyday. I mean, that was the reason for this vacation in the first place! It's so crazy busy that the very thing we want and work for is what we are missing. One of the things that we noticed in Vienna was that there were no clocks. Or, they were very hard to find. Everyone seemed so chill... They close everything early unless you serve coffee and drinks. Did you know that their maternity leave is 2 years? TWO WHOLE years! And, it's full pay, not a disability pay. Wow! How I would have enjoyed that benefit! Random restaurants put a sign on their door saying that they will be closed for a month for vacation. Our friend, Mia's favorite Chinese restaurant is currently closed and she's not too happy about that. LOL! She told us that all the opera singers and musicians take two months off in the summer although that's peak tourist season. Two months? Wow, as Americans, we are lucky if we get 3 weeks off in a year and they usually have to be spread out! But you know, there are always pros and cons and a cost. Their cost is that the tax is super duper high. You thought our tax is high? Think again! Bottom line is... ain't nothing free! But, being there for a week, it did make me think... a lot. Sitting here as I'm writing this blog, I am wishing for a lifestyle for my family where the European culture and our culture could meet in the middle. It's so interesting how lifestyles can be so different just because we live in different places although we are all same human beings. Culture is fascinating! I soooooo wish that we could walk more around here. Your car is the only way of transportation and physical activity is such a challenge! But, through all the wishes and wants that I acquired in my heart after this trip, I did realize that I can't think that the grass is greener somewhere else, but that I have to be thankful for what God has given me here and that what we have is great too. There's no lifestyle that's perfect, there's no country that's perfect. In my heart is where I have to choose joy and be content with where we are. So, God bless America! To my hubby.... thank you for this most memorable trip!