Attitude of Gratitude.
It probably seems like we are always traveling. Sometimes it feels that way too – at least, we are always planning travels! The truth is, when we learned we would have the chance to live in the heart of Europe for a finite amount of time, we decided to pull out all the stops and make the most of every opportunity to explore. The cost of living in Hungary is incredibly cheap, which has allowed us to save up and focus our funds on adventures. But we also plan way ahead to find the best deals and are especially frugal (you have to be with a family of five)! So we have been creative in order to squeeze in as many experiences as we can while we are here.
We tend to see the beauty in everything from the the minute to the majestic. In past places we have lived we always wanted to explore…but I remember feeling more of a desire to stay home and had considerably less motivation for every day adventures. It’s different here…the community is small and it’s so rewarding to be involved. I suspect the attitude that has been invigorated by living here will continue long after we return someday to the states! It’s boggling to think that we border 7 countries, and 13 countries are within an afternoon’s drive from us, all with their own unique culture, landscape, history and opportunities. We are a curious family with an appreciation for all walks of life so learning as we travel has been super interesting and rewarding. We have met so many people and the kids have witnessed some eye opening things. In just seven months, we have been to ten countries..and our list keeps growing! To think we have this opportunity at our fingertips, it feels like we wouldn’t be doing it “justice” if we didn’t milk every day for all its worth. If we weren’t “always traveling,” I just wouldn’t feel right about appreciating the privilege of living here! So on behalf of anyone who has ever dreamed of an overseas assignment or living in Europe, we don’t take a moment for granted. We savor it for us, for the “world schooling” of our children, and for all with wanderlust!
Now…onto more adventures!
The Austrian & Italian Alps
Recently we drove from Papa to Vienna, then on a picturesque road trip along the base of the Austrian Alps passing through many small towns and villages nestled in the mountains. We passed small lakes like Traunsee, to Bad Ischl where we stayed the night. Our cottage high up in the mountains had the most spectacular views of the sparkling lights of Bad Goisern below, the peaks on the horizon and the sunset.
From the “Bads” (which we learned means “bath” in German) we went south to Hallstattersee, where we had passed through before but didn’t get a chance to explore. Our plan was to hike up to the well known “Five Fingers” look-out point after taking the gondola/cable car up the mountain but a spontaneous trip didn’t serve us well this time. We missed the cable car season by four days! Ahhh maybe next summer. We didn’t let that stop us, and instead took the funicular up into the famed salt mine mountains and explored there a bit. There was a nice lookout “finger” overlooking Hallstättersee that gave Beau quite a fright! I didn’t realize what an historic series of salt mines existed here, but it was fun to learn about the history and how mining has evolved over the years.
We drove from Hallstätt through Innsbruck on another beautiful mountainous route south to St. Konstantin, Italy. The driving here can be hairy, as the roads are very narrow, steep and often cliff side. It was positively glorious though, with the views of the hillside apple orchards and vineyards. We stayed at the base of a range in the Dolomites called Schlern.
Cows are everywhere! And the cowbells are so cute. People are generally nice in Austria, we have found. The same can be said for Croatia (super friendly!) and Slovenia as well. Hungarians have been cordial and polite too, but I can’t say the same for Italy. We found the vibe in Italy to be impatient, rude, and sometimes quite angry! We were surprised to see people living in such majesty with such sour attitudes. We eventually learned that this area, although beautiful, has a history of Austrian/German occupation from WWII and the official language is still an Austrian dialect of German in this area, despite it being Italian soil. There is also an underlying weariness, stress and irritation about the government, economy and the hard work they’re doing with the land. And, although tourism is essential in the area, many people have come to resent tourists. Needless to say we had a few unpleasant run-ins with people but learned not to take it personally! Still, despite this, this region of the Dolomites completely captured our hearts with its beauty.
A sweet little town called Chiusa was fun to explore. We didn’t get to the castle in this town but we did enjoy the pastries and coffee at the shops, and walking through the town with its (again) narrow cobblestone streets, bridges over the river and views that take the eyes to the skies.
We also found a totally stunning area to walk and hike around in Santa Magdalena Alta, with a view of the jagged Dolomites on one side and a vast mountain valley on the other. The children had a blast dressing up in their traditional Bavarian garb and I was giddy taking pictures of them in this amazing place! It was almost TOO much!
Driving around with heads on a swivel, we noticed a gondola to a ski area called Seiser-Alm in Compaccio that is a network of ski slopes on the highest and largest mountain meadow in Europe! This was a totally unplanned part of the trip that turned into a fun evening throwing snowballs, exploring a sleepy ski resort in the pre-season, and enjoying mountaintop dinner at sunset. The ski area was perfect for young amateur skiers like the kiddos because of their many slopes, none of which were too difficult. And ohhh the views! It would be so fun to go back and check it out during ski season. It peaked our interest for sure!
Finally, on the way home from this whirlwind long-weekend trip, we stopped at a place Derek discovered in his daydreaming research of “cabins on alpine lakes.” Ha! Pragser Wildsee looked incredible in photos, but even MORE amazing in person! It took our breath away! We are so glad we ended up stopping (it was again, unplanned) because it became a highlight of this trip! The color of the lake water was unlike anything we had seen. The area wasn’t very busy (we got there bright and early though), and we felt the magical stillness of the snowcapped mountains with colorful fall trees looming over the lake. And that cabin! Obviously this is a popular place, because the area was well set up for crowds, and that day a bride and groom were paddling out into the lake with a photographer and a big bunch of rainbow balloons for a photo shoot. What better place to capture a magical day than at Pragser Wildsee? It really was incredible.
And the entire drive home was beautiful to. A road trip goes by so fast when the whole world around you is like a national geographic special! Until we meet again, Dolomites!