Budapest

It’s funny sometimes when I think back to my original move to Austria. I had these grand plans and expectations to travel every weekend and see everything this vast world (or at least Europe) had to offer with this guy, whom I love. While I still have these plans, and will still make this happen (I’m a stubborn one), I also realized life has this funny way of not giving you exactly what you want in the time-frame you want it, and for a “planner” like myself, this move might have been the best thing that could have ever happened to me.

Our schedules in Austria, once we got the hang of things, got hectic, fast. It was almost like our lives in Dallas (we worked opposite schedules for the first 3 years) transposed to the beautiful Alps of Austria, the one thing I was trying to avoid, but was clearly unavoidable. Soccer takes up a lot of our (mainly his) time, including all those weekends I thought we could sneak away (naive, I’m aware). Turns out my school schedule did too (over 40 hours a week just on school obligations). So these rare moments when we were given the opportunity to get out-of-town, we tried like hell to make the most of it.

  

We had this extremely narrow window between me finishing school, Colt’s shortened break in-between seasons and our impending flight back home to Texas. We picked somewhere within driving distance, a new country, for me at least, and took a chance on a last-minute Hotwire hotel deal (it was straight out of the 80’s, but hey, it had AC). Noting the last-minute Hotwire deal, this was clearly another trip we didn’t plan in advance, (but I wanted to do a little early celebrating for Colt’s 30th). We showed up, after a longer drive than we anticipated (oops), and set out on foot. I think we both expected Budapest to be a lot like Prague in a way, but it shocked us both with how extremely diverse it happened to be. I also want to note I heard more English and Spanish than any other language.

  

Being the quick two night trip it was, there was so much we wanted to see that we just didn’t have time for. The city was far bigger than I think either one of us expected. We saw the sites, or as many as we could due to time constraints and the Red Bull Flying Bach that happened to be taking place the same weekend; (an American won it, we stumbled upon the awards ceremony as the national anthem was playing… how fitting). We found the most amazing part of town (the Jewish quarter) and made sure to visit the Great Market Hall as well as the famous Ruin Pubs.

     

  

The food was GOOD… and we had SO many options. Places such as Platz, TOKIO, STIKA, the Great Market Hall for Lángos, and for one of the most amazing sandwiches with a line down the block, go to Bors GasztroBar; just to name a few. When you’re in the land of meat and potatoes for any length of time, some variety turns us into two kids in a candy store, I kid you not. Do note that there were about 5,000 more places we passed that I wanted to drag Colt into because the cafe was just “so cute”, but then we wouldn’t have had time for anything else. Along with the food, we all know I enjoyed the Hungarian wine (although we didn’t make it to a wine bar I wanted to visit)… and Colt, dear Colt, kept ordering that darn Unicum (there isn’t an eye roll big enough for this lol). We tried to stay off the beaten path as best we could and I think, did well. By the time Monday morning rolled around, we ended up having to high tale it back to Austria for Colt to make it to his first day of training for the new season, and I had to pack seeing as we were due to be on an airplane less than 48 hours later.
 
 
 
 
-Courtney

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Bratislava

You know when you’re sitting at a bar with a couple of friends, and you’ve had a few drinks, and you start planning these grand ideas or trips that usually never happen? Yeah, well that’s how this whole idea started, yet we actually made it happen under the guise of a birthday trip for Meli and I (insert cheeky grin here). What boyfriend can say no to that? Obviously, not ours ;).

We needed somewhere close, due to the boys football schedule, and I requested somewhere Colt and I have never been. We narrowed it down to a few options, and eventually Bratislava won out. Only a mere two and a half hours from us, the drive to Bratislava passed in no time. We only had two full days and one night there and I believe made the most of every second.

Meli and Ossi had been to Bratislava once before, so we were lucky enough to have two pretty awesome tour guides (you know you have good friends when they veer off course to make sure you see a cathedral or two), as well as a solid pick for a hotel with a spectacular view of the city as well as the castle. The first day was spent wandering around the city, sightseeing, stopping for a beverage or two, then enjoying what I would like to consider to be one of the best nights EVER at a place called Centrálna Klubovna. The food was good, the in-house brew was good, and of course the wine was good (did y’all think I wouldn’t be posting about wine, come on now). But more importantly, the company was the greatest part, and I think we stayed for almost 5 hours just talking and enjoying a relaxing evening out with friends.

 

  

   

Our second day started off with a probably slower morning than we all would have liked (note the drinking hours in the above paragraph), followed by I think one of Colt’s favorite parts of the trip, which was spending some time with a friend of his, Miro, who is originally from Bratislava but whom Colt met at Texas State, through friends, when he was studying abroad in Texas. We were able to enjoy an amazing lunch, meet his wife and precious new baby boy and just chat about life and get some local insight as to what Bratislava is all about. After bidding Miro farewell, we finished off with some shopping for local art (Colt and I try to collect a piece of art from every city we visit), before heading back to Austria. It was by far one of the best weekends we’ve had while abroad and I can’t wait to have many more like it in the future.

-Courtney

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Trieste, Koper & Ljubljana

As many of you know, I am studying at a University that is unlike any University we have back home in the States. So in saying that, one of our courses this semester was the second level of cross cultural management (how to do business throughout the world, how to deal with different cultures while doing business, etc.). The difference in the course the second semester is that it wasn’t completed in any classroom; instead, it was completed in three different cities, and in two different countries within 5 days.

Our first stop on this little adventure was Trieste, Italy. A place I will hopefully be taking Colt back to explore very soon. Trieste is the capital city of the Friuli Venezia Giulia region in northeast Italy. We only had one night here, but I could tell I would love this city from the start (pasta and wine anyone?). It has quite a history (I know this because I gave a presentation on it), but I won’t bore you with too many details. Trieste’s location on the very edge of the Adriatic Sea has always defined it; it still does. From the 1380’s to World War I, Trieste belonged to the Hapsburg’s—it was Vienna/Austria’s main trade route to the sea and the rest of the world. Italian, Austro-Hungarian, as well as Slovenian influences are all evident in its layout which encompasses a medieval city and a neoclassical Austrian quarter.

 

Of all Trieste’s’ attractions, the Museo Storico del Castello di Miramare is the most evocative and produced some of my best photos of the trip. The castle, built primarily in the 1850’s by Archduke Maximilian, offers an extensive cliff and seashore park that spans 54 acres. Need I say more?

    

Our second stop of the trip was for a half-day in Koper, Slovenia. We attended a course at the local University (University of Primorska) before getting a quick guided tour of the city. I found the theme of this trip to be guided tours. Guess who isn’t a fan of guided tours?… Yup, this girl.

 

 

Lastly, we spent the majority of our trip, 3 days,  in the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana. I was surprised at how quickly I fell in love with this city and it’s youthful vibe (which I found primarily stems from their large University population). The city was beyond charming with its’ Baroque and Habsburg inspired architecture, abundant greenery (58% of the country is covered in forest), and many riverside cafes and restaurants, which is where we spent the majority of each evening.

We had, wait for it, more guided tours. One of which was through the Ljubljana Castle, totally okay with this one, as well as several company tours ranging from manufacturing to steel production. Don’t worry, I’ll spare you from my many embarrassing hard hat and safety glasses photos. Although this is not how I would have chosen to explore these cities, I’m grateful for the experiences none the less.

-Courtney

 

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Waidhofen an der Ybbs

Like most towns we end up exploring, they are usually found due to the fact that Colt had a soccer game there, or passed it while on his way to a soccer game. This town was no exception, (needed their aritifical field to play on for those sub zero winter days, people).

He came home from his game excited about this castle he saw, and knew he had to take me back so we could explore the place. Now, I will say the town wasn’t our favorite (why was everything closed on a Saturday?), but exploring the castle was by far one of the cooler things we’ve done here.

  

We started off by visitng the Stadtpfarrkirche next to the castle. Built in 1470, it is one of Waidhofen’s largest and most historic churches. I fell in love with the door to the church, for obvious reasons.

 

After the church, we headed towards the Rothschildschloss. A castle that has existed on a site inside the Old City (think medival city surrounded by walls; very Game of Thrones esque) since the twelfth century. The castle is now named after the most important former owner, a banker named, take a deep breath, Albert Salomon Anselm Freiherr von Rothschild. An extensive renovation in the late nineteenth century altered the character of the castle, as did a redesign in 2007 that made use of contrasting modern materials like glass and steel. It gave off a very old meets new vibe that was different than anything I’ve ever seen here.

If you havent caught on by now, through our various posts and pictures; if there’s a tower, we’re going to climb it. Turns out this tower in particular was a medieval torture chamber and right from the beginning of our ascension we were met with skulls and pictures depicting the various means of torture commited here. Really gave me that warm fuzzy feeling on the inside. The climb was steep and narrow, but once at the top in the newly added glass enclosure (where they now hold events) the views were beyond worthy.

 

On the drive home we made a slight detour and stopped by Stift Seitenstetten, because you know, why not? This girl loves her architecture and these beauties never disappoint.

-Courtney

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Kremsmünster Abbey

Kremsmünster Abbey was founded in the year 777 (yes, you read that right) by Tassilo III, Duke of Bavaria, and according to legend, it’s on the site where his son Gunther was found dead following a hunting accident. The Abbey is only a mere 30 minutes from our flat. This country is small, what can I say.

We stumbled upon it by accident; and by accident, I mean we were on our way to another Abbey we had found while watching a WWII documentary, but when we rounded the corner into Kremsmünster halfway through our original drive, we were met with this massive beauty and immediately changed our plans. The abbey is a spiritual centre but also includes an educational institute, research centre, economic governing body and a museum.

   

It was the most gorgeous of Fall evenings, made obvious in many of the colorful photos (that tree though). After wandering the grounds, and taking too many pictures, par the usual, we stumbled upon Stiftsschank Kremsmünster. We originally stopped in for a drink (yes, every Abbey has a bar or restaurant) and ended up having one of the most amazing dinners, complete with their local beer and wine (the important things, you know?). I would recommend this place to anyone who happens to be in the area. Not to brag or anything, but we are seriously getting good about stumbling upon the most random, unexpected,  and amazing places.

 -Courtney

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#teamhavinfun

Well guys, we’ve been busy… So busy in fact I had to be reminded I even had a blog. But alas, I was reminded, and with my semester finally coming to an end yesterday, I figured I should at least give an update on what this duo has been up to. Between my ridiculous (this is not an exageration) school schedule, Colt teaching english to adorable elemetary school kids, attending school himself, playing soccer and working at the ranch we’ve hardly even had time for each other.

But, we finally got our long awaited break on December 22nd and I was lucky enough, with the help of one very special lady (Hi Mamoo ??), to have my brother and his girlfriend Brooke fly in to spend the holiday’s with us. Those two weeks were a whirlwind to say the least, from Prague for Christmas, all around Austria, to Dublin for New Years then back to Munich to see them off. Two weeks felt more like 5 blurred days (I partially blame our alcohol intake for this).

It was both Connor and Brooke’s first trip to Europe and I was so excited to show them many of the places that made me fall in love with this part of the world and the reason we chose to move here.

 

Out of the four of us, Colt was the only one who had been to Prague. He loves it, and even considers it one of his favorite cities. I have seen over and over on website after website how it’s one of the most beautiful places to be for Christmas. So with those two factors playing a role, Christmas in Prague seemed like a no brainer to me. I booked an Airbnb a few weeks out and we made the four hour drive there for a short 3 day Christmas stay. I think the sheer beauty of the place, shocked us all. We had no plan, nothing specific to see, and spent our days wandering around, late night caroling on the empty Christmas Market stage, making comments about the sheer number of folks enjoying their bottles of booze streetside and enjoying the gloriousness that is Czech beer (indoors for those who are wondering). For Christmas dinner, Colt and I thought it would be fun to bring along a little Austrian tradition we had learned last year and packed our Raclette grill (google it) along with some groceries, and enjoyed Christmas dinner in our little apartment right near the heart of the city. I won’t get into too many details throughout this post, otherwise we would be here all night. Just know that this trip was beyond what I could have ever hoped for, and we had fun… lots and lots of fun.

 

  

After Prague, we headed back to Steyr, where we spent some time in our little town and others around it, and even made sure to spend some time at the Ranch so Chuck could work his magic hosting skills on our guests. In the midst of the grand Austrian tour we headed towards Salzburg, where we spent the night, after making a pit stop in the instagram famous Hallstatt. In Salzburg, we sent Connor and Brooke up to see the Fortress and closed down the Augustinerbräu (they litterally shut the lights out on us). It was a quick trip, but worth it. Lots to see and lots to do and a very short amount of time to do it.

                                          

 

We came back from Salzburg with enough time to sleep, repack and head off to the Vienna airport on New Years  Eve because we were headed to DUBLIN baby. Connor and I spent a lot of time trying to decide between Venice, Italy or Dublin, Ireland for New Years. Clearly the vibe in both of those places is drastically different and due to the nature of the holiday, Dublin won out. Turns out we made the right choice and the vibe throughout the city was just what we were looking for. We drank a lot of Guiness, a lot of Jameson, and Brooke was even able to practice her Irish dancing. We even made time to tour the Guiness Brewery on New Years day.

Side note: If you are in Dublin and want some legit oysters, check out KLAW. It’s the size of a shoebox, but worth every penny. Especially for these deprived Austria living lovers of oysters.

Our final stop of the trip was Munich. Connor and Brooke were flying back to Dallas from Munich aiport, and had spent a few days there when they arrived, so we decided to go just a day early and close down one final brewery before we sent them off. Hofbräuhaus is a staple and I think needs no explanation. We were even, with help from Siegmund and Anna Marie, able to show Connor and Brooke what a traditional Stammtisch is all about. They have been going, every Tuesday, for decades… and sweet Anna Marie even drank all of us under the table with her seven half liters.

I’m unable to describe how truly happy I was to have my brother here for Christmas, it meant so much to me to have that little piece of home, abroad, for the holidays.

-Courtney

For more pictures from our trip, visit my Facebook album #teamhavinfun.

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Baden Austria

I’ve been putting off this post in hopes that we would make it back to Baden bei Wien before having to publish this. Turns out we haven’t, so I’m going to roll with what I’ve got, which is not a lot.

Colt and I have made it a habit of trying to find the most beautiful places we can and showing up to explore without a plan. Like literally, no plan. No idea what to see (except for a church of course, you’re talking about me after all) and no idea where to eat. Chuck (Colt’s dad, not mine… yes they have the same name) is the one who suggested we head to Baden after he drove through one weekend and mentioned how beautiful the drive was and how interesting the town looked. So on one of our random days off, we made the hour and a half trek from Steyr towards Baden and spent the day exploring.

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Turns out, Chuck was right, and Baden is absolutely beautiful. Known for their casino (I don’t gamble) and their spa’s (we didn’t have time to spa unfortunately). So with those two major things crossed off the list, we set off to the market, because that’s what we do and where we go, and they have never steered us wrong. We are market people through and through and truly believe it’s where you find the vibe of a city (thanks Bourdain).

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After a drink and a quick chat with some locals we headed towards the city center where Colt had to drag me out of one of the greatest Bio stores I’ve set foot in. Visited the Cathedral, the casino gardens and stopped at several other cafe’s along the way. May I also mention it rained, the entire day, but we made due.

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Towards late afternoon we headed back to the market instead of finding a restaurant for dinner. We snacked on street food and enjoyed some beer and wine before being surprisingly serenaded by a man, who from his dinner table he was sharing with his family, turned the entire market into a sing a long (seriously one of the greatest moments we have witnessed, ever). We were having so much fun it made it hard to leave, but alas we reluctantly had to make the drive back home.

We plan on going back to Baden and finding out what else this city has to offer. Maybe around Christmas, I can only imagine how amazing their Christmas market will be. 🙂

-Courtney

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Pöstlingberg

We started this day thinking we were going to explore Schloss Wildberg, some castle ruins outside of Linz Colt spotted on a previous trip with his dad.

While we found the Schloss, we were disappointed to find that it is now considered private property and we were unable to get inside.

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Undeterred, we knew of a church we had seen high on hill overlooking all of Linz, but did not know the name or how to get there. After some questionable googling (ie: Church on hill overlooking Linz), we found the name and directions and headed off towards Pöstlingberg.

Pöstlingberg is a 539 meters high hill on the left bank of the Danube in the city of Linz, Austria. Once at the top, you are greeted with the Wallfahrtsbasilika (Pilgrimage basilica), a panorama viewing platform and several cafes and beer gardens.

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The pilgrimage church, perched high above the roofs of the city, is the landmark of the Upper Austrian capital. It was built in 1748 according to plans by Matthias Krinner and is a popular site for weddings because of the unique location.

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We spent the afternoon attempting to take some good photos, snacked on a Jause in the beer garden and had drinks in the sunroom of the beautiful Pöstlingberg Schlössl Restaurant. It was perfect.

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To end our evening we headed towards the city center of Linz, where we planned on dining at one of our favorite restaurants for dinner, but instead wound up spending far too long enjoying a pint or three at the Chelsea Irish Pub 🙂

-Courtney

P.S. Dad… How cool would it be to have this view from the firehouse?

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Poreč Croatia

“Actually, the best gift you could have given her was a lifetime of adventures…” – Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

And you, Colt James, are working on doing just that.

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Oh Poreč… even though my time with you was short, you have captured my heart. Colt had spent some time in Croatia on holiday last year, in Rovinj. He knew how beautiful the country was, and knew some of what it had to offer. He also knew that surprising me with a trip there for my birthday was the last thing I ever expected.

Sadly our trip to Croatia had to be cut short due to the fact that I landed a last minute interview with a new University here in Steyr. But the few short days we had there were worth the almost 5-hour drive. We chose Poreč for a couple of reasons. One, we could drive there. Two, Colt wanted a new city we could experience for the first time together (hello romance). Three, well… it’s beautiful.

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One of the highlights of the trip for me was getting to visit the Euphrasian Basilica. What I would consider the most valuable cultural monument in Poreč was first built in the 4th century with the present basilica being built in the 6th. It is the most complete surviving complex of its type and a UNESCO world heritage site. If you’ve read any of my previous blog posts, you know I have a thing for these beauties.

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Along with our tour of the basilica, we had the opportunity to climb to the top of the sites bell tower.

Side note: The tower bells began to ring while we were right beneath them and I’m more than positive my caught off guard shocked reaction kept Colt laughing for the rest of the day. I also don’t think I could properly hear for the next several hours either.

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Aside from our visit to the Basilica we spent some time each day at the local market, and ate as much seafood as we could stomach. We found the cutest apartment to stay in through Airbnb, spent some time at the beach, and Colt even tagged along as I shopped some local stores for hand- crafted Croatian treasures.

Out of all the things Croatia is known for, there are two which happen to be at the top of this girls list of favorites. Their wine, and olive oil. Let‘s just say several bottles of both found their way into our car before the drive home.

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We plan on going back to this beautiful country as soon as we have the time, it’s sheer beauty and hospitality were just what this girl needed. A little vitamin D and lots of wine didn’t hurt either 😉

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-Courtney

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Chuck and Barb visit Austria

Having your parents come to visit your new home for the first time can make anyone nervous. Having them come visit your new home that they have to trek halfway around the world to get to, in a country they’ve never visited let alone a continent, is what one might call down right terrifying.

Will they like it? Will they approve? Will they understand why I left everything I started back in Dallas to start over here in Steyr? Will they finally see the things that uprooted my life and took me farther away from them? All I kept thinking to myself was I sure hope so… And man I hope Dad likes the Bier!

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Turns out he did!

They booked a round trip ticket arriving in Vienna and staying with Colt and I for a little over two weeks, including being here to help celebrate my birthday (cue the awww’s). In their two weeks here we covered more than I could have imagined and took on Austria like we were all the Energizer Bunny (turns out we’re not Connor, and this lady in particular crashed a few times). I planned to show them so many beautiful things that they couldn’t help but love it here, right? Or at least that was my game plan.

We spent a few days in Steyr and Linz, exploring the two cities closest to Colt and I. In my father’s words, “He even got to go back to college” as we hauled them with us to class, to see our campus.

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Took them to the Mauthausen Memorial for the most somber of history lessons.

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Spent a day in the beautiful city of Hallstatt.

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 We took Mom to every garden we could find, including Mirabellgarten (Sound of Music) in Salzburg and the Gardens at Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna. The ladies love of flowers knows no bounds.

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We drug Dad to watch more fußball than I think he would have ever imagined watching in his life (I’m convinced he enjoyed it though).

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We explored beautiful cathedral after cathedral.

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Visited Stift St. Florian (Patron Saint of Firefighters), and the Firefighters Museum of Upper Austria.

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Threw in Fortress Hohensalzburg and Liters of bier at the St. Augustiner Braurei in Salzburg for good measure.

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Took some time out in Vienna to visit the Naschmarkt, sip wine at Urbanek and Vulcanothek, and dine at our favorite restaurant for traditional Austrian cuisine, Gasthaus Grünauer.

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Last but not least, let us not forget, Chuck and Chuck at KL Ranch for the win.

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Having them here was probably the greatest birthday present I could have ever received. Their unconditional support and love for me throughout this entire process has been the strength that has kept me going. They are my reason for everything, my foundation, and I couldn’t be more grateful to have been blessed with two of the most amazing parents any kid would be lucky enough to wish for.

There is also quite the happy ending to this little story… they loved it! They were open to all the new experiences, and I think it is safe to assume, that they now understand why their daughter has chosen this crazy little life of adventure.

I love you both so very much!

-Courtney

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