Before I traveled to Germany, I had never given any thought to how much its culture has infiltrated my life. From pretzels to beer to gummi bears...ok, so maybe its only infiltrated one aspect of my life, but it's a very important one!
I arrived in the small German town of Tubingen around one on Thursday, and met up with my friend Grace. After disposing of my things, she proceeded to show me the town, including the shops, cafes, castle and the river. Being in Tubingen, it was easy to see why Germany is the homeplace for so many fairy tales; I never been in so picturesque a place. That night after a delicious meal, we went to a bar so I could try my first German beer. Though I enjoy beer much more than I did in the states, I still wasn't completely sure if I would like it.
Well, I didn't like it. I LOVED it. After tasting German beer, I don't know if I'll be able to go back to the CoMo variety, which I now know is the palest of all palest imitations of a real beer.
The next day, after my second pretzel of the trip, Grace and I left for Vienna.
Now at this point, I must digress, and tell you a bit about my childhood. When I was little, I had a certain fascination with certain movies, as children tend to do. My favorites were Grandpa's Magical Toys, Beauty and the Beast, Mary Poppins, and...The Sound of Music (because what three year old doesn't love a good nazi takeover story). Do-Re-Mi was the first song I taught myself on the piano, and my mom would sing Edelweiss to lull me to sleep as a baby. So anyway, I've basically been obsessed with the Austrian countryside for the past 17 years. So even though I wouldn't be traveling to Salzburg where the movie was filmed, just being in Austria was exciting.
So, in the spirit of "The Sound of Music," I will list for you a few of my favorite things I saw and did in Vienna (in no particular order):
1. Going to St. Stephansdom for Easter Mass. Though I am neither Catholic or speak German, the service itself was beautiful, and was made even more so by gothic surroundings of the oldest church in Vienna.
2. Walking through the St. Stephansdom Catacombs. I felt like a mixture of Indiana Jones, Robert Langdon, Harry Potter, and Dora the Explorer walking through the tunnels. Though I have to say, seeing the walls made of bones and a 300 year old skull staring at me did make me feel a little queasy.
3. Visiting Royal Palaces. Both ancestral homes of the Habsburg dynasty, Hofburg and Schonbrunn were magnificent but Schonbrunn was my favorite, as it provided me with a hill to reenact the opening of The Sound of Music.
4. Gelato. Vienna had the absolute best gelato of my life (even more than Italy) and Grace and I may have eaten it each day we were there.
5. Schnitzel. I experienced this delicacy on two occasions. First, at Figlmuller, who boasted the worlds largest and best weiner schnitzel. It absolutely lived up to its reputation. However, not even Figlmuller could compete with what Grace and I ate for Easter Dinner. Four words, one magic dish: Schnitzel in a Box. It was magnificent.
6. Going to the Vienna Opera. I was very excited that my first opera experience was going to be in Vienna, and as soon as we entered our box I could barely contain my excitement. However, once the opera, Parsifal, began our excitement began to wane. Five and 1/2 hours later, we finally left the Vienna Opera House, and the Schnitzel in a Box incident occurred shortly after, which maybe explains that choice of dish.
7. Visiting the Easter Markets and sampling the delicious foods and beautiful wares they had to offer. I was so sad that I couldn't bring back the delicately decorated eggshells for fear they break on my journey back. Oh, and I got to eat more pretzels at said markets.
I barely even scratched the surface of these two countries, and I cannot wait to return to them and further explore them. I also have to say that besides Greece, I ate the best I ever had in Tubingen and Vienna, which is of course, a major factor when I come to rating countries.