Monday, November 28, 2011

Bratislava, Slovakia: A Travel Recommendation

Well, the Portugal mess did not clear up as we hoped. Our fight was indeed canceled and we missed a Thanksgiving weekend with our friends from London in sunny, 65F Porto Portugal. Bummer. However, A and I did manage to make the best of the situation by taking a road trip. Vienna has been high on our list since we got here. Gpa Martin always said how nice it was, so we had to go! This weekend gave us the perfect opportunity. It is a far drive, so we broke it up. First night, we stopped in Munich. There, we went to the Christmas Market, had some German food, German beer, sight saw (even though we've been there 3 or 4 times), and stayed the night. The next day we headed to Hallstatt, Austria, a small town I read about in a travel magazine. There we sight saw, had our 'Thanksgiving' dinner, and stayed the night. Day 3, we drove to Vienna, stayed 2 nights, but took a day trip to Bratislava, only a 1 hour train ride. Good choice me! Not only was the town cute, the Christmas market was going on and picturesque as always, and we got to go to another country we had yet to visit - perfect!

Bratislava is obviously catering to those visiting Vienna. The train ride was quick, cheap, and ran every often. The city itself was MUCH more crowded than I expected, I assume because of the ongoing Christmas market. When we got off the train, we were 1km from Old Town, which is where all the sites were. We were debating on taking the tram, which was free, but since we couldn't find the right one (seriously!) and it was still light out and only 1km, we decided to walk. The area surrounding the train station and the walk toward Old Town = a bit sketchy. I was not super stoked about having to walk back the same route in the dark, not to mention it would be uphill. I regret to say, after traveling for 3 years, I still have not learned my lesson and DID judge the city initally by the area surrounding the train station. Well, that was a mistake. The Old Town of Bratislava was very nice, very cute, very clean, and very safe feeling! Should not have judged! There weren't a million sites to see, but enough for an afternoon/evening with the BIG Christmas Market going on!

* To see in Bratislava: St. Michael's Gate, the castle, Old Town, the statues throughout the city

* To eat: Pierogis - typical Slovakian food - potato dumplings filled with different things, sauced with different spices. It is SUPER cheap to eat and drink here, especially compared to Vienna! Wash down the pierogis with a local brew!

* Public Transportation is great here, as well! I always appreciate that!

Old Town - set up with one of Christmas Markets

Cumil. Statues all throughout Bratislava with some sort of meaning. This one is a favorite of mine! He's coming out of the sewage!

Pierogi - typical Slovakian food - potato dumplings with some sort of sauce. Pretty good po man food!

The main tree in the second part of the Christmas Market, situated in the middle of a busy ice skating rink!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Oh man are we having a week of bad luck or what.

Portugal is trying to mess up our travel plans! Because of the strike, our flight was canceled. Emily & James were able to reschedule, but we haven't been able to so far. Not looking good for the Thanksgiving trip, my friends.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Well, it's official. Our extension was not approved and we are moving in 2012 instead of 2013 to Charleston, SC. We are thankful for a nice base/great location in Charleston, but not pleased about having to leave early. We really love it here, our house, our town, our neighbors, traveling, and well, just everything about it. Until our move, we have LOTS of traveling to do.

Upcoming travels include:

Thanksgiving in Porto, Portugal
FCB game in Barcelona
St. Anton, Austria ski trip
Burgundy wine tasting trip
A night to celebrate Shannon's birthday in Brussels
New Years Eve in Berlin
January trips to be decided
Birthday trip to Zermatt, Switzerland

We are also planning a trip to Capri & the Amalfi Coast of Italy, Istanbul, a Baltic +Russia tour, sailing through Dubrovnik and the Dalmatian Islands on a catamaran, and Vienna. Those all HAVE to be hit.. hopefully we can squeeze in a few more.. we shall see.

On the bright side, we will get to house hunt a little at Hannah's wedding and go wine tasting with Ethan and Kathryn in Napa in November. As for our yearly anniversary trip tradition, we will be leaving from Charleston, so where should we go?! We were thinking somewhere like Turks and Caicos, but since Charleston will be so hot and we're not used to more moderate weather, we want cooler. Thinking of going somewhere in Canada.. keep the traveling up, continuing to add countries to the list!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Lauterbrunnen Valley, Switzerland: A Travel Recommendation

Welcome To

We had a long, free weekend and decided to head to Switzerland, THE best country there is! We were planning on going to Istanbul, but that didn't work out. Then we were planning on taking the dogs hiking through the Black Forest in Bavaria, but changed our minds once we saw Switzerland once again and loved it, once again. So I got out my travel books, started googling, and decided on the Lauterbrunnen Valley of Switzerland. Great choice, if I do say so myself!

We rented an apartment in the center of town that was dirt cheap, huge, and allowed dogs. Another good choice. While the apartment itself was nothing too special, it was in a great location and offered us plenty of space. Instead of eating out every night while we were there, we decided to pack food and cook (A said that was the Karla way!). We packed lunches for our hikes everyday and cooked dinner every night when we got home. It was perfect - a great combination of relaxation, being outside, working out, etc.

While we were there, we were planning on going to the 'Top of Europe....' Jungfraujoch. We've been close to going a few times, but never gone because of the price. Well, here again, we didn't go. It's SO ridiculously overpriced, we just couldn't bear it, so we skipped it. Part of me really wants to see the glacier and the views from the Sphinx, but this trip, just didn't happen. Instead, we hiked. The first day, we arrived later and the valley was already shaded. We stayed in town and walked to Staubbach Falls (not far at all from our place) and Trummelbach Falls (maybe 45 minutes). IT WAS FREEEEEZINGGGG with no sun out, but still gorgeous. There is a walkway up to Staubbach Falls which we thought would just be a good view point, but it was actually a tunnel and you were under the Falls - pretty cool... Worth the 20 minutes for sure. That night we cooked dinner and woke up to the watch the HOKIES beat GT!

The next day, we explored the town of Wengen and then hiked Kleine Scheidegg for great views of the three - Eiger, Jungfrau, and Mönch. The hike was STRAIGHT up hill, but worth it. The views were amazing and the dogs had a great time. There is a train stop at Kleine Scheidegg to go to Jungfrau.. we were tempted.. We stopped at a little restaurant, had a local beer, got the dogs some water, ate the remains of our packed lunch, and took the train back down. It's funny - we passed people who were walking DOWN Kleine Scheidegg, but no one who was walking up.. maybe we should've taken the hint. Oh, and the gross part, there were silk worms EVERYWHERE - this goes for all the hikes, not just Kleine Scheidegg. It was hard not to walk through. Ew. Again, after we got home, we cooked a delicious dinner and watched football on the computer.. the Internet is a glorious, glorious thing.

On Day three, we found yet another hike we wanted to try. We were both thinking this one would be a little easier than the K. Scheidegg.... not. From Lauterbrunnen, we took the 'difficult' (why?!) trail to Mürren and Grütschalp. Again, views. WOW. Not sure which views were my favorite because they were both so impressive. Again, we packed lunch for us and the dogs and our books, got up there, took some pictures, baked in the sun, and this time, hiked back down.

There are other places to see in the Lauterbrunnen Valley for sure. We didn't get to see the Schilthorn or the Piz Gloria (the restaurant from the James Bond movie), but with the dogs being with us and the weather being so very perfect out, we just wanted to spend the entire time outside. Next time?! Overall, great trip and great weather - now on to the next travel adventure: Porto, Portugal to port wine taste!

UNDER Staubbach Falls

Lauterbrunnen Valley - cute house with an awesome backdrop of Staubbach Falls

First night in Lauterbrunnen - lots of cows - lots of cheese for sale

View from climbing K. Scheidegg

A, B, & R - so small, Jungfrau so big

cloud cover over Interlaken

Kleine Scheidegg

K. Scheidegg

Kleine Scheidegg

Wearing North Face at the North Face.. and drinking the local brew

Jungfraujoch - the viewing station of the glacier


Relaxing after a long, straight uphill hike. Sun + a good book... ahhh

Kleine Scheidegg

Train ride back from K. Scheidegg - cloud cover over Lauterbrunnen.

Boston & Riva's first train ride!

Apartment View of Staubbach Falls

Apartment view on the other balcony - this is the quaint little town of Lauterbrunnen

This is actually a view from the apartment - can you believe it?!

Staubbach Falls from the start of the Mürren hike

The start of the hike up Mürren and Grütschalp - seeing the back side of Staubbach Falls


A and his dog

The views throughout the whole hike were just amazing. Pictures really don't do it justice. I know people say that, but REALLY.

Family Pic at the top with views of Eiger, Jungfrau, and Mönch

We made it to the top (Grutschalp & Murren).. and now the dogs need a snack!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

the Sound of Switzerland

ALL the Swiss Cows wore these GIGANTIC cow bells, which we read cost over 2,000 Swiss Francs (WOAH!). The town was ringing all day long!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

i love fall

... but it's almost winter :(

We have a long weekend.. starting TODAY so we're packing up the car and heading to Switzerland.. again. We thought of going to Bavaria with the dogs to hike, but after once again seeing how beautiful Switzerland and A declaring it his favorite country (that's a man after my heart right there), we decided to go there instead. I read an article about 50 natural wonders of the world to see before you die and the Lauterbrunnen Valley of Switzerland was on it, so we're going! While we're there, we will also train to the top of Jungfrau to hike, which I've been DYING to do and couldn't afford to it in college, see the Staubbach Falls, the Trummelbach Falls, Black Monk Mountain, and hike up/through Kleine Scheidegg and Mannlichen Summit. WOO! What a weekend! It is supposed to be in the low 60s high 50s and sunny.. good picture taking weather! Have a good weekend!!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Riva San Vitale, Switzerland: A Travel Recommendation

Riva San Vitale holds a near and dear place to my heart. Studying and living there was probably one of the best 3 months of my life. I want to tell everyone to visit because it is the typical, quaint, picturesque, lake-side Swiss town. But at the same time, I want to tell no one to visit, so it stays exactly how it is. Would someone who didn't study there appreciate it like me? A did, but he's an obvious exception. He heard my constant praise of the town while I was there. He had high expectations and he says Riva lived up to them. He even ranked it over Kasel (WOAH! THIS IS BIG TIME!).

While we were there, we visited the Battistero (the oldest Christian church in Switzerland), Santa Croce, walked through the streets, walked to and ate at Hotel Svissero, and even got to tour the Casa! My very favorite Mill Mountain Regular, an architect professor, is teaching there this semester. I emailed him ahead of time to see if we could meet up for lunch. It worked out perfectly! He let us walk around the Casa, I got to show A all the places I raved about, and then the three of us headed to get the best pizza in the world! A said the Casa was NOTHING like he imagined, much larger and nicer than he pictured it! Yes, I was very lucky to get to study there.. I know.

2 of the 3 famous Hotel Svissero Pizzas. Not often did we eat away from the Casa when in Riva (why would we - we had a chef!), but when parents would visit, some would take a few close friends out and we ALWAYS went to Hotel Svissero. The pizza is to DIE FOR.

Frank and Pizza Prosciutto

Over lunch, Frank proceeded to tell A and I that we looked a like.. kind of like these two bottles. Hmmm.. Never been told that before. Comments?!

Monday, November 7, 2011


A better slide show of the damage done in Cinque Terre and pictures from DURING the storm in Vernazza. Crazy sad. And worth a look.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Literally, the morning of our drive to Tuscany, I get a call from my friend Erin who's husband JUST drove there. He was telling her that the road he drove in on is NO LONGER THERE! Scary. So since she knew we were going, she called to check that we had mapped it out and we were going to be driving on a road that did still exist. Well, that was the first I had heard of the mudslides in Italy. I read the news. Daily. And I never heard anything about it. So I tell A and also go home and look for myself. Sure enough. Mudslides. Livorno and what? Cinque Terre. NOOOO.

I think it's a little weird that we could only find little about it, but here are a few pictures. And an article.

Thankfully, our route was not through the area destroyed and it did not mess up our trip at all, or E and K's, who were originally thinking about going to CT. In Como, when we were watching the news, it was ALLLL ABOUUTTTT the mudslides, no other news shown, but again, we're home, and not a word. Supposedly, a few of the towns in CT are messed up and Monterrosso is completely destoryed. Makes me very very said.. that was our favorite spot. When we were in Riva talking to my old RA Daniela, she said it is a common problem in Italy because the Italians like to build where they should not. But that's the only local opinion I heard on the matter.

Either way, if you haven't been to Cinque Terre, sadly, you may have missed your chance.

Tuscan Wineries

While we were in Italy, we lined up (what I felt like was a LOT) of wineries to tour and taste. Ethan knows his wine, so he had places in mind he wanted to see and taste at. Most, we emailed ahead of time to make a reservation. Being October, it was not prime tourist time and the reservation was necessary. A few we just saw and stopped at. My favorite was the small time Chianti producer. I just looooooveeee me some Chianti. One day, we drove an hour south into Montalcino to taste 2 different brands of Brunello.

*Argiano in Chianti - mine and A's favorite. A smaller winery, you can also stay there. The people were by far the friendliest. They offered cheese and crackers with their wine, which was nice, and no other place did that. We bought a bunch of Chianti here and fresh olive oil. Wine is inexpensive and good!

*Fattoria di Corsignano - We stayed here. The lady in charge of the tastings was NOT A's or Ethan's favorite person. She was American, not Italian like you would expect, and you could not pay the guys to have to talk to her again.

*La Collina - A random, SMALL winery we stopped at with no reservations. The man in charge was very friendly. The tasting area was not so well presented.. but it was nice to sample the small places as well.

*Felsina - I liked the cellars the best at this place. Wine, eh just ok. Ethan knew of and loved this wine. We made a reservation here.



*Fattoria di Bibbione

*Castello di Monteriggioni - Just stopped by here. We saw the town from afar and it was adorable! You can taste anytime and purchase right there. It is inside the castle walls - worth a stop!

*Barone Ricasoli

*Castello di Brolio - Recommended by the lady at Argiano. Good recommendation. We ate lunch and tasted wine here. It was a great recommendation and close to Argiano.

*Banfi - We had dinner and a tasting at Castello Banfi. The reservation included apertifs, cheese, crackers, 6 wines and 5 courses. They even made me a vegetarian tasting menu! Very nice dinner, glad we went! This is in Montalcino, not Chianti.

*Poggio Antico - In Montalcino, Brunello producer, not Chianti. We had reservations to tour and taste at this place - Ethan was a big fan. Brunello is different and apparently not common and super expensive in the States. Poggio is a BIG producer. We had a private tasting and tour and then purchased (too much) wine after. It was a good change from the Chianti!

The four of us - After our tasting at Poggio

Poggio Antico - Not a Chianti producer - Brunello.

Argiano in Chianti

Fattoria di Corsignano - Don't Recommend.. The wine is ok, but the lady in charge of the wine tasting, no thank you. No no no.

Felsina - Best wine cellar

Felsina - By far the best cellar we saw