The Rest of the Story
In our last exciting episode of “Elise and Steve Conquer Europe,” we were quickly turning into two pork roasts, and walking more than I ever thought humanly possible (if that human is me). Now, as veteran radio commentator Paul Harvey used to say, it’s time for “the rest of the story.” Or at least a few impressions of our final two stops.
I had decided to save a little money and only buy transit passes for two of our four cities. Salzburg is small and eminently walkable (or climbable, if you’re nutty enough to attempt an Alp). Prague (or at least Old Town where we were staying) is also a reasonable walk/hike from and to anywhere. But we were glad to be able to hop on and off the U-Bahn in Munich and Vienna--at least once we figured them out. As we’d stand there on the subway platforms studying Google maps late at night, we felt utterly fearless. I had to compare this pleasant emotion to the sheer terror I always feel on New York and Philly public transportation, where looking even vaguely lost marks one instantly as easy prey. Sigh.
We stayed longest in Vienna, and loved every moment. Highlights included a beautiful classical concert at Musikverein, and learning about the mighty Habsburgs, including the lovely, doomed Empress Elisabeth--nicknamed “Sissi”--who struggled mightily with depression, and was reportedly relieved to be killed by an anarchist. At the time, the family was still incredibly rich and powerful; Sisi’s story was a stark reminder that those things do not ensure happy lives.
On a lighter note, we really enjoyed a show at the Spanish Riding School, featuring the Royal Lippizaner horses, the majestic beasts performing routines set to (of course) classical music. We also took a delicious food tour of the city, complete with glasses of “storm,” a seasonal drink of fermented grape juice pressed before it becomes fully wine.
Prague was our final locale, and it was magical. Our apartment was right next to the famous 15th century astronomical clock, with figures of the 12 Apostles that come out of little doors every hour). We went to Prague Castle, took a cruise on the Vlitara River, and ate great Czech food (not 100% pork products, there was also a lot of duck:-). On a day trip to the town of Kutna Hora, we visited the Bone Church, where hundreds of thousands of ancient human bones have been made into chandeliers, coats of armor, winged Angels of Death, etc. Strangely, it isn’t too creepy.
We got home late last night, and are eager to give Aiden and Peter their Viennese chocolates, and regale the boys with tales of palaces, magic clocks, prancing horses and (of course) all those bones.
Legend has it that touching the bronze statue of Saint John Nepomuk on Prague’s Charles Bridge brings good luck. We did so, but there was really no need--we knew beyond any doubt that we were already the lucky ones.