Beautiful Austria… we needed more time with you!

While traveling in Germany we decided to dip into Austria… mostly because we could. We were going to visit the Neuschwanstein Castle and with it being along the boarder it just made sense. We booked a night in Innsbruck, Austria and headed south!

During this time we still had the BMW 5 series so Marty was happily driving down the Autobahn speeding as fast as he was able in areas and enjoying the open road… I had motion sickness patch on and often closed my eyes. I’m not sure why, but it seems each year I become more and more susceptible to motion sickness, and it’s beginning to show itself in odd places. Large boats such as ferries or sight seeing boats are triggers, flying bothers me a bit but GinGins get me through, the cruise ship between Finland and Sweden was a bit of a trigger, and now more frequently car rides… even in the front seat! Bleh. At least we left home with 6 patches and they work brilliantly!

Previously noted, when we arrived at the Neuschwanstein Castle it was after hours so we weren’t able to take a tour. After enjoying the fresh snow and evening sunset we continued traveling through the mountains into Austria. Our host in Austria was a young college kid named Simon; we had a private room at his place for the night and access to the house. He was home when we arrived and cheerfully showed us around the house ensuring we took off our shoes (as everyone does in Europe), asking us to turn off lights when we left a room (as everyone does in Europe) and then proceeded to ask us to take no longer than 7 minutes in the shower (this isn’t usual). It was kind of fun watching him bounce around the house showing us everything and then chuckling at all of the notes posted throughout the house reiterating what he was telling us. Seriously… 3 notes in the bathroom, notes all over the kitchen… you get the picture.

After a good nights sleep, morning tea and a Berliner we headed out to explore Innsbruck. The town is in the middle of beautiful snow covered alps and every turn was absolutely gorgeous. They hosted Winter Olympics in 1976 and still had the Olympic Rings throughout the town. Innsbruck is known for amazing skiing and the town is clearly set up for it with many lifts and buses continually taking people up to the snow. It was fun traveling through the ski town with many people toting around their skis and boards as they walked down the street. It sort of reminds you of Salt Lake City in Utah, but a bit smaller bowl with the mountains closer on all sides.

Since we missed touring Neuschwanstein, we decided to check out Ambras Castle, a medieval fortress turned Renaissance palace, home of Archduke Ferdinand. We snagged free parking (by fluke that the machine was out of order) and we headed in to explore! It may not be the most extravagant castle at first glance, but it was full of history… and peacocks. The only downfall to this castle was that it was cold outside and cold inside. In the lower castle, we went through exhibits showing medieval armor and history of war, but we kept catching a chill! The buildings were not heated and the workers staffing the halls were all as bundled up as we were. It’s a bit amusing… until you need the toilet.

Although the outside of the castle was more simple than others, the inside had beautiful craftsmanship. After learning about the history of armor, medieval amusement of jousting and how it evolved, we followed the tour into what is the oldest museum in the world. The collection put together is quite amazing and also humorous when you begin looking at the oddities collected by the wealthy. Some items such as carved coral, carved ivory, intricate wood carvings, all with insanely tiny, clear details, etched glass, and amazing locks with single keys by a specific locksmith it was funny to look at a painting of the largest hog “in the world” on canvas that the king loved, or ridiculously tall platform female shoes that they technically couldn’t walk in and required an assistant to guide them when they walked… but continued to wear the shoes because it represented their level of wealth. Oh how times have changed… and yes, I am aware we have just as many oddities and amusing bits to poke at with our current wealthy individuals, but the past displays of wealth always tickles me funny.

In the Upper Castle we loved looking at the Spanish Hall with its gorgeous woodwork on the huge doors, the incredibly detailed inlaid woodwork they request you not to touch (which only makes you want to touch them), decorative stone floors, gorgeous ceilings laid out with warm, dark wood and paintings, on the wall you view paintings of Tyrolean rulers (27 life-size portraits) as well as artful detail, tall windows along one side topped with large round windows that had paintings of different scenic views across from them on the opposite wall. It was a lovely room that you could imagine full of life. The craftsmanship put into the decor is unlike anything you see now days; the intricate detail, use of natural products and built to last a lifetime. We had a great time admiring the castle, learning a bit more history and gawking like all of the tourist.

With only one night/day in Austria we made the most of it by visiting the Harley store (a must in each country), tooling around in Old Town to look at the Golden’s Dachl, Innsbruck’s most famous landmark — a golden roof! The Goldenes Dachl, or “little golden roof” is covered with 2,657 gilded tiles that glimmer in the sun. Emperor Maximilian I (1459-1519) ordered his royal box with its flashy roof so that he could watch jousting (something we learned a lot about at Ambras Castle). Finally we ended our day in search of a Starbucks to purchase me a “you are here” mug. Unfortunately, Innsbruck didn’t have a Starbucks, but Marty found one in Salzburg an hour away so we headed onward.

The amusing part… or not so amusing part of driving in most of Europe are the small towns you have to drive through, roundabouts and tiny roads that are two-way but look more like one-way. Now, don’t think for one second that the drive isn’t gorgeous, but it’s a bit tense at moments when it looks like you’re about to barely squeeze by the car in the other lane. Thank God Marty was driving!! After driving for about an hour, we followed GPS into a large parking deck and proceeded to look for Starbucks. We had actually arrived at a large, multi level shopping mall. It had a cool green-space on the ground floor, lots of cafe’s to grab a caffeine fix at and clean, comfortable seating areas throughout. After making a few rounds we finally found our Starbucks and picked up my coffee mug! Marty’s so good to me…

After a full day in Austria we were headed back into Germany… it was our first late-late night for arrival and it irked our host, but we made amends and after arriving close to 1am we finally tucked in for a few nights. (It was a private flat so we didn’t realize the host had to meet us personally to give us the entry fob and key… whoops!! (I wouldn’t make that mistake again).


Charity & Marty



From Italy we took our first long distance train to Zurich, Switzerland. When it comes to backpacking travel we’ve learned that trains, ships or bus is definitely the ideal because there are no additional fees for your packs and you have a lot more elbow room! Tip: if you’re riding the train there is usually an open storage area so you need to be swift when boarding so you can snag a spot. The overhead area is small.

Our host in Switzerland gave us excellent directions and we were able to find her home easily with public transit. So far, the only city we’ve used taxi service was in Budapest per the recommendation of our host. Let me just say, Europe has public transit down-pat and I’m in love! One of my favorite parts of working in D.C. was the public transportation and it’s a bit sad compared to everywhere we’ve been in Europe.

The home we stayed in this time was an old, 3-floor townhouse with squeaky stairs, cold wooden floors, a pull levy toilet (tank mounted above on the wall by the ceiling), cozy kitchen and quirky bathroom with a claw-foot tub on a raised platform. It by far has been the most charming house with all of its quirks and old world character. Marty would say “it’s an old house and you need a new one because this one has too much upkeep”, but for me, I loved finally staying in part of the old town rather than a newer apartment. Jolanda, her large dog and room mates were extremely hospitable and fun to chat with. The kitchen was probably my favorite yet, bold yellow, squeezed into a closet size room with a happy clutter of useful pieces surrounding you… and I think they had more hot tea choices than I do at home! I felt right at home as the small, very functional kitchens grow on me.

FYI: Switzerland is the most expensive country we’ve visited yet. Do a little research before you go… we popped out our first night to a U.S. style diner for an easy burger (it got great reviews on google) but I didn’t think to look at prices. Two burgers, two sodas and one fry later we left incredibly happy in the tummy but busting our budget for the entire day with a bill of 55€. We learned our lesson after that and were able to be more budget conscious, but I hadn’t done my research.

Speaking of food… street food is delicious and became our go-to after our first night flub. Brats, pretzels, pretzel sandwiches, fresh baked goods… the choices are never ending and readily available. We picked up fruit, sodas and chocolate in small markets rather than the designer street stores and were able to keep to our budget more easily. I loooooove street food and will try about anything, Europe has made me so very happy with all of the delicious food!

We spent time popping in and out of shops and quaint roads through Zurich, took the train to Luzern and enjoyed the fun art districts.

Our day to Luzern was really nice because the train was cozy and allowed us to see parts of the country we’d have otherwise missed. Unfortunately since we’re exploring during winter months the sun hid and it was a bit gray and cold. I may not have captured as many lovely pictures as I’d have liked, but we still enjoyed the medieval architecture and colorful town. The Chapel Bridge (Europe’s oldest covered bridge) was beautiful and we enjoyed walking through the dark, worn wood admiring its natural beauty. It has been through a serious fire in the past but the reconstruction is handsome and it yields inspiring views of the city lining the river. It’s really very breathtaking walking through so much history.

I’m beginning to be a little slack with photos, they’re on the DSL and most nights I’m exhausted and do not want to pull them off. Maybe I can remember to use my phone camera a little more frequently so I can share more pics. Maybe this week I’ll get to it and put some in here.

Until another time… XX

Charity & Marty

Sweden it’s been real fun… but onward we go.

Today wraps up our tour of Scandinavia so we can explore more of the world. Sweden and Finland have been wonderful and it feels like there is much more to see; but we continue to move forward so we can explore other countries as well.

Sunday Brea headed back to the state and we headed towards Stockholm via the Viking Cruise line. It’s a cheap way to travel between the two countries and the locals use it as a party ship. The boat is huge and has lots to offer: restaurants, gambling, bars, dancing, a sauna room and most important, duty free shopping! Watching people shop was highly amusing’ but once you go through their market a few times you understand the savings. I booked us the cheapest room possible so we were deep down below deck… among the college students. They snickered behind our backs when we’d walk by and call us “the old people”. Lol We didn’t care, this is a tightly budgeted trip so you take what you can. Personally, I enjoyed the dinner buffet the most! It was fun sampling all of the fish plates and traditional cooking. Marty let me have my fun… let’s just say, I got my entire 35€ worth while Marty ate most of his from the dessert bar. Haha After an evening of eating and watching folks dance we conked out hard. When we docked the next morning we were in Stockholm ready to explore again!

Our host, Louise, was out of town when we arrived but she made sure we could find a key to her apartment and allowed us to stay the first day without her. She was pretty darn awesome! Neither Marty or myself have a lot of experience with public transportation so when I book a new place I request directions from the host. Louise went above and beyond by emailing me detailed instructions, plus a map and some local tips. The only slight issue we had after leaving the ship was finding the metro station. 10-15min walk later we found it and the information booth helped us figure out the cheapest travel options and we were on our way!

Like every other day it was a cloudy day with snow falling, which didn’t really make traipsing around outside very appealing so we crashed at our home and enjoyed a slow evening inside. Some days you just need to rest, what’s the point of seeing so much if you’re too tired to enjoy it?

Yesterday we spent the entire day in and out of museums, traveling by bus and metro, admiring beautiful architecture and people watching. We spent a few hours at the Maritime Museum learning about the evolution of ships; it was amazing. The museum offers free audio tours so we opted for this and it really made the tour worth while.

Swedish folks love a good hamburger, so for lunch we stopped into a Burger and BBQ joint to see if they really know what a good hamburger is… they passed with flying colors! It was deeeeelicious! We’ve mostly been shopping at the market and cooking food to stretch our budget, so it was a nice splurge.

My favorite area in Stockholm was Old Town; the old beauty still shines and it feels like you’re walking back in time as you traverse the cobblestone streets. We went back late in the evening so we could walk by streetlights and the shadows cast were even more beautiful than during daylight. We walked by the castle and observed the guards, took a few pictures and tried to grasp the magnitude of the building.

This morning we had quite the adventure trying to mail a package back to the states. Louise recommended a store close to the metro so we stopped in and the guy working was very helpful to find us a suitable box. We finished up all of the packaging information and he sent us over to the counter to pay … welllll… they only took Kronos and we only carry US, Euros or CC. With their assistance we went off in search of an ATM only to find that it was out of service; we looked around the ICA and even spoke with the checkout clerk, but no one could exchange for Kronos. We walked back to the packaging store to find out that there is another ATM… but it was hard to tell where with only hand directions and a language we didn’t fully understand. We went back out… hunted around and eventually found the ATM! YAY We pulled out 200 Kronos and proudly finished shipping our package. The gentleman at the counter seemed as relieved as we were at our success. We thanked him and proceeded to travel into town for the day.

After dropping off our backpacks in lockers at Central Station we continued exploring the city. All of the restaurants and stores have clean lines and are very soothing to walk into. It is all very modern, but feels warm. We really enjoyed relaxing with a cup of coffee on occasion while resting our feet from travel.

Now we are sitting at the airport waiting to catch our flight to Budapest. The flight has been delayed by 45 minutes so we’re sipping European beers and relaxing.

Until next time,

Marty & Charity

Arctic Circle Magic

We’ve had a couple solid days within the arctic circle and we’ve been enjoying the slow pace of no longer traveling from point A to point B. Our luxuries include sleeping in, cooking meals, plus marveling at the enormous amounts of snow…

Monday as we traveled north we stopped at an Arctic Zoo in Ranua; how can you skip visiting the northernmost zoo in the world? Once we had bundled up appropriately we took off for our 2hr self guided tour. There were many beautiful animals and the zoo seemed to allow plenty of space for the larger animals. I’m not a huge zoo fan, but there were rescued/rehabbed animals throughout and it seemed like a well maintained property. The owls were my favorite exhibits, they are so majestic! I loved watching them just glower at us while not being even slightly disturbed. Marty has a unique whistle he would use to get their attention, several other tourist appreciated his whistle and would ask him to do it again so they could take photos. Besides the owls my other favorite animal was the wolf (though it made me sad to see them captive). They were handsome as they made their rounds through paths along their perimeter, their natural strength radiated from them. At the polar bear enclosure they were just lounging in the snow, cuddling together. We enjoyed watching them for a bit… and then I felt like I needed a Coke. Lol Finally, we headed out to finish the journey to our cabin in Sweden.

Our host Benko and Lilly (she gave us an American name because it is easier for her guest to pronounce) have been wonderful!Benko greeted us our first night at the road because we were unable to find the cabin, he showed us in and gave us a brief overview of the house. Lilly visited us yesterday and took us on a tour of the property; they have many acres, multiple homes/buildings handed down through their family. Besides the sauna in our cabin they have another larger sauna a short walk from our cabin, as well as hut by the river where you can build fires to heat/cook and be close the the outdoors to watch for northern lights– called a Kota (grill hut). She even taught us a few Swedish words! Benko’s family is originally from Finland and one of the buildings (now a workout room) was his fathers that they moved from Finland to Sweden.

Our cabin is a bit older, it was Benko and Lilly’s first home here on the homestead. After Benko’s mother passed away they moved into the primary home and have begun renting out this one and another on the property. The cabins first floor is open concept (living room/kitchen), one bedroom, has wooden (very creaky) floors, a WC downstairs and a loft bedroom with the sauna/shower upstairs. All essentials are provided so it’s very comfortable. I believe our only complaint is that after having smart TV’s at the last few homes this one has basic cable, so there are only a few channels in English and the internet is weak… With only 7 hours of daylight we enjoy relaxing around the television in the evening. The cabin is also heated by a wood stove in the garage below our cabin; Lilly showed us how it worked yesterday as well her prized motorcycle. She enjoyed harassing us over our Harleys without a reverse while her Suzuki has it all; we truly enjoyed her company and getting to know her yesterday.

While relaxing most of the day yesterday we made a large pot of taco soup to keep us warm this week, heated the kettle throughout the day for hot tea or hot chocolate, read or watched movies on laptops/iPad and dozed off and on. Last night we went down to the hut by the river and built a large fire to relax around. There are beautiful reindeer pelts to sit on, moose antlers over the door that Lilly shot for food one year, and a few windows to watch for northern lights through. The Kota (grill hut) is very cozy, but we found it more difficult to keep warm than we imagined. Per Lilly’s advice we started the fire several hours before we planned to sit down there, and went back and forth for a few hours stoking the fire. Benko provided lots of wood for us to burn so we kept stoking it for heat, the wood is very dry and burns quickly! The design of the hut keeps the smoke flowing out so there was not even a slight scent on you when you leave, we loved the design! While sitting around the fire staying warm we watched a downloaded move on the iPad and passed around a jug of hot chocolate. Finally our bums wore out so we headed back to the cabin around midnight. Clouds rolled in and snow had been falling for a few hours so the northern lights remained illusive.

Early this morning there was a break in the clouds and I saw very slight movement from the northern lights. Per the app and website I follow for tracking they were decently strong in our area but the clouds proved to be an issue. I stared for a while trying to make sense of what I was seeing (at 4am you’re not sure if your eyes are working or not) and finally ran to wake up Marty. By then the clouds had begun shifting again and he wasn’t able to to see much.

Today we are looking forward to snowshoeing and Nordic skiing around the property. They have a loop route with a moose stand we can climb for better views. Benko told us about their moose and reindeer when we first arrived and stated that they are afraid of humans and run (and that they were not like our moose in the U.S.)… after learning more from Lilly we now understand they run because she HUNTS! They also have a sweet dog who’s name translates to “Cougar”, she hunts with Lilly and was injured in a hunt last year. There was a 12-14in stick kicked into her by an angry mother moose after Lilly shot the smaller moose for food. After 2 different vet visits, antibiotics and 2 surgeries Cougar is now doing well and has a battle wound to prove her ferocity!

The magic of the snow is catching, Marty and Brea are beginning to see my addition and wonder to it. As the snow fell gently last night it began erasing all of our foot prints and impressions recently made on the paths. The new snow glistened in the light and made everything sparkle. You can actually see the distinct difference of each snowflake when you look closely so we all marveled at them for a bit. Brea and I each enjoyed jumping into snow drifts or off of the shoveled paths… the snow is waist deep and fluffy! Since it is so dry here the snow doesn’t pack well like at home so snowballs are nonexistent and we haven’t seen any snowmen. Lol


Marty & Charity