Friday, July 8, 2016

Shelley & Alex take on Europe! Our adventure begins! Day 1 - 5/26/16

Alex, my almost 17 year old son, and I were heading to Europe! I had the opportunity to sail on a Viking River Cruise and Alex was my lucky traveling companion! Since he attends cyber school, he was able to finish up his junior year of high school while traveling. Now, I'm sure those of you familiar with river cruises might be thinking - a 17 year old on a river cruise?  That doesn't really sound like the "normal" passenger.  True!  And that's all part of the adventure! Just what does a teenage boy think of a river cruise? And what would we do to keep it adventurous enough for him, but still not too adventurous for me, the average 47 year old mom! Read on because we sure had an amazing time!  

This adventure will have tons of photos, so be prepared! The places we visited were perhaps some of the most beautiful sites I've been to and I took over 1500 photos this trip!  I promise I won't share all 1500...but there are definitely a lot of pictures in this story!

Of course, if you've read my travel blogs, or trip reviews before you know that I am a travel consultant so this is my absolute favorite thing to do - planning vacations!  Of course taking them is pretty exciting too, but I love planning out the intricate details of that perfect trip. And this one was no different! For me, if it's at all possible, I have two guidelines that I always try to follow when traveling to Europe: first - always take a direct flight whenever possible!  I know from some locations, a direct flight isn't an option, but if you begin your journey from a city where you can get a non-stop flight, just pay that extra money and go non-stop! You will thank me later! Not only do you get to your promised land vacation sooner, but you eliminated those risks....the risk of a missed connection, the risk of lost luggage on said connection and the risk on the way home of that delay when there's a cancellation on the connecting flight! And my second Europe rule is that you're spending a lot of money, points or miles to get over there so if you can - stretch that vacation for as long as possible! Once you get there, try to maximize your days! Many times your flight is one of your biggest expenses, so add on days to the beginning or end of your cruise if that's what you're doing. If you are doing a land vacation, stay an extra night or two! See that one extra site or city you've been meaning to see!

And that's what we did! We left on Friday night, May 25th and flew round trip, non-stop into Munich!  

The flights worked for my non-stop planning, and our river cruise ended outside of Munich, but we sailed out of Budapest. Munich is nowhere near Budapest though! So, this is where the second rule came in perfectly! We would add our time before the cruise between Munich and Budapest! And what better place to do that than Salzburg!

Our flight was smooth, and before we knew it is was what I like to call "fake morning" when suddenly you're woken from that hazy sort of sleep and being served a muffin top and coffee and being told it's morning, but your body knows that it's really only 2 am! But sure, we'll roll with it! Good morning Germany! We landed right on time and got through immigration and customs fairly quickly and met our driver, David, right outside of baggage claim.  He'd be taking us to Salzburg, with two stops on the way!  He told us he planned to take us the scenic route, no highways for us! 

We got our first glance of the Alps and suddenly all traces of jet lag were gone!  I suddenly was in love with Germany! 

Our first stop was the "Eagle's Nest". This compound served as Hitler’s second seat of government and was his 50th Birthday present from his inner circle. The Chalet that sits 6000 feet at the top of the mountain is the actual "nest" and has since been converted into a restaurant and lookout point.  That is the area we visited and it is amazing!  Truly the top of the world feeling!  You can also visit a documentation center at the base of the mountain, but we skipped that to get to our next destination.  This is the ticketing center to take the bus up the steep road to get to the next base of the mountain...

See that way up there, that's where we're going!  

The view out the window on the bus ride up the mountain. I've read that it's the steepest road in Germany....I believe it! We were told the road is only used by the special buses used for this site and that it's only open from Mid-May through October.

You can see the buses coming up the road behind our bus

This is as far as the buses go.  Here we picked up our ticket for the time we'd like to come back down. 

The views here were just spectacular!

Next we'd walk through the original tunnel in the mountain that would take us to an elevator that would take us up to the top -- to the Eagle's Nest!  To close to 6000 feet!

And then we stepped outside and were totally overwhelmed in every direction! 

Snow!  We were also standing in snow! wasn't cold, but there was snow on the ground!

Yup, we're really here! 

A similar view as the one from the bus ride, just from much higher up!

This is the actual "Eagle's Nest" building

The view from the other side of the mountain

This first stop truly spoke to Alex!  I loved it as well.  We honestly could have spent hours up here and I probably have a hundred pictures between the ones I took and the ones he took.  It was incredibly peaceful, even with all of the people there.  The air was so fresh and clean. It was perfect!

Our time up here was coming to an end.  We did have those timed bus tickets. So, we decided to grab a bite to eat at the restaurant. This is where our perfect German day sort of came crashing down. Our first experience with German food was really pretty awful. I don't know if it was the lack of sleep or that the food was actually bad, but neither of us liked what we got and we left hungry. Alex was wondering if he was actually going to starve on this trip. He felt things had changed for the worse. We took the bus down and David was waiting for us at the base. He asked us if we wanted to visit the documentation center, but when he told us it would take about an hour and half to go through it, we told him we'd rather get to our next stop since it was already 3:30. We'd just Google the history!  And off we went!

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