Vienna

Austria is a German-speaking country with a charm of its own. Vienna is tucked away in the northeastern section and has all the old world charm. The capital city of Austria was home to famous residents such as Mozart, Beethoven, and Sigmund Freud. The museums Quarters District has a lot going on within a short walking distance. If you need a break there are shops, bars, and restaurants around every turn. Enjoy a local beer and watch the people wander through the square. Vienna is a beautiful destination for solo travelers, families, and lovers.

  • Transportation

Coming into Vienna by plane or train you will most likely start your journey in the city center. Public transportation is clean and well organized with local trains, subways, trams and buses running in a timely manner. Tickets are cheap and are on an honor system. There are no booths to check tickets. if you get asked by an agent to see proof and you do not have any, there are strict fines. Believe me, the officials have heard every excuse. I was on a train and thought my ticket could go on to the next city, but it turned out the first time I saw an agent, my ticket wasn’t good. The only reason I was let go with a warning is that I had just added money to my travel card. Let that be a lesson to anyone who is thinking about skipping buying a ticket and taking their chances. There is a large fee for not having a ticket plus the cost of the ticket you didn’t buy. There are also Vienna city cards for 24, 48, or 72 hours pass for public transportation and hop on hop off bus service which is available at the airport and transit centers.

  • When to visit

Summer is the busiest month with beautiful mild weather and all the bells and whistles for visitors. Followed very closely by the holiday seasons at the end of the year. Everything in the region is decorated to perfection in old world charm.

Offseason is Spring and Fall months where you will find discounted flights and dinners to the most popular tourist locations.

  • Weather

Vienna is a four-season city. In the winter months of December, January, and some of February it can be dry cold and snowing. As long as you know how to dress for the weather and make stops to catch a break from harsh weather conditions then Vienna is still a wonderful and walkable city year-round Summers are usually in the 70s but occasionally can get up to the 90s.

  • What to see

The main city draw to this cultured city is the museum district and the many palaces. The most popular is Schonbrunn Palace which is an easy fifteen minutes away on public transportation. All around the city, there are open-air markets filled with fresh flowers, bread, fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices. There are multiple restaurants to sit and dine on local favorites. There are many parks with perfect lawns and fountains taking up blocks to get lost in or have a peaceful lunch.

Vienna is a great and walkable city. The locals are friendly and often English speaking for those not willing to test their German. I felt safe walking the busy areas around the city and quiet backstreets where I stayed. Like any good traveler, you should be aware of your surroundings and be careful after dark.

By Heidi Vastag

American Thanksgiving

Turkey! It’s the first image that comes to mind and to my taste buds is a juicy thick cut turkey. My family, like so many others, celebrates Turkey Day in excess by cooking and eating too much food and then processing to eat more by the colorful array of the desserts. Turkey crammed with stuffing and freshly boiled potatoes smashed together with milk and butter melting on top. I’m not sure where casseroles came from but I’m sure they are my favorite. Corn casserole, green beans casserole, and scallop potatoes are always full helping on my plate. There is cranberry sauce and canned cranberry which I prefer. Sweat potatoes with a golden brown marshmallow on top, buttered vegetables, and rolls getting the least attention. Ham is added to Thanksgiving and recently fried turkey has been a trendy addition to the table. There are many mishaps resulting in fires and emergency department calls. If the turkey is fully thawed dried off the oil and water make a terrible mixture. Luckily the first try for my dad went well, maybe a little overcooked but no fire as so many were videotaping waiting for the worst. Thanks, family. There were two other tragically baked turkeys so go around for our international group of fourteen.

We had a family from London and his friend and my father is from former Yugoslavia and had moonshine in hand with stories from everyone around the table. My dad’s wife had her sisters and niece with their kid all joining the group. One long table getting a plate from the buffet and finding a seat and having to explain pilgrims and Indians to an outsider is a great way to laugh about silly holiday decorations.

The good china is usually taken out for special holidays such as Christmas and Thanksgiving along with the best flatware. These are traditionally the items passed on in a woman’s dowry along with the serving dishing, linen napkins and tablecloths and glassware only used on these special occasions making it all the more magical.

Dessert is always the best part and the hardest to plan ahead for but what are a few more bites! Pumpkin pie, cheesecake, pecan pie, and a cookie- cream pie all found their way toon my fork. The real meaning of Thanksgiving day is togetherness. Coming together and being part of my family dinner and my boyfriend family dinner. Both dinners had the family home cooked meals with way too much food. Plastic containers are filled with leftovers and send home in filled plastic bags. As with any other worldly traditions, the eldest usually run the dinner keeping their parent’s memories alive and keeping the family rituals. Leaving the table uncomfortably full is completely normal.

Oktoberfest!

Welcome to the beer fest of all beer fests!

Oktoberfest in Munich Germany puts on a grand show every year for almost 7 million people starting at the end of September. But before you can drink a pint of beer there is much planning, prep, and building that must go on with a team of highly skilled teams create a new vision each year. There are 700 vendors ready to set up for the weeks of madness ahead. The area of the event is already a construction site by July and doesn’t stop for ten weeks. The first thing that comes to mind is the giant beer tents. There are 14 major tents and 15 minor tents. In the biggest tents, there can be upward of 8,000 festival-goers. The tents are made of all wood grounded to concrete that is poured every year. For the management, this is a full-time job planning and pulling off this annual party. Several thousand people come together to wrap up the project in the few weeks of construction. Tear down is about half the time of set up running around five weeks. Most parts are stored in storage containers and delivered to the storehouses in Munich

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I planned my visit for the opening day. It was a calm morning when I arrived with my mother and took a stroll down the main road of beer tents standing tall. By the time we doubled back, the roads were filling with beer drinkers waiting for the day to get started. We picked the Hippodrome tent and sat and had a bite to eat and noticed that most tables were reserved. We quickly learned that there is an opening parade and each owner comes into their tent and taps the first barrel and the beer drinking does not stop for a few weeks after. From the beautiful windows, I watched the parade roll by with barrels of beer and horse-drawn carriage and everyone was dressed for the occasion. There is such a buzz for the town for the opening day, Like the city of Munich has been waiting to unwrap its gift for months, watching the structures go up for months in town.

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My favorite photo of my mother joining me October Fest in 2013

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Yes, this is a blurry picture but they move so fast with all that beer! This was the best I could get an even more beer was rushing by, being gripped tightly by fingertips.

My advice is to get here early to get a seat or wait for the short lines of smaller tents. I definitely would recommend going to multiple tents for different environments in each one. If you have a larger group it pays to plan ahead of time and reserve a table in a tent of your choice. All of Munich books up for this beer event, so planning ahead helps get more of what you are looking for before it’s booked up. My last bit of wisdom is if you drink a few too many pints, there is a nice grassy hill to rest your eyes until the next round. It’s all a very happy party and the locals are waiting to welcome you in. Do your country proud, don’t make a drunken fool of yourself. We have all seen this too many times. Safe travels and smart drinking!

Budapest

An old world feel from the moment you get off at Keleti Train Station. There is much history under the layers of dirt from time and neglect. Please don’t let my negative comments sway you from seeing this great and old city. After you make your way out of the sketchy train station and wander around you will see a beautiful city with many secrets.

This man was waiting to greet me at the corner with his belly wore from rubs. I feel like I could outrun him.

On one of my stops from the subway, I walked up steps to a festival in full swing with dancing, fresh food cooking, and music. I spent a few hours deciding on what I wanted for lunch and watched the street performers.

Wandering around I found local treats and homemade crafts that I recognized from my Hungarian grandmother’s house. The same red pattern of tablecloths and napkins brought back great memories of family dinners of the same food I was seeking in the city. This is a big reason I travel, its to reconnect with your past if only by a pattern or a smell.

 

There are so many grand stone building with complex curly ends and detailed columns, don’t forget to look up.