Tales from the Crowned Jewels of Europe, Part I

Trip Start Jan 08, 2008
Trip End May 17, 2008

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Friday, March 28, 2008

I spent the past week on holiday (as the Europeans say) with my parents. Our trip consisted of Vienna, Prague and Budapest. These cities are considered to be the Three Crown Jewels of Europe because of their splendor and beauty. After much anticipation, Mom and Dad finally arrived in Vienna 2 Saturdays ago and we had a wonderful time from beginning to the end. It was sad to see them go but I'm looking forward to the rest of my stay in Vienna. The following tales are the most memorable experiences we had from the trip and I will cherish them forever.

A Little Girls' Dream: Vienna Boys and Horses

We hit the floor running on Sunday morning at 6:15am. We planned to stand in line for standing room only tickets to the Vienna Boys Choir church services. The service started at 9:15am and I was concerned about getting there in enough time to procure tickets but, we found a woman selling seat tickets for only 8 Euros and ended up being about an hour and a half early. She seriously up-charged the tickets but it was worth it for my parents to be able to sit down. I was thrilled to see the choir that I have heard SO much about throughout my music literature classes. After the services, I saw one the Boys walk out of the chapel. The inner-little girl in me got very excited and asked him if he would take a picture with me. He bashfully obliged and other girls quickly discovered my great idea. I caused a massive crowd around this sweet little boy of little girls asking to get their pictures taken with him. I hope he had no where to be after the mass because the rally of girls forced him to stay at least an extra 30 minutes.

After seeing the most famous boy choir in the world, I didn't think the day could get any better and it was only 10:45am. We casually strolled around the Hofburg Palace where the church services were held. The Spanish Riding School is also housed in the Palace and is something that my Mom has known about ever since she was a little girl. The Spanish Riding School is a riding school for Lipizzaner horses. The Hapsburg Empire had the Spanish horses imported in the 15th century and that is how the school got its name. Since the school is just a stone's throw away from the chapel, we wandered in to see if we could get tickets for the 11am performance even though most performances are sold out weeks in advance. Again, we assumed we would get standing room only tickets but, once we got to the ticket counter we discovered that there were exactly 3 tickets left in the whole theater. My Mom's eyes lit up in excitement as we bought the tickets. This was something she has dreamed about her whole life.

I went into the performance not knowing what to expect. I knew that the Lipizzaner horses were called the "dancing horses" but I didn't know much else. From start to finish I was amazed by the beauty and athletic ability of these horses. Their intelligence is displayed in every gracefully executed move they make. The harmony between the rider and the horse is also something very special. The riders, starting at age 15, train and ride a horse their entire working life and the bond between the human and animal is obvious from the moment they step on to the perfectly groomed sawdust "dance floor." My Mom and I had a huge grin on our face for the entire 100 minute performance. It was truly a memorable experience. I was able to capture a minute of the performance on video for your listening pleasure!

The Painting of Prague Castle

As my parents and I ascended the numerous steps up to the Prague Castle, we found an assortment of art galleries, crystal shops, and Christmas stores. Walks through these stores provided much needed rest for our feet so we went into almost every one. I was quite taken by one of the art galleries because of the unique and colorful paintings that hung frame to frame on the walls and I couldn't keep my mind off of them throughout our entire tour of the Prague Castle.

Even though we found a trolley that would take us off the Castle hill in a matter of seconds, I forced my parents to climb down the same stairs that we struggled up just so I could check out my favorite art gallery again. As we passed the gallery window, I found an oil painting of the Prague cityscape and I was in love. I told my parents that if I could have any painting in the store, I wanted this one. We went inside and crossed our fingers as the owner calculated the price of the painting I adored. Realizing my strong desire to own this painting, my parents agreed to purchase it for me. I never thought that I could get so excited about a painting but it was truly a highlight of the trip. The painting, which the owner carefully wrapped in cardboard, wouldn't leave my thoughts for the rest of the week and I couldn't wait to unwrap it when I came home.

It is the first original piece of artwork I have ever owned and I will treasure it forever. However, I am a little disappointed that this may be the beginning of a very expensive hobby of mine.

The Easter Markets

Easter markets pop up all over Europe about 3 weeks before Easter Sunday. The markets filled the city centers and palace gardens of every city we visited and we took full advantage of everything they had to offer. My Mom's favorite stands were the painted Easter egg stands and my favorite stands were the snack stands. I tried every new piece of candy or cake or crepe and every snack was better than the last.

Nothing really memorable happened in relation to these Easter markets but they occupied a lot of our time and provided hours of entertainment for my Mom and me and hours of my Dad shelling out cash for our every whim. Sorry Dad!

European Food

Speaking of crepes and cakes, I have failed to mention how much more I adore food these days. I was a little worried that I wouldn't find stuff I like in Austria and elsewhere, but I have sadly proved myself wrong. I LOVE EVERYTHING! This unbiased love for food began at the beginning of the semester because my roommates don't like meat as much as I do. They cook with more beans and more vegetables and in order to survive, I had to consume what they fed me. Clearly, my roommates are excellent cooks because I have enjoyed every vegetable or bean they have put in front of me.

My food intake during my vacation wasn't any different. I took my parents to all of my favorite restaurants in Vienna and we had breakfast at every hotel we stayed. When my parents read this, they will laugh because I haven't let the first breakfast go. This breakfast was at the Vienna Hilton and we ate there before seeing the Vienna Boys Choir. We suspiciously had to sign something but I quickly disregarded that when I saw the wide variety of breakfast options on which to gorge. I had a salami sandwich, sausage, eggs, bread with jam, bread with Nutella, a chocolate croissant, and a chocolate muffin. This breakfast will go down in history as the best breakfast I've ever had in my life. My parents appreciated MY appreciation for the food when we discovered (3 days later) that our big breakfast cost 22 Euros per person! However, I honestly believe I consumed 22 Euros worth of food that day.

I finished every meal that weak from Viennese goulash to Hungarian potatoes with as much enthusiasm as that first breakfast. I think my parents wonder about me sometimes.

Stay tuned for part 2 of the Tales from the Crowned Jewels of Europe!
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Where I stayed
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