Spring in Vienna

Spring in Vienna

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


We toured the infamous Central Cemetery outside of Vienna this past weekend. This vast cemetery houses the graves of Beethoven, Strauss, and Brahms to name a few. Other more notable politicians, leaders, artists, and important people of society can be found here as well. The Jewish section of the cemetery is very sombering to walk through. Overgrown grass and weeds cover many grave markers. Along the main corridor the grave stones are marred with holes, cracks, and broken off pieces of once beautiful and inscribed granite. These marks are not the result of weather and time but rather purposeful vandalism done by the Nazi soldiers during their occupation of Austria after Anschluss was declared in 1938. The hatred of the Jews was so widely felt by the Nazis that it was not enough to torture and humiliate them in life... but also after death.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Easter Break in Italy

Living in central Europe has many advantages when you have a car and some free time. The kids were out of school this past week so we took advantage of both to drive south to the beautiful country of Italy. We broke up our trip over several days so we were not in the van for too long. We drove five hrs the first day to Venice. We were able to spend two days wandering the narrow streets and alleys in the city, riding the water taxis, seeing the historical buildings and eating some local Venician food. We learned not to order a "peperoni pizza" in Italy as you will be given a pizza with several types of peppers on it! Fortunately, the kids were good sports about eating the pizza sans the peppers and Finn and I tasted pepper pizza for the first and last time:-)

We departed Venice and drove two hrs south to Pisa. It is a small town that caters to tourists stopping to see the Leaning Tower. The whole family enjoyed having their picture taken holding up the Tower and shopping the souvenir vendors lining the streets.  Arissen became official with his Italia baseball hat he picked out and the kids picked out their Pisa snowglobe to add to our growing collection.We enjoyed some very good authentic Italian pizza with buffalo mozzarella and fresh basil and the kids had their usual Margerita or "cheese only" pizza. And of course, gelato for dessert!

We drove two more hours south to Rome and arrived late at our hotel. It, like most buildings in Rome, did not look too impressive on the outside but once inside, there were marble stairs and elaborately upholstered furniture. The breakfast bar, which was included, served croissants, pastries, cappucinos, espresso, toast, jelly, and cereal. Traveling with three kids, free breakfast is a necessity! We spent two days touring the city. We toured the Coliseum, Pantheon and saw many ancient Roman ruins scattered all over town. We even saw the Pope as we stumbled upon a special ceremony the city was hosting for the Easter holiday. 
Navigating the numerous street vendors and sellers was a job in itself. Umbrellas, roses, noise makers...you name it, they were selling it...aggressively! 
At times, it was easy to forget we were in another country as the English speaking tourists and school groups were everywhere. It was fairly easy to navigate around the city without speaking Italian. Many signs were in English and most vendors in the big cities spoke English.

Last on our itinerary was Naples. Our first impression as we drove through parts of the city with trash littered everywhere and our hotel looking run down was not too good. However, after getting out to see the ruins of Pompeii, hike Mt Vesuvius-a still active volcano that wiped out Pompeii in 72 AD and an afternoon on the beach, we had a different perspective. The hotel, despite being outdated and like military barracks, had a reputable formal restaurant on site. A great way to start and end the day. Ciao!