Gessell and Lee

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Family Holiday in Prague with an Infant

In December we decided to do a winter sports holiday (once again) in the Czech Republic. You can read about The Best Kept Secret in Tsjechie here. This time though, it was not only Lee and myself but our infant daughter. This took planning our vacation to a new level.…

24 hours in Vienna

I’ve always wanted to see the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra play. Luckily for us, they had a show that Saturday that we were returning from the mountains of Slovakia. So we decided to try to get tickets and do one day in Vienna before heading to Budapest.

For those of you not in the know, this orchestra is kind of a big deal. Since its inception in 1842, the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra has represented the best in the Central European orchestral tradition and is considered one of the finest in the world. As such, tickets are hard to come by. In fact, we were only able to get standing room only. Which, I would only do once honestly. You’re packed like a sardine in a can in the back of the theatre along with a bunch of other people. The temperature must have risen 20 degrees in the span of a few minutes. A great experience, but next time I want seats. The standing room is a bit too much to handle for a long period of time.

After being crammed in with the masses, some fresh air was called for. What better way to do this then with a walking tour. We picked the free Vienna old town tour to follow. Instead of doing all of the tour we chose a few highlights to keep it a leisurely day.

The high points included:

  • Vienna State Opera House
  • Anti-War & Fascism Monument
  • Capuchin Imperial Crypt
  • Kärntner Strasse (no pics, sorry)
  • St. Stephen’s Church
  • Ancient Roman Wall Ruins
  • Austrian National Library
  • St. Charles Church

You really need more than 24 hours in Vienna, but this self guided tour does a fantastic job at helping you pick out some of the highlights for when you’re in town just a short while.

Oh ya, and we totally just happened to be there during the gay pride parade. Those pics are on my instagram though for who’s interested.

Slovakia – Middle of nowhere in the Mountains

Visiting Orava region in Slovakia as an American tourist

So about a 3 hour drive from Bratislava is where we made our base camp in the mountains. It was a cabin in a sort of village. Containing a fire pit & grill, the guys were happy. The house had all of the basics, except wifi. There was GPRS for emergencies but virtually no other way to contact the outside world. And while we were told (as we set off on our walk) that the closest grocery store was 500 meters away. In reality it was 5 km. That’s a big difference! Grr.

Some highlights:

A Robin Hood themed restaurant. You trace the steps of his life story by walking around the restaurant and seeing all of the trials and tribulations that he went through.

Hiking. If I were to come back it would be for this. We only did a day hike but there are plenty of trails for those feeling active.

Rafting. We did an hour long rafting trip that told of the history of the area. Unfortunately for us, while they advertise in English, the guides didn’t speak any. So we got bits and pieces through our friends translation.

History. Maybe the highlight of the region and trip was Orava Castle. Made famous for being featured in Nosferatu (1922) Orava Castle is a well preserved castle built in the place of a former fortified fortress high on the rocky cliffs overlooking the river. Thorough tour with a free app you can download in your own language for each room. We were highly suprised by the accent that came across the earphones in the English version. Maybe I’m just used to the person being British but this woman was unmistakenly a southerner.

Overall impressions:
The Orava region is not at all like Bratislava. Great if you want to get away from it all and experience history and nature. Expect lots of driving to get basics like food. And be prepared with a handy translation guide. Overall worth the trouble.

How we got there. We flew into Vienna, took public transport to Bratislava and from there rented a car and drove to Orava.