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European Vacation Lessons Learned

I'm going to approach this Europe trip recap through lessons learned.  Otherwise, I'll go on for ever and ever and nobody wants that, let's be real.  Although some days may have more than one lesson learned because I'm making the rules so if I want to break it, I can.

Day 1 Budapest, Hungary (and travel time)
I'm perfectly capable of traveling alone, but I do enjoy sitting next to someone I know on the plane.
I put up both my head leaning things to try to make sure I didn't end up sleeping on one of the shoulders of the guys next to me.  I was successful (I think).
Karen & I took a walk across the famous Chain Bridge and around Budapest.  I love experiencing cities by just walking around and seeing where I feel like going.
Random story:  Monday night I went out with my yoga friend, Molly, and a couple of her friends and one of her friends friends.  (It was quite a get together... everyone met someone.)  Anyway, as soon as Molly mentioned I was in Europe last week and I said we started in Budapest, two of the girls' eyes lit up and said they were just talking about how beautiful they heard Budapest is.  It is indeed beautiful.
taken at the Citadella on Gellért Hill overlooking Budapest
Day 2:  Budapest, Hungary and cruise time
Don't chop nuts with a knife, crush them with your hand.
There was a apple strudel demo on board and the professionals said when you chop them with a knife they lose some flavor or something.
It's interesting how exciting something can be the first time.
Even if it's at night and we're going to go through 16 more of them during the cruise.  What am I referring to?  Locks.  Yes, the water locks.  We stood on the roof with a bunch of other excited people, at night, when it was chilly.  (The moon was almost full and I tried to get Jeff to say hello moon in Mandarin with me.  He sort-of tried.)  We all watched as our boat rose and tried to figure out where it was coming from and watching, watching.  By the end of the trip, it was just another was still exciting ;)
you see the guy with the expressive hands?
he ran from the front to back of the boat like a kid he was so excited.
it was awesome.
Day 3:  Vienna, Austria
Bike system in Europe is beyond amazing.  And I promise not to knock Divvy again.
The entire time we were in Europe I checked out each city's bike system.  And I was so shocked by the lack of bike locks or if they were actually used they were cheap locks that wouldn't last a day in Chicago!  We could take some lessons. 
rad bike store.  seriously.
Vienna has over 700 miles of bike lanesTheir bike rental system is free the first hour and 1 euro for the next or something cheap like that.  (It's run by the same company as Divvy.) As soon as the tour guide mentioned the bikes I looked at Karen and said that's how we would spend our afternoon.  And we did.  Jeff, Greta, Karen & I checked out Café Sacher and then picked out our bikes.  We rode around on the Ringstraße, took photos and took full advantage of being tourists.
we loved vienna
"Slow down you crazy child.Take your phone off the hook and disappear for a while. It's all right. You can afford to lose a day or two. When will you realize Vienna waits for you?" - Billy Joel
More on Viennese coffee

I couldn't get over the bike lanes.  They definitely don't go halfway just painting some lines on the road.  No, they literally have their own lanes and even their own lights.  On lights they share with pedestrians the lights have pictures of a pedestrian AND biker.  Clearly I was a fan.
Day 4:  Melk, Austria
We cruised through the Wachau valley in the morning and I fell in love with alpine (?) houses.  The light yellow ones.  The ones with really steep roofs so the snow will fall off.

the garden at melk abbey
Day 5:  Passau, Germany
I love Italian style pizza.  So thin & delicious.
Greta was craving some pizza so we went to a delicious Italian place and ate al fresco.  First tastes of real German beer, my favorite type of pizza (and I think it may have been the best pizza I've ever eaten), and an adorable town.
The slowness of food was refreshing to me.  They deliver food fast/quickly, but don't rush you at all!  There won't be any food delivery with the check over there!

Day 6:  Regensburg & Kelheim, Germany
Sometimes quality time wins out over knowledge.
In Regensburg we had a lovely walking tour, but we had to book it in order to try the Historic Sausage from the Historic Sausage Kitchen(No, I didn't try.  I tasted the bread and mustard... and then bought a container of mustard to enjoy at home.)  I also got an awesome German stein here! 
We went on a trip to the Weltenburg Abbey & the Danube Narrows through Kelheim.  We all had a beer at Weisses Brauhaus (with pretzels!) and then we were led to believe we would be having a darker one at the Abbey.  Jeff was excited about all the German beers, but he especially had his eyes set on that dark one.  So much so he asked the tour guide as we were walking into the Abbey when we would be having the beer, which she said we wouldn't unless we skipped the abbey part of the tour which was about 15 minutes long.  Jeff, Greta, Karen, & I stepped out of the group and headed to the beer garden.
boat ride to the abbey
Day 7:  Nuremberg, Germany
Proof pretty people can be smart.
So this lesson learned is a bit of a funny story.  Mom, Dad, Jeff, & Greta opted for a tour with more information about WWII and Karen & I stuck with the masses on the regular tour, which included some WWII information, but we didn't go into specific WWII buildings, we just went to the rally grounds.  Karen & I grabbed the chip for group A, but as we watched the tour guides assemble we were discussing how attractive a couple of them were, one in particular.  We hadn't been super impressed with the guides up to this point so we figured we might as well grab the chip for the attractive one's group and ensure we enjoyed ourselves in at least one way.  WELL... he ended up being amazing!  Best tour guide of the trip.  Seriously so smart and he presented everything in such an interesting way! 
the courthouse for the Nuremberg trials
Mom, Dad, Jeff, & Greta stood in the actual courtroom
Not only did he give a great explanation of Nuremberg, he presented WWII and Hitler (sensitive topic) in such an exceptionally sensitive way.  I can't even imagine doing such a thing in a second language.
During the tour one man interrupted him to compliment him on the way he presented the topic.  Then a woman wiped away her tears.  Even I had chills and I'm from a different generation.
this whole story and this is the only photo we have of him
nuremberg from the castle
In Hauptmarkt I loved watching Pfarrkirche Unsere Liebe Frau at noon when it was like a huge coo coo clock.  (They're everywhere in Germany.)
Best way to enjoy a gelato is sitting on the railing of a stone bridge, in no hurry, with a 1 euro gelato.
Obviously gelato was everywhere during the trip.  Karen stopped to have one at most stops, but Nuremberg was the only time I felt like having one.  I think I got hazelnut and it was perfect. 
I even got to try the famous Nürnberger Bratwurst because they had a vegetarian option! (finger-sized sausages)
veggie bratwurst... what what!
Honestly, I felt the Nuremberg shopping area was mostly chains and I wasn't really into it, but they had ,55 euro pretzels everywhere (where when they spoke to me in German I responded in Spanish.  It was a mess.  We would walk away and Karen would say, "You know you answered in Spanish."  Oh my).  So Karen & I found a biergarten and camped out for awhile, making friends with some elderly people who came by.

Other notes:
-Gothe kept popping up during the entirety of the trip.  I think he was our mascot. 
-They had an interesting vegetarian option every night on the cruise.  Consider me a very happy vegetarian (especially since I mentally prepared myself for pasta all week).
-We cruised on Viking River Cruises
-Chicago folks, if you had any doubt of the authenticity of our Christkindlmarket, consider this your confirmation.  I kept seeing item after item where I thought, 'that's at Christkindlmarkt'.  I think I'll enjoy it even more this year.  On the trip, in my opinion, Passau had the best prices.
-I'm pretty seriously looking into being a program director/leader in Europe next season so if you have any tips or know someone who might have some tips, throw them at me.  I'd appreciate it.  I really don't know where to start.
(I posted a couple things on instagram while I was in Europe and one of my friends literally thought she had missed something and I had moved there.  That was honestly her conclusion.  I am not exaggerating.  It's who I am.  Why fight it because society tells me to?)

Aaannnndddd yeah, there are going to be some future posts about specific parts of the trip.  I feel like I barely scratched the surface.
Team Show-Me Family brought it at the Pub Trivia nights.
Night 1:  2nd place
Night 2:  Tie for 1st and lost the tie breaker
There was some serious competition.


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