Austria, you are beautiful.

Back in March I was lucky enough to be invited to Lech with my host family for ten days of skiing! Only thing was, my skiing skills were not anywhere near to the rest of the family—they are all basically professional skiers, including the five year old. So I opted for a week of classes to improve my skills before trying to keep up with them.
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Thinking I was already in decent shape, I was not prepared for how sore I would be the first couple of days! I could barely walk. But I didn’t mind, because I absolutely loved the lifestyle of the ski resort.
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Not only did everyone there look like they walked out of a magazine (including my ski instructor, who was absolutely gorgeous), but everyone there was so nice! My ski classes were for six hours every day, with an hour break for lunch. So by the end of the week I had become really good friends with all of the people in my class.
After the slopes started to clear out around 4 PM, everyone would gather at the outdoor bars in their ski gear for drinks, and then hit the toboggan trails till the late evening.
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Lech also had a lights show one evening, where the two hundred plus ski instructors skied down the mountains with torches and performed some pretty incredible tricks and synchronization.

The last couple of days my skiing had improved enough to keep up with the family. So we all would hit the slopes at 8 AM and stopped for lunch halfway down the mountain. The views were always incredible.
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One of my goals coming to Europe was find a new sport to be passionate about, and I think I definitely found one. The best part about skiing in Europe is that there is almost always a glacier that is high/cold enough to go to during any time of the year. Maybe next year I’ll actually be able to keep up with the little ones.

Being an obsessed Sound of Music fan, Salzburg might be one of my all-time favorite places that I have been lucky enough to visit while in Europe. Oh, and the breathtaking landscape isn’t so bad either.
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I have made three trips out to this quaint, quite, and antiquated city in the past two months; each just as exciting and different as the next.

The two hour train ride is full of some of the most amazing scenery—even on a rainy day—and it is no time at all before the train reaches Salzburg. Being someone who much prefers to explore the city on foot rather than public transportation, I discovered that it is only a quick 10 minute walk before arriving at the Mirabell Gardens, home to one of the most famous Sound of Music scenes (“Do-Re-Mi” for those who are slacking on their Sound of Music knowledge)! Whether the flowers are in bloom or not, the gardens continue amaze me, especially with the Hohensalzburg Fortress in the backdrop.
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Right after the gardens it was only a quick walk to Mozart’s bridge, which is one of my favorite spots in the city. The old town is pretty easy to complete in a day, and I was able to take my time strolling through Mozart’s residence, sit down to an Austrian lunch (with lots of Prosecco when mommy is in town), and admire the beautiful Alps in the background.
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Being an avid Sound of Music fan, I felt I was obliged to do the Panorama Sound of Music Tour. It was a fantastic day spent on a bright yellow bus (embarrassing as it is), which played the soundtrack for the whole tour!
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The first stops were to the Leopoldskron Palace and the Hellbrunn Palace, both of which were used as backdrops to the Von Trapp’s home. Some little known facts I learned: the famous boat scene filmed at the Leopoldskron Palace had to be filmed twice; the second time little Gretel almost drowned and crew members had to jump in to save her. Also, the original gazebo used for the “I am Sixteen” song was once also located at the Leopoldskron Palace; but, due to so many fanatical fans breaking into the backyard at late hours to visit the gazebo caused them to move it to the gardens of the Hellbrunn Palace. Sadly, the door is locked to the gazebo due to an incident where an elderly woman fell after trying to re-create the scene and jump from bench to bench.
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After, it was off to the Nonnberg Abbey and Mondsee Cathedral. The Mondsee Cathedral (where Maria got married) is about an hour outside of Salzburg, located in St. Wolfgang. It is definitely worth the trip, even if not for the Cathedral; the town is absolutely gorgeous and they have some of the best apple strudel.
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And for those of you who think I am too obsessed with the Sound of Music, I learned from the tour that there are people who are far worse than I am—one girl was in hysterics the whole tour because it was her lifelong dream to be in Salzburg, and she claimed to have watched the film twice a day, every day, for a decade.

On the opposite side of the hills of Salzburg lies, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful places in all of Bavaria. Full of lush green forests, fat and happy cows (which is probably why they have the best cheese, milk, and chocolate I have ever tasted), and amazing hiking trails, this small city kept me quite busy for a whole weekend.
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While I went by car with my host family, the city is also quite easy to reach by train.

But for as much beauty and peacefulness as Berchtesgaden offers, it was also once home to some of the most evil people and ideas a little over fifty years ago.

Berchtesgaden was home to Hitler and other SS members during World War II, along with his bunker hide-away. I learned from my host dad that the Intercontinental resort we were staying at used to be part of Hitler’s residence, and had been changed into a beautiful resort in the hopes of eliminating the negativity associated with the land, and preventing neo-Nazis from returning to the site. Only two minutes from the hotel was the Documentation Obersalzburg. This building connects to Hitler’s hide-away bunker and allows access to documents and artifacts found at Hitler’s residence. In addition, the area also provides one of the best views of Berchtesgaden.
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The hotel was quite amazing, and I got to enjoy the hiking trails, relax in the phenomenal pool, and enjoy some fun cooking classes with my German littles. The cooking classes were especially great because once the food was finished, they delivered it to your room as “room-service”.
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But as I quickly learned, Berchtesgaden is not only known for being home to important Nazi leaders; it is also known for the salt mines, which have been active since 1517. I took my three little German kiddies with me to go deep into the mines and had an absolute blast! After riding down 650m of the mine in a Salt-mine train, we got to slide down the last two levels. The second slide took us to Mirror Lake, which we got to take a boat over. The kiddies and I really enjoyed ourselves, especially getting to wear these cool onesies!
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Waltzing in Vienna

Dancing the waltz with two left feet is difficult. Continually stepping on your floor-length princess gown, while nearly tripping your dance partner every other second, and then realizing that you are squeezing his hands so hard his fingers are losing circulation because you are so nervous and focused about trying to not messing up, is flat out embarrassing.
Last Saturday night, that was my exact situation.

I was lucky enough to be invited to attend the Vienna WU Ball at the Hofburg Palace. This event is part of the Vienna ball season, which occurs every January to April. These dances take place all over Vienna at some of the most beautiful facilities, including the Opera House and the Hofburg Palace. These balls are seen as the social events of Vienna and people from University to established politicians attend these dances. The majority of the guests in attendance are experienced and some attend up to 50 Viennese balls per season!
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The afternoon of the Viennese ball I took the train from Munich to Vienna (which was full of beautiful scenery) while my sweater was stained with paint from the little kids earlier that day. After a week of milk bubbles, baking disasters, and hand paint projects with the kids, I was so eager to clean up and look like a princess for an evening.
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So an hour after arriving in Vienna, my friend Laura and I walked through the Hofburg palace doors, up the red carpet stairs, and into the most beautiful ballroom we had ever seen.
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The ball begun with an introduction of the VIP guests who entered two at a time, and then with the debutantes being introduced for the first time to Austrian society. The debutantes looked absolutely stunning in their white puffy dresses and sleek black suits with bow ties.
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Their last dance was the waltz, in which the rest of the guest also took to the dance floor to join in. My partner dragged me to the dance floor without giving me time to object. It took me three songs before I had figured out a way to avoid stepping on his feet, which to me was a huge accomplishment.
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At midnight all of the guests congregate into the main ballroom once more for a traditional ballroom dance/tutorial. Lines are formed throughout the ballroom with the partners facing one another at arms-length. It felt straight out of a Jane Austen novel.

The MC of the dance gives the basic instructions in German (so unfortunately they were no help to us) in four different parts. Then, after each dance is complete, the MC will ask,

“Schneller? (faster)”, and the crowd will respond by saying, “Schneller!!!! (faster)”

By the sixth time of doing this dance, the beat was so fast that the girls were being pushed in every direction by the guys and everyone had broken out in sweat.
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Before the dance concluded, everyone formed a human tunnel throughout the ballroom and couples ran through the middle at full speed. (side note: running in heels and a floor length gown is extremely difficult)

The main ballroom was not the only room for dancing. There were several smaller rooms throughout the palace as well which people were dancing and socializing in.
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One of the most unexpected things about the dance was that it lasted until five a.m.! It is tradition that when you are exiting the ball each girl can take a flower from the decorations and every guest is also given a small gift.
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Those who make it to the end of the dance typically go out for breakfast in their formal attire before heading back home before sunrise.

Needless to say, my Sunday in Vienna was pretty unproductive. However, Laura and I were fortunate enough to meet some friends for dinner and then go to the rooftop bar for the BEST view of all of Vienna.

Vienna was one of the most charming cities I have visited in Europe (the little that I did see), and I am so looking forward to making plans to visit again soon.