Acclimating to Life in Vienna: The Girly Book Club & VoiceMap Walking Tour

As many of you know, Robert and I moved to Vienna, Austria in early July! Vienna is his hometown so we’re surrounded by family and old friends, and we’re making new friends. It’s very good to be here and back in a big city. ♥

However, I must admit that I haven’t spent a whole lot of time in Vienna myself – just a few weeks here and there over the last few years. So, I’m a bit of a tourist in my own city!

Fortunately, there is a large American community (see the U.S. Americans in Vienna, Austria Facebook group, for example) and a large international English-speaking community (if you’re female, check out the Women of Vienna Facebook group) here.

I’ve done a couple of things to help acclimate myself to my surroundings and meet new people. The first thing I did was start a Girly Book Club (GBC) chapter here in Vienna called (obviously!) the Vienna Girly Book Club.

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I was a member of the chapter in Stuttgart, Germany for the last couple of years and really loved our monthly meetings and discussions. We read and discussed great books and I even made a few life-long friends (shout out to Sarah in Stuttgart and Lisa now in Berlin!) So, why not do the same here in Vienna, right?!

We all read the same book, selected by GBC, each month and we meet here in Vienna at phil (such a cool place in the 6th district near Naschmarkt – it’s part library, part bookstore with comfy couches, amazing drinks, and tasty food and homemade cakes) on the last Monday of each month at 19:00. There is a nominal fee of €5 to attend. If you’re interested in joining us, please join our Facebook group! We meet again on Monday, September 24th and we’ll be discussing Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward, which won a National Book Award and was shortlisted for the 2018 Women’s Prize for Fiction. It sounds like a good one!

The second thing I did was seek out a good walking tour of the center of the city (the 1st district), all of the beautiful and touristy stuff that I figure I should know something about! 🙂 I tried and loved my Vienna walking tour with Alex (he’s the local English-speaking guide) at VoiceMap.

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The tour is unique in that it uses GPS to track your exact location and give you the information you need at any given point along the walking route. Very cool! If your phone signal or GPS isn’t working for whatever reason, no problem, you can simply follow the map and click on the icons you see when you arrive at designated spots along the tour. Super easy!

My Vienna walk started at the Opera House and ended at St. Stephen’s cathedral. It was 60 minutes in total. I loved that I could do this tour on my own, and on my own time and at my own pace. It’s totally okay to pause the tour if you want to grab lunch, take photos, do a little shopping, whatever. Personally, I took three breaks – one for a sausage, one for an ice cream, and the last for an iced latte. 🙂 And, I was able to pick up exactly where I left off, no problem. Alex even recommends stopping at a Würstelstand (“sausage box”) while you’re on your tour so there’s absolutely no reason to feel guilty about eating a very unhealthy sausage snack (he even tells you a bit about the history of the käsekrainer hot dog!) So, essentially you can make this walking tour into a food tour on your own – bonus!

Other than doing a lot of eating (!!!) I learned everything I really need to know about the Opera House, the Star Walk, Hotel Sacher and the famous Sacher torte, the Albertina Museum, St. Augustina’s Church, the Monument Against War and Fascism, the Donner Fountain, the Capuchin Church, Neuer Markt square, Kärntner Street, and last but certainly not least, St. Stephen’s Cathedral. Without sharing spoilers, I will never look at the facade of St. Stephen’s – or any other cathedral – in the same way again!

I didn’t take photos of everything, but here are are some photos I did take while on the walking tour:

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Opera House + Pink Rabbit
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Opera House
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Opera House
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Käsekrainer Hot Dog
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Monument Against War & Fascism
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St. Stephen’s Cathedral
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St. Stephen’s Cathedral
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St. Stephen’s Cathedral

Bottom line, definitely check out VoiceMap. They have this same kind of walking tour available in 120 cities across 47 countries. I’ll be in London in a couple of weeks and I’m already looking forward to the Camden Town: People Watching and Pigging Out tour! Download the free app in the App Store or Google Play, and happy walking!

 

 

 

 

Two Girls from Chicago go on a European Road Trip (Germany, France, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein)

A couple of weeks ago my good friend Kate from Chicago came to visit me in Germany! It was her first trip to Europe (well, not counting the UK) so we decided to do a little road trip so that we could see and experience a few different countries. We started here in Stuttgart, Germany and drove through France, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, and back through Germany before landing back in Stuttgart.

As I mentioned, we started at my home in Stuttgart Germany and spent a couple of days here. We spent the day walking around downtown — we visited the Markthalle, the Feuersee, and the Stiftskirche, and we had dinner at the Zum Spätzleschwob and Speisekammer West.

On day three we woke up early and headed to pick up our rental car and made the 2 hour drive from Stuttgart to Strasbourg, France. In Strasbourg, we stayed at a really cute Airbnb located right in the heart of downtown — highly recommend if you are in Strasbourg! We had a very nice lunch outside at Cavpona, a little spot just down the street from our apartment. I had the Quiche Lorraine. Drool.

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Strasbourg is so beautiful that we spent most of our time just walking around. Here are some photos from a day of exploring:

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The next morning we woke up, picked up our car (we parked at the Gare Wodli parking garage, which was priced reasonably at €20 for 24 hours) and made the 1-hour drive from Strasbourg to Colmar.

I must admit that I didn’t take many photos in Colmar because it was pouring rain much of the time we were there. But, it is very much like Strasbourg in that it’s absolutely charming, but much smaller. We stayed at the Hotel Turenne, which I would recommend as it is very close to Petit Venice (Little Venice district) and close to a great restaurant, L’Epicurien, where I had some pretty amazing foie gras:

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Oh, and we were in France for the election so here is a picture of me with Macron:

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The next morning, day five of the road trip, we woke up and drove 2 hours from Colmar to Lucerne, Switzerland. The drive itself was so beautiful. The landscape is just breathtaking. It’s so green and mountainous. And, Lucerne didn’t disappoint either! We stayed at the Ameron Hotel Flora, which is located right on Lake Lucerne near the main train station and modern art museum.

We arrived on a Sunday so most stores were not open so we spent a lot of time walking around, exploring, and taking pictures. The weather was really overcast while we were there so the pictures don’t really do it justice, but the alps are RIGHT THERE. Right behind all of those clouds. 🙂

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We stopped by the Des Alpes Hotel & Restaurant where I had some really delicious rösti topped with spinach, fried onions, roasted tomatoes, and an egg. Yum! Take me back!

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The next morning we woke up in Lucerne, did a little shopping and sightseeing in the morning, and then took a 1-hour boat tour around Lake Lucerne, which is really worth doing because you learn a bit about the lake and the history surrounding that area. And it’s just nice to be on the water!

Then, we jumped in our car and drove 3 hours from Lucerne to Triesenberg, Liechtenstein where we checked into the Hotel Oberland for the night. Since we were IN the mountains, the views here were by-far the best even though the weather was still overcast and rainy. Here is a shot Kate took from the hotel:

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Only about 2,500 people live in Triesenberg so it’s a very tiny place with not much happening when it’s raining! We were hoping to go hiking, but the conditions were unfortunately not in our favor. Instead, we treated ourselves to a nice dinner just down the street at Restaurant Edelweiss where we had traditional cuisine. Here’s a picture of the schnitzel with vegetables and french fries:

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The next morning, we woke up and made a 3-hour drive from Liechtenstein to Munich, Germany. München is one of my favorite places and it was so nice to share it with Kate! We spent the first day walking around and exploring (our favorite thing to do, can you tell?!) We visited the Viktualkeinmarkt, the Englischer Garten, the Chinesischer Turm Biergarten, Eisbachwelle (surfing wave), and (my new favorite place!) the cat cafe or Cafe Katzentempel. Me at the cat cafe:

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The following morning we woke up and made the drive back to Stuttgart, which took about 2 hours. We returned our trusty Ford Focus to the rental car company and made our way back to our apartment.

On our final day in Stuttgart, before Kate flew back to Chicago, we spent the day at Mineralbad Leuze. After such a whirlwind trip through four countries, a day of relaxation is exactly what we needed! We also had lunch and dinner (yes, we were there twice in one day!) at Trattoria Piloni in Stuttgart West and ate some tasty Greek food at Achillion.

All in all, it was such a wonderful trip! Kate and I learned that we make really great travel buddies — everything was so easy and natural and we were little chatterboxes and laughing the whole time! It was the best. 🙂

I ♥ you and miss you, Kate, and can’t wait to plan our next adventure!!

A Very Warm Welcome

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This photo is from a few weeks ago just after Robert and I arrived in Stuttgart. We received such a warm welcome from these great people! I was lucky to meet all of them last summer during my first visit to Stuttgart and we’ve spent time together each time I’ve been in town. (We even celebrated an American Thanksgiving together here in November — the food was a total disaster, but the company more than made up for it.) Not only did they arrange this special dinner at our favorite Italian restaurant, Goldoni, but they gave us a great big basket filled with chocolates, champagne, tea, spatzle noodles, and flowers.