Monthly Archives: June 2015

Flashback Friday: Salzburg, Austria

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Today’s Flashback Friday brings us back to December 2007. I was interning with Camp Adventure in Hohenfels, Germany and we were given an extra-long weekend for Christmas. Two co-workers and I decided to use our extra time to go to Rome. Since that was quite a haul from where we were, we broke up the trip by spending about a half day in Salzburg.

Let me just start by saying that Salzburg in January is not exactly an ideal time of year to visit. It was freezing and because we didn’t have much time, we didn’t want to waste valuable site-seeing opportunities warming up.

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It truly was as cold as this picture makes it look!

Despite the cold, I fell in love with Salzburg immediately. In fact, as I was going through my pictures for this post, I was shocked at how few pictures I had. While the snow only makes Salzburg more beautiful than it already is, it is to blame for having so few pictures — it was so cold that it wasn’t worth digging into my backpack to get the camera out (which I now regret).

We walked through the old city, and made our way to Mozart’s birthplace. There, we learned a lot of interesting information about Mozart, his family, and the inspiration behind his music.

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Mozart’s Birthplace

We also paid a visit to the Salzburg Cathedral (Dom), which was nothing less than breathtaking.

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We were there right before Christmas (December 23rd, to be exact) so there were a lot of Christmas trees and gift shops. Most notably, there were little Mozart chocolate shops everywhere.

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A store filled with Mozart chocolate – because who doesn’t love some good Mozart chocolate?!

There were many places I wanted to visit in Salzburg, bud didn’t have the time. Salzburg is known for where The Sound of Music was filmed. There are many tours specifically for this, but we didn’t have time to take one. I am also under the assumption that these tours would be better in the summertime -after all, the Sound of Music wasn’t filmed while there was snow on the ground!

I also would have loved to have visited the Salzburg Fortress, but it was closed. Mirabell Palace and Gardens is another stop that I’d love to see one day, but another stop that is, once again, probably more appropriate for summer. This is just a short list of places that I would love to go back and see – of course, there are many more!

I definitely would love to go back to Salzburg in the summertime, although it’s impossible to deny its beauty even in the middle of winter. Even if it had been nice out, one day is definitely not enough!

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Flashback Friday: Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

I must admit, this is not much of a flashback.We visited Gettysburg over Memorial Day weekend.We were there for two full days and three nights.
Gettysburg
Day 1:
We got in late (1:30 a.m.) Friday night. So by the time we got around on Saturday, it was time for an early lunch. We drove around trying to find a place to eat, and couldn’t find parking to save our lives (helpful tip — we later learned that there’s a lot of parking behind most of the businesses in the alley). We ended up at the Dobbin House, and this will probably be one of my favorite vacation restaurants for a very long time.

Outside the Dobbin House

Lunch at the Dobbin House- This place has a ton of history. The restaurant is downstairs (like in a basement), and it looks the same as it did 200 years ago. The building used to hold runaway slaves, and is said to be haunted (like most buildings with history in the town).

This isn’t the best picture, but shows that you eat by candle light, just like ‘back in the day’.

Battleground Tour with a Licensed Professional Battleguide- I had heard that the best way to see the battlefield was to hire a licensed battlefield guide, which you need to reserve at least 3 days in advance (of course I learned this two days before we left for Gettysburg). We were purchasing tickets for the museum and I decided to ask about the guides, in case they’d had any cancellations. Somehow got very lucky because there was a guide available that day! It worked out perfectly.

Our guide was knowledgeable (seriously, I could probably study the Civil War for the rest of my life and not be able to explain everything the way he did), thorough, and professional. Many recommend seeing the museum before the tour, but I think either way you appreciate it all. The tour made me appreciate the museum more, but had we done the museum first, we’d have appreciated the tour more – I don’t think there is really a wrong way to do it, they really compliment each other well. The guides drive your car (if you let them) so that you can look around you while they explain what happened, and they let you get out whenever you want to. I really do not like letting other people drive my car, but I was never nervous with the guide driving it, so that’s a huge plus!
There are monuments throughout the battleground, and our guide explained to us that they were placed there by the units which occupied that space during the war. In fact, the monuments were only allowed to be placed where a unit was stationed. We didn’t stop to read every single monument (that would literally take days I think) but it was very humbling to see them all.
Dinner at O’Rourke’s – Convenient location right in town. They served your typical bar food.
Ghost Tour- I had been on a ghost tour in Key West with my friends, and we liked it so much that we went back two separate times while we were there. So while in Gettysburg, I was really excited to hear stories, and maybe see some creepy stuff, especially because Mitchell doesn’t believe in ghosts. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a good experience. Our guide was very cheesy and hard to take seriously; we weren’t impressed. If you go to Gettysburg, I’d still recommend a ghost tour; I’m hoping our experience was just a fluke since all of the ghost tour companies in Gettysburg have great ratings. Although Mitchell did mention he believes in ghosts even less now than before 😉

One of our stops on the ghost tour. I won’t ruin it for you by telling the story 😉

Day 2:

 
Visitor’s Center – We headed here to check out the museum. Most recommendations say to plan on spending about 2 hours at the museum, but I think we got out in about 1. We don’t necessarily read every detail, so if your’e more detailed and want to read it all, it will take closer to 2 hours.
Soldier’s National Cemetery-This is where the Union soldiers were buried, and also the location of Abraham Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address. I already talked about this place here, so I won’t get into it too much. Just know it’s a must-see.
Statue commemorating Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address
Lunch at Eddie’s – Also right in town in Gettysburg. Good food, and good service.
After lunch, it was about 3:00. We weren’t sure what to do with the rest of our day, and considered a number of different options – there was Sachs covered bridge, Jennie Wade’s house, or we could drive through the battlefields again to make more stops that we didn’t with our tour guide. We then decided it would be cool to go to Crystal Grottoes Caverns about an hour away. We decided to go even though they would be closing an hour after we got there, but on our way we passed a lot of hotels with pools and people enjoying the nice weather.. So we ended up being lazy and going back to our hotel’s pool instead 😉 At the time, I also didn’t know that Hershey, Pennsylvania was approximately 1 hour away; I’m disappointed in myself for not knowing this, because that would have been another neat place to visit!
Jennie Wade House Fun fact: After telling our tour guide that we were from Iowa, he let us know that after Jennie Wade (the only civilian to killed in Gettysburg) died, her sister moved to Iowa and became president of the Iowa Woman’s Relief Corps. This is where the money was raised for Jennie’s monument in the cemetery. Jennie’s house is said to be haunted, and that if you put your ring finger through the bullet hole in the door that you will be engaged within the next year.. So now really I wish we would have made time to go inside and tour it 😉
Little Round Top- We had already been here on our tour; it is a hill where the Confederates tried to take over the Union (they were unsuccessful). It is a beautiful hill during the day, and our tour guide recommended we return to watch the sunset, and I’m so happy we did.
Visible from Little Round Top is Devil’s Den. This is where the Confederate snipers shot many people by hiding in/around the large rocks where they couldn’t be seen. Following the battle, a photographer came and moved bodies around in order to get the best possible picture; it is said that because of this, Devil’s Den is haunted. We had planned on checking it out at dusk, when it is said to be the “most haunted” but it was still pretty crowded at that time, so we skipped it.

Again, not the best picture, but this is Devil’s Den. It was very crowded every time we drove by.

There was a little bar I heard of that is underground and designed to have a “coal miners” feel. We were really excited to check it out only to be disappointed that it was closed. But if you get a chance, I’d love to hear more about it!

The bar is the small door on the right!

Where to Stay:
There are several hotels in Gettysburg within walking distance to almost everything. Unfortunately, those hotels were mostly booked. We stayed about 4 miles away at Aspire. I would highly recommend this place – the hotel rooms were the biggest standard rooms I have ever seen.
How Long to Stay: 

There is a lot to do and see in Gettysburg and we had 2 full days to do and see it all. Many people recommend longer, but 2 days was enough for us. You would really only need more if it is important to you to read every single monument in the battlefield.
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Moving Across the Country

Our traveling has been a bit slow in the last few weeks, and will remain that way until our trip to Washington DC for July 4th. The first weekend in June, I went back to Iowa for my cousin’s wedding and we are moving into a new house July 10th, so we’re trying to be easy on the budget. Since we don’t have a lot planned, I thought I’d write more about what brought us to North Carolina from Iowa.

Ever since I spent the summer of 2007 in Key West, Florida, I have wanted to move away and live by the ocean. Key West was also where I realized that I wanted to work for the military. Perfect, right? Plenty of places to live near the sea with the military! Of course, for the next 8 years, the timing was never right. I thought it was just one of those dreams that everyone says they will do “someday” but never really get around to. I was getting older, developing my career, and starting to feel settled in small town Iowa.

I was working as a therapist for a company serving a number of rural communities. I had worked really hard to build a caseload, I set my own hours, loved my co-workers, and pretty much planned to work there for the rest of my life. But the easiest way to make God laugh is by telling him your plans, right? On October 2014, I found out our company was closing its doors. I was offered several jobs but didn’t feel like I’d be completely happy at any of them, so I was planning to take time off to explore exactly what I wanted to do while studying for my boards. That was when my boyfriend told me to start applying for jobs with the military anywhere I wanted.

My response probably wasn’t what you’d expect. After all, it was my dream to move away; yet, when Mitchell brought up what had been my dream for so long, I didn’t want to do it. I was terrified of leaving behind the reputation I had built for myself professionally, and I felt so settled where we were at. I think that really, I had already talked myself out of my biggest dream; I came up with so many excuses – it’s time to focus on your career, you’re too old, it’s not practical, ect. After talking it over, we realized what a great opportunity moving away was. I expected it to take about 6 months to get a job, so I started job searching right away. Much to my surprise, I was given a conditional job offer within 8 hours of submitting my resume. The next three months consisted of a ton of paperwork, and it happened so fast!

The conditional job offer pretty much meant that it would take 3 months to fill out paperwork – the job isn’t official until the government receives every last bit of paperwork and approves it. So I didn’t want to start packing or getting rid of things in case the job fell through for some reason. HR told me I’d probably get the official acceptance on the week of January 5th, but instead I got the official offer the week of Christmas. The following 3 weeks were the most stressful of my entire life – seriously, grad school doesn’t even light a candle to those 3 weeks.

I had to pack up our entire apartment and get rid of everything in a matter of 4 weeks. This might not sound like a lot, but consider this being holiday season. We had a lot of plans we couldn’t cancel – a week back home for Christmas, a 7-day cruise, and all of our friends and family who wanted to spend as much time with us as they could before we moved away. I had originally hoped to have a week in between getting back from our cruise and moving, but that didn’t happen. Instead, we got back from our cruise on a Sunday, had Monday to finish our packing and say goodbye to our friends/family, left Tuesday for our 19 hour drive, and I had to start my new job in North Carolina that same Friday. I remember apartment searching, and being in awe at how much we had accomplished, and how much had changed in 7 short days (I also remember thinking, “wow, this was our view just one week ago!”):

I had pictured moving across the country as this big romantic scene. We would take our time, make plenty of stops, and have a lot of memories along the way. HA – what a joke! I felt really rushed because we didn’t have much wiggle room to get to North Carolina, we really had to book it instead of enjoying the ride. Also, I was filled with anxiety about starting my new job. Our last day in Iowa was a really stressful one – we were only taking what could fit in my Honda Fit to North Carolina, and I had done an awful job prioritizing what we would bring vs what we would leave, but it was too late to re-pack. The morning we left for North Carolina, I got sick. Mitchell needed me to talk to him to keep him awake (he drove the entire way by himself!) but talking was miserable for me. We didn’t know where the GPS was (later found it on the floor of my car, underneath tons of stuff) so we had to use our cellphones for directions. Using our cellphones for a GPS ate our data, and we also had really crappy service for about 20 hours of the 24 hour trip (which was only supposed to take 19 hours, by the way). Finally, we hit a terrible ice storm in Virginia in the mountains at 2 am.

Obviously moving across the country wasn’t quite as glamorous as I had once imagined. But it was a huge dream of mine that came true. It was, without a doubt, worth all the hoops we had to jump through, all of the stress, and all of the meltdowns. My only regret is that we didn’t do it earlier.

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Flashback Friday: Denver, Colorado

Since I am a little late starting this travel blog (like, maybe 10 years late), I thought it would be appropriate for my first post to be a “flashback” on the place that I feel is responsible for initiating my love of travel… Denver, Colorado. I grew up visiting the Denver area with my grandparents to visit my aunt.

My aunt and uncle still live there, so in 2010, my mom, my aunt’s family, and I went back to Denver to visit, and we got to see a lot more of what the Denver area has to offer. All of these places are within a 3-hour radius of Denver. But first, let me start you off with a picture of my aunt’s backyard:

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The Royal Gorge

Located in Canon City, Colorado, The Royal Gorge is a canyon on the Arkansas River. For lack of a better word, it’s huge.IMG_20150614_215843

There is lodging nearby, and there is a tourist center as well as places to eat. You can walk across the bridge, or you can take a gondola ride. There is also a slingshot ride which will toss you right over the side of the canyon (in a harness, of course). In this picture, you can see the gondola, which I feel puts how enormous everything is into perspective.

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White Water Rafting
I consider myself to be somewhat of a thrill-seeker, and I was really excited to try white water rafting. I did not expect it to be terrifying, though. I blame it on not knowing what to do – turns out, a lot of teamwork is required in order to navigate the raft and our raft guide was awful – while we watched all of the other groups practicing what to do in the water, he told us we’d “figure it out when we got in”. We had someone fall out within the first 5 minutes in the water, and we didn’t feel comfortable in the water until it was time to get out.

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Air Force Academy
The Air Force Academy is located in Colorado Springs, and it’s a military academy for officer candidates. My favorite part of the academy was the chapel:
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Olympics Training Center
Also in Colorado Springs is the Olympic training center. It’s around $5 for a tour, and very informative! And of course, you have to take a touristy picture like this:
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My family also hiked while we were there, but I hurt my knee and wasn’t able to go. Since our primary purpose was to visit my aunt, we didn’t see as much as we could have in a 5-day period. But this is a good start, and we will definitely be back!

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