The Hills are Alive!
Staring out in the travel industry, I had one thing on my mind…where would I travel? It wasn’t a thought of seeing the best or the biggest or conquering all of South America in a week, but more so, when could I start getting my feet wet. I have traveled with a high school group to Peru and even studied abroad throughout New Zealand and Australia for a summer, but besides a quick family trip to the Bahamas, my travel was mostly a long drive from RVA back to Illinois to see Mom and Dad. I thought my time would come after about a year or so working with Caroline, so when my two-week anniversary hit and she told me I would accompany her on the Brownell Travel Awards Trip to Vienna, Austria, my time had come sooner than expected.
To say my very first trip to Europe started out with a BANG would be an understatement. I was living the life of a Caroline Travels the World client and soaking up every second of it. From my own private transfer from the airport to the stunning 5-star hotels I visited, it was truly a first-time experience. There were some nerves traveling as my first two days in Austria were spent alone wandering through the streets of Salzburg, but the second I set my bags down, the city was mine. While I had only one little train car mix-up at the Salzburg Station, I fell in love with the charm and history of Austria. Salzburg was so enjoyable because of how quaint the city felt. “New Town” and “Old Town,” separated by the Salzach River, could each be conquered in 30 minutes, but I spent hours on each side popping in and out of old-time shops, relaxing in the garden square, and sipping on a chocolate milkshake at the oldest café in Salzburg, Café Tomaselli, est. 1700.
The biggest highlight was The Sound of Music Tour as I saw the sights and scenes I had watched a hundred times before on my living room floor. The gazebo brought tears to my eyes, and my guide could not help but laugh as I sang “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” very off key. Wrapping up my final hours, I couldn’t help myself and climbed the 400 stairs up to the Hohensalzburg Fortress over-looking the city and treated myself to a Hugo cocktail. Boarding the train to Vienna, my thoughts of Salzburg were soon drowned out by Mozart playing in the background, and it was time for a new city to explore.
Vienna, Austria, truly has the big city vibe. The excitement of stepping off the train and seeing bikers whiz by, grand statues, flowers lining the sidewalk and impressive palaces, no detail was out of place. While Vienna cannot be covered on foot quite as fast as Salzburg, the city is so inviting that you could easily use one of the many cathedrals as a landmark and not get lost. With so much history surrounding Vienna, from the old wall that used to surround the city to the Liechtenstein Palace that was bombed during World War II to the Spanish Riding School horses in training, I couldn’t help but feel humble and regal at the same time. While I ate double my body weight in Sacher tort and wiener schnitzel, it was a real highlight to explore Vienna on bike and become truly immersed in the Austrian culture.
Saint Stephen’s Square was the place to shop, and I fell so in love with a local boutique, Haas and Haas, that I went back three times, buying homemade honey, sweet chocolates, and even a bottle of wine or two. I never felt out of place or intimidated but felt welcomed at every door I stepped through.
Reminiscing on my first trip to Europe, I can’t help but get a goofy smile thinking about the many wonderful people I met along the way and all the stories I heard. Traveling for me is not about getting the most likes on Instagram, but learning from new cultures, trying new foods, and appreciating the experiences I had in a new corner of the world.
Summing up Austria, I can only describe this beautiful country for what is it: beautiful.
Caroline Travels the World…And So Can You