by Kristalyn Patzkowski
Seeing as my mom and I travel every summer, I wasn’t surprised last fall when my mom asked me where I would like to go for the upcoming summer vacation. I didn’t surprise her either when I suggested going to Russia, or more specifically my birthplace. My mom knew that at one point in time I would want to go back to my roots, so she had already done some research. Much to her disappointment though, she wasn’t able to find enough information about the town where I was born. My grandma was also against the trip because she had read that Russia had been facing some difficult civil conflicts. She also noted that I should be older when I decided to go back to my birthplace.
With Russia now being out of the question, there was one place left I really wanted to visit: Germany. Within a few short months, my mom and my grandparents had finished making plans, and the four of us would be traveling to Germany and Austria.
Because I had a couple more weeks of school to finish, my mom and I weren’t able to join my parents in Switzerland in May. Instead, my mom and I joined my grandparents in Munich, Germany in the middle of June. From what little I saw in Germany, I can conclude that it is a beautiful country! It has exquisite gardens, crisp clean air, and fairy-tale buildings.
While in Munich, we visited Nymphemburg Palace, the summer home of the emperors; Englisher Gardens, one of the largest gardens in all of Europe; the Munich Residence, a building stashed with valuable jewels and other prized possessions of the German royalty; the Deutsches Museum, an interactive museum that has exhibits in many occupational fields; a couple of art museums and multiple tourist traps downtown.Although those places were uniquely beautiful, one of my favorite things about Munich was located downtown. It was the glockenspiel, an enormous, antique clock that chimes every day at eleven in the morning and five in the afternoon. During our entire stay in Munich, I saw the clock go off twice, and both times the spectacle never ceased to amaze me! Munich never ceased to amaze me!
Our next stop on our journey was Salzburg, Austria, and we got there by train. It was my first train ride ever, so I didn’t really mind that our seats were opposite to the direction of the train. My grandmother pointed out the different styled buildings, the Austrian Alps, and the infamous autobahn–the European freeway where there is no set speed limit.
My grandparents, mom and I arrived in Salzburg in the early afternoon, so we had enough time to walk through the famous cemetery and eat dinner at a restaurant outdoors. The next day the four of us walked through Maribel Gardens, where a few scenes of The Sound of Music were shot, and visited the Hohensalzburg Fortress which stood at the very top of the city. It is at the top of that fortress that a person can see that Salzburg really is not as tiny of a town as it first appears to be! Our time in Salzburg was drawing to a close, so we packed our suitcases and got ready to go to our next location.
The previous two stops on our trip were marvelous in their own ways, but neither one of them had anything on the next city we were about to visit: Vienna, Austria! The city’s splendor greeted the four of us immediately after we stepped out of the train station and never let my high expectations down during a single minute that we stayed in the grand city! For the nearly-week-long stay, we were busy. We visited Belvedere, a large art gallery exhibiting the works of Klimt, Vermeer, Picasso, Monet, and other well-known artists; Schönbrun, the summer home of many emperors and empresses; the Vienna Residence, another fine collection of valuables once belonging to royalty; the Kaiserappartements, a museum dedicated to the Sisi, the Austrian empress who was largely misunderstood during her life; and the Albertina, an art museum that doubles as a collection of apartments in which members of the Austrian nobility once lived in.
Besides visiting all these indoor attractions, we went to see a ferris wheel in downtown Vienna. The Prater stands nearly 65 meters tall, has fifteen cabins made from train cars, and is nearly a hundred and fifteen years old, making it the oldest ferris wheel in the world! On account of my grandpa’s reluctance and my mother’s fear of heights, grandma and I rode on the Prater by ourselves. The view from the top was spectacular, but I was a little relieved when we got to the ground again and were on our way for chocolate gelato! After six days in the historic city, my grandparents, my mom, and I had to head back to Munich, where we would finish our trip.
All in all, the trip was definitely a success! In a little over two weeks, I had soaked myself in fine new cultures and indulged in German and Austrian cuisine. I had seen numerous churches, museums and palaces and learned some European history along the way. I had also managed to learn about fifteen words in German, and I conquered my fear of escalators (that’s a story for another day)! I really wasn’t thrilled about coming home, but I am grateful that I had the opportunity to go to Europe in the first place—even if the plane rides going over and coming back were miserable!