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We were really lucky to get three weeks off between trimester 1 and trimester 2 in December. Last year we traveled around Nepal and then showed my mom and brother our life here in the UAE. This break we again decided to meet up with family. With only being allowed to be in the US for 30 days, we have to get creative with seeing each other! So, this past break we decided to go around Europe and meet my mom and dad in Munich and travel to Salzburg and Venice! Before meeting up in Munich, however, Scott and I traveled around Europe a bit. Starting in Vienna, we traveled to Prague, then Dresden, and then Crimmitschau – with some choice stops along the way! We traveled by car, which proved to be comparable to a rail pass in the end. Here is a map of our travels this past December:

Map of TripWe did quite a bit of traveling in those three weeks! We laughed about it later because we literally left our last day of teaching and returned late the night before we had to teach! I guess we really wanted a break : )

So that’s the overview – now for me to start sharing with you all the sites, sounds, and smells of Vienna,Β  (point M on the map). . .

We decided to fly in and out of Vienna, making our trip mostly a loop, because it was our cheapest option flying out of Dubai – not to mention it was a direct flight (a luxury that can’t be passed up!).

IMG_20131213_064506So, we arrived in the Vienna airport on December 13th at 5:50 in the morning after a restless and cold overnight flight. We were extremely exhausted and had to wait until 3 to check into our hotel. We grabbed breakfast in the airport and then got our rental car. We still had A LOT of time to kill – and all we truly wanted was sleep, nice peaceful sleep!

When we picked up our rental car we discovered that renting a GPS was going to be ridiculously expensive. Scott asked the representative if we could find one in Vienna and buy it for cheaper and he said yes. He then gave us directions to a store where we could buy a GPS! It was to a mall near our hotel in Vienna so we thought that would be a good place to kill some time anyways. There was a nice park to walk around nearby so after purchasing our new GPS we walked over to the park. By this time it was only noon but we figured we would check out the hotel and maybe just check in. To our amazing luck the receptionist said our room was ready and we could check in!! Yay! Sleep!

Imlauer Hotel ViennaWe stayed at the Hotel Imlauer and I would definitely recommend it. It’s small but very clean and modern – plus it is within walking distance to many of the Christmas markets. After checking in, and sleeping for a couple hours we decided to search out a place to eat and explore some of the famous Christmas markets Europe is known for! We decided first to find the 1516 brewery – because where there’s homemade beer there’s good food! I drew a map on a piece of paper and we were off exploring the city of Vienna by foot – and the architecture in this city is really beautiful:

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When we found 1516 it was easily the most relaxing and welcoming bar in Vienna. It had great personality inside and is worth a visit. And for all of my friends reading this back home – they actually partnered with Victory Brewery from PA to create a beer if you can believe it!

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After that satisfying dinner we continued to wander around and stumbled upon two Christmas markets. We were overjoyed! Living in a Muslim country makes you realize all the things you take for granted in terms of Christian holidays. Obviously Christmas is not as big of a deal in the UAE as it is back in the States. There aren’t decorations, music playing, or a buzz surrounding the season. So if you don’t intentionally try to find ways to celebrate the Christmas season in the UAE, it will pass you by – and it did for us last year in 2012. Not only were we living in a Muslim country, but we spent our Christmas season in a predominately Hindu country, Nepal, exploring both Hindu and Buddhist temples. Exciting, yes, but not something that really gets you into the Christmas spirit.

So arriving in Europe, visiting countries that fully embrace Christmas, and seeing all the festivities – lights, music, cozy hats and scarves, mistletoe, garland – made Scott and I feel like Christmas was an old friend we had not seen in a long long time! And can I just say that the Christmas markets did not disappoint. Stall after stall of Christmas ornaments, crafts, cookies, cakes, and decorations! Again, I was overjoyed! Plus the wonderful gluwien (hot spiced wine you drink from a mug) gave the festive atmosphere a little glow ; )

DSCN9869DSCN9886DSCN9887DSCN9884After that market we wandered around the city, admiring the architecture and decorations before stumbling across another Christmas market. Thankfully the night was young and the city was bustling!

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Of course my favorite stands at the Christmas markets were the ones that involved sweet, mouth-watering, pastries and donuts! I have a major sweet tooth and Vienna, you did not disappoint one bit!

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Mmmm my mouth is watering just remembering how delicious everything was : ) Pastries with cream, pastries with apples, pastries with powdered sugar – yum!! So that’s a small taste of Vienna for now – and an even smaller taste of our European Christmas Vacation. I know Christmas is past, but I hope you all don’t mind reminiscing with me : )

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