The World’s Largest Ice Cave. Our St. Johan im Pongau Vacation. Part Two

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As you may remember from Part One of our August Austrian vacation in Sank Johan im Pongau, we tried to visit the world’s largest ice cave in one hour.  Maybe I should have paid a little more attention to the fact that this was the WORLD’S LARGEST ICE CAVE! After our failure on the first day, we decided to go back the next morning, because, I have to say it again, the world’s largest ice cave!  This was not to be missed, and even though there were several other things in the region that looked very appealing, and this was our last full day, I was determined to see it.  Now, my husband was still unsure that we should attempt such a feat with the kids.  Now, I know that I told you last time that you should listen to dissension among the ranks sometimes, but this was not the time.  Why was this time different than not listening to him before?  Because I knew he wanted to go see it too, he was just unsure the children would make it up to the top.  But, we now had the whole day, not just an hour.  And we’ve been through this debate before “Let’s just go next time. We love this place so much, we’ll come back.”  And then we never do.  So, knowing that the kids actually did fine on the 1st part of the hike we tried before, I was determined that today, with the whole day open ahead of us, we would make it up to the cave.

Brochure for the Eisen Welt (Ice World)

Brochure for the “Eisriesenwelt” (World of Ice Giants).

Arriving just 30 minutes after they opened that morning, we were already parking three phases further away from the entrance, unlike the evening before when we were in the first parking lot.  The weather was gloomy and supposed to rain that day, but the temperature was still mid 50’s Fahrenheit.  We were warned however that it would be much colder in the cave. But having done the first part of the hike the day before, I knew how hot you could get just on the way up.  So, we decided on pants and short sleeve shirts that morning and jackets that could be taken off and tied around the waist.  I knew the stroller was not a good choice to go up the mountain, but I couldn’t remember how far the walk was to the entrance, and that was already up hill.  So we took the stroller up and left it in the locker rooms that were available for rent. Though we just stashed it on the side as it wouldn’t fit.  A risk, but one we figured would be ok given the area.  We purchased our tickets again and started the walk.  This time, I kept it at a pace more enjoyable for all.  With the boys and husband walking along and my 18 month old strapped to my back in the Ergo, up we went.

First leg of the walk up to the gondola.

First leg of the walk up to the gondola.

The path started out wide and remained nicely graveled, and even paved in some areas, all the way to the gondola.  At the gondola entrance, there was a snack shop with some benches for a pit stop going up or coming down the mountain with drinks, packaged snacks, ice creams and a few hot snacks.  The best part was the bottled water.  The line for the gondola started further back this time, it took us 30 minutes to get to our turn.  The ride itself was smooth but startling if you look down as you get closer to the top.  At one point we were literally being pulled straight up rather than the gradual across and upward slope direction.

The gondola to the top departing from the end of the 1st hiking trail.

The gondola to the top departing from the end of the 1st hiking trail.

Once at the top, we were greeted by a restaurant, which we noted as an ideal stopping point for the way back.  The 2nd trail of the hike up was more narrow than the first, but plenty wide enough for people to stand 4 by 4 across so you could go up and people could come down without a problem passing each other.  Some parts of the trail were covered with a nicely built awning.  The scary part was, you were winding up the side of the mountain, and it was steep up at the top.  There was a guard rail the entire way up to the mouth of the cave, however it was merely two wood logs between posts.  It was a good thing Madelyn was content with riding on my back, at one point she even fell asleep.  Our children, fortunately, are used to traveling and trusting in our guidance in new situations,  so when we’d tell them not to do something or where to walk, they listened.  But if your children are a bit more adventurous and don’t always like to stop climbing or running around when you tell them, this could be a more stressful or dangerous trip.  Just on the other side of the “fence” is a deadly drop over the side of the mountain.  This again reminded me of how lucky I was to have my husband for this experience.  Even with my daughter on my back, it was necessary to have those extra set of hands, and I hadn’t even saw what was in store for us INSIDE the cave!  After winding our way up the 2nd hiking path to the mouth of the cave, there were several terraced benches with a steep view of the valley below and surrounding mountains.  We were all happy to have a rest on the benches after the long hike.  There were a couple benches along the way to stop too.  But it was nothing like finally reaching your destination.

2nd path to the top after the gondola ride.

2nd path to the top after the gondola ride.

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A view of the winding trail up to the mouth of the cave.

While the parking lot was crowded, the wait for the actual tours once you got to the top was not long at all.  We only had to wait about 5 minutes for our English speaking tour to begin.  As we gathered around to hear the rules before going into the cave, they handed out our open flame lanterns to light the way.  Only natural light is permitted inside the cave for preservation purposes.  The guides use magnisium strips to light certain areas once inside.  After the door was open to enter the cave, you experience a huge rush of wind.  Then with your open flame lanterns in hand, you proceed on a short path to the first flight of stairs.  We were ultimately about to climb up and down a total of 1,400 steps throughout the tour.

Open flame lanterns made walking through the cave slightly hazardous with passing tours.

Open flame lanterns made walking through the cave slightly hazardous with passing tours.

We had to climb two very tall flights of stairs in the beginning of the tour.  Then there were some flat trails along boardwalks around some of the sculptures.  The ice “sculptures” as they called them, were very beautiful and impressive.  There were about 5 different main formations along the way.  The hardest part was being stressed over the lanterns and making sure that however we held them that one of the kids didn’t turn slightly into the flame.  There are also a couple main areas along the tour where you and another tour group pass by each other on the way in and out of the turn around.  There is only a bar rail separating the path and not a full barrier and some of the other tourist would just carry their lanterns in the hand next to the rail so that it risked brushing up with the tourist walking on the other side.  Several times I had to step to the side so as not to get burned by their lanterns.  Besides the acute awareness you must have while walking up and down the stairs and along the paths of this 70 minute tour inside the cave, the ice sculptures themselves are breathtaking.  One the one hand, I was really sad that I would not be able to take pictures inside the cave.  I desperately wanted to catch the beauty and magnificants of this place.  But, I will admit, being forced to experience very second with wide eyes and not camera lense, did make me appreciate what I was seeing even more.  You really got to take it all in rather than worry about taking a picture.  And in the end, that was the best part.  It was like we were lost in an exciting underground world.  I did however purchase a couple of postcards from the gift shop to remember how amazing it was inside.  Here is one of the official postcards from the visitor’s center.

This is a scanned copy of a postcard purchased at the Eisriesenwelt gift shop.

This is a scanned copy of a postcard purchased at the Eisriesenwelt gift shop.

You might be wondering how the kids did trekking up and down all 1400 stairs?  Well, the 18 month old slept through half of it in the Ergo on my back, and when she woke up, I think she was so confused she spent the rest of the time just looking around trying to figure out where she was.  As for the 4 and 6 year olds, we didn’t get much complaints at all.  During the longest stair stretch of about 200 steps, there were one or two questions of how many more.  But they got a kick out of counting the stairs and that kept them pretty amazed on those parts since it was a new thing that year to count up to 100, and now they were past that!  Our 4 year old did complain of being too cold when we got into the deepest part of the cave, but other than that, they did great, especially with the promise of hot chocolate and kaiserschmarrn waiting for them at the restaurant we saw at the top of the gondola.  Once we got back to the mouth of the cave and returned our lanterns, we look one last resting break on the terraced benches to take in the view before the walk down.

Terraced benches at the mouth of the cave provide an incredible view of the mountain range.

Terraced benches at the mouth of the cave provide an incredible view of the mountain range.

The walk back down the trail to the gondola decent post and restaurant was of course much easier and faster than going up.  We ducked into the restaurant just as we realized that we had left our umbrellas at the mouth of the cave where the tours meet (they were not allowed inside the cave and we wouldn’t have been able to carry them anyways).  Had they just been one or two cheap umbrellas that we bought at a drug store, we would have left them, but they had been gifts so my husband graciously agreed to hike back up to the mouth of the cave while I saw at a nice warm table in the corner of the restaurant.  It was very crowded and we just lucked into a corner booth table and chairs just before a big rush came in.  There were several tables with people that had reserved signs on them, so I think that you can make a reservation when you get off the gondola so that you have a table to come back to after the tour.  We did not do this and took our chances and it turned out nicely, that time.  But given the crowds, service was very slow.  In fact, it took my husband nearly 40 minutes to go up and get the umbrellas and come back and we had only ordered and received drinks.  But the kids got their Austrian, powder sugar dusted, crumbled up pancakes (kaiserschmarrn) and hot chocolate so they were all happy campers.

Delicious kaiserschmarrn (special Austrian pancakes).

Delicious kaiserschmarrn (special Austrian pancakes).

By time we got back to the car, we had been gone for 6 hours.  I couldn’t believe we had spent that much time on one attraction, and I had no regrets, including the 2 hours it took to have “snack” at the restaurant before going back down the gondola.  I was so proud, not just of my kids, but of us as a family.  We endured a fairly physical activity, supported one another through it, and got to experience a “once in a life-time” sight with the five of us all together!  It was a good day.

Austria’s Saint Johan im Pongau. Truly a “kinderparadise” and a Family Vacation Gem! Part 1

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My husband loves Austria, and I don’t blame him.  The entire country is full of beautiful landscapes and marvelous cities.  While I’m a little more of a fan of places like Vienna and Salzburg, Austria is one place that a city girl can enjoy the outdoors with her adventurous husband without having to hike 10 miles with mountain gear on your back.  Maybe a 20lb toddler instead.  Here is our arrival and day one in this beautiful part of Austria that turned out to be one of our BEST family vacations!

Burg Hohenwerfen in Werfen, Austria.

Burg Hohenwerfen in Werfen, Austria.

For this trip, our destination was determined by what was available through our timeshare exchange that would sleep five people (a majority of European properties are for two to four people).  There happen to be an exchange with a hotel in Sankt Johan im Pongau.  It was a large sports hotel, next to a mini shopping “mall” and across the street from a lovely park with a playground.  The Alpine Sports Hotel lived up to its name.  It had its own racquet ball courts, a large swimming pool and a group fitness/dance room.  The staff was incredibly friendly and offered tour and vacation planning services as well as housing two restaurants within the hotel.

Immediately after hitting up the tourist pamphlet stand for the whole Pongau area, I wished we had planned for longer than three days.  Our reservation was just for three nights and four days (Monday through Thursday) as that was all that was available when we booked through RCI.  Our plan was to go into Slovenia on Thursday for two days before returning to Munich.  After our late arrival in Austria on Monday night, I came up with a proposed plan for how to spend our few days in the Pongau region.  As it turned out, the world’s largest ice cave was located just 20 minutes north of our town!  It immediately became a priority for our trip.  Across the highway from the mountain with the ice cave was a hill top castle as well.  The Tuesday morning goal was to feed the kids then head to the castle followed by an afternoon tour of the ice cave.  On the drive to the castle, I happened to read the brochure for the ice cave again and it said to allow for 6 hours! It also said that the last gondola up to the top of the mountain was going to be at 4:45 p.m. that day.  Still, I was not discouraged!

We arrived at the castle with the threats of rain looming over us and about an hour behind schedule.  To get to the castle, there was the choice of a 15-20 minute walk up to the top or quicker option, the gondola.  To save time, we took the ride.  The castle, “Burg Hohenwerfen” turned out to be a gold mine for the kids! It was well kept, had the feel of walking into a knight’s strong hold, and had marvelous programs and activities specifically for kids!  At the ticket office we were given a story book map for each of the kids.  There were stations around the castle that you have to answer the questions for to solve a puzzle at the end.  When you got them all correct, you could take your booklet to the office at the exit for a little treat.  This immediately captured the attention of our two boys (6 & 4 years old) who had grown accustom to walking around Castles and Palaces that sometimes got boring.

The ride up to the castle.

The ride up to the castle.

In order to go into the interior rooms of the castle, you had to meet in the courtyard for an official tour.  Fortunately for us, the English guided tour was to start about 15 minutes after we arrived and the line was much shorter than the German one.  In addition to the guide, we also had the electronic wands that gave added information about each room.  The kids got their own special wands with a unique children’s program that highlighted more interested points for them in a fun story book kind of way.  I listened to a few and had wished we all just got the children ones!  While there were not elaborate rooms with lots of furniture in this castle, we did get to go up into their working clock/bell tower.  It should be noted that this included some narrow and steep stair passages.  I had my 18 month old on my back in the Ergo.  Had I been alone on this particular tour, it may have been difficult to guide the two boys and balance myself with the baby on my back up and down the stair cases in very tight quarters.  One parent who had carried their child in their arms, even accidently whacked the poor little one’s head on a wood beam while trying to descend. I was thankfully with my husband on this part of our trip so we managed, and the view from the top of the bell tower was worth it!

A special kids guide in English for the tiny tourists.

A special kids guide in English for the tiny tourists.

After the tour of the castle, back in the courtyard, we played with several old fashioned games they had set up in different stations.  There were walking stilts, wooden unicorns that you tossed rings over the horn, and then a ball pendulum that you tried to knock over pins with in a circle.  All three of the kids had a wonderful time playing the games.  It was tough to drag them away, but I was bent on getting to that ice cave before the last tour and their booklets with the scavenger hunt puzzle was a nice incentive.  We didn’t sit to watch the hawking show because we wanted to finish the kids’ hunt and go to the ice cave.  This I regret.  Even though we spent about 4 hours at the castle, I felt we could have spent the entire day!  But, it was time to get on over to the ice cave in my mind.  Despite me being in a hurry, the kids wanted to walk down to the car through the trails, so we did.  It provided a nice conversation about why we stay on the path at historic and natural sites and a brief lesson in soil and root erosion.

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Top of the bell tower.

Back at the car we headed the short distance across the highway to the road up to the next mountain for the ice cave.  I didn’t know what to expect as we approached the parking lot stages.  We arrived at a place to park rather close to the “entrance” and had one hour before the last tour was going to start.  We weren’t sure if we should take the stroller or just the ergo.  Since we were in a hurry, I thought we’d try the stroller.  By time we got up to the ticket counter, we had 50 minutes left to make it to the cave entrance and they told us it was a 20 minute walk to the gondola and then another 20 minutes to the cave entrance from the top of the gondola. The whole time my husband kept telling me that we should just wait till the next day, that they kids couldn’t do it, that we wouldn’t make it.  But my stubborn self would not listen.  I knew the kids could do it, and just felt he didn’t know them as well as I did and I would “show him” that he was wrong.  So we purchased the tickets after asking if a full refund was possible if we didn’t make it.  They said yes, the ticket had 2 parts, one for the gondola and the other for the cave tour and they tear off a piece of the ticket at each stage, so which ever wasn’t torn off, we’d get the refund.

View of the castle from the ice cave mountain side.

View of the castle from the ice cave mountain side.

With tickets in hand, we started up the mountain.  Now, one would think, knowing that it was a mountain we were going up, that I would have anticipated just how steep the walk was going to be.  However, as gradual as the path up looked, it turned out to be pretty exhausting to push the stroller up the path with a toddler in it!  We pushed on, panting, and my husband incredibly annoyed at the speed I was trying to push everyone.  After 18 minutes, we made it to the gondola station, only to find a really long line.  I was still optimistic that we would make the last tour, until 5 minutes went by and no one moved.  Then 10 minutes and the gondola had then come 2 times and we barely made progress.  I’m ashamed to admit I was in a full 2 year old pouting fit.  It was clear we weren’t going to make it up in time for the tour.  I was so mad and even blaming the ticketing counter for selling us a ticket when they clearly must have known there was no chance that we’d make it.  “If they had just told us there was no chance to make it, we wouldn’t have suffered through the first leg of the hike for nothing!” I reasoned.  But in fact, my husband told me this, and the ticket counter told us what the hike times were.  Even without a wait at the gondola, we only had a 5 minute window for error on the hike times alone.  I learned a tough lesson that day, actually a few tough lessons and reminders.  1. Your attitude effects everyone on the trip. 2. Sometimes your spouse IS right. 3. Don’t rush your experiences, quality rather than quantity is going to give you the better outcome and memories on a vacation.  Had I just resided myself to the fact that we were going to just do the castle that day, we could have also learned more about the birds and scene the falcon and hawk show and, if something (like the ice cave) is important enough to visit, you will make time for it.  As we did the next day of the trip.  With so much to see and do in that area, I was so set on getting to try out as much as I could.  But the thing is, you won’t really miss getting to do the thing you don’t see, but you will miss getting to do the stuff at the place you do visit and rush through.  So, learn from my mistake and take your time!  And check out the next post coming soon about our big day in the ice cave!  We did make it, the following morning, and from parking lot start to finish, it was a 6 hour adventure that was well worth the wait!!!

The boys checking their final answers from the scavenger's hunt.

The boys checking their final answers from the scavenger’s hunt.

“A” is for Austria, “B” is for Bregenz

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Austria is one of our favorite countries to spend time in.  It has abundant opportunities for families in both city and country environments. This month I will highlight the areas we’ve been able to explore with our children.  Some trips I did without my husband and some I did with him.  And since it is my goal to start this year off by highlighting one country a month in alphabetical order, I’ll start our Austrian locations in order too.  First up is a Bregenz, a small town on Lake Constance (Bodensee in German).

“The Bodensee” or Lake Constance in English is the German/Austrian equivalent of the French Riviera.  Many native Germans and Austrians will have spent a few weeks of their life here at some point.  Bregenz, Austria sits right on the lake.  Yet this town is also right at the base of a large mountain range.  We only spent the day here but it was a wonderful stop for the kids.

Here are the highlights for children…

1. Walk around the Lake’s pedestrian promenade and take in the beautiful sights, then sit at a cafe and have delicious ice cream creations all while taking in the beauty of the lake.

A yummy ice cream mustache.

A yummy ice cream mustache.

2. Take the Pfänderbahn funicular up to the top of the mountain. It’s walkable from the marina. We easily took our stroller with us into the cable car and each station at the top and bottom had a wonderful play area for the children to entertain themselves on days when the wait was long to get on the cable cars.  http://www.pfaenderbahn.at/en/

Little explorers.

Little explorers.

Checking out the lake from the cable car.

Checking out the lake from the cable car.

3. Once you arrive at the top, you are immediately met with a “kinderparadies” (A children’s paradise).  The first thing that will catch their eye is the playground, with a towering slide.  Then off to the side they may notice the animal “farm” of boars, mountain goats and other native animals of the region.

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4. There were several trails for easy strolling to advanced hiking that all began at the top station of the Pfänderbahn.  We set off on one leading to an open grass field where my boys looked like they were trying to recreate a scene from The Sound of Music.

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5. Use this town like we did; a starting off point for the “KäseStrasse” or “Cheese Road” in English.  Not a road in the traditional sense but a collection of towns in this area that all make wonderful and unique to the region cheeses.  It will not only be a fun but delicious vacation! http://www.bregenzerwald.at/w/en/kaesestrasse-bregenzerwald

Our 28 Days with 28 Pictures in Germany, France, Austria and Slovenia

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As you may know, I’ve been trying to catch up on getting all the posts out from our recent vacation to France, Germany, Austria and Slovenia.  It’s been slow. Too slow.  There is so much I want to share with everyone, yet so many times I sit down to write and I look at the screen and think…boooooriiiing!  Especially since half our trip was just seeing friends and doing the everyday things we liked doing before.  Not exactly what everyone will want to do or care about if they take their own vacation for just a week or two.  While the type A side of me wants everything in chronological order, my creative side says, “Just put up the exciting stuff now!”  So this is my compromise with myself.  A full snap shot of our month away in Europe without so many boring words that will then allow my type A side the freedom to elaborate on the more interesting parts of the trip as I see fit in future posts.  I hope you will enjoy and maybe even post a comment letting me know which pictures you found the most intriguing and would like to know more about?

Day 1:  Arriving in Frankfurt and Bonn (Alfter), Germany on August 1st.

Getting comfortable with new surroundings.

Getting comfortable with new surroundings.

Day 2: Adjusting to the new time zone, playing at the neighbor’s house and a little shopping in Bonn.

Keeping the kids occupied at 3:00 am local time while the rest of the house is fast asleep.

Keeping the kids occupied at 3:00 am local time while the rest of the house is fast asleep.

Day 3: More time with old friends in our village and our old neighborhood playground, a trip to the Waldau in Bonn.

The Waldau has one of Bonn's biggest playgrounds and animals too!

The Waldau has one of Bonn’s biggest playgrounds and animals too!

Day 4: A trip to the Rheinaue park in Bonn and later spending time with friends who became our family and enjoying a nice Rheinish meal.

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Homemade reibekucken by our adoptive “Oma and Opa” neighbors.

Day 5: We traveled by the little regional train into Cologne to revisit the Dom, and go to the Chocolate Museum and Olympic and Sports Museum.

The Cologner Dom!  So big it's hard to fit it all in a single picture.

The Cologner Dom! So big it’s hard to fit it all in a single picture.

Day 6: One last visit with friends in the city center of Bonn before taking the train to Berlin, Germany.

Water and playground fun in front of one of Bonn's old city gates.

Water and playground fun in front of one of Bonn’s old city gates.

Day 7: Woke up in Berlin after staying in my first ever hostel.  First stop was Checkpoint Charlie followed by a hop on hop off tour of the city.

Had to pay 2 Euros for a picture, would have been another 2 Euros for me to be in the picture with my kids!

Had to pay 2 Euros for a picture, would have been another 2 Euros for me to be in the picture with my kids!

Day 8: More Berlin sight seeing.  The cathedral, museum of the former DDR and the Reichstag building.

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The dome on top of the Reichstag, we took the circular ramp up to the top inside the dome.

Day 9: Said good-bye to our former neighbor girl and toured Potsdamer Platz, Legoland Discovery Center and did some shopping.

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A portion of the Berlin Wall at Potsdamer Platz, showing where the boarder actually was.

Day 10: Went to the famous Fassbender & Rausch Chocolatiers, walked through the Brandenburg Gate again and to a playground in the Tiergarten before hopping on another train, this time to Munich, Germany.

The Brandenburg Gate.

The Brandenburg Gate.

Day 11: Woke up in our beautiful old neighborhood of Bogenhausen in Munich.  Took a stroll around our old stomping grounds and ate with friends.

Our old apartment on Prinzregentenstrasse, Munich.

Our old apartment on Prinzregentenstrasse, Munich.

Day 12: Repacked for our flight to Paris that evening. And went through our old neighborhood again to met up with some friends at a playground before making a MAD dash to the airport to fly to France.  I actually took NO pictures this day, somehow, so here is one from a different day in the same area that we walked around.

Prinzregentenplatz and building that was once Hitler's Munich residence.  Now a police station.

Prinzregentenplatz and building that was once Hitler’s Munich residence. Now a police station.

Day 13: Woke up to our first day in Paris. Decided to give the weather a try and took the 3 kiddos to Disneyland Paris! We got rained one twice.

Disneyland Paris.

Disneyland Paris.

Day 14: Out and about in Paris!  We started in the Tuileries Garden and went to 6 other playgrounds around Paris from there!

Taking in the view of the Eiffel Tower from a seat in the Jardin des Tuileries.

Taking in the view of the Eiffel Tower from a seat in the Jardin des Tuileries.

Day 15: Went to the Champs Elysee and 5 more playgrounds! Best sights in between were the Jardin du Luxembourg and the Saint Sulpice.

Saint-Sulpice, Paris, France.

Saint-Sulpice, Paris, France.

Day 16: Flew back to Munich from Paris at 7:00 o’clock in the morning. Then had some delicious Bavarian food with friends in the Munich city center.

Scweinbraten at Paulaner im Tal Bräuhaus.

Scweinbraten at Paulaner im Tal Bräuhaus.

Day 17: Attended our former church, Peace Church.  Then met with our friends for some “mini-golf” at the Olympia Park while waiting for my husband’s flight to land.  He got to join us for one week of the month.

The Olympia Tower, Munich Germany.

The Olympia Tower, Munich Germany.

Day 18: Breakfast again with friends, then packed up for a week in Austria and Slovenia. Drove to Sankt Johann im Pongau, Austria.

Even the rest stops in Austria are pretty!

Even the rest stops in Austria are pretty!

Day 19: Went off to explore the Pongau area and the castle and mountains of the small town of Werfen with my husband.  A truly wonderful place for kids and adults!

Hohenwerfen Fortress. Werfen, Austria.

Hohenwerfen Fortress. Werfen, Austria.

Day 20: One of the most intense and beautiful days of the trip! A hike up a mountain to the world’s largest ice cave! At the Eisriesenwelt! I could not have done this activity with the 3 kids alone.

Here is a postcard purchased from the site. No cameras were allowed in the cave. Photo credit: Verlag Eisriesenwelt GmbH.

Here is a postcard purchased from the site. No cameras were allowed in the cave. Photo credit: Verlag Eisriesenwelt GmbH.

Day 21: Our last day in Austria. Went to Sankt Johann’s Alpendorf and explored the ghost themed, yet child centered, Geisterdorf and playgrounds. Then walked along the breathtaking path through the Liechtensteinklamm, one of the longest wild river gorges that you can walk through in the alps. From there we drove to our next hotel in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

One of the play structures on top of the mountain at the Geisterdorf. Sankt Johann-Alpendorf, Austria.

One of the play structures on top of the mountain at the Geisterdorf. Sankt Johann-Alpendorf, Austria.

Day 22: Woke up in Ljubljana, Slovenia. We wandered around the city center, to their central market, and an old Roman wall.  In the evening we drove out to Lake Bled and took a row boat to the famous church on an island before taking the long drive back to Munich.

The Franciscan Church of the Annunciation in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

The Franciscan Church of the Annunciation in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

Day 23: A much needed sleep in back in Munich.  Then our friends watched our kids so that my husband and I could climb on the roof of the Olympiastadion in Munich’s Olympia Park then zip line across the stadium field.  Dinner that night at a delicious Augestiner Bräuhaus.

The Olympiastadion (Olympic Stadium) in Munich where we climbed on the roof.

The Olympiastadion (Olympic Stadium) in Munich where we climbed on the roof.

Day 24: My husband got the day to himself to go visit his friends.  The three kids and I spent the afternoon with some of my friends at two biergartens in the Englischer Garten (English Garden). First near the Kleinhesseloher See (a small lake) then at the Chinesischer Turm (Chinese Tower). The Chinese Tower biergarten completely remodeled their playground!

The new playground at the Chinese Tower Biergarten in Munich's English Garden.

The new playground at the Chinese Tower Biergarten in Munich’s English Garden.

Day 25: It was time to say good-bye to my husband who was flying back to the US that morning.  The two boys went to a German/English day camp at Gymboree while Madelyn and I saw my husband off at the train station.  Then all the kids went to a German friend’s birthday party!

The unicorn craft that the birthday party entertainer had the kids made at our German friend's birthday party.

The unicorn craft that the birthday party entertainer had the kids made at our German friend’s birthday party.

Day 26: The boys had another day at the Gymboree camp. I took my friend to the doctor then had a walk through Marienplatz, shopping at the delicious Dallmayr deli/market. Later that afternoon we met some friends at the Natural Science Museum at the Schloss Nymphenburg.

Heading to the Natural Science Museum in the Schloss Nymphenburg.

Heading to the Natural Science Museum in the Schloss Nymphenburg.

Day 27: Our last full day in Europe. The boys did one last day of camp at Gymboree followed by some play time during their open gym with a friend and her daughter.  Then she blessed me by watching my 3 kids for a couple hours so I could have a few moments to myself in Munich’s city center before the long trip home alone with the 3 kids.  That night we took a late train to Frankfurt to stay the night in preparation for our flight back to the US the next day.

The Neues Rathaus in Marienplatz. Munich, Germany.

The Neues Rathaus in Marienplatz. Munich, Germany.

Day 28: Woke up in Frankfurt and had a nice German breakfast at the hotel.  Took the tram and train into the airport and flew home on Condor Air.

My 4 year old and my 18 month old watching a movie together on the plane.

My 4 year old and my 18 month old watching a movie together on the plane.

And there you have a snap shot of our month in Europe!  More detailed post of the best parts of the trip with kids to come!