Traveling with Stanley, pt 3

 

Staying with Strangers in Salzburg (Day 2 of our trip)  

We arrived in Salzburg, Austria on May 21 with jet lag in full effect. Upon exiting the plane, we were greeted with snow-capped mountains, green grass and a blue sky. We (aka: me) decided the most cost efficient way to travel through Europe would be to stay with families.

Our host family, the Schweinbergers, had arranged to let us stay in their finished basement. We arrived in the afternoon and were greeted by the patriarch of the family, whose name I never picked up. He politely showed us our quarters and asked if we had any questions.

“It’s a bit chilly in here,” Stanley remarked.

No Name Schweinberger said, “We don’t turn the heat on until October.”

“You realize it is 43 degrees Fahrenheit?” I asked.

If you know my grandpa, you probably know that Stanley is the most even-tempered, easy-going person on the planet. That was until No Name refused to turn the heat on for a man his elder who was on blood thinners.

The next thing I knew, I was abruptly awaken from a short slumber by a shouting match in half-German half-English.

NO-NAME: YOU ARE BURNING MY HOUSE DOWN.

STANLEY: I AM NOT!

NO-NAME: WHY DOES IT SMELL LIKE GAS IN HERE?

STANLEY: BECAUSE I AM COLD!

NO-NAME: YOU CANNOT USE MY STOVE!

STANLEY: WATCH ME!

Stanley had decided to turn the gas stove on with hopes that it would radiate heat in the kitchen. Six hours later, we not only had a warm kitchen but also had probably been exposed to carbon monoxide poisoning.

To make matters worse, Stanley then proceeded to call every single person he knew in America to tell them how rude the Austrians were. In front of No Name. Along with a thousand dollar cell phone bill, we were more than likely going to get murdered in our sleep. Great start to our trip.

Locals (Day 3)

I had planned an extravagant 8 hour adventure to Berchtesgaden, Germany to see the Eagle’s Nest on our second day in Europe. With the fiasco that happened the night before, I thought this might ease the tension a bit.

However, Stanley woke up with the flu and could not walk, let alone go to Germany for the day. For a moment, I almost bought a plane ticket back to America but then thought, “I can find a drug store in Salzburg!”

After walking an hour, I found a grocery store and bought everything that I could identify, including bananas, protein shakes, cough drops, a ham sandwich, ginger ale and a bottle of wine.

Forcing Stanley to eat the above (sans wine) seemed to help and within 12 hours, he was ready to leave the apartment. With his current opinion on the locals, Stanley decided we should dine where they can understand us. And that’s how we discovered Trattoria Domani.

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Upon entering, Stanley belted, “CIAO! Sono Italiano!” (Translation: Hello! I am Italian!)

Confused, the waiter brought us English menus and asked us where we were from. Once he found out we were actually American, he hated us even more and was not amused by our loud antics.

That was until Stanley invited him to sit down and eat lunch with us.

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And that is how our first friend was made, and the pattern of Stanley taking pictures of the waiter at every restaurant we went to.

Stanley in Salzburg (Day 4)

 We woke up at the crack of dawn with hopes that we would finally be able to hike. The temperature wasn’t rising, which worried me quite a bit. However, Stanley said that we just had to do this and we could go really slow if needed.

After getting ready, we met in the living room and I noticed that we both dressed extremely opposite. I was wearing UnderArmour leggings, tennis shoes and a sweatshirt. Stanley was wearing slacks, a Ralph Lauren half-zip and brown dress shoes. Sure.

We started our journey not really knowing where we were going, and made it to the top of the mountain just fine. We took in the views, and decided it was time to descend. Somehow, some way we got lost on the way down. Not only did we not have a GPS, but we also didn’t have rain jackets. And then it started to pour.

When we finally found our way into Salzburg, we realized we hadn’t eaten all day. Continuing with the trend of not eating authentic Austrian food, we decided to stop in a Mexican restaurant.

Also following trend of making friends with every waiter, Stanley started teaching our waiter English and this is when said waiter decided that WE ALL NEEDED TEQUILA!

Side note: Stanley does not drink.

One shot and “one tiny beer” later, Stanley decided that the tequila was amazing and that maybe the Austrians were O.K. people.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles (Day 5)

The last day of our Austrian adventure arrived. Despite previous stories, we did eat at local joints. Stanley was not a fan of Wienerschnitzel and thought the tequila was a much better option than the Hefeweizen.

While Salzburg was beautiful, we were ready to move on. We packed our bags, called a cab and headed towards the train station. We had a two-hour train ride to Villach, where we would then catch a bus to Venice. Words cannot describe the beauty captured in this train ride through the Alps.

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Once we arrived in Villach, we had approximately 15 minutes to catch our bus that would depart for Venice. We ran up the escalator with our suitcases in tow, and stared at the 25 buses that lined the curb wondering which one was ours.

With no description as to which direction the buses were headed, we both sprinted in opposite directions to figure out this mystery. I found our bus with 5 minutes to spare, and we hobbled up to the top deck.

We were headed to Venice.

More photos here:

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Traveling with Stanley, pt 2

The Last Time I Was Here . . .

Fun fact: When Stanley was in the Navy in the early 60s he spent a majority of his time on the Mediterranean at different ports.

As you know, Frankfurt is not located on the sea, so it came to my surprise when Stanley started our morning by telling me that he just hated this city.

Stanley then proceeded to tell me that the last time he was here, he was having an appendicitis attack and had to have emergency surgery with no sedation – a week before his wedding.

To say that he has strong feelings against this city is putting it lightly.

We then decided that coffee would make this feeling of angst a tad better. After seating ourselves at the nearest airport café, Stanley realized that we weren’t in America anymore and drip coffee is non-existent.

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is where his love affair with espresso began.

Stanley in Frankfurt

Though the espresso was strong enough to kill a horse (which is great considering Stanley had a triple bypass surgery a year before), the layover was almost too boring. We heard a shriek of terror and witnessed a group of men screaming in German while covering their nose and mouth.

More people started coming out of the woodwork and running to the police with their hands covering their face. The police were unfazed, the local spectators were unfazed; therefore, I was unfazed. Stanley, on the other hand, did not appreciate this act of nonsense.

STANLEY (while standing up in a crowded restaurant at 4:30 am): With ISIS being on the rise, I told you flying to Europe was a bad idea!

Note: We still aren’t sure what happened, but I’m assuming someone in that German group passed really bad gas.

 

To read part 1, click here.

Traveling with Stanley, pt 1

It was the middle of March, and I was sitting in bed preparing to hibernate for the evening. My phone rang and I hardly had time to answer before Stanley proclaimed, “I want to hike the Alps before I die. Let’s go to Austria!”

Within a week, I had an itinerary set, had communicated with Stanley’s cardio team to make sure that it was safe for him to climb a mountain in Europe, and had talked with a few families in each city that had agreed to host us during our stay.

It was official. We were going to Europe for my 25th birthday.

The reason it has taken me so long to write this post is because there are literally no words to describe the adventure we had. However, we are now planning our second trip, so I figured I should document the first great adventure that my 76-year-old grandfather and I had before the details slip my mind.

With fear of leaving important stories out, I figured it would be best to break this down into multiple posts.

Take Off, Day 1

 Take Off Pic

                                  

When I tell you that I had every single detail planned, I am not exaggerating. I knew that traveling with my grandfather might be a tad slower than usual, so I allotted extra time to get from point to point, and even took into consideration his love for coffee shops and conversations with strangers.

We had an evening flight out of Baltimore, and in my mind, the easiest way to get from DC to Baltimore during Friday evening rush hour would be by taking the Amtrak train from Union Station (which is approximately one mile from my house).

Stanley had other plans — a great indication as to how this trip would go.

We left 4 hours early for the airport and decided to Uber because carrying a suitcase is just hard. As we were leaving, sirens were wailing and something in my gut told me, “This isn’t normal DC traffic.”

As the saying goes, my gut was correct in the sense that some man had tried to jump the fence at the White House and was shot on the front lawn. Casual. Luckily, our Uber driver was wizardly and knew every back road to get us into Baltimore. PRAISE THE HEAVENS.

Once checked in, it was time to go through security.

Some of you are going to know this story before I even begin, and the rest will seriously question my family and how we have survived on this Earth for a few generations.

A few years ago, my Noni and her girlfriends went on a cruise to Europe. They avoided pirates on the Mediterranean, getting seasick on the boat and becoming stranded on an island. All was well. That is until Noni decided to do something to really piss TSA off, which resulted in her being questioned in a private room for an hour and almost missing her flight back to America. **We still aren’t sure of the details, but Noni claims that she was an angel while going through security.

Since this has happened, the Sears family has been cursed while going through TSA and, this trip was no exception.

I made it through security fine. When it came time for Stanley to walk through, the alarms went off. Not being bothered per usual, Stanley walked back and took his belt off thinking this must be the problem. That, along with the stash of medication he didn’t put aside (and the cell phone, and the stray money and the hairspray) caused the issue. Instead of putting his belt in a bin, Stanley ever so gently laid it on the conveyor belt.

While walking to the terminal, Stanley realized that his pants were having a hard time staying put. The cause: a missing belt.

We walked back to security and noticed a rather large line, TSA agents that were crawling under the scanner, and a whole lot of confusion taking place. Stanley looked at me, looked back at the mess happening before us, and loudly screamed, “MY BELT! I think my belt is stuck in the machine.”

Sure enough, it was and once received, we tracked back to our terminal with our pants in place.

It was finally time for take off.

As we boarded the plane, Stanley assessed each person entering the aircraft and determined the chances that they might be a part of ISIS. Once he felt comfortable that we would make it safely to our destination, he looked at me and asked, “How much longer?”

Lord bless us, I thought. It is about to be ONE. LONG. FLIGHT.

In case you are wondering how we passed time on a redeye to Frankfurt, we discovered a free radio station with 50s music. See below:

Three naps, two meals and one long flight later we were about to land. Being extremely proud that Stanley hadn’t offended a soul on the plane, I thought that this was about to be an uneventful trip, until the following conversation occurred:

FLIGHT ATTENDANT: Hello! It is time to fill out your customs papers. Are you German?

STANLEY: We haven’t gone that far back in our genealogy; I MIGHT BE.

 

Part 2 will be coming soon – Check back or sign up for updates.

Up, Up and Apart

Balloon

It’s here. I’ve finally hit the “mid-twenties mark.”

I celebrated my 25th birthday in Venice, which was magical. Eating pasta Bolognese while overlooking the Grand Canal is a moment that I’ll probably refer to for the rest of my life.

“When I was 25, I was wearing a fedora hat and feeding a stray dog bread while looking at Ponte di Rialto …”

I feel like every time I travel, I talk about how my life has been changed forever. This time was no exception, but that deserves it’s own post which will come later; mainly because my sweet grandpa Stanley accompanied me and we spent 14 days traveling through Germany, Austria and Italy.

But I digress.

You know how those more experienced will tell you what to expect for your upcoming birthday?

12? She will grow like a weed!

23? You’ll experience your first hangover.

The day I turned 30, my metabolism changed over night!

At 40, you may have your first mid-life crisis, and you’ll lose your vision at the same time. So splendid!

What about 25? Nothing. It’s the middle child of birthdays. It’s passive; it’s just there. You aren’t changing the world and you aren’t settling down, but you’re just living. It’s not as exciting as 21, and not as dreadful as 30.

So, here I am writing to tell you that things will change. You may not wake up with an epiphany or a crease in your forehead, but day after day you will notice things are marginally different.

You will notice that people are moving on.

One day I woke up and realized that the people that I held near and dear to my heart just weren’t as close as they used to be. Instead of feeling every heart beat and ache together like we used to, we all have found our own path in the world. Group texts of everyone sharing horrid first-date stories have diminished and, instead, are filled with individual tales of dating, wedding dress shopping and traveling. Wednesday nights that were once dedicated to wine and figuring out how to get a promotion are now filled with receptions and work events. Instead of complaining about our jobs, we now actually fit in and are most likely the root of frustration with those our junior. I was so busy fulfilling my own life that I didn’t stop to realize that my friends were doing the exact same thing.

It’s a strange feeling to one day realize that while everyone was diligently moving, things ended up a bit rattled and aren’t fitting together just like they used to. You’re not going to fully understand why your friends are so invested in their job or love life and they aren’t going to understand why you aren’t devoted to the things they find important.

So while this may seem disheartening, it is also OK.

The shift from being an early-twenty-year-old to a semi-functioning adult is so gradual that you may not realize it until you meticulously look at each detail that got you from point A to point B. Like riding in a hot air balloon, you see what is behind you, but you’re not exactly sure where you’re going to land. And that is part of the excitement.