My extra-Georgian adventures continued over the holiday season when I opted out of going home in December and instead took some time to have an epic reunion with Marissa, Pauli, and Joanne in Europe! The plan came together quite nicely with Marissa and I renting a car and jaunting around the former Austro-Hungarian Empire for the better part of two weeks! We met up with Pauli and Joanne at various pitstops along the way.
Marissa and I had a general outline of our trip in mind, but there were very few concrete details in place when we arrived in Prague. After leaving Tbilisi in the wee hours and spending a spectacular 4 sitting in the Kiev airport, I waltzed through customs in Prague and immediately found Marissa jumping up and down by the baggage claim. I hadn’t seen Marissa in 11 months and it was a wonderful reunion! She regaled me with tales of all the fabulous Russian ladies who had been arriving all morning (Marissa got in a few hours before me) bedecked with fur and bangles.
When we arrived in downtown Prague we had already missed our car’s pickup time and so we had to check into a neat little hostel called Fusion for the night. Backpacks secured, we set off to explore the city by night. We strolled around the old part of town (We think) and took in the sights of Prague at Christmas: the Christmas Market, bright lights, Hot Meade (which we of course drank), and barrels of giant fish. Apparently in Prague everyone gets a huge fish at Christmastime. The fishmonger chops its head off for you, wraps it in newspaper, and off you go trotting back home, huge fish in tow.
We also ran into an awesome brass mariachi-style band who was jamming and hawking cds. This was while we ate a giant half-meter sausage with mustard. We knew we were off to a good start!
The next money we picked up our car and after getting swindled on the insurance, we were off to Germany! Like I said, we hadn’t planned much of the trip in advance, so when Marissa said, “I looked at a map and it seems like Nuremberg isn’t to far!” When we got our Renault Clio, the Avis woman asked us, “Do you have a navigation system?” In response, Marissa excitedly chirped, “We have a map!” We had a map indeed! A giant fold-out highway map!
We opened up our map and made a beeline to Nuremberg as a light snow began to fall. We picked up some road snacks (trying to imitate Pauli’s style of car sandwiches as best we could) and before long we were cruising around downtown Nuremberg looking for the action!
With the help of some locals we found some free parking near the old city and walked in to visit the Germanisches Nationalmuseum. As it turns out, Nuremberg is home to the largest museum of German cultural heritage in the whole world! How lucky is that? We visited exhibits about the history of the city, saw some medieval and renaissance armor, checked out the porcelain and the art and then headed back out into the town. We visited another Christmas Market and enjoyed the old town’s enormous Christmas Tree.
After a few hours of walking around Nuremberg, we hit the road again, heading south for Munich. Now, I’ve been to Munich a half dozen times and wasn’t to keen on it, but Marissa talked me into it and I’m glad we went! Marissa napped while we drove and we eventually found ourselves circling the downtown along a ring road before finding a cheapy hotel for the night. Some delicious beer and pasta later and we were in for the night.
The next morning we road the tram into town for a bit of a walkaround and got to see all the sights of Downtown Munich, including the Cuckoo Clock at Marianplatz and the magnificent view from St. Peter’s Cathedral. We also discovered Munich’s Michael Jackson shrine and Marissa took a bunch of photos with it out of solidarity with the worshippers who had left their icons and photos of the King of Pop.
For lunch we stopped in a restaurant and found to our delight that instead of bread the restaurant served Pretzels and Mustard as appetizers on the table. Oh, Germany! What’s more, I was able to order Beer Pretzel soup! Does it get more Bavarian than that? Probably not!
When we returned to our car we consulted our giant map. We had a few options. We knew we had to be in Vienna by Christmas Eve (more on that later), and so we wanted to plan with that in mind. one option would be to drive to Salzburg or Linz and stay there for the night before heading to Vienna the next afternoon. Linz was basically halfway between Vienna and Munich while Salzburg seemed like a bit of an out-of-the-way destination. And then Marissa had a stroke of Genius.
“What about Italy?”