A Slice of Fried Gold

European Adventures: Italy

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The last stop on my epic journey through Europe was in the land of my dreams - Italy. I had been waiting all of my life to go to Italy and had built it up to near utopian levels in my mind. Really, in the face of those expectations there was absolutely no way it could live up to it. Really, it was unfair, but that does not mean it wasn't an absolute blast.

After a lengthy train ride from Salzburg, Austria to Venice, Italy, I came into the station and quickly met up with Hannah and Kim, and over the next 8+ days we fit pretty much everything we could possibly think of in. We went to a completely insane amount of places, we saw an incredible amount of sights, we ate ridiculously delicious foods, and we had a hell of a time. Sure, I didn't get to ride a Vespa while in Italy, but I probably would have died anyways.

This covers the last days of my trip, from April 25th to May 3rd, 2009.

That face is made because I am super excited AND I just tore my pants

Cities/Areas visited: Venice, Florence, Siena, San Gimignano (San Jim-Jam!), Cinque Terre, Pisa, and Rome.

Soundtrack: Beirut, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra. Really though, it was pretty much just more Beirut.

Cinque Terre is the most beautiful place on the planet. Fact.

Best Place on the Planet: Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre means five lands, but in my mind it pretty much means "paradise." Cinque Terre is five small towns connected only by an awesome hike or by train, and each town is completely unique in its own right. We went to each of them, but the two we spent the most time in were Vernazza (our home for the night) and Monterosso (the beach resort town of the five). While there, we were blessed with incredible weather, completely breathtaking sights, delicious food, awesome company, and incredible luck.

Any time you come into a train station and manage to meet one of the pensioners from your guidebook and he readily offers you a room at a discounted rate, you know luck is working on your side. It's really hard to convey how spectacular these two days we spent were, but it was like existing on an entirely different planet for that time. It was completely and utterly relaxing while being everything I wanted to be from the trip. It felt like Italy, really and truly. Next time I go back to Italy, it will be to Cinque Terre only.

Ponte Vecchio

Best City: Florence

While Cinque Terre completely outdistances it overall, Florence was probably my favorite of the major cities we went to. It managed to combine all of our interests the best of any city, whether it was shopping, museums, gardens, restaurants, or lodging, it handled all of those things and handled them incredibly well. Even better was the fact that it was completely affordable and surprisingly small, as we could get from one side of the city to the other in seemingly incredible time. It was the most balanced of all of the Italian cities we made it to.

The line for the Vatican Museum - 3 hours!

Worst City: Rome

On the other end of the spectrum was Rome, which effectively was chaos in city form. Rick Steves described it as "bella chaos" - beautiful chaos. No offense Rick, but I completely disagree. This place was a complete mess full of insane drivers, rude people and the longest lines known to man. While it did have its plusses (extremely charming night times, the Colosseum was glorious), its negatives were profound and sadly outweighed the positives. Ending the trip with it was a terrible idea.

They loved him because he was tall, so they made an arm throne for him

Best day/night: Day 1 in Cinque Terre

Great train ride in. Check.

Magical meeting with a guy renting the world's most perfect room for the night. Check.

Weather becoming perfect. Check.

Awesome hike. Check.

Incredible dinner and awesome new friends. Check.

Best bar experience in Italy. Check.

Yeah...Cinque Terre was awesome, but the first day/night was clearly the bees knees.

Awwww yeahhhhh! Siena

Most surprisingly awesome day: Siena/San Gimignano

We never planned on going to Siena or San Gimignano, two smaller Tuscan areas near Florence. But when we got in and found out that all of the sights were closed the day we first arrived in Florence, we decided to change it up and check these places out. We were incredibly glad we did, as these cities captured the charm and essence of Italy far better than anywhere besides Cinque Terre did. The people were warm and friendly, the food and wine were delicious, the architecture was archaic but refined. Picturesque, and a really unforeseen delight.

We heart Hobo Town!

Best Train Ride: Venice to Florence in Hobo Town

Because we could not book seats on the train ride from Venice to Florence, we were caught in the nexis of the universe that is in between the posh train cars. Essentially, we were in nowhere land and we were destined to be there for three plus hours. Thankfully, due to the ingenuity of Kim, we created our own special little world called Hobo Town. All it took was to move one of the luggage racks up and tie it up using one of Kim's luggage straps, and voila! Instant area to sleep in without getting disturbed by anyone walking by. We even managed to be so dominant in Hobo Town that no one sat near us for 3/4 of the train ride, and then it got so busy Hobo Town's population grew.

Still, Hobo Town prospered.

The train from hell!

Worst Train Ride: Pisa to Rome on the Italian Labor Day

Imagine a train booked twice of capacity. Imagine young bastard Italians chain smoking regardless of no smoking signs. Imagine a crazy old woman dominating our space and annoying everyone. Now imagine that for five plus hours.

Most stressful train ever!

Hannah is less than impressed by the Accademia line

Best Sight: the Statue of David in Florence

While the line for Accademia (the museum that housed Michaelangelo's Statue of David) was completely ridiculous, the fact of the matter is the Statue of David was probably the single most awe inspiring thing I have ever seen in my entire life. The sheer size, detail and craftsmanship of it have to be seen to be believed. It is and likely will remaing the single greatest piece of art I have ever seen. Completely unreal.

No pictures? No problem!

Worst Sight: Sistine Chapel in Rome

The Sistine Chapel was extremely disappointing. I'm not sure if its the miles you have to walk to get there (while inside the museum, that is) or if it is blatant disregard of the no photo rules or the extremely dim lighting or the insane amount of people they allow in there, but all of those things add up to make it a crazy disappointing sight. I wanted to love it, but love it I did not.

This was a clean part of Rome

Worst feature of any city: Trash everywhere!

The thing that surprised me the most about Italy was how completely filthy it was. There was trash everywhere in cities, in particular Rome. It was inundated by trash at every corner, mostly in Rome which was particularly disgusting. It's not that I am extremely clean by any means, but the blatant disregard for cleanliness made me think that they had no respect for their city. Either that or the tourists didn't. Either way, I was very disappointed with whoever caused that complete mess.

The Mayor of Vernazza

Coolest local: The Mayor of Vernazza

All throughout our time in Vernazza, there was one constant figure: this little pomeranian whom I nicknamed "the Mayor of Vernazza." He would stroll around the town, strutting his stuff and generally acting like he owned the place. He was pretty much hysterical, and when he managed to walk into the Blue Marlin while we were drinking their late at night, I knew immediately he was my favorite Italian I met.


Best food: Seafood Risotto in Napoleon's in Florence

While I consistently was eating extremely delicious food throughout Italy, this meal beat all others. In this little restaurant in the middle of nowhere in Florence (as recommended by this woman named Florence from Paris we met in Hobo Town), I had a seafood risotto that was so delectable my mouth starts watering while thinking about it. It wasn't anything elaborate, just risotto with tomatoes and shrimp, but my god was it tasty.

Gelato...our lifeblood

Most addictive food:Gelato

Gelato, which is effectively ice cream in my mind, is crazy, crazy delicious. Not only that, but it seemed like every block would have a new gelateria, and because we wanted to make sure to get our fix, we would have gelato every few hours just so we could compare. Or because it was really good and we just wanted to eat it forever. Either way, it is impossible to go to Italy and not have a ton of gelato.

Rick Stevers unite!

Most random meet up: Rick Stevers unite!

While in Venice, we were trying to use our Rick Steves Guide to Italy as well as we could, but this one restaurant he recommended was almost impossible to find. In fact, the directions were so labrynthine that we managed to get incredibly lost, until we gave up and went into this cute little restaurant nearby. Somewhat predictably, this was the restaurant we were looking for. Not only that but the two tables nearest to us were fellow Rick Stevers who found it using his guide. We bonded over this, especially with an awesome liquor store owner from Vancouver who was in Venice researching new liquors on a "business trip."

Right. I was on a business trip in Europe researching alcohol too. I swear!

You break my heart...

Most emotional moment: Ravel's Bolero performed in St. Mark's Square in Venice

For some reason, I've always completely loved Ravel's composition "Bolero." It really is an emotional song for me, and its slow burn nature kills me every time. Now imagine hearing that after a couple bottles of wine and an espresso while in Venice. Needless to say, I was getting a bit verklempt watching this ridiculously talented group (fronted by a cute violinist) completely dominate it in St. Mark's Square. Utterly beautiful.

Yogurt WHAT!

Best local gang: Yogurt

This is fairly ridiculous...just a warning.

While walking around Florence, we kept seeing spray painted tags saying "Yogurt!" over and over throughout the city (particularly near our hostel). This of course led me to developing a back story to the tag, creating a geriatric gang of yogurt enthusiasts who stand up to the younger gangs with their experience and savvy. This is the gang for me, I openly thought. Of course, realistically it was probably a random tag, but you never know.

Hey guys, you know what would be a great idea? Reforming communism!

Weirdest signs: Reform the Socialist party!

I kept seeing this sign everywhere. Evidently reforming the Socialist party and bringing communism back is high on a number of Italian's agendas. Not to be overly judgmental, as clearly the economy has been hit by getting swallowed up by the European Union, but I really, really don't think that is your answer. Maybe that's just me though.

"Drink these...right now." "Yes sir!"

Best Bar (EVER): The Blue Marlin

The Blue Marlin bar is pretty much the only bar in Vernazza and it was only open until midnight, but it was pretty much the coolest bar I've ever been in. It featured an owner who sang along to his American 80's hit song only playlist, a ridiculously cool bartender who was there by way of California (his wife lived there), and another guy who I am fairly certain was actually Asthon Kutcher. Throw in the locals who were completely awesome and the random Americans we hung out (including a giant basketball player from Cali who was playing ball in Germany), and Hannah, Kim and I were completely in love with this place.

I honestly can say it was one of the best bars I've ever been. Spectacular.

Most embarrassing moment (for anyone): Kid eating it on a Segway

While we were waiting in line at the Duomo in Florence to go up to the roof, this gang of Segway riders started rolling by. It was a group of younger guys and all of them looked relatively Segway savvy. Then, one guy near the back started coming up and I could tell he was going somewhere that wasn't going to work out particularly well for him. Sure enough, the kid crashed his Segway into a metal barricade and ate it in front of the entire line, drawing huge laughs from all watching.

Then to make things worse, the kid tried to mount his Segway once again and sure enough ate it again quickly. At this point not only is the entire crowd of hundreds of people laughing hysterical, but his friends have stopped to enjoy his misfortunes as well. The kid finally mounted the steed and made his way out, likely shedding a tear (or ten) as he departed.

Italy Wrap Up: So there you have it. While Italy was not everything I wanted it to be (too much commercialization, too insane, not enough Vespas, not enough mental image Italy), it still was an unbelievably amazing place that occasionally verged on perfection. Rome left a very sour taste in my mouth, but Cinque Terre, Siena and San Gimignano in particular more than made up for it. Venice and Florence were also excellent, but the smaller areas truly were the highlight.

All in all, I saw everything I wanted to see, I did everything I wanted to do, and you know what? I finally accomplished one of my life long dreams by going to Italy. It took me until I was 25 to do so, but there is value in that no less, and I am very glad I went with two of my best friends in Hannah and Kim. We went through our trials and tribulations on that journey, but we all had a great time and saw many amazing things.

Now that it is all over, it's time to start planning my next trip. South America anyone? Portugal/South of France/Switzerland/Germany/Czech Republic perhaps? Who knows. The world is my oyster, and I am glad I started it off with a bang.

The Colosseum in all of its glory

Come on wish! Come true!

These kids were playing in a park in Rome and were awesome

I'm in a Corona ad...I swear

Kim observing nature at its most wonderful

More Cinque Terre glory

Yada yada...Cinque Terre was pretty

Vernazza...so beautiful

Cool shot I took in Vernazza

Hannah, Kim and I dominating Tuscany

San Jim Jam

Kim ruining a serious shot


The Duomo in Florence

Florence - Pitti Palace

In Florence

Myself breaking the law to take a picture

Venice lookin' real good

Our gondolier, myself, Hannah and Kim

Venice...oh Venice

Time of our lives in Venice

St. Marco Square in Venice

Going up the Grand Canal in Venice

New Bone? Sign me up!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

I want you right now

Jeff Smith's Bone series has long been a favorite of mine. My brother started collecting it when it first came out (we have the entire series in issue form) and on a monthly basis this comic caught our imagination like very few others did. Through its 55 issues, Bone continued to get better and better, transitioning from a funny book about three odd brothers lost in a foreign land into a sprawling fantasy adventure story with the greatest of ease (and it even added "stupid, stupid rat creatures!" to our vocabularly for a lengthy stretch). One way or another it never lost its heart.

Now after the series has become an enormous worldwide hit for children and adults alike (millions sold...hard to believe but unbelievably fantastic), Jeff Smith and Scholastic announced that new material will be coming out for the first time in five years.

There will be two new pieces of material from the Boneverse. The first up will be coming in the summer of 2010, and as Jeff Smith says it's a "major repackaging" of an older release he and collaborator Tom Sniegoski put together in 1999 titled Stupid, Stupid Rat-Tails. It will feature the story from that, but it will also feature a long out-of-print story from Smith's Disney Adventures work and two new Big Johnson Bone stories from Sniegoski. Not only that, but these stories will be told by Phoney and Bartleby to three Bone Scouts after they've returned to Boneville. Considering the fact that anything featuring Phoney and Bartleby is complete gold, color me excited.

Then, the pièce de résistance. In 2011, Scholastic will release the first of three new Bone novels as written by Sniegoski titled Bone: Quest for the Spark. While it is not written by Smith nor does it feature any of the primary characters, Smith promises that we will see some old favorites (Roderick the Racoon and stupid, stupid rat creatures are mentioned) and that it is completely hilarious. Scholastic obviously was head over hills for the idea (I'm pretty sure the executives who first heard this idea only heard "ka-ching, ka-ching" repeating in their head as Smith and Sniegoski spoke), and requested that Smith add illustrations. There will be "about twenty, full bleed and in color" according to Smith, which just adds to the amazing.

While I am a pinch skeptical about the whole thing (the series ended so well, why keep going to that well?), I am very excited to see new material coming out involving this universe and these characters. I'm really hoping that they will match the quality Smith has given us up to this point, and come on, is it really that much to ask for a Roque Ja appearance? Come on Sniegoski.

Originally posted by myself on Multiversity Comics, the comic blog I write for. That post received a comment from the creator of these projects - Tom Sniegoski. Nice!

Contemplating Tumblr.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

As I get more and more engrossed in the comics blog I'm affiliated with, I'm connecting with the fellow writers on there increasingly as well. One of the writers, Carina (aka the token girl), told me about Tumblr. Tumblr is a site that exists in some sort of gray area in between blogging and tweeting, and from what I can tell is likely to be the next big thing in terms of social networking (already 1.2 million plus on there). A better write-up of what it is comes from Wikipedia:

Tumblr is a blogging platform that allows users to post text, images, video, links, quotes, and audio to their tumblelog, a short-form blog. Users are able to "follow" other users and see their posts together on their dashboard. You can like or reblog other blogs on the site and other users can do the same to your posts. As your blog becomes more popular your tumblarity will rise. The service emphasizes customizability and ease of use.[2]

So there you have it - it is a site that pretty much acts as a fusion between the on-the-go nature of Twitter but with room for more substance if you desire it. If Blogger provides blogging and Twitter provides micro-blogging, then you could make an argument that Tumblr invents a third genre (if you will) of blogging that I will now name mobile blogging (in the immortal style of Michael Scott - I declare that trademarked!). I signed up quickly and checked it out for a bit and it really seems like the entire audience right now is strictly early adopters. Of course, with early adopters you often get the too cool for school types, those people who are cutting edge or no edge at all, so I'm unsure as to how I'd fit in with that fine group.

However, the question I mean to ask isn't based off of whether or not I should join Tumblr (too late for that). The question is are these micro-blogging sites a good thing? Sure, I love Twitter and have a complete blast with it and Tumblr seems like another fun venture, but if people are going to be learning how to write from 140 character posts or from text messages or from Tumblr mobile blogs, what exactly does that means for the English language in twenty years? Hell, what does that mean for the English language in five years?

A great example is Shaquille O'Neal. The Big Aristotle is a larger than life personality who many people love across the world, which is clearly reflected in his enormous Twitter following. However, take a look at his Twitter feed. It's completely shattered English. However, not only is it acceptable, but there is likely a large population of younger people looking at that writing as something to aspire towards and imitate.

Of course, it is hard to argue that mobile/micro blogging really is a good representation of the English language. These people do not speak like that, they just write that way because of limitations established by the medium they are using. I understand that and am not chastising them for that. My implication is that if we have generations growing up reading these posts as enviable items, we're headed for a really ugly and illiterate future.

I really have no room to talk though. I wrote two tweets in the midst of writing this post, and I made a Tumblr post (quoting Douglas Adams no less) as well. But I do openly recognize it as a burgeoning issue within the next decade or so, and openly wonder when the world will start to address it. Until then, I'll continue doing what I do. Always posting...but secretly judging.

Music Release of the Week

Music Release of the Week: Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Series (Blu Ray)

If I posted anything besides this, I'd be a complete liar. While there are a few interesting album releases this week, Battlestar Galactica is my sweet, sweet baby. It's my favorite television series of all time, and today they are releasing the final half of a season, the full series on DVD, and the full series on Blu Ray. Amazon is chopping 40% off the Blu Ray price to bring it down to the expensive but entirely palatable price of $209.99, and if you haven't seen it and like good television, I will judge you for not purchasing it.

Not even kidding.

The entire series is brilliant, and is full of so many huge moments and stellar characters that you'll completely forget about the money you spent mid-way through the mini-series. Also, if anyone is looking for a Christmas present for me, I may already have the series in almost its entirety, but I don't have it on Blu Ray! Food for thought friends and family. Food for thought.

European Adventures: Austria

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The end is within sight! Round 3 of my European travelogues is here now, with a post following my adventures while in the incomparably beautiful (in every way) Austria.

While it was a huge change of pace from the "go go go!" attitude and opulence of Paris, Austria was a stunning country both in terms of man made structures and the varied landscapes, highlighted by my runs through the Alps. The nightlife was non-existent from what I could gather, but that gave me a bit of time to gather my thoughts and detox from the chaos that comes from Paris. To put it more succinctly, Austria was a beautiful and necessary intermission between France and Austria.

My adventures in Austria took place between April 22nd and April 24th, 2009.

Myself in the backyard of Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna

Cities/Areas Visited: Vienna, Innsbruck, Salzburg

Soundtrack: Beirut (but of course), Mozart...and then my iPod died and I was left without music. Sad.

One of the many local gangs of bicyclists in Austria

Best Mode of Transportation: Bicycles

Bikes were ubiquitous throughout Austria, and it was my chosen mode of transportation in my day in Vienna. In fact, I managed to see everything I wanted to see in Vienna in just one day, all thanks to the bike I was riding around. If I was walking, I don't think there would be any chance I would have seen half as much, and I'm really thankful I had the idea and the opportunity to do so.

The cities were all set up perfectly for bike riding, as every city had clear dedicated bike lanes, and where they didn't you were allowed to ride on the road as if you were a car yourself. It was awesome, and I wish more cities were like that.

Most confusing aspect: Navigating streets

While the biking was great, the frequently massively confusing and curving streets were hard to get around on. Plus, the naming conventions seemed to follow absolutely no pattern, and that would lead me to consistently get lost. At one point while in Vienna, I was on my bike and thought I was near a sight I wanted to see, but it turned out I was on the complete opposite of the map, more than ten miles away from where I thought it was. I'm unsurprised I completely got lost in one day in a massive city, but still, it was kind of shocking that I was that lost.

One of the approximately 80 trillion beautiful and peaceful parks in Austria

Best change of pace: Parks, parks, parks

Austria was loaded to the gills with parks. It seemed like every street corner there would be a new and completely gorgeous park for me to explore or relax in. Not only that, but Austrians actually seemed to genuinely enjoy their parks. It was insane - you would go into the parks and they would be loaded with people, all of whom would be sitting and having a chat, or reading, or doing something similarly relaxing. And unlike parks I came across in say, Italy, leaving your trash on the ground was not mandatory. In fact, it looked like they frowned upon that greatly, as there was no trash to be found whatsoever. I miss their beautiful parks.

Best (or at least most readily available) nightlife option: Prostitutes

Vienna was a beautiful city, don't get me wrong, but from what I could tell there was literally nothing to do at night. Well, unless you are interested in paying for sex, in which case you have many options. By walking a couple hundred feet to the left of my hostel's front door, you could find a bevy of ladies of the night, all of whom were quite popular from what I could tell. The trade is highly regulated though, as police officers would come by, at which point the women would simply cross the street and effectively dodge them until the police officers themselves crossed the street. Yes, I actually watched this situation long enough to figure this out. Nights were quite slow in Austria.

The good news for travelers is the fact that like every other woman in Austria, these were quite good looking prostitutes (not that I've seen a lot of them). So there is that.

The best meal I had on my whole trip

Best food (delicious edition): Afro Cafe

This was quite possibly the best meal I had on the entire trip. At this tasty and extremely hip restaurant, I ordered a latte and Ostrich Burger along with fries, and everything was completely and utterly delectable. The latte, unsweetened by my hands, was the single greatest coffee I've ever had. The Ostrich Burger came covered with bacon (real bacon!), cucumbers, a spicy mayo, two types of cheeses, and tomato, and was remarakbly good, and quite well complimented by the crisp and substantial order of fries. Just typing this makes me hungry. It was a nearly impossible to find restaurant that I read about in a Lonely Planet guide, and was worth the wandering and the time spent asking strangers for directions.

The Doner Kebap stand across from my hostel in Vienna

Best Food (value edition): Doner Kebap

Doner Kebap stands are incredibly frequent across Europe, but the best renditions of the incredibly tasty and affordable food I found were in Austria. These stands were evidently required every block or two as well, as they were as frequently found as gas stations are in America. That was great, because I could always find one when I was hungry and the high level of supply kept costs low, meaning I could get a ridiculously delicious and filling lunch for around 3 euro, or about $4.50. I miss them dearly.

Myself and illustrations of my traveling family band

Most hilarious tour: The Sound of Music Tour

After hearing from a friend in Paris that the Sound of Music tour in Salzburg was awesome, I decided I pretty much had to go on it. I knew that the Sound of Music was filmed there, but as I had never seen the movie until two weeks before I left for my trip, it seemed like an unnecessary expenditure until it was recommended to me.

Of course, it ended up being completely ridiculous. The trip was a bus tour that took you along to various sights from the movie, including the Gazebo from the film, up in the Alps, the church where the Von Trapp's got married, and much, much more. They even took you to get Apple Strudel! Delicious, but contrived. Sort of like the whole tour.

An actual Segway store

Best store: Segway shop in Vienna

Really, how often do you get to see a store dedicated entirely to the genius (and hilarity) that is the Segway. It's a machine that "can never fall over", it is Gob Bluth's primary mode of transporation, and it was a colossal failure in terms of sales, and evidently they are big enough in Austria that you can go to a branded store to purchase authentic Segway leather jackets and keychains and what not.

What isn't awesome about that?

These were all too abundant in Austria

Creepiest store: Marionette shop in Salzburg

For some reason, marionette shops were as frequent in Austria as handbag shops were in Italy and crazy expensive and fashionable clothing stores were in France. Of course, the latter two gathered extremely hot and well dressed women to their doors, while the former attracted creepsters and scared the bejeezus out of me. Needless to say, I took a wide berth of these monsters.

The locals do not stand for regulated soccer

Best signs: Soccer or no soccer?

These were signs in one of the many, many parks in Vienna. Evidently the city was tired of ruffians playing futbol within their city parks, and strictly disallowed that. Somewhat predictably, the ruffians revolted by sticking pictures of their favorite futbol players to the signs. Way to stick it to the man Austrians!

The entrance to Augustiner Brau

Best place ever: Augustiner Brau

When I first asked where a good place to eat at would be in Salzburg, a few of the locals suggested that I go to Augustiner Brau. This was the local beer hall, and apparently it was pretty ridiculous in size. It seated over 1,200 people, and near as I could tell from my visit there, if drinking was Austria's national sport, then Augustiner Brau was their Fenway Park.

They only served one type of beer (Augustiner, natch) and somewhat predictably, the beers only came in half a liter or a full liter of freakishly tasty beverage. They served food there as well, and it was a pretty bizarre arrangement of foods. They had wienerschnitzel and a full meats station, pastries and breads, and a radish station.

Wait...what? A radish station. Yes, there was a radish station, and it was seemingly popular as I saw a number of people go up to pair a bag full of radishes with their beer. A bizarre choice, but who am I to question the people who support such a wonderful establishment?

Austria Wrap Up: So Austria was a hell of a time. It was gorgeous (both in the settings and the people - hottest women in Europe from my experience), full of interesting sights and the most consistently peaceful place from my whole trip. It was a great change of pace from the rest of my trip, which was quite city-driven. Plus, I had my best experience traveling, as the train system in Austria was incredibly awesome and I really got a lot of value out of my Eurail Pass while there.

I can't wait to go back on my grand beer hall tour I'm planning for some day, because that day will come!

Mozart Wohnhaus - Mozart's Residence in Salzburg

View of the top of Salzburg - Salzburg Castle

One of the four primary rooms in Augustiner Brau Haus

Intense chess - the showdown

Myself ruining a picture of the Alps


While on the SoM tour - up in the Alps


Yes - that is the Gazebo from the Sound of Music

Mirabelle Gardens in Salzburg - Made famous in the Sound of Music

This house was used as the back of the Von Trapp home in the Sound of Music

This is in Innsbruck - I just thought it was a cool shot


Strauss Memorial in Vienna

I think this was the Vienna City Hall, but I may just be making stuff up

The Hofburg in Vienna

Epic lamp post

More of super imperialistic Vienna

Schonbrunn's backyard

The crazy huge greenhouse at Schonbrunn Palace

View of Vienna from the backyard of Schonbrunn Palace

At Schonbrunn Palace - not even sure what this was, but it was pretty!

Front of Schonbrunn Palace