This past July, Miles and I escaped to Eastern Europe for our babymoon. We spent 10 days visiting Prague, Cesky Krumlov, Hallstatt, Vienna and Budapest soaking in as much time as we could as a family of two. Here is a list of my top 10 favorite experiences.
1. Drinking rose lemonade out of crystal glasses at Vienna’s annual film festival.
Every summer night, the community congregates under the illuminated town hall, Rathausplatz, to watch a recorded opera, ballet or concert. The food and drink vendors serve their fancy “fair” food on ceramic dinner plates and crystal glasses. While Miles enjoyed a creative gin and tonic, I enjoyed the fresh lemonades and didn’t feel left out of the festivities.
2. Touring the most functioning and one of the last two remaining Baroque Theaters in the world in Cesky Krumlov.
Cesky Krumlov is a treasured jewel of the Czech Republic. The Vltava river weaves it’s way through the cobblestone streets and under the majestic 13th century castle. Standing on the bridge, street performers play their renaissance instruments, while the church bells ring and the river rushes under you. This story’brook’ town has preserved the last working baroque theater in the world. I enjoyed seeing the well adorned scenery, clever sound effect instruments and getting to go behind and under the stage to witness innovative mechanics of that time.
3. Our stay at the Hotel U Prince in Prague.
The Hotel U Prince is a great home base for exploring fairytale Prague. We were impressed with the old world decor, location and views from our private balcony. Also, the morning buffet and roof top restaurant are good places to bookend a day of walking and sightseeing. The famous Black Angel bar in the gothic cellar of the hotel was enchanting with melting candles, crystal chandeliers and craft cocktail “potions.”
Garnet is my birthstone and the Czech Republic is the place to shop for jewelry adorned with bohemian garnets in all shapes, shades and sizes. The Czech Republic also takes pride in their hand crafted crystal. With our 3 year wedding anniversary coming up, it was perfect timing to talk my husband into splurging on an heirloom piece made by Moser, a 155 year old purveyor of crystal fit for royalty. Shopping for these special items felt like a scavenger hunt through Prague, particularly in the Jewish neighborhood where we ran through some cute streets off the tourist path. When one afternoon surprised us with a downpour of rain, we slipped into the Moser boutique with nothing but time to let our eyes wander through the sky high displays of crystal vases, stemware and decanters.
Photo copied from Moser company website
5. Running into the Lippizaner horses in Vienna.
Miles and I agree that we would be happy living in Vienna. The streets were alive with bikers buzzing through the web of bike lanes, families chasing after their kids in the many parks, friends catching up at the fancy coffee shops and horses prancing in the park. During our last meal at the Palm House that overlooked the Schönbrunn Palace gardens, we found a gathering of the Lippizaner horses getting some fresh air. This breed of horses are used for the Spanish Riding School, a 450 year old institution. You can also tour the stables and venue at the palace where we learned all about the history and status of these celebrity horses and riders.
6. Watching the sunset while we dined lake front in Hallstatt.
Planning a stop to this beautiful town based on a Pinterest image alone did not disappoint. With only one day, we made the most of our time to wander through the town center, stopped at the bone cathedral and took a gondola up the mountain to explore a salt mine. After a full filling day, we decompressed in front of the lake for dinner. We ate the local catch of the day and watched the sunset through the mountains until the last of light glistened on the water.
7. Feeling old our last night in Budapest.
We capped off our epic trip with a sunset cruise down the Danube. It was relaxing and offered a great spot to capture the Hungarian Parliament building. Afterwards, we had just enough energy to “go out” and check out the ruin pub scene, a unique experience in Budapest. One bar we went to in particular was built into an abandoned warehouse. To say that we felt old is an understatement. As we weaved through the various themed rooms and tunnels, we found ourselves surrounded by sweaty 18 year olds who were dancing like “tonight is the night.” On our walk home, we laughed at the pub crawlers singing “Don’t Stop Believing” as they worked their way to the next bar and we dragged ourselves, baby pump in tow, to bed.
8. Escaping the rain at the Szechenyi Baths in Budapest.
I felt a sense of community at the Turkish baths in Budapest. Known as one of the more traditional Hungarian mineral baths in Budapest, the Szechenyi Baths reminded me of a gigantic community pool I spent my summers at as a kid. This was a great place to people watch. In a moment, we heard thunder and saw the sky crack with lightening and poof, I felt like I was sucked into the community and became one of them as we all ran for shelter.
9. The intimate chamber music concert in Vienna.
Wolgang Amadeus Mozart made his mark in Vienna and so it was only right that we honored his music with a string quartet at the convent where he lived and played. Sala Terrena was an intimate setting where I was hypnotized with the harmony of violins, viola and cello. My eyes were not left out as I gazed at the intricate ceiling fresco. It was an experience I will never forget, being close enough to the musicians to see the spirit of Mozart possessing their bodies, the emotion and passion take over as they played out his compositions.
10. Feeling baby kick for the first time.
Overall, we were blessed with a healthy, safe and happy trip to Eastern Europe. We made memories that will last a lifetime and it was extra special to share it with Noelle in my belly. Feeling her kick and roll confirmed that we should do this again soon as a family of three!
Don’t stop exploring! Jessica
Extra moments we enjoyed:
Drinking wine (and water) in the vineyards at the wine taverns in Vienna
Enjoying Austrian folk music on our stroll back to our hotel in Hallstatt
Tasting course with juice pairings at Michelin starred restaurant, La Degustation in Prague
Viewing Gustav Kimpt’s ‘The Kiss’ painting at the Belvedere Palace in Vienna
The endless applause during a concert in the Opera House in Budapest
Listening to grand stand bands play during the summer concert series at the castles in Prague and Cesky Krumlov
Tasting exotic teas at a secret tea house in Prague
Peeking into a nudist colony at a park in Vienna
Miles rescuing me from the “swamp rats” in Vienna
All of the swanky rooftop bars in Vienna and Budapest
Miles picking Lenin’s nose at the Momento Park in Budapest