We left Budapest after cleaning up the Walnut Apartment for the guests arriving Saturday, feeling a little sad as Budapest got smaller in the distance behind us. Silently we drove the 2 1/2 hours straight to Vienna, Austria. We found our campsite just on the outskirts of the city along a little stream with walking and cycling paths along its banks. On first impression the city is typically European; tall and slim buildings painted in bright colors, quaint little cafes with chairs on the walkways, stylishly dressed people at every turn and Audis and VWs at each stop light. The city felt alive and clean on that sunny day.
Most campsites have already closed for the season, and we couldn’t understand why. It was 27 degrees, warm, the city was full of tourists, loaded with things to do, it felt like a beautiful warm summer day, although it was already October 1st. Hmm?
We set up camp by 7:00pm, after we ate the last of our packed up food. The kids scootered around the closed in campsite until the sun went down and then we buckled down for the night. With Daniel and Angelina up above us in the pop-top sleeping quarters and Alfonz and I down below, we cozy into our sleeping bags and said our good nights. The Mercedes Camper Van was designed with families in mind. Mercedes bought Westfalia and Europe’s streets are slowly getting a new rival to the VW camper following. The Mercedes Viano.
Around midnight the why question was answered! I woke up freezing cold, it had dropped from 27 degrees during the day to 10 degrees at night. Our camper is set up for summer camping. I lay awake listening to my family snore, and breath evenly through the night. Was I totally unprepared for this a journey? What kind of a person sells their life off to freeze in Austria in a camper van? Pretty upset, I finally had my mini break down. Through the night I tackled regret and the idea of adventure. I wasn’t feeling like part of the inspirational family I thought we were; living for the moment, looking for adventure and starting a new life- living our life’s dream. No way, I was cold to the bone, shivering and crying, practically hysterical, muffled in my tear drenched IKEA pillow. I finally got up, miraculously without waking a soul, to walk around the campground, to get myself together. I found the washrooms, washed my face, came back and put on an extra layer of clothes and decided to buck up! I told myself there will be moments of regret, where we feel every spectrum of emotion. Calming down by around 5:00am I fell asleep thinking about sailing, my happy place.I drifted up over swelling waves, and heard the gentle sound of lapping seas. Birds chirped in the distance and I felt the warm sun on my face. The wind whistled in my ear.
7:30am the kids were up. No!! I’m still sailing! After a few failed attempts at pretending they didn’t wake me, I reluctantly sat up and said my good mornings to my family. I thought, oh well 8:00am the restaurant opens and I will have an extra cup of strong coffee and no one will be the wiser to my rough night. And so it went. Although ever so slowly. I made my way through the day. Alfonz seemed like he was zipping around me like lightening nicking me at every turn. I kept telling him he must be on some sort of a mission packing up so quickly! I was definitely lethargic.
Once packed up, we waited for Alfonz’s childhood friend Csaba to pick us up. Csaba works in Vienna and his wife and three kids live just outside Budapest. He, like many Hungarians, work outside the country and travels back and forth. His schedule is pretty good, with three days off in between four days of work. He stays in his Viennese apartment during his workweek. He took the day off from his job at an Italian restaurant to bum around with us for the day.
We piled into his car for our Vienna tour, which started at Schloss Schönbrunn; translation is beautiful spring, which stems from an artisan well that supplied water to the castle. The yellowish colored castle sits on the Vienna River, at the bottom of a huge hill that used to be the recreational hunting grounds for the castle. Stocked with many varieties of birds, and game for the royalty to hunt. The park later became a park with flowers and a maze. You can find intricately planted flowers and designs, full of colourful blooms and variety enough for any botanist or tourist alike. We climbed to the top of the Queen’s summer home, and the view was worth it. The park itself is free for the public to enjoy. The castle tour, the Japanese gardens and zoo are all pay entry. You can find Roman ruins on the grounds as well as many fountains, and the virtues and deity statues line the paths. Trees grow on either side of these paths touching above your head as you walk through their archway, providing shade on a hot day as you walk for miles taking in all the of Vienna’s famous beauty. I loved it the first time, the second time more, and I am sure I will love it again on future visits.
Next we went to the restaurant where Csaba works. It is rated in the top 100 in the world for their authentic wood-burning pizza oven. Everything comes straight from Italy, only using the finest ingredients. It was reasonably priced and a must visit in the area. The open terrace in the back gives such a great feel to the place, where the neighborhood celebrates special occasions and they have take out too! Alfonz and I had hot spaghetti loaded with veggies and the kids and Csaba ate thin crust whole-wheat pizza with their favorite toppings. Ever try fresh arugula on top? Divine!
After lunch we were ready for a nap, instead Csaba took us to another city lookout point on the other side of town to have the best coffee of Vienna. I rolled my eyes; I’ll be the judge of that being the Starbucks, Tim Horton’s expert I am! Sure enough it was excellent. Thick foamy rich coffee and the view was worth every sip. As we enjoyed our coffees and after the kids finished off their ice cream, Daniel and Angelina scooted around the walking paths in front of the church, photo bombing their way into hundreds of stranger’s films and photos! My kids, no mix up there…
It was getting late and we still had a long drive ahead of us. Csaba drove us through the city on our way back to pick up our camper van. He took us along Vienna’s shopping street and past the government center with its amazing architecture, clean streets, perfect roads, and people on bikes smiling everywhere. I have huge Vienna Love!
We drove to a very nice hotel, All Season chain, and we ate Italian lunch leftovers, showered the kids up and enjoyed a night of deep sleep. Tomorrow Germany!
I find myself struggling with my own nature on this experience. Where I should be taking in all the wonderful sites and learning about the history and absorbing the stories of the amazing people we cross paths with along the way. More often than I would like to acknowledge, I long for consistency. Routine, simple comforts, and organization are at the core of my personality. It might take us a bit to get down a ‘camper van routine’ and it is through change that we grow. I know I can do anything, I just have to overcome my own personality and open up to this amazing experience. I am a creature of habit. So I change my habit.
Realizing this when my favourite sweater was sadly misplaced and did not make it into the camper for our long part of our adventure, I flipped out. Misplacing things is rare for me as I triple check my work. My thoughts were we have already stripped ourselves down to the bone, reaching bare minimal, and that’s okay as long as I have; a)my blow-dryer, b)my sweater and c)my sandals. Everything else doesn’t matter. I am sure I have more than these three things, and probably more luxury items as well, but I can do with or with out them.
My blow dryer died in Budapest, and I did okay all though inside I remember thinking what would happens if I don;t buy one again? Then my sweater was misplaced so that’s two out of three basic comforts I allow myself gone. On a happy note my sandals are still intact with no signs of falling apart or leaving my feet. God only knows what may happen. I sadly can not predict my own response. I will have moments like this, this was the first and we still have seven months to go. Eventually we will look back on the tough days and laugh, but not today. Today I just want my sweater!