It’s hard for me to believe that our Prague – Vienna trip is over. (It’s equally hard for me to believe it has taken me over two weeks to finish this post!!) As I’ve mentioned in the past, one of my favorite parts of going on a trip is planning it. In the process of planning the trip, I learn about the geography, sites, history and art of the region. When traveling in a group, you have the added benefit of input from the other travelers, which can enrich the itinerary with ideas that may have been overlooked.
Despite all of the planning and research that goes into a trip, flexibility is key. (Of course, the same could be true for life in general.) Me, I’m a planner. I like to have everything figured out ahead of time to the extent possible. Having an idea of what’s going on in the city before landing makes it less likely that you’ll miss something because the tickets are sold out or find that no more reservations are available. Nevertheless, the ability to stay flexible allows you to slip in those last minute ideas that you wouldn’t have even known to look for let alone find during the planning stage. One of the treasures of our trip to Prague that was not on anyone’s radar was an exhibit of Alphons Mucha’s Slav Epic on display in a large hall at The National Gallery in Prague. The Slav Epic consists of twenty paintings by Mucha that he worked on for almost twenty years. The immense canvases depict the history of the Slavic culture beginning in the 4th to 6th Centuries and were gifted to the City of Prague in 1928. They are a collection of breathtaking works of art that cause marvel at their beauty and the genius of the artist who was able to conceive and complete such large scale works of such historical significance. Already a fan of Mucha, a master of Art Nouveau with a very distinctive style of painting, I left the exhibit with a new respect for the artist.
In our original Vienna itinerary we had planned a day trip to Bratislava, Slovakia. Nina, our guide, encouraged us to go elsewhere that would better serve our group. As a result, we took a day trip to the Wacahu Valley to visit Melk Abbey, the Benedictine monastery in Melk, and enjoyed a private tour of the Melk Abbey museum. The museum includes historic artifacts as well as halls adorned with murals and a working library that houses books from centuries ago. The Melk Abbey, founded in 1089, is home to one of the most well-preserved Baroque churches in the world. Free from any of the destruction during the Second World War, visitors travel back in time to the 1700s when the church was converted from a gothic style to high Baroque. After our visit to Melk, we wound our way back to Vienna stopping in a couple of the small towns along the way. The small villages were charming and picturesque. The valley, known for its mountainside vineyards and apricots, shoulders the Danube River and offers some breathtaking views. For lunch, we stopped in a local restaurant to enjoy a traditional Austrian meal of dumplings with chanterelle mushroom sauce. It was divine!
While learning about something new during the trip requires flexibility, so does the weather. When we arrived in Prague the weather was amazing – it was warm enough that I wore a cotton dress around that I dressed up with a scarf for dinner. Then came the rain. The next week rained a great deal and some were better prepared than others. Thankfully, I brought my weatherproof boots – I had worn them throughout our trip to Ireland and decided to bring them on this trip in case it was cold and wet. I also packed a last minute pair of casual walking shoes that earned a bunch of miles on the trip.
Part of the fun in traveling is in the unexpected and having the mental flexibility to go into it with the attitude of adventure rather than disappointment. While some of our planned activities did not disappoint and left us with some great memories, the extra gems that we dug up while on the trip added an enchantment to the trip that makes it unforgettable.