As we were planning this vacation, we decided we couldn’t come so close to Austria and not spend some time there. I mean, the Hills are Alive, after all!
Approaching the day to leave Switzerland and head to Austria, I started to really second-guess my planning skills as we prepared for a 7.5-hour train journey. I think I was so proud of myself for figuring out OBB, the rail system, and how to get from Luzern to St. Johann im Pongau, Austria that the 7.5 hours just slipped my mind. We had to take the scenic 45-minute train from Luzern to Zurich Monday morning, then had 11 minutes to get on the next train that would go all the way to St. Johann im Pongau. Apparently, the Monday morning train from Luzern to Zurich is packed with commuters of the fancy, I-wear-a-nice-suit, Swiss-bank-account type commuters. We fit right in with our suitcases, stroller, car seat, and, oh yeah, a wiggly, squiggly, noisy almost-10-month-old. Max DID NOT understand why he couldn’t play with the fancy man’s fresh-pressed designer suit in the seat next to him. I mean, come on. I squished into a seat with the car seat and diaper bag on my lap, so Grayson had to fend for himself with Max. It was one of those situations where all you can do is laugh, but you can’t because the fancy-pants do not see the humor in his grubby fingers. Ah, life.
“But we got into the spirit of things, fit the stroller and car seat in the luggage lockers, bought a couple umbrellas, and thought of a few of our favorite things as we started out on this certainly unscripted adventure.”
Luckily, we made it to the Zurich train station without ruining anyone’s clothes, and our next train was there waiting for us. I had reserved first class seats on this one since it was the long-haul (about seven hours), and it was well worth it. We were actually able to move into the handicapped seats in first class, giving us lots of room. I spent the first half the train ride trying to get Max to take a nap (he finally did). Then we went to the dining car for adult libations and lunch, and Max was entertained by a German-speaking elderly man for an hour or two. Although no one could understand each other, Max and the man developed a real bond. The last half of the journey, Max entertained our entire train car practicing his vocals, and we at last arrived in St. Johann im Pongau. A quick cab ride later, and we arrived at the genius Moar-Gut in Grobarital, Austria.
I had heard rumors from friends here that such places existed in Europe, and that Austria was especially renowned for them, and Moar-Gut did not disappoint. If you need a business idea in the U.S., this is a good one. And if you don’t do it, I may when we get back. Moar-Gut is a four-star resort that caters to families. It is in the mountainous hills of Austria, with a spa, swimming pool, stables, barn, and all kinds of kid toys. All the accommodations have a separate sleeping area for kids, diapers and baby supplies provided. There is a fantastic crèche (daycare) with planned activities all day for the kids, AND we got 80 hours included for Max. Breakfast, lunch, afternoon snack, and a 7-course dinner are all included, and they have special menus for babies and kids. Each family has a fancy, pre-set table for breakfast and dinner. And the dinners. Here’s how the Europeans do it. First, you dress up, like LBD dress up (we missed that memo and were very underdressed, Kara would have been disappointed). You sit down with your kids to start dinner and order your courses from the 7-course menu. We would enjoy our soup, salad, and maybe appetizer with Max. It didn’t matter if he threw food at the black-tie waiter or screamed at our neighbors because their kid was talking back. Then, you take your kid to your room, put him to bed, and leave him there for the night. They have a fancy baby-com system, where you just take the cordless phone back down to dinner (or wherever) and it rings if the baby is making noise. You answer the phone, listen to what is happening, and can run back up if you need to. As the evening wears on, you watch kids melt down table by table until it’s only the adults left.The food is delicious and different every meal. Alcohol isn’t included, so that’s how they make their money! We had so much fun at dinner every night, first with Max and then the two of us, enjoying some adult conversation (mostly about Max).
We had big plans to make the most of the crèche service. A couples’ massage, wine tasting at the wine bar, and so on. Max had other ideas (remember the separation anxiety I told you about?). Every time we tried to drop him off, we got called back in no more than 20 minutes. I think we used maybe an hour total of that 80 we were given. It’s just as well because we had so much fun with Max exploring the resort and hiking. There are all kinds of animals there, and if you leave your balcony door open the kitties come in. You can actually rent an animal for the week to take care of, but we didn’t go that far. You can hear the constant cow bells from the herds up in the hills. If you’ve ever seen Sound of Music, the landscape is just like the beginning scene when Maria sings “The Hills are Alive.” We went on a lot of hikes, Max went swimming for the first time, saw a baby horse and other farm animals, played with some cool toys, and constantly had all the songs from Sound of Music replaying in our heads.
We spent four days at Moar-Gut, and we will always have some great memories of the place. To round up our trip, we were planning to stay in Vienna to give us a little taste of big city on the vacation. To get there from St. Johann im Pongau, we had to go right through Salzburg. And you can hardly just “pass through” the hometown of Mozart. So…the plan was to spend a half day seeing the sights! And I had it planned down to the minute – we would lock our luggage in the storage lockers at the train station, throw Max in his stroller, and then follow a robust itinerary to get through all the sights before training on to Vienna. And of course, it was the one day of our entire vacation that it poured rain. We contemplated what to do for awhile, not sure if Max could hang. But we got into the spirit of things, fit the stroller and car seat in the luggage lockers, bought a couple umbrellas, and thought of a few of our favorite things as we started out on this certainly unscripted adventure. It turned out to be one of my favorite days of the trip. We walked to nearly everything on my list – Mozart’s birthplace and residence, Mirabella Gardens and Palace (hello, Sound of Music!), St. Peter’s Cathedral, and ate lunch at the oldest restaurant in the world. St. Peter’s Stiftskeller opened in 803, and hasn’t closed it’s doors since. It’s a fairly fancy restaurant (the likes of Bill Clinton are pictured there on the wall), but they let our motley crew in and we had a wonderful lunch. Max was the best behaved of all of us, because from Grayson accidently hitting the emergency call button in the handicapped/family restroom in the train station (the response was quite impressive) to both Grayson and I dropping multiple pieces of silver at lunch, the parents were sooo embarrassing. After several miles in the relentless rain, Max fell sound asleep in the baby carrier just as we boarded the train for Vienna.
We had just two nights planned in Vienna to wrap up our family vacation. We stayed at another great Airbnb with a central location so we could easily walk to most the sights. We took a tour of Schonbrunn Palace, and spent a couple hours walking the lengths of its impressive grounds. Most our time was spent wandering the streets, popping in and out of stores, visiting the beautiful St. Stephan’s Cathedral, and finding a yummy gelato shop.
Sunday afternoon, it was time to head back home to Amsterdam. It had truly been a wonderful family vacation, but we were all ready to get home and see our dog. Max toughed it out for the last stint, but he did find his “airplane voice” this time. While my travel bug is satisfied for the time being, the things we got to see and the memories we made most definitely cemented the need to take full advantage of our time here. So until next time, we will be resting up and enjoying whatever comes our way here in Amsterdam with Penny.