Europe 2019: How Could I Not Smile?

Europe 2019: How Could I Not Smile?

The main objective for visiting Europe was to attend a three day music festival in the Austrian Alps.

Two days before leaving for Europe, I was finally finished with all of my ongoing dental work.
With no more surgeries expected and armed with a mouth full of teeth, I was ready to eat and smile all over Europe!

Honestly, how could I not smile?

Two Weeks in Europe

June 15-29, 2019

Traveling is one of my favorite things!
I absolutely love learning about the world through traveling.
It keeps my ever curious brain occupied and my obsessive nature satisfied.

Me riding a unicorn at the Mirabell Gardens – Salzburg, Austria.


The only way I can keep track of where I’ve been is to list the cities we stayed in, along with the places we visited, in the order we visited them.

Amsterdam, Netherlands
Munich, Germany
Salzburg, Austria
Abtenau, Austria
Eisriesenwelt, Austria
Pula, Croatia
Dvigrad, Croatia
Rovinj, Croatia
Venice, Italy
Lake Garda, Sirmione, Italy
Verona, Italy
Munich, Germany

*We drove through Slovenia. And even though Slovenia wasn’t a final destination on this particular trip it gets listed (twice) because, I got my passport stamped going in and out of Croatia.

I had an amazing time in Europe!

Memories I will treasure forever, but I also had a very challenging moment.
Moments. I should say challenging moments.

A lot can happen in two weeks.

In the Beginning

My husband and I flew into Amsterdam.

I don’t sleep when I fly.
At one point during our flight, while the whole plane slept, I opened my window shade and I saw a fantastic skyscape!
As we were flying over the Atlantic Ocean into the sunrise, there was this moment where the sky below me was black.
From this blackness rose the most fantastic rainbow I have ever seen.
The colors were wrong though.

It’s funny how hard it was for me to remember the order of the colors of the rainbow.
Especially when what I was seeing in front of me was contrary to my knowledge of rainbows.

Purple was in the wrong place.

Purple boldly stood out, between the darkness and the red.
Orange and yellow seemed to breathe into each other.
And as all the colors stretched in broad lines following the horizon,
the green of the rainbow faded into the light blue sky.
Into the expanding blue of the sunrise.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

I was awake for 32 hours.
My mind got mixed up with daylight hours. Time zone changes.
I never did figure out what day it was.

When we arrived at our hotel in Amsterdam I wasn’t able to nap.
I was restless with anticipation of exploring new things.
My body was screaming for me to sleep but my brain refused.
Instead, my husband and I decided to get some food and walk around the city, exploring the architecture and canals of Amsterdam.

Amsterdam. A wondrous canal city at an odd elevation of 6.6 feet below sea level.
Some people call it the Venice of the North, but I am fairly certain Amsterdam has more bridges.

  • 165 canals
  • 1,200+ bridges
  • Total length of canals is about 60 miles
  • Average depth of canals is between 6 to 9 feet
Nathan & I on a bridge in Amsterdam!


The Rijksmuseum is huge! We spent hours inside viewing the museum’s extensive collections. Also, the museum gardens were totally worth taking the time to explore. Absolutely amazing!

The Rijksmuseum.
Mercury – Ferdinand Leenhoff, Netherlands, 1898.
Pediment – Netherlands, 1654-1655.
Me with Herepoort from Groningen, rebuilt in 1885.

Amsterdam Royal Palace

Built as the New Town Hall, completed in 1665, and became the Royal Palace in 1808.

Canal Photos. Because it’s Fun!

Nathan & I
Nathan & I
Nathan & I

I had an amazing time with my husband in Amsterdam. We had great laughs together and great food.

Munich, Germany

Nathan & I flew from Amsterdam to Munich.

We met up with two of our friends (Heather & James) and immediately went to a beer garden.
They had been in Munich before and it was nice to have their guidance for what to see and where to go with time restraints in such a large city.

The sun was relentless.
Bright and unforgiving.
Constantly searching for any shade available, we took in the city sights as we walked from beer garden to beer garden.

Beer, walk. Beer, walk. Beer, walk…
I actually drank a lot of radler.
Surprisingly refreshing!

Running around Munich, making new discoveries, I honestly felt like I should have known more about the city’s history.


View of the Rathaus-Glockenspiel from Marienplatz.

Some fun things. Mostly Lions!

Lion at the Feldherrnhalle.
Lion in front of the Residenz.
Bavaria Statue.
Inside St. Peter’s Church.
Me with Sitzender Keiler.
Bavaria Biergarten.

Salzburg, Austria

We (Nathan & I and Heather & James) drove from Munich to Salzburg.
Well, Nathan drove.

I was tired. All around tired.
I desperately needed some restorative rest.
But there was so much to see and I was deeply enamoured with Salzburg.

Hohensalzburg Fortress

View of Hohensalzburg Fortress from Kapitelplatz.
Cannon view of Salzburg.
Inside the fortress.


Marstallschwemme – Pferdeschwemme.


intriguingly grotesque?
Tucked away in the Mirabell Gardens is a fantastic Dwarf Garden.
I can’t tell you exactly what makes me love these sculptures so much.
Maybe it’s because they stood out as truthful to the human condition.
perfectly imperfect.

“The ‘Zwegerlgarten’ in Salzburg is the oldest dwarf garden in Europe and was built about 1695 under archbishop Johann Ernst Graf von Thun und Hohenstein. The bizarre dwarfs made of Untersberg marble are masterpieces of an artist collective. All 28 dwarfs were sold by auction in 1811. Since the early 20th century most of the dwarfs could be retrieved.” Interpretive Sign

Random things that appeal to me.

Marien Statue in front of Salzburg Cathedral.
Saint Peter’s Cemetery.
Saint Peter’s Catacombs.
Wild Man Fountain, 1620.
Die Pieta – Anna Chromy, 1999.
Stiegl Keller founded in 1492.

Abtenau, Austria

Heather & James volunteered to set up camp while Nathan & I went into Abtenau and picked up two more of our friends (Bee & Andrew) from the train station.

Mission accomplished!! The six of us were finally together on the mountain!

HotH 2019, Austria.

House of the Holy

A magical festival!

to just be.
in this moment.
fully experiencing the music, the mountains, the fire!

I am honored to have gotten to go.

Primordial! I got to add Austria to the list of countries where I’ve seen Primordial perform, and it makes me smile. I will never grow tired of seeing them live.

Wolvennest. I cannot listen to them enough. Addictive and mesmerizing. I am so pleased I was able to experience their set.

Camping in the mountains. An extraordinary music festival. Mountain weather. A transformative fire!

How could I not smile?

Wolvennest at House of the Holy 2019.

Eisriesenwelt, Austria

The largest ice cave in the world! Elevation 5,433 feet.

There was a fair amount of uphill walking involved to get to the ice cave. From the ticket office I think it was a 20 minute walk, a 3 minute cable car ride (or a 90 minute walk), another 20 minute walk, AND then you get to the cave for a 70 minute walk. A 70 minute walk up stairs.

So many stairs. I mean A LOT of stairs. Perhaps the most stairs I’ve ever gone up at one time in my entire life. I remember the tour guide saying 700 stairs, 1 kilometer up, the equivalent of 40 flights of stairs. Of course once you’ve gone into the cave that far, you have to come back down a kilometer of stairs.

Totally worth it!

Looking out from the mouth of the cave!
Me in a tunnel leading up to the ice cave.
Looking back at the trail.
One last look at the cave entrance.

After House of the Holy ended, Heather & James went back to the United States and Bee & Andrew and Nathan & I continued our European travels by car.
Again, Nathan drove.

From Austria, through Slovenia, to Croatia.


Istria has an extensive history that echoes down through the ages.
Illyrian, Roman, Byzantine, Venetian, Austro-Hungarian.
Many nations have occupied this amazing peninsula in the Adriatic Sea.
When I was young, Istria was a part of Yugoslavia.

In 1991, Croatia declared independence from Yugoslavia.

Dvigrad, Croatia

One of my favorite places we visited.
Nothing else quite like it.
Unique and isolated.

Survivors of the plague eventually abandoned the town, which oddly helped preserve Dvigrad because it wasn’t destroyed by war.

Church of Saint Sophia.
Old city gate.
Old oven for baking.
Old fortress tower.

Rovinj, Croatia

Rovinj Townscape on the Adriatic Sea.
Walkway down to the Adriatic Sea.
Saint Euphemia’s Relic Sarcophagus.
Balbi’s Arch.

Pula, Croatia

I adore Pula. Everything about the city was fascinating to me. So much tangible history!

View from our Airbnb.

Colonia Pietas Iulia Pola
1st century B.C.
“Pula is a town in the south of the Istrian peninsula, inhabited from the prehistory to present times. The town became a colony between 46-45 B.C. It became an important Roman harbor, administering a vast surrounding territory. After Octavian’s victory in the battle of Actium, in 31 B.C., the town was destroyed and devastated, but rebuilt in a short time, and called Colonia Pietas Iulia Pola, later in the 2nd century Colonia Iulia Pola Pollentia Herculanea. The Romans built the aqueduct and the sewerage system. The town was fortified by walls and gates, some of which are still preserved: the Arch of the Sergii, Hercules’ Gate (where the names of the founders of the town are chiseled) and Porta Gemina. The town of Pula can be proud of its beautiful monuments, like the magnificent amphitheater, the Temple of Augustus, the Small Roman Theatre, and many others.

After the fall of the Western Roman Empire the town and the region were devastated by the Ostrogoths. Their rule ended after 60 years, when Pula became part of the Exarchate of Ravenna (540-751). Pula developed during that period and became the main harbor of the Byzantine navy.” Interpretive Sign

Temple of Augustus

  • The oldest preserved building in Croatia
Me in front of the Temple of Augustus.

Roman Gates

Arch of the Sergii.
Hercules’ Gate.
Me & Porta Gemina aka Twin Gate.

Small Roman Theatre

“Built probably in the 1st century on the east slope of the hill below the old Castrum, the Roman theatre originally covered a considerably larger area than that visible today, because the archaeological research has not been completed yet. The theatre is logically located on the east slope offering favorable conditions for the staging of spectacles. The use of hill slopes for auditorium was not a characteristic of Roman but of Greek theatres.

The space of the theatre was subdivided into stage and proscenium, orchestra and auditorium that could seat up to 5000 spectators.” Interpretive Sign

I must admit I was sad to see the little theater so overgrown and some occasional grafiti, but it really didn’t lessen the appeal of these ruins for me.

Small Roman Theatre
Nathan & I at the Small Roman Theatre with Bee & Andrew up behind us.
Me “performing” at the Small Roman Theatre.

Pula Arena (Amphitheater)

  • One of the best preserved Roman amphitheaters
  • Sixth largest amphitheater in the world
  • 133 m long, 105 m wide & 32 m high at its highest point
  • Could host up to 20,000 spectators
  • Built in the 1st century
Outside the arena!

Inside Pula Arena

Andrew & Nathan in the center of the arena!
Me & Bee as ferocious lions!

Life Happens. Even on Vacation.

It isn’t lost on me that I am fortunate to travel.
Believe me, I don’t want to sound ungrateful for everything I got to experience in Europe just because I was sick.
But I was so sick!
Trying to reflect and write about my last week in Europe has been difficult because it constantly reminds me of how absolutely miserable I was.

To be honest, I started feeling icky on the mountain.
I was pretty sure it was allergies.

and then

I lost my hearing in my left ear while we were in Croatia.

The pain before the deafness was intolerable.
It was all consuming.
There was no comfort.

restless pacing
frantic suffering

Sadly, I’m no stranger to ear pain or hearing loss.
I knew there wasn’t anything that could be done, so I did the best I could to still enjoy my time in Europe.

And so the next morning I got out of bed and joined everyone for a delicious cappuccino.
After breakfast, we had ourselves a Croatia beach day!

How could I not smile?

Adriatic Sea

The color of the sea was glorious!
Swimming in the Adriatic Sea was everything I dreamed it would be.
Buoyant and refreshing.
While basking under the sun in the absolute clearest water it was easy to dream of mermaid tales.

Me & Bee in the Adriatic Sea!
First look at Verudela Canyon!
Beautiful Blue Sea!

Venice, Italy

We continued to travel by car, and Nathan drove us to Venice!

It was hot.
Hot and humid.
Oh wretched heat!
Talk about kicking someone when they’re down.

I was tired, sweaty, and deaf in my left ear.

But also, I was beyond thrilled to be in Venice!
I was in Venice and I wanted to see it all!

Venice. A canal city with fairytale charm currently at an elevation of 3.281 feet.

A constant and nearly invisible threat of eventual annihilation.
an unstable, picturesque, and vibrant decay
The palaces. The history.
A seemingly floating city.

  • 150 canals
  • 400+ bridges
  • Total length of canals is about 26 miles
  • Average depth of canals is between 10 to 15 feet
Saint Mark’s Basilica.
Clock Tower.
Carta Gate.
Bridge of Sighs.
Me and the Church of Saint Barnabas.
Canal scene.
Doge’s Palace.
Canal scene.
Me in front of the Church of San Zaccaria.
Communal water. A complete life saver!
A view from a boat in Saint Mark’s Basin.

Lake Garda, Sirmione, Italy

The sweltering heat was utterly overwhelming.
I had begun to convince myself that it was the end and I was surely dying!

But castles! I love castles!

Castello Scaligero di Sirmione

Approaching the castle from land.
Me in the castle!
Me in the castle!
Me in the castle!
Me on the ground floor, Bee on the floor above! Notice how we are both avoiding the sun?
View of Lake Garda from Castello Scaligero.

Verona, Italy

I get uncomfortable and feel warm just looking through our Verona photos.

It was difficult to be enthusiastic about anything, but I wanted to see everything!
It was hot and my energy level was nearly non-existent.

So Very Humid.
the heat was unapologetic


I was sure I was going to die.
I didn’t.

Arco della Costa.
View of Palazzo della Ragione from Piazza dei Signori.
Monument to Dante in Piazza dei Signori.
View of Loggia del Consiglio from Piazza dei Signori.
Verona Arena.
Gate Tower at Castelvecchio Bridge.
View from Castelvecchio Bridge.
Hashtag Real Talk

Although it was unreasonably hot in Italy the things we saw were truly astounding!

I might visit Italy again.
in the winter.
It’s just too hot at the end of June in Italy for an Alicen.

Munich, Germany

Nathan & I parted ways with Bee & Andrew and drove back to Munich.
Normally I’m not a napper, but on the drive back to Munich I slept as much as I could.

The last day of our trip.

Our main goals were to eat some Käsespätzle, drink some refreshing beer, and visit Marienplatz one more time.
I really wanted to see the Glockenspiel in action, but it wasn’t meant to be.
Munich is a fantastic city with so many interesting details in the architecture.
I would get excited every time I saw some quirky new thing that I hadn’t noticed the first time I passed it.
Totally Intrigued.

New Town Hall (Neues Rathaus)

Neues Rathaus
Details on Neues Rathaus

Although I was completely sick and so very tired by this point of the trip, I felt confident in my surroundings when we returned to Munich.
I was tickled that Nathan was still using his GPS and I knew where we were based on buildings as my landmarks.
The city courthouse (Oberlandesgericht München) and the New Town Hall (Neues Rathaus) were easy to keep track of in relation to other places we had been the week before.
And to prove I knew where we were without using GPS, after eating some Käsespätzle, I successfully navigated us from the area near Frauenkirche back to our hotel.

Munich District Court I (Landgericht München I) – this building is directly next the city courthouse.

Returning to Saratoga Springs, New York

I slept. It was a fitful sleep, but I slept.  I slept on the flight from Munich to Amsterdam, on the flight from Amsterdam to London, and on the flight from London to New York City.
I still feel tired…

The Doctors.

I went to three doctors appointments in July.
I even went to a Ear, Nose & Throat specialist.
And although my hearing isn’t good, they don’t believe my hearing loss will be permanent.

In the end, no doctor could pinpoint why I got sick other than allergies and altitude changes.
Although the ear specialist didn’t believe altitude changes had anything to do with the hearing loss.

Hay Fever.

Luckily, I was never contagious.
Just miserable in my suffering.

Yet somehow I still smiled!

Food in Europe!

Something worth noting: I didn’t cry once about food on this European trip AND I ate my food with enthusiasm.
My new teeth are amazing!

I really don’t take photos of my food, but occasionally one or two turn up at the end of a trip.

Me and my delicious food at the Vegan Junk Food Bar. Amsterdam, Netherlands
Me spazzing out about my pizza at Saporè DownTown! It was just perfect. Exactly what I wanted. Verona, Italy
Emergency gelato!! Sirmione, Italy

Recreating memories through food.
I think all humans do it whether they’re conscious of it or not. I think it’s built into our traditions and our “normal” way of doing things.

Personally, I love macaroni and cheese.
There isn’t a time in my life where I wasn’t satisfied by eating this simple dish.


I seriously want to eat it every day.
My husband and I have learned to make it at home. I love it!
As beginners, we are pretty good at making Käsespätzle and I can only imagine getting better with repetition.
Being able to eat it at home has been wonderful!
I imagine every time I eat it for the rest of my life, I will fondly remember my first time to Bavaria.

I don’t have any Käsespätzle pictures…

In the End

How could I not smile?

Nathan & I all over Europe!

We did an overwhelming amount of sightseeing and still didn’t see everything we wanted to.

Group Photos!!!

Photo Credits: Nathan, Andrew, Bee & Me!

Many photos were taken by me (Alicen), but no group photos were taken by me.
Nathan, Bee & Andrew are responsible for group photos.
Nathan and Andrew took the photos in Sirmione.
Andrew took the photo from HotH.

I gathered information from Interpretive Signs, Visitor Brochures, City Websites & Travel Guides.

There are so many stories.
I hope our photos help tell some of the stories.

A map of our route that my husband drove, I think over 10 days. I’m not so good with the timeline…