A Travellerspoint blog

Windows, Toilets and Castles

As I lay jet-lagged and exhaused but wide-awake last night at 1:30am during our first night in Vienna (after finding the kids wide-awake with lights on playing hangman at 1:00am and asking them to PLEASE try and go back to sleep) I was thinking about windows and toilets.

Well, okay, not just windows and toilets but all the things that make Austrian living different than American living. Why are our toilets and windows and light swtitches completely different than theirs? I asked the kids and they said because Austrians are in their own country and it's their right. Well, I guess that's sort of true but even though I am a "free" American, it would not be easy (unless we built our own Austrian house in the USA) to get Austrian style windows and bathrooms. And I am envious of them.

In the "Sound of Music" (have to tie this into the blog somehow) the Mother Superior tells Maria during her crisis that "when the Lord closes a door, he opens a window." What many Americans don't realize is that this means Maria has more options than we do. Our windows only go up and down. Austrians windows can go tilt forward AND open sideways! Hence, Maria has more "life" options than we do just because she happens to live in a country where they have more window opening options. I bet even the Sound of Music experts out there never knew that!


Next, are what I like to call "toilet rooms." Almost all Austrian homes have a separate little room with just a toilet in it. I love this idea. They never have to wait to take a shower or put on make up or brush teeth until another person is off the toilet. Think what a time-saver this is! You would think we stressed-out Americans would be all over that idea.


But besides a rough first night of (little) sleep with interesting cultural thoughts we have had a nice start to our trip. We visited a "Heuriger" Saturday night which is an Austrian style family restaurant on the outskirts of Vienna. Heurigers were traditionally a place for a family who own their own vineyards to show off the wines they produce. Heurigers today are still rustric and beautiful places to meet family or friends over yummy traditional style Austrian food and wine (often white wine spritzers). Some are really touristy, but many, like the one last night have only locals in them.

We dressed up our American kids for the occasion in Austrian Lederhosen and a Dirndl which our Austrian relatives got a real kick out of. My kids also did their part to further break down cultural barriers by teaching their Austrian aunt and uncle "Miss Mary Mack" and "Rock, Paper, Scissors". Maybe world peace will lie within our next generation through such noble efforts.



Sunday we mostly spent again with family but we also had the chance to visit a really cool castle called "Burg Kreuzenstein." I don't have time to write up the whole fascinating history of this place but it was exactly the kind of place that Americans picture when they think of European castles. The kids thought it was cool but also kind of spooky - especially the large medieval weapons and armor collection.


Then at lunch today we had schnitzel. Of course! Try one if you've never had it. They even have vegetarian versions here. Yum!


Now I Need to sign off as jet-lag is hitting me again. Which brings my thoughts to another cultural difference in a product that I really wish we had in America. I love these old Austrian radios. Take a look at the brand name. Cracks me up every time.


Gute Nacht!

Posted by Forever Liesl 13:39 Archived in Austria Tagged children vienna austria windows toilets burg_greifenstein heuriger cultural_differences Comments (3)

The Contest and Winning Entry

Here's the story of how we won an all-expense paid trip to Salzburg, Austria.

"Tourism Salzburg and Austrian Airlines want one lucky winner to enjoy an all-expenses trip to Salzburg to see the locations where the classic movie THE SOUND OF MUSIC was filmed. The winning family of four will be flown round- trip to Salzburg on Austrian Airlines to experience the city, including access to Sound of Music attractions."

And here were the steps to enter the contest:

1) Take the Ultimate Sound of Music trivia quiz.
2) Answer at least five correctly to receive your Sound of Music Expert badge that you can share on your wall. Encourage your friends to try. Don't worry if you don't get at least five questions right the first time, just try again until you do! (super easy! I passed the first time, of course!)
3) After sharing your Expert badge on your wall, use the code you were given to access the story submission page.
4) On the 'Submit your entry' page, tell us how you would spend a day in Salzburg if the von Trapps were there to show you the sights. Please keep your submission to less than 250 words.
5) On November 16th, Tourism Salzburg will review all submissions and choose ten exceptional entries. These ten entries will be put to a public vote starting on November 19th. The winner of the public vote will win an all-expenses paid trip for four to Salzburg, and the runner-up will receive a weekend getaway for two to the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vermont. Click here for complete contest rules.

Here was the app that needed to be downloaded to enter a submission:


Like everyone else, I don't trust downloading apps - and of course - that was probably the biggest issue I ended up having with this contest, because it was often hard to convince people to download the app. And they needed to do this in order to vote for me.

But, because we had already started to make plans as a family to get back to Austria (my husband is Austrian) and it is very expensive for a whole family to afford trip to Europe - I figured it was worth a try.

So, one night after work, I quickly submitted what was to become the winning entry. I will be the first to admit that it's a super cheesy entry. I wrote it in 8 minutes flat. Thinking it was going nowhere and never dreaming it would be seen by over 1,000 by the time the contest ended I submitted the entry. I was notified about 2 weeks later that I was chosen as a top ten finalist to win the trip - BUT - I had to get people to vote for me.

Here is the entry:

As the ultimate Sound of Music fan, how would you spend a week in Salzburg?

Day 1) Do — I would “do” the old town area and cross the Mozart footbridge singing and skipping with the von Trapp kids.

Day 2) Re — I would “re-”ally enjoy seeing the Abbey and hearing them sing. Would Maria introduce me to the Mother Superior?

Day 3) Mi — this trip would be all about “me”! Maybe visit a fantastic spa near town? Perhaps the Baroness knows of one?

Day 4) Fa — I don’t think it’s that “fa-r” to travel to Mondsee to see the church they were married in — I hear it’s beautiful. I’d ask Liesl to show me as she was maid of honor.

Day 5) So — The mountains are “so” beautiful! Maybe a long day hike up the Untersberg for some amazing views with Max?

Day 6) La — “La”-ter on at night, a show to see the Salzburg Marionettes would be fantastic with Gretl.

Day 7) Ti — I like “tea”, but a Salzburg coffee house with some yummy pastries sounds even better. Kurt seems like he could recommend a good pastry.

Day 8) Do — What, time to leave? Even though I “do-”n’t want to, I guess Salzburg will always be there to visit again.

Thanks for the tour von Trapps! You live in the most beautiful city in the world. It was fun singing and sightseeing with you in Salzburg. Until next time!

It's really almost too embarrassing to read again now. But, oh well, I guess it did the trick! After being notified of my chance to win I started up an "event" page on Facebook asking people to vote once a day for me between Tuesday, November 20th through Friday, November 23rd (contest ended at midnight). I also tried to add in the incentive of European chocolate to anyone who voted for me.

Things were looking grim on Friday morning. I was trailing by almost 200 votes behind my lead competitor. During that last day, however, I suddenly started to pick up more and more votes. Everyone started sharing. The Mayor of Salem asked people to vote for me, random strangers asked other random strangers to vote for me and my closest friends and family went out of their way to do some last minute fierce campaigning for me by tagging Facebook friends and asking everyone they knew to vote.

By the early evening of Friday, November 23rd, I had just slightly squeaked into the lead. I was ahead by approximately 3-5 votes around 6pm. Between 6pm - 12pm my main competitor started to fight back hard but for every vote she received, I got about 2-3 more. We battled until midnight. It was truly a Facebook social media phenomenon. At midnight exactly, I ended up with exactly 992 votes to her 967.

I posted on Facebook after the win that I wished I could pack everyone in our suitcase who helped support. I was so touched - and still am - by the excitement and support of so many people across the world of Facebook.

And then I remembered my chocolate bribe. How in the world would I get chocolate to everyone who helped support? I never expected almost 1,000 votes!

I decided that the only way I could deliver on the chocolate promise will be as follows:

1) Chocolate raffle basket donations for local worthy causes and candy for the troops (already made a few pre-trip donations)
2) Showing up at parties and events with chocolate to share and possibly holding my own party (already started this too)
3) Sending some chocolate to my biggest "out-of-state" supporters (message me on Facebook if you feel this is you!)
4) Virtual sharing of chocolate images while in Austria on this blog (I know this really is a bit unfair, but at least it's calorie free!)

So, we're off to Austria tomorrow, Friday, May 24th and I can't even believe it's actually happening!

We will spend the first week in Vienna visiting my husband's family and relatives and then depart for Salzburg by train on Sunday, June 2nd. We leave Salzburg on Sunday, June 9th to return back home.

I will try write short blog submissions each day with photos while we are in Salzburg. We already have a fantastic itinerary all planned out while in Salzburg that was arranged by an amazing woman named "Birgit" who works in the Salzburg Toursim Office.

I will probably also post a few things about our prior week in Vienna.

So tune in during the next two to three weeks as I use this blog to "share" my win with all of you who helped support! Thank you!!

Auf Wiedersehen!


Posted by Forever Liesl 11:02 Archived in Austria Tagged chocolate salzburg vienna austria family contest win vote free_trip Comments (4)

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