Viels’ European Vacation

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3 Different Cities, 4 Very Different Travel Styles

by Jasmine

If Lisan & Stephen thought that the six of us (Mom & Pop, Jas & Marc, Tye & David) were joining them on their travels, at their pace, they were in for a shock.

We were embarking on an escapade through Budapest, Vienna, and Prague over 11 days. It wasn’t the typical Viel family vacation, posted up somewhere in Central America for a week while Pop heads out to sea in a kayak and the rest of us idle away the days reading books. This was different; it required group spending cash (Stephen ran a tight ship), digital and analog city maps, and guide book showdowns (I actually carried around Rick Steves’ guides while Pop relied on local recommendations hastily scrawled on bar napkins).

A simple walk through the city became an exercise in herding cats, requiring frequent roll calls. Our timing seemed a bit off; while half of the group would veer off into a cafe for a quick espresso (or beer), the rest of us, lost in our own worlds, would pass by without breaking stride. We’d only note their absence once we had crossed a busy street, prompting us to dart back (typically just as the light turned red) like little quail chicks separated from their mother.
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We eventually fell into a less flitting-about rhythm, which required the couples to separate for a few hours each day; to each their own. When Pop decided to check out a dingy Budapest sports bar during the Bengals game, Tye, David, and Mom seized the moment to hike up and capture a view of Pest from a small hill with a monument looming at the top. When the chill of fall that had settled over Vienna pushed Lisan and Stephen inside to meditate, Marc and I found ourselves lost among the smells of the outdoor Naschmarkt and spontaneously touring the baroque St. Charles Church, climbing some 200′ inside to see the frescos. These moments of individual exploration created the mental space for us to reunite as one group for the defining moments.

Making reservations at Oinos, a well-reviewed Italian restaurant in Budapest for Mom’s birthday celebration. High fives were shared among the group when they said they could fit us in at the last minute on a Saturday night. As we burst through the door, we were greeted by a long table set for a feast and an eager staff that asked us if we were the Viel party. As it turned out, we were the only party of the night in an otherwise empty restaurant. But they served up one of the best meals of the trip.

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Another night, we found ourselves buying some overpriced gin and a bottle of Hungarian wine across the street from our chic Budapest apartment. Over the next few hours, despite Stephen admonishing us to get to bed early in order to catch the morning train to Vienna, Pop, Marc, and David browsed YouTube music videos while long stemmed glasses worked their way from the kitchen to the chilly balcony where us girls sat huddled together beneath fur blankets talking in the glow from the Cathedral’s rose window (and Stephen slept).

During one of our days in Vienna, when the thick crowds of tourists became too much, we allowed Pop, but not before expressing our hesitation, to change our plans from a day trip along the Danube to Melk to a hike high into the Vienna woods on the city’s vineyard-dotted outskirts. He promised wine tasting and a hot lunch at the top. With each mile our progress slowed as it grew chillier and more blustery. At the top, a spectacular view of Vienna greeted us…but no restaurant. Just a smokey cafe filled with bussed-in, rosy-cheeked tourists. After scrounging up some change and begging Stephen for a few extra Euro cents, we let go of any hope for a decent meal and scarfed down hot apple turnovers and salted pretzels while huddled in the shelter of a bus stop, more than happy to join the tourists, now rosy-cheeked ourselves, waiting for a ride back to the city center.

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These moments all shared one thing in common – things never went as planned no matter how many types of maps we carried in our pockets or how long we debated over our itinerary. And things not going as planned when traveling with eight people can be much more stressful than with two people. It was stressful (just ask Stephen and Lisan), but it also was dynamic and exciting…and very different from reading a book on a tropical beach while Pop paddles out to sea in a kayak.