“The boat’s leaving! (Without us!)”

How a Small Misstep Led to Our Biggest Adventure in Wachau

When visiting Vienna, Austria, there is so much to do within the city it is perfectly reasonable to never leave the city limits during your entire stay. Such was the case for the first week of my 10 day trip to Wien, but an itch to see some of the countryside began to tug at the corners of my trip itinerary. My sister Laura is spending a year as an au pair for the lovely Luna in Wien’s 9th district, which brought my parents and I across the Atlantic (and the Pacific for me) to the Imperial city. After experiencing much of Wien’s delights, Laura arranged a day for us outside the city to float the Danube and witness the famed Wachau Valley. An hour’s train ride out of the city brought us to the delightful town of Krems (Krems an der Donau), thought to be one of Austria’s oldest towns. We spent about an hour wandering the streets before our boat’s departure, happily exploring narrow roads and historic houses dating back to the 1500s and before.

Laura and Dad giving directions

Just as we were about to turn back to the Pier, Laura decided to push on just a little further and we stumbled upon an amazing church rising out of the surrounding homes. A steep stairway behind the church led us to an unparalleled lookout across the down and down to the Danube.

Hallowed window

Atop the stairs we found a sanctuary, (I’m currently attempting to research its history) a beautiful Christian shrine that just felt hallowed. While circling for the best photo angles, I discovered a small window into the basement that was easily accessible and unbarred. Peering into the dank darkness below, straining my eyes for glimpses of old doors and hidden rooms, I physically recoiled in shock as I discovered the entire space below the church was filled with human remains. Yes, I said human remains, and no, I’m not kidding. Maybe it’s because I’m an American and our history and ancestors pale in comparison to the rest of the world, but I sat in a haze of shock and disbelief at the base of that temple trying to make sense of the bodies laying below. I paid my respects and began to come to terms with the staggering history of the region I knew so little about and continued the trip down the Danube with a renewed sense of respect and regard.

All aboard the MS Prinz Eugen, one of the DDSG Blue Danube sightseeing cruise boats departing from Krems, cruising to Melk and back again. We boarded the ship, certainly a bit dated but in no way uncomfortable, and settled in on the top deck for photos and wonderment gazing. I was shocked to hear loudspeaker announcements in no less than six languages, describing the town of Krems, the monastery across the river and the upcoming town of Dürnstein.

A little back story: when Laura found us the cruise, we were under the impression that the boat docked at each port listed in the itinerary and we had a certain amount of time to explore the town before re-boarding and continuing on. With that foreshadowing, and the understanding that some things get lost in translation, you can come back to the story.

Durnstein Abbey and Durnstein Castle beyond

Ahhhh, Dürnstein. Our loudspeaker described to us the historical importance of the incredible remnants of Dürnstein castle overlooking the town and we were giddy with anticipation. Way back in 1192, King Richard the Lionheart (England, in case you aren’t hip with the Kings) was returning to his home country after the conclusion of his crusades and captured by Austrian Duke Leopold the first! He was held captive there until turned over to Emperor Henry VI at Trifels Castle and held for three weeks for an enormous ransom. Needless to say, the Corlin family was rearing at the bit when the boat docked at Dürnstein, and we attempted to communicate with the boat crew about how much time we had to explore. A combination of one of the deck hands telling us in broken English that we could get off but just for a minute and then they were leaving again, the confusion of what exactly this boat tour was about, and the determined focus to get up to that castle was to prove our big downfall. After the four of us rushed across the gangway, looking for a good vantage point to take a picture of the castle, everything went wrong. The boat left. As in, bye, bye, we’re going on to the next stop and oops, you probably shouldn’t have gotten off, you silly Americans. There were a few “wait! what? oh no! this isn’t happening! He said… You’ve got to be kidding! Noooo! I thought you said…” which didn’t take long to peter out as the gravity of the situation settled heavily upon us. Where are we, exactly? And what the heck are we supposed to do now? Then, as if by magic, I see Laura speaking to a kind woman in uniform who’d been at the dock all along. She works for Blue Danube! She’s telling us the next boat is in three hours! She’s… speaking English?! Who is this saintly woman, the only person visible in the vicinity around us, calmly telling us we’re up a creek but there’s another boat due in three hours. Mom starts her fast walk, stop, throw up the hands, walk, stop, exasperated sigh. Laura’s stuck in repeat, we’ll miss our train back to Vienna, we’ll miss our train, we’ll miss our train. Dad’s thinking, hard. I’m frozen, fighting off the little voice inside that’s saying ‘now you’ll have time to go see that castle!’ with the wooden stick of logic and the need to find a solution to help the family. The uniformed saint must have eyed our motley crew and taken pity on us, for at that moment, she decided to save us. “Excuse me, but I actually have two stations and I’m bound for Spitz now. If you come in my car I can take you to the next station, we can beat the boat, and you’ll be back on schedule.” The clouds parted, a shaft of sunshine burst through, right on to our heroine’s face, a choir of angels on high belted a hallelujah and… saved. And just like that, we were packed into a VW golf and racing through the streets of Dürnstein with Elizabeth behind the wheel, narrating as if we were on a tour and all part of the plan.

Elizabeth’s chariot!

Flight of the Bumblebee playing faintly in my ears, we roll into the lovely town of Spitz, 40 minutes in front of the boat. Elizabeth’s parting words: “get back on the boat, and stay on it.”

Spitz, Austria and the Danube

The next 40 minutes we filled at a restaurant directly across from the pier, with a view far up the river to spot our boat long before it arrived. We ordered a bottle of wine (when in Spitz…) and an apricot dessert, since Elizabeth said it’s what Spitz is famous for. The wine was incredible and the dessert… more hallelujahs from on high.

Hallelujah

A strudel with apricots, syrup and meringue, I can not put the taste into words. Paid our check, bought a bottle of wine from the gift shop and an apricot jam, ran to the docks, gave Elizabeth the jam and re-boarded the boat, slightly tipsy from the strong wine and adrenaline; laughing into the shocked faces of the Blue Danube crew who were no doubt asking each other “who are these people and how did they get here before us?”

The rest of the tour was full of tears of laughter, a gazillion photos and another bottle of wine imbibed in the on-board restaurant when it started to pour outside. We saw more castles, gorgeous vineyards, clock towers, even a bandits’ lookout on a mountain top rumored to have been a site of torture: unfortunate souls were said to be marched off the edge of the small fort, plunging down the cliffs to their demise. We docked at Melk, the end of our boat trip and the site of the world-famous Melk Abbey.

Melk Abbey
Hotel Stadt and Melk Abbey

Our adventure didn’t end here however. We ate the most delicious pizza before climbing up to the Abbey, it was closing and our train was leaving soon so we just had time for a peek. Knowing this, we went in a side door and suddenly it was like time stopped. The inside of the abbey is breathtaking. Time passes. Shoot, what time is it?! Laura: “We have 11 minutes to get back down to the train station.” Here we go again! Cue up the bumblebee music: there go the Corlins! We came sprinting in to the station just in time to take a deep breath and boarded the train back to Wien.

We have never been a boring family. I wouldn’t change a thing about us, or the string of events that made up one of the greatest travel experiences of my life. Sometimes, waylaying your plans (even by accident) can be the surest way to have a real adventure and make the best memories. -Meagz

Corlin Clan
“Look what you did, you little Spitz!”
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Krems, Austria – 15 Photos to Take You There

One of the most surprising and breathtaking towns to stumble upon, Krems an der Donau is a hidden gem in Lower Austria, bordering the Danube and comprising the eastern part of the Wachau Valley.

A departure point for riverboat cruises of the Wachau region; Krems harbors many wonders that emerge with a mix of adventurous wandering and a healthy dose of curiosity. The following fifteen photos toss you into the magic and mystery of Krems and will spur a desire to personally explore one of Austria’s oldest treasures.

-Meagz

Laura gets us to Krems!
Colorful houses adorned with beautiful flowers. It must be summer in Austria.
The winding and narrow streets of Krems
Cobblestones and gorgeous facades

Strolling through the streets in awe
A tower to climb to, with a view
Made it to the tower, but still feeling small
Hallowed grounds
Hauntingly beautiful
Window to the world
Let no home be not beautiful
Oops, I shot the photographer! http://www.patcorlinphotography.com

 

A street? Or a driveway? How about both.
Krems an der Donau

…back! (Part Vier- 4 of 4)

On your marks, get set… GO NYC!

Thursday: More butts off at the Works, this time with Laura too! Melissa was tough on the three of us and we were a little nervous for our immediate departure to Connecticut from the gym to board the train for Grand Central in glorious NYC! With plans to stretch it all out on the train we showered and piled in, ready for the most ridiculous 28 hours of the trip to date. Made it to CT, caught the train and dumped out at Grand Central- how fun to finally see the legend! (Strange how many trips to NYC never led me there until now). I have to say, THIS part of the trip, the NYC whirlwind was my surprise gift from Laura-Li and Mumusmurf. Not only did they book the three of us a SUITE at the St. Giles-The Court Hotel (sharp!), but the reason for the trip was a Friday morning appointment at none other than the world’s largest and most famous bridal salon: KLEINFELD’S! (Of TLC’s ‘Say Yes to the Dress’ fame). While getting ready for dinner, the man of hour arrived to meet us: my best friend and creative director Matthew G! We had drinks in the lobby bar downstairs (LEX) then went off to dinner at Rare. Matthew flew off to work at Industry, where he’s the lead bartender. We headed to a convenience store where Laura marched up to the counter and demanded two AA batteries and an Aquafresh (toothpaste). Then it’s off to Industry where the night is a bit of a blur between the crowd, the drinks, the drag show, the shots bought for us by the leading queen in New York, the man from Morocco, ENOUGH!, looking at pictures of the bouncer’s wedding on his phone (Randy’s the best!), faces down in the bed at 2 a.m. with Laura viciously grunting to set the alarm for 8:45 a.m. with a mouthful of feather pillow. I’m surprised the front desk didn’t call to ask us to settle down as we laughed hysterically for goodness-knows how long.

Fast forward 6 hours of sleeping like dead women… to 9 a.m. AWAKE! KLEINFELD’S DAY! Got dolled up and cabbed our way to the grand doorway, the excitement rising to giddy levels as we approached the reception desk. The lobby was crowded with anxious brides and entourages and seating was scarce. Not to worry, it gave me the chance to have a corner vantage point to take in the bridal madness. Before long, my consultant came over and introduced herself and swept us to our room to begin the appointment. There was a certain level of nervousness lurking behind my confident smile when I was introduced to Christiane, my personal dress consultant. I can’t give out too many details about the whole event (James does read these posts after all) but I can say that I am officially a Kleinfeld bride. We had not intended to find the dress of my dreams, just wanted to experience the legend of the world’s largest bridal salon and get swept up in the bridal planning… but I also hadn’t planned on meeting the perfect person to find me the perfect dress. I’ve bought a lot of gowns in my day, and have never been welcomed so warmly and made to feel like my happiness was the only thing that mattered in the whole world. Not just by my team, but everyone in the shop. It didn’t matter that they see 90 appointments a day, they made me feel like I was the only one in their world. I was listened to-really listened to-and Christiane used her skills of finding exactly what I described to her. Not only did she take the time to totally understand my vision of the dress and whole theme of the wedding, she took the time to get to know US, and when I left I felt like we’d been friends for a long time. She told me I was one of the most interesting brides she’d ever met and that I shouldn’t be surprised if I find her lurking in the bushes in St. Lucia during the ceremony. HAH. She won’t need to lurk in the bushes if I just send her an invitation! She made such an impact that we may do just that. I’m sure she’ll be a hoot on the dance floor too, and that’s really what it’s all about anyway. In addition to the true love stuff. Ah, Kleinfeld’s. I would recommend it to any and all and it’s worth the trip to NYC, even if you are only there for 28 hours.

Departed NYC for a long but wonderfully happy ride home, changed out the bag and then it’s straight to the marina at Lake Winnipesaukee for a long overdue weekend of REST. Well, as much rest as one can get when hanging with the redneck yacht club on the WAM’s Gold Coast…

I DID get to sleep late on Sat and Sun and indulged in breakfast ala Scrappy and Chuck (which means an epic omelet bar and even custom-made pancakes for the non-egg eater=me). My incredibly awesome cousins Scott, Michelle (and husband Eric:) and even Mama Peg (my grandmother, but don’t let her hear anyone call her that) arrived for a glorious day on the lake complete with laughter, summer drinks and a Pole-ish Horseshoes tourney. Next time Scotty, we’ll get ’em next time.

Another epic day of boating was the hilarious day spent at Braun Bay, where boat after boat anchor up close to each other and engage in water sports, eating and drinking in the sun all day. It was a very crowded scene and I was exhausted by the revelry and the sun so I laid down on the bow to take a nap. I awoke with a start, thinking it must have been the world’s longest nap because suddenly before my eyes: spring break was in full swing. There were boats blasting thumping beats, girls selling fluorescent Braun Bay t-shirts from floaty rafts and an enormous custom crafted water slide boat. Literally, it was a modified pontoon boat with a bar with bar stools and a giant pool slide perched atop. The throttle was built into the side of the bar and it somehow has a license to drive around Lake Winni. Go figure. Polish horseshoes continued to entertain, groups of guys were doing beer bongs out of a hollowed-out flamingo, and the area around our boat was jammed up with rafts, floating coolers, beer pong tables and scantily clad college-aged party animals. What the heck….? Cabo in New Hampshire? There was little to do… but have a drink and go down the slide! Woohoo!

Wrapped up at the marina and headed home to pack for Vienna. Whoa. It’s a little hard to conceive, but that’s the rundown of my trip for just the first TWO WEEKS. You may have just aged a little if you made it to the end of these four posts, but I’m grateful that you made it through. Maybe you’ll have a better understanding of what I mean when I say the trip was crazy-wonderful-quick. I brought you up to the point of our departure to Europe, but that’s an entirely significant series of posts and I’m going to break that up with some reviews and Great Eight listings. So bless you for following my adventures, and here’s to the next! Love also to all my family and friends that made my time on the mainland such a treasure trove of memories.

-Meagz

…She’s back! (Part Drei- 3 of 4)

Continued…

Laura and Gary are in the Corlin homestead and we’ve had the fun reunion of family and animals. Tuesday arrives and Mom and I head to the gym to work those butts off, Laura scoots to the dentist and then we reconvene at the house to put on some PanAm faces. Yup, Laura and I donned the fantastic uniforms and jetted over to Concord Airport for a photo shoot with the real PanAm pilot, Miles (captain hat and all!), with Mom working magic behind the lens and Stacy keeping our smiles wide and genuine. Go for liftoff, it’s time to head to Portsmouth for the night.

Catching up with old friends and coworkers at RiRa Portsmouth, Laura and Gary were the talk of the town and the main event upon arrival. We grabbed a few Guinness and Magner’s there after a glorious dinner and killer Yuzu Caipirinhas at Brazo. On our way out, we stopped into Fat Belly’s where we ran into DANIELLE and Laura and I screamed and did some reunion hugging and hopping, to the embarrasment of Danielle’s friends and the Irishman. Good times and good friends in one of the best towns on the planet… made me miss living on the seacoast quite a bit.

Wednesday: back to Boston by way of Newburyport, MA for an adventurous breakfast with the most wonderful Sonja J. Never underestimate the power a short visit with the people you care the most about can have when you miss them so much. Especially the people who never let time or distance come between your friendship. Love you Sonja-hope you’re getting more beans for breakfast! Depart Newburyport for Boston and the very first bridal boutique experience as a bride to be. Priscilla of Boston. Fancy. Stunning. Spendy. Laura and Mom got a little sniffly and we found a few beautiful frocks, but not the proverbial “one.” It was a lovely introduction to what I believed was going to be the most arduous part of planning the wedding… finding the dress.

We rendezvous with Gary who’d gone off to haunt an internet cafe while we went off the girly deep end; jumped back into the car just in time to make a late lunch with Mama Peg and Auntie Peggy at the Irish Rose in Burlington, MA. Got back to NH and then made our return to P-town for laughter on the decks at Poco’s, and back to RiRa for Murphy’s 50th birthday toast at midnight. So much fun with miss Alana traversing memory lane and plotting for the wedding! When did I get any sleep on this trip?? Oh wait, that’s right, I didn’t.

I apologize for the installments, but I need to eat something again, and the Thursday/Friday trip to NYC is a doozy. Stay tuned!

 

…She’s back! (Part Zwei – 2 of 4)

Lunch was fabulous. I mean, why wouldn’t it be when you’re with Jeff Sean?

Picking up where I left off…

New Hampshire: June 21. A whirlwind family and old friend chronicle unravels. Straight away I get to spend two incredible days with my best friend Carolyn who rove all the way from western MA to spend some rainy NH days together catching up and laughing our butts off. Lots of the usual scheming to take over the world, and even some wedding planning too. Speaking of ‘butts off,’ Mom also managed to schedule me in for some team training with her and her awesome personal trainer at the Works in Somersworth and we worked our, you guessed it, butts off. Next up, “a vedding!” Saturday we drove up to Portland, Maine for the gorgeous ceremony and kick-ass reception of my cousin Jeff and his stunning bride Jess. After dancing like mad fools with the Kennedy clan, Mom, Dad and I set off in search of preventative measures in the form of late night pizza. Jeff sent us to Bill’s on Commercial Street and we couldn’t have been happier. Just what the doc ordered! Note: Don’t try to break open a giant chocolate ball with a steak knife. *This went in here so I don’t forget that hilarious episode with Mom and Dad. We stayed the night in the almost certainly haunted (I’ll have to do some research on that) Eastland Park Hotel. My favorite part was the original lift buttons next to the elevators that are no longer functioning. We inadvertently made a gentleman feel very silly who’d been standing there for 5 minutes repeatedly pushing the old buttons to no avail. Oops!

No rest for the weary; we bid farewell to Portland and headed home, only to pack another bag and head up to Lake Winni with the redneck yacht club.  And the trip marches on… that night I headed south solo to Boston to meet up with DRiley32 to rehash life, Leroy Jenkins and HP^7.2. Monday I reunited with Elle, Erika and baby Ella at Simmons College, had a yummy lunch at Chipotle and then drove to Scituate to have more playtime with the baby genius. Couldn’t stay too long though, I had to be at Logan Airport at 5 to pick up two very special deliveries. I had one more hug to get before heading to Logan however. A stop in to see B-rent and explore his east coast digs, with just enough time to share a freeze pop, was so good for my soul. We miss you out here Brenty, just in case you haven’t heard us for the past 754,678,946,409th times. Deep breath, time to battle traffic into Logan. About .25 miles from the exit I’m fairly sure my charges flew overhead in that bright red and white Virgin Atlantic awesomeness and I raced to the gate. After an hour driving around Terminal E because of some cross-communication and lack of cell phoneage,  I FINALLY get my Laura and Gary hugs! Booshas unite! Then it’s back in the car to go meet the parents at the Lazy Lion in Deerfield, NH for dinner. Are you exhausted just reading all this yet? Quick break for this girl before I launch into the week leading up to 4th of July. If you think things relax a bit, FAT CHANCE. We’ve only just begun.

…and BAM! She’s back! (Part Eins – 1 of 4)

Some you may have noticed I fell off the grid for a bit. Well, I was writing all along but without the ability to post for a myriad of reasons. Here’s the rundown of where I’ve been, a collection of miles, mishaps and memories.  I will follow this post with a series of posts from home, Austria and the in-between. For now though, let’s get you up to speed with the most recent itinerary of adventures.

June 13th- Departed Honolulu for Las Vegas. Had an absolute ball working at the International Licensing Convention as a spokesperson for the amazing company PanAm Brands. Yes, it’s true, PanAm Airlines no longer flies commercial, but the original company still thrives in a multitude of ways: including the production and marketing of an awesome line of designer luggage, handbags and fabulous accessories. The clever crew at PanAm knew how to make a real impact in a sea of 18,000 attendees: they commissioned the production of three authentic PanAm flight attendant uniforms and outfitted Emily, Carly and myself to not only talk about the brand, but to be the brand. I’m not sure if I’ve ever had as many pictures taken of me before this event.  The responses from people who approached us with an almost fanciful nostalgic look on their faces was worth every blister from the horrific shoe incidences. Everyone we met had a history or a moment with PanAm; whether it was their first time on a plane, a frequent route they flew, the first time they got their wings, their adoration of the elite flight crews, and more. I’ll share some of their stories in a separate post. But, like my trip, we’ve got to move on quick!

June 17th- Shift gears in Vegas completely. The PanAm Brands crew made their way home and I remained, with Mom #1 and Mom #2 as my partners in crime. We stayed for a few more days in order to attend the Miss USA pageant at the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino with the intent to scream our faces off in support of the radiant and wonderful Lacy Jane Folger, Miss NH USA 2011. This girl and I have history, and I mean HISTORY. We have been friends for nearly 23 years! Wow, I think that’s the first time I’ve written that down and suddenly I feel older than I did two seconds ago… interesting… but I digress. Lacy Jane has always been one of most favorite people in the world, a fun-loving, great friend who never lost touch with her values and has been a role model for others to follow since the tender age of 5. (Probably even earlier, but I met her at 5 when she first started volunteering with the service projects my sister and I created oh-so-many-years-ago). The fact she made it all the way to the grand stage in Vegas and represented our humble state in a way that brings tears of pride to my eyes was a surreal time-lapse moment for me. I kept flashing between her performance at the little stage at the Lilac Mall and then the Rochester Opera House and then Hampton Beach and then Vegas… Lacy, you did it! I lost my voice in all the revelry but was so lucky she didn’t win… it meant we got to have the best dinner ever at the Sugar Factory after the show. 🙂 So happy you managed not to get hit by flying chairs backstage… phew! Pageant girls are crazy. Good thing we stayed on the fringe all these years and only go crazy for shoes and rhinestones. Love you Lace, you’re a rockstar!

Departed Vegas on June 21, New Hampshire bound. Next post coming soon, but I’m off to lunch with the fabulous Jeff Sean!