Melanie Marttila: The Writing Excuses Retreat, part 3

Melanie lapped me again on the track of travel blogging, so I’ll share her version of Part 3 to keep your appetites whetted.

Some things were different for me:

  1. I didn’t wake up at stupid o’clock because I spent two days in Vienna, adjusting to the time zone shift.
  2. I thought the gorgeous islands on the approach to Stockholm looked like Lake Tahoe, and suddenly comprehended, deep in my guts, why one of my favorite historical sites, Vikingsholm, was given that name.
  3. Melanie held back on the intense drama of having an off-the-rails tour guide in Stockholm. NOTE 1: Groups need water and snacks on a tour that starts before lunch, and ends mid-afternoon. NOTE 2: If there are children on your tour, and you are not going to see the reindeer DO NOT MENTION THE REINDEER. NOTE 3: NEVER SPLIT THE GROUP NOTE 4: Don’t be a racist jerk.
  4. Melanie was ON IT: Sunsets! From a boat! AWESOME. Never occurred to me. I was probably to busy trying to describe ‘washcloth’ to some poor steward. Again. (Yes, EVERY. DAY.)


Melanie Marttila:





Wien…er, schnitzel

Wien…er, schnitzel

Overcoming jet lag by adding a quick two-day visit to Vienna probably wasn’t the best plan. It just made me sad to leave. The visit was relaxing, welcoming, and left me desperately wishing I had more time to spend.

Mark and I waved goodbye to our driver in CA on a Tuesday afternoon. We arrived midday Wednesday to the most user-friendly airport ever. Look at the couches!

Vienna Airport Couches

We took a cab to our hotel, which turned out to be near the Russian consulate and within view of a beautiful Russian Orthodox church. As a result, the walk to downtown  Vienna and back to our hotel felt very secure: We had security guards and video cameras watching out for us on all our walks. Awwww.

The Church across the tracks from our hotel.

We were determined to stay awake until “bedtime” by doing the Rick Steves’ Vienna Walking Tour. We found the Mozart cafe and watched it’s umbrellas be blown over in the wind, injuring a bald man. DRAMA!

Mozart Cafe















We only got lost briefly (twice), which doesn’t really matter at all when your goal is just to walk until your dinner date calls. If you get tired, have tea and apricot crepes to perk you up at Cafe Tirolerhof, a quintessential Viennese Cafe.

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There are little stories everywhere, and when you are on the first leg of your travels to a Writing Retreat they become especially obvious. Like the last two images above: Did she know him? Why couldn’t she get her own paper? Was she simply desperate for news? Checking frantically for the date so she knew when her on the fritz time machine had dropped her off…so many possibilities.

We found J&L Lobmeyer and the secret glass museum. Every direction held an artistic sight too gorgeous for words.

J&L Lobmeyer

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We found the church holding the crypt of the Hapsburgs at about the time we had to meet our friend for dinner.

We ate at Cafe Imperial, and I learned to be very careful when telling waiters they can “take the bread course away.” Here’s a picture of the odd, fancy butter tube and the delicious looking roll I was going to eat.

Before I could even taste it, we ordered, and the waiter asked if we were “done with the bread.” Greg said yes, but instead of taking away just the bread basket, they bustled away my lovely buttered bread too!

Dinner more than made up for it. We tried Wiener Schnitzel, breaded veal that is light and fluffy, and Tafelspitz, beef with lots of delicious side dishes. We had a lovely evening and Greg came back to our hotel with us for a cocktail.

Mark slept all night. I awoke at 3AM and couldn’t get back to sleep. As a result, I was tired and extremely out of sorts the next day. I found myself wanting to just lay in bed and sob because I was in a beautiful foreign country and felt so tired that I couldn’t move. I think Mark got some tea and food into me, and I felt better.

We wanted to finish the Rick Steves walk we’d started the day before. We had a little trouble finding where we’d left the walk, which was good, because if we’d found it right off, we would have missed the Nasch Market!

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Following the walking tour we also would never have seen some of the most beautiful Deco architecture of Vienna.

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By the time we got back to the church we were just in time for the “English” tour, so we told our friends we would take the U Bahn to their home outside the city a little later than planned.

Since there were only four English speakers, the guide did the tour all in German…and then all in English…both (which took a very, very long time). We were VERY late, but we did get to see the beautiful and tragic tombs of the Hapsburgs.

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I do think my plan worked, even if it made me sad to leave friends who live so far away that I don’t see them often enough. We were able to iron out some annoying bank issues in a relaxed way, knowing that local friends were there to help. We figured out local transport and started the trip off on a very high note.

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