But no temple made with hands can compare with Yosemite. -John Muir

I know, this isn't Yosemite... this is beautiful Hallstatt, Austria

View from the Hohensalzburg Castle (aka fortress) in Salzburg, Austria

Street performer in Dresden, Germany

Castle in Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic. 

If these photos don’t have you convinced, let me assure you that a trip to central Europe will have you in awe at the history, the landscape, the castles! Our first day in Ulm, Germany we had the opportunity to climb the 768 steps to the top of tallest church in the world, the Ulmer Munster. The now Lutheran church reaches 530 feet and was the tallest structure built before the 20th Century. From the top, we could see our friends’ house, which is the oldest home in Ulm. Thats right, we got a tour of the oldest and tallest. We could also see the rose garden park where our friends Jon and Christine would be married the next day, and the Danube River, which would pretty much be the center of our activities while in Ulm. The river would also taunt me for most of my time there. It was hot as you-know-what and our hosts had fabulous activities planned for us during the heat of the day. On our walk to the wedding picnic in the blazing sun I nearly joined in on a little bridge jump, dress and all. 

Ulmer Munster

Pure torture watching this from the sidelines.

Our last day in Ulm was probably one of my favorite of the trip, even though our group was actually pretty miserable the whole time. For weeks now we had been anticipating Nabada, a giant, city-wide water fight on the river. While it had been hot and sunny the past four days, the clouds decided to come in and pour down on us for the occasion. It seems they wanted in on the water fight action. (This entire day may get its own blog post at some point but there is too much ridiculousness to fit in here. For now, enjoy this photo as a teaser!)

Photo Credit: Søren Dahl

When we left Ulm, we took the train to Bregenz, Austria, then again through the Alps to Salzburg. It seemed every little town we went through had its own castle or incredible church. Salzburg offered us a great home base for castle exploration and, finally, some time away from the hustle and bustle of cities. We decided to take a day trip to Lake Hallstatt and, after about a week without much time in nature, lets just say you couldn’t get me in the lake fast enough. The town is incredibly picturesque and offered just about everything a girl could want during a day trip to a lake town. 

We hiked, learned about the town’s salt mining history (and the greater impacts this had on all of central Europe), took a dip in the lake, and unsuccessfully searched for a waterfall in the last bit of time we had. This place reminded me of the mountains I grew up exploring—the Sierra Nevada. I couldn't help but look up from the lake and see a resemblance to Hetch Hetchy in Yosemite National Park. The water was also about as cold as a Sierra alpine lake. Being here made me ridiculously happy and I was smiling from ear to ear, eyes glistening, thinking of the good times my family and friends have had in mountains like these. I think I’ll always feel like a kid in these moments, which may explain my need to get in the lake via belly flop. 

We left Hallstatt and Salzburg to travel to Prague. Finally! This has been on my short list since my first trip in Europe in 2005 and I could not wait to get there. On the way, we passed through Ceske Budejovice and Cesky Krumlov for some beer and castle touring. We tried Laura’s favorite Czech snack, fried Edam cheese, and us newbies had our first taste of Bhekerovka (and our second, and third, and…). Laura described it as “Christmas in a bottle.” Perfect description. 

When we got to Prague it did not disappoint. What an amazing city. The castle and church are incredible and the history lesson we got from our own personal tour guide (thanks, Laura!) painted an amazing picture of the city's history. Like so many European cities, the river running through its center was a welcome break to the endless sea of buildings.  

Maybe Laura can help me remember what this is!

Laura and Kristen enjoying a little nook

Prague Astronomical Clock at night

Happy in Prague

Hiding out from the rain

I am so thankful for my chance to see this part of the world. I am fortunate to understand its history and witness its majestic landscapes. Even still, I can't help but think of a very fitting quote by one of my heros, John Muir:

"But no temple made with hands can compare to Yosemite. Every rock in its walls seems to glow with life. Some lean back in majestic response; others, absolutely sheer or nearly so for thousands of feet, advance beyond their companions in thoughtful attitudes, giving welcome to storms and calms alike, seemingly aware, yet heedless, of everything going on about them."

This quote reminds me of one of my truths that was reaffirmed by this trip: I'll take a natural landscape over one create by man. Any. Damn. Day. Nature is perfection. We can never come close.

This is actually Yosemite...so as not to confuse anyone. :)