Our Germany Trip Part II: Vienna & Neuschwanstein Castle
Today we have Part II of our Germany & Austria trip! After the tour ended, we said goodbye to Philipp, Jennifer & Conrad and rented a car to try out the adventure of driving ourselves around the German countryside. We decided to rent a zippy little BMW (because, when in Germany!) and I'm so glad we did because we needed something with some serious giddy up for driving on the Autobahn. And here we thought I-95 drivers went fast! :)
From Munich, we drove down to the very southern part of Germany to see the Neuschwanstein Castle. Now here's the crazy part about that! The summer after I finished college, I spent a year studying in England and traveling all around Europe. That year, I had a travel book of Europe with me that had this gorgeous castle on the cover & I always said it would be a DREAM to go there. But I never made it there during my study abroad. And I just never forgot about that castle...it always made me a little sad that I didn't make it happen to go see it. So when someone suggested we go see Neuschwanstein Castle while we were in Germany, I thought "oh cool, maybe it will be something like that castle on the book" ....but when we got there, it turned out it WAS that castle on the book. When we got back home, I dug through the boxes we have in the basement to find that old travel guide, and sure enough there it was! How crazy is that?!
So we obviously had an amazing time driving up and first seeing it on the hillside, then having lunch at the base of the mountain, and then going by horse-drawn carriage up to the top of it. They call this the "fairytale castle" and supposedly the castle at Disney World is based on it....I think you can see why! It was incredible! SO beautiful!
From there we made the what probably should have been a 6 hour, but we got there in 4 thanks to the Autobahn, drive to Vienna. One of our favorite things to do while traveling abroad is to watch the lastminute.com type sites for the city we're going to, to look for crazy good deals on nice hotels that we wouldn't otherwise want to spend the money to stay at! We found a pretty amazing one that allowed us to stay at the Ritz Carlton for what a normal hotel would be & it also included this sweet gourmet breakfast every morning! That is one of my favorite travel tips to tell people to do! You have to be willing to not know exactly where you're going to stay until the day before, but it just makes it that much sweeter when it turns out to be something like the Ritz! :)
I have to say, we absolutely fell in love with Vienna! I think it just might be the most underrated city in Europe! We joked that it was like Germany, Italy & France all had a baby and named it Vienna! It was clean & efficient like Germany, it had the architecture & beauty of Italy, and it had all of the amazing cafes & people watching of France. We LOVED it! We walked around to all the major landmarks like Hofburg Palace, Schonbrunn Palace (in Vienna, it was all about the palaces!), the City Hall, the Opera House, and all the cathedrals. We sat in cafes & sipped cafe melanges. We climbed to the very top of this HUGE church on stairs held up by nothing more than one inch scaffolding bars....which at the top about 100 feet up started SWAYING. And we survived. But maybe my FAVORITE part of Vienna was seeing the Austrian National Library. It is this insanely beautiful library with the rolling ladders and secret doorways. And the whole ceiling is painted with the prettiest frescoes I've ever seen so the whole room just lights up in color. The whole time we were there, I just kept thinking "is this REAL?!"
And that's pretty much a good way to sum up how we felt on this whole part of the trip! We couldn't believe we were lucky enough for it to be real!
Sometimes (no wait, strike that. ALL the time) I am just truly awed & amazed at the incredible doors that open when you least expect it. Of the people that come into our lives and the places we get to go because of it....all when we least expect it.
Lately I've just been realizing more and more that the best things that happen to us in this life are never the ones that we're tying ourselves up in knots for, striving for, or trying MAKE happen by our own force of will. They aren't the ones where we're beating our heads agains the brick wall just trying to get where someone else has already gone or check another item off their list. And they certainly aren't the ones that we think we're "supposed to do" based on what success looks like for someone else.
No. What I'm starting to learn about this life is that the best things that happen to us are the ones we don't even see coming. The ones we couldn't possibly plan or strive for. They come out of nowhere, land in our laps, knock down our front door... and that's how we know that they are ours. That they're part of our story, and how it's meant to be written. Not just a bad copy of somebody else's. And guess what? Those things that are meant for you, that are actually meant to be part of your story? They are WAY better than anything you thought you were striving for to begin with. World-rockingly, higher-calling, purpose-driven, "oh I can see it now, that's how it all fits together" BETTER than anything you were striving for to begin with.
More than anything what I've been learning, is that when you loosen your grip on how you think it's supposed to go, when you let go of trying to plan every step to get you where you think you're going, when you pry your fingers out of that comparison game ...that leaves you with an open hand.
And the fact is, it's just a whole lot easier for God to give a gift to an open hand than a closed fist.
Today, open your hand to what you're being called to do, not what you're supposed to do.
Open your hand to the better story that's being written for you.
We have been home for the past 12 or so days straight (which is pretty strange for us!) and we will actually be mostly home for the next two weeks as well. And that has been awesome because it's given us a chance to get caught up on those projects we have been pushing off, like finally getting around to making a book of our travels in Germany & Austria this past March.
It's been so fun going back through the pictures & we thought we would share some with you guys as well! We're breaking it up into two parts so it isn't too overwhelming & this part covers our time in Heidelberg & Stuttgart. Over these couple of days we got to walk through castles, roam down cobblestone city streets, sip warm beverages in cafes, eat some of the most amazing Italian food I've ever had (funny enough), visit the Porsche flagship store & museum and....roam through more castles!! You do a LOT of castle roaming in Europe! And I LOVED it! One of my favorite parts of the trip was getting to meet up with a long time blog reader, Rici, who came to our Stuttgart stop on the tour and stayed to hang out with us the next day! We had spaghetti ice cream together (don't worry it just looks like spaghetti!), visited a castle (of course!), and got the sweetest card from her! I think it's SO amazing that the internet is this crazy thing that brings us all together & that we can make friends over the years that we finally get to meet in real life thousands of miles from home. It just makes me so so grateful for this blog & all of the amazing people it has brought into our lives because of it.
Speaking of amazing people coming into our lives, we are also super grateful that we had Philipp (who organized the tour) and Jennifer & Conrad from Jennifer Hejna Photography along to adventure with us & show us around. Most of these pictures are from Jennifer & we are SO thankful that she was there to capture so many amazing memories & moments for us! We LOVE you guys!
Looking back through all of these pictures is getting me so excited because we are currently in the process of planning our NEXT European adventure for October! We're heading to a wedding in England & while we're there we're also going to try to hit up some combination of Paris, Scotland and/or Ireland!! So I'm just saying....if there is anyone out there who has been dreaming of doing an engagement, elopement or anniversary shoot in any of those place....we're going to be there the last week of October! I'm just sayin!! We should definitely make that happen! :) :) Wheee!!
Enjoy Part I!
How adorable are Jennifer & Conrad??
Philipp, Conrad & Jennifer hiking up to the castle!
Recently our friends over at the newly launched Lace and Loyalty wedding & marriage blog were posting pictures from their shop, including this amazing grey hoodie with gold foil writing that says "Wifey for Lifey." I instantly fell in love with it & left a note saying how awesome it was. And not more than a few days later a box was sitting on our front porch with my very own shirt as a gift from these amazing ladies! How INCREDIBLE is that??
What's even cooler is that they also agreed to give us one to be able to give away to one go our lucky readers! This makes my heart happy because so many of our giveaways are just for photographers, but this one can be for photographers AND our brides (past, present & future!!)
To enter, just leave a comment in the box below saying hi & we are going to announce the winner on Friday! And...GO!!
And do we have just the thing to kick this week off right!! A while back we were contacted by Deanna to see if we would ever consider doing a maternity shoot for her & her husband Matt. She said that she had always wished that she would have been able to have us there with them for their wedding & that this was the next best thing. Now, how am I supposed to say no to THAT! ? :) Normally, we do tend to just focus in exclusively on "couples" with engagement shoots, weddings & anniversary shoots. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that our version of a maternity shoot could be just that: a focus on a couple who happen to be starting a very big, exciting new stage in their lives! And as long as we kept it about that and focused on their interaction and excitement, who they are together & who they are going to be as a family, then it could still fit very much with our style and what we love shooting! So we said yes!
And y'know what...I LOVED it!
I already knew that I loved shooting anniversary sessions because it shows what a love has grown into. And I think you just see that even more when a man is looking at a woman who is about to be the mother of his child. It's a deeper love. An awed love. A love that deserves capturing.
These two are due next month with a baby girl, in the same month when they will also be moving into a new house. So BIG things on the horizon! And it was just such an honor to capture them right now, right here, right before life changes forever for the better.
Deanna & Matt, we had the best time with you guys! We wish you a lifetime of happiness!