Our family trip to Europe.
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  • Day71

    Vienna, Austria

    August 9 in Austria ⋅ ☀️ 25 °C

    Vienna in a quick blink! Our train ran a bit behind, so our arrival was later than expected. We had to hustle to see the sights before things closed.

    We will be back to Austria for longer another time, but for this trip we booked it over to the Schonbrunn Palace to get lost in the garden labrynth mazes. The girls ran ahead of us giggling with such excitement as they ran through the mazes. We also played on the Labyrinth Playground which was super unique. The creativity in designing this playground included a large metal bird you could sit inside, a mirror maze, climbing ropes and more.

    Everything was closing, so we decided to surprise the girls by taking them to do something really American. We ate Burger King and went to the movies! Mabel had fallen asleep in our travel towards the cinema, so we moved slow. That only left us with enough time to feed the kids something quick and close. Once they figured out what was happening, the big girls could not stop smiling. They kept saying "thank you" over and over again. Sweet girls! They giggled so much through the movie and were still so grateful as we walked home. Fun family night!
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    Chris Cameron

    Did the movie have subtitles or was it in English..?

    Blanck Adventures

    fully in German

    Blanck Adventures

    No subtitles

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  • Day70

    Brno, Czech

    August 8 in Czech Republic ⋅ ⛅ 20 °C

    We traveled under two hours by train and the girls had lots of dance moves before we hopped on. They seemed to have slept well and awakened with lots of energy. Easy travel day!

    We stayed in the coolest place! This was a spot that did not list parking, so we likely would have missed this option online if we were not traveling by train. The windows were a gorgeous historic type window which opened fully with no screens and were kippable. Adding windows that kip to my list of hopes for our "forever" home. The apartment was on a corner with multiple windows that overlooked the cities stone streets and baroque architecture. We could people watch and enjoy the cool breeze from our little apartment near the center of town. Yes, a cool breeze in August. Wow!

    We strolled to the center of town to check out the city. In the heart of the square flowed the Parnas Fountain surrounded by a farmer's market, along with an ice cream stand. The girls enjoyed a lovely strawberry sorbet. We stumbled upon another fountain that just begged the girls to get in, only it was very slippery. They played on the stairway fountain for at least an hour. Addy slipped a couple times, but no real injury. I did see several adults try it and nearly bust it. They were such sweet girls and took good care of each other. I was nervous the entire time. They kept holding hands and going down together. The bigs also went one in front and one behind, so they could catch Mabel if she tumbled. So sweet! I just love these girls. Next, the girls raced leaves down the flowing staircase to see which one could win.

    The girls ended up much more wet than we planned for and Mabel's shorts kept falling off. The falling off posed more of a concern than walking around in undies, so she walked around in her undies.

    Later that evening, Mabel cut her baby toe on her left foot really gnarly. So much skin hanging off and blood gushing that I was concerned about her needing stitches. Luckily, she did not need stitches. We just kept her bandaged up for several days.

    And we are off again...
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  • Day69

    Bratislava, Slovakia

    August 7 in Slovakia ⋅ ⛅ 22 °C

    FYI... The trains going north are getting SO MUCH BETTER! They offer more spacious seating, tables, so clean, assigned seats, schedules online, first class options, good bathrooms, air conditioning, food and coffee options too.

    I grew up knowing Slovakia and Czech Republic as Czechoslovakia. Well, evidently in 1993 those countries became independent of each other, so we are squeezing in two countries instead of one.

    We visited Bratislava, the capitol of Slovakia, for a day. It was a slower paced stop which was welcomed after our busy time in Budapest. More often than not, we hear songs from America and this stop had lots of things written in English. Even most clothing across the countries has English words on them. Seth and I often talk about how we feel the people we encounter, despite the language, could easily have come from Rockwall. Traveling seems to reminded you that all walks are life, places and people are many similarities. We hit a lovely coffee shop for cake and cappuccinos. Then we were off to play at the park before checkin. The fast trains and short routes don't give us enough time between checkout and check in. Luckily we have learned that most places have bag storage and train stations have baggage lockers. Otherwise we would be carrying our bags around while visiting the city and waiting in check in time.

    Demi climbed and found bundles of "ripe helicopter seeds" (sycamore seeds) for Seth to twist and fly in the wind. Mabel and Adalynn played monkeys and beautified their pretend zoo (monkey bars) with berries and leaves. Mabel tried her best to make it across the balance beam and eventually she did after many tries. She also tried to terrify me by hanging upside down everywhere she could like her big sisters. She was successful, but I was nervous the entire time. We have really enjoyed experiencing all the different playgrounds. The parks in Europe are much like well kept playgrounds of the 80s. They seem less concerned about kids getting hurt and more focused on kids exploring.

    We played hide and seek with the girls among the many large planters around the Glassslkovich Presidential Palace, walked to old town and climbed the many stairs to the Bratislava Castle. At the top, we found a prickly fruit of sorts (says likely poisonous to mammals), a great park and a lovely view of the "UFO Bridge" or Bridge of the Slovak National Uprising. At the top, while looking into the distance, Mabel stated, "that is another country." We checked the map and she was right, Austria was that close.

    Our apartment was just awesome and we could not have asked for better weather. I really like these apartments that look straight off of the IKEA floor. We had all the giant windows kipped and balcony doors wide open allowing the lovely 60 degree breeze to blow through. The view from our place overlooked a lush green space with a park far in the distance. This apartment had an extra room, but all the girls still liked sleeping on the sofa bed together. Seth has found some great spots!

    One day of exploration and now to Czech out another country!
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    Mark Blanck

    best picture!

    Mark Blanck

    gets me to smiling!

    Mark Blanck

    Jungle!

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  • Day67

    Budapest, Hungary

    August 5 in Hungary ⋅ 🌙 27 °C

    Budapest will forever be known as "The City of Statues" to our girls. We could have explored for days. Statues were everywhere! We captured over thirty on camera. George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan were among some of the statues we took pictures of in Liberty Square. We had the most fun hunting down the tiny statues in the city (and watching the girls play in the fountains). We sought out whichever ones were closest for the six little legs we had with us. I believe there are over twenty tiny statues throughout Budapest.

    1) Tivardar Herzl - He was a Jewish Austrian-Hungarian writer and political activist who was born near the Dohany Street Synagogue.

    Near this first statue their is the Dohany Synagogue where many Hungarian Jews were executed and are now memorialized in the courtyard. In the center of the Synagogue, there is a beautifully crafted metal willow tree. Each leaf on the tree has been engraved with a name of a fallen Jew.

    At the edge of the Danube River, there are more statues reminding us of other Jews who lost their lives during WW2 in Hungary. Here Hungarian Jews were forced to remove all their belongings, including their shoes before they were executed. Statues of shoes in all shapes and sizes, including children's line the edge of the river. I cannot even begin to imagine. We just briefly explained this piece of history to the girls. This was their first exposure to it.

    2) Diver - We called him "Luca" from the new Disney sea monster movie, but this diver holds the keys to the New York Cafe (clsims to be the best in the world) to support the legend of the owner throwing the keys into the Danube River nearby in hopes it would never close it's doors.

    3) Rezso Seress - This statue is to honor a Hungarian WW2 labour camp survivor who worked at a bar and wrote music in Budapest.

    4) Hanna Szenes - This statue was created to honor Hanna for her amazing heroism. Despite her safety in Britain, she volunteered to parachute into the former Yugoslavian territory to disrupt the Nazi invasion however she could.

    5) 14 Carat Roadster - This was created to honor another Jewish resident who wrote fantasy stories with this Roadster being among one of his famous tales.

    6) Noah's Ark - This one is special because Demi really wanted to find this one. We found it near sunset beside a playground with just enough light that when we looked through the doorway, the seven windows on the other side revealed the colors of the rainbow. Addy knew right away "They made a rainbow because of God's promise!"

    Addy joked later that finding the statues was a "little" hard. She said, "Get it mom a LITTLE hard?" Silly girl.

    This city is full of history, culture, tasty food and of course lots and lots of statues. We ate the famous Chimney Cake and loved it! I recommend trying one! Addy also found another cinnamon roll, but squishier than the last one. We then had this incredible dinner at Antré with a deep green salad (greens that I've never had before), curry rice noodles with cauliflower, creamy mushroom soup, gourmet burger, Belgium style fries and some kid food. This was my favorite dinner we have had our entire trip. Yum! I went back and ordered the salad again the next day!

    Addy road her shortest and longest escalator in her life in the same day here. The shortest was about five steps deep up into H&M in the city center. Her longest was the escalators down to the subway (second oldest in the world), which was nearly ten stories deep and very, very steep. Originally crafted this way to be a bomb shelter.

    Fun that we encountered extra kind Canadians when we arrived and when we left. On the way in we met a kind Canadian girl who helped us on the tram as we struggled to figure out how to punch our tickets. On the way out, we sat with a lovely Canadian couple who enjoyed our girls giggling as they played cards on the train. Such a fun trip. We will definitely be visiting this city again!
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  • Day65

    Goodbye Stari Jasen

    August 3 in Croatia ⋅ ☀️ 31 °C

    Goodbye Stari Jasen!

    We stopped one more time at the tiny house in Croatia, because this city is a big train hub. It was so nice to be able to call up Stari Jasen and be somewhere familiar after our previous stay was double booked. There is just some comfort about being somewhere you know and having a washer for our dirty clothes!

    Adalynn lost her lost tooth (literally misplaced the one that fell out in Italy) while here last time and they saved it just in case we came back through . She was thrilled. Too kind!

    They also had a kitten arrive and decide to call Stari Jasen it's home. The girls so enjoyed playing with and snuggling this kitten.

    They also enjoyed playing with the owner's two sons. They played catch, tag, road bikes and wrestled. Wrestling with those boys was Mabel's favorite part.

    Lots of tears leaving this time, because they felt they really made friends, it felt familiar to come back to a place we spent two weeks before and they wanted to keep that kitten. One day we will need to get these loving girls a cuddly pet.

    We dropped off the car, walked to the bus stop, road the bus thirty minutes then waited for our train to arrive. While we waited Seth found the first cinnamon roll type treat since Addy's birthday, so they obviously got to enjoy a pastry.

    We opted to sit by a fountain and have cappuccinos while we waited on the train. The girls were playing horses, neighing and running around the fountain. The girls were carrying these unusual tiny round mints we got in Germany. They were strong mints like Altoids, but came in a clear tube with liquid that kinda popped when you sucked on it. Well, somehow Mabel squirted one of these tiny mints into Adalynn's eye. Oh my goodness, what a scream! I cannot imagine the pain! Poor girl. And Mabel felt so bad.

    We made it on to the train and we were off!

    After about a month with a car and a month of trains, I would say they are both good ways to see Europe. Cars are great for seeing more green spaces, smaller cities and things away from the city. If you want to see the major cities and touristy things, the trains are nice (just maybe avoid the Balkan region trains if you like clean bathrooms, AC and organization of some kind.)
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    Mark Blanck

    oh, no!. mint juice in the eye! what a painful experience for both girls!

    Mark Blanck

    I laughed when I read, ..."if you like clean bathrooms, AC and organization of any kind."

    Mark Blanck

    Beautiful, happy travellers!

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  • Day65

    Slavonski Brod, Croatia

    August 3 in Croatia ⋅ ☀️ 31 °C

    Just kidding... We couldn't figure out how to pay for parking to go to a restaurant for lunch, we couldn't find a public restroom and our hotel was double booked.
    On to the next city.

    Mark Blanck

    ...probably not so funny at the time!

    Mark Blanck

    great picture of the girls!

     
  • Day64

    Sremska Mitrovica, Serbia

    August 2 in Serbia ⋅ ☀️ 29 °C

    This is our last stop in Serbia and it's a quick one with so many giggles. We walked through the town and found a river with a man-made beach. It had several playgrounds to try out and tasty food. Addy loved the corn on the cob. As we walked home, we noticed a building with old Roman ruins in it. It was closed, but they had big windows so we could see parts of the Imperial Palace of Sirminium. It was discovered in the 1950's, but dated back to at least 294 A.D. when it served as one of four capitals of the Roman Empire.

    Most hotels we stay in the girls build a tent or make a cave. They made a great one at this stop with Seth's help, so I had to take a picture to share. It took up over half the room and utilized over ten hairbands. It is the little things that make life more rich. They said that the tent was their favorite part of this stop! Seth also did different braids for each of the girls after showering that night, because they like to wake up with curly hair sometimes. They looked extra cute!

    My favorite part of this stop was all the giggles. They giggled while walking to the river, giggled on the "ice cream go-around", giggled while playing in the tent, and giggled while eating pickles. They had so many giggly break downs where they just fell to the ground. At one point Mabel grabbed a banana, but the tip broke. She exclaimed to the bigs, "I still love it guys." They were in the middle of eating pickles and just lost it giggling to the point of crying. Addy ended up upside down giggling with a piece of pickle in her mouth. That pickle ended up in her nasal cavity and it burned.

    Addy's words of wisdom: "Don't laugh, while eating a pickle upside down."

    I wasn't sure about visiting the southeastern parts of Europe, but I am so glad we did. We are headed north now and will be back to using trains in a couple days. That means we will need to lighten our packs and get our walking shoes ready. Back to backpacking!
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    Mark Blanck

    Beautiful! Who braided it?

    Blanck Adventures

    Seth

    Mark Blanck

    That has to be your work, Lacy. very nice! I'm wrong, aren't I!

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  • Day63

    Belgrade, Serbia

    August 1 in Serbia ⋅ ⛅ 33 °C

    We made it to the capital of Serbia (not Siberia - I have to keep reminding myself that). The kids had a rough car ride this go around, which means our grown up energy was lower than usual. The normal kid things, "she looked at me" or " she's touching me" kind of things. Everyone was ready to get out of the car. We decided to take them to a park, feed them and the venture to the zoo before checking into our hotel.

    The girls decided they would nickname this zoo either "The Zoo of White Animals" or "The Wolf Zoo." This zoo had white lions, white tigers, white wolves, fancy white birds and white swans. Dozens of large artic wolves were spread throughout the zoo. One of them even had a baby and it was so cute! The girls were surprised to find a momma kangaroo with a little baby joey just chilling in her pouch. It was so adorable. Something a bit less cute, but still memorable was watching a hippo splatter poop all over the wall. My favorite animal, the peacock, just roamed as they pleased throughout the zoo grounds. And once we were caught off guard by a beautiful rooster hanging out behind a bush. We also saw a full grown bermise python, which reminded me how glad I am that Seth did not keep his snakes I bought him years ago. Too big for me!

    The zoo was built within old fortress walls, so you could see this cool fortress while touring the zoo. Along one of the fortress walls there was a stone ramp with ponies. One of the ponies just trotted right up to the girls and nuzzled Addy through the cage. Pretty fun! It made for a unique layout for sure. It also offered a cafe (with actual good coffee) and ice cream around every turn. They were strategic about some of these and placed one near the petting zoo and playground, so parents could relax. We definitely took advantage of this. Lastly, we hit the park. We had to pull them away for check-in, but it was fun while it lasted.

    This zoo made them miss their NC cousins, because it had some of Ada and Mae's favorite animals! We love and miss those girls!

    We ended our day with a second ice cream (made from unicorn rainbow milk) and a real burger with a bun! We have not seen a burger with a bun in quite sometime, because here a burger is just the meat usually.

    Everyone went to bed surprisingly early, despite their second ice cream. Tomorrow we are off yet again to see another piece of Serbia.
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    Mark Blanck

    wait... That's not a tree!

    Mark Blanck

    Serbian tree

    Mark Blanck

    Cover Girl

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  • Day62

    Zlatibor, Serbia

    July 31 in Serbia ⋅ ⛅ 18 °C

    T E N countries and T W O months into this adventure!

    Driving down the mountain in Montenegro was even more interesting than going up. Seth tried to find a path through (remember we are off the map) instead of going back six kilometers away from the border. We ran out of pavement and continue on a gravel road of switchbacks. Once the gravel ran out, it was a narrower dirt road. We came to a muddy section from the previous night's storm and decided that was the end. Now to travel back the almost eight kilometers. First he had to back up about 500 meters to get to a switchback wide enough to turn around. While he backed down the hill on this narrow road lined with trees and ditches, Addy closed her eyes nervously. He eventually found a place to turn around and we made it down without incident.

    As we left Montenegro and entered Serbia, we saw many stray dogs roaming around. I believe at the border alone, we saw eight. Most homes we passed in smaller towns or in the country looked seemingly unfit to live in and potentially dangerous, but they seemed to get by. We saw people toting empty jugs and buckets to fill at water spickets everywhere we went. I am not sure if the source is a lovely, magical spring or if possibly their homes are not fully plumbed. We have read the tap water is drinkable, but who knows. Maybe we will test this information.

    We drove passed a few large fallen rocks and many more small ones that would really have been a bummer if they hit us. We managed to brave the mountainous highways of Serbia unscathed. Due to the mountains, we trekked through lots and lots of tunnels. I mean a lot! No matter what was happening in the car at the moment we met a tunnel, everyone would take a deep breath and hold it until the end or as far as we could. These tunnels were quite possibly the only time we heard silence the entire trip, so far. Funny, but true! Mabel often somehow "held her breath" through every tunnel beating us all. She would declare she made it with great pride. She was keeping her cheeks puffed up and completely silent, pretty stinkin' cute!

    We entered into Zlatibor Hills area, which is a ski town. Wow! This town was a stark difference from the communities we just drove through.

    This place was very nice, clean and surrounded by fields, forests, hiking paths and a few cows. The weather was drastically cooler and all our ladies needed their sweaters. We meandered around town, ate some treats, rode some random fair rides, and hiked through the woods.

    We let the girls each choose a treat as we walked through the city. Demi was considering something called a Bubble Waffle. This was a waffle that looked as if it was baked in one of those kid's Pop It toys rolled up with ice cream and cookies inside. It looked delicious, but she still wanted to look around before ordering. After looking at all the options, we returned to get this unique tasy treat, but they were closed!!! We waited and waited just in case they were just on a break. Seth told her jokingly that often the trick is: go buy another treat from a different place, once you can no longer have the thing you really want, then it will magically be open again and you can't get it. We finally gave up after about 20 minutes. They walked to get another treat at the opposite end. They had us wait and watch Bubble Waffle, just in case it opened. It DID! Addy ran to tell them and caught them just before ordering from the other place! Demi got her special treat after all and Seth was right! Ha ha!

    The fields and woods were just so peaceful and offered options for hiking just steps away from our apartment. The girls had so much fun exploring. Mabel road a "horse" named Appoloosa, as shown in the pictures. She has said on several occasions, when pretending to be a horse, that she wished that Appoloosa was her real name. Then she changed her horse into a fighting stick to face the wolves. She said, "Mom, if a wolf comes, I am gonna fight them, but only the means ones."
    She is hilarious.

    Addy knew I wanted to capture some photos near the woods and was adorable taking initiative to help me by posing readily for me.

    Demi and Seth raced ahead of us deeper into the woods. "Appoloosa" did not want to run and had to drink some water, so we moved slothfully. Demi gathered pine cones. Demi decided to spell out DeMille and Dad on the forest floor. She adores her Daddy.

    I think we all could have stayed a little longer in Zlatibor Hills with the lovely location, great apartment, perfect weather and gorgeous woods around us, BUT we were off to see more of Serbia!

    Oh ya, I forgot... This is the first country where someone got the Princess Bride movie reference on Seth's shirt. "My name is Inigi Montoya. You killed my father, prepare to die!" Several people have commented on it, but not gotten it. This girl must be cool too, because she feels that all people should watch that movie and we agree.

    P.S. - I keep having to correct myself, because my brain wants to say Siberia.
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  • Day58

    Montenegro

    July 27 in Montenegro ⋅ ☀️ 30 °C

    What a whirlwind! We hit three cities in five days in the country of Montenegro, but the highlight was most definitely Dobra Voda.

    We crossed yet another border! This time we got through in less than half the time, about an hour and a half. We stayed somewhere one night just inside Montenegro and honestly it was a blur, because we were anticipating our next destination with two pools that some Germans passing through Croatia recommended. I do remember it was scorching hot and the girls pet a kitten.

    We arrived at the place with two pools called Apartment Spa & Beganovic and it was even cooler than expected! This was the first time all summer the girls have gotten to swim in a pool. The girls swam morning, noon and night! My favorite was the salt water rooftop pool with a view of the Adriatic Sea. The night time swimming added an extra layer of fun! It was a little chilly at night, so Seth would take the bigs into the sauna to warm them up. There were lots of pool shenanigans happening such as - racing, diving, coin finding, girls being thrown, and balancing on Seth cheerleader style. Mabel practiced floating on her back, blowing bubbles and putting her face under water. Fun, fun and more fun!

    The grounds were just gorgeous too! All apartments were made from this beautiful stone. In the center, they kept a large garden with fruit trees we were encouraged to eat from, and they even had a play area for kids. In addition to that, they kept sheep, ducks and chickens on the premises. They utilized their garden and farm animals to make fresh meals for guests daily. Pretty cool place! FYI... In this country if you order a salad, you most likely will be brought a plate of very fresh sliced cucumber, sliced tomatoes, sliced peppers and mild sauerkraut. Yummy, just not what this American expected.

    While at the hotel in Dobra Voda, I had conversations with a girl who worked there. She spoke of her hopes of going to America. She said it is very difficult to get a visa. You can make roughly the equivalent income of one month's pay in Montenegro in just 5 days in America. It made me think about how grateful we should be to live with such privilege at our finger tips. We too often take these opportunities to achieve and succeed for granted.

    Our last night there, we ate dinner with two families from Germany that we met while in Croatia. The same ones that recommended the hotel. It was extra special, because they have six kids for our girls to play with! After a late night with new friends and great food, we headed home to pack for our trip closer to the border.

    We stopped up in the mountains for one more Montenegro stay, so we would be prepared for the unknown length of time at the border crossing. Little did we know, this resort was high in the mountains, five kilometers further up the mountain than the map showed. Seth drove on a ridiculously narrow single lane road that zigged and zagged back and forth continually. Not to mention, he had to dodge cars that raced too quickly around corners. It was an adventurous drive without a map to guide us or a signal to look it up. We eventually found our way.

    The mountain weather brought rain and cooler weather. We lucked out and got there just in time to enjoy watching the dark clouds roll over the mountain. As we settled in to our room, the rain began to pour. God was kind to us with that perfect timing. We were also blessed by this place having an indoor and outdoor pool. Since it was raining, thundering and chilly, the girls just swam inside.

    See ya later, Montenegro!
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    Mark Blanck

    Everybody is smiling!

    Mark Blanck

    Your daughter's are just BEAUTIFUL!

    Mark Blanck

    This is, once again, an exceptional photo!

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