old things, new things

it's been a long time since I've blogged after dark. [it's been a long time since I've blogged, period.] back in a past life, I used to sit in my home office late at night and type away with a cat in my lap while Husband was making lesson plans. or sometimes I'd be on the couch with the computer in my lap and Husband asleep watching food network. and even, on occasion, I blogged with both a cat and a computer in my lap.

now my lap is empty. and I'm in my new office, half a world and five years away.

you see, I gave myself permission to create a writing office. I took the smallest nook in our apartment and added a tiny desk and a comfy chair and an extension cord. I even made it official with a planter of succulents. a third of them have died already, so I rearranged and made room for -- of all the things to stick in a planter -- a tiny sleeping charmander.

it's been a long time since I've picked up my camera. four months. and even longer since I've staged an awkward self-photo shoot. [I say awkward not because the photos are awkward, though sometimes they are. I say awkward because I still feel awkward doing it. which probably means I should do it more often, so that it feels less awkward.]

but today I did. I got out my tripod and poured a cup of coffee. not into my most photogenic mug, but into my weirdly adorable Din Tai Fung space dumplings mug. I shot photos and then changed back into stretchy pants and started typing.

the past few months have been rough. [I know, 2016 right?] but I also mean it's been rough for me, personally.

on top of spending a huge amount of time and effort trying to feed myself [a gluten, dairy, egg, nut, shellfish, olive, avocado, pineapple free diet] I wound up with an intestinal bacterial infection last August. it took three months to figure out that it was c. diff. and almost another three months later my system is still dealing with the effects.

to be honest, it's been pretty awful. and it's still not fun. but rather than drag on about this and other misfortunes that have overshadowed the last year... we're moving on.

because there have been some positive things happening lately.

I started writing a novel.

actually writing a novel. about a badass female scientist who is accidentally turned into a vampire. there's blood and romance, mystery and weird science. I'm not comfortable sharing too much of the plot yet, but I've written 22,000 words of it.

I've read both contemporary and historical vampire literature. I've watched online lectures by authors, joined webinars, and poured through writing websites. I've brainstormed and outlined and plotted and covered an entire wall with post-it notes. I've done research and asked google some really strange medical questions. and of course, I've written.

it's been both incredibly challenging and extremely fulfilling.

I am scared and excited and doing my best to just keep writing.

blogging is such a strange thing. the past few months I spent a lot of time thinking about if and when I would do it again, and what would I say? I wrote a dozen posts that were never quite right enough to publish, but I couldn't figure out why. and then the longer I didn't blog, the more it seemed to matter. until I thought maybe I just wouldn't blog again ever.

but today I wanted to blog.

so I decided to just write whatever came to mind. old things, new things. strange things. and this is where we have ended up, for better or worse. I believe this is the place where I write the conclusion and we say goodbye. [but that might just be because I'm hungry.]

like I said, it's been a long time since I've blogged after dark.

until next time, friends. xo.


a perfectly serendipitous visit to Vienna

we arrived in Vienna after a long 23 days of travel, having not even intended to go to there at all. we were physically and emotionally exhausted. had no idea what the city had to offer. made no real plans. and ended up disembarking at the wrong train station, across the city from our hotel instead of within walking distance.

let me back up: a few weeks prior, while we were still in Turkey, the Istanbul airport bombing happened. we changed our itinerary to leave from Vienna after visiting Prague. I still have mixed feelings about this, but instead of going back to Istanbul we ended up with two days in Austria before departing for Taiwan. we settled on Vienna completely at random - only because it was the closest airport our airline used.

our time in Vienna turned out to be a very serendipitous thing.

not knowing anything other than "hey there's some museums in this area" Husband picked us out a nice hotel. really nice. with a breakfast spread that rivaled those we ate in Turkey, a quirky atmosphere, and the most awesome entryway wall mural. ever. Hotel Altstadt, you win. I'm trying not to develop an obsession with boutique hotels because they tend to be expensive, but staying in this place was a bit like sleeping in a modern art museum. which was really awesome. and kindof fit right in with the rest of our Vienna visit.

our stay went mostly like this: wander a random museum for a few hours until we get hungry or tired, stop for a glass of wine and some sausages or sachertorte. rinse and repeat.

we ended up seeing such a weird medley of things - just deciding "hey this looks interesting" and popping into a museum to explore. but I got to nerd out over Egyptian sarcophagi and scarab painted ceilings, snap photos of really cool murals, ogle dinosaur bones, and drink many many glasses of delicious wine. I don't think it's coincidence that in German, Vienna is Wien and wine is wein. by the transitive property: you must drink wein when in Wien.

there was actually a lot of synchronicity to what we saw. in some ways, I think it was fate that we ended up in Vienna. while we were in Turkey we visited Ephesus, where a large portion of excavations and restorations were being managed by the Austrians. it was the day after the bombing and I felt like I didn't really absorb much of what we saw. but in Vienna we saw an entire floor of a museum dedicated to Ephesus, and filled with statues removed from the actual site. it was almost like getting to go back for a second visit.

[sadly, the Turkish government shut down Austria's operations in Ephesus last month. this isn't the first time tensions have run high between these countries - at several points in history the Ottomans laid siege to Vienna. let's hope it doesn't come to that again.]

the connection with our time in the Czech Republic was even more obvious. without going too deep into history - Prague and Vienna have many ties through the Hapsburgs and the Holy Roman Empire. both cities spent time as the imperial seat, and while visiting the Imperial Treasury we saw crowns and royal robes from both periods of time [many boasting the Bohemian lion.] architecturally and decoratively the similarities between these cities were easy to spot. I guess that's what happens when you're all under the same rulers for three or four hundred years.

even though we didn't really plan, these coincidences just kept popping up during our time in Vienna. call it serendipity, synchronicity, or fate - it felt like we were closing the circle on our summer travels.

here's the list of recommendations I have for Vienna, based on our limited experience:
Hotel Altstadt // fun, funky, and walking distance to everything we saw and ate
Kunsthistorisches Museum // Egyptian antiquities [my favorite] plus Greeks, Romans, and paintings
The Neue Burg // Ephesos Museum, musical instruments, arms and armour
Natural History Museum // dinosaur bones! and a very impressive geological specimen collection
The Imperial Treasury // all the gold and sparkly things [along with imperial history]
Spanish Riding School // we stopped in the gift shop for Luke's equestrian-loving sisters
Cafe Bellaria // sachertorte and sausages since 1870
Gasthaus Sapa // seriously delicious Vietnamese. in Vienna. [don't question it]
TIAN Bistro // all vegetarian but you won't miss the meat

certain persons might mock me for missing out on all that Vienna has to offer. we didn't explore the city! you can see museums anywhere! not even once did we take public transit! but we did what we liked and it turned out just fine. I can't say I'm mad or disappointed with how we spent our time. especially because we could have missed THIS magical moment:

yes, those are two dudes wearing horse masks while playing accordions.

I think a lot of us travelers can become obsessed [ahem, myself] with planning out the details of our trip. sometimes "wasting your time" by wandering and stopping where things seem interesting is just the pace you need. while I'm still not thrilled about the reason we ended up in Vienna in the first place, it turned out to be the perfect city to spend a few days at the end of our travels.

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now it's your turn! this month I'm co-hosting the Travel Link Up with Emma and Angie and our topic is "a perfect..." you get to decide. just write a post following the prompt below and link up according to the instructions:

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