The Summer Toboggans of Europe

39883826 10160943775965533 1567649748641382400 n

Throughout much of Central and Northern Europe you can find “primitive” roller coasters called Toboggans. If homemade boxcars, sleds and the metal slides of our childhood made a baby, that is a toboggan. Toboggan runs have been around for hundreds of years and are now dotted throughout Europe for all weather and adventure levels.

Where to find a Toboggan to Ride

Toboggan rides are incredible experiences, being such, you would think they’d be well advertised. They are not. The image above is the longest summer toboggan in Europe. This particular track is well advertised on travel sites and blogs because it is the biggest of its kind. Mount Pilatus in Switzerland (near Lucerne) is home to Europe’s longest summer toboggan. Yes, that means there is a longer winter one. The Alpine mountain range gives life to the majority of the European toboggans and the Swiss Alps definitely give lots of life to this one. BUT, if you aren’t actively searching online you will find zero leads on where to go.

Spur of the moment stops most of the toboggans that we were able to enjoy were random roadside stops when we saw a business advertising their ride. These were not billboard style signs 50 miles in advance. At one stop we actually drove past it on our way to Vienna and saw the track running up the mountain behind the store and proceeded to turn around. You will have to be on the look out to find and enjoy any of the smaller (less famous) toboggans.

39906063 10160943775050533 4053080548980031488 n

Toboggan Riding with Kids

I hear this regularly, “weren’t the kids terrified?!?!?” The answer is OCCASSIONALLY! Toboggans are generally geared towards older speed demons. You control your speed and most adrenaline junkies want to go fast. With that being said, controlling the toboggan itself is incredibly easy. Our 6 year old had no issues riding it alone. To my surprise, there were not any age restrictions. If the child appeared to be old enough to control the sled, which is just a simple stick, then they could ride alone. Wow. I was shocked and our children were shocked to discover this immense amount of trust instilled in them by the operators! Especially so, given that there were signs everywhere (caution, brake, begin to slow, sharp turn) and my children couldn’t read at the time. Yikes.

The glorious part about the toboggan’s design is that when you get nervous you tense up and naturally pull back on the stick. By pulling back on the stick you brake. So if a child is scared and beginning to panic they will slow themselves down rather quickly. Another concerned parent might say “my kid will never climb the mountain to get the sled back up.” Nor should they. At the bottom of the mountain they hop off of the conveyer belt and get on another that pulls them and their sled back up the mountain. . .backwards. This portion of the ride takes the most amount of time as it moves very slowly.

Toboggan Costs

The toboggan rides were fairly affordable by European standards. I do feel, that most Americans would find it expensive given the access we all seem to have to amusement parks. The summer toboggan of Mount Pilatus was approximately $9 USD per adult and $5.50 USD per child. At that time, ages three and under were free. Therefore, the cost was quite affordable. If you can talk yourself out of doing it over and over again, but fair warning, you will want to. The toboggan at Mount Pilatus is a bit more expensive than some of the more rural (off the beaten path) toboggans. For the random roadside stop toboggans we paid approximately $7 USD per adult and around $4 USD per child. Very affordable, once in a lifetime fun for the whole family.

But. . .There’s So Much Else to See!

You would be correct. There is so much to see throughout Europe that the toboggans come across as an unnecessary. Your agenda is already packed I’m sure. If you truly want a taste of what local living looks like, then a toboggan ride can give you that view. If you want to see the beautiful picturesque countrysides of Europe, then a toboggan ride can you that as well. I have always been a huge proponent of having a slow day to enjoy the atmosphere and view. The view. . .you really should see it. There’s no “bad view” from a toboggan.

39834964 10160943772220533 3939148810512498688 n

Hallstatt, Austria UNESCO World Heritage Site

There is a special place deep in the Austrian Dachstein Mountains, that has been frozen in time. A cultural and architectural time capsule. Hallstatt, Austria was publicly recognized for its beauty and historical importance in 1997 when it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Throughout history, Hallstatt was known for its salt production. It is home to the world’s oldest and longest operating salt mine. The Bronze Age salt mine is still in use today and tours are given daily. Hallstatt is the perfect place to go to delve deeply into Bavarian history and heritage. With over 800,000 visitors every year Hallstatt is making tourism part of their 21st century economy.

Getting to Hallstatt, Austria

Hallstatt is incredibly easy to get to by rental car. If renting a car is not your forte then you can also access Hallstatt by train/ferry and/or bus.

By car, you will find Hallstatt approximately 90 minutes East of Salzburg along the highway to Graz. To reach Hallstatt by train you will connect at Bad Ischl. You will take the train from Bad Ischl to Hallstatt Station where you will get on a ferry and cross the lake. This is a beautiful way to see many of the pristine lakes of the Salzkammergut. If you prefer roadways a public bus is also an option. The bus station sits directly outside of Hallstattt Train Station to return back to Bad Ischl.

There are daily tours available from Salzburg, but I promise, a day is not enough. Book your hotels or airbnbs as far in advance as possible. Because Hallstatt is fairly isolated, you will pay heavily to stay there in the village. Other accommodations are available in surrounding town, but only reachable if you rented a car.

Now days, you can prebook everything from hotels to bus tickets online. This is a circumstance that I would highly recommend doing all of those things in advance.

40215524 10160963241970533 5335788346000015360 n

A Slow Stroll Through Hallstatt

There is no wrong way to spend a day here, but one thing that everyone seems to do, a stroll through the streets. The architecture is astounding. Every turn and alley gives light to something unseen before. A new photo-op. A quiet breathtaking view. A waterfall brimming with glacial water. The magnificent shops and restaurants are worth stopping at. Apple strudel in the square. Creme stuffed pastries by the lake. Let’s not forget about the picturesque swans paddling along the lake’s edge with the Dachstein Mountains as a backdrop. It really doesn’t get any better than Hallstatt, Austria.

If leisure strolls are not your thing (though you should make time for it here); there are numerous other things to do. You can do a food and/or wine tour. Renting paddle boats and kayaks is also a wonderful option to get out on the water. This will also give you a much closer view of the castle Schloss Grub. The castle itself is privately owned and visitors are not allowed on the inside. Although, you can access the grounds via the East side of the lake’s hiking trail.
40284609 10160963242080533 1712272095045484544 n

As mentioned previously, the active salt mines are a wonderful way to spend a day. You can take an amazing tour deep into the mines. There are even internal slides to get from one level to another! There is also a wonderful local museum with 7,000 year old artifacts. You need at least two days to tour Hallstatt to its fullest potential.

Hallstatt and Food

Just go ahead and start saving up your money and fasting now. The FOOD is to die for. The amount of restaurants with views is amazing and there are no bad views. One of my favorite places did not have a water or mountain view at all, but a market or square view. Marktbiesel Zur Ruth is definitely the place to go for that afternoon coffee . . . and Strudel. You will not pick a bad restaurant, it isn’t possible. Follow your nose and stop frequently. If you are traveling with your family, I highly recommend stopping every hour or so and ordering one thing. This way everyone can try it. Most of your group will remain in the “I could eat” phase and you get to try so many more dishes!

40253719 10160963243275533 7840058230108585984 n

Best Time to Visit

There really is no “bad time” to visit the beautiful Hallstatt, Austria. We visited in late August and it was the perfect weather and temperature. I have also heard that if you are a winter sports type person that the winter months can give way to some pretty neat snow covered hikes. There are definitely more tourists during the summer months, but accommodations are fewer during the winter. Plan in advance and be flexible. Hallstatt is one of those places that you just have to see. Put it on your bucket list, bump it to the top and make it happen. Sometimes the greatest adventures and locations are not the easiest to get too. Hallstatt, Austria is one of those places. It will take some strategic planning on your part, but the result is so worth it. Hopefully, I’ve laid some of the foundational work for you. Get out there.

Hiking Samaria Gorge

33745572 10160592355515533 9104865440957464576 n
Beginning the Decent down into the Gorge

Hiking the Samaria Gorge on the island of Crete, Greece will go down in infamy as one of the crazier things I have asked my children to do. Until further notice, it will also be one of the most physically challenging things I have ever accomplished aside from childbirth. I am going to tell you this story in the hopes that you are inspired to push the comfort zone of your family and take your adventures to the next level.

Preparing to Hike the Samaria Gorge

The Samaria Gorge, is one of the more challenging Gorge hikes in all of Europe due to many factors. The length of the Gorge (16km) which is 10.3 miles. The accessibility of the Gorge. And the weather, plays a huge factor in your hiking experience. all of the traveling to get to the Gorge may be for not as it is closed frequently due to weather.

It may be of no surprise to many of you, that I took very few preparations. . . My children and I had been walking everywhere for over two months. We were well conditioned in that sense, but we had done no “formal” hiking training. Because the kids and I had been living in Greece a natural adaptation to your environment occurs.

Greece is rough terrain all the way around. Nothing about Greece is easily accessible. Because of that reason alone, millenia’s worth of Greeks have built their homes, temples, churches and villages into the rocks and mountains. You get used to it, but luckily we had experienced this for a couple of months before the Gorge hike.

I also planned our Gorge hike around my mother’s visit. She has always wanted to hike it as well and a second set of adult hands was the best preparation I could give myself.

33967235 10160592359210533 7990771398484164608 n

Things Needed to Improve your Experience

  • Ankle supporting hiking boots. The only shoes that we had at the time were Keen brand sandals that did not support our ankles at all. That is by far the part of me that hurt the worst in the days after.
  • Pack Food. There are almost zero resources within the Samaria Gorge National Park. There are no food or drink vendors until the very end. Once you’ve actually left the Gorge and you begin the 2km walk to the closest town.
  • Time Management. Plan on the hike taking you 7 to 9 hours to complete. This is especially important if you are planning on catching the evening ferry leaving Agia Roumeli.

The Logistics of the Samaria Gorge

After having experienced it first hand, the getting there and back aspect of the hike is the most challenging part. The Samaria Gorge National Park, begins in the tiny village of Omalos which is most easily accessed by public bus. The bus leaves the Chania bus station at 7am and that is the only bus heading to Omalos daily. With this restrictive schedule the absolute earliest you could begin your hike is at 9am.

Because the Samaria Gorge is nestled deep in the White Mountain Range it creates its own lovely weather (insert sarcasm). It rains there a lot. Many tourists attempt to hike the Samaria Gorge and make it to the entrance to find that it has been closed for the day due to weather. This is how we began our hike.

33822470 10160591698755533 5989511209156608000 o

We were lucky, in that the park only delayed its opening that day. We were able to begin hiking shortly before 10am. Because I was hiking with small children the delayed start posed other concerns. The Samaria Gorge ends in a very small village called Agia Roumeli. Agia Roumeli is only accessible via the gorge and by boat. There are no feasible roads leading to it. Therefore, if you cannot complete the hike by 5pm you will miss your one and only chance to leave Agia Roumeli for the night. Which is on the 5:30pm ferry.

There are numerous hotels that you can book if you book early in the hiking season (May 1 to October). You pay heftily for these hotels as they are well aware that you have no other options. Given that the bulk of my party’s members were under the age of 5, I got a hotel room in advance.

The gorge spits you out at the Libyan Sea and it is absolutely stunning.

33995685 10160596263695533 8893427323416608768 n

Leaving the Gorge

When you complete the Gorge, or get rescued by a Donkey, you eventually make your way to the ferry. The ferry is packed to standing room only with people. That ferry takes you to a parking lot where you catch your 6pm bus that takes you back to Chania. I highly recommend staying the night in Agia Roumeli. Enjoy the small population of people (200) that live there year round. The beautiful, but cold, Libyan Sea is an amazing added bonus.

The Samaria Gorge Hike Worth It

I tend to live by the mentality that there are few things in life, when done with conviction, that are not worth it. It was AMAZING. My children surpassed my expectations entirely. They didn’t just surpass them, they astounded me. On at least three occasions someone fell and bled. There was an obvious need to constantly push everyone to eat quickly. To take a fast break, so as not to get rescued out of the Gorge when the 5pm close of the park expired.

The moment that we walked out of the Gorge into the Libyan Sea will be remembered forever. My barely four year old became the youngest person to ever complete the Samaria Gorge hike. I did it, with an 18 month old strapped to my back. It was so worth it! Within 24 hours of our journey down the Gorge, our four-year-old asked to do it again. There are no plans to do it again any time soon. Someday I would like to do it again and do it even better. Get out there, your children will surprise you and best of all, you will surprise yourself.

33766449 10160592371240533 4784556665384992768 n

When Travel is Torture: Adjusting your Expectations and Comfort Levels

We flew out of Baltimore on a 7 pm flight to Reykjavik, Iceland. Final destination Amsterdam, Netherlands. I deliberately planned this flight as a sleeping overnight flight. By leaving at bedtime I thought for sure that my children would sleep and wake up magically refreshed in Amsterdam…I know you can see where this is going. The children did sleep three of the five hours of the first flight, but when they woke up to enter the Schengen security in Iceland they did not go back to sleep on the second flight. Instead, they spent four hours making best buddies with an Icelandic farmer who had pictures of her ponies.

At this point, you are probably wondering what I did, but the answer is nothing. Gauging what is within my control versus what definitely is not is one of the most challenging parts of traveling. When we landed in Amsterdam I had some very irritable children that were then struck in the face with fierce cold and a very long wait for our bags. The result is the photo below, my oldest son falling asleep with his pack on next to the baggage carousel.

When Travel is torture: adjusting your expectation and comfort levels

Adjusting Your Expectations

As Americans, we tend to look at Europe with eyes studded in gemstones. Everything about Europe seems glamorous because “only the wealthy can afford to go.” Europe is not as glamorous as we believe it to be. Actually, most Europeans are prone to believing the same about America because as Americans we live in a land of convenience. Most of Europe is without the conveniences that most Americans take for granted. Also, many Europeans do not think twice about what they are missing because it is the way it has always been. They have always been without certain amenities and therefore don’t need them.

As an American coming from a home that has things like a microwave, dishwasher, and dryer there was a learning curb for me on how to run a house well without those things. I was humbled and empowered, but FIRST I was made very uncomfortable. I had to find extra time in my day for things like hanging laundry. When a child was hungry after the meal had been cleared away, I had to re-dirty dishes in order to heat leftovers back up on the stove top. It was not easy if anything it was frustrating.

How My Comfort Levels Changed

Now, I find myself hand washing dishes because it’s the natural next step. I find myself wishing for sunny clothesline weather. There is an adjustment period when you travel. It is very possible to find places that accommodate those standards, but it is not the norm and definitely not an authentic European experience. You will also pay heavily for amenities like that.

Instead, I challenge you to make cost-effective plans that allow for a lot of learning. It will give you a plethora of stories to tell. Some of those stories are really funny now that I have amenities at my disposal again, but mostly I now miss the simplicity that is spending extra time caring for your things. It sounds silly, but you appreciate your belongings more when you spend that additional time caring for them.

Adjusting Comfort Levels

We finally made it to Denmark via train and then had two bus connections before we were dropped off at the beginning of a road leading through farming fields in a blizzard.

When Travel is torture: adjusting your expectations and comfort levels

In this photo, you cannot see the snow blowing sideways. You cannot see the child in front of me crying nor can you hear my elderly grandmother cursing my name. There’s also a child on my back and one following me crying about his gloves not fitting right.

We are walking to house number 71, the first residence we come across on this road is number 4. . . This is the type of situation that I spent months researching trying to avoid. This photo was one of the scarier days. This was early on in my Euro trip and there was no food at our destination so I had to turn around in the cold and hike back to the nearest market in the snow.

It Doesn’t Always Go According to Your Plan

Sometimes, despite your researching efforts, the dots don’t connect perfectly. I was told the bus would take us right down the road from the hostel. It did not. I was told the weather would be a low of 54 degrees. It wasn’t. There were no taxis, no uber, no help to be found so we did the only thing we could and we walked. We were wet, cold, highly uncomfortable in a country where we didn’t even know the word for “hi.”

It all worked out, but that day I definitely had to do a few things that I never want to do again in the name of adjusting my expectations and comfort levels. Now, I can laugh hysterically at the entire experience, but only because we survived. This particular experience would begin the conditioning that I needed to withstand many uncomfortable situations in the months to come.

When Travel is Torture you Adjust and Overcome

As cliche as it sounds, there are very few things in this life that come easily and without discomfort. I am confident that many of you have done something that really really sucked in the name of getting the job done. Traveling is ALWAYS worth it, but if you are anything like me, you need to cut costs where you can. I could have rented a car. I could have hired a car and driver. I could have taken a $60 taxi, but I didn’t. Instead, I  mapped out my plan and didn’t plan on awful weather and country roads.

Things happen. They will happen if you choose the adventurous route. That is part of the adventure. Adjust your expectations of what the world owes you and focus more energy on what it doesn’t and you will suddenly have lower expectations. You will also have a much better time if you lower your expectations. Enjoy the journey no matter the weather or road and get out there.


Foreign Feelings

I have been trying to write this post for quite a long time. It is a difficult subject because I do not want the whole post to appear negative, nor do I want anyone to think that we aren’t having a wonderful time, but this post needs to be written as well. Everything about raising three children ages 5 and under is difficult, I would be down right lying if I said that was easy, even with 21st century amenities. Here, abroad, I am attempting to survive and thrive in this parenting thing without things like; dryers, dishwashers, cooking utensils, English speaking friends, sports and a yard. I love living abroad, but I do not love every moment and the kids definitely do not love every moment. This post is about the realities of full time traveling on our emotions. 


Recently, I discovered this acronym F.E.A.R Feel Everything and Realign. Unlike so many of the military acronyms that I am constantly surrounded by, even when abroad, this acronym has been fueling my strength for days now. It may be the best way to describe this experience for those not experiencing it and visualizing through my facebook and instagram posts. Everyday abroad I feel great joy for the opportunity to expose these children to a world outside of the gates of Camp Lejeune. Everyday I feel like I am failing as a homeschooling mom (Lux is having a very hard time). Every day I feel brave, strong and usually incredibly lonely. Everyday I hear Lux say he wants to go ‘home’ to a home that doesn’t exist for us anymore and I question whether or not he will be better or worse for this experience later. Everyday I ease drop on English speaking conversations in the hopes that they will speak to me and I’ll get that adult interaction in my native tongue that I so desperately need. Everyday I see something new in a location that I adore and it recharges my motivation tanks for the next day. 

I’m only able to write this now because it took my mother visiting and her asking the hard questions for me to be able to put into words the holistic experience here. I would do this again, absolutely. I would do it differently for sure. A huge part of this year of travel was to jump feet first into the deep in and learn how to swim abroad with small children. I have learned SO MUCH. A lot of it has been learned in a very difficult way. I expected that and as a result I am better armed to make future plans, but again I would be lying if I pretended that this was easy. So for the sake of giving a full picture I’m going to give you an update on each member of this mottly crew as we are all feeling everything and realigning (F.E.A.R) differently. 


Updates on the Bradbury Boys

Luxor: Lux is a difficult guy to figure out. This is what I know; he considers ‘home’ anywhere that includes Greg so in his mind that is North Carolina. He is incredibly smart, but hates all school work. He is also super lazy when it comes to my attempts at unschooling so he is going to have to adjust somewhere. He has learned to read, but ‘doesn’t want to.’ He wants friends, but does not want to put forth any measure of effort to make them and mostly he only enjoys what I refer to as vacation days. So the days where we do touristy type activities. Simultaneously, he is the first person to walk up to people on the beach and tell them that he full time travels and is a worldschooler. He basically brags about it and basks in the attention it gets him. I think he will benefit the most from this experience, long term as he will be the one that remembers the most. 


Rhodes: Rhodes is easily pleased. He requires spaghetti and the beach and he is typically happy. He misses friends and daddy the most, but plays very well on his own and enjoys planning our next weeks, months and moves with me. He is doing so well with school work and getting more efficient at many things. He is my child that notices the boats, animals, people, buildings and seems so enjoy the culture like his mama. 


Atlas: Mister A.J. is growing in leaps and bounds. He is a foodie, loves all the Greek food. His favorite thing is the beach and videos from daddy. I do feel like this was a strange age to travel with him as he would greatly benefit from toys and social interaction right now. I am having to seek out ways to stimulate him for this portion of our trip because he is bored. He knows almost as much Greek as he does English. He is ‘speaking’ non stop, but only about six words are actually understandable by anyone other than me. 


Mama: I am almost as busy as I’ve ever been. I am trying to pump out a couple of blog posts a week, lesson planning based on our location, I took on a project as a columnist for Daily Mom Military Magazine and now have four articles due per month and deadlines. . .I am also in charge of the finances for the first time in our marriage. Trying to cook abroad, running a house that isn’t mine, moving out of our house in the u.s. and trying to be a decent friend and wife to boot. I am also neck deep in research for my upcoming project in Italy. The most difficult part is trying to keep all of these children happy. I feel that I have to be loving the experience every single day in order for anyone else to enjoy it. There’s a lot of pressure on me to put the smile on so to speak and realign my feeling quickly. I have a gypsy heart, I love traveling, I love seeing the kids light up with curiosity and wonder, I love fueling their little passions with real life experiences. This is the hardest thing I have ever done, but I am already planning the next huge trip. I love this journey for it’s beautiful and ugly moments.

Feelings of Freedom

The things going right and the things going wrong are about even, which is how it would be in the states as well. Rarely is everyone happy regardless of where we are. I am at peace with that realization. I have come to the realization that it is ok if some days I am the only happy one. There are many times that this journey feels selfish because I am the one that wants to live abroad and the one that ultimately made this choice. We are trying to find our balance between mama’s dreams, well rounded happy children and worldly children full of wonder and compassion for everyone and everything on this earth. We will get there and this extended trip has given me a better idea of what ‘balance’ may look like in a few years. 

Soon, I will be writing an article titled “Living vs. Vacationing.” where I will go more in depth as to how our days are organized and how we find the balance between being tourists and wanting to be locals. For now we are focusing on taking in as many experiences as possibly and feeling everything and realigning for the next adventure.