Friday, March 13, 2020

Visit Museums & Cities Virtually

One of my favorite ways to waste time is to get lost on Google's Art & Culture website. You can view famous pieces of art from around the world & take a virtual tour of all of the cities I wish I were travelling to. I love retracing steps of places our family has been, especially seeing how close I was to other really cool things I never knew about if we had only taken a right instead of a left, haha. Many museums also offer online tours.

The Louvre offers virtual tours to several exhibitions, changing often.
There is also a catalog of videos the Louvre has made on multiple interesting topics. My children can spend hours watching these to learn more about what they have seen in person at The Louvre. Checkout the catalog HERE. You can also see an online gallery HERE.

Versailles Palace in France has online exhibits as well. You can also tour the gardens virtually, one of my favorite gardens to see. I also love Tuileries Gardens, Luxembourg Gardens, Schonbrunn Palace Gardens.

My favorite museum in the world, the Natural History Museum in Vienna has an online tour of exhibits! Search through many online museum visits HERE.

Other museums with online exhibits are:
Museum of Modern Art
Musee Dorsay Paris
National Gallery of Art Washington DC
The Met, NYC
Art Institute Chicago
The Nelson Atkins (My home museum!)
Royal Trust Collection
Life Photo Collection
Anne Frank House
The White House
US National Archives
Schonbrunn Palace
Eiffel Tour
Museum of Impressionism,Giverny, France
Paris Street Art & The Street Art Museum, Pairs

Sewu temple complex

Prambanan Temple, the Tallest Hindus Temple in the World in Yogyakarta, Indonesia is definitely on my travel bucket list after visiting it virtually. The temple compound, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the largest Hindu temple site in Indonesia and the second-largest in Southeast Asia. It is characterized by its tall and pointed architecture, typical of Hindu architecture, and by the towering 154-foot-high central building inside a large complex of individual temples.

You can get lost for weeks in search of new places HERE.

Pompeii Ruins in Italy

Yellowstone National Park

Ancient Kyoto Kamigamo Shrine

CSMT Station, Mumbai, India

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Palace of Fine Arts, Mexico City

Champs Elysees, Paris, France

Tower of Babel, Iraq

Chauvet Cave, France

Easter Island

Taj Majal

Great Pyramids of Giza

Colosseum in Rome

Alcatraz Island, San Francisco

Sydney Opera House

Hollywood Boulevard

Machu Picchu, Peru


International Space Station

Swiss Alps Jungfrau

Cinque Terre, Italy

How about researching amazing historic artists? Search for your favorite artist here.

Vincent Van Gogh
Claude Monet
Norman Rockwell
Leonardo Da Vinci

Six closed Exhibits you can still visit through Google Street View HERE.

10 European heritage sites you'll want to explore- HERE

Walk the spiritual path to Mount Haguro 

Take a stroll through CERN's underground spaces HERE.

Would you rather research local stuff? Click Nearby. Click on the place you'd like to virtually visit then click View in Google Arts & Culture. I am in Kansas City and I have had so much fun finding things I have never seen! I was able to learn about our hometown President Truman. There is a lot of information from the Jackson County Historical Society. I hadn't even heard of the Kansas City Museum! Many local schools do field trips to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. KC's tourism site is even on Google Arts & Culture! There is the Kauffman Center for the Performing ArtsNational World War I MuseumKemper Museum of Contemporary ArtKC Public Library.

There are several other categories that you can search with great results.
Historical Figures
Art Movements
Historic Events

I'd love to hear what & where you explored! Tell me in the comments!

Sunday, March 1, 2020

The Most Instagramable Photo Spots in Innsbruck, Austria

Innsbruck is definitely a great place for every traveler. The city is very diverse and therefore offers a wide variety of motifs. From medieval architecture, alpine terrain to great nature and landscape motifs, there is something for every taste. Here are some great places where you can definitely take wonderful photos for your memories. 

The locations are all easily accessible on foot or by public transport.

Photo: Danijel Jovanovic
The colorful row of houses in the Mariahilf district is right on the Inn. The north chain enthroned behind with the colorful, beautiful houses is probably the classic among the city motifs. You should definitely stop by here. This point is best suited in the morning and in the evening - for advanced photographers, even at night. In the morning you have the sun behind you and therefore the most beautiful light on the colorful houses. The photographs are taken from the market place over the Inn.

View from the Hafelekar on the city of Innsbruck. Photo: Danijel Jovanovic
A trip to the Nordkette by train is a worthwhile trip. Directly from the city center ( Congress ) you can reach high alpine terrain in a few minutes. The view of the city and the other side, the Karwendel, is breathtaking. The city from high up is not an everyday motif and is definitely a tip for me. The trip on Friday evening is particularly worthwhile. The view down to the shining city and far into the Wipp and Stubai valley is unique. The more sporty can also hike a few vertical meters from the Hafelekar mountain station via a small climb to the Hafelekar summit cross and include this as a motif. 
My tip: The Innsbruck Card includes the ascent and descent.

The last rays of sun say goodbye to the peaks around the city in a soft pastel pink. Photo: Danijel Jovanovic


The Bergisel in the south of the city is known to most people: be it as a place steeped in history or because of the ski jumping hill by Zaha Hadid, one of the landmarks of the state capital. A trip here is definitely worth it. In addition to the Tirol Panorama and the ski jumping stadium, this place also offers wonderful views of the city. A small pavilion next to the Kaiserschützen Museum should definitely be visited. The whole city is at your feet here.

View of the city from the Bergisel Pavilion at sunset. Photo: Danijel Jovanovic
Afterwards you can have a drink or a coffee up on the tower of the Bergisel ski jump . Here the view is also unique and worth every photo. This photo point can be visited at any time of the day. Night shots from the diving tower are only possible in winter as it gets dark earlier. The Innsbruck Card is also valid here. 
The view is unique from the Bergisel diving tower. Enjoy the views and indulge in gastronomy. Photo: Danijel Jovanovic

The view from the city tower at Christmas is particularly worthwhile.
The city tower is located in Innsbruck's old town and offers wonderful views and is therefore also a great photo point.

The Innsbruck Card includes the climb up the 148 stairs. Once at the top, you have a 360 ° view of the capital of the Alps. You can take photos in all directions. Opening times in winter from 10-17h and in summer from 10-20h. That is, if you come shortly before the end, you can enjoy the whole thing at dusk.

View of the Golden Roof with the old town fountain
The medieval old town of Innsbruck offers a variety of motifs and great photo points. The most famous is certainly the city's landmark, the Golden Roof . Also worth seeing are the Innsbruck Cathedral, where you can take great photos including the cathedral on the cathedral square. The arbors also offer all kinds of sights, such as wooden doors and other details. The Otto and Hofburg at the old town entrances are also worthwhile motifs.

St. Jakob cathedral and the cathedral square

The view from the Hungerburg on the city and the majestic Serles.
The Hungerburg is a district of Innsbruck and lies at the foot of the Nordkette high above the city. The best way to reach this area is with the Hungerburgbahn from the center. The Innsbruck Card can also be used here. The mountain station offers a breathtaking viewing platform. For people who don't have a camera, there is a free viewing telescope. There are boards on the platform so that you can orient yourself at certain points. You have the best light here in the morning and in the evening / night. During the day you always have backlight.

The view of Innsbruck at dusk. Breathtaking.

Maria Theresa Street.
The Maria Theresa Street is the center of the city. Here you will find great photo points, such as the triumphal gate and the Anna column. You can relax in the numerous cafés and enjoy the variety of motifs. Here you have good lighting at all times of the day.

Triumphal Arch

Are you looking for the most beautiful view, the best selfie spot and the best landscape photo motif? On the viewing platforms around Innsbruck you can see meadows, valleys and gorges. The spectacular views are an uplifting experience. See them  HERE.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Swarovski Kristallwelton: Swarovski Crystal Worlds, Innsbruck, Austria

Swarovski Crystal Worlds was opened in 1995 to mark the centennial anniversary of the company’s founding. Multimedia artist André Heller designed a unique and magical place. This beloved attraction has brought moments of wonder to over fifteen million visitors from all around the world. Visitors are surprised, touched, and perhaps even transformed by crystal in all its facets.

The main attractions of Swarovski Kristallwelten are the Giant and its Chambers of Wonder, the Crystal Cloud, the playtower and playground. The a mix of art and culture, entertainment and shopping, family experience and culinary delights makes Swarovski Crystal Worlds unique.
There are no limits to imagination in Swarovski Crystal Worlds – today’s children are tomorrow’s artists and visionaries, dreamers and researchers.

The realm of the Giant hosts a rich collection of precious items housed in 17 Chambers of Wonder. Here, in a world of fantasy inspired and designed by some of the world’s greatest artists, visitors can believe in miracles for just a moment.


The subterranean world of the Giant begins in the Blue Hall, the first Chamber of Wonder in Swarovski Kristallwelten (Swarovski Crystal Worlds). Its slanted walls, painted in the color “International Klein Blue,” a shade developed by the artist Yves Klein, suggest the inside of a cave.
The Blue Hall gives the visitor an initial insight into the fascination of crystal and displays masterpieces such as Salvador Dalí’s “The Persistence of Time”, Niki de Saint Phalle’s “Crystal-bearing Nana”, and Andy Warhol’s “Gems”. Furthermore, the Blue Hall incorporates the Centenar, the black stallion “Chetak”, and the Crystal Wall.


The desire for transformation and fantasies is a force that affects human beings – and the machine-driven world of Jim Whiting. His “Mechanical Theater” combines humans and technology, the bizarre and the aesthetic in a fashion show out of the ordinary. Protagonists are an Adonis and a “Walking Woman”, who represent the relationship between man and woman. Rigid objects suddenly spring to life, as clothes fly and dance through the air as if by magic. The laws of gravity seem to be suspended and objects make movements that they should not be able to make. This creates an eerily beautiful scenario that provides plenty of scope for your own fantasies. The music in “Mechanical Theater” is by Silvio Borchardt and Swarovski workshops provide the technology, demonstrating their high degree of expertise as far as precision engineering is concerned.


The dome of the Crystal Dome was modeled after Sir Richard Buckminster Fuller's (1895–1983) geodesic dome, whose architectural design perfectly reflects the principle of geodesy. Geodesy is the scientific discipline devoted to geographical measurement and representation of the Earth; in mathematics, it designates the shortest path between two points on a curved surface.
Geodesic domes are particularly stable, especially considering the relatively small amount of material used to build them. The dome of the Crystal Dome consists of 595 mirrors that create a special depth effect and give the viewer the feeling of being inside a crystal. Eight of the mirrors are so-called “spy mirrors” that conceal fascinating art objects by various artists. The music in the Crystal Dome was created by Brian Eno. Because it is such a spectacular backdrop, the Crystal Dome is a popular venue for weddings.


At the center of “Silent Light” is the eponymous, spectacularly sparkling crystal tree by designers Tord Boontje and Alexander McQueen, who created it in 2003 for the foyer of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London; it was later moved to Swarovski Kristallwelten (Swarovski Crystal Worlds). Its 150, 000 sparkling Swarovski crystals, which Tord Boontje uses to create a complete Chamber of Wonder, evoke images of a bone-chilling cold and yet heartwarmingly romantic winter wonderland.
Especially in the spring and summer, this miracle world creates a magical contrast to the reality outside the door. The design bears the typical imprimatur of Tord Boontje, in whose work nature plays a starring role.



For “Into Lattice Sun”, South Korean artist Lee Bul looked to modern architecture as her muse, translating it into a metropolitan, dramatic, and utopian landscape for the Chamber of Wonder. Lee Bul’s encompassing installation explores the interactions between visitor and space. Myriad crystals and mirrors give the Chamber of Wonder the spatial illusion of ever new vastness and depths, inviting visitors to think about themselves and their position within the space. This deliberately staged interplay of the continually changeable, iridescent mirror landscape enables the visitor to discover all of its facets from the most diverse perspectives. The deeply symbolic bridge that leads us through this fascinating landscape of crystal and mirrors intensifies the visitor’s spatial experience.

I invite you into this amorous paradise wherein the heart rules and conquers all. The hearts in this room are a labor of love, each one handcrafted with various traditional Indian techniques. They express an emotion that we all can relate to and a vision that will make us smile.
You will be sworn in to the magical realm as you are ushered along a scintillating stairway beaming messages d’amour. Lovestruck, you are now attuned to the bewitching sight: a technicolor utopia with an array of elaborately crafted, jewel-adorned heart-fairies, blissfully soaring, tumbling, and freewheeling in the sumptuous fluorescence of an exalted Indian mansion, glistening under dazzling neon lights. “Welcome to the Palace of Love. You are invited to partake in the enchanting ritual and leave a declaration of love on the graffiti wall! Express your love. I have so much love to give that one is not enough! And you? Ready to love.” -MANISH ARORA


At first glance, Tyrolean artist Oliver Irschitz's “Ice Passage” is an empty corridor; it does not come alive until you step inside. As you place your foot on the floor, a series of crystalline tracks start to appear, precisely revealing the path you have taken. The lights also trace these tracks, allowing the viewer to get sporadic glances into the surrounding world of glistening ice. The more visitors dare to venture in, the brighter and more luminescent the surroundings become, and the denser the tracks on the floor appear. Each step that the visitor takes is accompanied by mysterious and sometimes alarming creaking and crackling – just as if you were actually on a frozen surface, with each step causing small fissures in the ice.


“Transparent Opacity” by Arik Levy is an homage to the diversity of crystal. The title of this work already embraces both of its apparently contradictory aspects: its transparency and its impenetrability. The room installation is both a game with the most diverse array of materials – from glass, marble, and steel to synthetic 3-D prints – as well as a play on shapes and sizes.
Some of the exhibition pieces invoke the familiar silhouette of the cut chaton, while other works reach deep into the abstract realm of natural, archaic crystalline shapes. Additionally, visitors can interact with the space and become involuntary co-creators of the piece by virtue of their diversity. This interrelationship becomes utterly dynamic in the “Interactive Arena”, which captures and reflects each and every movement.

Arik Levy’s EmotionalFormation represents a spatial expansion on the concept of his earlier “Transparent Opacity.” Stepping into this space is like a journey into yourself, as if you were exploring previously undiscovered treasures of your future self. In EmotionalFormation, special floor installations create a labyrinth-like effect, where your eyes and body wander from one section to the next, from one sculpture to the next, discovering something new at every turn.
In this Chamber of Wonder, every perspective seems different, and each one of the six crystal structures is unique. His aim is to awaken the spirit of exploration in each of us. The highly-faceted crystal looks as if it has formed in the wild, mirroring natural growth. The overall effect is spectacular, but the details are impressive too. Atmospheric lighting completes the installation, creating a striking interplay of light and shadows.


With Yayoi Kusama's only permanent “Infinity Mirror Room” in the world - in addition to her gallery in Tokyo - Swarovski Kristallwelten has opened it's now 17th Chamber of Wonder within the realm of the iconic Giant. Kusama, one of the most popular contemporary artists in the world, is exhibiting one of her most spectacular mirror installations to date in Wattens, entitled “Chandelier of Grief.” The central element is a rotating chandelier of Swarovski crystal, whose luster comes to life in a room that is completely lined with mirrors. The room creates the illusion of being in an endless space.


For the Studio Job Wunderkammer, the eponymous designers used none other than the term “Chamber of Wonder” itself to draw inspiration. Long ago, chambers of wonder were small curiosity cabinets that held a collection of scientific exhibits; today, the term signifies a wondrous, strange, all-encompassing spatial experience. Indeed, in the Studio Job Wunderkammer – the only Chamber of Wonder in Swarovski Kristallwelten (Swarovski Crystal Worlds), by the way, with no corners – everything revolves around the holistic experience of the space. Colors, shapes, composition, and concepts invite the visitors to make their own discoveries. What at first looks like a fairground brimming with exuberant color is in reality thousands upon thousands of short stories in the shape of movement, music, reflections, and slight allusions to modern society.


The renowned soprano Jessye Norman, who over the course of her career has worked with classical music’s biggest names, such as Herbert von Karajan and Sir Georg Solti, and has been awarded no less than five Grammys, celebrated a spectacular performance at the Crystal Dome. She sang the final aria, “Thy hand, Belinda”, from Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas. A separate Chamber of Wonder was dedicated to this moving performance.
A giant natural mountain crystal from Madagascar, impressive in its archaic grandeur, provided the counterpoint to the man-made art form of music and voice.


The idea behind the Eden Chamber of Wonder is to create a landscape that evokes one of the strongest primal responses in man: the forest. But Eden is no ordinary forest – it is a fantastical, archaic primeval world. At its entrance, a waterfall, filmed in the surrounding Alps, cascades down a screen and is reflected by the walls, while the roar of the water permeates the entire Chamber of Wonder, creating a wall of background sound. Inside, the visitor follows a path that meanders through a dense wilderness of simple polished brass structures, which through mirrored walls appear to go on to infinity. Within the depths of this dark forest, the wanderer encounters strange, hidden gems in the form of the biggest crystals Swarovski has ever produced. They emerge as beacons of light from the dark, like strange, exotic birds, reptiles, flowers, or fruit, symbolizing the magnificence of nature and the origins of life.


In FAMOS, the Russian artist duo, Blue Noses, with their notorious, madcap performances, meets Swarovski’s legendary art of cutting crystal. Four architectural landmarks are on display in a crystalline dimension that has yet to be surpassed: the Taj Mahal in Agra, the Pyramid of Cheops in Giza, the New York Empire State Building, and the Lenin Mausoleum in Moscow. The Cheops Pyramid alone weighs 105 kilograms, and the Empire State Building consists of 386 individual parts. Subtle, humorous home videos are revealed inside the exhibition pieces only by viewing them from above. The crystalline splendor is placed in contrast to the tongue-in-cheek videos by the Blue Noses. Grandeur is put into perspective through clever humor.


“55 Million Crystals” is a synthesis of ambient music, light, hand-painted picture components, and state-of-the-art computer technology that merge into a grandiose object that changes with barely perceptible transitions and produces a meditative effect. At any moment, “55 Million Crystals” is an absolutely unique original. No one else has ever seen what you see in this particular moment, and no one else will ever see it quite this way again.
In an age of high-definition monitors and powerful computers, Brian Eno does not consider an original work of art something bound to an immovable, physical object. In his holistic hypnotic experience comprised of music and colors, Eno shows that there is an infinity of individual moments and that each is unique.

With the “Heroes of Peace” installation, Swarovski Kristallwelten (Swarovski Crystal Worlds) is dedicating one of its Chambers of Wonder to the theme of peace, honoring the vision of the artist and curator André Heller. The installation invites visitors to pause for a moment, to think about life, and how each of us can make our own contribution to peace. Innovative projection technology makes it possible for visitors to see and encounter life-sized holograms of individuals who have won the Nobel Peace Prize, or who have dedicated their lives to the vital theme of peace. The “Heroes of Peace” speak to visitors, offer inspiration, and share the wisdom they have learned from their lives. “Heroes of Peace” presents Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Albert Einstein, Rigoberta Menchú, Bertha von Suttner, Pablo Picasso, Nelson Mandela, John Lennon, Yoko Ono, and many others.



The name “El Sol” is Spanish for “The sun.” Fernando Romero’s installation, formed from 2,880 custom-made Swarovski crystals, is an exploration of humankind’s relationship with the sun. This large structure is exactly one billion times smaller than the sun itself. At the heart of the artwork is a sphere of LEDs, whose light is split by the inner facets of the precisely cut crystals in such a way that it creates a dynamic surface reminiscent of the sun.
The inspiration for El Sol was the remarkable geometry of the pyramids built by the Aztec and Mayan people. Romero’s creation is thus an homage to his Mexican cultural heritage. At the same time, his structure is also based on modern technologies. Three months of design and development were needed before the drawings were ready, and it took the technicians more than 350 hours to construct the artwork.


The Timeless area tells the history of Swarovski and crystal in all of its historical facets. An exciting exhibition that ranges from the company’s founding to magical moments on the stage, screen, and runway juxtaposes curiosities and glamour with nostalgia, history, and technology.
“Timeless” here means that we should forget our own time as we experience the changing spirit of the times from 1895 to the present day and observe epoch-making exhibits. The architects and museum designers at HG Merz were responsible for creating this narrative flow in cooperation with the Swarovski Corporate Archive.


The garden of the Giant contains contemporary art as well as ancient history and unique pleasures: a place where crystal becomes a holistic experience. You will discover a venue where you can experience beauty, inspiration and energy, care, and aesthetics – and legends.

Working in collaboration with artists from throughout the globe and internationally renowned architects, a park landscape emerged on 7.5 hectares of land surrounding the iconic Giant, with unparalleled art installations and new structures.

Allow yourself to be mesmerized by the sparkling Crystal Cloud, stroll along the Mirror Pool, and experience playing and climbing with all of the senses in the multiple levels of the playtower.

Playtower, playground and labyrinth
Art in the Garden
Crystal Cloud & Mirror Pool
Roman Excavations


Crystal Cloud: a natural phenomenon made of crystals
The crowning piece of the new garden is the Crystal Cloud, created by Andy Cao and Xavier Perrot.
This monumental installation, consisting of some 800,000 hand-mounted Swarovski crystals, drifts
above the black Mirror Pool, inviting visitors to pause for a moment and be inspired. With a surface of around 1,400 square meters, this mystical masterpiece is the largest work of its kind in the world. A descending path draws visitors to the Mirror Pool where the crystals’ light is captured like stars
shimmering in the nocturnal sky – even in broad daylight. They are accompanied by 2,000 sparkling
crystal fireflies dancing through the air. Towering over the center of the Mirror Pool is Tyrolean artist
Thomas Feuerstein’s sculpture “Leviathan,” made up of over 10,000 crystals. “Leviathan” refers to the Biblical sea monster on the one hand and, on the other, to the eponymous publication by Thomas
Hobbes from 1651 about government and the state. Its meaning refers to the oldest description of
society as a network: The whole is created only in a reciprocal network of relationships, symbolized here by the interplay of the crystals.



Roman Excavations: a window on the past Swarovski Crystal Worlds is a place where the past and present are intertwined. The Roman Excavations, which give a glimpse into Tyrolean life in Roman times, provide vivid testimony to this. During extensive reconstruction work in September 2014, walls and collapsed sections of Roman buildings, and other archaeological material from the Roman period came to light. According to archaeologists, these are fragments from a Roman country estate dating back to the third century A.D. The Roman Excavations are displayed as a “natural Chamber of Wonder”, and an especially exciting part of the find was a treasure of extraordinary value: 702 silver coins known as Antoninians, minted for the Roman emperors between 238 and 251 A.D, and unearthed after nearly two thousand years.

PLAYTOWER AND PLAYGROUND: The garden of the Giant enhances the existing selection of educational tools specially geared to children all around the Crystal Studio. This context inspired the creation of an entirely new building “typology” by the renowned architectural offices of Snøhetta: a playtower and an innovative open-air playground. Besides an extraordinary spatial experience, the playtower gives children all kinds of playing experiences from climbing, rocking, and swinging to sliding and even to what looks like floating. The form of playing this offers is completely new but perfectly natural. A vertical climbing net is spread over several levels arranged on top of each other; it can be climbed up to a height of just under 14 meters. Wall-mounted game boxes, designed specifically for Swarovski Crystal Worlds, engage visitors’ fine motor skills and cognitive abilities: There is a slider puzzle featuring the iconic Giant, an animal memory® game, the “Fast little animals” game box, and a labyrinth. The façade of the playtower consists of 160 crystalline facets, though no two are exactly alike. The panes are imprinted with an innovative pattern made from millions of tiny motifs which refer to the history of Swarovski. The view from inside to outside is visible at all times, just like the activities on the inside can always be seen from the outside. At night, the structure looks just like a spectacular body of light that magically enhances the reflections of the Crystal Cloud and the Mirror Pool. The play area – for children of any age – continues into an innovative open-air playground. A free-form topography of steel and wood offers children an infinite number of ways to play. A spectacular 25-meter-long climbing route was added to the playground in the garden of the Giant in 2017. Additionally, the existing water play areas were enlarged, and a ball game was installed on the wooden deck. Children can run around to their heart’s content while simultaneously improving important motor skills. The outdoor area’s design is as unique as that of the playtower, giving children in particular an opportunity to discover new games and ways of moving their bodies.



CULINARY DELIGHTS: Besides nourishment for the mind, Swarovski Crystal Worlds also offers culinary delights at Daniels Kristallwelten. Here too, the overall architectural concept follows the crystalline parameters embedded in the garden of the Giant. The whole world is welcome at Daniels Kristallwelten, which serves international, regional, and, most particularly, seasonal cuisine. Desserts are made in-house as well. The atmosphere is truly exceptional: In this airy pavilion suffused with light, designed by the Norwegian architectural firm Snøhetta, visitors feel as if they were sitting right in the middle of the garden of the Giant. Gently curved pillars and ceilings accentuate the impression of flowing forms and light. The design company MARCTHOMAS produced a new design for the restaurant’s public area in 2017, giving the space a unique feel, flooded with light during the day and suffused with a subtle glimmer in the evening. Guests can enjoy regional and seasonal fresh delicacies, diverse menus, and an uninterrupted view of nature. In the entrance area of Daniels Kristallwelten, a specially designed scent of fresh aromas and essences such as tangerine, jasmine, and patchouli also contributes to the multisensory experience of the visitors. The “Fat Bus” directly behind the entrance building is the work of Austrian artist Erwin Wurm. It is not only a one-of-a-kind, eye-catching sculpture, but also a fully functional hot dog stand that offers guests fortifying refreshments before or after their visit. Erwin Wurm’s trademark is his reworking of everyday objects in his art. Pickles, hot dogs, and houses, for instance, are some of the objects he has used so far. For Swarovski Crystal Worlds, the artist chose the VW bus, once the symbol of 1960s hippie culture, and now a truly timeless icon. You can still recognize the VW classic in “Fat Bus.” In keeping with the sculptor’s artistic style, however, he has uncoupled the object from its primary function, creating something that seems, to the viewer, both familiar and, at the same time, a little bit off. The sausageshaped tables created by Erwin Wurm specifically for this installation, perfectly round out the humorous effect of this work of art. The Crystal Bar in the Swarovski Kristallwelten Store, with its sparkling ambiance, serves refreshing drinks. The restaurant and Bar are freely accessible to all – without the need to first visit the Chambers of Wonder – thus making them an ideal meeting place for the whole family or business partners.



Winter in the Giant: Not such a dark time of year after all: At Swarovski Crystal Worlds the winter program is packed with lively and richly varied family events and cultural experiences. The garden will be transformed into an illuminated fairy-tale landscape with glittering sculptures by the Dutch designer Tord Boontje, rich with mystical sounds and lighting

SHOPPING IN THE GIANT: After an excursion through the Chambers of Wonder and the Timeless area – or passing directly through the Store entrance, which was designed by Snøhetta and features a captivating light and sound installation – visitors reach the Swarovski Kristallwelten Store. This spacious shopping landscape showcases the diverse nature of crystal as a material, as well as Swarovski’s remarkable power of innovation, and strong links with the world of fashion and design. The experience is heightened by an elegant scent created specifically for the shopping landscape. With a touch of glamour and sensuality, it conveys the essence of Swarovski Crystal Worlds on a completely unexpected level. The Swarovski Kristallwelten Store, designed by general contractor s_o_s architekten, is literally a landscape that meanders like a river. In some parts, the spectacular “Starry Mosaic Sky dome” provides a canopy overhead, set with black mosaic tiles handcrafted by Bisazza in innovative conjunction with Swarovski crystals. Beneath the dome lies the “City of Glass”, the creation of Melli Ink. Inspired by Hieronymus Bosch and Buckminster Fuller, this artwork presents a utopian view of the future in glass, crystal, and mountain crystal. The combination of the dome and its artwork create a unique setting for an extensive brand portfolio of the latest extraordinary fashion and couture jewelry from Swarovski. The collection includes creations by world-famous designers – each one distinctive, glamorous, and on trend. Yet, all the product brands in the Swarovski Kristallwelten Stores share one distinctive characteristic: the unmistakable Swarovski style. Since 1895, the Swarovski name has signaled sophisticated design expertise and a love of detail. Countless products crafted from or with Swarovski crystal quicken the hearts of collectors, crystal lovers, technical experts, and anyone who loves to give or receive gifts that sparkle. They all find a huge array of gift ideas and mementos at the Swarovski Kristallwelten Stores. Since the first crystal mouse was created in 1976, Swarovski has been famous worldwide for its collections of both crystal and functional items that add a special sparkle and refinement to interior spaces. Precision optical equipment from Swarovski Optik makes long-distance observation an entirely new experience. Swarovski Kristallwelten souvenir jewelry is available exclusively in the Swarovski Kristallwelten Stores and features items specifically themed to their local area. The love of detail is evident in motifs like the iconic Giant in Wattens, St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna, or the Golden Roof (Goldenes Dachl) in Innsbruck.


Monday, February 17, 2020

Innsbruck, Austria

The Goldenes Dachl (Golden Roof) built in 1500.

     The drive from Hallstatt to Innsbruck was a rainy 3 hour drive. Typical of all our travel days, the days where we relocate for the week. We stayed in a cute Airbnb apartment just outside the city. I could not have asked for a better spot. We had great parking, a fenced yard where the kids could run around and be kids, and it was full of character. Did I mention the master bedroom had a waterbed?! But not like our old American 1980s waterbeds, no like this one was full of foam and barely had any wave to it. It was like the perfect memory foam bed, I called it floam (float and foam combined.)

The kids beds

The neighborhood was gorgeous, gentle climate with the mountains in the background. We noticed an unusual sign posted showing what appears to be a frog being ran over. We laughed and thought it was a joke....until we got out of our car and saw.....a smashed frog! Imagine how many frogs have to be in this area to have a sign posted haha.

A house next to where we were staying had this crazy roomba looking thing going around their lawn! Is it a vacuum? A lawn mower? An insect remover? A dog poop picker-upper?

     The earliest traces suggest initial inhabitation of Innsbruck, Austria is in the early Stone Age-2000 BC. Surviving pre-Roman place names show that the area has been populated continuously. In the 4th century the Romans established an army station. Nestled amidst majestic peaks, this breathtaking city offers a unique combination of nature, history, and culture. You can stroll its streets full of Baroque and Gothic architecture in the Old Town, or discover one of the hip districts such as Mariahilf or St. Nikolaus where Innsbruck’s university students like to meet for a drink. After, you can take a cable car from the city center, and in just 20 minutes, reach the Seegrube at 2,000 m (6,562 ft). Here you can take in spectacular views of the Inn valley and the surrounding mountains. Innsbruck, host of the Olympic Winter Games in 1964 and 1976, is of course a major winter sports center as well. Popular activities include skiing, snowboarding, ski mountaineering, snowshoeing, and skating. Austria and Innsbruck was taken over by Nazi Germany in 1938. From 1943 to 1945, the city was bombed around 21 times by the Allies in World War II and suffered heavy damage.
In 1964, the city hosted the Winter Olympics and regained its popularity. In 1976, Innsbruck again served as the host for the Winter Olympics. Today, it has become a famous winter sport destination for athletes and recreational skiers.

     Arriving in the evening, we had to hurry back to the grocery store after checking in because the next day is Sunday and we know the drill in Austria on Sundays, no place is open. I was excited to have found a rather large grocery store so I went a little overboard buying all the meals to make. I should have checked because we had a stove and oven only, no microwave and later found out when pre-heating for a frozen pizza that it hadn't been cleaned and it caused way too much smoke for us to use it. We wasted so much of the food we bought, but learned not to over buy again. We spent Sunday being lazy on a rainy day.

     Monday we were all rested and excited to venture out. We had no real plans other than wandering, so we started downtown. We found an indoor shopping mall that had a colorful, clear paneled roof. We bought Aub some shirts at HandM, I know, pretty adventurous shopping. It was pretty busy. We all agreed on a food court place and ate sandwiches there while listening to live music. My sandwich was on a pretzel bun with tomato, mozzarella, cucumber and egg. Pretty good!

     Do you remember the store from the 90s called 5*7*9? Remember how they had live models in their windows showing off their fashions? Well this mall had an Espirit with a male and female dancers! Aub and I stood and watched for awhile. Interesting. When we left the mall, the city had rolled out the red carpet for us. Okay, maybe not just us, but the city was getting ready for some sort of city wide event as decorations were just being set up everywhere. Stages and signs, I bet it was a good time later that night. I was still "new" into the trip and afraid to be around large crowds in fear of terrorism. Hey, it's not a fear I am excited about, but it was my real worry for new locations that I didn't know a lot about. The only thing I knew about Innsbruck ahead of time is that it was once home to the Olympics. We walked around awhile before heading out of the city. Almost home, we saw a TJ Maxx store, but it was called TK Maxx! Same logo and everything! The company modified the name in Europe to TK Maxx to avoid confusion with the established British retail chain T. J. Hughes. Aubrey and I made a huge dramatic plea for Brian to stop and let us run out in the pouring rain and look through it for just a second. We did make pretty good timing! Later this evening, Aubrey had an awesome melt down because I had another #momfail. While running her Instagram, I added her actual birthday and IG took her account down because she was not 13 yet. All of her pictures and likes and hashtags we had worked so hard on were gone. And my preteen was crushed. I will give you that it was pretty bad timing. She had just ended a year of private school and was switching schools the next year, so she also lost a way to stay in contact with old classmates, since I do not allow the kids to have phones yet (They are both micro-chipped.) Hahahahaha, jk, or am I???

     Y'all know Swarovski Crystals right? Well guess who is so excited to take her family to the headquarters here in Innsbruck? Yep, but not just because it's the headquarters. Because it's a really cool family interactive park! Park doesn't even sum it up. This was my favorite thing to see in Innsbruck! There are no limits to imagination in Swarovski Crystal Worlds – today’s children are tomorrow’s artists and visionaries, dreamers and researchers. So for the brand's 100th anniversary, they opened this Swarovski Kristallwelton (crystal worlds) park. I like to think that because it is their headquarters, they designed this large head in the middle of the mountains, but that is not the case. It is a real Green Giant with flowing water out of its mouth. The story goes that the Giant set out to experience the world and all of its treasures and wonders. With all his knowledge, the Giant returned to Innsbruck, where he has watched over his Chambers of Wonder ever since. Inside his head is this amazing cave with 17 Chambers of Wonder. Each chamber had a different artist and it is seriously the neatest place for all ages! After taking a bunch of funny pictures of us drinking the water from the Giant, we went inside to discover the highly rated family attraction. This was the first time I felt like I actually realized the girls were changing due to the trip. I watched my shy, won't look anyone directly in the eye, 5 year old, go to the center of the crystal wall inside the 1st chamber, and begin singing a Disney song in front of the crowd. I could not believe what I was witnessing. She realized the crowd started to be quiet and was gathering around her and she started adding in sass and body movements with the singing- Briella was PERFORMING! I cannot begin to tell you how watching this child blossom into her own person makes me feel. Many tourists had obviously very little interaction with people with blonde hair and were already drawn to Brie. Now they were filming her, AND she let them! So incredible. Again, these are the moments we travel for. Travelling has an unspoken affect on everyone. It pushes you to grow and to learn in ways a book could never teach. I really wish we would travel full time.



     The Ready to Love chamber was so visually appealing. "You will be sworn in to the magical realm as you are ushered along a scintillating stairway beaming messages d’amour. Lovestruck, you are now attuned to the bewitching sight: a technicolor utopia with an array of elaborately crafted, jewel-adorned heart-fairies, blissfully soaring, tumbling, and freewheeling in the sumptuous fluorescence of an exalted Indian mansion, glistening under dazzling neon lights."  It was a neon light room full of color that fills your heart. These chambers have messages that you can only learn from experiencing first hand. I love the photos I took of my kids in this room. Sadly, there are little minded people who try to use these photos to bring down Aubrey. I do not understand how we are well into the 2000s and there are people who judge others over love. There are many other issues to focus your attention on other than who someone else loves. Because of the many colors in this room as well as the word Love used, some children, I assume that come from small minded homes, give Aubrey a hard time assuming she is gay because she believes in love for all. What you children do not get is that Aubrey does not care that you may think she is gay, how would that make her different than the Aubrey she already is to you? Guess what, she would still be the same person. She is not however, but the point we are trying to make is SO WHAT! Every single human on this planet is a different person, which means we all love to do different things and have different interests, were raised different due to our varying cultures, believe in different things...that is what makes things interesting! I personally love traveling to see these different cultures! I want to meet others different than me and I want to learn from them. How boring would your life be if you only ever were surrounded by those exactly like yourself?.....getting off my middle school drama soapbox now...

     The Mechanical Theater was so out of the norm of the art our family is used to. I absolutely loved it! We stayed in the room and watched it multiple times to try and grasp all the unique things. This may be the most amazing live piece of art I have ever seen.

     The Heroes of Peace chamber was awe inspiring. Again it is another one that we sat through multiple times of just so we could take everything in. It definitely makes you pause and remember everything that has been done so you can be doing whatever you are doing, right now and how we can make our own contribution to peace.  We filmed here and I cannot wait to show you this in our web series! There are life-sized holograms of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Albert Einstein, Rigoberta Menchú, Bertha von Suttner, Pablo Picasso, Nelson Mandela, John Lennon, Yoko Ono, each sharing their amazing message.

     Feeling inspired and uplifted, we left the cave and made our way to the gorgeous outdoor gardens. The first thing you hear walking up is crystals being chimed in the wind, rain drops and just all around mesmerizing sounds. Imagine a luxurious spa, that is how it felt in this garden! Feeling all kinds of happy ways, the kids and I gallivanted around taking quirky photos. There was a random small hill and as soon as I saw it I ran to it, hiding my body on the other side so only my head was sitting on top, in the view of Brian and the camera. Soon I start to realize that I am in stinging pain. I jump up and try to figure out where the pain is coming from but my whole body is stinging. Brian comes to the conclusion that I have laid on a bees nest or wasps nest. I am stung all over the front side of my body that I was laying on! I feel an awful stinging sensation everywhere, I am starting to panic, the kids did not have it. I yell at Aub to run and find someone who speaks English and ask them what I could have been stung bu here. She can only find one lady who speaks little English. Apparently Aubrey was pretty much playing charades with her, saying "Bzzzzz" and flapping her arms trying to ask if there are bees here....I just can't with the thought of this. Oh how I wish we got this on camera!!! So Aubrey comes back with zero info and I am still frantic and have her go back to get me a bottle of water. I ask how would I know if I was having an allergic reaction?! Aubrey says my tongue would be swollen and asks if mine is. Okay pause. Put your tongue to the roof of your mouth right now. Lay it flat and leave it there. Do you feel how your tongue is draping over your teeth? How does that tongue fit in your mouth normally? I start to freak out because the tongue feels too big for the mouth. How much time have we ever given to our tongue before anyways? I am sure that I must be allergic to Austrian bees and am dying. I can no longer speak correctly and have my tongue sticking out. Poor Brian is just trying to calm everyone down as usual. He gets us to walk a little further into the garden to where there are chairs that recline and more peaceful sounds. I lay down in a chair with my feet up in the middle of this peaceful garden, just sure I am dying, while my family is playing around in the light pool. Miraculous things happen and I am able to eventually get up and finish the garden and live to tell about it.

"Bee Hill"

The girls got to shop at the exclusive headquarters boutique and picked out a present for their Grandmother. Their Great Grandmother collected Swarovski Crystals and when she passed they were dispersed throughout the family, so they picked out one that was similar to one that was in their Great Grandma's original collection to gift to Grandma.  

We ended the day with an old fashioned American outing to McDon. Oh, and the McDonald's in Innsbruck serves beer! It was cheaper to get a beer than a coke!!

     Funny family story, during spring break we took a family vacation out to Arizona. While there, we visited the town of Tombstone, the scene of some pretty famous rowdy cowboy events. Anyways, while there we learned the term Soiled Doves. It is what they called prostitutes back in the day. Anyways, like any good family vacation, we used this naughty term to became a fun memory between my brother and I. On the way home from that roadtrip, we actually went out of our way to drive to a club in Denver called "The Soiled Dove" so I could take a selfie there and send it to my brother. My brother in turn, gave me a book titled "The Soiled Dove" for my birthday. I brought that book all the way to Europe just so I could take a selfie reading it in EU and send it to my brother on his birthday. So after my near death bee sting, I settled for a selfie back at our AirBnb with the book. That has been one of my favorite inside jokes in a long time.

Queen Mary's bridge over the gorge
     We also took a day trip from Innsbruck to visit the Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany. We got a later start than we wanted to get, so we were extra short on time when we ran into slow traffic the entire drive to the castle. Apparently everyone takes weekend day trips to visit amazing places. This castle was a finalist for the New 7 Wonders of the World. It is the most scenic castle we have seen by far, up on a ridge in a magnificent setting high above the Pollät Gorge with the mountains as a backdrop. Walt Disney used it as his muse for Sleeping Beauty's castle in Disney Land and Cinderella's castle at Disney World!  It was late afternoon before we arrived to the castle so we had to make some hard decisions on what we wanted out of this visit. Time did not allow for us to come back another day. We originally had it on the itinerary for a day trip from Riquewihr, France, but ran out of time there so figured we could add it to Innsbruck week just as easy.  I decided that based on my research, the photos that I needed were the iconic view ones from the bridge looking back at the castle. This meant we would not actually be going inside the castle to tour it. I decided against that because you could only go inside on a guided tour which was only 30 minutes and you were not permitted to take any photos or video. So off to Queen Mary's Bridge (Marienbrucke) it was, right after a quick lunch at Imbiss. The girls had became found of Germany's apple cider that is bottled. We decided once we got there to take a bus from outside the parking area to the bridge. It was only a couple Euros and worth it to save time. Only downside is everyone gets off the bus at once which means the bridge is very crowded with everyone else you shared the bus with. I am not a fan of heights so this was going to prove difficult for me as it is a narrow, bridge, busting at the seams with tourists, directly over a gorge with a rocky waterfall. I took several "sting ray shuffle" type steps onto the bridge to make sure it was steady. Then I pretty much hustled across the bridge weaving in and out of people (and their photos) until we got to the other side. The castle looked alot prettier from this side of the bridge, and the far side of the bridge was less crowded, apparently many people have my same fear of old fairy tale bridges. I wasn't exactly sure where I was going to get this certain photo I envisioned, I just knew it was up on the other side of the bridge. I decided to just follow the traffic and went ahead hiking a path up a mountain. It wasn't long at all, maybe 5-10 minutes before we got to a clearing overlooking the castle. You could frame the picture with a nearby tree and it was just perfection.

Next thing I know I am locker-room style changing from a turquoise dress to a long red gown. I wait my turn for the spot, and once I take a seat on the edge of the cliff, it felt like cameras from every tourist up there came out. One tourist managed to say that I was dangerous in broken English. I kind of laughed it off. Looking back I realize how freaking dangerous this was! My foot at one point actually started to loose traction while I was seated taking pictures, but luckily got stopped by a root of an old tree. I could have easily tumbled down that gorge in front of my kids. I am the first to admit what a horrible idea this was. I seem to have a false sense of safety when traveling. Like we are living on a fluffy vacation cloud to get magical pictures and nothing can happen. I feel like there should be an actual term for this. I cannot be the only one this happens to. I can recall way too many times where this "we are on vacation; it can't happen to us" type of feeling or ignorance crept into my mind, causing me to make poor decisions. Someday I will write a post on all of our traveling tragedies haha. Anyways, I got the stupid picture I wanted. I love the picture, I just hate that feeling I have when looking at it, kind of like the same feeling you get on the walk of shame, I'd guess.

Neuchwanstein Castle, Germany

 On our travel day, we wanted to get in one last sight so we visited The Hofburg, an Imperial Palace. It has a room called The Giants Hall that when researching I became obsessed with. I bought a dress specifically to visit this room in.  I love being able to go into historic castles (like Versailles) and seeing the rooms as they were. I loved the green fabric wallpaper room which is the Emperor's bedroom and the pink fabric wallpaper room, a dressing room, as well. It just has so much character and is a ghost town compared to Versailles. The Hofburg in Innsbruck and the Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna are two of the most cultural importance buildings, as Versailles is to France.

Me playing a Queen when I really am a King

Perhaps these Kings are related?

Brie in the Chinese Room

The Blue Salon, aka the Crafts Room

Princess Aubrey

This is just a drawing that looks 3d!

The Palace courtyard

Dancing on stage

Crystal World






the maze at Swarovski Crystal World



The Goldenes Dachl (Golden Roof) built in 1500

The girls shopping