Austria (Østrig) was in our minds from the time we landed in Europe. But never found the right excuse to visit the country. Every time I thought of Austria, I visualize it as a small country with lush greenery, the Alps, the snow capped mountains, vintage countryside and so on……
Around 30th May’14 we suddenly realized of coming holidays (Danish national holidays and Whit days’) and thought could be a good option to travel somewhere in southern Europe. That’s where Austria came to our minds and the ticket cost fitted perfectly. It was there all of a sudden – that’s the beauty of last minute travelling! We started looking into the places of our interest in Austria. Deepa already had Halsttatt in her mind. She showed me some pics and for me … it was love at first sight. First destination finalized!! We wanted to keep this trip around a week long (by taking 1-2 days off on top of national holidays and weekend) covering 2-3 cities. We bought the flight tickets to Vienna from Copenhagen. So, Vienna was finalized as the second destination. Probably we should add one more city? Ummm…..yeah, let’s do Salzburg since we would be so close to it. So, there went the third one. Final plan : Fly to Vienna, be there for couple of days, then in Hallsttatt for next couple of days and lastly in Salzburg for two days. Going to be a pretty tired trip but anyway that’s the fun! 😀 We booked flight tickets with AirBerlin and it was our first time to fly with them. At the time of booking we came to know that it was actually a Niki airlines, which runs in cooperation with Air Berlin. At that time we were not sure how it’s gonna be but reviews were definitely positive. The weather for the whole trip was perfect – with day temperature hovering around 30º C at all places. Could not have asked for anything more!
Didn’t got any good budget local accommodation with Airbnb and hence had to book hotels this time at all places. I used Booking.com for booking the hotels. Also, booked the train tickets in advance for all possible journeys.
Vienna: The flight from Copenhagen to Vienna was fairly good and comfortable. Couple of positives flying with Niki Airlines: 1. None of their flights have middle seat – which is very good. 2. Complementary snacks (sandwich + drink combo) even on a low fare. 3. The service from their end were above par in terms of handling the questions or any other sort of help….. We landed at Vienna International airport on time and took the Airport Shuttle (Vienna Airport Lines) to the city center (Schwedenplatz).
From there our hotel was around 2 kms! We stayed at Residenz Hotel Pension which was behind University and just next to Rathaus. Our stay in the hotel was nice and comfortable. Our room was clean and the breakfast room was very cozy. We settled in our room, freshened up and started exploring the city. We started with the things on the right side of our hotel (not being superstitious but since most of the things were close, we had this luxury :)). We saw Votivkirche, strolled through Schottengasse, Mcihaelerpalzt, Graben streets to get the feel of the city. Visited St Stephen’s Cathedral, passed through Albertina, visited Hofburg & took a tour in Time Travel Vienna. I would like to write a little about ‘Time Travel Vienna‘ tour, mainly because it’s such a nice presentation of Vienna (in the best possible funny way) and yet it’s not very hyped. It’s in a one of the small streets near Michaelerpalzt on ……….. The historical presentation is in a interactive way by known and important historical figures. The vocals were really nice. And that’s the best part – you don’t have to sit and listen to one person or some sort of hearing set explaining the whole history at one go, looking into the pictures (anyways I was never a big fan of History during my school dayz even!). It also mentions the darker side of Austria’s history. They have WW2 Bunker, a Habsburger show which is about Austrian Royal family, the music section (is a waltz in a teacup) and best of all, the 5D movie, on a very important historical moment which really gives a feeling that you are back in time and the effects (both visual/audio) were great! As per me ‘it’s must do’ when someone is in Vienna. It’s an around 1 hour tour and is priced pretty decently. After this, we decided to have our dinner. My boss from my workplace suggested a place in Vienna, where she had been few years back and was quite amused by their local brewed beer and selection of food. And when someone was so much amused, there was no way of wasting any time! We walked from Michaelerplatz via Hofburg and to that place –7Stern. I had to try Chilli Beer and I was not disappointed. The menu had a good warning message for the amount of chili. As soon as I took the first sip, it opened all my Indian taste buds and I was sure it’s going to be a long drink :). First few sips were little hard being too spicy, but after 1/2 glass it was okay! Phew…… Other beer I tried was a Smoked Beer – which was also okay. Had roasted pork for the dinner and Deepa had Schnitzel – they were quite good in quality as well as quantity.
Next day we started on the left side of our hotel with Rathaus, Parliament and then took the transport to the Schönbrunn palace. Here we took the ride @ sort-of-small-toy-train which all round the palace area and to some really nice spots. After the ride, we ate typical Austrian desserts at one of the cafes besides the palace – that were really nice as well. After the palace came to city center, took a horse ride near Michaelerpaltz, visited Karlskirche and then took a tram to Prater, the amusement park – took a couple of rides there. We had dinner @ Figimuller, which is famous for their Schnitzel and is ranked No. 1. We had to wait in the queue for about 30-40 minutes, as it was the rush hour and we didn’t had any prior appointment either. But it was worth waiting for the same as we never got the same taste in rest of our journey!
Next day, we got up at around 8, freshened up, ate breakfast and took the train to Hallstatt from Central Station (via ATTNANG-PUCHHEIM). The route from Attnang puchheim to Hallstatt was very scenic with a multitude of mountains, lakes and beautiful countryside. For the whole journey, we two were staring out of the train window in anticipation of arriving at a place we had admired in photographs for so long!! We had to take the boat from the train station to reach the town and that was really good because it really gave some best views of the town. The town looked exactly the same as it is in Postcard pics – small multi colour houses, green lush mountains in the background………… I was already in love with this place. Again! One place where I would want to come back again and stay longer (much longer). A place which is far away from the crowded, fast moving cities and provides a relaxing environment. When we were looking for accommodation in Hallstatt, we wanted to stay in one of BnB or with the locals, as we really wanted to feel the warmth of the place, instead of just doing some touristic spots! But we were not successful – I contacted around 10 of them and all I get back was ‘We are full for this period. Thank you very much for contacting us!!!’. Moved to hotels section and first few were also completely full. Lastly, got ‘Heritage Hotel’ which had only one room available and I felt a little lucky as I was to confirm the booking for the same. Hotel Heritage was just besides the lake and gave really a nice view of the Hallstätter See and the surrounding mountains! We started with Beinhaus (Bone-house) and started strolling through one end of the town to another, taking photographs of whatever comes in between. We came to know about a waterfall near Hallstatt (probably Glücksplatz can’t remember the name now) through hotel staff. Without asking much or getting anymore info, we started walking and only after walking for around 20-25 minutes, we came to know that we have to walk another 1 hour or so to reach that waterfall. Since we didn’t had much of time left in the day we had to cancel it and instead we just strolled in the town with dinner at Hotel Heritage Restaurant itself.
Second day in Hallstatt – one of the beautiful mornings in last some years – lake & mountain covered in mist, not much sound apart from the birds and very few people. Feeling of coming back to this place again got stronger! 🙂 Since we had this 1 complete day only – we had to choose between Ice Caves & Dachstein peaks OR Salt mining tour. We choose the former! We had breakfast in the local bakery, which was really good. Took the bus to the ‘Obertaun Dachsteinseilbahn’ from where we had to take the cable line up for IceCave (first destination). This was our first visit to any ice cave and hence we were really excited…… They had around 50 minutes tour and the guy explained most of the things very clearly. Inside it was an impressive mixture of ice and stone, all beautifully illuminated with colored lights. One of the best experiences of my life till now. Next was Dachstein 5-fingers. We had to take another cable line to go one more level up. The views from there was just stunning. Snow capped mountains. The 5-fingers was in a walking distance of around 20-25 mins from the cable car station. It was good for us as the weather was nearly perfect for a walk around snow-capped mountains. After finishing with 5-fingers we had our lunch at the restaurant up there. It was already around 13:45 by the time we finished our lunch. Started back to come down and boarded the bus to be back in Hallstatt. We had to wait something like 1 hour for the next bus, as the frequency was less being Sunday! TIP: Please check the bus timing before going up, so that you can come down as per the bus schedule. Rest of the afternoon we strolled the small streets of Hallstatt once more taking few photographs in the evening and bought few souvenirs.
Next day, it was time to say bye-bye to Hallstatt (never wanted to come out of that place….). Had breakfast at the same local bakery (we liked it soo much…ooh) and took the boat at 10 for our train to Salzburg via ATTNANG-PUCHHEIM (same train from which we came from Vienna, it goes till Salzburg). Salzburg was on our list mainly because of it’s small size and world famous weird dessert – Nockerl! **YES**. We visited the whole Salzburg city on foot, as most of the things are only at walk able distance with an evening across the Salzach river. Though the time in the city was quiet, but there were few interesting things happened: 1. The world famous wacky dessert – THE Nockerl. One of the desserts which I would not want to have ever in my life! But still, it’s the most famous thing in Salzburg which everyone tries – I think it is more famous than Mozart itself! Damn you……. 2. After walking the whole day, we wanted to have the drinks in the evening and saw one place with a board written cocktail names and said 50% off. Rest everything was in German. We ordered our drinks without enquiring much and when the bill came up, the waiter clarified what the statement meant written in German. It was saying that offer is valid on Thursday & Friday. Damn….. then why you put that board on Tuesday! Anyways, was in no mood to debate. Paid the full price. Lesson learned!! Few pics from Salzburg:
After 2 days in Salzburg, boarded the train back to Vienna and flew’d back to CPH to re-start the work life! But in all, it was a nice experience with a bit of everything – Vienna being one of the busiest city of Europe to relaxing & naturistic Hallstatt and then to quiet Salzburg. Until my next blog, this is Kapil signing off!!