Austria, after heading through the Bavarian countryside it was starting to get abit mountainous and grey. Europe had been hit with a very harsh snow season this winter and it showed little signs of letting off, approaching Salzburg we find a park and ride and bus into the city centre.
Salzburg to describe is built by the river, in a valley that is surrounded by cliff face hills to which medieval fortress walls encave the city making it nestled into its own region. It is old and there is money, lots of it. Extravagant, eloquent and elaborate this city has style, but you need money, plenty of it. Walking down the main streets with their fancy clothes range, jewellery shops and posh restaurants it’s very money orientated, and one that’s plain to the eye is the amount of homelessness and with unfortunate or not begging on their knees asking for every cent they can aquire.
The architecture in their own right is stunning with baroque style buildings. You walk down one lane to be surprised by another impressive piece of architecture, the main features of this old town is the main cathedral called Dom. This quite simply was stunning and to even begin how to describe this would not do it justice, the other is the Festung Hohenssalzburg which its atop of the hill over looking the town. Built in 1077 it sits prominently where princes have ruled Salburg since 798. Walking around the old cobbled lanes with the shops bustling with upperclass snobs it is obvious when you look up at the shops they are all decorated with gold ornate bracketts holding up signs it is all very elaborate.
Right, back to business now you’re already aware that we need attire for Oktoberfest, well to my surprise lederhosen and drindl are even more prominent here. So we take a look and the shops range to some obviously ridiculously expensive attire, we manage to persevere and find one shop that the price seems very affordable.
Try on some lederhosen and to be fair thought I looked bloody stupid! But then I had found the shirt to accompany this and was all coming together quite nicely. My lederhosen is made of goat interestingly enough and all I need now is a hat and some socks and that’s me done for the big day on the piss. Karen picked out a pearler of a dress & blouse she also is set for the day, and that after our look around Salzburg was that. It was time to head back to the camper and make our way in land next to the lake Wolfgangsee.
Arriving into snow capped mountainous terrain we come into an area called St Wolfgang which sits pleasantly next to the lake, our campsite which is right on the waterfront would serve to be a perfect spot for some barbecuing if the weather allows it. We settle in, heater on in the Green Machine and catch up on some much needed wifi preparing our next few days in Austria.
Rise and shine it’s turning out to be a glorious day with the sun trying to break away from the clouds, we are about to set of to Hallstatt. I’ve known about this place for a few years and was very intrigued to visit, it was a visit I planned on making last time I was in Europe but never got the chance. And what a place this is, an old quaint town sitting upon the ice cold lake with the mountains soaring up in such steep fashion this is the home of the salt mines. The salt mines that carve their way into these mountains for many thousands of years make that seven thousand years! has been a source of income, it is also evident of the romans being here with a traditional thermal bath found in excavations. Unfortunately for us the mines are off peak season so was not able to do a tour in the mines themselves but to even grasp the idea of human activity here for such a long period is really fascinating. Walking in the township and the buildings just look like something out of a fairy tale, all sat right on the lake edge with the carved out river from the mountain behind making its way through man made gully’s.
It was time to make our way up the hill and trek through some fresh powder snow, sunshine gleaming there was no better day to visit. Up the hill you would pass several salt mine gated entry points into the mountain, several signs of information stating the working conditions for the men who worked in these mines, death was a regurlar occurrence and a way of life for the miner. Just taking a glimpse down some of these mines sent chills of what must have been extremely hard labour. Onwards to the top of the mountain and the view is some what overwhelming and looking down at the Hallstatt town just makes it look so miniature.
Top of this mountain is the Rudolfsturm tower, this was built in the 13th century to protect the salt mines. Today its a primo spot for some sunshine beers and wine! Glorious. Having some much deserved pastry it was so quiet and peaceful looking over the lake. Making our way down it was time to take a look under a shop where excavations have taken place to discover iron tools and bones and what was the Roman bathhouse, situated right here. The iron tools have been dated back to the iron age of civilization. Fascinating stuff. I hope the photo’s do itself justice as this is a must see on any travellers bucket list. Stunning wether be it winter or summer it really did pull the heart strings.
One last night in St Wolfgang and it’s decided to crank the bbq up for the first time, table chairs and all set up by the lake for a stunning sunset. Charcoal is not my speciality and one I’m going to have to learn quick, get it hot contain that heat, get cooking! Got there in the end and you just can’t beat that charcoal taste over gas bbq. Austrian beef loin steaks with a little olive oil seasoned and you have yourself a bloody good tucker. A few German drinks and it’s times like these you reflect about your trip.
Heading east towards Vienna we stop in a town called Gmunden, small little lakeside town with really not alot there. Place to sleep in a camping car park its all good when it’s free.
Again heading east we stop enroute at St Polton and here the buildings get older and churches glorified with age, don’t look like much on the outside but once inside it’s quite a shock. Stunning to put it simply and you will see that in the photo’s.
Heading to a town called Mödling this would be our base for two nights in a camper park that’s free, railway station and supermarket 200 metres away was a perfect location. Train ride in to Vienna would be about 30 mins.
Set up and enjoying a beverage I caught out in the corner of my eye an old Austrian man walking his dog, now I’m not exaggerating and the voices in my head wouldn’t leave me. I open the door and not even realising that this guy won’t understand me, “Your dog looks like Chewbacca! ” laughing I was half expecting the dog to growl like chewwy too. The owner laughed he knew exactly what I said and ended up chatting to us for 20 minutes. From life at the war and how he learnt to speak English to then when the Russians came Russian was the language you had to learn. Apparenty the dog is a French sheep dog, it was massive too! Full of stories about his family it was really nice to just chat to a local for a period of time.
Getting ready to catch the train we head to Vienna, now its warm and sunny we put on more summery gear. Well this was a fatal mistake it snowed! not for long though and was just a good excuse to go inside and have a brew. When walking in from the central train station there was’t alot that caught my eye, we get to the main church which is called the Stephansdom and this just shot up into the sky out of nowhere. No sqaure as such and pretty well surrounded we pay to do a walk up to see the panoramic views of the city. I’ll be honest it wasn’t that impressive and luckily didn’t give away what I was about to see.
The church inside had a service as it was Easter Monday, eloborate as all the churches we seen, it was nice to hear the choir and acoustics in the church. Onwards we walk further towards the other tourist attractions and you come accross the Spanische Hofreitschule Nationalbibliothek which is bassically a big archway entrance to the other side. Now we weren’t expecting the extravagance of the buildings we were to encounter, namely the Hofburg, Kunsthistorisches museum, Naturhistorishches museum, Parlament, Burgtheater one after the other your constantly try to grasp how magnificent these buildings are. Further walking around there’s the Universtät, the Votivkirche church all such stunning architecture and monumentous in stature it was quite a sight. All this walking around we had been keeping an eye open for a funky cafe that was on the alternative side for lunch and booze, well we found it and it is called the Weltcafè. If you visit Vienna I recommend this place price was good and you avoid that tourist crap!
More walking we head round by the river and walk back to the train station, walking down in the channel below the road level what would be underground vaults have all been made into bars and night clubs with the whole vacinity along the river all in graffiti which I thought looked pretty dam cool. That was our time for Vienna and we head back to Mölding.
All in all Austria served up a real nice surprise with such a mixture of landscape and old towns there would be so much more that we haven’t seen in this amazing county and one that we would have to come back to one day. Euro’s transferred into Forint, what’s to expect when we cross the border into Hungary, Budapest our destination we are venturing further into the unknown and further east of Europe where Hungary is bordered with Austria, Slovakia, Ukraine, Romainia, Serbia and finally Croatia what a mix of different cultures that is. Hope you found this blog about Austria as interesting as we did till next time. Tschüss