Friday, 24 June 2016

Wildschönau: Taking A Cable Car To The Top Of A Mountain

June 2 (Travel Day 34/71 about halfway through our Europe trip)

Day 1
We arrived in Wildschönau and meet our fellow hostel guests who were a couple of rather interesting characters. One comedian and the other an extreme extrovert. We went to the local supermarket, and napped. BBQ for dinner, and so much salad. So good!

Later we went for evening sunset walk around the town. The Austrian houses are super cute! We came across a couple of escaped goats (which seems so cliché) that the locals were trying to herd back behind the fence and watched the sun set. 
As the sky warmed to gold we could hear choruses of cuckoos and woodpeckers in the trees surrounding us. It was rather lovely.

Later on, Chris was desperate to find free wi-fi, so we stood outside a restaurant in the dark, pretending to read the menu while he was on facebook. This is the real side of travel in the world we live in.

Day 2
We took the cable car up the mountains nearby to really appreciate the views. We had a walk around once we were at the top but with no real direction, no map or wi-fi so we aimlessly walked in all directions. Which was nice to not have a plan for once.
Day 3
From here on out I have no diary entries for the next 2 weeks. This is basically because we started making more friends and spending more time socialising which obviously equalled less time to write things in my diary. So bear with me.

Chris rented a mountain bike to further explore the abundant mountainous terrain surrounding us, while I packed our things and had a lazy morning.

Quick Summary

Duration of stay: 2 nights
Was it enough time?: Yes, it's a nice town in the summer but I'm sure winter would be the peak of its season.
Where we stayed: The Apsley Ski Lodge
Time of Year: June
Best memories: Watching the sunset on all the very cute alpine Austrian houses.
Worst memories: My camera running out of battery when there was so many more pretty pictures to be taken.
Top tip: Take a ride up the gondola and follow your nose.
Next time: I would go in winter to make the most of the terrain.
Wildschönau in a few words: Quiet, mountainous, scenic
Recommended?: Sure, if you like to get out and about exploring nature or on the snow then this would be a nice place to spend a few days.
Overall experience: 6/10, our time here was nice, nothing super exhilarating but it gave us a chance to recharge our batteries before our next destination. Which is something I would definitely recommend when doing long-term travel.
Next destination: Venice, Italy

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Munich: A City Saved by Beer || Travel Diary

(Travel Day 31)

May 30 (Day 1)
We walked from the Wombats Hostel drop-off point to our accommodation at Hotel Monaco. As soon as we closed the door to our room we both burst out laughing. Our peculiar reaction was due to the entire hallway and room being decorated with doilies, cherubs and gingham print etc. It looked like someone took a nice idea from pinterest or their grandmothers house, and then went completely over-board with it.  A bit over the top for our liking, but hilarious all the same.
We got changed and went out for Mick's birthday dinner at Augustiner Bierhall. I had roast pork with dumplings, which was good but salty (as it always seems to be in Germanic countries). All washed down with two 1 Litre steins of beer, and pretzels to soak it all up. This was followed by a traditional Apfel struddel for dessert. 


The A team!

Dancing in the water features, as you do...

We all had a really good night, but because we were seated in the restaurant rather than the beer hall, there was less atmosphere than expected. Walking back through the beer hall was where all the sing-song and dance was happening. It was good to know for the next time. A good night had by all. 
We finished the night with shots
May 31 (Day 2)
Since travelling around Europe, we have become big fans of the SANDEMAN's free walking tours. They are always at a good pace, show you details and information you wouldn't find in a travel book and keep you fresh and interested with a bit of humour. Our tour in Munich was no exception to this rule. 

The meet-up point for the tour was a little chaotic as it is in Marienplatze square. This can make it difficult to find friends and tour groups because it is right next to the Rathaus-Glockenspiel, and the tour just happens to start as the clock starts its display, which is also when the square happens to become full with tourists.  

To be honest, I found the display itself rather under whelming (video) and had a good laugh at all the tourists with their cameras fixed on the little moving figures. 

Our guide was "India" and she had plenty of interesting stories about Munich's history and how it has always revolved around beer.

The monks; who originally brewed the beer, were where Munich got its name from. "Munchen, meaning "by the monks" turned into "Munich". 
Munich's city emblem is a monk.

Beer is so important  to Munich, it is said to have "saved" the city from annihilation. By using Hofbräuhaus beer to placate and bargain with the king of Sweden to prevent the city being sacked. 

A church also experienced a "beer miracle" when an intoxicated man climbed to the spire, dropped his stein from the very top and the miracle of the stein remaining intact.

We learnt of the origins of the Nazi party and its connection with the Hofbräuhaus. When we went inside you could make out the old Swastikas painted on the ceiling, which are now painted over and disguised, but you can still make them out at the base of the light fixtures.  

We also learnt about Ludwig 1 & 2, people peeing under tables, Dirndls and Lederhosen, ceilings that are curved like a barrel, Plague dancers, and May poles.
A traditional May pole
We even took a quick trip though St. Peter's Church before finishing up by learning about a building that was almost saved by beer but the locals ended up drinking it on the way, before the fire could be extinguished. As always, the guide kept the group interested and wanting more.
St. Peter's Church

St. Peter's Church

After all that walking, talking and information, we had a relaxing night-in. With kebabs for dinner and not surprisingly, more beer.

June 1 (Day 3)
We went on a tour around Dachau concentration camp. Dachau is a beautiful ancient city and was here long before the concentration camp was built. Our guide was Gordon (the owner of the tour company). We had beautiful weather even though storms were predicted. Gordon shared stories of the prisoners, the soldiers, and the local Germans who were caught in the middle. Some of his stories he had heard first hand through survivors and their families. With such grim and depressing source material he managed to make the tour very interesting and surprisingly less depressing than expected, almost uplifting at times. He emphasised the determination of the survivors, the people who fought to right the wrongs and ensure that nothing like this will happen again.
The entrance gate. "Arbeit macht frei" is a German phrase meaning "work sets you free."

Concentration camps around Europe during the war

A disturbing sculpture within the camp

Historical photographs of the living conditions.

The modern day grounds

"Do Not Forget"

We finished our time in Munich with drinks and pretzels in the famous Hofbräuhaus. We sat at a table near the entrance which meant lots new, cool people kept on joining our table.
Making friends
More friends!
We ended up staying there for HOURS!

The next morning he headed towards Wildschonau, Austria.

...Skip forward a few weeks...

We arrived back in Munich after touring Italy and Switzerland. As the way our Busabout tour worked out, we needed to go back through Munich again to get to our next destination. So I will include what we got up to here.

We had one last night in Munich, which meant we didn't have a lot of time to work with. So we walked around the Englischer Garten (English Garden), which had a lot of beautiful open spaces surrounded by a river (which had man-made rapids people can surf on)
Englischer Garten
Englischer Garten
I don't normally photograph bins but this one was a solar powered rubbish compactor. Cool!

The river surrounding the gardens

One last stein at the beer garden before saying Auf Wiedersehen to Munich.

Quick Summary (TL;DR)

Duration of stay: 3 nights (+1 night later in our trip)
Was it enough time?:Yes, we feel like we experienced a good amount of what Munich has to offer.
Where we stayed: Hotel Monaco 
Time of Year: May/June
Best memories: SANDEMAN's walking tour and drink steins at Hofbräuhaus.
Worst memories: Not necessarily the worst thing, but being under-whelmed by the Glockenspiel was disappointing.
Top tip: Eat, drink and be merry. If you are travelling and want to make friends, sit next to the door at a beer hall and welcome people to your table. It worked for us.
Next time: I would like to go to Oktoberfest
Munich in a few words: Beer, Nazis, Social
Recommended?: Yes, Munich definitely has it's charms but Berlin is still my favourite German city, Munich is a close second though.
Overall experience: 8/10
Next destination: Wildschonau, Austria.

Monday, 6 June 2016

Salzburg: Eisriesenwelt Ice Cave & Mirabell Palace || Travel Diary

(Travel Day 29)

Day 1:
When we arrived in Salzburg it was raining. We tried waiting for the weather to clear but it didn't. So instead we had drinks and dinner in the bar. The Goulash tasted like it was out of a can, which was a stark contrast to the delicious meals we were getting in Grünau, but the Schnitzel was alright. The hostel we were staying at screened "The Sound of Music" every night, so we all sat around on cushions, sang along and refreshed our memories. I was interested to learn that most of the locals have not even heard of "The Sound of Music" but being that it is an American produced movie, I guess that would make sense. 

Day 2: Public Holiday (All shops shut) May 29th

On our second day we caught a shuttle to the Eisriesenwelt Ice Cave. It was a long twisty road up mountain, so if you are prone to carsickness consider yourself warned.
 It was 5 degrees colder in carpark than in Salzburg and the temperature got cooler as we ascended. Our tour guide was giving us information about the cave the whole way. We walked to the cable car which was at 1080m above sea level.
The hike was not as bad as expected, so don't let the unfit people on trip advisor put you off. The cable car took us up another 500m up, then we walked rest of the way to cave entrance.
The entrance to the cave from the walkway.

Getting closer, but still a while away yet.
Looking back down the cliffs beside the path.
The path to the cave.
Once we reached the entrance to the cave the temperature dropped again. It was much colder at the entrance and every time the door to the caves was opened, a gust of freezing wind would rush out. We were blowing vapour with every breath. The groups were broken into English and German speakers while we waited 30 mins for the next tour.

At the entrance looking out.
On entering the caves we were given a lantern, and the guide used a magnesium stick/flare. Which illuminated the giant ice formations with a green or blue glow. It was absolutely remarkable.
Chris was my guiding light, or at least he was holding it.

There are about 300-400 steps soon after we got into the cave. Some may find it difficult but for us it wasn't too bad. There was three year old on our tour and he didn't have too many issues. A big disappointment was that you are not allowed to take photos, as if someone uses the flash it will ruin everyone's dark vision. The guide was running over ice like we would run on concrete, with no problems slipping at all. Chris, however did slip, luckily he didn't hurt himself. The ice cave itself was like nothing else I had seen before, absolutely stunning!
Sneaky photo of the ice formations inside the cave (the only one not completely blurry)
Descending further into the cave
Up in the clouds.

Then we all walked back down and met our guide at the Cafe. Took photos with the Fortress and returned back to Salzburg.

Later we had dinner at bar again. We were all starting to get sick of TSOM,  as it had been stuck in our heads all day and a lot the tourist attractions revolve around it. So we took a pass on the movie that night.

Day 3
On our last day we hurriedly packed our bags for travel. We then took a quick trip into old town square. Visited Mozart shops. Ate Mozart balls (from the supermarket = much cheaper). We had enough time to explore the Mirabell Palace gardens, before we hurried back to the pick-up point for the bus to head to Munich.

Mirabell Palace gardens

Mirabell Palace gardens

Mirabell Palace gardens
Rose Archway featured in The Sound of Music in Mirabell Palace gardens
Mirabell Palace gardens

Mirabell Palace gardens
Mirabell Palace gardens
Over looking the Salzach river
Mozart merchandise and our tuatara
Mozart balls (we got ours at the local supermarket, rather than the tourist shops)

Hohensalzburg Fortress
The Salzburger Dom
Hohensalzburg Fortress from Kapitelplatz

Hohensalzburg Fortress

Quick Summary

Duration of stay: 2 nights
Was it enough time?: No, we would have needed another day or more to really see the city properly, as the Ice caves took an entire day and rain made things difficult.
Where we stayed: Yoho International Youth Hostel
Time of Year: May
Best memories: Exploring inside the Eisriesenwelt Ice Cave
Worst memories: Having the rain dampen our Salzburg experience.
Top tip:Visit the Eisriesenwelt Ice Cave if it is open when you are there (closed in winter)
Next time: We would have liked a bit more time to explore Salzburg itself. Next time we would visit Hohensalzburg Fortress and Hellbrunn Palace. 
Salzburg in a few words: Musical, Icecaves, Mozart
Recommended?: Maybe, Salzburg wasn't my favourite Austrian or German city we visited, but if you have time and are nearby then I would suggest checking it out.
Overall experience: 6/10, Ice caves where the best part. We were underwhelmed by the food we had (although we didn't venture far) and our city experience was a bit rushed.
Next destination: Munich, Germany