21 Days in Europe: Austria
Central cosy studio apartment hosted by Melissa ($43 per night)
We really enjoyed having the entire studio apartment to ourselves, even if it was super tiny! The windows opened to a beautiful view of the city and allowed in fresh air. The couple was very kind and provided coffee and tea and welcomed us at the beginning to see if we needed anything.
The City of Salzburg
Salzburg itself was a really cute city! There are a lot of historical destinations (that don’t just include The Sound of Music tour), and had the BEST food that we’ve had so far! Old town Salzburg was definitely our favorite as there was shopping and places to eat everywhere! (Not to mention the views from each place were all fantastic as well):
However, as cute as the town was, everything had to be accessed by bus (not my favorite thing), and there seemed to be a takeover of Sound of Music touring (which if you love that kind of thing, it’s everywhere!) Even though it’s not really our thing, we did get some good photo ops out of it!
Pictured: Mirabel gardens at the fountain
Pictured: Mirabel palace and flowers in the gardens
It’s a pretty busy place in the afternoon, so if you want pictures that don’t have a bunch of people in the background, you’ll definitely want to go early morning. (Unless you want to take a tour, in which the fan favorite seemed to be Frauline Maria’s bike tour).
It rains here pretty often in the summer, and most people wear boots and jackets everyday.
It was a little cooler in the summer than I expected, generally around 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit at all times. Make sure to pack a jacket for chilly mornings and evenings!
There are a lot of historical areas in which to view and take pictures, but my favorites were the fortress and the fountains!
Day Trips Close to Salzburg via Train
Werfen Ice Caves
The first day trip we took in the area of Salzburg was to a town called Werfen, known for its castle and ice caves. This ended up definitely being the most adventurous day trip with a mile hike incline, tram up, 32 degree cave temperature, and 1000-step trek once in the cave. Still, you can’t beat views like these:
Packing a jacket is essential for this trip with the temperature starting out around 50 degrees and getting colder the closer you get to the cave entrance. You may even want gloves for the inside of the cave.
Once you get to the top, the view of the cave entrance is stunning!
Inside, you do have to have a tour guide (its pitch black dark inside), and the tour lasts about 30 min- an hour (if there are both German and English-speaking tourists, the tour guide translates the tour into both languages).
You are given a tiny lantern between two people for lighting during the tour, and the tour guide uses flammable wire to keep areas of the cave structures lit at specific times.
The ice cave was one of the most impressive sights we’ve come across so far. It has its own unique beauty that’s hard to come across in most areas of the US, let alone, Texas. You aren’t allowed to take pictures on the inside of the caves (due to the disruption of flash), but it actually helps to sit back and enjoy the views for your own eyes, and pictures are provided of the caves afterward on their Facebook page such as these:
You almost forget how cold it is inside because the almost other-worldly, sparkly paradise completely just takes your breath away!
Just from this point of view from the area above, you can see just how charming this tiny town just outside of Austria is.
It’s definitely a sleepy little town, but it can be. A refreshing getaway from the bustling city of Salzburg, and provides a wonderful view of the beautiful lake it rests on. You come into town off the train by getting onto a ferry, which has its own charm.
Once in town, you can stop to eat a delicious meringue pastry (we only ahared one, but we wish we had more!) That are handmade right in front of you!
There are so many quirky little shops that you can stop by to see handmade gifts or souvenirs! Going up the hill in town will lead you to more adventures like the UNESCO World Heritage Site viewpoint, which overlooks the entire town and it’s surrounding regions.
You can take a picture at the “Skywalk”, which allows visitors to stand on a high point over the town and water.
There is also a restaurant located at this point, and is close to the salt mine.
It’s known as a world heritage view for its rich history. The town claims to have the “world’s oldest salt mine”, in which they also discovered the primitive “world’s oldest (preserved) staircase”.
Inside the salt mine, you can venture down into the 40 degree mine wearing authentic miner gear:
(We don’t have a picture full-body, but o assure you it’s super cute and Mario-approved).
It’s suggested you wear sturdy shoes for the walking in the mine (and to keep you warmer).
The history of the mine is teally interesting, and there’s even a light show helping to explain it. The museum exhibit with a 3D walkthrough of the mine’s history was very well put together, and the tour guide made the experience really fun! There’s even 2 slides involved in the mine, and they’re an absolute blast (don’t forget to make an awesome face at the end of the second one because there’s a picture involved).
The last destinations of historical influences are surrounding its churches.
Hallstatt seems to be a very religious place, and holds the church at one of its highest points (literally, this is the graveyard):
If you’re into the whole “I like creepy stuff like people’s skulls all stacked together and painted to look nicer” thing, they have a pretty famous crypt for their overflow. That’s literally why they have it; THERE’S NOT ENOUGH ROOM. If your family doesn’t care to take care of your beautiful flowery grave anymore, your headstone gets removed and gun up, and your body is excavated. I don’t know where they put the rest of the body, but all there is left to show is your skull, which is painted by a nice townsperson and put into a crypt in which they charge visitors 5 Euros to see. Nice.
Overall, Hallstatt is a small town with a lot to offer. In terms of tourism though, it’s pretty crowded, and you’ll probably see a lot of selfie sticks.
I vouch whole-heartedly for the daytrips though, because they still leave you with the evenings to experience Salzburg, and you can always set aside a day for Sound of Music tours if you really want it. However, there are so many good resources out there (I found a lot on Pinterest) that will show you where all of the locations are in case you want to just do your own tour (and that’s free!)
That’s it for Austria! Next up, Slovenia!! (Which will be really soon considering we had no WiFi on the train to Slovenia, or glamping for the first day at Lake Bled) :)
~Gal with a pal