Road trip: Slovenia and Austria

Happy Friday, everyone! We’re slowly, but surely getting to the end of this road trip recap. After two nights in Croatia, we headed north (in the home stretch of our trip now) to Lake Bled, Slovenia. We had ooh’ed and aah’ed at pictures of it and knew if there was one place in Slovenia that we had to go, it was there. Conveniently, it was on the route home too.

Again, the roads were longer than we thought. As we finally approached, limbs aching from sitting in the car most of the day, we were reading about places to stay in Bled. Found one that sounded fantastic and decided to treat ourselves to hotel night #2 of this journey. Thank GOD. When we arrived in Bled after dark, it was pouring rain. Julie + pouring rain + camping do not mix well.

Woke up the next morning to beautiful views from our balcony. After a lazy morning in the sauna and pool, we ventured out. Bled is one of the most serene, calming places I’ve ever been. Stressed out? Go to Bled. Seriously. It was so quiet and enchanting to walk around the lake (there is a trail around the whole thing, we did maybe a quarter). Realizing it was already after noon, we stopped for lunch in town at a sweet pub for some grilled meats, bread dumplings and mayyybe even some cheese dumplings. Heaven.

Got on the road to Salzburg, home to Mozart and The Sound of Music, which was supposed to take two hours. It took over FIVE. There was constant construction, in almost every tunnel. Have I mentioned that some of the driving tunnels through the Alps are over 7000 meters long? Cray. Anyway, it was so bad that Jaro, the patient driver, could get out of the car and walk around. People were even walking their dogs! I tried to take a nap.

Again, got into town after dark. But what a pretty town! Salzburg looked so wonderful from our limited strolling. And the food was delicious. Went to the Zipfer Beirhaus and chowed down on seasonal treats like pumpkin soup and wild boar ragu. Shared a massive table with hilarious traveling Australians and enjoyed the night. Verdict? Definitely need to go back to Salzburg. Maybe combine it with a second trip to Vienna in the winter (Went to Vienna this summer. Sweltering).

Here be the pics:

Last stop: Oktoberfest in Munchen.


P.S. Trying Lion Noir tonight with friends. Can’t wait!


Backpacking trip: Austria & Slovakia

After eventful visits in Poland and Czech Republic, we took a sweet ass overnight train from Prague to Vienna, Austria. What a difference from the overnighter from Krakow to Prague. Something got mixed up in translation when I bought the tickets because we ended up with a private cabin in first class. With air conditioning! We even had a butler that brought us tea and coffee in the morning! What! Not even complaining about it. Not even a little bit.

Just a normal breakfast in Vienna, Austria

So we arrive in Vienna and gratefully, our apartment was ready for us after a short tram ride. We cleaned up and get out in the city by 9. Fueled up on a breakfast of croissants AND rolls (I mean, we are in Vienna) and started our strolling. Successfully navigated to the Hofburg Palace, which pretty much slapped us in the face from its sheer size. Like everything in Vienna, it was quite grand. We did the tour of the three museums inside, which took all morning. It was all worth it (even the boring china exhibit) for the fascinating display about Empress Sisi. Basically, she was a lady to be admired (despite a pesky cocaine habit). She loved exercising and hygiene, which was truly ahead of the times in that era, especially for women. Count me as a fan!

Stephansdom. Vienna, Austria

That afternoon, we – surprise – walked around the entire city. From the Hofburg Palace, to the – you guessed it – grand Stephansdom (St. Stephen’s Cathedral), to the Danube waterfront, we did it all. In 35 degree heat. For you non-Celsius lovers, that’s around 90 Fahrenheit. Something I realized about Vienna quickly was how beautiful it would be in the winter. (And you know I generally dislike winter travel.) But imagine: Light snow. Softly lit street lamps. Tucking ourselves into a cozy cafe for coffee near a warm fireplace. Maybe even with a lounging cat nearby. Sounds romantic, right? That may seem lovely, but at the time, walking the streets, in sweltering heat, I thought my face was going to melt off like this guy.

By evening’s end, after a dinner of meat and cheese at a authentic heurigen (old wine cellar underground – and you know I love underground dining from my traveling in L’viv), we felt like we had gotten the gist of Vienna. Might have been quick, but hey, when Bratislava, Slovakia is a little over an hour away by train, you do what we did – you go to Slovakia!

The only English in the city.

So the next morning, we took a lovely train ride to Bratislava. Look at that warm welcome! But – Was there a tourist center in the train station (or anywhere in the city)? Nope. Any maps or directions posted? Nope. Any English? Other than the welcome sign (oddly), nope! While still super hot and completely left to our own devices, we were determined to make the best of it and try to see as much as possible.

Bratislava, Slovkia

Which isn’t much, thankfully. Bratislava is a small city sitting on the Danube, with a tiny historic center. From the train, we sweat our butts off trudging straight to the Bratislava Castle and took the tour. While not terribly informative or extensive, we did learn that it has burned down several times and most recently in 2011! Could still smell the fresh paint.

After trying some (okay) Slovakian beers, sitting in a cafe with soggy, mushy grass (inside!), we decided we had seen enough and headed back to Vienna. Dinner that might was hilariously gigantic ice cream desserts and… wine spritzers. Ha! Hey, when in Vienna…

Viennese dinner. Don’t mind if I do!

The next morning, we packed up and headed back to the train. Onward to Hungary!

Installment #4 about Budapest coming soon…