Travelling through Austria: Salzburg.

Salzburg. The city of the classical composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791). Home to the renowned Salzburg Festival, an annual cultural event held in July and August, with music and drama and the play Jedermann (Everymann) by Hugo von Hofmannsthal as the annual highlight. A city with magnificent architecture and many great Baroque examples. The shooting location of the classic movie The Sound of Music that isn’t even that famous or popular in Austria. Apparently Salzburg is a place for everyone during every season. Despite actually liking The Sound of Music a lot, my last visit to this town was during a school visit around 10 years ago. So a while ago. At the end of summer I decided that it was time to change that. I hopped on a train and spent an afternoon in Salzburg and also met up with a friend of mine (Moscow Reunion #?).

The city

Salzburg is close to the border with Germany, and is divided by the river Salzach. The Oldtown underneath the Mönchsberg and the Hohensalzburg Fortress is located on the left side of the river, whereas the ‘New Town’ is on the right side, south of the Kapuzinerberg. With a population of around 150,000 people the city is the fourth largest one in Austria (after Vienna, Graz, and Linz). It is also the capital city of the federal province Salzburg. The city’s name derives from ‘salt castle’ and comes from the salt mining done around the city.

Salzburg actually has quite a long & rich history, reaching back to the Stone Age. Key events that made the region and city important happened during the Middle Ages, especially in the Baroque times of the 17th and 18th century when many great buildings were erected. A former independent country – a prince-bishopric of the Holy Roman Empire with Salzburg as the seat of the Archbishopric – Salzburg was annexed to the Habsburg Monarchy in 1816 because the Archbishops lost their secular power as a result of the Napoleonic wars and lost much of its economical cultural prosperity. At the end of the 19th century the city was finally able to recover, and after WW1 the famous Salzburg Festival was founded. It started to become a fashionable place to be during summer, especially because of this event. The city became a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site in honour of the unique baroque architecture in 1997. Besides that and being the home of Mozart and the shooting location of The Sound of Music there is a lot to discover in Salzburg – the rich art scene, the many restaurants and cafés, manicured parks, and the narrow streets with many shops and boutiques make it a wonderful place. And the many tourists that venture to this city can agree with me on that. Salzburg is Austria’s second most visited city after Vienna.

The sights

After arriving at the central train station one of the first sights that one encounters en route to the old town is the Mirabell Palace. The name derives from mirabile & bella – admirable & beautiful – and is a perfect description for the palace and its garden if you ask me. Erected in 1606 for the archbishop and his mistress as a pleasure palace, it can now be booked for weddings and is also home to municipal offices.

Salzburg_mirabell_garden_pink flowers

The Mirabell Garden in its underlying geometric form (typical for Baroque) is perfect for taking a stroll on a warm sunny afternoon. And on all other days as well. It is one of the shooting locations of The Sound of Music movie. Sounding like a modern fairy tale but it actually happened: the story of the Trapp family. A young woman leaves a convent to become the governess to the seven children of a Naval officer widower in the 1930s. They get married (surprise surprise), found a family choir, emigrate to the US (because of the growing popularity of the Nazis in Austria) and gain international success and fame. The ‘Sound of Music’ movie portrays this story, and even won five oscars. It is loaded with stereotypes about Austrian people, and no, we (the Austrian people) don’t sing that much.

Salzburg_mirabell_garden_roses

Salzburg_mirabell_garden_fortress

Crossing the Salzach via the pedestrian bridge (that always reminds me of the Harry Potter Bridge – the Millenium Bridge in London – even though it has no similarity to it at all) one already gets a glimpse of the old town with its baroque buildings and of course the Hohensalzburg Castle on top of the Festungsberg. This is one of the largest medieval castles in Europe and was built in the early 11th century. My friend Viktoria and I decided not to go up there and spend the afternoon in the old town instead.

Salzburg_city_river_bridge_lovelocks

Salzburg_city_streets_people

Salzburg_city_streets_sign

Salzburg_city_streets

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born and grew up in this city, visitors bump into Mozart around almost every corner of Salzburg. Almost the entire old town is a walkable Mozart museum: his birthplace, former residence, a monument, the grave of his sister and so on. In my opinion both his former residence and birthplace are rather unspectacular from the outside (I’ve never been inside though), but it’s still a tourist attraction nonetheless. The funny thing to me was that in the house of his birthplace there is now a super fancy looking supermarket that is actually just a regular one.

One of the most pompous places in Salzburg is the Residenzplatz, a large square in the historic centre. Its name derives from the residence of the Prince-Archbishops of Salzburg. The Salzburg Cathedral, founded in 774 and rebuilt in the 12th c., is located in the south and the Alte Reisdenz in the west. There is also the Neue Residenz with a bell tower, a Renaissance building that was erected in the 16th century. Also around the corner is the rather prominent statue of a huge gold ball on top of which a man is standing. This is part of an art installation – the Sphaera – by the German sculptor Stephan Balkenhol.

Salzburg_city_sights_cathedral_residenzplatz

Salzburg_city_sights_residenzplatz_residence_old

Salzburg_city_sights_residenz_new_

Salzburg_city_streets_horses_fiaker

Salzburg_city_sights_gold

The food & sweets

A restaurant chain that was founded in Salzburg is my Indigo. They offer food that is healthy, versatile and perfect for those that do not have that much time to eat but still want to grab something healthy for lunch or dinner. Sushi, salads, curries, and soups are on their menu. Many of their dishes are either vegetarian or vegan, and they also have a lot of gluten-free options as well. I went for a vegan curry (low carb option – so with more veggies and no rice or couscous) and it was truly delicious. Feel good food for everyone. The restaurant that we went to is located near Staatsbrücke on Rudolfskai, and is open Mo–Sa 11:00–23:00 & So 12:00–21:00.

The go-to souvenir and typical confectionary of Austria – the Mozartkugel – has its origin in Salzburg. The small round confection made of pistachio marzipan, nougat, and dark chocolate was first created by the Salzburg confectioner Paul Fürst in 1890, then known as Mozart-Bonbon. Fürst’s descendants still manufacture this confectionary and sell it in their bakery in the heart of the old town. For 1.30€ per piece one can buy one of those and go into Mozart-heaven. Even if one doesn’t like marzipan (I don’t) one should definitely try them at least once.

Salzburg_mozart_fürst_mozartkugeln_shop

A coffee and a piece of cake is a must in a city like Salzburg. The Café Fingerlos is a great place for doing that. It’s a very typical and rather traditional coffee house (actually it’s a patisserie and confectionary) that also offers breakfast and lunch. They have a great assortment of cakes that look really exquisite which makes it the perfect location for a person with a sweet tooth like me. Oh, and they even have a vegan cake of the day, so of course I had to try this one with a cup of good old-fashioned ‘Verlängerter’ (a typical Austrian coffee – espresso prepared with double amount of water).

Salzburg_food_cafe_fingerlos_coffee

The bottom line

Unfortunately, Salzburg faces a similar problem as Prague, Venice, Barcelona and many other places do. Like them, Salzburg has too many tourists and no added value is created for the city (because of the types of tourists coming to the city and the way they consume hardly anything to nothing). The city reports many traffic jams and most of the parking lots are occupied because of the hoards of tourists coming to the city. Many tourists are brought to the city via organised bus tours and only spend 2-3 hours in the city and don’t consume much but still overcrowd the historic old town. Many of the locals avoid going to this place at certain points of the day because of the many tourists. (read more about the problem here)

This should in no way discourage you from visiting this beautiful city though. However, I must admit that this was also a reason for me why I haven’t visited this city in such a long time: everyone’s always talking about the hoard of tourists roaming the city, making it less enjoyable. Nevertheless, I like the city, especially because of its wonderful architecture. I’d never want to live there though, but for a day visit it’s a great place. And you should pick a weekday and not a weekend to visit, there are definitely less people there. Oh, and it helps if it’s a rather gloomy day :)

Here’s my favourite Sound of Music song. I couldn’t withhold it from you. A great end to a blogpost, don’t you think? Enjoy. ;)

 

 

 

Hiking in Vienna.

Hiking is a very popular sport among Austrians, and the many hills and mountains in Austria are truly inviting. Even in the capital city hiking has a long standing tradition – many are drawn to the numerous Heurige (wine taverns), the Vienna Woods, and the vineyards that can be found in the outskirts of Vienna. In recent years it seems it has become even more popular, especially among the young generation. Needless to say, hiking was on my summer to-do list for 2017.

The city – to be more precise: the Forestry Office – has laid out eleven city hiking paths called ‘Stadtwanderweg’ that lead around the outer corners of the city through beautiful scenery and with great viewing platforms. They are all properly kept, well signposted, and accessible by public transport. There are also many picnic tables, benches, and playgrounds along the paths. People who manage to collect stamps at official stamping points along the hiking paths will even be rewarded with pins and certificates that recognise their efforts: a silver pin for 3 stamps, a golden pin for 7+ stamps. Too bad that we only found out about this after our hike, or else we would have gotten 2 pins already.

So on a mild Sunday after a rainy Saturday in August my boyfriend and I wanted to check out some of the best viewpoints over the city and decided to hike across the three hills in the north of Vienna: Leopoldsberg (425m), Kahlenberg (484m), and Hermannskogel (542m). A total of 13 kilometres, fairly easy, well-signposted (nowadays with Google Maps this is no must anymore), and the start & endpoints are easy to reach via public transport – perfect for a person who hasn’t been on a proper hike in years!

We loosely followed a suggested route, a mix of the Stadtwanderweg 1a until Kahlenberg, and later Stadtwanderweg 2. We started our tour in Nußdorf where we walked along the Danube for the first part, and then headed up the steep paved passage with a 300m altitude difference to reach the Leopoldsberg. This was definitely the toughest part, but luckily we already had a great view over the vineyards, the Danube, and parts of Vienna on our way up the hill. On top of the Leopoldsberg there is a church dedicated to St Leopold that was built in 1679 which is already clearly visible from Vienna.

Vienna_hike_start_danube

Vienna_hike_leopoldsberg_view_christina

The view from up there was great – we saw parts of Lower Austria, Floridsdorf (a district of Vienna), Vienna itself, and the vineyards that lie in the north of Vienna.

Vienna_hike_leopoldsberg_view_lower austria

Vienna_hike_leopoldsberg_view_floridsdorf

Vienna_hike_leopoldsberg_view_city

Vienna_hike_leopoldsberg_view_vineyards_city

We then continued on our way to the Kahlenberg where we met hundreds of tourists on a terrace, taking selfies with the scenic view over Vienna in their backgrounds. This lead to only a brief stop to take in the view – way too many people for our taste! We could definitely see that day that the Kahlenberg is one of the most popular destinations because of the view over the entire city and even parts of lower Austria. The 165m steel tower serving as a transmitter for the Austrian Broadcast Corporation, a private university, and the Stefaniewarte, an observation tower erected in 1887, are also located on the peak of the hill.

Interesting to know: the Leopoldsberg used to have the name Kahlenberg because of the bare rocky slope down to the Danube and was later given the name Leopoldsberg after the emperor Leopold in 1693. Whereas the now-called Kahlenberg was first called Sauberg (sow mountain or pig mountain) because of the many wild pigs roaming the forests and then Josephsberg (Joseph’s Mountain) after an emperor in 1628. Only after changing the original Kahlenberg into Leopoldsberg did the now-Kahlenberg receive its final name.

Vienna_hike_Kahlenberg_sefaniewarte_observation tower.jpg

From there we first walked along the Höhenstraße but soon came to a non-paved path through the forest. It was the most quiet part of our walk, we encountered less tourists and casual walkers there. We then reached the highest natural point of Vienna – the Hermannskogel atop of which the Habsburgwarte is standing. This 27 metre tall observation tower was erected for the Habsburg emperor in 1889. In 1892 the tower was specified as kilometre zero in cartographic measurements which was used in Austria-Hungary until 1918. The lookout tower is open for the public for a small entrance fee on weekends during summer. Luckily the sun was shining and most of the clouds were already gone, so the view was great from up there!

Vienna_hike_Hermannskogel_habsburgwarte_observation tower

Vienna_hike_hermannskogel_habsburgwarte_christina

Vienna_hike_hermannskogel_view.jpg

We then started our ‘descent’ in order to get back home, but made a quick coffee break at the restaurant “Grüass di a Gott Wirt” which was quite funny because this place had chicken and a rooster running around in the outdoor seating area, not minding all the people sitting there. A true countryside feeling I must say! The final kilometres took us through a forest and past some other beautiful vineyards with a view over the outskirts of Vienna.

The hike was fairly easy, but the first part was quite tough. It is definitely not suited for strollers or wheelcharis because of the steps on the Nasenweg (the steep part at the beginning). However, hiking boots are not a must, but solid footwear is definitely recommended. We walked for around 5 hours, but had many breaks to enjoy the view, look at the nature, eat our lunch, go up the observation tower, or have a coffee. The Leopoldsberg and Kahlenberg are both reachable via public transport (Bus 38A), so if you ever want to enjoy the view but don’t want to hike or don’t have the time for doing so – that’s a great option as well.

Catching up: Summer Edition 2017

I thought it was time for a small update about what has been going on in the past few months and what I was up to. There has been a lot going on lately: I graduated from university, I moved apartments, became an aunt, did some travelling, and am currently figuring out what my next steps in life should be.

In my last update – the Spring Edition – I was ranting on how little travelling I had been able to do but ended up discovering that I’d actually been doing a lot. In this post I could go in a similar direction as I have had the constant feeling of being restricted to my desk at home with the occasional family visit here and there. However, I think this is the typical feeling students have – always being tied to their laptops with the need to write a paper or study for an exam. Despite being the truth this time as I just finished my master studies and had to write my thesis during spring and early summer, I know that this is not true and I was able to actually do some travelling and there has been something going on in my life. So no ranting this time hopefully! ;)

May

At the beginning of sweet sweet May my friend Carina and I finally handed in our thesis (yes, at my university we had to pair up and write a thesis together). I guess we were both surprised how satisfied we were with our final version in the end, and that we managed to be done two weeks prior the official deadline so we could have it printed properly and sent via mail to our uni. I still remember one of my first ‘free’ weekends that I spent in Vienna – just taking a stroll after a rainy day in the tourist area of Vienna after a month of hardly any joyful activities. I also had time again to do some proper cooking and baking – yay – for example the mini versions of the traditional Austrian Nussschnecken.

Together with my friend Madlene I flew to London to visit our friend Daan, so I had my first little Moscow reunion over there. We had a great weekend where we explored some parts of London, went on a Street Art & Graffiti Tour, and Madlene and I even took a train down to Brighton for a day.

June

In June my friend Carina and I had to fly to Copenhagen for one last time to defend our thesis, and to finally finish our studies there. Everything went down smoothly, we spent some great last days in the capital of Denmark, visited friends, spent some time in the beautiful Botanical Garden of the city and pondered about life, the past, the present, and the future on the beach.

In June I went on my first solo trip ever. Nothing big, nothing dangerous. Just to the Culture Capital of Europe 2017 – Aarhus – located on Jutland in the west of Denmark. It was a great trip to a great small city with a cute canal and a beautiful museum – the Aros.

July

In July I spent a great deal at home with my family as I became an aunt at the end of June, and I had my family try a summer cake that I had included in my recipe repertoire. I also moved apartments in Vienna, so there was a lot of packing and unpacking happening and many IKEA visits necessary. It was a relatively unspectacular and unproductive yet busy month for me.

I was able to do some travelling (besides going back and from Vienna & Upper Austria) in July. I spent 24 hours in Graz, the capital of Styria, to have brunch together with my bf and some of his friends.

Another Moscow reunion was taking place in July, and this time it was in Vienna. My former Russian travel buddies Marcel (NL) and Frederik (DK) came to visit Madlene and me in our beautiful capital Vienna. We did some great sightseeing over the weekend, went to a traditional Heuriger, and had a few drinks while listening to some good local music at the Popfest. I really got to see my own ‘home town’ through a tourist’s lense with them.

August

August was my travel month. Together with my friend Julia I took a train from Vienna to the western end of Austria. We did some exploring in Bregenz and took the Pfänderbahn cable car up the local mountain, spent a day in the town Lindau which is situated on an island on the Lake Constance, and on our way back to the east we stopped in Innsbruck. There we got to see the beautiful capital of the alps and we took a cable car up to the Nordkette where we had a beautiful view over the city and the surrounding alps.

Back in Vienna I was finally able to do some exploring in the city and its surrounding, and was able to hike around the northern parts of Vienna and explored the Leopoldsberg, Kahlenberg, and Hermannskogel.

At the end of August my friend Carina and I spent 2.5 days in Amsterdam, where I was meeting another friend from Moscow – Katharina! We did some exploring in the city, had a lot of fries and sat in cozy cafés to enjoy the great weather. A very good ending of August I must say. Check out my blogpost about my trip ;)

As you can see I have been rather busy lately, there has actually been a lot going on in my life in the past few months. It’s been quite hectic and busy at times – especially during the process of writing the thesis – but I could definitely see the progress that I was making – not only when talking about the thesis, but also in my personal life :)

 

 

Italian Adventure: Udine.

Last year I went on my first real family holiday trip abroad. My mom has always wanted to go to Venice, so my sister and I decided it was about time that she got to see the city of her dreams which I have shared with you in this blogpost from 2016. On our way to Venice, we made a short stop so we could explore another city that is located right between the Adriatic Sea and the Alps: Udine.

Udine_sights_castle_view_mountans

The city

Udine is located in the north-east of Italy, in the Firuli-Venezia Giulia region. With a bit over 99,000 inhabitants, the city is fairly small but the second largest in Friuli (after Trieste). The city’s main income derives from commerce (with various commercial centres in the hinterland), and the iron and mechanical industries.

The city was first mentioned in AD 983; however, it has been inhabited since the Neolithic age and was part of the Western Roman Empire. Udine became a more prominent city in the Middle Ages, as the patriarchs of Aquileia moved the seat of their government there, established a market, and transformed the city into a thriving and busy regional centre of trade and commerce. Udine was conquered by the Republic of Venice in the 15th century, and an almost 400 year reign of the Republic followed, which also lead to a decline in the city’s importance. Udine was annexed to the Austrian empire in 1797 and remained part of Austria until 1866 when it joined the Kingdom of Italy which became the Italy we know today.

Udine_city_streets_4

Udine_city_streets_3

Udine_city_streets_1

The sights

After arriving in Udine one immediately spots the Castle of Udine which stands atop of a 136-metre-hill overlooking the city. The Chiesa Santa Maria di Castello, a church, and a bell tower with a bronze angel on top of it which turns according to the wind direction, are seen instantly. The castle used to be home to noblemen, patriarchs, and Venetian lieutnants, but has been hosting the Civic Museums and Art & History Galleries since 1906.

Udine_sights_castle_church

Udine_sights_castle_bench

Udine_sights_castle_garden

Udine_sights_castle_us

Udine_sights_castle_view_mountains

Udine_sights_castle_well

The ancient centre of the town with many elegant buildings, charming loggias and squares is evidence of the reign of the Republic of Venice over this region. The lion of St Mark, a symbol of Venice, can be seen carved prominently on some of the buildings on the Piazza della Libertà. This piazza is the oldest square of Udine, the heart of the town, and located right at the foot of Udine’s castle. The Loggia di San Giovanni is one of the prominent buildings on this square, built between 1533 and 1535, with its clock tower that dates back to 1527.

Udine_sights_piazza della liberta_lion_archway

Udine_sights_piazza della liberta_

Udine_sights_piazza della liberta_clock tower

Udine_sights_piazza della liberta_loggia

Udine_sights_piazza della liberta_piazza_square

Udine is considered the city of Tiepolo, a venetian artist from the 18th century who reached his artistic maturity there, as many of his masterpieces are preserved in Udine. One example would be the fresco of the Duomo, the cathedral and the city’s most important church that was built in 1257. It is located on the Piazza Duomo, not far from the main streets of the city centre.

Udine_sights_duomo_cathedral

The Piazza San Giacomo is another big square in the centre of Udine. The city’s central market place was moved to this square in the 13th century, and a church was established as well.

Udine_sights_piazza san giacomo_square

Udine_sights_piazza san giacomo_buildings

Udine_sights_piazza san giacomo_square_

The bottom line

One can clearly see that tourism is not the focus of the city, and it is definitely not the most fancy city of Italy. Many of the buildings that we encountered on our walk through the city centre were clearly ill-kept, especially some facades of some buildings. I was really surprised that on prominent squares there were many decayed facades on some of the buildings. Nevertheless, the city somehow gave us a true feeling of Italy, and the view over the city and the mountains in the north on top of the hill of the Udine Castle was great. I also liked the small streets in the city centre, with all the small shops and boutiques, great facades and beautiful window shutters.

Udine_sights_castle_view_city

Udine_sights_castle_view.jpg

Udine_city_streets_2

Town on an island: Lindau.

On the eastern side of the Lake Constance lies the beautiful city Lindau, right on an island on the lake. With a population of 25,132 it is fairly small, but a tourist spot nevertheless – probably THE tourist spot in the south of Germany. The historic town on the 0.68 square kilometre island can be reached either via a road-traffic bridge or a railway dam. The city is not only known for its architecture but also for various outdoor activities such as cycling, sailing, and swimming. Or one could also book an airship to fly over the city.

As it’s become a yearly summer tradition for me to travel to Austria’s West, a daytrip to our neighbour Germany was a great idea to do some exploring in a part that I haven’t been to yet. As Lindau is located next to the Austrian border in the West, my friend Julia and I decided to take an s-train from Bregenz and explore the beautiful island Lindau.

Brief historical overview

The city dates back to the year 882, so it’s over 1,000 years old. In former times Lindau translated into ‘island on which limetrees grow’, which is also the reason for the limetree as the city’s coat of arms. First there was a nunnery on the island, and only in the 11th century a market was established there, which also lead to Lindau becoming an Imperial Free City. Lindau was conquered by Napoleon and subsequently handed over to Austria. Already 3 years later it was given back to Bavaria. It has been growing ever since and became the tourist spot that it is now.

The lake

The Lake Constance – the third-largest freshwater lake of Europe with 540 square kilometres – is situated in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. 73 kilometres of the lake’s shores are located in Germany, 28 in Austria, and 72 in Switzerland. At its broadest point the lake measures 14 kilometres, and at places it’s up to 254 deep. The lake and its surrounding are important for the local tourist infrastructure, and cities located there are big hubs for the boating tourism. Many tourists decide to take one of the many tourists boat connecting one city to the other. The island of Lindau lies on the eastern shore of the Lake Constance (or Bodensee in German).

Lindau_lake_20

Lindau_lake_3

Lindau_lake_4

Lindau_lake_2

Lindau_lake_5

Lindau_lake_8

Lindau_lake_9

The sights

Probably the most colourful building of the town is the Old Town Hall on Maximilianstrasse. The impressive Gothic building was erected in the 15th century and used to be the location for many historic moments. Even now the Old Town Hall is used for meetings of the town council and receptions of various kinds.

Built in 1508 on the wester point of the island and mainly used as a defence tower, the Powder Tower was turned into a storage for gunpowder towards the end of the 18th century. In the late 19th century the tower was then converted into a ‘place of lively convivality’, with a lounge area for guests, and can now be hired for meetings and celebrations.

Another impressive building located on the harbour promenade is the Mangturm Tower, standing 20 metres tall. Built in the 12th century as part of the city’s medieval fortifications, the name of the tower derives from the English word ‘mangle’ and refers to pressing machines used by cloth dyers. The tower lost its job as a lookout when the lighthouse was built in the 19th century.

The harbour entrance with its lion and the lighthouse are among the most famous landmarks on the Lake Constance. The New lighthouse in Lindau is the southernmost lighthouse in Germany. It is 33m tall and has a perimeter of 24 metres and was built from 1853 to 1856. It’s possible to climb the 139 steps to reach the top of the lighthouse for only €1.80, and inside the lighthouse there are all sorts of wall paintings and historical stories about the lighthouse. On the viewing platform one has a beautiful panoramic view over the harbour, the lake, and the city. The impressive statue of the Bavarian lion, standing 6 metres tall, was erected in 1856. Made out of sandstone and weighing 50 tonnes, the lion is watching over the lake, and rumour has it – the lion sometimes stands up to have a stretch ;)

Lindau_town_hall

Old Town Hall

Lindau_mangtower

Mangturm Tower

Lindau_powder_tower

Powder Tower

Lindau_harbour_lighthouse_lion

Lindau_harbour_lighthouse

Lindau_harbour_lighthouse_view

Lindau_harbour_lion

Lindau_harbour_ships_

Lindau_harbour_tower

Lindau_harbour_ships

The food

A place that we more or less stumbled upon which we ended up really liking was the 37° Kaffeebar Ladengeschäft. Not only is this a place where you can get coffee, decent vegetarian and vegan food and cool drinks, but also a place that sells interior pieces, books, and other peculiar things. The place is held in a retro-shabby chic atmosphere with fussy furnishing. They serve all sorts of refreshing lemonades and their tarte flambée is really delicious! It’s also possible to sit outside on a colourful arrangement of chairs and tables and enjoy the harbour view. It’s open Tuesday-Sunday from 10:00 – 23:00.

Lindau_37grad_3

The bottom line

Lindau might not be the biggest or most spectacular city, but it kinda cast a spell over me. I felt very comfortable in the city despite all the tourists strolling around. It is such a cute, small island with great architecture and a picturesque view over the Lake Constance. What I especially liked about the island were the many opportunities one has to actually go ‘into’ the lake to take a swim or to just put a toe or the feet into the water. I’ve encountered many lakes where it has almost been impossible to actually come close to them without paying or be encountered by private beaches, but not Lindau!

Lindau_lake_7

A day in Graz.

So far I haven’t been able to enjoy summer to its fullest like I was able to do last year with my many travel adventures in July. However, I have valid reasons for being stuck at one or two places at the moment – I was rather busy with moving apartments (don’t get me started with the organisational matters that come with that!) plus we got an addition to our family at the end of June (I’m an auntie!). Nevertheless, I managed to squeeze in a day trip to Graz. It was actually an overnight trip but I spent less than 24 hours there.

Graz is the second largest city in Austria (over 320,000 inhabitants) and capital of the state Styria. With a total of 6 universities and 2 colleges and over 50,000 students Graz is truly a student city. The city combines the old and new: home to the apparently biggest medieval historic city centre in Europe, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage site, that bears witness to over 850 years of architecture with houses such as the Landhaus or the Schloss Eggenberg, which is in contrast but perfect harmony with state-of-the-art works of buildings such as the Kunsthaus Graz or the MUMUTH.

Graz_city_1

City Hall

Graz_city_2

Graz_city_3

Graz_city_5

Graz_city_6

Food

Graz has fairly good options for vegetarians, and also some for vegans. On our first evening we stumbled upon the Café Erde – a place that ‘makes people happy with vegan delicious food’. And this slogan is not an exaggeration I must say! During the day they serve a daily changing menu with soup and a dish of the day for €8.40, and in the evening you can order á la carte with dishes like salads, wraps, burgers, or Schnitzel, with prices between €5.90 & €8.40. I’d have preferred to go there for lunch as the menu was more appealing to me (a bit more creative in my opinion), but the Cheese Burger was delicious too! And the banana chocolate cake (and whatever else that was in there) was the perfect treat for the day!

The main reason for me going to Graz in the first place was to meet friends and have brunch on Sunday. The Café Mitte might be a bit expensive, and the self-service system is not speaking for the relatively high prices, but the brunch buffet that they have is really good and there are many options one can choose from, for only €13,90! As I just came to Graz for meeting those friends I did not want to take any pictures during our meeting, so you would need to go there yourself and see all the delicious food you can get for brunch! ;) The interior of the restaurant is really hip and trendy, and they also have tables right in front of the restaurant, so it’s a great place for brunch. I think many others who were there that day would agree with me on that as there was no single empty table while we had brunch there (and I think this is often a sign for a good place, right?).

Graz_Food_burger

Graz_Food_brunch_2

Graz_Food_brunch_1

Graz_Food_brunch_

 

Schlossbergbahn Funicular

A definite must on my trip to Graz was taking the Schlossbergbahn – a funicular that takes you from the city up the castle hill where you have a beautiful view over Graz. Since 1894 the Schlossbergbahn funicular has been bringing people up the hill. It only takes a few minutes but with the glass roof of the funicular one has a great view over the historic centre of the city.

If you want a one-way trip up the hill it would cost you €2.20, but the public transport tickets for zone 1 are also valid on the funicular, so we could do it ‘for free’. The funicular runs up the hill every 15 minutes and operates on a daily basis from 10:00 to at least 22:00 (til 24:00 during the week and on Fridays and Saturdays til 02:00).

Graz_schlossbergbahn_1

Graz_schlossbergbahn_2

 

Schlossberg & the Clock Tower

The Schlossberg – the castle hill – of Graz is a recreation area and vantage point. It only takes a short time to climb the hill and have a great view of Graz and the city surroundings. A castle was built on this hill a thousand years ago, giving the city its name as the Slavonic word ‘Gradec’ for little castle transformed into Graz. No one could ever take this fortress; however, Napoleon (who was also unable to do so) defeated the Habsburgs and demanded the demolition of the fortress. A great amount of money was paid to the conquerer to prevent the demolition of the Clock Tower.

High up on the hill (but not even on the highest point) the fortified medieval Clock Tower is still standing. It got its present shape around 1560. The hands on the clock often confuse people as it’s not a regular clock. Originally there were only the long hands for the hours which could be seen from the distance, and the hands for the minutes were added later, causing a ‘swapping’ of the hands. Near the Clock Tower there is a beautiful garden with a splendour of flowers, plants and benches so people could relax and enjoy the wonderful view.

Graz_schlossberg_city

Graz_schlossberg_2

Graz_schlossberg_4

Graz_schlossberg_5

Graz_schlossberg_6

Graz_schlossberg_7

Graz_schlossberg_8

Graz_schlossberg_10

Graz_schlossberg_14

Graz_schlossberg_11

Graz_schlossberg_1

As my boyfriend and I were staying overnight in Graz, we climbed the Schlossberg hill in the evening so I could see Graz by night from up there. It was really busy up there, quite a lot of people had the same plans as we did, but we still had a great view and enjoyed the atmosphere up there.

Graz_uhrturm_night

Graz_uhrturm_night_

Graz actually has a lot to offer despite the fact that it’s rather small. A few years ago I thought otherwise but only because I have never really seen much of the city or really done anything interesting there. However, after spending a few days there every year over the past couple of years I realised that Graz is a charming city after all and I like coming back once in a while.

Day trip to a foreign city: Brno.

When I was planning my summer travel adventures it turned out that I would do most of my travelling only during  July as I had to attend a few things in Austria in August. I just couldn’t have one month full of travelling (abroad) and another one without hardly any travelling at all, could I? So I thought about which places I could go to that would only take me little time on the road but would still be ‘exotic’ and new… So Brno here I came!

Brno_castle_flag1.jpg

Brno is with almost 400,000 inhabitants the second largest city of the Czech Republic and is the centre of the South Moravian Region. It is located in the Southeast of the country, more or less right next to Austria. The city is a centre of universities, science, research and innovation, is known for Gregor Johann Mendel (who discovered the laws of modern genetics) and the Villa Tugendhat (modern architecture landmark listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List). Very intriguing – so why not spend one day in this town?

It took us only around 1.5 hours by train (7.50€ one-way) to get to Brno from Vienna – so it was a perfect day trip in August. Luckily, it wasn’t a typical hot summer day – so the timing of our trip seemed to be perfect. It was a bit clouded, which gave the city and its old buildings the perfect edge.

Climbing the tower of a church
Upon arrival we got ourself a small city guide and loosely followed two suggested routes so we could see mostly all of the major attractions of Brno. One of ours first stops was the cathedral of St. Peter and Paul – a Gothic style church on the Petrov hillock. The tower is open to the public for a small fee, so we climbed the many stairs just so we could have a beautiful view at the city. Definitely worth the scary wooden staircase!

Brno_0496

Brno_0507

Brno_0511

Brno_0521

Having a drink in the middle of the day (or not)
Afterwards we just strolled around for a bit, passed countless churches, and then decided to sit down at what seemed like a pop-up bar at the Náměstí Svobody – the main square of the city centre – and enjoyed a fresh lemonade. At 12am we just didn’t feel like having our first Gin Tonic of the day yet even though it was quite tempting ;)

Brno_square_bar

Brno_square_

Brno_square_fountain

IMG_square_lemonade

Unfortunate food failure
After the nice little sit-down our way led us past further churches, along shopping streets, past horse statues (?), more churches… until we decided that it was finally time for lunch. I had already looked up a few places the day before so we wouldn’t be at a total loss when it came to vegetarian places. As we were at the northern part of the city centre we opted for a place called Vegalite. This restaurant offers vegetarian and vegan food at cheap prices. Unfortunately, more or less a total bummer for us – but mostly our own fault. We asked the waitress for an English menu and she only gave us a single sheet of paper that had the daily menus for the whole week (which consisted of a soup plus one out of 3 dishes of which one was already sold out). So we were stuck with two dishes that neither of us really liked as leaving the restaurant was impossible due to growling stomachs. Only after having paid we saw a pile of ‘real’ menus (not just the weekly menus) a few tables down. Of course we had one last look at them before leaving the restaurant… Turned out there were many other dishes available that we could have chosen from – burgers, salads, Bohemian etc. but the waitress had failed to give us the ‘real’ menu and we had been too stupid to ask if there was something else. Definite facepalm reaction from our side! So I guess I could recommend the place after all as they offer quite a lot of vegetarian and vegan dishes at a very good price :D

Brno_church_white

Brno_church_red

Brno_city_horse

Brno_market

Brno_city

Špilberk Castle
The royal castle of Brno dates back to the 13th century and was rebuilt into a fortress in the 17th century. It used to be the most notorious and harshest prison in the entire Habsburg Monarchy and was known as ‘Jail of Nations’. Now it is ‘just’ home to the Brno City Museum. It is located on a hill which can easily be reached by walking through a vast park. On top of the hill the view over the city was – again – very beautiful and worth the march. However, they could have put a few more benches along the steep paths… :D

Brno_castle_church

Brno_castle_view

Brno_castle_me

Brno_castle_figure

Brno_city_door

Brno_castle_tree

Brno_castle_side

Brno_castle_front_flag

Brno_castle_colourful

Brno_castle_kraftwerk

Brno_castle_view_me

Coffee & cake break
With still time on our hands we went to a place for coffee and cake. Not just any place but the most hip and trendy place in town according to the interior and the people in there – Skøg Urban Hub :D Nevertheless, quite a cool place with delicious coffee and a quite unusual black forest cake that tasted amazing!

Brno_skog

Brno_skog_cafe_interior

Brno_skog_coffee

Brno_city_sun

After having coffee we already decided to catch a train back home. On our way to the train station the sun came out but as we had already set our minds on going home we didn’t want to stay just for the sake of a few sunrays. We had a lovely day in Brno (despite the clouds!) and it’s just perfect for a cheap daytrip – as the (food) prices are very low (in comparison with Austria).

Brno_castle_flag_faraway

Travelling through Austria: Bregenz.

On our way to Liechtenstein and Switzerland we also wanted to explore the westernmost province of Austria – Vorarlberg – and its capital Bregenz. With around 29,000 inhabitants the city is only the third biggest town of the province (after Feldkirch and Dornbirn). Bregenz is located on the eastern shore of the Bodensee (Lake Constance) between Switzerland and Germany.

Even though the city is kind of hard to reach and it takes me over 6 hours on a train to get there, I really wanted to go there this year. It’s already been the third time for me but I’ve taken a great liking to the small town so of course my bf and I had to make a stop there and do a little exploring :)

Bregenz Festival
The city is famous for its annual performing arts festival – the Bregenzer Festspiele (Bregenz Festival), which is held every July and August. A very special venue of the festival is the ‘Seebühne’ – a floating stage with an open air amphitheatre on the shores of the lake. Every other year they change the stage decoration and as this year’s opera performance is Turandot (a play set in China) the decoration consists of the  Chinese Wall and the Terracotta Army. I never knew that you could just walk inside the venue during the day or else I would have gone there all the times before… It was really cool to see everything ‘up close’ without having to pay for it :D

IMG_4369

IMG_4376

IMG_4380

Bodensee
The Lake Constance is the third-largest freshwater lake of Europe. It is situated in Germany, Switzerland and Austria. The river Rhine flows into the lake from the south and has its outflow in the west. In Bregenz there are many seats right next to the lake where you can enjoy the beautiful view. Naturally, there are many birds – especially swans – hoping to be fed by the people. It’s also possible to rent a paddleboat and enjoy the cool breeze on the lake itself.

IMG_0122

IMG_0111

IMG_4402

IMG_0141

IMG_0139

IMG_0119

IMG_0115

IMG_0143

Bregenz City
We couldn’t just sit next to the lake the whole afternoon so we went on a little tour through the city. We started our tour by climbing the hill to reach the Martinsturm, which is located in the Upper town – the oldest part with remains from the 13th and & 16th centuries. The Martinsturm is the landmark of Bregenz. This tower is apparently the biggest Baroque bulb-shaped steeple in Central Europe, built in 1601. Right around the corner of the tower is also the old town hall from 1662 with a beautiful colourful facade. A little further down the road is the Gothic parish church of St. Gall, whose foundations date from before 1380. The Landhaus – already in the Lower town –  was also nice to look at, which was built in the 1970ies.

IMG_4411

IMG_0158

IMG_4414

IMG_0167

IMG_0171

IMG_0183

IMG_0198

IMG_0208

IMG_0214

IMG_0217

IMG_0223

Relaxing
We had our early dinner break at a very nice restaurant somewhere in the city – Nashia Kulinarisches. It’s a vegetarian and vegan restaurant that offers a variety of african, asian and indian food. Very delicious and at a reasonable price. I’d definitely recommend the place.

After our almost 8 km march through the city we felt like we deserved a little break on the shores of the lake, where we just sat and relaxed for the rest of the evening before heading to the next city.

IMG_4434

IMG_7153

IMG_4451

IMG_0243

IMG_4429

IMG_0239

IMG_0232

Even though it’s been three times now I’m definitely going there again. Maybe I’ll even be able to get hold of a festival ticket and see it in real action – even though I’m not the biggest opera fan to be honest… :D

 

Italian Adventure: Venice.

Ever since I can remember my Mom wanted to travel to Venice with my dad. But years went by, my parents never really had time for travelling. My Mom had already given up on going there with my dad but instead she wanted to go with her daughters. So she said but never actually did. This year I took matters into my own hands, booked a guesthouse via Airbnb and made travel arrangements so she could finally see Venice with her daughters (and my boyfriend. we had to take a male buffer with us.).

Venice is with around 270,000 people (of whom around 60,000 live in the historic city of Venice) the capital of the Veneto region. It is situated in the Northeast of Italy across a group of over a hundred small islands. With its many canals, bridges, beautiful architecture and artwork, the city is listed as a World Heritage Site.

In the early hours of a Friday morning at the end of July we took our car and went on our little journey to the South. With a quick stop in Udine to explore the city and another stop in Caorle so my Mom could see the sea (for the first time in her life) we arrived in Mestre – the center and most populated urban area of the mainland of Venice – where we had booked our guesthouse.

Venice by night.
After a quick refreshment we hopped on the train to have dinner in Venice and already explored the city a bit. We were able to find a cute little restaurant in a not so touristy area (is this even possible in Venice?!) and had huge pizzas with an obligatory glass of wine (or more). Then we strolled around for a bit, crossed the Rialto Bridge, which is unfortunately currently under renovation, reaching the Piazza San Marco and having a look at the Bridge of Sighs. So we even saw Venice ‘in the dark’ (with slightly less tourists around) without sleeping on the island.

venice_night_canal_light

venice_night_canal

venice_night_marcus_people

venice_night_marcus_

venice_night_marcus

venice_night_bridge_sighs

venice_night_us

venice_night_building_

venice_night_building

Canal Grande
On our ‘real’ Venice day we got up early-ish, headed over to the ‘City of Canals’ with the train, and had a breakfast with a view at the Canal Grande. The Grand Canal is the major water-traffic corridor of the city and you have the option of taking water buses, taxis or gondolas. The Canal Grande is lined with buildings that date back from the 13th to the 18th century with beautiful facades, representing the former Republic of Venice. However, we decided to just walk around in the beautiful streets, explore some (non)touristy corners of the city by foot. We also got our own private little boat ride across the canal for free due to a little misunderstanding with a local who was unable to explain the taxi system due to his lack of english communication skills so he just took us with his boat across the canal.

venice_canal grande_sansimeonepiccolo

venice_canal grande_boat_buildings

venice_canal grande_boat

venice_canal grande_gondola

Piazza San Marco
You cannot visit Venice without visiting the overcrowded Piazza San Marco. It was quite hot that day so at the centre of the Piazza there were hardly any people – perfect for taking pictures!. Only under the archways and right next to the St Mark’s Basilica were loads of people, as those were the places where it was bearable to stand (as sitting was strictly forbidden. ts.) on such a hot day.

On the East side of the square is the St Mark’s Basilica, which is adjoined by the Piazzetta dei Leoncini (named after two marble lions, now officially Piazzetta San Giovanni XXIII). Further along the square (counterclockwise) is the Clock Tower (completed in 1499), followed by a long arcade that is known as Procuratie Vecchie (built in the 16th century), former home of the procurators of St.Mark in the former Republic of Venice. The arcades continue at the west side of the Palazzo, which is the part that is known as the Ala Napoleonice (Napoleonic Wing, rebuilt by Napoleon in 1810). Another left turn of the arcade, the building is known as the Procuratie Nuove (16th & 17th century). Next building on the Piazza is the Campanile of St Mark’s church (first erected in the 12th century) – the bell tower. Adjacent to the bell tower is the Loggetta del Sansovino (16th century), which was used as a lobby by patricians. Strictly speaking, that’s it. But then there’s also the Biblioteca Marciana, the Grand Canal, the Piazzetta di San Marco, the Doge’s Palace and the Porta della Carta right next to the Piazza San Marco.

venice_piazzamarcus_campanile_belltower

venice_piazzamarcus_lion_me

venice_piazzamarcus_people

venice_piazzamarcus_right

venice_piazzamarcus_front

Venetian Seaside
In the hope of a sea breeze we spent some time walking along the seaside with a view at the Isola di San Michele – the cemetery island. It was indeed much chillier than in the city centre and very beautiful. Yay!

venice_sea_cemetery

venice_sea_boat

venice_sea_road

venice_sea_seagull

venice_sea_us

venice_sea_window

Walking around & exploring
On our little walking tour we also stumbled upon the ‘famous’ bookstore ‘Liberia Acqua Alta’, which is a must-see for book-lovers and people who like the ‘unusual’. There’s even a gondola in the middle of the bookstore. Plus we got a friendly greeting of a black cat at the door. At the end of the store you can climb up a book-staircase and have a look at the canal. Beautiful! For more information & more pictures – just have a look at this blogpost that I found.

venice_bridge

venice_street

venice_architecture

venice_tower_clothes

venice_me

venice_bookstore

venice_canal_

venice_canal_1

venice_canal_gondola_graffiti

venice_canal_gondola

venice_canal_tree

venice_canal

venice_canal_boat

Our little Venice adventure was better than expected! I didn’t expect the city to be so charming even though it was the middle of the summer and the place was full of people. I really want to revisit Venice – next time in the winter season to see a totally different side :)

What’s your take on the City of Bridges?

Liechtenstein Adventure: Vaduz.

A little ‘dream’ of mine has always been to travel to all neighbouring countries of Austria. This seems pretty easy, as Austria is so damn small. But we’ve got eight neighbours, we’ve got high mountains (sometimes a big obstacle for travelling), and let’s be honest – sometimes you just want to go someplace that is a bit more ‘exotic’, far away. Plus you always have in mind that at some time in the future you’ll travel to a neighbouring country anyways, right?

However, as this might be the last summer where I might be able to make good use of the ‘Sommerticket’ – a youth train ticket that allows you to travel through Austria for free during summer – I just had to take advantage of it and travel west, do some exploring there and pay a visit to some neighbouring countries. This is what brought me to our smallest neighbour: Liechtenstein.

Liechtenstein is a constitutional hereditary monarchy on a democratic and parliamentary basis, with Prince Hans-Adam II being Head of State. The country has the third highest GDP (adjusted by purchasing power parity) in the world. It is a microstate, with only 37,000 inhabitants and an area of 160 square kilometres. Vaduz – its capital – has a population of only 5,100 people.

Vaduz – City Centre
In order to get there we took a bus from Feldkirch in Austria, so we also got to see quite a lot of the country and its beautiful nature and mountains. We headed straight to the city centre of Vaduz and strolled along the ‘Städtle’ – the center and promenade in Vaduz, a pedestrian zone with shops, restaurants etc. We saw the Town Hall (constructed in 1923/33) with its beautiful facade, sat under a tree next to the newly built Parliament Building (2008) with a view to the Government Building (which has been the seat of the government of the Principality of Liechtenstein since 1905) and the neo-Gothic Cathedral (built 1868-73). All that plus the Vaduz Castle on top of a hill above the city and mountains in the background.

liechtenstein_rathaus

liechtenstein_parliament building

liechtenstein_government_building

liechtenstein_castle view_parliament building.jpg

liechtenstein_mountains

liechtenstein_peter_kaiser_platz


Vaduz Castle
As the most prominent landmark of the city is the Vaduz Castle we decided to walk up the steep hill. The medieval castle was built in the 16th century and is the home of the reigning prince and the princely family. Unfortunately right at that time of the day it was extremely hot… not the best idea for walking up a hill (dressed in black) :D Nevertheless, we still enjoyed the view and were on the lookout for princes, but none showed up -.-

liechtenstein_castle

liechtenstein_me

liechtenstein_castle_full

liechtenstein_castle_tower

liechtenstein_vaduz_city_above_

liechtenstein_vaduz_city_above

liechtenstein_vaduz_city_mountains

liechtenstein_vaudz_city_above_mountains

liechtenstein_city_me

Vaduz Mitteldorf
On our walk down from the castle we decided to take a walk through Mitteldorf. Actually, we took a wrong turn and ended up there, but we wanted to go there anyways, so no harm taken. Mitteldorf (Central Village) is a historic village area of the city with narrow streets and lanes, ancient houses, and a beautiful view of the castle. The first notable building on our way there was the ‘Red House’, a house from the 15th century with a winepress extension from the 17th century. Pretty impressive, huh? Also, on our stroll through Central Village we saw quite a few mansions that kept us wondering and dreaming about retiring in Liechtenstein.

liechtenstein_red house

liechtenstein_castle_wine

liechtenstein_castle_me

liechtenstein_castle_drama

liechtenstein_castle_drama_lamp

Even though that Vaduz (and Liechtenstein in general) is such a small place and there’s not that much to see or do in comparison to other capitals, it was definitely totally worth the travel! One thing that I regret not doing was walking to the Rhine river and sit there and look over to Switzerland. Only after leaving the country we realised that you could actually see Switzerland from all over the place and the Rhine was the boarder to Switzerland… But now I’ve got another reason for going there again ;)