The hills are alive

I stepped off the bus in Salzburg, Austria feeling like a full-blown world traveler. I had now navigated my way to my second country on my own, and I was prettyyyyyy pumped. After a bus ride from Mainz to Munich, then from Munich to Salzburg, I was finally in the land of brown paper packages tied up with string.


Here are some bus ride pics through the dirty window: 


It was dark by the time I made it to Yoho International Youth Hostel, so I quickly Yelped a place to grab dinner. I ended up at Die Weisse, a brewery/pub-style restaurant that people had written was famous for great beer and classic Austrian food. I walked in and quickly realized I was the only woman in the dining room minus the two waitresses. They handed me an English menu, and I decided on their house beer and the bratwurst (when in Austria). 


I don’t know about you, but I always think the descriptions on beer and wine bottles are full of it. “A sprinkling of apricots” or “a lemony zing” always means it just tastes like beer or wine. The description of the house beer at Die Wiess claimed that it had a distinct banana flavor, and I felt like a jerk when I realized it actually did. The banana flavor was so strong I almost wished I hadn’t read the description so I wouldn’t notice it so much. It was good though, and none of it went to waste. I felt the same way about the bratwurst. It came with a delicious sauerkraut and crispy potatoes. It was a nice Austrian meal, but nothing to write home about (just on your blog I guess). 


I called it a night pretty early because it was completely dark out and freeeeeeezing! There was actually some snow on the ground. Luckily I’m still in the “christmas is coming” mood and not a complete snow-scrooge just yet. 

I woke up early to the sound of my hostel roommates banging their things around like they were searching for their long lost needle in the haystacks of their suitcases. I’m not sure why people have to throw their things around like they’re searching for a puppy in a house fire, but I guess hostels just bring out the best in people. I got up, got dressed (quietly), and purchased the Salzburg Pass from the desk. I had read about it online, and with each museum and main attraction costing between 8-13 euro, the 20 euro pass was definitely worth it.  

I wanted to grab some sustenance before my attraction packed day, so I walked over to The Heart of Joy Cafe for breakfast. The cafe is vegetarian with many gluten free and vegan options. It is based off the principles of Sri Chinmoy, and his books and other teachings are scattered throughout the cafe for diners to look at. There is even a health product section to shop. I loved the vibe of the space and loved how the food was dedicated to health, as well as taste. I ordered a latte macchiato and two sunny-side-up eggs. The plate looked delicious of course, but what really got me was the affirmation card that came along side it. “There is always a special meaning in each event of our life.” I thought it was very fitting.


After my wonderful breakfast, I headed out into the cold to explore. I was determined to make sure I used my Salzburg pass as much as I could, so I whipped out GoogleMaps and set my first destination. I ended up at Mozart’s birthplace- his family’s apartment turned museum that luckily said “Mozart’s Geburtshaus” or I would have missed it. I wandered through the museum, learning about Mozart’s parents and sister, seeing a lock of his hair, etc. It was a great precursor to the “Mozart’s Wohnhaus” that would come later.


^ That’s Mozart’s hair…


As previously mentioned, I found myself exploring Mozart’s home (down the road from his birthplace) for a while, but this, I have to say, was less exciting. I relied on a voice tour that was exceptionally long, and although I’m a Mozart fan, I was over him. 


Nearby was the Mirabell Schloss and gardens, so I took a walk through the grounds to check it out. It was beautiful, but because of the cold most of the plants were frozen or wilted, so I can imagine visiting the garden in the summer might be more rewarding. I’m going to be honest here, and I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I don’t know if I was supposed to go into the house or not. There weren’t any signs or people working, and while my map made it seem like an attraction, there wasn’t really much there! I decided on not getting arrested for breaking and entering, and kept my viewing to the gardens. 


I was able to see multiple churches while in Salzburg, and they all were unique and beautiful in their own way. The first I saw was the Collegiate Church, which I sort of came upon by accident. The inside was a gorgeous expanse of white and gold, with light coming in from all sides. It really was heavenly.


Next, I saw the Salzburg Dome/Cathedral which was larger but equally as beautiful. 

^ Sometimes I look back and wonder what motivates me to take some of the pictures I take (or don’t take).

Then, I explored the Franciscan Church.


The Franciscan Church led me right back to the Christmas Market. Walking in, I could immediately smell the familiar cinnamon and pine scents of Christmas. Stands selling all kinds of holiday goods sparkled around me, and I felt like I had walked into a scene in an ABC Family movie. It was that perfect. I needed to grab something to eat so I decided on getting into the longest line I saw (it must be something good right?). It turned out to be a “Bosna” which was a roll filled with two little sausages, onions, curry, and mustard. It was the perfect size and the portability factor was huge. 


Post Christmas Market, I decided to make the hike up to the Fortress that overlooks Salzburg, Hohensalzburg Fortress. There is a train car that will take you up the mountain, but I was determined and climbed up on foot. Getting to the top, I was glad I walked. The views were absolutely amazing! I proudly waved my Salzburg card at the ticket man, and waltzed right in. 

Climbing around the fortress catapulted me back in time. It felt like a joust was going to start at any moment! It was from the overlook at the top of the fortress that I saw, honestly, what I think is the most beautiful view I have ever seen. There are moments in life where you stop and look and just think, “wow.” This was one of those moments. 


Hiking back down the mountain was a little less dignified as I tried to will myself not to slide down the pebbly paths. I reached the bottom unscathed, and realized I was feeling (and looking) extremely cold and wind blown. I wandered to Cafe Fingerlos and rewarded myself for my previous athleticism with a chocolate mousse cake and another latte (because I have a problem). Language barriers can be an issue in smaller cities, especially during tourism off-season, so instead of trying to guess what each dessert was, I let the waitress pick for me. She nailed it. 


The sun went down a little before 5pm, and temperatures dropped even further, so I headed back to the hostel to get my things together and do some writing. I thought I would never be hungry again after my lush afternoon snack but, of course, I was wrong. 

I wanted to grab something quick and cheap for dinner, but without settling on fast food or something that would make me feel like a walrus. I found My Indigo on Yelp, and headed over. The vibe of the little restaurant was very cool, balancing rustic wood benches and high top tables with modern light fixtures and colors. They offer a self-serve salad and sushi bar, or you can choose from their daily curries or noodles. I chose Thai red curry over rice, and a side salad with ginger dressing. It was under 10 euro for the curry, the salad, and a bottle of Kombucha so I was pretty pumped. The food was tasty and quick, just what I wanted. 

The next morning I got my stuff together and said, “so long, farewell” to Salzburg. The all-day bus trip was made bearable by the unreal views of the mountains that stretched the entire way from Salzburg to Vienna, until the sun went down at least. I refrained from taking 1,000 pictures of the journey like the two people sitting in front of me, but I did take one. Austria is unbelievably gorgeous. I know it must be beautiful in the summer too, but driving by endless snow covered mountains stretching over little villages of cottages was amazing. A literal winter wonderland. 


It was already 8pm by the time I arrived in Vienna, so I paid too much for a cab and made my way to the hostel. I checked in to Wombats City Hostel Naschmarkt and used the coupon I was given for a free drink in the hostel bar. A very nice touch.

The hostel was clean and quiet. I fell asleep comfortably until two of my roommates wandered in at 2am, then another packed her things and left at 3am. Not trying to be a grandma here, but I don’t think I’ll miss hostel life very much. (As I re-read this post, I realize that I am indeed a grandma, and a grouchy one at that).

My first day in Vienna was cold and a little rainy, which I guess is expected for Winter and I can’t really complain. I bought a banana and a water and was on my way! Vienna is pretty big, so I just plugged in the museum area and wandered that way. I found myself at a Christmas market, but was too early, so I walked up to the beautiful building next door. 


It turned out to be the Natural History Museum, which was pretty exciting. I bought my ticket (he gave me the student price even though I forgot my student ID- score!), and explored the different exhibits. I, along with the multiple field trips of children that ran around me, loved walking through the wings of animals, sea creatures, gems, minerals, and especially the planetarium. I love museums, both for the things inside and for the architecture of the museum itself. If you’re not a museum person and someone like me drags you to one anyway, just look up. The design and decoration of some of these buildings is art in itself. 



For lunch, I walked over to Naturkost St. Josef, a natural foods market and cafe. The market is beautifully displayed, with all the organic produce and natural goods you could need. Behind that, the cafe offers mostly vegetarian, natural foods. I enjoyed a samosa and a few different salads from the salad bar. I could taste how fresh everything was, and I loved getting some raw veggies back into my diet. 


For an after-lunch coffee, I headed to a beautiful little cafe called Stil Cafe. I ordered a latte and admired the beautiful interior. I sat on a lovely curved bench by the window where I could watch drinks being made and pastries being boxed. Large white columns divide the bar from a sitting area, and built in shelves house the sweetest vases and knick knacks. Everything is outlined in gold, even the menu that stands on an easel in the center of the cafe. As in most cafes I’ve been to in Europe, there is no wifi, so I was left to write and think, and to observe the people around me go about their afternoon rituals. I could tell that almost every customer that came in was a regular based on how they knew exactly where they wanted to sit, how no menus were brought, and how their meals just appeared on the counter with perfect timing. It was nice to momentarily assimilate into local culture, even if I couldn’t understand a thing they said! It really was the perfect place to sit on a rainy afternoon. *I didn’t get great pictures because I was too intimidated by everyone around me and there was a big no cellphone sign so I was too scared*


After warming up with coffee, I headed to the Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wein. The museum itself was beautiful. I enjoyed the first exhibit, which was a collection of paintings and sculptors of artists I had not seen before. The other floors of the museum housed an exhibit that was dedicated to the way art is exhibited. I have to say, most of it went over my head but I did enjoy trying to figure it out. 

Feeling very educated and sophisticated from my day of museum hopping, I decided to head back to the hostel to write and warm up. The common area at Wombat’s was bumping! There were probably 40 people sitting in the smallish common area, and I almost couldn’t find a seat. It was nice to be in a busy place, making it feel more cosy and less lonely. My only complaint was that the music playing over the speakers was pretty loud, and was drowning out the Michael Buble Christmas album I wanted to listen to on my headphones. 


^ Not my picture, he’s just so dreamy.

Wombats was situated in a really cool food area, with the Naschmarkt right across the street and loads of Asian markets and restaurants near by. I went to a tiny noodle counter for dinner, ordering by pointing at a dish a woman next to me was eating. They didn’t speak English, and I didn’t understand the languages they tried to speak to me, so pointing was the best option. The noodles ended up being delicious, like some sort of lo-mein with veggies and crispy duck. So great. 

I went to the Naschmarkt a couple times while in Vienna to walk through and see the multitude of things they were selling. From tropical fruits to stuffed olives to fish to falafel, Vienna’s largest food market really has everything. I did purchase half of a dragon fruit, falling for the beautiful pink color, and was charged 6 euro… I’m sure he saw the shock on my face when he told me the price but I was too embarrassed not to pay it at that point. I mean, it was delicious but 6 euro delicious? I’m not sure. If you love food and need an activity, definitely walk through the Naschmarkt and take advantage of the 20 piece falafel deal for 2 euro! 


I was lucky enough to be put in contact with a man living in Vienna by a family friend from home. Thank you, Lisa!!! Lisa had lived in Austria, and knew him from her time there. He was kind enough to spend the day driving me around the city with a complimentary tour, taking me to a classic Viennese cafe and explaining Cafe culture to me, and even taking me to Schonbrunn Castle to walk the grounds and see the Christmas market. 

The highlights were definitely seeing the city in the warm car, tasting two different kinds of famous Viennese cake (neither of which were Saachertorte, I know, I know), and being able to see the major attractions both in the daylight and lit up at night. Walking around the castle was nice too, being able to see it lit up with a giant, festive tree in front and experiencing the Christkindlmarkt. This market was one of the biggest I’ve seen, and we were able to warm up with some delicious punsch while we shopped. 

  St. Stephen’s Catherdral Outside ^

  St. Stephen’s inside ^
^ That’s me at Schonbrunn!


For dinner, we decided on a nice Italian meal to warm us up, and found Ponte di Rialto. I ordered the spaghetti alla siciliano and it was delicious. Thick, fresh spaghetti with tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, and fresh mozzarella. Delicious! Sorry for the lack of picture, my fingers were frozen and my belly was grumbling. Bad combo. 

I really enjoyed my time in Austria! From the scenic bus routes to the passion for cake, Austria is definitely one of my favorite countries I’ve been to thus far. I already have a running list of things I didn’t have time to do (the Opera, the other 10000 museums, more cake, etc.), so I will absolutely be back.

Now I’m off to Prague with a 0% chance of understanding the language and a 100% chance of feeling the holiday spirit. 


2 thoughts on “The hills are alive

  1. Hi Shelby!!!! I am enjoying your writing and pictures so much. I admire your strength and spirit navigating new cities on your own….and the cold. Keep safe and have fun!


  2. Hi Shelby, I’m so proud of you to be doing this trip. I am amazed at how brave you are to go out and travel around and find places to eat that you seem to be loving and not being able to understand the language. I don’t know how I would ever be able to go to the markets and not want to bring everything home. Your photographs are beautiful. Have fun, be safe and looking forward to your next post. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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