Friday, 24 January 2014

Tyrol, Austria: Hallo Austrian Alps!!

I was really sad I couldn't visit Swiss Alps during my trip because of time and budget so my friend brought me to the Austrian Alps instead! And it was aaaamazing. I love the mountains, the lake, the blue, the green, the huge dandelions (I had SO MUCH fun picking them and blowing them), the fields of wild flowers, the forests, the trees, oh Tyrol, how beautiful art thou. Tyrol is a well-known place for skiing, one day I'll be back for that.

I went for walks, ate typical Austrian meals, chilled out on a hammock in the back garden with the family cat, had wine and cheese in the evenings as the sun sets, cycled around town, etc. And I finally had some nice photos of me because my friend is a really good photographer! One con of travelling alone, NOBODY TO TAKE PHOTOS FOR YOU. I mean yes you can ask passers-by but how good the photos turn out will be subjected to their photography skills and I'm sure you won't bug a person to take multiple shots for you till you get the perfect angle, frame, lighting. As G said, one memory of travelling alone is your ugly self shots. HAHA true words.


What I wake up to every morning. ;)













Traditional Austrian houses are really beautiful aren't they? Look at all the wood! And how special the windows are!











P.S. Most of the photos on this post were taken by my friend.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Salzburg, Austria: Where the hills are alive

Stopped by Salzburg for a short 3 hours trip. Every corner you turn, you see Sound of Music tours. I'm a fan but I wouldn't pay so much just to go to the filming locations unless it's Harry Potter. Spent the three hours just walking around the city and enjoying the beautiful streets.
















The crown rests directly on top of the statue's head if you stand at a particular spot. Overheard this from a teacher bringing students there for a tour.









Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Vienna, Austria IV: My second home

M persuaded me to extend my stay in Europe (well, I didn't need that much persuasion actually), so I made a quick search and found a one-way ticket back to Singapore from Istanbul for 200 euros (350 SGD). I jumped at it. But now the question is how should I get from Vienna to Istanbul? I wanted to take a bus through Hungary, Serbia and Bulgaria and visit those places along the way but friends back home advised me not to due to visa and safety issues. I really wanted to explore Eastern Europe but since this is my first trip alone, I didn't want to risk safety. So I decided to take a flight to Istanbul (which cost me 250+ euros, more than my flight back to SG pff) and go to Poland in between.

Staying with a friend meant I could spend time doing nothing, go grocery shopping, cook, hang out with my friend and basically live like a local for a few days. It was so great. Hostel stays just isn't the same. I'm very anti-social in hostels because I get tired of small talks which usually circle around where are you from (if the other party has been to your country, ask about his/her experience), how long are you travelling/have been travelling, where have you been to and where are you going and you only meet these people for at most 2/3 days. So yes I don't bother unless I'm in my I-feel-like-talking-and-knowing-people mood or I meet really nice people whom I click with instantly. Even couchsurfing is a little different because there's the getting-to-know-you awkwardness and will-we-get-along worry. So now I just need more friends abroad which is a pity I didn't start travelling more when a lot of my friends were studying overseas.











We made strawberry tarts! Well actually M made them and I assisted. After we are done, both of us whipped out our cameras instead of our forks and started snapping photos. Hee. Food styling is so fun!





Apple strudel in vanilla sauce. *wiggles eyebrows* We My friend cooked other things too, pasta, cream mushroom soup, cream zucchini soup, rice pudding.. I love the soups and I swore I'm going to try when I'm back but I have yet to do so. Oops.









M's roommate, M (yes they're the M&Ms!)'s friend invited them to her garden to pick cherries. She invited me as well and I had such a lovely time picking fresh cherries right off the tree. We had a lovely afternoon hanging out (and napping) in her garden on the beach chairs. Then we had a spitting competition to see who could spit the cherry seeds the furthest. I was terrible at it, M went "It's obvious you're from Singapore!" Hah. So they changed the game to spitting the cherry seeds into a bucket and I got so good I won a piece of cake. Not too bad eh ;)

The four of us also went to a vineyard and enjoyed the night view of Vienna from on top of a hill. And the M&Ms brought me to a music festival. It was packed with people but the songs were too rock/techno for my liking so we left early.

I was really reluctant to leave this comfortable place and I LOVE their apartment! It's in an old Victorian(??) building which is just beautiful. The apartment has a ceiling which is about twice as high as the ones in Singapore, I loooove high ceilings. Because they have high ceilings, they have long windows and with long windows come beautiful long curtains. And they have carpets! I love carpets. The furniture they have is mostly made out of wood (I love wood!) so it really fit in well with the Victorian theme. So basically their apartment has everything I want in a home. The company was another reason that made me reluctant to leave, I had a swell of a time with M but their exams were coming up so it was a good time to leave them to their books.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Vienna, Austria III: Wachau Valley

The Wachau, a stretch of the Danube valley between Melk and Krems, is an outstanding example of a riverine landscape bordered by mountains in which material evidence of its long historical evolution has survived to a remarkable degree. The architecture, the human settlements, and the agricultural use of the land in the Wachau vividly illustrate a basically medieval landscape which has evolved organically and harmoniously over time. The Wachau is a landscape of high visual quality which preserves in an intact and visible form many traces - in the form of architecture (monasteries, castles, ruins) urban design (towns and villages) and agricultural use, principally for the cultivation of vines - of its evolution since prehistory. (via unesco.org)

I took forever to drag myself to the train station to hop on a train to Wachau Valley. It was a double decker train and was a nicer/newer than the train I took to Budapest. After an hour, I reached Krems station which is one of the main stations that can take you to Wachau Valley. Before I could ask for directions or check properly, I saw a bus that looked like the one I'm supposed to take to the town centre so in a haste, I hopped on. But alas, this bus took me to the residential area so I got off and walked back. Somehow instead of going back to the train station, I miraculously arrived at the town centre. Yay for my in-built GPS? The valley is lined with small towns on both sides and each town has its own places of interest (some more visited than others). The towns are pretty small and there's a bus that can take you from town to town but it comes every hour. There's also a cruise down the Danube you can take, it's a really scenic ride but it doesn't stop at all the towns. I think renting a bicycle would be the best way to get around and make the best out of the day trip. I spent quite a bit of time in Krems because I was looking for the Information centre to get a map. The detailed map only shows Krems so when I got to the other town, I had to get another map.












Then I bought the unlimited bus pass for 10 euros, each trip is 2.80 euros. The next time I went to was D├╝rnstein where there were a lot more tourists. You can see the ruins of Durnstein castle atop the hill and there's a place where you can overlook the valley! It's really gorgeous with sparkling waters, hills with castles sitting on top, it's absolutely romantic.



















No time to visit any other towns because of the lack of time before the last bus/train. So I headed to Melk, another main town. The main attraction here is the Benedictine abbey but it was already closed for the day when I reached :( So I could only walk around the free courtyard. There's a charged garden beside the abbey as well in case you're interested.















If you're in Vienna, you should definitely spend a day in Wachau Valley. Just get there early!

How to get there? 
Take a train from Vienna to either Krems or Melk station.