A Snowy Week in Austria!

With its pure mountain-air, breathtaking beauty and adventures to escalate the thrill of this magnificent place, you will never run out of things to do here! Most importantly, you get to relive the scenes; you saw in the movie, ‘Sound of Music’ and walk along the footsteps of the Trapp family!

Come, travel with me to the top destinations of Austria.


Day 1&2: Innsbruck

Day 3: Salzburg

Day 4: Hallstatt

Day 5 & 6: Vienna

Day 7: Shopping & Flight back.


Innsbruck

Innsbruck is the most beautiful city of Tyrol also known as the capital of Alps. It is an international tourist destination with extreme winter sports and adventures. This Tyrolean city offers age old history with its old wooden houses dating back to 16-17C.

P.S. The people here are quite friendly, you’ll never feel far from home.

The Goldness Dachl/Golden roof is at the center and was designed to serve as a royal box where the emperor and his people could sit and enjoy fests, tournaments and other events that took place in the city.

If you walk down the old town street, keeping the golden Dachl to your right, you reach the city tower (Stadtturm). This 51 meters tall gothic structure is an important landmark. It was built between 1442-1450 and is believed to have been used as an observation point for sentries who announced the hours of the day. Take your camera along to the top to capture the aerial views.

The street has branded shops but I found the products comparatively expensive. The city also has wonderful old, attic-made hotels which give wonderful views of the Alps.

After exploring the old town, take a break on one of the benches and sip on Cognac,  before moving to the Dom St. Jacob- a grand 18th-century baroque cathedral with an ornate interior & an iconic painting of the Virgin Mary. The church is simply beautiful but you gotta hurry, it closes quite early.

Later I walked back to the Golden Dachl to the Hofkirche (Court Church) which is a Gothic church built in 1553. A few steps away from the church via Hofgasse leads to the beautiful gardens of Court garden-Hofgarten. The autumn had colored the leaves and it was a beautiful sight to behold.

A walk through the central road leads to the ski resorts. If you are ski lover this day could be dedicated for skiing as well as paragliding. Couple tickets are cheaper. You get to see the mesmerizing views of the beautiful snowcapped mountains with a fringe of greenery ending with the light blue color of the sea. It is surely a magical experience.

Note: Trams are available for moving from place to place.


Salzburg

Trains and buses are available from Innsbruck to Salzburg. It will cost you around €40 in train and €12 by bus. The train journey is a feast to your eyes.

Salzburg’s “Old Town” (Altstadt) is internationally renowned for its baroque architecture and is one of the best-preserved city centers north of the Alps. It has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  

Salzburg was the birthplace of 18th-century composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

I took up the ‘Sound of Music Tour’ and on a snowy morning. I started my journey from the hotel to Mirabell Palace Gardens singing ‘Do-Re-Mi’ all the way watching the Hohensalzburg fortress in the backdrop. The first stop was at the Pegasus fountain and the musical steps. On passing The Dwarf Garden and the Vine Tunnel we were out of the Mirabell Palace Gardens after one hour and the snow fall was getting heavier by the minute.

The Van Trapp family is shot in three different mansions.

  • We started off from the gardens to Leopoldscorn palace- (the Van Trapp family house in the film). The reflection looks awesome and if you can recollect, this is the place where Maria and the children tip out of a boat and into the lake while waving to Georg and the Baroness.
  • From there, the van took us to Frohnburg Palace, which is now a music academy.
  • Hellbrunn Palace- The song ‘16 going on 17’ was shot here in the gazebo. You cannot enter the palace anymore though.
  • The evening grew darker with the snowfall getting heavier. We dragged our legs to Mondsee-The Collegiate Church in the town that’s worth a visit. This is where the wedding of Maria and the Captain took place in the film. Mondsee is around 15 km from Salzburg.

I hurried back to our van to keep myself warm and on my way back to the hotel room; I stopped by on a nearby restaurant to have an authentic Austrian dinner.


Halstatt

Hallstatt is just a 2-hour journey from Salzburg. You need to change 2 buses on the way. It is better, if you rent a car or take the tour to Hallstatt with only pick and drop-off facility. I’m sure you will love to explore the small village at you convenience.

The village on the lake owes its existence to the rich salt deposit in the mountain of Hallstatt. Till today, discoveries are still made in the salt mountain of Hallstatt.  Among the most beautiful places of interest are the:

  • Oldest salt mine in the world.
  • Ossuary in Hallstatt
  • Romantic boat ride on Lake Hallstatt.
  • Trip to the breathtaking cave world in Obertraun
  • Visit to the Lake Gosau with the mighty Dachstein glacier.

The road which takes you to the top of the church is the only street present. You will remember this walk for a lifetime! There is so much beauty concentrated in this one place. It is quite enthralling!

Ossuary/The catholic parish church in Hallstatt is a beautiful gem amid the cultural heritage village. the small Roman church dates back to 1181, its powerful tower dating back to the 12th century bears witness to this fact. The rocky grounds of the parish church became the Hallstatt cemetery. The front is assigned the Evangelist Christians

N.B: The boat rides are a must. You can plan your visit in autumn to enjoy the gorgeous colors of the season!


Vienna

The train journey from Salzburg would cost you around €50 and around €12-15 by bus. It was almost mid-night when I reached Vienna. The snowfall was heavy but hats off to the taxi drivers who were kind enough to drop me to the service apartment and help me with my luggage. The next morning, I was amazed to see the city covered in snow! However, the most commendable things about this town is their transportation channels which are very convenient and easy-to-use.

I started from the Opera. Musical luminaries including Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Joseph Haydn, Ludwig van Beethoven, Ferdinand Ries, Franz Schubert, Johannes Brahms, Gustav Mahler, Robert Stolz  and Arnold Schoenberg have worked there.

Innere Stadt is the inner district of Vienna. Its historic Centre dates to Roman ages and has been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list. It is encircled by the:

  • Ring Road (Ringstraße), a grand boulevard constructed along the old city walls, which were torn down starting in 1858. Along the Ringstraße are many famous and grand buildings.
  • City Hall (Rathaus),
  • The Austrian Parliament,
  • The Hofburg Palace,
  • The Natural History Museum (Naturhistorisches Museum),
  • The Museum of Art History (Kunsthistorisches Museum),
  • State Opera House (Wiener Staatsoper).
  • The famous St. Stephen’s Cathedral (Stephansdom), perhaps the most recognizable symbol of Vienna. As the renovation was going on, I could not visit the inside of the Cathedral L
  • Josefsplatz – A public square located at the Hofburg Palace named after Emperor Joseph II considered one of the finest courtyards in Vienna.
  • The Emperor Franz Monument. The four women located around him at the corners signify faith, peace, justice and power.
  • Heroes’ Square is a public space in front of the Hofburg Palace located in the Innere Stadt borough, the President of Austria resides in the adjoining Hofburg wing. Many important actions and events took place here, most notably Adolf Hitler’s ceremonial announcement of the Austrian Anschluss to Nazi Germany in 1938.

You might spend more than 6 hours moving around the place which is walkable and you will reach the shopping market. It is also referred as the ‘Golden Circle’. As the Christmas sale was around, there were umpteen shops offering tempting prices.

The following day. I started my trip from the Belvedere-a historic building complex consisting of two Baroque palaces (the Upper and Lower Belvedere), the Orangery, and the Palace Stables. The buildings are set in a Baroque park landscape which includes decorative tiered fountains and cascades, Baroque sculptures, and majestic wrought iron gates. The palace garden which has a wide collection of sculptures link both the palaces. The journey took about 2.5 hours and I was terribly hungry and tired as the snow was heavy and it was freezing cold.

Took the blue line tram to reach the palace and gardens of Schonbrunn. I relaxed for a while admiring the beauty of the spectacular 18 century magnificent architecture.

Note: You must try the pasta here! It tastes heavenly.

All the Bollywood movies shot at this spot flashed in and quietly as I walked to collect my tickets to the baroque palace of 1441 rooms. Do not to forget to click a picture in the frame with the palace in the background!


You can also customize your day trips to the following UNESCO heritage sites in Austria.

Click on the link to customize your trip. ( Number 1.2.3 and 7 have been included in the itinerary)

  1. Historic Centre of the City of Salzburg
  2. Palace and Gardens of Schönbrunn
  3. Hallstatt-Dachstein / Salzkammergut Cultural Landscape
  4. Semmering Railway
  5. City of Graz – Historic Centre and Schloss Eggenberg
  6. Wachau Cultural Landscape
  7. Historic Centre of Vienna
  8. Fertö / Neusiedlersee Cultural Landscape *
  9. Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe *
  10. Prehistoric Pile Dwellings around the Alps *

Tips:

  1. Visit in autumn to capture the spectacle of autumn colors. Visit in winter for the snow.
  2. If you’re visiting in winter as I did, carry layers of warm clothes as it is going to get very chilly.
  3. If you’re visiting in summer, you can enjoy the lush greenery around.
  4. Travelling is easy but make sure you’re travelling light because you will be walking a lot.
  5. Food is more or less hassle-free and is pocket-friendly.
  6. There are a lot of Bed & Breakfast Inns to check in.
  7. Buses are cheaper than trains but train journeys are more scenic.

“Take only memories, leave only footprints.” -Chief Seattle

 

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Czech Republic in 5 days!

After watching the latest Bollywood song ‘Radha’ from the movie ‘Jab Harry met Sejal’, which is shot on the Vrtba Garden of Prague, I was taken in a time machine to my trip to Prague in December 2016.

It was 1 A.M. when our flight made a safe landing at the Vaclav Havel Airport. After the mandatory currency exchanges to Czech Koruna and other airport formalities, I reached out to look for a bus at around 1.30 AM to Centrum. The 45 minute journey to my hotel was very refreshing and I must say, the people are so warm that you don’t feel new to the place.

P.S. Prague is safe to travel anytime.


Day 1: Flight to Prague

Day 2: Charles Bridge, Petrin Tower, Prague Castle, John Lennon Wall

Day 3: Old Town Square, New Town: Wenceslas Square, Dancing Tower

Day 4: Cesky Krumlov

Day 5: Shopping and return flight


Day – 2

The next morning, I started early to not miss the view from Charles Bridge at dawn. Charles Bridge was built in 1357. It stands majestically on Vltava River and connects the Old town to the new. The bridge is decorated by a continuous alley of 30 statues and statuaries, most of them baroque-style, originally erected around 1700.

After an exciting wonderful walk on the bridge, one reaches the old town. To your left while heading towards the Old Town, take a detour and head down to the park. A few steps while strolling in the park, you’ll see the Lennon wall, this wall portrays the tribute to former Beatle and peace campaigner John Lennon. The whole vibe pays tribute to the pop culture.

From the Wall, if you walk further down to the bridge, you reach the funicular to reach the Prague castle. Here, you get a glimpse of the 63- meter tall Petrin tower made from used railway tracks. You need to purchase tickets in order to climb the stairs and get the magnificent view of the city of Spikes, which is a terraced Baroque garden in Italian style situated on Petřín hill.

Later, a few steps away from Lesser Town Square and Charles Bridge, you come across the Vrtba Garden. This Baroque beauty is cut off from the hustle and bustle of the nearby tourist destinations by high walls and buildings. Thanks to them, you will feel as if you are in a different world filled with grand and old European ornate structures. Your camera is gonna love taking pictures here.

If you move further to your right, you are in front of the Prague Castle. Before you start climbing the steps, you see the Golden Lane which is an ancient street within the Prague Castle complex. It comprises of 11 historic houses, inside which time-period scenes have been created to show the life of the artisans who once worked, ate, drank and slept in them.

Climbing the steps listening to the Jazz and bagpipers played by the locals, you reach the Prague castle, the largest ancient castle in the world!

Inside the castle, you find St. Vitus Cathedral, St. George’s Cathedral and the All saints Church. The Old Royal palace and the New Royal Palace are also found there. You need to go through a security check and buy tickets in prior to entering the castle.

By the evening, I was deadbeat and that’s when Trdelnik- an authentic pastry of Prague came to my rescue. I was fortunate enough to taste it at TRDLO- The Old Pastry Centre. After sipping a mug of hot sweet wine, I relaxed for some time on the banks of the Vlatav river overlooking the majestic Charles Bridge and the beautiful swans swimming in the river. As twilight fell, the waves of the river and the glistening statues on Charles Bridge looked mesmerizing.

My hot tip would be to end the day with a pint of Pilsner Beer and Prague’s homemade Absynthe Drink.


Day-3

Despite being slightly difficult to get out of bed in the morning as a result of walking around the city a little too much on the previous day, I was up and about to go for the breakfast. The varieties and fresh fruits slowly made their way into my tummy and started making me feel much better.

The first destination of the day was the Astronomical clock. The Prague map helped me in making my way towards the Astronomical clock. The sky was slowly turning grey and it started to drizzle. The 600 years old clock, the parade of 12 apostles and other figures through the window and the skeleton ringing the bell took us back to the history of Prague.

I had no interest in moving away from the clock as it was so captivating. As I moved towards the church I crossed the Juan-Hus memorial: a statue of a religious reformer who for his beliefs was burned.

Passing the memorial, you reach the Gothic Church of Lady before Týn, which has been the main church of this part of the city since the 14th century; the church’s towers are 80 m high and were drowned in the beauty of the rising sun. The spikes glimmered in the dim light.

Looking past the other side was the St.Nicholas church known for its panoramic view of the city.

Walking back to the astronomical clock, if you turn onto Staroměstské nám and walk 1 km straight, you end up at Wenceslas Square, which is one of the main city squares and the center of business and cultural communities in the New Town. Many historical events occurred there, and it is a traditional setting for demonstrations, celebrations, and other public gatherings. It is also a part of the World Heritage site.

Next up is the Kafka Statue and the metamorphosis sculpture of Franz Kafka – the latest kinetic artwork by controversial Czech artist David Cerny. It is comprised of 42 independently driven layers of stainless steel and weighs in at some 45 tons. The piece brilliantly reveals Kafka’s tortured personality and unrelenting self-doubt that plagued him his entire life. Admiring the beauty of the movement of the layers, I sat for a while recollecting his works- ‘The trial’ and nihilism connected to his split personality in all his characters.

Right in front of the dance tower, you see the tram station, which took me to the hotel and called it a day.


Day -4

The day was going to be exciting as I would be visiting the World Heritage site as well as one of the most stunning places on Earth-Cesky Krumlov. This visit will surely take you 14 centuries back as you take a stroll around the renaissance homes and buildings.

You get trains as well as buses from Prague to Krumlov which will take you there in 3 hours and a bus ride would cost you around €7 whereas a train would cost €11. The views that you will witness on the bus/train along your journey are incomparable to any pleasure in this world. I reached around 11a.m. and the weather was cool and windy with slight drizzling, I had to walk for about 25 minutes from the station to the castle. I enjoyed every bit of my walk as it took me through parks and bus stations and a lot of shops. If this does not stand for the real essence of Europe, I don’t know what does.

At the castle you need to buy the entrance ticket, which takes you to the original Gothic castle, which was founded by the Lords of Krumlov before 1250. You pass through five courtyards, which display a huge variety of history and if you can, do get a guide who will explain each one in detail. After the fifth courtyard, you find the castle gardens.

In between the first and the second courtyard, in the corner stands the elegant  bell Tower/Castle Tower. The Castle Tower is probably the most famous symbol of Český Krumlov. The banner at the top shines at a height of 86 m above the Vltava River. The tower has a Gothic core, but it was completed in Renaissance style. In the midway, you get to see the prison for convicts. The gallery is decorated with arcades on 19 columns. There are four bells hung in the tower, the heaviest of which dates from 1406.

Number of steps: 162 & height: 54.5 m

I bet you will enjoy the view of Krumlov from the viewpoint.


Day-5

You can also customize your day trips to the following UNESCO heritage sites from Prague.

Click on the link to customize your trip.


 Tips

  • It is better to visit in winter and not monsoon.
  • Carry enough water and snacks as there is a lot of walking to do.
  • It’s better to wear your sport shoes so you don’t end up getting frostbites.
  • Better to fix your stay at The Centrum so that travelling to the main attractions becomes easy.
  • Trams are easily accessible from all the places, making it the best mode of transport around.
  • Shopping of printed bags especially at Krumlov or Prague is a must!
  • Watch out for the free Walking Tours starting from Wenceslas Square or the Old Town Square.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did. So, throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor.Catch the trade winds in you sail.”

 

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Visit Iceland in 5 Days!

If you are looking for an exotic vacation with geographical challenges and witness the miracles of nature,  then probably the destination is Iceland- An island of contrasts: fire and ice.

Nature’s bounty is in your hands and you’ll discover active volcanoes, geysers, hot springs, glaciers, ice fields, and fjords, in this sparsely populated country, located at the edge of the Arctic Circle, one of the world’s most volcanically active areas inviting visitors to its abode.


Day 1: Flight to Keflavik and transfer to Reykjavik

Day 2: Golden Circle and Secret Lagoon

Day 3: South Adventure Tours

Day 4: Blue Lagoon/ Glacier Trekking and Reykjavik City Tour

Day 5: Shopping and return flight


How to reach Iceland?

https://wowair.is/

http://www.icelandair.com/

are the two airlines that connect visitors from Europe and America to Iceland. The planes are small, much like an airbus. You also have a stopover stay for up to 7 nights without extra cost if you are travelling from Europe to America or vice-versa. If you are interested in visiting Greenland -you can fly from here for a day or two. You do not need any visa if you are on Schengen.

Where is Iceland located?

The moment you’re near Iceland you get to see extensively spread North Atlantic ocean, to the east is Greenland and to the west Norway .

The airport is compact and has a huge collection of drinks. Moving out of the airport to your right are the kiosks where you can buy bus tickets to Reykjavik.

Grayline and Flybus drop you to your hotel in Reykjavik. It is better to buy 2-way tickets as they are quite cheap.

After a long journey, you can call it a day with a hot shower followed by a hot soup. If you are visiting in summer; it is the land of midnight sun, which means you will have daylight 24×7 and if it is winter, you hardly get to see the sun, and everything around you is covered in snow…

Where do I book my tours and transfers?

If you have not planned the day tours or your hotel stay, you can book them at Grayline/Arctic Adventures/Reykjavik Excursions. The most memorable and interesting tour, you could take up which covers most of the significant places with pickup and drop off facilities are the Golden Circle Tour, the Secret Lagoon and the South Adventures.


Day -2

What is Golden Circle?

The three primary stops are:

  • Gullfoss Waterfall
  • Geysir and Strokkur geysers
  • The stunning Þingvellir National Park sometimes combined with Secret Lagoon.

 

GULLFOSS:  The second spot, one would never ever miss is the Gullfoss waterfalls. The river Hvítá plummets into a canyon creating a powerful torrent. The Gulfoss is a must watch and if you are lucky and get to see the glimpse of sun you would also see the formation of rainbow. Trust me, it is magical.

DSC_1077.JPG

GEYSIR: The last stop along the Golden Circle is the highly active Geysir Hot Spring Area with boiling mud pits, exploding geysers and the lively Strokkur that spouts water 100 ft. into the air every few minutes. But you need to be extra careful as there are geysers all the way and can be active at any point of time. So, if your soul seeks for adventure, this is your thing!

In front of the hot Geysers stop you get to enjoy wonderful soups of your wish and an adjoined souvenir shop.

DSC_1028

ÞINGVELLIR NATIONAL PARK: If you are a fan of history, then you would absolutely love to visit the UNESCO world heritage site and national park, where the Old Viking Parliament was founded. Here the tectonic plates are slowly being pulled apart right in front of your eyes while Þingvellir tells stories of geographical and political struggles, compromises and ongoing evolution.

If you walk further down to your right you will see the canyons and the waterfalls.

THE SECRET LAGOON: Hands down, this is the most exotic bath with a spell-bounding view! Tucked behind an unassuming building in the small town of Flúðir, is an old, rough-edged swimming pool brimming with clean geothermal water. What is now known as the Secret Lagoon was Iceland’s first public swimming pool having been created in 1891. You get to swim in the moderated pool. So, carry your swimsuit. Wading through the warm water in the damp cold weather is a life time experience.


Day -3: South Adventures Trip.

After a wonderful saga of nature on the previous day you wake up to embrace the southern journey. One can expect;

  • Views of glaciers and volcanoes
  • Getting up close to the iconic Skógafoss waterfall
  • Exploring Reynisfjara volcanic pebble beach
  • The towering rock stacks of Reynisdrangar
  • Walking behind the picturesque Seljalandsfoss waterfall

 The Skógafoss is one of the biggest waterfalls in the country with a width of 49 feet and a drop of 200 ft. Due to the amount of spray, a single or double rainbow is normally visible on sunny days. According to legend, the first Viking settler in the area, Þrasi Þórólfsson, buried a treasure in a cave behind the waterfall. Though I could not figure it out.

Our next stop is at the visitor center of the infamous Eyjafjallajökull volcano. Then the journey continues to Solheimajokull Glacier, an ever-changing and moving natural wonder. Before we reach the southernmost village in Iceland, Vik, we make stops at the beautiful black lava beach Reynisfjara and the amazing rock formations at Dyrhólaey cliffs where you can spot lot of Puffins, the national bird of the country. You can see black pebbles and sand composed of volcanic minerals and lava fragments. Such sands are especially common on the coasts of volcanic islands.

Seljalandsfoss– The final stop is one of the most popular waterfalls and natural wonders in Iceland. The waterfall is part of the Seljalands River that has its origin in the volcano glacier Eyjafjallajökull. One of the interesting things about this waterfall is that visitors can walk behind it into a small cave.


Day 4- Reykjavik City Tour

You can also customize your trip by choosing blue lagoon/ glacier walk or trekking based on your area of interest. Do not miss the city tour which has the wonderful Hallgrímskirkja church and the Harpa concert. The purple flowers look like lavender from far but when you go near they are Lupine which are not natural to the Icelandic flora. It was imported from Alaska in 1945 by the Iceland Forest Service to prevent soil erosion in barren areas.

DSC_0964


Tips:

  1. Carry layers of warm clothes even in summer.
  2. An umbrella can save you from unexpected rainfall.
  3. Each day tour will cost around 450 AED.
  4. Better to book rooms at the centrum in Reykjavik than in Keflavik.
  5. All tours are picked up and dropped off at the hotels in and around city Centre -Reykjavik.
  6. Go and explore the Incredible Iceland!

iceland

Leave comments in the comment section for more details! 

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From a Teacher to a Traveller…

Travelling has always been a passion, since I was a 9-year-old kid when I travelled solo from Bangalore to New Delhi. Although, the purpose of this journey was to deliver a speech in front of the President of India, Mr. Zail Singh(1978), the journey had deeply kindled an undying desire to explore places and culture.

Then onwards, this worm-hole opened up to new arenas and new travels from neighbouring cities like Chennai, Madurai, Hyderabad & Pune to Huntsville,Amsterdam and Reykjavik for exotic adventures and Jamborees.

During my stay in India, I successfully managed to visit every state in the north, south and the west.

As I was posted abroad to Maldives for serving the Maldivian Govt., I was exposed to the concept of weekend getaways that I was oblivious to, as any average person hailing from India. During my weekend getaways, I would visit nearly 20 ring-shaped atolls, which are made up of more than one 1,000 coral islands.

Finally, I moved to Dubai in the year 2009 which established a new dimension to my passion. Firstly, planning a holiday is much easier due to the availability and flexibility of resources.Secondly, the visa procedure was not hectic anymore.

So far, I have checked 38 countries off my bucket list and I believe this blog will be the medium where I share my insights, views and the shortcomings, I have experienced as a traveller.

I’m indebted to my family and my parents who’ve always supported me in my pursuit and I hope this inspires every individual.

The world is filled with so much beauty but we are so caught up in accumulating materialistic possessions that we often forget how big of a possession a good travel experience can be.

Come, travel with me!

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