Easter at Stansted Airport. Moments before we dug in..
After wasting a couple of hours in London we made our way to Stansted Airport on route to Salzburg, Austria! The bus ride there was fairly eventful, involving erratic driving by the bus driver, a narrowly avoided collision and a motion-sick Ali. After arriving, I told the bus driver what I thought of his driving.. He thought when I said his driving was ‘crazy’ that I meant it in a good way but he quickly realised I was not impressed.
Glad to still be alive, we spent the night at the airport, waiting till 12:00am to eat our Easter eggs, and then sleeping for a few hours on the cold hard floor, before catching our plane to Salzburg.
In the snow in Salzburg.
After arriving at our hostel, we headed in to town. As it was Easter Sunday, there weren’t too many things open; however the town square and churches were full of people, including lots of Austrian people dressed in traditional lederhosen and other funny outfits. The square was also lined with horse and carts, offering rides around the town. We spent a lot of time in the markets which were full of brightly coloured stores selling all kinds of meat, cheese and pastries. After sampling a number of delicious pastries, we headed back to the hostel full and exhausted. We had a quiet night, watching the complimentary screening of ‘The Sound of Music’, which is set in Salzburg. We were very excited to see the Castle, and other monuments from Salzburg that we had seen during the day, in the film.
Before heading to bed we noticed that it was snowing. Being the first proper snow we had seen since arriving in Europe this was very exciting. The snowflakes were the size of 20 cent pieces, and looked so pretty in the dark.
Snow-covered Salzburg square.
The next morning we woke up to an entirely snow-covered Salzburg! The whole city was covered in thick snow, and was entirely transformed. We spent the day walking around the city and sampling delicious Austrian cakes, chocolates and pastries. We had another quiet night, meeting a very drunk and obnoxious American backpacker who amused us greatly with his ridiculous comments that were straight out of an American teen movie.
The next morning it was still snowing, so we decided to catch the gondola, rather than walk, up to the top of the castle in Salzburg.
It had a really nice view of the entire city, which looked amazing covered in white. After a farewell to Ali, who was heading back to Leeds for the rest of the holidays, Ruth, Tink and I, picked up the car we had hired for the next 4 days.
With our car..
It was very exciting to have a car at our disposal again, after weeks of buses, trains and taxis. It was still snowing, and we were told that there had been a huge pile-up on one of the highways, so we set off tentatively towards Innsbruck to the South-West. At the last moment we had decided to get a GPS system, initially being opposed as we thought that doing it old-school with maps would be fun. That turned out to be the best decision of the trip. I’m not sure what we would have done without it.. I have no doubt that we would have struggled to even get out of Salzburg, let alone head in the right direction.
After some struggle (apparently the GPS can only tell you where to go if you know the name and address of your hostel) we made it to our hostel in Innsbruck. We were surprised at how large Innsbruck was.. it seemed a lot bigger and much busier than Salzburg. It is a very beautiful city also – surrounded by beautiful snow-capped mountains.
The next morning, we headed to Nordepark, a ski field that had been suggested to us as being particularly good for snowboarders. It was quite different to the ski fields I was accustomed to. You drive your car to the bottom of the mountain, park in the parking lot, buy your lift pass and then catch a huge gondola up the mountain, along with skiers and boarders who have skied all the way down to the bottom.
Despite being assured that we would be able to hire gear at the top of the mountain, after buying our day passes and getting to the top, we were told that there were no snowboards or boots our size left, as most had been sent back down because it was the end of the season. Very annoyed, because the snow out the window of the gondola had looked amazing and we were all so excited, we made our way back down to try to get a refund. Unfortunately the woman said that it was not possible (all translated by a very friendly Austrian for us), another lovely Austrian in the line behind us who had heard our conversation, offered to buy one of our passes off us. We managed to get back a little of our wasted money at least, but it made us appreciate just how nice the Austrian people are even more.
Drive up to the slopes
We managed to find a great place in town to hire our gear, and decided to go skiing the next day instead – to Axamer Lizum which was suggested as being the biggest and the best in the region.
We spent the rest of the day driving around and shopping. . It was funny to see that in Austria they take their dogs everywhere.. In cafes, clothing shops, supermarkets… It is a very dog-friendly country. It made me miss my dogs L.
Axamer Lizum. From the peak on the right down to the bottom was only about half of that run.
The next day we forced ourselves out of bed bright and early and made the drive out to Axamer Lizum. The drive up on its own was very beautiful, as we passed thousands of snow-covered pine trees. When we arrived, there were hardly any people there – the one great thing about being there so late in the season. The snow was absolutely amazing, apparently the best of the season which was very lucky considering it was almost April.
Nonetheless, they were the best snow conditions that I’ve ever boarded in. We wanted to make the most of it because it was going to be our only day on the slopes, so we went up every lift, tried every run (including a black run that we probably shouldn’t have that took us about an hour), and had the most fantastic day. A highlight was when we decided to all go over one of the jumps in the terrain park. Tink went first, followed by me, and then Ruth. The jump was quite different to what we had imagined, as it was cut off at the back so that even if you went over it at 2km/h, you had a fall on the other side. After safely making it over (just!), Tink and I turned to watch Ruth go over the jump and almost stack it in the most hilarious way. Probably had to be there to find it so funny, and it was made worse by the fact that it hurt her to laugh for the next three or so days.
Our cool matching jackets
It was so nice to have lunch at the top of the mountain, drinking our Austrian beer, eating the really good food at the restaurant, and looking out as the snow came down around us.
On the ski-lift
The next morning we all awoke totally stiff and sore from the previous day’s skiing. We had an early breakfast, packed and headed off in our car towards Vienna. It took about 5 hours to get there, and on the way Tink and I managed to convince Ruth to let us drive for a short period of time. It was really nice to drive again after so long, although driving on the other side of the road is harder than it sounds, and it was difficult to stay in the middle of the lane. Our hostel in Vienna, called Wombats (When we told this to the drunk American in Salzburg, he said ‘what kind of a bat is that?’ haha), was really really cool. It’s the best hostel that we’ve stayed in. It had about 500 beds, its own really cool bar, computers, friendly staff, and a great atmosphere.
We were also given maps of the city, with heaps of recommendations on where to go, what to see and most importantly, where to eat. We made the most of our last night with our car, going to a recommended Indian restaurant fairly far from our hostel. It was seriously the most delicious Indian food I’ve ever had. We were all starving, so we made the most of it, having a huge feast.
An Anti-EU Rally in Vienna.
The next morning we had to return our beloved car, which we had grown very attached to. On the way there, we stopped at a petrol station and asked the man there to take a photo of us with our car. He was very excited about this and proceeded to direct a photo shoot of us looking off into the distance in front of our car. Unfortunately, despite his best photographic direction, he couldn’t operate a camera properly and the photo didn’t work. But he did try..
After dropping the car off (with a minor scare – the receipt given to Ruth said 850 Euro!), we walked in to town.
It was a beautiful sunny day and was so nice and warm after the freezing cold in Salzburg and Innsbruck. We walked past parliament house, and a number of huge and impressive museums. Vienna is a really beautiful city. The architecture is amazing, and there were little gardens all over the place with lush green lawns and really bright flowers. We made our way to the Kunstforum, an art gallery with a slightly disappointing Kandinsky, Money and Rothko exhibition, but we were very content stopping off at the market outside and sampling a range of delicious Viennese breads, cheeses and pastries.
Museum in Vienna.
We went to a number of different sights around the town, and then headed to the Naschmarkt, which is a huge food market filled with all sorts of delicious things, such as antipasto from little delis, fresh fruit and vegetables and every dried fruit or veg you could imagine.
We didn’t know where to start.. it all looked so good, but we settled for 3 huge apples, that must have weighed almost a kilo each and were about half the size of our heads.
Ruth and Tink in the Naschmarkt in Vienna
We had a surprisingly great dinner at a Turkish restaurant that night, with really friendly staff that kept on brining us free drinks. We then headed back to the hostel bar, where we met a number of other backpackers, as well as some local Austrian guys. We all went out to a bar that one of the Austrian guys knew the owners of, which turned out to be a great thing as we had free entry and free drinks all night. . I also managed to burn my hair on a candle at the bar, and for the rest of the night demanded that everyone smell my hair. :S After the club closed, at about 4 30, we headed to a 24 hour pub/restaurant near our hostel. This place had no windows and was pretty dingy but had a 24 hour licence and was still serving food. A couple of beers and servings of hot chips with tomato sauce and mayonnaise later we stumbled back to the hostel.
We were very surprised once we left the pub, to find that it was daylight outside. We got back to the hostel in one piece, and after making a ruckus and waking up all the other people in our room, we finally went to bed at about 7 30.
The Huge Apple from the Naschmarkt in Vienna.
After waking up at about 3pm the next afternoon, we had a very lazy day, heading in to town briefly, and trying to organise getting to Cesky Kurmlov the next day. It turned out to be much more difficult than we anticipated so we decided to scrap that idea and head straight to Prague via train the next morning.
After accidently sleeping past the alarm, we had a very rushed and stressful packing, checkout, buffet breakfast and dash to the strain station.
Amazingly we made the train, with about 2 minutes to spare, and after being kicked out of first class settled into our own “Hogwarts Express”-style second class carriage. Somewhere along the five hour train ride we crossed over the border and in to the Czech Republic.
Not a bad effort I don't think..
I had the best time in Austria, with a fantastic mix of everything – snow, skiing, beautiful weather, fantastic food and great nights out. I was so impressed with how friendly the people were and would love to go back some day in the future – I’m thinking a winter chalet in the Austrian Alps! Might have to get a real job before that happens. Anyway, Can’t Wait!