Sunday, 11 December 2016

Europe Trip 🐢 #5 Lindau (and some side trips to Switzerland)

From Austria we went to Germany and based ourself in Lindau, which is a town on the eastern end of Lake Constance, which is a beautiful part of the country (and very popular with locals and tourists in the summer time). We stayed in a lovely AirBnb flat which was the attic of a home-it felt so homey and was lovely to come back to after days out exploring. A personal highlight for me was meeting up with a friend a made when I was in Belfast who is from that part of Germany. She was our personal tour guide for a day trip into Switzerland and took us to some beautiful Medieval cities (Radolfzell and Schaffhausen) and the Rheinfalls (which are the biggest (volume) waterfalls in Europe). We had beautiful weather, with clear skies and just a bit of frost on the ground, so we had glorious views of the lake from the train and then of the alps in the distance. It's cold, but we've all become used to layering up and have learned to appreciate hot chocolate in new ways! If we thought Christmas markets were everywhere in Austria, they are even more prevalent in Germany and we enjoyed some fun local food from some of the stalls.

Lindau itself doesn't offer a great deal, however the island section of the town has some pretty cobbled streets and very nice restaurants and cafés. The harbour is quite pretty though with its distinctive lighthouse and lion markers.

From Lindau we did a second trip into Switzerland, to the town of St Gallen. Unfortunately the weather was not so pleasant that day: it was incredibly foggy and frosty but we marvelled at the cathedral, drank hot chocolate and walked up to the top of the town to a small Alpine Zoo and walking trails which we enjoyed exploring.

Our favourite day trip from Lindau was to Oberstdorf where, although the gorge we had wanted to hike through was closed, we had one of our best days yet. Firstly, we found a partially frozen waterfall which was spectacular, and then we found some ski fields being prepared and so, of course, played in the snow! We slid down the hills (and were awkwardly slightly wet afterwards), made snowballs and frolicked about like children (much to the bemusement of the locals who walked past us...). Here again we had beautiful clear skies, so although it was cold, the day was spectacular and we made some very fun memories.

(those skid marks down the snow hill may have been left by us...)

Europe Trip 🐢 #4 Innsbruck

Innsbruck has been our favourite city so far, and one we would all recommend to future travelers. A city surrounded by snow-capped mountains, beautiful buildings in the old part of the city, a lovely river to walk along, Christmas markets...what more could you possibly want? A highlight was the Alpine Zoo (which we hadn't planned to go to, but it was part of a deal with the cable car up the mountain). It was fun to see animals that you don't see in Australia (moose, beavers, lynx cats, bears, a red squirrel) and the layout of the zoo was very pleasant to walk around as it felt very much part of the natural landscape. The cable car then continued the rest of the way up the mountain (which we felt was cheating a bit as there were people hiking the whole way up! But we were on limited time). The views from the top were absolutely spectacular, and the little bit of fresh snow made us feel that we really were in the Alps. As far as you could see in every direction were majestic snow-capped mountains. If it hadn't been so cold, we could have stayed up there for hours, but we had to go into the cafe for hot chocolate after about half an hour. Of course, we had to eat apple strudel with the hot chocolate (we were in Austria after all!).

Friday, 2 December 2016

Europe Trip 🐢 #3 Bratislava and Budapest

Whilst based in Vienna, we did two international train trips: the first to Slovakia, to Bratislava; and the second to Hungary, to Budapest.

Bratislava was a spur of the moment decision, as the previous day we saw cheap tickets advertised and decided to go. We were pleasantly surprised in that not only did we have a clear day, but in the beauty of Bratislava itself. We started with the palace and then wandered the cobble stone streets, explored the Christmas markets, ate gingerbread (and burgers with uncertain fillings), saw some beautiful buildings, had lunch and caught the train back to Vienna. If you are ever in that part of Europe, I'd recommend a day in Bratislava!

Our trip to Budapest was one that I've wanted to do for a while and was excited to have the change to do. We left Vienna in the dark, and returned in the dark (pitfall of traveling in winter!) but had a lovely, albeit freezing cold, day in Budapest. Our first dilemma was currency conversion, particularly since we've all only just adapted to the Euro! However, we overcame that and then decided that as Budapest is quite a big city and we only had the day to see it, that we would do a hop-on, hop-off bus tour (which included a trip on the Danube). We were very grateful for the bus with the steep hills and it was a good way to get a feel for the different districts of the city. The other advantage of the bus tour was that the audioguide explained some of the history which was fascinating. The highlight was the golden sunset on the river as we finished our day with the boat trip. One of our favourite moments of the boat trip was meeting an Italian tourist who became the self-appointed photographer of the ride, as he kept volunteering to take photos of all the passengers.
For Australians, the concept of being able to get on a train for a couple of hours and then be in a different country, with a different language and currency and culture, is mind-boggling but wonderful! What a remarkable world we live in! Travel truly is an education.