Archive | September 2015

A letter from Sophie

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Hey guys,

I hope you’re liking the travel snaps. I’m currently writing this from Avignon in the south of Fraance. Yes, my blogs are about 2 weeks behind! Argh! The balance between writing in my personal journal, blogging and sight-seeing hasn’t been reached.

I did a day trip out of Sevilla which I will be blogging about then went to Barcelona. Wow, I did not expect Barcelona to be such a wonderful city. After Spain, I flew into Toulouse to visit a friend and have since gone to Montpellier and Avignon. Mucho to write about and pictures to share so stay put! I have a feeling there will be blogs being published left right and centre very soon.

Stay well!
-S.

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Sevilla Feels

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Those regulars of this blog will know that I have been to Sevilla before but in the middle of their summer which is NOT recommended. Sevilla is much nicer when the temperature isn’t in the mid-40 degrees celsius category. It is now one of my favourite towns. Safe for the single female traveller and you can be a tourist for a day and live like a local the next.

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Strolling the winding streets is a must and crossing the bridge into Triana. It’s quite funny that no matter where you go, people affiliate themselves and others with where they live. This is much so between Triana and Sevilla. Trianans pride themselves as the home of flamenco and the accompanying singing and guitaring. On this particular trip, after having watched flamenco the previous year, really really really wanted to try a flamenco class. So I did and it was great fun! One major aspect of flamenco is that it is a dance style with a lot of emotion which for a first-time beginner, is hard to get and emulate!

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-S.

Day trip to Bratislava

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Bratislava, capital of Slovakia, is a 1 hour train ride from Vienna. The distance between these two capital cities is suppose to be THE shortest distance in the world but I have read contradicting evidence so I don’t believe it. Anyway, the close situation of these cities means a great day trip from Vienna. Take bus X13 or 93 to get closer to the Old Town. If you buy your Bratislava ticket from Vienna, the ticket includes free public transport usage in Bratislava.

The Old Town can be easily covered in a day plus maybe a museum as well. Taking a “hike” up to the castle grounds will reward you with sweeping views over the Old Town, Danube River and the ‘burbs (suburbs).

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It’s a small Old Town but many different buildings to feast your eyes upon.

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-S.

Vienna

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Vienna is just alittle bit of a dashing city. Historical buildings ornately decorated, some even with gold, adorn this city which I would like to describe as the chic cousin of Prague. Despite the historical buildings somehow Vienna feels more like a metropolitan city than Prague did for me. How terrible am I, already comparing cities? After my early departure from the Alps, I had a week to explore Vienna. I know alot of people like to pash n dash a city whilst on holidays (and I completely understand it, I have had trips like that in the past), this trip was starting to become a nice ‘hang around for a while’ trip. I was concerned about what I would fill my week with in Vienna, there weren’t as many free tours available or cheap tours but I think you find more to see after marinating in a city and having the time to see or do all the little things that you might’ve passed up otherwise.

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The city centre is easily navigated and public transport made up of the train, tram, bus and metro networks makes it easy and fast to get around. When I say easily navigated, ticket machines and maps are plentiful. The Viennese are a happy bunch and I found myself quite at home with the availability of international cuisine. I even got to satisfy my Pho craving (Vietnamese beef noodle soup, perfect for cold weather).

One of my favourite places was at the Deli in the Naschmarkt. This food market is located at the metro stop Pilgrimgasse on the U4 line. This turkish cafe has been running for 15 years and service is nice and quick. After eating supermarket breakfast for a few days, I thought I’d maybe pay more than 3 euros for breakfast. I was not disappointed at the Deli! There are alot of restaurants in the Naschmarkt that will make it difficult to decide which international cuisine you want and a stroll through the Naschmarkt will take you past spice shops, fruit and vege shops and heaps of middle eastern stores selling falafels and spreads.

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Vienna is a huge city that can be explored by foot and all the historical sites tend to be situated quite closely. Even the museums have their own quarter (named Museumsquarter) so you can get museum-ed out in one go. I found Vienna to be a very safe city even at night. I was very thoroughly impressed.

-S.

Obertraun/Hallstat

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Situated in the Austrian Alps around Hallstat lake are the towns Hallstat and Obertraun. Hallstat is the more famous of the two and is the main tourist destination mostly as a day trip. I thought however, being in the mountains might be nice and I could plan to do some outdoor activities to pass my time. How wrong was I! See previous A letter from Sophie post here for more details. I stayed in Obertraun which is the more budget friendly of the two towns. There are restaurants around, a supermarket and the Obertraun Resort which is like a park/beach and has bike rentals as well. Handy tip: local buses between Hallstat and Obertraun run about once a hour in each direction and none over lunch so take a picture of the bus timetable (I found the pamphlet so hard to read) and plan your day around the bus times.

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To say that this area of Austria is picturesque is a huge understatement. One of the main attractions outside of the Hallstat city centre is Dachstein Mountains and in particular the Five Finger viewing platform. There are a few different viewing platforms dotted along the mountains but the Five Fingers is the most popular because they are literally platforms jutting over the edge of the mountains. As I am terrified of heights, I took in the sights from a nice stable grounded area. Speaking of heights, to get up to the top of the mountain involves 2 cable car rides. Again, I found them terrifying.

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It is worth the few minutes of sheer terror in the cable cars though to get views like this! I as wondering why people were going into the cable cars with huge backpacks and thought they were going camping but alas, they were actually parachuters. You’re high up so make sure sunscreen and a hat is brought as well as water. I didn’t do all the different viewing platforms but bring lunch and you could easily spend almost 5 hours up here. Also up here are the Dachstein Ice and Mammut Caves. You can buy a combined ticket for all three things. It would be a tiring day but great for the kids in my opinion. Bring lunch!

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Hallstat is a lot bigger than I thought it was. Salt stores and cafes make the bulk of the so called ‘small town’. It’s easily crossed in about 20 minutes. There is a salt mine across the road from Hallstat (so I guess it’s still in Hallstat) that I quite enjoyed as I had never done anything like it before and takes approximately 2 hours to go up and down and do a guided tour.

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I arrived here using CK shuttle (from Cesky Krumlov) but Hallstat and Obertraun each have their own train station and can be used to travel to and from Vienna or Salzburg. Interestingly, Hallstat train station is situated on the otherside of the river from Hallstat town (weird!) and any trains you do catch out to Salzburg or Vienna will require a train change at Attnang-Puchheim station. It’s the last stop so you won’t miss it!

Depending on what you want to do, a day trip or a few days here would work. There is one thing in common in coming here though and it’s to enjoy the view.

-S.

A letter from Sophie

Hey guys!

I hope you’re enjoying the travel blogs as I travel. There’s a first for everything! I thought I would update you so you can follow along and to explain why I went a week with no blog posts! I finished my travels in the Czech Republic and continued on by bus into the Austrian alps. The hills are definitely alive. On my first day there, it was boiling hot and I decided to go for a dip in Hallstat lake where alot of people were already frolicking in the water. At night, I noticed that I had the nice company of some mosquitoes.

The next day when I woke up, low and behold, my legs and 1 arm were covered in (what I thought were mosquito) bites. I normally have an allergic reaction to mosquito bites but over the next day or so, they became more and more red and the accommodation owner gave me the details of the town doctor so that I could get something to put on these bites.

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The doctor said that the bites were more likely from lake bugs (something related to the parasites from swans and ducks that live in the lake) and gave me some anti-histamines as well as antiseptic spray and cream to put on my bites. I cut my stay short in Obertraun and left for Vienna earlier than I had planned because there were still mosquitoes around and in my room.

It’s been a week since I woke up covered and I am still nursing my bites! They look to be getting better but I’m ready to be bite free. That was my first overseas doctor visit ever as well and I was worried I would have to pay an arm and a leg for it but it was ok. Hopefully there will be no more doctor visits on my trip.

-S.

Cesky Krumlov

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Cesky Krumlov is in the South Bohemia region of the Czech Republic and is around a 2.5hr bus ride from Prague. Alot of people do this as a day trip but I’m here to tell you no! Stay at least one night. It’s a VERY touristic town and I get the feeling that the town thrives off that. It’s simply an Old Town but it has the charms to charm your socks off. It’s a very pretty town that will make almost every picture you take instagramable.

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Some of the things that I would recommend doing are the free Wiseman’s walking tour and go rafting on the Vltana river. The free tour is a great introduction to the town’s layout and also the town’s history. I think it was the best place for town information and also showed us all the sights and perfect town viewing locations. Some of the buildings date back to the 18th century and it’s still standing today so it is literally living history. How did they even built the castle so high?! Of course, you need to hear about the walking ghosts and all the cursing that went around back then.

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There are a number of rafting companies but the place I was staying at recommended Malecek which I think also had some of the better prices around. You can choose which route you want to take that have an approximate duration time. I had wanted to do the 3-4 hour route but as it was mid afternoon already, the 1-2 hour route was the recommended one. The river isn’t deep so if you manage to not make a weir in the upright position, it’ll be ok. The weirs aren’t too bad by the way although I was freaking out at the first huge one we had to go down. You need a minimum of 2 people for a raft which is recommended over a canoe for the newbies as it’s more stable. The only capsizes I saw were from canoes.
imageI definitely recommend to visit CK!

-S.