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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I definitely recommend to visit CK!
I have officially left Prague and am now in the South Bohemian region of the Czech Republic. So I thought it would be nice to reflect what I had learnt in Prague and the feels that I got whilst there. I’m not the one to be giving a history lesson but if you don’t know the history I can give you a brief run down. Formally known as Czechoslovakia, it was one of the most strongest European countries economically up until World War II where it was taken over by Nazi Germany. Hundreds of thousands of Czechoslovakian citizens and their jewish populations were sent to concentration camps, interrogated in prisons and/or were forced labourers. It wasn’t until 1945 before Soviet and American armies arrived to liberate the country from German rule and is now known as the Spring Uprising. The country was then a communist state up until 1989 when the Velvet Revolution occurred, where the country became a democracy peacefully in that year. History lesson over.
The 2 images above are of the John Lesson Wall, which is located in Lesser Town just off the Charles bridge. This wall was like your average everyday other wall until 1988 when the youngsters decided that they weren’t happy with the communist country and how it was being run. Apparently, authorities had tried cleaning the wall only to have it become graffiti-ed over again and again with world loving messages. Today, it is a vibrant addition to the city and is changing everyday judging from the people drawing with pen on the wall. I felt tears welling up in my eyes as I stood there looking at the wall. This is the sign of unhappy citizens in a country who wanted to be heard and change their country for the better (I hope). A country that had gone through so much from being one of the strongest countries in Europe to one whose Government was exiled during World War II. It gives me hope! So much so, it was making me teary.
This is a picture of the Zizkov TV Tower aka one of the world’s ugliest towers, which was built by the Nazi German’s to block radio signals from the east. I stayed close to this tower so got to see it lit up at night (Czech flag colours). War bunkers and communist-styled buildings dot this city. Adding something to the Gothic, baroque and cubic architecture. To me, it’s a blend of their history into the modern day Czech Republic and a reminder of their past so evidently everywhere. It makes me want to play a lament to the country and I hope they see additional good years to come.
I’m pretty bad at taking pictures of food. Once the plate hits the table, I’ve already reached for cutlery and cannot stand friends who prohibit you from eating until after they get their snaps. Part of a culture is their food so what better way to experience it than to eat it. If you’ve read anything about Czech cuisine, you will hear that it is heavy. This is correct. The traditional Czech foods involve some hearty meats served with dumplings. This is not to be confused with Asian dumplings, Czech dumplings are made from flour (can be anything from potato, what or buckwheat) which is then boiled and then sliced up and served with the hearty meat. I tried the beef goulash after getting over my sickness, delicious. No picture here as I had already eaten it before I thought about taking the picture.
First picture above. Smazeny syr aka fried cheese. This particular one was camembert cheese served with potatoes and cranberry sauce. Can I just say that this is the best thing ever invented after sliced bread? A friend had told me to go and try this and it was actually quite hard to find in the Old Town. It was heavy but the cranberry sauce was a nice addition and I almost finished it minus the potatoes. Tip of the day, always walk to surrounding streets of touristy areas to find the best deals. I will definitely try and hunt for more tonight!
Last picture is Trdelnik. Now I have eaten this back home in Aus at a Hungarian patisserie so was confused when I arrived here and found these everywhere. After alittle research (googling), turns out it’s just generally Slovak which each country claiming it as their own but it actually originated from the Hungarian-speaking Romanian town Szeklerland. It’s made from dough that’s rolled into a thin log and then spun around a pin. It’s covered in sugar and then roasted until golden brown. There are variations to how it’s garnished, sometimes just sugar on the outside, you can also have nuts and the option of nutella on the inside. Personally, I would go without nutella as it’s already quite sweet from the sugar. Perfect afternoon snack as you people watch.
What are some of your favourite Czech foods? Let me know!
Obviously when you’re travelling, you need a place to stay but aside from the hotel, where else can you stay and save?
One of my favourite websites to use for accommodation bookings is bookings.com. It’s easy to use, you just plug in your dates of travel, number of guests and town and hit search. It brings up a whole list of hotels/hostels/B&Bs so you can compare prices, reviews from other people and compare features between each place. Things I keep an eye out for are air conditioning and wifi as not all places have these included in the price or at all. I also like to book rooms that have $0 cancellation costs incase you find a better place to stay or want to change your dates. I also really like the review feature which lets you browse through to see what other people’s experiences were like and make sure you leave your own for the next travellers.
If these prices are still too expensive or I want a place with a kitchen to stay at, I will look at Airbnb. You get to pick whether you want a whole apartment to yourself or a private room within someone else’s home. The benefit of this is a more personalised type of accommodation and someone to ask questions to about local things. The downside is not having the chance to stay around other guests (although some places do rent out all their rooms so you can expect to bump into someone else) or have the safety back-up of a “hotel or hostel corporation” like structure to smooth out any issues right away (although AirBnB does have legal say in things to protect hosts). Just another tip, a service fee is involved in each booking that goes straight to AirBnB and you don’t get this back if you need to cancel. I’ve used Airbnb before and will be giving it some more goes but it’s very dependent on individual experiences both with the place and with the hosts so goodluck!
Another option is to use couchsurfing. This isn’t just free accommodation (but yay free) but more of a community exchange. For the free stay, you should at least make a meal for or take your host/s out for a meal to say thanks. On the couchsurfing website, there are reviews of both hosts and guests so have a look through this thoroughly as not so good things have happened. You can message past guests to ask about the host. I haven’t used couchsurfing yet but maybe I will soon.
Hope I’ve given you an insight of my booking ways. If you wish to leave a comment, let me know what you think and what sites you use.
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My first Christmas without family. Last year I was in Paris hunting for my future french husband for a personal holiday alone and spent Christmas without family members for the first time in my life. Whilst we don’t celebrate Christmas, it has always been family time to me and the only time of the year […]