Charles is such a great travel partner. We've been adventuring together since the first day we met nearly 11 years ago! I can't believe how quickly time has flown by, but I feel really lucky to spend my life with someone who loves to travel and move around just as much as I do. Last June we set off to San Juan Island to celebrate our two year wedding anniversary. We explored Roche Harbor, several beaches and lighthouses, the winery up the street from our AirBnB. It was another trip for the books for certain. Love you, Stripe.
Whew! Time is flying by and I am trying REALLY hard to get all of these blog posts up from this fantastic trip before these fleeting memories of our daily adventures start to elude me. It's crazy how quickly that can happen! Fussen, Germany was one of the MAIN reasons we signed up for this particular tour. I am completely in love with everything CASTLE and Fussen is home to two of the most famous castles out there. Both the Hohenschwangau Castle and the Neuschwanstein Castle are found here. The Neuschwanstein Castle is actually what the Disney castle is modeled after and it's no surprise when you see this beautiful structure in person. Both of these castles are located just a few miles outside the downtown Fussen area and we spent nearly 6 hours touring both castles and walking the property. I am sad to say that we actually didn't have our real cameras with us this particular day. We had been told that cameras and backpacks were not allowed in or around the castles and so all we had with us were our phones. Lucky for us, IPhone photos aren't half bad ;) We toured both of these beautiful castles and learned all about King Ludwig and his life. He spent most of his life in the Hohenshwangau Castle (the yellow one) and began building Neuschwanstein in 1869 but didn't actually finish the entire castle before his death. We walked up to Mary's Bridge to get that spectacular view of the castle on the hill before making our way back down the very steep hill and heading back into Fussen. We wandered the city, walked along the river and stopped in at a cute little restaurant overlooking these falls to sit in the sun and relax. Fussen was such a charming town and much bigger than I expected. I wholeheartedly think that this castles were the highlight of the entire trip for me. If you ever have the chance to see them with your own eyes- absolutely do it. I can't recommend it enough!
We took about a 2 hour bus ride from Salzburg to Hallstatt on a really lovely afternoon. We passed several lakes and wound around MANY steep and windy hills before reaching this MAGNIFICENT and completely breathtaking little slice of heaven. Hallstatt is a small city in the Salzkammergut region of Austria. It's full of 16th century alpine houses and alleyways brimming with flower boxes. I fell immediately in love with the quaint little market square and cheerfully painted buildings and shops and Lake Hallstatt visible from nearly every part of town. One of my favorite local shops was full of hand carved wood toys you'll see below.
Once we'd tried to soak in as much of the bustling little town during the busy hours as we could, we headed up to the Church of Saint Micahel to visit the beautiful cemetery and the famous Bone Chapel. There are more than 1300 skulls inside this little stone room- something you certainly don't see everyday! The skulls are grouped by family and represent the entire community through the ages. Hallstatt is incredibly proud of their little town and the people who live here and they treasure them just as much after death. I loved visiting this sacred and meaningful part of Hallstatt.
From here we hiked 40 minutes and the equivalent of 120 flights of stairs in height up to the Hallstatt Skywalk Welterbeblick that overlooks Hallstatt Lake! The hike up is pretty intense, but the vies make it all worth it. We even found the entrance to an old mine! This fantastic skywalk platform at the top protrudes out over the side of the mountain and gives you the most spectacular view of the entire lake and city below. Also, there's beer up there- very worth it :) Hallstatt is known for it's salt mines and this is also where you would go to find that tour, although this isn't something we chose to do.
After refueling on beer and sausage we hiked down and hopped a boat out on Lake Hallstatt to get a view of the town from a new angle. PLUS there was a really cool castle across the lake I wanted to check out ;) We brought some local beer and snacks, hopped aboard and cruised the lake!
As the night wound down we walked down to the local "bathing island" to watch the swans and baby ducks play in the water. We found some cool old buildings and a church that doesn't appear to be in use anymore and just enjoyed the details of this charming little town. In the wide shot below you'll see a funicular that goes all the way from the bottom of the mountain nearly to the top. That is the alternative to the very steep hike we did earlier that day, but I promise it's really worth it to get out in that fresh mountain air!
Well, after going through photos from this magnificent trip, it's very clear to me that there is no other way to properly share these photos and our experience with all of you than breaking it up into different blog posts. Each new chapter of the European Adventures will feature a new location and a few stories of our time spent there. You're in for a treat with this first one because we spent a full 5 days in Salzburg which was the longest we were in any one location for the entire 3 week trip. This city is absolutely beautiful and has SO much to offer in history, sight-seeing, music, culture, outdoor activities and BEER! It was really nice to have a few extra days to get over the jet lag and get on the local time before beginning our Rick Steve's My Way Alpine Tour adventure! We had several days to check out the city and that we did.
We spent a LOT of time walking around Salzburg. It's such a charming little city with so much character around every corner. We started our trip by meandering the local street markets, visiting the Salzburg Cathedral (Salzburger Dom), visiting Mozart's birthplace, crossing the bridge over the river and hiking our way up the VERY steep cobblestones to the monastery that overlooks the city. We took an afternoon break for a delicious Aperol Spritz (which quickly became a favorite) and prepared for a tour of the fortress looming above us! I LOVED that you could see the Hohensalzburg Fortress from just about any spot in the city. This Fortress was originally built in 1077 and is the oldest preserved castle in Central Europe. You are able to tour most of the property and many varying events take place there. We walked our way up to the fortress to look around and then had dinner in the restaurant over-looking the city followed by a Mozart Concert in the Golden Hall! After the concert we weren't quite ready to call it a night and stopped in for a nightcap at the Stiegl Brewery. This Salzburg based brewery is a name we recognized from home and couldn't resist the chance to check it out in person. The place has GREAT food, a lovely view of the city, excellent atmosphere and I would recommend and of their Radlers!
The next day we went to visit the Mirabell Palace and Gardens! It was a LOVELY garden right in the middle of the city with another fantastic view of that fortress. We walked the garden tunnels and paths for several hours that day before the rain moved in. With the crummy weather we knew it was time for a beer and made our way to the famous Augustiner Brau brewery! This is the largest brewery in Austria and they've been serving beer here since 1621!!! The atmosphere here is fun and playful- You walk in, grab whatever size ceramic mug you'd like to enjoy, wash it out yourself under the water fountain and arrive at the man pouring beer! There's an entire hall full of food vendors serving all different kinds of Austrian specialties and you can pull up a seat in any of the various rooms where you can find a spot. After a good fill of lager, we wandered from the brewery all the way back across town to the fortress for some really breathtaking views of the city!
The next morning we woke up early to visit the original Von Trapp House that was just a few blocks away from our Airbnb. We would be joining our tour that evening and leaving this ADORABLE little place! We walked past fresh gourds with fall in the air and found the home tucked away in a quaint neighborhood. It's now a small hotel, so we didn't stay long, but it was certainly cool to see the property. We walked back, picked up a cappuccino and thanked our sweet hosts for a very lovely first few days in Salzburg! I would highly recommend this AirBNB if you're ever in the area! That afternoon we were EAGERLY awaiting our cooking class! It was SO WONDERFUL. The classroom was literally built into the side of a rock face which was just pretty cool to see. We were warmly welcomed with beer and a big smile from our teacher Johann of the Edelweiss Cooking School. We learned to make apple strudel as well as the famous local dish- Nockerl!
One of our very last days in Salzburg we went and toured Hitler's Eagles Nest - also known as the Kehlsteinhaus. We were bummed to have woken up to some pretty bad weather that day as apparently the view from the nest is absolutely phenomenal. Nonetheless, the trip from Austria into Germany and up the 25% grade steep access road via specialty bus built just for this road that includes 5 tunnels and two hairpin turns was WELL WORTH IT. You enter a 406 foot long tunnel that takes you to an all brass elevator that whisks you up 400 more feet to the actual nest itself. The building is actually fairly small with a kitchen, several other rooms and a balcony that leads out onto the trails and rocks that overlook Austria and Germany. We, of course, couldn't see that when we were there, but reading the history of the building and being in the space was really powerful. After the tour was over and we made our way back down the mountain, we stopped in at this sweet little mountain town called Berchtesgaden where I hope to go back and visit again to spend much more time.
Salzburg was an incredibly wonderful city. I think we could have spent several more days here and never run out of things to do. We will certainly be back! Stay tuned for the next city we visited: Hallstatt! You do NOT want to miss it!
If you're ever looking for other wonderful things to do in Austria, I highly recommend checking out this fantastic article!