Europe 2.0 – Day 37 3 July 

Disclaimer: This post was written on 19 Aug, 6 weeks into my new semester in uni and 7 weeks after the end of my Europe trip. 3 July/day 33 is when our trip officially come to a close. 😦 Reflecting back on this trip 7 weeks after, I am immensely grateful to my trip mate, YS, for making everything possible. To do something so fun and adventurous in my early twenties will become a defining event of my youth for the rest of my life. I’m totally hyped for my upcoming trips! 🙂

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We woke up bright and early to avoid the queues at the Duomo and to make it for our free walking tour. It is a shame that is Monday and we had to miss most of the free walking tours. (Only one was available on Monday, so take note people!) We enjoyed FWT throughout our entire trips so much that it has become a priority for us when we tours cities hahaha.

We enjoyed breakfast with a  view as our apartment overlooked a roundabout 10m from the building and a main train station 50m away. In the far distance, we could see the alps. No wonder the Italians love sticking out their heads outta their windows all the time. It is actually therapeutic to people watch while doing absolutely nothing else. Speaking of our apartment, it is one of the best airbnb that we ever stayed because the furnishing is perfectly Italian. (It competes with the apartment that I stayed when I visited Venice for the first time because that one had a 180 deg shower jet in the bathroom.) The owner very kindly provided breakfast for us (muffin plus unlimited tea bags and 2 espresso shots per person, self service at the espresso machine) and if you get bored of the view outside, there is a fish tank to admire in the living room. It is a pity that we only get to stay for one night since we don’t have much business in Milan haha.

The Duomo in Milan is the BEST Duomo that I have seen (the only other being the one in Firenze). The exterior is very exquisite and its spires and doors are absolutely fine works of art. The interior wasn’t memorable for me and we spent around 30-45mins inside before desperately trying to locate our tour guide. It was an absolute disaster because we couldn’t find anyone despite waiting at the pin drop provided by its website. We asked a tourist office nearby and got directed to the 19th century museum opposite of the piazza, but still couldn’t find anyone. After walking around for a while trying to locate any tour group, we gave up and visited the Duomo museum, which to my surprise, is not bad afterall! (Considering that we were so sick of museums/touring by the end of 5 weeks in Europe.) We could see the designs of the spires up close (it was very difficult to appreciate on the actual building outside because the spires are so high and we often had to squint our eyes against the sun) and a very beautiful miniature of the Duomo also helped us to appreciate the entire building better. They also displayed the sculptures that formed the exteriors/interiors and most of the depicted mythological and biblical scenes. As we were quite free for the rest of the day, I had luxury of time to Google and learn about the life of Jesus Christs and his apostles. The trip to the museum was very educational and inspired me to learn more about Christianity because I realised that some basic knowledge is essential to appreciate famous artworks and buildings (mostly Churches/Cathedrals anyway) around Europe.

We had a chill lunch and YS made a final attempt to find to buy as a gift for her mom and sister. Eventually I stumbled upon an affordable chocolate shop that sold products more or less which tell people that I got them from Italy and we spent a lot of time picking out stuff to bring back. Last but not the least, we did a final, last chance shopping session at a local supermarket and to our surprise, did not find anything that was very much worth the money and effort to bring back to SG hahaha! I had a cuppa in the extra time and we walked back to the apartment to collect our bags (the owner was so kind to let us leave our baggage beyond the check out time)!

All in all, this trip deepened my love for Europe because it is such a diverse place that offers something for everyone. I will be back, hopefully, not too long. 🙂

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Europe 2.0 – Day 34 30 June 

Disclaimer: This post was written on 19 Aug, 6 weeks into my new semester in uni and 7 weeks after the end of my Europe trip.

Our trip to Dachau was one of the highlights of my entire trip because it filled me a lot regarding WWII. Unfortunately I didn’t get to study this in any part of 13 years of education. When I was a Secondary 2 student (14 years old), we were taught about the occupation of Singapore but the involvement of other countries wasn’t discussed. So, very embarrassing to say, I have almost no knowledge of how everything transpired. (I did know how it ended though.)

This understanding of WWII from my trip was very exciting for me because I was learning it at the place where action happened. Germany is also very open about educating masses about he events of the war and all the exhibitions that I came across (i.e. Obersalzburg in Berchestgaden, Dachau and NS documentation museum in Munich) have been very informative and easy for a beginner like me to digest.

At first we wanted to do a tour with InMunich tours but it costs 18 euros… So we settled for guided tours provided by the office in Dachau for 3 euros. Berns, an experienced and old tour guide led us (a group of 30+) around the whole compound. The greatest advantage of any tours (also applicable to lectures in general) is that someone is telling you the information, for you to listen. Rather than having to read them somewhere yourself (which can be sleep inducing and boring sometimes). Be it tour guides or lecturers, they are like story tellers and Berns was one of them. He brought us around and I realised that we mostly stopped at places with signboards for him to explain the significance to us. I enjoyed the segment most where prepared his own materials to show us and to help us visualize how the conditions were like. He didn’t cover the largest gallery (which is inside the administration building if I recall correctly) and after lunch YS and I took another 3-4 hours by ourselves reading everything hahaha. I took some notes when Berns was talking to help me remember the pieces of information that I took away from the morning. Here they are (please alert me if there is any factual inaccuracies):

  • Dachau is a forced labour camp for political prisoners/education camp for political opponents and war crime suspects. Intimidation was one of the main purpose of the concentration camp. Never meant as a concentration or death camp. But many died in experiments and from harsh labour, poor living conditions and diseases. (Typhus was a big killer. So were hunger, TB and hypothermia.) Low death rate as compared to extermination camps.
  • All male camp. Women sent to subsidiary camps.
  • A model for other concentration camps. But not the worst or biggest. Easiest to escape. Also a show piece camp for multinational organisations to prove that they were well organised camps for bumps and prisoners. (It fooled even the Red Cross delegates…)
  • Special treatment meant execution.
  • Prisoners were stripped of property rights and human dignity. Berns read out an excerpt of what the prisoners would typically hear when entering the camp: The jailor calls himself a devil and the prisoners as ‘shit’, ‘pigs’ and ‘non human beings’.
  • First managed by Heinrich himmler, Chief police of Munich.
  • 2 plagues at the entrance belonging to 2 different armoured divisions who claimed that they liberated the prisoners. But actually they were only commended by the general and an entirely different division was the true rescuer of the prisoners in Dachau.
  • Only later there was arrival of other prisoners, like the Czechs and Polish. Harsh punishment for not making beds properly or laziness. They were assigned the bunkers farthest away from the kitchen and some would die of hypothermia along the way to get meals in the harsh winter.
  • Soviet prisoners of war also came later. Some were killed by sending to other camps.

During the tour, Berns also tried asking his audience (which was internationally represented by visitors from a good range of different countries) about their perspectives on some topics. I think he created a good platform for everyone to exchange their thoughts and understand one another in a respectful way. He also welcomed any questions and one of the visitors enquired about how she could find the record of a relative who came to this camp before. All in all, it was a great morning listening to the lessons delivered by Berns. He is passionate in educating the public about WWII and most of all, in spreading the message against racism.

Our tour ended at the ‘showers’+incinerator which is now openly known to everyone as a euphemism/code/lie for the gas chambers. However there was no evidence/ records of anyone even sent to be gassed… So it actually remains a ‘mystery’ till today why they built the ‘showers’. I asked a few questions to clear some doubts and YS and I visited the different churches (Orthodox, protestant, Catholic and Judaism) before heading to the visitor centre for lunch. The food was reasonably priced and definitely satisfying enough to fuel us up for our self-tour during the 2nd part of the day!

We spent approx 2h at the gallery and another 1h touring the prison cells. Initially I though we could finish everything in 1/2 day hahaha so we had to cancel our afternoon plans and shift it to the last day in Munich.

Other information that I gathered myself later (please alert me if there is any factual inaccuracies):

  • Germany suffered loss of honour and finances due to unconditional surrender. Hence, many people were not contented and wanted to make Germany great again.
  • Democracy only reached 33% at maximum votes. Germans support Hitler genuinely as long as he delivered his promises and successful.
  • ‘I am the member of the Master race.’
  • Anti semitism started because Catholics believed Jews crucified Jesus.
  • Bunkers used as improvised housing area for 12.5mi German refugees after WWII. Held 10x of the original number of prisoners that it was constructed for.
  • 3.5mi soviet soldiers and 50mi Jewish perished in WWII.
  • Learning about the camps around Europe: Ravensbruck for Jewish women, later became a medical experiment camp. Bergen Belsen had Anne Frank. Lublin was a killing factory = 17,000 per day. Many other subsidiary camps for building Bunkers. Many prisoners buried inside.
  • Invitations were given to car manufacturers to rent forced Labour. On the ‘CV’ include whether the prisoner had any gold filling and probable lifespan.
  • Handicapped were killed in euthanasia programmes, carried out in masked centers like hospitals. But they were never kept a secret. Advertising targeted at healthy tax payers to discriminate handicapped people as inferior race was effective.
  • Pregnant women in Dachau survived, unlike in other camps where they were sent immediately to the gas Chambers
  • Famous for hypothermia and low pressure experiments – to what altitude can pilot fly?
  • Prisoners were forced to shave as a sign of degradation and dehumanisation.
  • Food.
  • The guards knew how to turn prisoners against one another – by offering bribes and special positions.
  • Intellectual activities like chess and reading as forms of escapism. In free time they had to clean dishes, make beds or polish the floor. Not much free time per se.

Day 33 29 June 

It’s official. WE HAVE <4 FULL DAYS LEFT OF VISITING IN EUROPE. In hindsight I should have just maximised this holiday and come back one day before school starts lol. 

Anyways today we had what I felt was the BEST EVER FREE WALKING TOUR. 

At first we thought that we weren’t going to make it on time because we left late. Even though we planned buffer time for delays like this, the train also chose this moment to lag on us so we reached 1 minute later. Thankfully we found the tour group (after mistakenly standing in front of another free walking tour company for a while). 

I found this company online. They’re called ‘InMunich Tours’. If you search for FWTs for Munich, this company only pops up on the 4th result. But thankfully I did my homework and screened through the itineraries of the first 3 hits. This one included reviews and had the most comprehensive list of thing in store for their guests. 

Unfortunately they weren’t having a group as large as the other one which we mistook it for. But for us, it meant that we had a cosy time with our tour guide, Marcin, who is spectacular. 

Firstly he speaks loud and CLEAR enough for everyone without using a mic. And it is partly attributed to the fact that he came from UK. YESSSS! I didn’t have any trouble understanding him from start to finish. In fact he even brought the British humour into the tour and I really laughed out loud at many of his jokes and sarcasm. He’s a real witty and confident guy. 

Secondly, he really knows his stuff. From history, to nitty-gritty details of each place. I’ll try to put everything I learnt here so that I’ll never forget it. 🙂 

We started in the Marienplatz. Initially it was worrying because of the small group and weather. Furthermore, when the tour started, Marcin was fighting against the loud bells of the Glockenspiel while explaining the origin on the gold Virgin Mary standing on the column in the middle of the square. 

The story goes… A king, whose name I already forgot, commissioned a Virgin Mary statue made of pure gold to be made and place on his grave so that she would watch over him in his afterlife. However, he was an unkind ruler during his reign. He drove out non-Catholics and burnt the rest alive on the accusations of witchcraft. 2 days after his coffin was laid, citizens broke into the church where he laid to steal the statue and hid it in another church. Many years later, his son, whose name I also forgot, was running away from the Swedish army when they ‘invaded’. Apparently they barely made a dent on Munich because they loved it here so much they just came over to occupy in peace while the useless ruler is gone. Meanwhile, the latter was at the top of a mountain in Salzburg, drinking BEER. We later learnt that BEER is the cause of many things in Munich’s history. The Swedish finally left after 2 years when Munich people bribed them with money, and because they didn’t have enough gold, beer as well was used as bribery. The useless ruler came back and claimed that because he was praying for the well being of Munich when he was in the alps, a golden statue of him should be erected. Of course the citizens didn’t buy into his lies and even if it were true, they argued, Virgin Mary is Munich’s saviour. Conveniently, they had a golden statue of her and so they decided to put her on a column on Marienplatz, which derived its name like this. It was used to be called market square because there was a market here. 

Back to the tour, Marcin was saying all these above the loud bells and everyone around is were taking videos and snapping photos. However, he assured us that the people in the clock will not move for another 5 minutes and it was true! When they did, he explained to us the story behind it. Munich has many stories Hahaha… 

The glockenspiel depicted the wedding of the nasty, exclusive king that we talked about earlier. People danced around them and even a fight between a Bavarian and a Salzburg soldier were depicted. Guess who won? 

The part below that depicted the times when bubonic plague struck Munich. Men in tights were asked to dance and hop in public to convince citizens that it is safe to come out (if not it spells disasters for beer houses in the past). Clowns go around pelvic thrusting and painting lead paint on children’s nose…. Well… 

And at the end of it, a golden rooster flapped it’s wings and cuckooed but most people already left besides us. Marcin told us to stay because not many people knew about this finale. 

So the attraction which is voted by the world for being the second most overrated attraction was actually pretty interesting because Marcin explained to us the elements in its 15 minute chime. 

Later we went over to the St Peter’s Church, which belonged to a group of tax evading, drunken monks. And why we say this, is because after WWII, when most part of the church is destroyed, they excavated the layers beneath the original church and found that the earliest piece of archaeological artefact was a tax document. And on it, it documented that yes, these monks made beer from over a thousand years ago and underreported the number of monks living in the monastery so as to evade taxes. But they were later exposed by citizens living in the area… LOL. 

Moving on, this church is also the oldest in Munich and YS and I even found time in the afternoon to go up to its bell tower for a panoramic view of the city! ^^

Our tour guide then pointed us to a cannonball (not cannibal, he emphasised) lodged at the edge of a window of the church. It was bombed by Austria and later dislodged during the chaos of WWII. A doctor picked it up, kept it for a few years, and returned it just when they were reconstructing the parts which were ruined. And because many photographers were hired to take detailed pictures of Munich’s architecture before it was bombed by the Americans, they managed to find out where this cannon ball belonged to. 

Trust me, we heard many other bizarre things about Munich. 

Such as how the bell tower has 8 clocks is made into a joke about Germans’ over-punctuality. 

Europe 2.0 – Day 32 28 June

Today was a productive day! We travelled from day to night haha! At 915am we left Salzburg for Munich. Even though I was kinda happy to leave (because imo we overstayed), this place still holds dear to me and is definitely on top it my highly recommended list of places to go. 

We arrived at our airbnb finally at 1215pm,after an ordeal of a walking many times than necessary just because we came out from the wrong exit. According to the host it was 100m away (and we verified ourselves later) but we ended up walking 1km because of our carelessness. 

Anyways, lesson learnt. 

We rushed out as quickly as we came and headed straight for the Hbf for a quick lunch. In a bit over than 2h since we arrived, we left again for Fussen, which means another 2h train journey ahead of us. YS slept through most of it while I tried to catch up on writing and caught some Zzz in between. Not long, we arrived! 

At first I kept doubting myself for getting the directions wrong because there were almost no other tourists like us on the train?! But later when we took the bus to the castle’s station, we realised how crowded it was Hahaha! But still, the ticketing queue was almost empty (we arrived at 430pm) and realised that after all, there may have been no need to do a reservation haha! We walked around to see the cousin of the famous Neuchwainstein, the Hohenschwangau Palace. Why it wasn’t as popular stood out immediately – firstly, it was yellow/orange in colour. Then, different sections of its Palace were split up, making the whole place look kinda disjointed and uncohesive. Lastly, location – the castle was not high enough to look over green pastures dotted with cute settlements, or overlooking a waterfall, or found nestled in the alps, or built on a rock. Neuchwainstein was all of this and hence, the star of the show. 

The up slop walk to the castle was relatively easy for us and we took half the time that they said we’d need. Arriving much earlier than the time of our guided tour, we took photos in the courtyard and visited souvenir shops. YS got an ice cream to beat the heat and hunger haha! I bought a Postcard because it was impossible to get a picture of the castle’s front view. There were construction works taking place in front of it. 

At exactly 1750h, everyone rushed in. Although tours are conducted every 5 minutes, our group was around 40 people in strength. And because the tours run on a tight schedule, we were ushered quickly from one room to another. And because photography was prohibited, I will try to document here what I saw… Lest I forget next time. 

Everything was in very good condition when we went. We were briefed at the first room that we came to from the entrance and we could see the lovely countryside views that Prince Ludwig II, for whom this castle was built, enjoyed over here. Most of the interior was wooden and the ceilings are in the shape of pointy domes, resembling a church and also our room in Bruno and Marilena’s house. What’s different is that they had intricate designs in various bright colours like red, green, white, yellow etc. 

On the way to another room (which I think is used for reception of guests), we passed by the servants’ quarters which were, like the whole castle, well maintained. Surprisingly they were very spacious. Although simple, the room was furnished with comfortable beds and chairs that had medieval motifs. 

The reception room itself has paintings on its wall depicting the story of Nibelung. Later we were told that other rooms are similarly, painted with scenes from operas or legends. The paintings are really nice and medieval, and stretched from ceiling to the floor. They covered all surfaces of the room and collectively, told us a story. Later we were shown to the throne room, the grandest room of our whole tour. The ceilings were golden in colour, following a byzantine style. It caved into a dome above the spot where the throne was supposed to sit and on it, there was a painting of jesus christ sitting on a rainbow, accompanied by St John and Virgin Mary. 

Beneath us, there was supposed to be mosaic flooring but for preservation, they just laid a carpet with the design of the mosaic lol. Ironically, the throne was never built even though they already done the blueprint for it. And that’s because the Prince/king passed away even before they’ve gotten started. A grand chandelier weighing a tonne hung above us and was also golden in colour. It wasn’t especially intricate but they had bothered to make small statues to place on the chandelier… Whatever you make outta that haha. 

Next up, the Royal bedroom. It wasn’t just a bed. There was an adjoining chapel, a study area and a washing basin. Most importantly, there were MANY SWANS in this room (over 150, we were told). 

Now if you imagine living, flapping and sqwaking swans filling up the entire room, that would be incorrect. I meant swan motifs were found everywhere, like the door handles, the murals and even the tap itself was shaped like a Swan. Alright even the castle itself means ‘New Swan’. The furniture and decor in the room followed a gothic theme, for example pointy elaborate spires sprang above the bed frame. 

To go to the next room, we passed through a ‘gottro’ with illuminated with purple lights. Apparently the king built this to resemble the natural one found in ___ (I forgot, already!) but the coolest part was how it housed a small balcony overlooking the gorgeous countryside scenery. The king sure knows how to enjoy! We also saw the study room, dining room and salon before coming to the biggest room of them all, the singing room. It was named so because they were supposed to have singers here to perform for the King but he never saw this room to completion. 

The walls depict an opera ‘The Holy Grail’ and there were many chandeliers shaped like crowns. Like all other rooms, the ceilings are designed and built like heavily decorated domes of a church. A corridor with beautiful arches and pillars ran at one side of the hall and it is my favourite feature of this room. 

30 minutes wasn’t even over when the tour came to an end. On our way out, YS and I viewed a multimedia presentation on the development of the castle and also visited the souvenir Shop, where I once again pored through their information booklet (10€+) to find out more about the castle. 

We wanted to catch our return journey at 830pm and there was no time to waste. Quickly, we found our way to the Queen Mary Bridge, where a side view of the Palace awaited us. 

The first time I saw it, my breath was taken away. 

The castle was not only spectacular itself, but like I said earlier, everything was LOCATION. LOCATION. It was framed between 2 mountains to the left and right and is built on a  Rocky surface that rose above ground. Behind it, the green pastures showed up again. And behind and below us, the water flowed from the alps. Very fairytale and I see why it inspired Disney. 

Our first day in Munich (or actually, its outskirts) soon came to an end. We were fortunate to find a bus to arrive in time back at Fussen train station for our 830pm train. 

Neuchwainstein, done and dusted! 

Europe 2.0 – Day 31 27 June

Today we didn’t do anything much because YS and I already explored most of the attractions that we wanted to during the rainy day 2 days back. We woke up to return the car at 9am and later we started around while waiting for lunchtime. During this interval I tried to catch up with my overdue posts but was too sleepy so I decided to talk to ruoxi over the phone. 

We sent Ben off at the Mirabell tram station at 4pm. I really couldn’t believe it when he wanted to buy tickets to Salzburg when he learnt that we would be going. Maybe it wasn’t just for us but still… 

Anyway the days we spent as a 3 persons travelling group was pretty memorable. I will definitely look back on our road trip and the late nights for many years to come. 

Today it kept raining on and off and it was difficult for me to find time to properly take a walk in Salzburg’s old town with my camera. Finally, after sleeping and writing and bathing and eating, the rain stopped for good at 730pm. 

So here I am typing this while sitting in front of a grand fountain. 

I really liked salzburg and would recommend anyone to come here. Salzkammergut is especially scenic and alone may displace my first love, Italy, from the spot of my favourite outcry country. (It would definitely have if we had spent everyday meaningfully instead of having pockets of empty waiting time.) 

I like everything about it. Its architecture is really pretty – the signboards of shops are displayed in very elegant designs and the buildings are painted in warm, gentle colours like baby pink, light orange or lilac. Shades of whites complement these colours. The whole city is very small and easily understandable. I could memorise the maps after walking around and seeing the city from a few panoramic spots. I also love how the alleys have display windows selling mostly fashion products like clothes of watches. It reminds me of London except that over here, it seems more charming haha. 

Only thing less satisfactory would be the food as I personally can’t recommend any cheap and nice places that serve a great variety of food. For most of the time we’ve been eating schnitzel or hotdogs while we’re here and I guess it could be better. :p

Europe 2.0 – Day 30 26 June

I’ve accumulated a huge backlog because of late nights htht-ing with Ben AHEM. But anyways it’s cool because over here it’s so much easier to drink (as compared to sg) in many sense; alcohol is cheap (even our hostel has a bar), people drink anywhere and everywhere plus responsible drinking partners can be found easily. 😉 

Today, following an extreme plain and gloomy yesterday, outshines in every way, literally and figuratively. The weather was so good and although I spotted a thick layer of grey clouds yesterday, today it is so much better. The sky is blue again and Sun is being intense. Perfect day for a road trip! 

At 730am we headed off! Early bird catches the worm? :p usually we take a much longer time than Google estimates to reach our destination and so we ended up just reaching when the tourist info centre at berchestgaden opened. The drive was pretty smooth except there were many, many cars and the relatively narrow roads were freaking Ben out until he reached Germany, where our destination actually is! It turns out that we didn’t need passports to cross the border so turning back to retrieve my passport yesterday was unnecessary and we might have actually made something out of the day… Except we wouldn’t know but if we had gone it would definitely be cloudy and have sucky obscured views. 

The roads were windy and up slope. By the time we managed to reach the meeting point for our shuttle bus to go to Eagle’s nest, everyone arrived as well and throngs of tourists, mostly westerners, were queueing up for the irk yes or bus. Shuttle buses are absolute necessary as the way up is long and steep. Hitler used the Eagle’s nest as one of his offices during the war and the roads leading to it is also of equal significance because it was the product a dangerous and laborious task. 

When we arrived by bus, we still had to take a lift or walk up to 1800+m above ground. And when we reached, WHOA BLOWN AWAY! 

Not talking about the wind but the views could have literally swept us off our feet! It was 360 degrees and we could look at all the alps in the radius of many, many kilometres ahead of us. This wasn’t simply a panoramic spot but THE PANORAMIC SPOT. Dictators have it good I guess. 

So it’s very cray cray because besides the alps, we could also see the river kornigsee and little towns nestled in wide valleys. The whole scene was really majestic. In the grand scheme of things it seemed as if the mountains were rocks covered in moss (aka the woods) and the cars were little ants crawling all over. And settlements were tiny flowers and humans are microorganisms flourishing on this nourished habitat.

The hiking trail involved rocky gravel trails but it was still pretty stable for a scaredy cat like me to handle. ^^ The Eagle’s Nest itself is a restaurant but on the contrary of what I thought it wasn’t something for the super rich, but more like a bistro with an awesome view. If we had more time I might have suggested that we stayed at have lunch. However we were required to register our return timing and hence had 2h to strictly adhere to. 

Once there we hiked as far as we could. Our surroundings were extremely picturesque – the rocks, the sky, the mountains, the greens… Everything is perfect. Upon reaching the hiking trail it wasn’t too good the conditions were ot slightly better than those at Ojstrica. I took a lot of own sweet time getting about because Ben could now venture with YS as far as they like. Also because I prefer to enjoy the scenery than uncovering more and more without seeing it for what it is. Quality > Quantity. And as for photos, there were too many scenic places to snap pictures so I paid more attention on experiencing being 1800+m above sea and enjoying the vast, vast nature that spread out before me. 

With only 40 minutes till our departure shuttle bus, Ben and YS wanted to take another route which we didn’t choose to take beforehand. Whereas I wanted to spend more time being alone with the mountains and think about our small existence in this huge universe. Unfortunate I completely forgot that we rook a lift to go up…. And given my tendency to maximise the usage of any time given, I was super pressed for time when I realised about taking the lift down. 

I began to panic when I realised that I was taking an unfamiliar route. “Bus?” I checked with people around me. They nodded and pointed in the direction that I was going! 

‘Ok………..’ I thought I’d try. Maybe my memory failed me. 

The more I walked, the more in convicted that I wasn’t taking the same way that we did while coming from the bus station. That’s when I remembered about the lift! And I thought people were queuing for the toilet omg! 

I only had 5 minutes left when I discovered this. I WAS PANICKING! 

There was no phone reception on the mountains and I was worried that my friends would be anxiously waiting for me below. Worse, worried that I’ll be holding everyone back because we have so much to cover! 

Thankfully when I found the queue, a lift was waiting there to take me down. Once there, I ran as quickly as I could and bumped into my friends. Then we hoped onto a bus that the conductor held for us. If not, other buses had already closed their doors. When we boarded, it was exactly 1240h and the buses all pulled away. 

PHEW! 

There was an exhibition where the buses dropped us off and the entry was free for students! Whoo! It is about world war 2 and they also talked about the kind of strategies that Hitler formulated when he went to the eagle’s nest to work. The whole museum was great, except… EVERYTHING IS IN GERMAN! Unless you buy an audio guide or take their small brochures with selected translations to English. Nonetheless Ben was with me so he explained some exhibits that I couldn’t really understand. An underground bunker was displayed as well, with educational audio and video materials for the viewers to learn more about German’s horrific past. I admire how they are so willing and open to talking about their past. 

Moving on, we drove ourselves to hallstatt and planned to stop at Gosau Lake along the way. 

The entire journey was simply STUNNING. I love the small towns with cute wooden houses and their cute little farms with cute cows or goats. Everyone might as well be singing ‘the hills are alive….’ on those lovely pastures. We did stopped by a spot which had a nice green field with a nice curtain of coniferous trees at the back. The houses must be very spacious; one of them even had a small inflatable pool in the back yard. Most of them have wooden sheds storing chopped wood that they probably keep for winter for their fireplaces, and it is an interesting and pretty thing to see even though it must be very ordinary for them Hahaha. 

Gosausee was much better than expected! I first heard of Gosau when I saw an instagram photo of a girl relaxing in a hot spring with this geo tag. It looked really dreamy; her back was to the camera and in the background stood beautiful snow capped mountains. You could tell that steam was rising from the hot springs and that gave it the dreamy feel. A quick search on Gosau yielded its famous lake as the top recommended attraction. 

What we saw was something similar to the insta photo but in summer, the lake was shimmering like as if the fishes in it were snapping away their flash cameras. The waters were blue and gentle ripples ran towards our direction. Majestic mountains towered around the lake, which a nice cafe with many al fresco seats facing the beautiful view. Picture perfect. A glacier even sat on the mountain, which imo looked kinda surreal in the sweltering mid summer. 

Ben and I got a bit carried away with finding the perfect angle and we spent more than our agreed duration (10 minutes) over there. So by 415pm, we were rushing our way to hallstatt in order to catch the cable car up to 5 fingers. 

Unfortunately we missed it completely by the time we arrived because the last cable car goes up at 3pm…like what…?! But on the bright side we saved ourselves at least 30€ heh… At the very least I was glad to have seen the German alps and then been to the Austrian alps all in one day. ^^

A bit disappointed but still moving on, we heard to the salt mines of Hallstatt. Its website promised that the last tour would be 5pm but alas the last chance flew away at 4pm. I was kinda annoyed how everything closed so early in summer… Zzz. However we were offered to hike or take the funicular to the panoramic view point of the salt mine… We were pretty tempted (especially since we just missed the 5 fingers) but the sun was setting soon and we wanted to get all the light we could for nice photos and decided to hunt for THE spot where we’d see the Postcard perfect composition of Hallstatt. 

When we found it, I was kinda underwhelmed heh… On the Internet, the pictures always made the town looked very charming and cosy. (Perhaps they were taken in winter.) Unfortunately what I saw was just a line of houses which didn’t curve enough to all of them together so it looked pretty ordinary imo. :/ Nonetheless, when we walked through the small town, the wooden houses with their potted flowers greeted us were still very picturesque so ok. (Anyways, Ben also informed me that hallstatt is famous/a UNESCO site because it is a historical salt mining town.)

Later we spotted an affordable boat rental service so Ben and I hopped in for a ride. A much better deal than spending 30€ to go up to the salt mine/ice cave/five fingers I guess? Heh. 

We enjoyed ourselves a lot enjoying the cool breeze and beautiful alps that circled the lake. And I thoroughly had so much fun driving the boat HAHAHA! I felt like I was at an amusement park! Very good for me because I had wanted to try a ride at Prater a few days ago but there was no wiling company (heh again HAHAHA). 

This makes up for everything for once and for all; best ride with best view. Ahem. 

We snapped many photos: selfies, mountain landscapes and of course the view of the lakeside town of Hallstatt. I really adore those wooden houses and perfectly placed flowers. T^T These houses were gems. 

By 7pm we were all famished because we didn’t have time to grab a proper meal during this hectic day. We settled got Schnitzel (3rd time) at a fast food shack where we met a very friendly Singapore PR/Malaysian who struck convo with us. He was very curious about us and we learnt that he was a solo traveller who was drove from Munich. He’s the same age as me/YS and we were all very impressed at him for making the effort and initiative to talk to us. 🙂 

We started our way back at 8pm…and I was super reluctant to leave this place. After all, I feel that we did go through some painstaking efforts (and a bit of finances) to come all the way here. And I felt like I wasn’t done with Hallstatt yet even though it’s so small!!! We probably only spent a grand total of 3h there sighs… Which felt a bit too fleeting to count. Oh Wells. 

The journey back was as scenic as our way there. An explosion of the setting sun greeted us with its fiery red clouds. It looked out of this world. Behind us, the silhouettes of a line of mountains set against the backdrop of purple skies. And upon passing one of the lakes in Salzkammergut, we decided to stop for a photo (the featured image of this post). 

At the end of the day/in hindsight as I’m writing this, I’m thankful for how things turned out. Time was short and the weather wasn’t always on our side. But just like how the luggage deposit shop gave up on us and then we were shortchanged a flight plus one day in Dubrovnik, things went fine despite the boo boo. We still saw the city walls and for me, the GoT filming sites. And although we had lost time/opportunities in Hallstatt and Berchestgaden due to the rain, we managed to see them and make the most of our limited time. Toast to that! 😉 

It was difficult to work out how to connect YS phone to the Mercedes media player but after a YouTube video, we finally managed to do so after many attempts haha! I’m glad we didn’t give up (at this and the point when YS couldn’t log into her account) because it is sure good to blast music from the car’s music system and have the alpine wind sweep your hair away. We sang to Taylor Swift as houses zoomed past us. The red clouds turned into the deep blue night sky and I wished how this day would never end. :’) 

Europe 2.0 – Day 29 25 June

Today my feelings matched the weather because IT WAS RAINING!!!! We set off at 930am to collect our car, which was a spanking MERCEDES A1!!! Very big moment for me even though most people here drive branded cars because they are manufactured in this region. 

We started off towards Berchestgaden but guess what, stupid me forgot my PASSPORT! OK not that I ‘forgot’ per see but I left my money belt (that contains my passport) in the hostel locker. I don’t remember how I suddenly got reminded but YS insisted for me to fetch it after reading forums about how it is REQUIRED BY LAW to carry one’s travel documents when travelling. They didn’t say if one needed travel documents to make this passage though. (Nonetheless we learnt the next day that it was unnecessary. -_- The road with the international border drawn across it simply had a sign to say welcome to Germany… Lol.) 

Before we even turned back, it started to RAIN! Ben commented during our journey about how even the mountain directly in front of us were obscures by grey clouds and a mist of the gentle showers. And by the time we arrived back at the hostel for me to take my passport, Ben wasn’t interested in going anymore. Photos/the view wouldn’t look nice with a cover of grey clouds, would it? YS and I completely didn’t expect this and since Ben was the driver, we hardly had any say. I suppose if we were travelling as a duo like the usual, we’d still go ahead because it is better to follow the plan and also make full use of the day. The forecast predicted that it would rain the whole day so it meant that our road trip was cancelled for today. 😦

Disappointed but determined, I searched for interesting things to do in Salzburg and even called Ruoxi to consult her as she has come here twice. After some consideration I decided that I’d head to the Mozart Birthplace as it is a famous attraction in Salzburg, and I had been interested to learn more about him. Since YS decided to come along for a walk, the Hohensalzburg fortress was on our list as well. 

I visited the Mozart Gerthaus alone. The price was pretty steep, even for students (9€) and the exhibition was so so (I was comparing it with Anne Frank House). I guess they could have given more information about the life and works of Mozart. The gallery was instead more for showing artefacts surrounding Mozart, such as things with his face on it that were made when he was alive. I guessed these were valuable because nobody really knew how Mozart looked like? Anyway they also displayed letters written from one Mozart family member to another but they weren’t super interesting. I suppose what they displayed was different from what I expected and wanted to learn about. Besides, I hadn’t have proper lunch before leaving the hostel so I felt kinda light headed and unwell. The part that I really enjoyed was the showcase of the sets in Mozart’s operas because I’ve never even heard of his operas! They all look pretty edgy, not something from 1700s.

After exiting I quickly went to the supermarket for food to refuel. The rain has stopped by then even though it was cloudy and foggy still. I met YS in front of the Dom and we headed to the Hohensalzburg via the funicular. We purchased the ‘standard ticket’ and I’m glad we did because it covered the main attraction aka the state rooms. One downside is that the prices weren’t too good (15€) and no student or youth prices. 😦 The entrances for the different A, B, C tours were also difficult to find because there were no obvious signs to direct tourists. However the map did eventually point us to the correct place. 🙂 

YS and I split up at first. I headed for the most important section first, the state rooms (part C of the ticket) . The magical theatre welcomed me and it is basically a… Hmmm how do I put it… Multimedia presentation of how the Archbishop Leonhart managed to rise to the title of the Prince and then lived in this castle. It is interesting how an important religious person was also allowed to helm the highest position in politics and governance. Many aspects of the interior design reflected this – both his code of arms (a white turnip) and the symbol of royalty were always side by side and many religious symbols (for example animals representing the saints or biblical scenes) were represented in the rooms. The ceiling was painted a special type of blue that is said to be very expensive reflected his wealth. Golden hemispheres dotted the ceiling and collectively they represented the stars and night sky. This showed how the Archbishop is someone close to heaven. 

Anyways, because the whole tour was very informative (they had many multimedia info stations in the rooms), I could understand a lot about the architecture and history of this fortress. There also weren’t too many people and I felt really relaxed looking around and occasionally outside the window for panoramic view of Salzburg. Stunning! 

The museums (part B of my ticket) were pretty good as well. Besides talking about the development of this fortress, they also showed artefacts relevant to the wars and other purposes involving Hohensalzburg fortress. All of the info panels came in different languages and I could easily comprehend what they wanted to deliver. 

Finally, the last part (A), which would come with an audio guide to accompany us in the rest of the sections of the fortress. The entry was timed for crowd control and it was a short guided tour with just 6 sections to listen to. We saw a gallery with the portraits of various archbishops who stayed in this fortress and they corresponded to models displaying the stages of development of the fortress. Later we also saw the torture chamber, which was designed to store the torture equipment more than for tormenting people inside. But the highlight had to be viewing tower where we had an obstructed 360 degrees view of Salzburg. Like at the pano spots which we visited yesterday, I took out my handy dandy map to find out where the main attractions were. 

Unlike Vienna, Salzburg is a smaller and humble city to understand. 

A river runs through it. On the side that our hostel was located, there was the mirabell Gardens. 2 prominent churches can be found – a yellow, Palace-looking one on the hill and another one shaped like the Notre Dame Cathedral is found along the main street and can also be seen from our hostel. On the other side of the river sits the old town and this fortress. 3 main cathedrals are found in the centre – Dom, St Francis cathedral and the collegiate Church. Surrounding these 3 were the Dom quarter and some museums. Later I also found out that the University of Salzburg is also located nearby. Alleys and streets within 15min walking radius surround the town centre and tada that’s that! Very easy to understand and find your way around. Uncomplicated things are sometimes the best things too. 

We left the fortress at around 7pm and decided to walk down by foot. A steep way down on my most hated kind of paths (sandy+slippery) but I managed heh. All in all, even though this is not a castle, I’d still say it is one of the better medieval/castle-y place which I visited because everything is well organised and very informative. I enjoyed the gothic interior design of the fortress, especially that unique blue paint and twisty marble pillars that withstood damage due to a civilian uprising against the archbishop. 

A public movie screening was taking place soon in the Dom square and there were food trucks standing by as well. YS and I parted ways because she was hungry but on the other hand I was still full from my supermarket lunch and wanted to walk around to make the best out of this day. 

The only pity was that I didn’t bring my dslr because the mozart birthplace didn’t allow photography (another minus point) and I hadn’t expect to be productive today. 

Europe 2.0 – Day 28 24 June

Today the day that we’d be meeting Ben! So excited hahaha because it’d be the first time that we’d be travelling together. 

The weather was so extremely WARM and even though we walked for 10minutes to reach our hostel from Salzburg Hbf, we were soaking I’m sweat when we reached. My heart was beating damn fast because we haven’t met on a long time and wasn’t sure how he was like now hahaha! Turns out his hair was super long now, by my standards, but nothing much has changed. ^^ still 2 good friends who chatted easily about anything and everything. 

Ben would be the lead for our salzburg part, so good I can finally take a break from all the navigating and planning. First he brought us to a beer garden where we had turkey schnitzel and spare ribs in bbq sauce. Then we hiked to a panoramic spot to get a bird’s eyeview of the city. The old centre is super small, like most olden cities that we’ve been to. The main attractions were the Dom and Mirabell Gardens which were on the opposite side of the river. Once again hot weather = sweat+++. Tired from the long journey we’ve come from, I kept yawning. Think it’s gonna be the slackest part of our trip! XD

The view was so so in my opinion, the best part of any climb is the journey itself. Yue Shan and I became more acquainted with Ben and we talked about many things like IP vs O levels, our travels and studies. I was really happy that Ben + Bae (i.e his thesis) were doing well together! Tbh I didn’t see most things carefully hahaha but since YS and I would be having a day to ourselves in Salzburg, it is ok. 🙂 

Next we headed to Mirabell Gardens… Which was SMALL. Sighs a bit disappointed because I feel that old towns are kinda a waste of time since they could be covered quickly. Ljubljana was the sweet spot because although small, it was packed with many things to see. Salzburg being the 2nd largest city, is still quite lacking in spite of the gardens, church and castle… Which many places have. Perhaps the former would be the main highlight since it was the filming location for Sound of Music but ehhhh it’s just alright. 

The day passed quickly because we spent much time just chilling and talking. Not sure if YS will feel left out or short changed but she seems to be ok with a slack itinerary. (imo slack = can talk more without looking at the attractions so hooray for me heh.)