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

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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. πŸ˜‰ 

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. πŸ™‚ 

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! πŸ˜‰ 

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. πŸ™‚ 

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. πŸ™‚ 

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.) 

Europe 2.0 – Day 27 23 June

Today we woke up bright and early to go to the Schonbrunn Palace and I’m glad we did because later we heard that the queue for tickets can be quite long as usual. We bought the classic pass, but in hindsight the imperial pass would have been enough because the additional gardens (Privy garden, maze and orangery) weren’t extremely worthwhile. The Gloriette was included in this pass as well but later we found out that it is possible to get a Google view of the Palace without going into and up the Gloriette. 

But anyways I digress. Although we were the early birds, there were already school groups starting their tours punctually at 8am. I am kinda envious at how they have so many opportunities for such exciting learning journeys. Groups of school children are common sights in touristy places in Europe. The audio guide was nice to listen to. I learnt some things about the Royal Family and their interpersonal relationships with one another. The Palace rooms are smaller than I expected (as compared to Doge’s Palace in Venice, for example) and the sign of royalty and glamour are found mainly on the decor of the rooms instead of their size. For example, there were rooms with lacquers that carried oriental designs and portraits room with works painted with blue strokes so as to evoke a resemblance to porcelain. The rooms had many paintings as well, mostly of the Royal family members. Elaborate frames, in position in their elaborate ways, framed other pictures like their collection from Mongolia. 

The very notable persons throughout the whole tour would be SiSi, Franz Joseph I, Maria Theresa and her husband (is it Francis? I forgot.) We learnt about their personalities and characters through stories told to us from the audio guide, and it was pretty interesting from start to end. πŸ™‚ 

Afterwards we went to the gardens, which were so huge… It must have been at least the size of 10 football fields? Trees resembling paddle pops line the paths, and they appeared so because the crowns of the trees were trimmed so neat and rectangularly at right angles, supported by one cylindrical sturdy trunk. This immediately reminded me of Versailles again, just like the exterior of the entire Palace did. Great, I thought, because a few months ago I was just thinking about how much I’ve missed the latter. Everything resembled Versailles gardens except Schrobunn’s had a flat landscape. The gardens with their perfectly grown flowers, blooming in whatever design was drawn out, sprawled in front of us. The sky was overcast but a pretty good day to come here. 

The hike up to the Gloriette was steep but we were awarded with a grand view of the Palace’s compound after some effort. At this point in time I was pretty troubled by how I had to settle a few things for electives. It was kinda stressful and annoying but ok whatever. 

For the rest of our Palace tour, we visited the other attractions included in our ticket and suddenly big fat rain drops started pouring. It was the start of slew of showers that welcomed us to the rest of our trip. :/

For the rest of the afternoon we went on a free walking tour. Our guide, imo, was very experienced and informative. She even used an iPad to show us multimedia material, such as a speech by Hitler which was made at the Hofburg Palace. I really enjoyed the tour because I got to understand so much more about Vienna’s history and architecture. We started off at Albertina museum and then saw the opera house. Later, She introduced us to the anti war and anti fascism monument as well as its great significance; it is a form of sincere apology from Austria about its involvement in WWII. Then we crosses to the park (name already forgotten) to see the Mozart Statue. 

You see, we already saw the statue before and took photos with it but with a guide around, we also learnt about some facts surrounding Mozart through the interpretation of some aspects of the statue. 

Moving on we went to the New Market Square with its beautiful fountain with Athena (I think) on it. Over here we learnt that we’re very privileged to drink the Austrian tap water as it comes directly from the alps, through a well developed system of pipes. 

Later we were given a toilet break but I need to tell the guide that this is a bad, bad idea if I had ever the chance to, because we lost the whole group after this break lol. YS couldn’t find the correct meeting point to gather and I saw the whole group walking away in front of my eyes… Dang it. 

We rushed over to St Stephan’s cathedral, hoping to bump into them there but unfortunately after looking around for 20 minutes, I think we lost them for good. We went in to see the church ourselves and u was dampened by the fact that the catacombs were closed just upon our arrival. Not wasting anymore time, we headed to the state hall, which is also the old Austria National library. 

This library was commissioned by Charles Joseph’s (I think) to store the Royal family’s large collection of books. 

The last time I saw an old library was in Oxford but I think I had a better experience over here because visitors were free to take photos and walk about by themselves. We visited with an audio guide that explained how the whole building was designed and planned (wing of wat and wing of peace with a great statue of Charles in the middle). They also had a great exhibition of the free masons which was sooo interesting and definitely a wonderful eye opener. We only had 1h in the 70m long library but it was certainly not enough. Nonetheless I took away so much from one fruitful afternoon and was already very contented. πŸ™‚

Food in Austria wasn’t v spectacular imo so to save money, we settled for fast food. YS ate her leftover fried rice from lunch while I had hotdog. YUM! We went back for an early night, excited to start our salzburg trip with BEN. ^^

Europe 2.0 – Day 26 22 June

Today we’re leaving Slovenia for Austria! Kinda excited because it means we’re almost coming to an end of our journey heh… 

The train was late and everyone who had a connecting train was PANICKING because the time that they provide for transit is extremely short (for us it was 6 minutes…) 

But because of this, I met new friends again! How lucky! So basically there’s these 2 big sized and middle aged couple (about 30 something years old) who have been staying at our hostel. They looked the nicest amongst other edgy outgoing American 20 somethings so we sometimes smiled at each other. They are also occupying the other twin private room on the same floor and are catching a connecting train to Salzburg! They only have 8 minutes for transit at Villach and we spoke when the lady (Elbe) wanted to ask the train conductor about the transiting so I asked her for a favour to ask for us as well. 

Later we started chatting because like everyone else, I’m sure, wonders where we are from and our actual age (we probably look v young to them). They are from South Africa and are taking the gap year of their lives! WOW! After this transition, they will be migrating to Australia, where they will try to find jobs when they are there. 

I feel that this is an extremely bold move as I’ve heard of people who migrated without any secured positions and later cannot find a job. But of course I didn’t tell them that and later we chatted about many things such as the safety of Johannesburg. Previously I heard from the Chinese couple (Dr and Mrs Lo) that this is a really unsafe place because many people carry guns around. And later I confirm it with Elbe and Richter who are from Johannesburg! Incidentally their reason for moving is because they feel that the city is too dangerous… I wonder who it is like to live somewhere where you couldn’t feel safe and protected. I guess in Singapore, we would never have to fully understand how they feel (thankfully) but I could empathise with why they would want to leave their country. 

Since I may be going to Africa in the coming year, I also asked them for advice regarding its touristy attractions and safety. They were curious about travelling in Asia and so I was ad to return the favour of providing travel tips. They were also interested to understand about Singapore because they’ve watched information programs about how our country is like. I briefly told them about our education system and the high stress levels, something which is unheard of for school children in South Africa. 

We did talk about the countries that we’re visiting during our respective trips but I really like how the conversation centred main around understanding where each other came from. And perhaps because we’re so different yet have curiosities for each other’s origins, the conversation became much richer with exchange of culture and information. And I say this because many a time, I wondered why Western travellers are so interested with making new friends and speaking to new people when most of their convo topics flowed around where they’ve been, what they liked etc. It is kinda superficial imo… 

But I think some people just genuinely like getting to know other people or discussing about travelling. Still, I don’t think I could carry a convo about this alone. Afterall, friendships made overseas are, like what YS feels, transient. What’s the point of asking where you been etc etc. It is almost like a game of comparison. 

At Villach, we bade goodbye and exchanged emails. I think they caught their train and so did we! Whee! 

The entire 5h train ride was super scenic. Rolling green hills, small settlements, cows, farms, rocky mountains and blue skies with fluffy clouds. I think this route could itself be a wonderful tourist attraction. πŸ™‚ 

We reached our hostel pretty late at 2pm, meaning that we definitely could not make it in time for any walking tours, sadly. At first I was doubtful of our hostel because the main counter is in a separate building from our sleeping quarters, which means no order, no discipline and whatsoever. 

But thankfully, nobody was being rowdy and the place is pretty clean although very basic. The bathing and WC facilities were clean and almost always available even though they were many rooms and beds in one apartment. 

Having fully given up on running according to any schedule, we left for lunch, famished. It proved to be a good decision because later, as we found out, the hofburg Palace was a place that houses many museums, not am attraction itself which we’d have to pay to visit. 

The weather was extremely hot and the sun was burnnnninggg. My mood was dampened by an overly sunny day because my eyes could hardly open to see anything and it. Is. Just. Too. Warm. 

We started our sightseeing with Mariahilfer the shopping street, Palm House, Hofburg Palace, Museum of Natural History, Art Museum, Parliament House, City Hall (Rathaus), Burgtheater and University of Vienna. Well, we thought might as well not waste this day so see more right? 

At Hofburg we spent SO BLOODY LONG trying to find the ‘Austrian National Library’ since I had it on my list. There was a function at 6pm and it was too late for us to go in… YS was having cramps/bloatedness and had trouble walking too long. We took many small breaks to hydrate and have toilet breaks. 

The Palm house was very underwhelming from the outside but I do admit that the architecture is unique, something like a greenhouse. 

Most of the buildings that we pass by, we didn’t go in (either closed or need admission fee) and some of them had ugly scaffolding in front of them. Sigh. Nonetheless all the buildings were gigantic and so is the entire city centre. We just kept walking and sweating… 

Things got better when we came to the University because we took the opportunity go in and venture! It looks too beautiful to be a university, we thought. (but then again, Cambridge and Oxford are pretty amazing too). It had a lawn with many outdoor seating and people were holding discussions or doing their work there, while we slacked our asses off, tired from a day of walking. Then we went into the respective faculties and huge stairways led us to them. (Huge stairways were a compared by huge lamps, huge corridors, huge doors… Everything in Austria ia gigantic.) We even chances upon a class having tutorial, and also an empty lecture hall to pose for photos heh. #tourist

Afterwards, everything was much more enjoyable because the sun was setting and the weather turned cooler. I quickly directed us to see the hunderhaus before it becomes too dark to take photos. 

Along the way, we walked past Vienna’s River (seems like each European city had a river flowing through it). There was a floating bar+restaurant+fitness centre+indoor football+swimming pool. Many people were lounging on the top deck, soaking in the sun (hmph). There was also a variety of food, from German sausages to Chinese restaurants (we almost gave in). The part along the river is always full of life. πŸ™‚ 

After the Hunderhaus, we walked to the Prater, which I’m glad we chose to visit when the sky was finally dark!!! Many attractions came to life with their decorative lights imo. 

The Prater is the oldest theme park in the world! The rides can generally be classified into – old and new. Although the former ones were kinda childish and unfashionable, I really love them because where else would you find themed rides? (Themed =/= bases on movies.) 

They created rides with themes and decorations like gold mining, ghost, monsters, circus, animals etc. And they varied from bumper cars to log rides; you have it all – land, water and air. 

But of course there’s also the modern ferris wheel and things like space shot and bungee jumping for the thrill seekers. Meh you can find these in any theme parks but nicely furnished theme rides? Gem.