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. :’) 

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