Mountains, mountains everywhere
I wasn’t kidding when I said Italy is a beautiful country, but stepping off the train into the small Austrian town of Bad Ischl is just in a league of its own. The stunning architecture of the buildings in the city center, the crisp, fresh air, the smells of the bakeries, and of course… the mountains. Since we took an overnight train from Venice, we arrived in Bad Ischl at around 7 in the morning. We were greeted by that chilly, yet so clean morning air as we looked out over the town and the mountains. We were lucky enough to have a room ready at our hotel, and as the day awoke we used the time to shower and freshen up. I don’t think we slept all that well on the train, so Catherine took a rest while Ethan and I went out and hunted for breakfast. Spending that time with him is always enjoyable, he is such a creative and imaginative boy that everything we do is some kind of adventure. I’m happy that I get to embark on those quests with him.
Pretty Bad Ischl
After eating the spoils of war back in the hotel, which just consisted of some cereal, bread, and tea/coffee, we set out via train for the destination that brought us to this area: Hallstatt. Hallstatt is a small town sitting right on the edge of a mountain, overlooking a beautiful lake. The town itself sparkles with Austrian beauty, reflected perfectly in the lake. If you arrive by train like we did, you have to take a ferry to the town, and the views are spectacular. Once in the town we were met with beautiful old homes and churches, and as a bonus of being there in spring, many flowers and trees were in bloom. We wandered the narrow streets, looking for stunning vantage points and hidden gems.
Hallstatt from the water
Views of Hallstatt
Wandering those pretty streets
Although the town itself was amazing, we were completely unprepared for the massive number of tour buses that found their way to the town. Hallstatt has made its way onto every selfie-loving tour itinerary. For every one European we saw, there were at least 20 non-European tourists crowding the streets. The town seems to have accepted this and even tailors to them now. We were all but forgotten in the restaurant we had lunch in when the tour groups poured in. I’m glad we went to Hallstatt, but this kind of ruined the experience for us. Two hours separated us from Salzburg, Austria, so after our time in Bad Ischl/Hallstatt was done we took the train there. Salzburg is known for many things namely The Sound of Music, Mozart, a castle, palaces, and, of course, more beautiful Austrian mountains. While there, we picked up the Salzburg card, which for a reasonable fee gives access to just about every site in the city for 24 hours. With every intention of making the most out of this card, we visited the home where Mozart Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart grew up and learned about him and his equally musical father.
After that, we went out to Schloss Hellbrun, a palace built by an archbishop who had a great sense of humor. Within the palace grounds are several trick fountains, designed to get his guests wet as they toured the compound. I’m sure some of them found it funny, but if they got as wet as we did, I am sure some of them didn’t enjoy it! By the way, if you go don’t bother trying to guess where the water will come from… you will never see it coming!
Catherine trying to avoid some water
After the palace and after lunch, we took the bus (also included in the Salzburg card) out to the Stiegl brewery. As the most famous beer in Austria, we got to walk through the brewery and see how it’s made. We even got to try some at the end of the tour. We also used our card to visit Festung Hohensalzburg, a large fortress overlooking the city. As one of the largest and best preserved in Europe, we got to see the state rooms where former rulers lived, learn about the history of the area, and capture amazing views of Salzburg and the countryside.
Enjoying some drink
While all the sites were amazing and well worth seeing, the best part about Salzburg is just wandering through the streets, the churches, the parks, and the gardens of the city. Remarkably, the old city has changed very little over the last 400 years, so a trip here is in effect a trip back in time. It is not difficult to imagine how Mozart might have spent his days as he prepared his music. One of the highlights for Ethan was a large chess set in one of the plazas, where with a few changes to the traditional rules he beat me several times.
Nice views all around
In the afternoon we took a train (gotta love the fast, efficient trains in Europe!) to Innsbruck, even deeper in the Austrian Alps. When we got off the train we were surrounded on all sides by these majestic beauties. Innsbruck isn’t known for having a ton of sites, and is a great skiing and hiking destination, but it also has a really beautiful old city center that rivals anywhere else I’ve ever been. We were blessed with beautiful 70 degree, sunny weather and spent as much time wandering through the old city as we could.
Old Town Innsbruck
While in Innsbruck we did visit the Hofburg, one of the many palaces of the Habsburg dynasty. Next to the palace is the equally impressive Hofkirche, the church of the royal family. For some reason it contains the elaborate but empty tomb of Maximilian the 1st, founder of the Habsburg dynasty. His tomb was not completed until the reign of his grandson, so perhaps that’s why his body is not located there.
Inside the Hofkirche
Other than that, we just explored and then decided to take an afternoon train to Switzerland since that journey takes some three and a half hours. To find out what we’re doing in Switzerland, be sure to tune in to the next blog!