Friday, November 6, 2009

Fall break: Austria, day 1

On Thursday night (October 22), mere minutes after taking our last midterm of the week, my roommate Jen and I scrambled to the Roma Termini (train) station to catch our night train to Austria. Our train left Rome at 7:30pm, and I'm so glad we decided to leave on Thursday instead of Friday -- the day before, we found out that there was going to be a transportation strike in Rome on Friday, so no buses, trains or trams would be running all day. So many of our friends' travel plans got messed up because of this, so even though it was stressful to have to leave Rome straight from our midterm on Thursday, I'm so glad we decided to do that!

So we arrived at Termini and found our train...we were pleasantly surprised with the way the night trains are set up. We had a cabin for four people (two sets of bunk beds) to ourselves because no one else had booked the cabin. This was really nice because the cabins are tiny and sharing it with strangers would have been sort of we lucked out. The way the cabins are is pretty nice -- just two sets of bunk beds, a little table area, and a sliding door that you lock, so we felt very safe.

Relaxing in the cabin

Shot of the upper bunk bed...we slept on the lower ones, but this gives you an idea of the beds. Not too bad! We had a blanket and pillow.

After a decent night's sleep, we woke up to breakfast from the train staff...two rolls and a cup of the worst coffee I've ever had. Definitely a no-frills breakfast, but it was a nice surprise since we didn't expect anything

After our train got into Vienna, we had to catch another train that would take us to Salzburg. The second train was three hours long I believe, which wasn't bad at all. I'm so glad we decided to do the night train -- it would have been miserable if we had to take a 14-hour train that wasn't overnight! We wouldn't have been able to sleep through most of the ride.

Anyway, after we got into Salzburg around 1pm, we found our hotel, which was only about a 10 minute walk from the station. Hotel Lasserhof was amazing! It was really inexpensive compared to what a hotel like it would be in the US. There were a bunch of families staying there and it was in a great location...and our bathroom had a towel warmer, which sealed the deal.

After we showered and unpacked, we made our way to Old Town to explore. Here's a view of Old Town from the bridge:

We had a map that our hotel concierge had given us, and the map had points of interest on it, so we planned on hitting as many of them as we could. Next on the list after the bridge was Augustiner-Bräu München, Austria's largest beer tavern

Beer hall

Grab a mug

...and fill it from the beer spout.

Next we saw the Mülln church, which was unfortunately closed (I still can't get over the whole siesta thing in's so inconvenient for tourists like myself when attractions are closed for three hours in the middle of the day ;))

Then we headed into Old Town...these are the arches between Residence Square and Cathedral Square

Giant chess board

In the square...note the Salzburg fortress above me on the mountain

I had to get a giant pretzel...they sell these things everywhere in Eastern Europe

We decided to take the lift to the top of the mountain to see the fortress and the's the fortress

And the view (it looks like I'm superimposed in the picture, doesn't it?)

We came back down the mountain and made the walk through Old Town back towards our hotel

We took some pictures while we were crossing back over the bridge because it was getting dark out and the lights in town looked really nice

Once we were at the hotel, we napped for about an hour because we were still tired from the lack of sleep on the train the night before, then headed to dinner around 9pm. We wanted to try out this place that our concierge recommended to us earlier:

...well, it definitely didn't disappoint! Jen had goulash, which she loved, and I had a potato pancake with spinach, cheese, bacon and tomatoes. Yum! This was the best thing I ate on our whole trip...

After dinner we went back to the hotel because it was getting late, and at this point it was pouring and freezing outside so there was no use in us going back into Old Town.

It worked out well, because the next morning we had to get up early anyway -- our Sound of Music tour was scheduled for 9:30am!