Schladming – Where?

Schladming is a small ski/mountain biking town in Austria.  It was the perfect spot for us to stop for 3 nights on our way back to Frankfurt.  The whole area is very picturesque with lots of hiking and outdoorsy things to do.  As we had both come down with pretty heavy head colds, it was great to check into our Air BnB apartment and regroup.  We stayed in the small (er ) town of Oblarn and used it as a base to travel around.

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While I am not a mountain biker, at this time of the year the chairlifts are opened up for mountain bikers.  Surprisingly, there had been a decent snow dump when we arrived so apart from being pretty cold (out came the ski jacket!) the bike runs were only open from mid-station.  I have it on good authority that natural runs are really “natural” with loads of tree roots and the advanced runs are much steeper than elsewhere!

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The town of Schladming is worth a quick look around.  When we were there, a small farmers market was in action and there were other interesting things to look at. I found a couple of interesting jewellery shops.  (I can shop anywhere!)

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We also drove up to the Dachstein glacier which is well worth the trip.  The road up is steepish (nothing compared to Montenegro) and there is a 14 Euro toll to get on to it.  This is refunded if you go up the mountain and validate your ticket.  Once at the carpark, you get a ticket for the cable car up and can also get tickets for the ice palace and sky walk.  We got all three and were very glad that we did.  The cable car ride is breathtaking and on the way back, if you get in first, you can ride on the top of it!  Now that is a once in a lifetime experience!

Once at the top there are a couple of viewing platforms, a suspension bridge (not for the nervous) and some really cool ice caves with sculptures in them.  Be aware it is incredibly slippery so wear decent shoes.  I used my walking poles and still struggled!  There are cafe’s/restaurants to grab a hot drink while you are there.  This is one of the best views you might get in the area so don’t miss it.

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Also check out local events.  While we were in the area, we discovered a local cheese festival (Kase fest) and followed the signs to a rural area where others seemed to be parking.  From the precarious parking spots, we hiked up a hill to the top where there was a church with rock boundaries. Inside was a celebration of Austrian life.  Many of the people were in traditional dress, there were accordion players giving it heaps and a number of cheese stalls ( and a few others).  We didn’t stay that long but it was a really interesting insight into the local community.  We were the only English speakers there!

This whole area of Styria, Austria is a lovely place for a break.  I could have stayed longer and done some more walks.

Vienna – All class!

We didn’t quite know what to expect from Vienna.  Three months ago we were in Salzburg and while we enjoyed it, on reflection we expected something bigger, brighter and a little better. Vienna is a much bigger city and we found that three nights (two days) was really not enough to see what we wanted to see.  Yes you can scrape  the surface but it really deserves a bit more time.

As we were only there 48 hours we tried to get the best overview of the city that we could by getting on a Hop on Hop Off bus tour.  This is a good idea.  We usually don’t get off, rather just use it to orient ourselves to revisit places later if we want to.  Before we committed to this tour, we tried to do it ourselves as we had purchased two day transport passes.  It really was just easier to listen to a commentary.  We didn’t have to struggle trying to work out which building was which, why it was significant and whether or not we were indeed looking at the right building!

 

Again, like the previous 2 weeks, we were foiled by the weather but being in a big city doesn’t really matter that much. To get out of the rain, we took refuge in the Butterfly House (6.50 Euro to get in), which was not really worth it as most of the butterflies were high on the roof.  We really only saw about 4 or 5.

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We also had coffee and cake in Central Cafe and braved the queue to get in.  Coffee and cake was average (cakes look much better than they are) however it is a cafe of historical importance (Trotsky, Freud and a number of poets) and the environment is beautiful.

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Vienna is full of breathtaking buildings and we enjoyed walking around looking at them.  The architecture is really something else!

If you are an art lover, Belvedere is worth a visit.  This is where you can see the famous Austrian painting The Kiss.  The Kiss is the Austrians answer to Mona Lisa! You can buy any number of souvenirs with a print of this painting on it. Allow at least half a day for a visit.  Close by there is also the Museum of Modern Art is about a 10 minute walk from Belvedere so you could make an arty day of it.

 

We also took the underground (U Bahn) out to the Schonbrunn Palace to catch a show.  You must see a classical performance in Vienna right! It was a beautiful environment but the acoustics were poor.  I think the Opera House might have been a better choice.  The palace gardens are meant to be beautiful but when we got there they were closing the gates (despite everyone telling us it would be open).  Make sure you go before 4pm to ensure that it is open and that you have some time to walk around.

Vienna Tips

  • If you are driving in, you are looking for signs that say Wien not Vienna
  • There is very little parking in the city.  You might be lucky to pick up a short stay parking spot (less than 2 hours) however the locals use the parking garages (Park and Ride).  We paid 10.50 Euros for 2.5 days.
  • You can buy transport tickets for 1 or 2 days which give you access to underground trains and the trams which get you everywhere you need to go.
  • If you want to see a concert ask questions… what is the programme, how long, where is it,  how many musicians etc.  Shop around.
  • There are museums for everything… art, technology, Freud, national history, military history, Mozart…
  • Check out the Vienna Card.  It gives free transport and discounted admission to many places in the city.
  • Enjoy!  Vienna is a beautiful city.

 

Petzen and surrounding areas

As my travel companion is a mountain biking fiend, we travelled from Ljubljana to the Petzen area in Austria which only took a couple of hours.  We were there to try out the longest flow trail in Europe which was apparently out of this world!  While we have great trails in New Zealand, we certainly do not have anything of this length.  The recommendation is if you are close to the area and you are a keen mountain biker it is definitely worth the trip.  You can hire bikes and body armour on site.

We decided to stay a couple of nights in the area and found a hotel close to the lake at Klopeiner See.  It is a cute little area designed for families and retirees so if this isn’t you, it might be worth staying somewhere else.  As it was, it probably wasn’t our speed but it was really hot so lounging on the hotels private beach (dock) in one of the deck chairs under an umbrella is not too much of a hardship.  The lake itself is deep and clean and you can buy a myriad of inflatables in the township.  It is easy to wile away a day but make sure that you have food or snacks as a number of the restaurants and eateries in town are closed until 5.30pm.

This area was an interesting interlude for us, driven by a want to trial the flow trail and be able to swim so a win win really.

Salzburg – the outskirts

As previously mentioned there are lots of things to keep you busy in Salzburg for a few days.  We certainly didn’t do them all, including some things that most people do (ie The sound of music tour) but here are a couple of other things worth considering…

  1. Königssee Lake

This lake is actually in Barvaria, Germany but is still relatively close to visit as a day trip from Salzburg.  The lake is absolutely stunning and the electric boat ride out past the St Batholomew’s church is breathtaking.  You can stop at the church, where there is a restaurant next door and a local family selling fresh smoked trout from the lake.  There is a swimming “beach” at this stop and many families get off the boat here to go for hikes, have picnics and enjoy the area.

You can also continue the trip to the end of the lake, where you can do a short hike (20 minutes) to Lake Obersee which is very clear and the trees make beautiful reflections.  While we were there we stumbled across a couple playing instruments that looked and sounded like a cross between an oboe and a didgeridoo.  The acoustics were amazing.

The round trip is easily completed in half a day however if you want to take a picnic or go for a hike, it would make a really nice full day outing.

2.  Rupertus Therme (Bad Reichenhall)

Also close to Salzburg is this fantastic hot salt pool complex.  It has a number of different areas including a couple of larger pools on the main floor, some hotter spa pools on the upper floor, a training/lap pool , a children’s pool,  a water slide that you can go down on inner tubes and another short slide in the family area and the best of all some salt based light pools for relaxation.  One of these pools is 12% salt so you float really easily.  There is a slide show playing and coloured lighting.  This pool is not obvious and we found it by chance in the grotto!

A great way to wile away an afternoon.  There is a restaurant on site with prices that are cheaper than Salzburg Old Town prices.  While the entry is expensive, we went on a warm day and they were giving out 30% discount.

http://www.rupertustherme.de/de/home/