A Little Do-Re-Me in Salzburg

Once Chris and I decided to visit Austria, there was no question that we would stop for a stay in Salzburg. I had heard such great things about the Austrian city and all of its charms, and of course I wanted to see some of the spots and landmarks from The Sound of Music. Salzburg is a small city, but there is a lot to see and do.

In my travel planning, I read differing opinions about how much time to spend in Salzburg. A lot of people said you can cover the city in one day, and others recommended spending as much time there as possible. We decided on three nights with two whole days, and that turned out to be the perfect length for us to see the major sites at a leisurely pace, to spend ample time sitting at outdoor cafes, and to squeeze in one viewing of The Sound of Music in our hotel room. If I had a do-over I might add one additional day to see the surrounding areas of Salzburg, but we covered Old Town well in two days.



I wish I had taken more photos of our hotel, Hotel Goldgasse, but we arrived after sunset and our stuff was all over the place before I had a chance to photograph everything. The room was one of the cutest and comfiest I’ve ever stayed in thanks to some thoughtful amenities and fun artwork. In addition to fluffy robes, artisan teas, a full-size umbrella, and a Nespresso machine, you can watch The Sound of Music any time and as many times as you want! They have an on-demand channel dedicated to it in both English and German languages.

The much-warmer-than-usual weather pattern continued (an alternate title for this post might have been “Sweaty in Salzburg”) so the only downside to our hotel, common to many European hotels, was the lack of air-conditioning. We slept with all of the windows open every night, but unfortunately that meant we had to deal with quite a few gnats in the room. Other than that minor inconvenience, I would highly recommend Hotel Goldgasse especially for the fantastic location, right in the heart of the city.


On Day One, we strolled around Old Town and its various streets including the famous Getreidegasse, enjoying the shops and people-watching. Always ones to be interested in the local spirits, we popped into the Sporer Likör- & Punschmanufaktur for a fun schnapps tasting – we really liked the pear and the apricot.

And of course we poked around Residenzplatz and Mozartplatz. We listened to the chimes of the glockenspiel, and we found Mozart’s birthplace. We listened to a couple of outdoor music performances during our visit and I have to tell you, being serenaded by violin while strolling through Salzburg felt pretty magical.


We dedicated the afternoon to one of the city’s must-dos that I, too, recommend: taking the funicular up to Hohensalzburg fortress. It’s one of the largest castles in Europe, so plan to spend a good portion of the day there if you want to explore all of the nooks, crannies, and exhibits. The fortress provides a beautiful view of the city and river below, and as a bonus there is a little marionette museum tucked in one of the passageways. Don’t miss it! I found it delightfully creepy.


Compared to so many others who visit Salzburg, I probably fall into the “casual fan” category when it comes to The Sound of Music. I do really like the movie, but before this trip I think I had only seen it maybe twice (only once all the way through). Thanks to our amazing hotel with an on-demand channel dedicated to the film, we watched it on our second night in Salzburg for inspiration. I had already planned on visiting some of the major filming locations, but it was fun to see some of the other parts of town in which we had explored that day.


After spending one day in Altstadt, or Old Town, we spent the next day crossing over the Salzach river to explore that side of the city including spending time in the famous Mirabell Gardens. And by “spending time in the gardens” I mean I sang all the songs in every section of the park while Chris patiently waited for me to get it out of my system.


With all of the history, culture, and art that Salzburg has to offer, I have to confess that our favorite part was actually the cafe life which, if you think about it, is history, culture, and an art form combined, so maybe I don’t have to feel guilty after all! We loved sitting in the outdoor cafes with drinks and decadent sweets, and simply enjoying the weather and the people-watching. The cake shown below is a Mozartkugel cake, and it’s one of the best things I’ve ever tasted. I have dreamy little heart-eyes just thinking about it.



And just like that, the sun set on our time in Salzburg and in Austria. The next day we picked up a rental car and hit the road for Germany – those posts are up next!

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An Afternoon in Melk, Austria

I can’t remember where I first saw it, but pictures of 11th century Stift Melk, or Melk Abbey, sold me on a visit to this sweet Austrian town along the Danube. Knowing that I had to see the abbey for myself, we planned Melk as a stop on the way from Vienna to Salzburg. It was a perfect way to break up the train ride, and an easy stop for lunch.

As soon as we hopped off the train and headed through the darling neighborhood streets situated below the abbey up on the hill, I knew we were in for a treat.


We enjoyed a delicious lunch at Rathauskeller Melk before exploring the main parts of the town. Like our time in Vienna and Bratislava, we were gifted with a gorgeous day and the clearest blue skies. (Side note: it was over 90-degrees and we didn’t exactly pack for super warm weather, so I will forever associate Melk with being super hot and sweaty. This is also the reason there is not one single picture of us.)



It didn’t take long before I was lured up to the abbey. We hiked up the hill’s many steps and did a self-tour of the grounds before heading inside.

I pretty much went overboard taking photos in and around the abbey. The inside was stuffed to the gills with several tour groups, but somehow we managed to have most of the courtyard to ourselves. We ended up shimmying past the museum mobs so we could get to the other parts of the abbey and experience those rooms in peace, too.


There are plenty of signs inside asking people not to take photos, but there are a few spots in which photos are allowed. I think/hope this staircase is one of them.


Sections of the abbey were under repair so there was quite a bit of scaffolding, but we managed to photograph around it for the most part. (If I was hoping to find only one scaffolding-free building/monument on this trip, it was the Neuschwanstein castle in Germany…more about that in a future post!)


As if the fascinating history, ornate Baroque details, and beautiful frescoes aren’t enough, the abbey offers a wonderful view of the town below. Don’t the buildings look like little dollhouses from here?


So…I’m generally a rule-follower, especially while traveling (I don’t want to be on an episode of Locked Up Abroad), but I broke a rule while visiting the church. I took a photo in the sanctuary where a sign clearly indicated no photos allowed. I refrained from taking photos in the gorgeous library, but I simply couldn’t help myself in the church. I was super quick, stood only behind the pews, was quiet as a mouse, no clicks or beeps, no squeak of my shoe, and no flash, so I hope I can be forgiven.

As a former professional wedding photographer, I’ve seen a lot of churches, but I officially declare this one the most beautiful I’ve seen so far. And my iPhone photo doesn’t even do it justice – it took my breath away! I could have gazed at the massive frescoes and gold leaf for days. The staircase between the library and the church was also stunning.


Suffice it to say, Melk certainly turned out to be one of my favorite stops out of the whole trip. I highly recommend a visit as either a day trip from Vienna or as a stop in between other cities. And if you happen to very respectfully sneak a quick picture in the church, I promise not to judge you.

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  • AdrienneOctober 20, 2016 - 8:22 pm

    Melk is adorable! Officially added to the bucket list.

Bratislava Day-Tripping

Admittedly Slovakia wasn’t exactly on my radar until I started planning our time in Vienna, Austria, which ended up being the first two days of our two-week Central Europe trip. Once I realized how quickly and easily we could experience an additional capital city on this trip, I decided to give up one of our Vienna days in order to take a day trip over to Bratislava.

We originally planned to take an organized tour (round-trip transportation plus walking tour) to cross the border for simplicity’s sake, but when I discovered the start time would require us to be out the door about an hour or so before I’m functional in the morning, I decided to DIY the whole thing. And it couldn’t have been easier.

Before we left for the trip, I booked bus tickets online through FlixBus, traveling from Vienna Erdberg to Bratislava Novy Most. The morning of our day trip we simply took the U-Bahn (underground subway) from our Vienna hotel to the Erdberg bus stop, hopped on the big green bus, and enjoyed the comfy one-hour ride straight to Bratislava. The Novy Most bus stop put us right next to the main old town area. Easy breezy, and much cheaper than an organized tour!


We wandered the cozy pedestrian streets of Old Town on our own, discovering quirky statues, a mixture between tattered structures and cheerful buildings, and ample people-watching opportunities.


If there’s one thing we noticed around Old Town, it was all of the quirky, fun-loving statues. This one popping out of the sewer garnered a lot of attention from fellow tourists, and where else can you have the perfect opportunity to sidle up to Napoleon hovering behind a park bench?


For an easy way to get up to the castle, we took the one-hour Up to the Castle tour on the cutest little open-air bus, the Presporacik-Oldtimer. It meets its passengers right near the historical building of the Slovak National Theatre.


At 20 euro per person, this ended up being kind of a pricey spin around the town while listening to a pre-recorded audio guide, but in the interest of time it worked out well. I don’t think we would have made it back to the FlixBus in time for our return trip if we had trekked up to the castle and back on foot. Plus it took us away from the historic center and showed us a bit more of the surrounding Slovak socialist architecture. Random fun-fact: we learned from the audio guide that the tallest building in Bratislava, the Bratislava National Bank, has twenty-three elevators. If that ever comes up on Jeopardy, I’m ready.


It’s worth noting though that if you actually want to stay and tour the castle and don’t want to hoof it back down afterward, this isn’t an effective mode of transportation since the Oldtimer only stops at the castle for fifteen minutes.


After exploring the city center and cruising around in the Oldtimer, we walked across the Novy Most bridge to the UFO Tower where we took a speedy elevator up to the observation deck for an amazing view of the city. The entrance fee cost 7,40 euro each, but I’m a sucker for a good view and photo op. Here is where you can get a better idea of how the more opulent and medieval historic center is nestled in among modern structures.


We enjoyed drinks at the bar right below the observation deck before heading back to the bus stop to catch our bus back to Vienna. Look how much ice they gave me at the bar to go with my Coke Light! If you are an American traveling in Europe, you know this is a big deal. (Not pictured, Chris’s local Slovak beer. And the amazingly refreshing lemonade was from a stop earlier in the day at a cafe called Moods.)



Somehow we totally missed seeing St. Elizabeth, the Blue Church. It’s on the outskirts of Old Town, and didn’t know about it until we got back from the trip! I’m kind of bummed about that because it looks like a really beautiful church. I don’t think we rode past it on the Oldtimer. I’ll simply have to put it on the list for the next time I happen to be in Bratislava!

I’m so glad we added this charming city to our itinerary, if nothing else but to dispel the only (wildly inaccurate) image of Bratislava in my head courtesy of the movie EuroTrip. It’s well worth visiting, especially if you’re right next door in Vienna. Up next, Chris and I hop on a train toward Salzburg, but first we make a stop in Melk!

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Vienna, Austria: A Very Good Place To Start

Chris and I returned from Europe three weeks ago and I have yet to post anything from the trip here! Work has been exceedingly busy, leaking into the evenings and weekends, so I haven’t had much free time. I finally found a moment this weekend to start to catch up, and I’m starting with the very beginning (sing it with me: “…a very good place to staaart“) of our two week European trip with Vienna, Austria.

This whole trip all started with Chris’s inkling of attending Oktoberfest, and before I knew it, I had added three other countries to a two-week itinerary. I wonder how many European trips get planned like that? With everything in such close proximity it’s so easy to say, “Well, if we’re in Munich, we’re so close to Austria…and ooo, Prague isn’t far away either. It’s a direct flight to Vienna, so we we might as well sneak over to Slovakia…” and so on.

We arrived in Vienna just about as jet-lagged as we have ever been, but thankfully we found that our hotel was situated right across the street from one of the most famous cafés in the city, Café Central. Sure it’s a little touristy, but a traditional Viennese iced coffee was the perfect introduction to Austria in my opinion! (And thus began our two-week long affair with the café life.)


Despite my love for music and baroque architecture, I confess I didn’t fall head-over-heels for Vienna the way I did with a few other cities on our two-week European trek. Maybe it’s because we picked Vienna simply for the direct flight from Washington-Dulles, or maybe it has to do with our jet-lagged state in which we wandered the streets. We still had a wonderful time exploring the capital though, and if I’m able to return for a longer period of time someday, perhaps Vienna will end up wooing me after all.

I did love all of the statues and ornate details on nearly every corner. And we had gorgeous albeit hot weather.


Knowing full well we would be completely exhausted and all too tempted to curl up for a nap in our hotel, I scheduled a walking tour for the first day as the perfect way to beat our jet lag. And what better tour to book for two photographers than a Polaroid Photo Tour where we see the sights with instant cameras in-hand.

Formerly known as the PolaWalk, the tour gave us an instant (pun intended!) feel for the city by introducing us to major sites such as Karlskirche, Staatsoper, Hofburg and Heldenplatz, and also a few nooks and crannies we might not have noticed on our own.


For 55 euro, I wandered around with a vintage Polaroid instant camera and a pack of The Impossible Project instant film, taking in the scenery and composing instant memories. Chris opted for the no-camera ticket (25 euro) so that he could document Vienna with his own SLR. It’s a nice option for anyone who simply wants to join the tour sans Polaroid.



I actually ended up using my SLR, my point-and-shoot, and my iPhone in addition to the Polaroid camera like a crazy person. I’m sort of a documentation nut, but I’m just mentioning this to point out you are welcome to use cameras on the tour other than the Polaroid.



Another confession: we didn’t make it to the end of the tour! I didn’t even shoot all eight of my instant films. Not only were we still on Virginia time, it was over 90-degrees that day and it was too hard to stay hydrated. Chris and I hung in there for a good two hours, but the tour ran a bit longer than that and we simply couldn’t hang. But we thoroughly enjoyed our time with our sweet guide, Teresa, and the rest of the group, and I love my little collection of Polaroid snaps (which I lazily photographed for you with my iPhone, above).

We ended our day with nothing other than wienerschnitzel, local beers, and apple strudel at Augustiner Keller before crashing into our hotel bed at about 8pm.


And that was Vienna! We stayed two nights, but we dedicated the next day to seeing Bratislava, Slovakia (up next on the blog). Before leaving Vienna though, I couldn’t say no to another visit to Café Central to try Sacher Torte for the first time. Verdict: amazing.


Stay tuned for a barrage of posts as I cover our foray into Slovakia, more of Austria, then Germany, and finally Czech Republic!

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  • AdrienneOctober 16, 2016 - 11:28 pm

    Gorgeous photos! The photo tour looks like a lot of fun. I was wondering as I was reading this if you were going to have Sacher Torte and then I got to the last paragraph… :) That’s about the only thing I remember from my trip to Vienna more than a decade ago. It’s SO good!

  • SusanOctober 17, 2016 - 10:24 am

    Yes! The Sacher Torte was one of the best things I ate on the trip! I’m so glad I looked up how to pronounce it right before I ordered it – I always thought it was “sash-ay” torte, thanks to studying French for five years. Haha. 😉

Isla Mujeres Snapshot

Once again I’m a little behind in getting this one done, but I finally put together my Isla Mujeres snapshot post!


Best Moment

The entire purpose of our Isla Mujeres trip revolved around seeing whale sharks, so obviously the best moment was getting to do exactly that! More specifically, the very best moment was the first time we entered the water sans cameras so we could simply enjoy the experience. We plunged into the deep not knowing what to expect, and after merely a minute of being in the water, there they were larger than life – whale sharks, swimming right alongside us. It’s one of my most favorite travel moments so far.

Worst Moment

Other than the five-hour delay of our flight coming back home from Cancun, the winner for Worst Moment really wasn’t that big of a deal. Not surprisingly, it entails yet another weather-related incident! Unbeknownst to us, a wildly windy storm swept across the island as we slept through one night early in the week. According to what we could tell from the crime scene the next morning, the winds whipped into the patio table umbrella next to the pool at an angle that toppled the entire table. The glass top broke into a million little pieces, rendering the pool and patio unusable. Fortunately no one was hurt and no other damage was done, and this registered on the not-a-big-deal scale in the grand scheme of things.

Our incredibly sweet villa owner (also a Susan!) immediately swung into action right after we let her know what happened, and with the help of her villa manager and crew, the mess was cleaned up within hours and we were back to happy pool life.



Best Meal

We loved the food on Isla Mujeres so much that it inspired me to write an entire post on the topic. Chris and I unanimously decided that our dinner and drinks at Green Verde earned the number-one spot, but I also really (really really) enjoyed our pineapple dessert at Limón.


Something We Learned

I learned that real, fresh coconut juice is saltier than I expected.


We’re Thankful We Packed

Our own fins. Keeping up with the whale sharks proved to be more work than I expected, and I was happy to have the comfort of well-fitted fins with which to chase after these guys!

We Didn’t Need To Bring

Full-size bottles of sunscreen. The main grocery store on the island is totally legit! Chedraui has just about everything you could possibly want for your stay on Isla Mujeres, including several sunscreen options at very reasonable prices. (We’re used to seeing just one brand with a hugely marked-up price tag when we island-hop.)


Trip Regrets

Originally we planned to spend a day off-island seeing Chichen Itza, but the temperatures were well out of my comfort zone. We lucked out with sunny skies nearly every day of our trip so I’m not complaining, but a heat index of 105 and up means I need to be no more than ten feet away from water (or a/c) at all times. Even with the promise of swimming in a cenote after the Chichen Itza tour, I just didn’t think I could enjoy the ruins so we took a pass on that excursion this time.

Reasons To Go Back

I would love another swim with the whale sharks! I hope to get to do it again someday soon. Also as mentioned above, we skipped a mainland visit to see Chichen Itza because it was just too darn hot. I wouldn’t have survived. So we’ll go back another time, maybe in the cooler months. But we weren’t completely void of getting to see Mayan ruins on this trip. We spent one morning at the Temple of Ixchel ruins on Isla Mujeres at what is basically the southern-most tip of Mexico.



Favorite Photos

Hands-down, I’m most happy to have captured this shot. It brings back such great memories! And it kind of looks like he/she is smiling.


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