Category: Austria

Innsbruck: My Surprise Birthday Trip Full Of Mountains, Alms And Imperial Gardens


My darling Schnucki whisked me away on a surprise trip for my birthday weekend and we ended up in Innsbruck, Austria!


Innsbruck is the capitol of Tyrol state in Austria. The whole city is surrounded by towering mountains, making it a major hub for winter sports and it is famous for hosting the Winter Olympic and Winter Paralympic Games on more than one occasion.


Time and time again Austria has surprised me with its underrated charm and grandeur, and Innsbruck was no exception. We found the Altstadt and inner city easy to navigate and the major attractions were all in walking distance, which is something that I love to see in cities. (My wallet was also thankful!)

“Please do not lean on the wall!”

The Goldenes Dachl or Golden Roof is one of the most famous icons of Innsbruck, which was built in 1500 for emperor Maximilian I and his wife to look over the town square below and enjoy the festivities from the balcony.

Goldenes Dachl

The city name ‘Innsbruck’ means ‘Inn bridge’ because of the river Inn that runs through the city from the Swiss Alps. Seeing the Inn was a welcome sight to us because beleive it or not, the river also runs through Passau which is further downstream. We joked about throwing a message in a bottle in the river and how it might reach us by the time we got back to Passau.

The Stadtturm clock reflected in the windows of Helblinghaus

The Hofburg or Imperial Palace in Innsbruck was once used by the Habsburgs and was considered to be as important as Schönbrunn Palace and the Hofburg Palace in Vienna. It was hard to see much of the Innsbruck Hofburg from the outside, but we did go to the Hofgarten or Imperial Gardens behind the palace, where autumn was in full swing.

Hofgarten Imperial Gardens

The sun blessed us with her presence on my birthday, so we decided to go up the mountain in a cable car to Hungerburg station. There were also two other stations after Hungerburg that went even further up the mountain, but we (and our wallets) decided that the first was probably enough to look out over the city.

Pension Alpina

And boy, were we right! The view out over Innsbruck city and the surrounding mountains along with the autumn colours was breathtaking.

View from Hungerburg station

For some reason I had been expecting Hungerburg to be a village full of eateries and shops to peruse, but I was way off the mark when we got there and found only residential houses and one café by the station that was crammed full of families and kiddies. (It was a Sunday and the Alpine Zoo was located one stop before Hungerburg).


We wandered around in search of something else to do and stumbled upon an area map which showed the local Alms in the vicinity. An Alm is typically an alpine pasture with a little hut or house that serves food and drinks on the mountains. We decided to go for the closest one called Arzler Alm and promptly followed the path that lead into the forest.

Arzler Alm (1067m)

Although it was the closest Alm and the map said it was a mere 30 minute walk away, we were not accounting for it to be a 30 minute steep uphill forest trek, which is what it ended up being! But long last after much huffing and puffing (we were obviously not ready for hiking at all) we came into a clearing with goats, chickens and rabbits and the Arzler Alm.


“If you go to an Alm, you have to drink an Almdudler,” is what my Schnucki said to me as we were climbing, reminiscing about his family holidays in Austria where they would do just that. Almdudler is a popular Austrian soft drink that is also sold in neighbouring countries like Germany, and it’s a drink that I’ve really come to like since being here. A slice of cake and cold Almdudler really hit the spot after our hot mountain walk up to the Alm!

Million dollar view from our hotel room window

Although we were only in Innsbruck for the weekend, it turned out to be the most perfect birthday trip! Thank you to my Schnucki for organising it all and I hope we can return in winter to explore even more of the city in its peak season!


So, did you like Innsbruck as much as I did?

Any recommendations for Innsbruck winter activities? Let me know!



Vienna: A Midsummer Day’s Dream At Schönbrunn Palace

Schönbrunn Palace

On our last day in Vienna the capital of Austria, we took a train from the city out to the spectacular Schönbrunn Palace and what a sight it was! The Baroque style castle was a former imperial summer residence of the Habsburgs where the beloved Empress Elisabeth and Emperor Franz Josef spent a lot of their time (the latter was born there and also died there). It is now an insanely  popular tourist destination and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Horse drawn carriages in the entrance court

The name  Schönbrunn means ‘beautiful spring’ and was believed to be named after an artisan well used to collect water for the court. The palace (which has more than one thousand rooms) and its gardens were humongous, complete with a maze, orangery, palm house and even a zoo.

One of many fountains in the entrance court

Once we went through the gates at Schönbrunn into the entrance court, we realised that our stomachs were growling so we promptly went on the hunt for food.

Apfel Strudel und Vanilla Eis

We went into the first café we saw by the entrance (I had an apple strudel) but what we didn’t realise until later was that there were much nicer places to eat in the complex, complete with an original Viennese style apple strudel making studio (and that is why I should do some research before visiting places!).

Back view of the building

It’s free to enter Schönbrunn’s magnificent gardens but you have to buy tickets to go inside the palace itself. There were a lot of different tours to choose from but the main idea was that the more you pay, the more rooms in the palace you got to see. We went on the ‘Imperial Tour’ which had the cheapest tickets at 12,90 Euros each.

Great Gallery of Schönbrunn

Before going in, we got handed audio gadgets which meant we could listen to explanations about the rooms at our own pace in whatever language we needed (we also had these on the Sisi Imperial Apartment tour so we were used to the drill). Technically, we weren’t allowed to take photos of the rooms (there were a lot of staff members patrolling the corridors to make sure people didn’t) but I managed to get this sneaky one in of the gorgeous Great Gallery lined with mirrors, chandeliers and frescoed ceilings.

Vienna Zoo

After the tour we entered the gardens behind the palace, where the Vienna Zoo was also located. The park was built in the 1700’s and claims to be the oldest zoo in the world. They even have some Giant Pandas living there at the moment!

Panoramic view of Vienna from the Gloriette

Behind the zoo was a hill where the Gloriette structure was located. It was a stifling hot midsummer’s day when we climbed up to the Gloriette, so you can imagine our relief when we realised it was a café/restaurant inside and not just an empty viewpoint as we’d first thought it was! (Again, some prior research would have been handy).


The Gloriette was bombed during the war, but has been beautifully restored since. The panoramic views of Vienna from up there were just breath taking.

Inside the Gloriette

After some refreshing Himbeer Sodas  (raspberry sodas that we were obsessed with during our time in Vienna) we headed back down the hill and meandered through the extensive gardens of Schönbrunn, admiring the views as we went.

Garden pagoda



We ended up spending the whole day there and although there were a lot of tourists around, it was clear that locals used the grounds too – for jogging, picnics and relaxing – which was really nice to see.

Viennese cuisine at Café Residenz (with Himbeer Soda again)

For dinner we went to Café Residenz in the entrance court, which was much nicer than the place we went to for lunch.


They served traditional Viennese cuisine and my Schnucki had super scrumptious Kaiserschmarrn, which is like fat chunks of fluffy pancakes with apple sauce and jam, which was apparently a favourite dish of the Emperor.


As I’ve mentioned before, Vienna was my favourite place that I’ve visited this year so far and Schönbrunn Palace was definitely the highlight of the trip. If you ever go to Vienna, you MUST visit Schönbrunn!

Daydreaming on the palace balcony

The Palace was a sight to behold and it makes anyone visiting feel like absolute royalty – it was so much fun imagining the imperial courts of the past having their parties and balls there in the very rooms we walked through!


So, did you enjoy Schönbrunn Palace as much as I did?

Is it somewhere that you would like to visit? Let me know!





Austria: Late Summer Cycling To Schärding And Engelhartzell


Before we went to Switzerland together a few weeks ago, my dad came to visit me in Passau. This was around the time when the weather could still be called late summer rather than autumn and we had a week of lovely warm weather while he was here.

Now one thing you have to know about my dad is that he loves the outdoors. Biking, tramping, walking, kayaking – he does it all. So naturally he was keen to do something of this sort while he was here and we decided to rent bikes for two days and go cycling across the border from Passau into Austria.

Vornbach Abbey

The first day, we decided to bike along the river Inn on the Innradweg to an Austrian town called Schärding. Our plan was to bike up one side of the river on the Inn cycleway, have lunch in Schärding and then bike back down the other side of the river.

Parish Church Of The Assumption

The Inn cycleway was super easy to follow, with an unsealed path through the forest right along the river for most of the way. The beauty of travelling by bike is that you can stop anywhere you want to; to take photos, have a rest or  explore interesting churches you pass by – like this one. I loved the harmony of light pinks, blues, white and ornate gold in this church. So pretty!

Last sunflowers of summer

The forest, countryside and villages we passed was just beautiful…except for the swarms of midges having their last summer fling that we biked through more than once! Lessons of the day: don’t bike with your mouth open and always wear sunglasses.

Schärding township

After about three hours of cycling up the Inn, we finally made it to Schärding!

Famous façades of Schärding

Schärding is an Austrian town with a population of less than 5,000 and it used to be a port of trade for things like salt, timber and livestock. It is most famous for its central square with its row of colourful gabled roof houses and looming St. George Church.

St. George Church

The township was so cute with its pastel box houses and cobblestone streets and was such a nice place to bike to for a one day trip.

On the way back to Passau down the other side of the river, we passed Wernstein and stopped at the famous Mostausschank, which is an apple cider farm that sells fresh apple cider by the pint. It’s a popular spot for passing cyclists to rest and quench their thirst and I can tell you, the sweet apple cider there is SO GOOD – probably the best I’ve ever tasted.

Going inland on the Donauradweg

The next day my Dad and I decided to bike down the Donau (Danube) river this time, down the Donauradweg. This cycleway went inland as well as being next to the river and most of the time the path was sealed, which made it easier for me and my sore backside, which was the result of these long cycling journeys I wasn’t used to.


We didn’t stop as many times along the way as we did the day before, but we did pass a lot of onion-topped churches and tiny hillside villages.

Passing the halfway mark to Engelhartzell

We were aiming for a town called Engelhartzell which was about 25km away from Passau and our plan was to bike there one way and then catch the 3:30 pm sightseeing ferry back up the river home. (I was really looking forward to that part!)


The Donau has a lot more boat traffic on the river than the Inn, so we used that to our advantage for this trip. We also passed the Austrian town called Obernzell which was on the other side of the river; a town that my Schnucki and I had once taken the bus to in search of Dirndl outlet shops.

Typical country houses with the wide wooden verandas

I could definitely see the charm of living out there in some of these houses – everything was so peaceful and nature-oriented.

What I really loved about the cycleways was that it was always separate from roads with huge trucks and cars hurtling by. There were also bike check points where there was bike tools and air pumps attached with wire that anyone could use for free.

Hydro-dam near Engelhartzell

Once we reached the dam which cut across the Donau, we knew we were close to our destination.

Lunch in Engelhartzell

And we made it! The Engelhartzell township was even tinier than Schärding, but it was packed full of charm all the same.

Old-school ferry picking up cyclists from the other side

We had lunch at the yellow ferry house next to the river and we could see the tiny ferry going across the river every time somebody that wanted to catch it rang a hand bell from the other side. In our age of super technology, it was so cute to see simple systems like this still being used.

The boating life

In no time at all, it was time to catch our ferry back home up the river. This was the part I was most looking forward to and it was just as relaxing as I was anticipating!

Rising with the water being let into the lagoon

When we reached the dam, the boat was lead into a lagoon where gates closed in after us and water was let in until we rose to the same height as the river on the other side.

Back home to glorious Passau!

A few hours of chillaxing on the boat and we were back in Passau. My dad and I really enjoyed our two days of biking together – it was nice to have some dad-daughter time again! And of course my dad fell in love with Passau too…but how could you not? Look at that view!

So did you like our two day cycling adventure in Austria? 

Is it something you would like to do too?




Vienna: The Imperial Palaces, Magnificent Museums and Iconic Cafés


We went to Vienna last weekend for a three day holiday and I was completely blown away by the city. The buildings were magnificent; I’d never seen so many beautiful buildings in such a concentrated area before. Every corner we turned, there was another amazing structure to be awe-struck by – I’m pretty sure we walked around the city centre dragging our jaws along the ground with us!

Vienna or Wien is the capital of Austria and it used to be the imperial capital of the Austrian Empire which was ruled by the Habsburg Monarchy. The city is known for its musical and artistic legacy and is considered one of the most livable cities in the world.

Upper Belevedere

Our hotel was located near the famous Belvedere complex, so naturally we went to check that out first. The Upper and Lower Belvedere are Baroque palaces that were built as a summer residence for Prince Eugene of Savoy, who was a general in the imperial army.

Lower Belvedere

The two buildings are used as art museums and have beautifully manicured lawns, fountains and flower gardens surrounding them (look at those perfectly pointy trees!).

Hall of Grotesques, Lower Belvedere

The Lower Belvedere holds temporary art exhibitions and the Upper Belvedere is home to Austrian art dating back to the middle ages. It is most famous for its huge Gustav Klimt collection including The Kiss. I am still so disappointed that we didn’t have enough time to go into the Upper Belvedere exhibition!


We had perfect weather while we were in Vienna – three days of temperatures over 30 degrees with not a single cloud in the sky! After visiting Belvedere we stumbled upon the fountain at Karlsplatz, which people were swimming in to cool off in the heat.


The St. Stephan’s Cathedral or Stephansdom is the most important religious building in Vienna. There is also a Stephansdom in Passau (where I live) which was supposedly built in a similar Gothic style to the Vienna one before it was burnt down in a town fire and rebuilt in Baroque style.

Hofburg Palace

Hofburg Palace in the centre of the city was the residence of monarchs of the Habsburg dynasty and also houses the Winter Riding School of the famous Lipizzan horses of the Spanish Riding School. I remember reading a book called The Star of Kazan by Eva Ibbotson when I was younger which featured the Spanish Riding School – does anyone else remember reading that book?

Emperor Franz Josef I and Empress Elisabeth

In the Hofburg Palace we went to the Sisi museum, which showed the life of the beloved Empress Elisabeth of Austria, Queen of Hungary. I found it fascinating to learn about her life and she seemed very modern minded, which was sometimes not taken so well in her own time.


Sisi was born in Munich to Bavarian royalty and met Franz Josef when she was fifteen, who became infatuated with her even though it was Sisi’s older sister he was there to meet. They married and Sisi moved to Vienna to start her royal duties. Throughout her life Sisi disliked Viennese court life and preferred to travel and do things on her own. She was famous for her beauty which she kept a strict routine of daily exercises and hours of dressing her long hair to upkeep.

Imperial Apartment tour

The museum also included an audio tour of the imperial apartments where Franz Josef and Sisi lived. The rooms were gorgeous and rich with detail!

Kunsthistorisches Museum

The Museum of Fine Arts or Kunsthistoriches Museum holds the Habsburgs’ art collection and it was amazing from the inside and out.

Inside the museum

Marble staircases and gold leaf decorations adorned the main hallway, along with the huge fresco painted on the ceiling.

Österreichische Nationalbibliothek

The Austrian National Library or Österreichische Nationalbibliothek is also located in the Hofburg and is also another gigantic building which includes four museums and boasts the title of being the largest library in Austria.

University of Vienna

The University of Vienna is one of the oldest and largest universities in Europe. It really looks more like a palace than a university, doesn’t it?

Rathaus (City hall)


Austrian Parliament building


Café Central

Vienna is also famous for its traditional coffeehouses, one of the most iconic being Café Central. The café opened in 1876 and famous people of Austria were noted to be regulars there.

Delectable sweets in Café Central


The arches and columns inside Café Central

A pianist was playing live in the café while we ate and the ambiance was just beautiful.

Our Vienna Cards (Wien Karte)

When we got to the main train station in Vienna, we went to buy the Vienna Card, which cost 21,90 Euros and it was a great investment for our trip. You can buy the 48 hour card or the 72 hour card (which we got) and it enables you to travel on all public transport for free (buses, trams and subway) and gets you discounts for the main attractions and museums in the city. When every museum or palace costs 10 Euros or more to get in, this card seriously came in handy for a cheaper deal.


As you can probably tell, there was A LOT to see in Vienna – almost too much! There is so much fascinating history there, especially involving the Habsburgs that what we saw was just the tiniest tip of the Viennese ice berg. Three days was definitely not long enough!

I already have a mental list of things I missed that I want to see when I go back there, starting with the Upper Belvedere art collection, Albertina, inside the National Library, National History Museum and maybe even a show at the Spanish Riding School.

I’m really looking forward to going back there sometime!

So, did you enjoy my Vienna post? 

Watch this space for my next Vienna post about Schönbrunn Palace!




Salzburg: The Hohensalzburg Fortress, Birthplace of Mozart and The Sound of Music

Looking out over Salzburg Cathedral

Last weekend we went on a road trip to the magnificent city of Salzburg in Austria. It only took two hours to drive there from Passau and it turned out to be an amazing day trip. Salzburg literally means ‘salt fortress’ and it is the fourth largest city in Austria.

Our tickets to the Hohensalzburg Fortress

Salzburg is famous for a lot of things, and one of them is the Hohensalzburg Fortress. It is located on a small hill (called Festungsberg) overlooking the city and it is one of the largest and best preserved medieval castles left in Europe.

The magnificent Hohensalzburg Fortress

You can walk up the hill to the fortress (like we did) or you can take the Festungsbahn cable car right up into the castle. The castle is also known for its private Reisszug line, which was a primitive cable railway built around the 1500’s to provide freight access to the castle – the first of its kind in the world.

Looking out over Salzburg city from the fortress

It cost 8 Euros to get in and it was almost like a small town inside the castle walls. There were a lot of lookout points in the fortress and the view of the city from up there was breathtaking.

The Golden Chamber

The money we paid at the gate also included the admission fee for the museum and viewing the Prince-Archbishop’s residence inside the castle. The Archbishop’s residence had three beautifully preserved rooms and my favourite was The Golden Chamber which was richly decorated with rosettes, golden foliage and animals.

The lookout tower

There was also a part of the castle where you were given a headset to listen to an audio tour in your own language while you looked at various rooms (like the torture chamber). From there the spiral staircase lead up to the 360 degree view of Salzburg from one of the high towers. It was a brilliant experience!

Salzburg Cathedral

After descending the fortress hill, we walked to the Salzburg Cathedral or Salzburger Dom.

The interior dome of the Salzburg Cathedral

The cathedral is a Baroque style Catholic church and the interior, especially the dome, was stunning. It was a kaleidoscope of colours, paintings and intricate engravings!

Salzburg Residenzplatz

Next to the cathedral was the Residenzplatz, which featured the largest Baroque style fountain in middle Europe, which was made of marble and known as Residenzbrunnen.

The marble horses of Residenzbrunnen

There was a lot of imagery of horses throughout Salzburg, from the fountains, to engravings and paintings on buildings to real live horse carriages traveling on the roads.

Horse carriages

From the Residenzplatz, we meandered through the Salzburg Altstadt or ‘old town’ which is known for its well-preserved Baroque architecture and it is marked as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The birthplace of Mozart at no. 9 Getriedegasse

18th-century composer Mozart was born in Salzburg and his childhood home was located in the altstadt, which is now a popular tourist destination. The admission fee was 10 Euros so we decided to skip this particular attraction, but you could also visit the Mozart Wohnhaus where he lived later on in his life.

The Sound of Music tour bus

Salzburg is also famous as being the main setting of the 1965 musical film The Sound of Music. My mum loves this film and I watched it with her a lot when I was younger, so she was pretty excited when I told her I was visiting Salzburg!

Mirabell Palace and gardens

As anyone who has seen the film would instantly recognise, the Mirabell Palace gardens were used as a setting for the song sequence of ‘Do-re-mi’.

‘Do-re-mi’ pegasus fountain

The von Trapp children skip and sing around the pegasus fountain (above) and use the garden steps like a scale as they sing (below). The view of the fortress and cathedral from the gardens was also spectacular.

Looking out towards the cathedral and fortress from the Mirabell Gardens

All in all, I really enjoyed Salzburg – a day trip really wasn’t enough to see everything. There is so much history and awe-inspiring sights here that it’s a treasure trove of wonders just waiting to be explored further. I would love to go back and show my mum around (and maybe even take The Sound of Music tour together)!

So, did you like Salzburg as much as I did?

Would you like to visit this city for yourself?