Thursday, November 24, 2011

Vienna to Bratislava - One day in Vienna

I found these two images of Vienna, that I took when we arrived.  As I said before, I had no tripod, so this image was taken by putting the camera on top of a crate!  Lots of renovation work going on which is why there are wooden crates everywhere...

And this is the torte we shared in the cafe before heading back to the hostel.  It was cold as well, so I also had a hot chocolate.  Very nice, but a bit rich after our stomach problems!!
As we only had one day in Vienna, we picked up a self walking tour of Vienna from the hostel reception.  So we stuck to that.  Anne was up fairly early - I took a little longer to get moving, but we were out the door by 8.00am.  We took the U4 to Schonbrun Palace which the walking tour recommended, especially for the gardens.  Both Anne and I were blown away by the beauty and sheer size of them, and Anne mentioned they were the best Palace gardens she had ever seen.

Being Autumn made it even more beautiful in my opinion. We wandered down pathways totally covered in a canopy of autumn leaves...
 One pathway, after another...
And another - it was hard to choose which path to go down.  Did I mention it was really beautiful?  There were lots of local people walking, running and wandering through the gardens, and a few tourists like ourselves as well.  If I lived in Vienna, I would be wanting to visit this place on a regular basis.
We came out of the pathway to the back of the Palace.  Very imposing, beautiful and large.  Imagine living here!  Which room would you take?  You wouldn't like to drink to much the night before, you may forget which room you were in!
Opposite the back of the palace was a sweeping avenue that takes you to the Gloriette.  I would have liked to go up, but my foot was too sore and it would have taken too long.  Plus it was steep.  Anne did ask if the horse and carts took you up, but it was even too steep for those.
At the bottom of the hill to the right was the oldest zoo in the world.  Unfortunately it wasn't open as it was too early so we didn't get to see it, however we did walk around it a bit.  We didn't see the labyrinth or the exotic palm house, or the rebuilt 'roman ruins' in the park - it was simply too big to see everything!
Back under the canopy, we stopped here and had our schnitzel that we had saved from the night before, for breakfast.  Very yummy in a lovely place.
Which path to take?  You can see about 5 different pathways going off in different directions here...
Through another path to a fountain completely surrounded by a double row of fir trees..
An arbor taking you to another part of the palace garden..
Then around to the front of the palace.  Lots of horse and cart rides you could take around the grounds. Quite pricey too so we didn't take one!
We decided to do a tour of the palace, but first I had to use the public toilets inside the palace.  They were rather posh with painted leaves on each door...
And my view of the cubicle from inside the loo!  I know - very unconventional but I couldn't resist it was amazing!
We did he tour around the palace and Anne ordered a wheelchair for me to save my foot.  I didn't realise that you weren't allowed to take photos.  This was he third one I took before I got told off.  But it shows you the beauty, wealth and art within its wall. Very 'palatial' and grand.
The front of the palace as we were leaving.
Back to the metro line U4 to catch the metro to Karlsplatz.  Here we saw the Opera House and we were approached so many times to get tickets to see the opera that night.  We said so many times that we weren't going to be in Vienna that night!!!  I forgot to take a photo of the Opera House!!

We walked across the square then strolled along Karntnerstrabe.  Along here were lots of stores from the most expensive and posh clothing chains to souvenir shops and McDonalds.  Unfortunately for us, everything except the souvenir shops were closed because it was Sunday.  (Or maybe that was fortunate!)

A beautiful new building on the corner reflecting the old St Stephens church in its windows...
St Stephens Cathedral.  Very imposing and the highest religious building in Vienna.  Once again it was Sunday and a service was in progress so we weren't able to get the guided tours.  We could have climbed the 343 steps up to the top of the cathedral to see the most glorious view of Vienna.  Alternatively we could have got the elevator up on the other side which wasn't as high but still amazing.  I decided I wasn't up to the 343 steps but we did enquire about the elevator.  Unfortunately that was closed until the afternoon so we carried on...

Inside the cathedral a service was in progress so we couldn't walk around...
Outside - very gothic looking, the church was founded in 1137.
Adjacent to the cathedral on Stephansplatz, there is an ample road that almost looks like a square called the Graben which is another main street of the city.  We wandered down there passing a number of memorials and fountains.  We arrived at St Peters Church which is on the site of the oldest church in Vienna possibly dating back to the early middle ages.  St Peters Church was begun in 1701, the design was inspired by St Peters Basilica in Rome.
Not huge, but very beautiful inside with an amazing domed ceiling with amazing art.  Once again a service was in progress so we could not explore.
Back outside we came across some fun statues...

To Hofburg Palace.  In front of the palace where everyone was milling around, is an excavation site of roman ruins...
Vienna was built on top of an ancient roman city.
Hofburg palace currently serves as the residence of the President of Austria, but has housed some of the most powerful people in Austria.  It has been the documented seat of government since 1279 for various empires and republics.  The oldest sections of the palace date from the 1300s, and form a square, in which a gothic chapel from the 15th century is situated.
We didn't go on the Hofburg Palace tour seeing we had done the Schonbrunn that morning.  Instead we walked through Hofburg Palace to the other side onto Heldenplatz, crossed it and followed on to the two huge national museums which face each other.  One was the Museum of Natural History.  Turn 180 degrees...
And the other is the Museum of fine arts.  I'm not sure which was which though!!!
My foot gave up here.  Couldn't walk a step further.  We were in great need of sustenance as well and Anne wanted us both to experience the Sacher Torte at the Sacher Hotel.  So we caught the tram back to the Opera House area and got instructions from one of the ticket sellers where to go.  I walked on while Anne got instructions and when he found Anne was English he got her to help her with some English grammar on a play he was writing.  I wondered where she had got to!! 

We then queued up at the Sacher Hotel at their cafe (Cafe Sacher)  which I don't have a photo of but you can view it here.  It took about 20 minutes before a table became free.  We were ushered to a coat service where they took our coats, then we got a table for two and shared the famous Sacher Torte.  This is the worlds most famous chocolate cake.  Well worth a look and if you are in Vienna, this is well worth going to. If you can't get to vienna to try it and you want to try it, you can treat yourself by having it delivered to you through the website!!

After the Sacher Torte we headed back to the hostel where our car was parked, picking up a bottle of Austrian bubbly to drink in Bratislava, picked up our luggage, and drove to Bratislava which was an hours drive away from Vienna.  I took some grab shots out of the car on the way of some of the many wind farms we passed.  Actually everywhere we went in Europe were alternative methods of power - mainly wind and solar.  I even saw a 'solar' farm.  Even in greece most of the buildings had solar power and after seeing this, I think New Zealand is not as 'green' as they try to make out to be - we have a long way to go before we catch up to the rest of Europe!!

We arrived in at our hotel in Bratislava about 5pm - it was really nice, quite luxurious with a glass elevator going up outside the building, which we figured would be cold in winter!  Very modern.  We popped the wine in the fridge, then headed out to explore the town and get some dinner.

We drove into the city centre as we were a bit far to walk.  We got a bit lost but saw a policeman, so drove up to him to ask directions to where the carpark was.  He got a policeman who spoke english, and gave us directions to the carpark, then asked us for our passports, and proceeded to fine us with driving where we were.  Apparently the road we were on was only for taxi's and people who lived there.  I was a bit miffed about this as we were obviously lost, couldn't read Slovakian road signs, and we had actually approached them to help us!!!  He charged us 10 euros, saying that it could have been 60 euros.  Grrrr!

We then parked the car, and started walking - coming across a really neat little Christmas market.  We bought some handmade decorations.  We found a great place for dinner and ordered local dishes.  Anne couldn't decide what to have, so halfway through our meal, our waiter bought out a small plate of the other dish Anne was tossing up whether to have or not, for her to try.   Wouldn't charge us for it either, so we left a generous tip.

We headed back to the hotel and Anne went to the gym while I collapsed on the bed.  When she came back we drank the bottle of bubbly, and that's when we found our fridge was totally complimentary!!  We emptied it!!! So Anne has Slovakian beer on her dressing table in Amsterdam!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Salzburg to Vienna

As I said in the previous blog, we were staying in the Villa Von Trapp, the original homestead of the Von Trapp family of the Sound of Music fame.  I took some photos in the morning as it was getting dark when we arrived the night before.  Hanging in the entranceway was a family portrait of all the children...

This was the front of the house.  We were up on the 3rd floor in that attic window above the front door (I think!).
This is the back of the villa.  On the far left is the dining room where we had breakfast.
It was a frosty morning as you can see on the grass.  This is the view of the mountain from the lawn.  The sun was just coming up.
Rabbits were on the lawn - I have no idea if they were wild, or whether they were pets.  They didn't really let me near them, had to use my 300mm lens.

Using the same lens the view from the dining window...
We checked out then headed to the meeting point for the Sound of Music Tour - a bus trip that Anne had booked for us a few weeks prior when we were planning the trip.  On the side of bus was a painting of the characters of the movie.  The tour operator pointed out that Julie Andrew doesn't look like she's singing here, but looks like she's about to sneeze!!
It was a beautiful morning.  Gorgeous autumn colours everywhere, and I took some grab shots out of the bus window by holding the lens onto the glass.  Not a bad shot really considering the bus was moving at the time. This is the Hohensalzburg Fortress which atop the Festungsberg mountain, and one of the largest medieval castles in Europe.  Construction began in 1077 and expanding in following centuries.  We didn't get to go up in the end as we ran out of time.  A reason to revisit Salzburg in the future!
Our first stop was the Schloss Leopoldskron (Leopold's Crown Palace)  The palace was used as the inspiration for the terrace scenes at the rear of the Captain's villa overlooking the lake, where Maria and the children stood up in their boat and fell into the water.  These first two images are of the lake itself, and as I said before it was a stunning morning...

 And this is the back of the palace itself.  We really couldn't have had a better morning.
Another grab shot from the bus as we were driving to show you how incredibly green and beautiful Austria is..
Our next stop on the tour was the Schloss Frohnburg (Frohnburg Palace).  This is the former summer residence of the Prince-Archbishop, dating back to 1680, and was used in the film as the Von Trapp residence.  (If you look at the Von Trapp Villa above - there's a slight resemblance!!)  The road leading to the palace below, was where Maria stepped off the bus singing 'I have Confidence' as she skipped her way through the gates and across the courtyard to ring the bell.  The actual Von Trapp Villa was not used for the film at all.
The glass gazebo used for the film where Rolf and Liesl sang 'Sixteen going on Seventeen", and Maria and the Captain sang 'Something Good" was constructed for use in the film.  It was left on site after the film was completed and later moved to the grounds of the Hellbrunn Palace.  (just on the other side of the image above).  It is now locked and not available to the public, because an 84 year old woman went in there one evening, decided to do the dance, fell and broke her hip.  The gazebo is now considered too dangerous for the public!

I couldn't resist taking a photo within the grounds of the palace of the lovely autumn trees and pathways...
Back on the bus.  It is now 10.30am and what a perfect time to be drinking Austrian beer, singing songs from the Sound of Music on our way to our next destination....
Lake Wolfgang, (Wolfgangsee) and the town of St Wolfgang east of Salzburg the location of the Schafberg sequence in the film...
Beautiful Autumn trees...
Schafberg (Sheep mountain) where one sequence in the film showed a little red cogwheel train climbing up the mountain with Maria and the children on board.
Another grabshot from the bus...
In the film there was also a bicycle ride when Maria and the children went sightseeing.  This is Mondsee in the Lake District east of the city.
Mondsee Church which is the church that was used filming the wedding scene of Maria and the Captain.  In real life, they actually got married in the Nonnberg Abbey, but it is closed to the public and so filming wasn't able to be done there, instead they used this church which is really lovely...

Mondsee village - really pretty and colourful.
We stopped for 'lunch'.  Anne and I shared an Apple Strudel seeing we weren't able to have one the night before.  It was very yum!
 Village shops.
We had about half an hour to kill before the bus took off back to the city, so Anne and I walked down to the lake edge.

Then back to the city - and some more grab shots from the bus...

After the tour, we walked over to Mirabell Palace - and these are the famous steps used in the Do-Re-Mi scene of the movie.  Note the Fortress in the background.  Very hard to get a photo here as it was so busy.  Plus I saw the dumbest scene, a guy using his iPad as a camera!!  I couldn't believe it!
The Pegasus Fountain behind the palace, which is a symbol of Greek Mythology.  It was here Maria and children marched around the magnificent winged horse.
The Ivy covered archway - a long rose and ivy covered arbor on the south side of the Mirabell Gardens.  Maria and the children had fun dancing and running races while exploring the gardens while singing Do-Re-Mi.
The gardens were beautiful - lots of people just sitting and enjoying, and walking there on this perfect day.
 The Dwarf garden where the children patted the dwarf while singing Do-Re-Mi.
Me on the Do-Re-Mi steps...
We then picked up the car from the carpark and started driving to Vienna.  I was sorry to leave Salzburg - it was such a gorgeous place.  We stopped off at Melk at John and Beths (Brother and wife), recommendation.  It was getting cold and I was hungry, so we had a quick bite to eat from one of the cafe's there, and walked through the town...

Above the town is an amazing Abbey, which unfortunately we didn't have time to go and view it.  It is fairly old - founded in 1089. 

After a half hour whistle stop, we carried on to Vienna.  Traffic got heavier and heavier as we got closer!!  We stayed in Wombats hostel in Vienna which was excellent - very clean and quiet.  It was across the road from the market - so we walked across there and had Schnitzel for dinner.  Our appetites still weren't perfect,  and the serving was too much, (two pieces of Schnitzel), so once again plastic bags came to our rescue and we popped the meat into the bag, and popped it in the fridge over night.  After we ate, we wandered down the main circle seeing massive buildings which we recognised as Museums on our walking tour the next day!  We finished up in a Museum cafe with a hot chocolate and some torte before heading back to the hostel!  I can see I need more time in Austria!