I was very excited about today as I was about to embark on an adventure that I hoped I would remember for a long time. But first I had to explore a bit more of Salzburg before my next tour. After chatting a bit to my roommates and getting ready, I headed out. I stopped in old town again for breakfast. I had a bun and Fanta. Not healthy but I'm on vacation so who cares.
My mission this morning was seeking out Kapuziner Monastery as I had skipped it yesterday. The trek to the monastry was long and steep.
<--a patio on the roof of house. how inventive!
After getting to the top, I took many pictures, walked around and enjoyed the views of the city below.
After this I made my way to town once again for more looking around and enjoyment. I ended up going to a small shop, 'Tea & Co.,' where I bought some lovely gifts for my family and friends.
More walking. I bought some gourmet chocolate which ended up tasting like crap. (After I got home, my friends and I tasted it, gagged and threw it away.) Good times.
At this time, I had to have lunch as the tour I was taking would last a few hours long and it was recommended that tourists have a meal before to ensure they have energy. The day before I had seen a restaurant that just made me smile. It is called, 'Pasta and Vino'. Right in the middle of Austria! Loved it therefore I had to eat there. Lunch today was pasta, zuccinni and spetzi.
At this point, I onwarded to the hostel where the bus would pick up the group for the guided tour, Ice Caves!! The bus was about 20 minutes late picking us up but when they finally came, we were transfered to a comfort tour bus where we met up with other travellers and started the journey.
The tour bus drove apprx. 1 hour to the small city of Werfen, where apparently "nothing happens". People just live in this city but that is about it. It is a really small town that has no night life or day life for that matter.
Pics from the bus ride
After arriving in Werfen, the bus made its way up a part of the Austrian alps. At the point where the road for automotives ended, it was time for the hike! We had to walk about 40 minutes in total almost completely straight up hill to reach the gondola section of the trip.
After puffing but enjoying the gorgeous views on the way up, I made it to the lift. On the way, I met two girls (from the same hostel I was staying at no doubt) from Australia. We chatted a bit but we were mainly concentrating on getting up the seeminlgly endless mountainside. I did take some picture on the way and the higher I went, the more breathtaking the views became. But, I was still afaid to go too close to the edge so my photos are all snaps from afar...sort of.
The guide told us that this cable car has the steepest climb in the entire world and after being in it, I can believe it! The experience was alright but at one point, about 3 seconds in total, the car swung a bit too much and I had to close my eyes as I immediately pictured us hurtling through the air and crashing into the side of the mountain. After I opened my eyes however, I discovered the ride was over and we were safe. Next? More climbing.
The next hike was about twenty minutes up. At this point, it had started to rain so the picture taking was scaled back as I just wanted to get out of the rain and feel my legs again.
After the hike, I finally saw the caves mouth and was really excited as now, the adventure would start.
Our guide for the ice caves was an Austrian dude who was not only funny and entertaining but very easy on the eyes.
The tour started with the first ascent of 300 steps within the ice caves! I have to say that thanks to the gym and the gorgeous sculptures around me, I barely even noticed the climb. I was too enthralled with the history of the caves and the ice formations. This Eisriesenwelt (ice giant) is an all natural limestone cave and is the largest in Europe!
NOTE: If you ever take this tour, there are 1400 steps in total. 700 up and 700 down.
The pictures didn't really turn out too beautiful (we weren't supposed to take pictures but everyone was flashing so I followed the leader) but it was spectacular, let me tell you.
This tour was the highlight of my stay in Salzburg by far and I am happy that I chose this over the Sound of Music.
After all the hubbub, the tour ended and we made our way down this section of the Austrian alps and back to the bus. If you ever get a chance to do the tour, please do it! It is great fun, exciting and exilerating all in one tidy package. However, make sure you bring gloves as the temperatures are well below the freezing mark and despite the climbing and freezing sweat, your hands get really cold.
When we came out of the cave, this is what we were enveloped in! A thick cloak of cloud. Stunning!
The cloud cleared quickly but the view on the way down was just as beautiful as coming up.
At the half way point, we stopped for a small treat at a mountain side restaurant which specialized in apfelstrudel (apple studel). Of course the entire group had a yummy piece. I downed mine was a hot chocolate. Well deserved after todays excursion.
Back at the hostel, I met my first email/exchange/hostel friend. Her name is Leila and she is from Brazil. We were both waiting to ask the reception some questions when she asked me if I was traveling alone. I answered yes and she said she was also. I was startled as I saw her on the tour bus earlier today but she was with another woman who I just assumed was her travelling friend. She told me that she just met that girl last night in her room. Leila was travelling around Europe on a 21 day Eurorail pass and having a great time so far. She told me that so far she visited a few places in Italy and was thinking of making her way to Switzerland after Austria but had changed her mind. She explained that she found Austrian people to be nice but not friendly. They smiled but were cool at the same time. I had to agree. They seemed like lovely people but they were just....reserved...not very warm. She planned on going to the train station the next morning to change her ticket from Zurich to Venice as she loved the atmosphere and warmth she received from the people of Italy. She said she couldn't handle anymore cold smiles. I liked her immediately for her honesty.
Leila invited me out to dinner with a couple of her friends she met at the hostel and I readily accepted. We went to a small Italian restaurant down the street and enjoyed a meal. Leila was hilarious as she ordered soup but was disappointed in the portion. There were about 4 noodles floating in the broth and she said, "As my father says, this can't even fill me eye tooth". I was dying of laughter as I had to agree. Her meal looked kinda sucky but mine was divine. Fettuccini alfredo with shrimp.
After dinner, we made our way to the hostel and quicky changed again and hit up the Austian night scene. We ended up at some Irish Pub (what's new?), O'Malleys where we threw back a few cold ones and enjoyed some good conversation. I was a bit disappointed as I really wanted to dance but the other girls were tired from the hike earlier today so I acquiesced. We headed back around 1am and I stumbled into the room and tried not to trip over things and make too much noise as to not disturb my slumbering roommates.
The next morning, I had nothing planned so I hung around with some hostel mates and watched The Sound of Music until it was time to board my train. Salzburg is pretty small and I was Salzburged out at this point. I saw what I wanted to see and explored what I needed. I craved to move on. I am not really a lounge around the pool all day kind of girl on vacation so I was itching to move on. Eventhough moving on meant leaving Austria and returning to Stuttgart, I was excited. I had new things to tackle at work and I was excited to talk to my family and friends. Basically, I liked Austria and would like to visit more of it, but it was time to go home.
On the train, I settled in and I think I slept the whole ride as I can't remember too much about it. The one thing about train rides, at least most long distance ones, is the comfort and no-stress factor. After your ticket is checked, it is basically time to sit back and read or drink beer/wine/whatever or sleep or look out the window or chat. Just a good time to veg. Despite sleeping on the train, I stumbled into bed early that night. It was great being home.