Ninth Email- The Austrian Tour

Sent 12.1.06


This is part two of my Christmas break trip, if you missed the first part, it is probably sitting further down in your email inbox or can be found at my website (along with a lot of pictures) at I would recommend reading that first, otherwise I may be talking about things here that you haven't heard at all yet.

Skiing in Kirchberg was awesome, but that was not the end of my vacation by any means. When I set out into Europe, I had about three things planned for sure: the flight to Europe, 6 days of skiing, and a flight home out of a small little airport in Germany on January 7th. The rest of the dates were largely unplanned, although I had some ideas of cities I wanted to visit. Salzburg and Vienna were two of these cities, and that was where I set out to after leaving Kirchberg.

This would actually be my third separate time in Salzburg in a week. I flew into the airport and spent a total of an hour in the city before catching my train to Kirchberg. We then went on a day trip to the city during our time in Kirchberg. I can talk about that real quick. Of course the weather decided to be uncooperative, so as we got there it was snowing, which gradually changed into rain. That was not helping things, but we still tried to make the most of the trip. We started out by wandering the Altstadt, or old city. Salzburg has a very pretty Altstadt, which probably consists of many reconstructed buildings after the war, but they did the job well. Many of the old buildings still line the river, and there are several entrances into the city along these buildings. We then ventured inside, where we visited the Christkindlmarkt, or Christmas markets. Salzburg has one of the more famous markets in Germany and Austria. It is even to the point where the shopkeepers start speaking English before German because there are so many tourists. It was still very nice, however. (Dublin actually had a German Christmas market this year as well, but I did not visit it before I left. I did hear it was pricy, which is not at all surprising.) Glühwein helped to keep us warm, as it is sold at many of the stands in the market. We then went to visit the Dom du Salzburg, which is very nice on the inside, and went through a lot of reconstruction because of WWII. We then walked around the city a bit more and found a place to eat & drink, and warm up from the cold weather. We then took a final trip over to Mirabellgarten, which was featured in The Sound of Music, although not in its wintertime state.

So back to the 'present'. Being December 26th, the trains were running on a Sunday/Holiday schedule, so that did not help my plans. The goal was to spend most of the day in Salzburg, and then leave the next day for Vienna. I ended up getting into Salzburg later than expected because of the train schedule, around 5 pm and the sun had already set. I did a little looking into hostels on the train, as I had not booked at all in advance. There was one near the train station, which I eventually found. It was a pretty good deal at €17 for a night, sheets provided. It was also quite clean and had warm showers, which is not a guarantee in every European hostel. Even though I had arrived late, I still wanted to take advantage of the time there. I walked around the city at night, seeing many things I had seen days earlier but "in a different light" (that was a terrible joke, sorry). It actually set a precedent for the rest of the trip; seeing things during the day and night gives two different views of a city, and I would recommend this to pretty much anyone travelling Europe, or anywhere for that matter. I ended up walking up to the Fortress overlooking the city, which was a beautiful view at night. It was free to enter at night, and well worth the walk.

Salzburg, along with many other cities I later visited, had an ice skating rink. I headed over there for a while and actually decided to rent some skates and give it a shot for a while. I had done it earlier in Dublin, so I was not too bad, and it was cool to be skiing in the shadows of mountains. Afterwards, I headed over to a bar that the Innsbruck kids had recommended. That was fun, and they spoke English there.

The next day I decided to leave Salzburg relatively early, so I could spend most of the day in Wien (Vienna). The train schedule was not the problem this time- I made it there in early afternoon, but the weather was terrible. It was snowing a lot and very cold on arrival, so I quickly headed to another unreserved hostel to get a bed for the night. I actually only made one reservation for a hostel this whole trip, and that was for my room in Munich on New Year's night. They are unnecessary in most cities, and it saves you a lot of time and hassle booking things online when you really don't need to.

I attempted to walk around and enjoy as much of the city as I could, but it was not very enjoyable with the weather. It got cold very quick, so I spent some time just riding the tram that circles the centre of the city to warm up a bit, which was not a complete waste as you do see a lot of the architecture from riding this circle, and it gave me many ideas of what to see the next day. I would recommend that people do this if they go to Vienna, whether or not the weather forces you to. I eventually headed back to my hostel to clean up a bit in the in-room shower, a real rarity in Europe. I then headed downstairs to happy hour at the bar, where €1 got you a beer. I also had a successful run on the pool table of around 5 games, which isn't bad for not picking up a cue in 4 months or so. I then headed back out into the city to the hostel where the Angers, France girls that I met in Kirchberg were staying for the night; their 'hostel' was more bar than hostel, so I figured they would be sitting there. They had gone straight from Kirchberg to Vienna, and this was their second night there. I sat down at the bar for a bit, and they walked in about 30 minutes after I got there, and it was cool to see people I knew again. We spent a while just sitting around and talking, and I headed back to my hostel around 2 am. I definitely slept in the next morning since I was spending two nights in Vienna.

The weather had to be better the next day, right? Of course not. More snow, and even a bit colder. I wasn't going to let that stop me, so I headed into the city and started at Stephansplatz, the location of Stephansdom, a very recognizable church in Vienna. It has always been under construction, and I have some pictures of that. One tour guide I overheard said she had lived in Vienna 20 years and had never seen the church without scaffolding. The inside was beautiful, which can be said about almost any church in Europe. I then started walking around the city, taking as much of it in as I could with the weather the way it was. I eventually got too cold so walked into the Hofburg Palace, which ended up having a museum that I visited. The collections were slightly random: musical instruments, and medieval arms and armnaments. It was still nice to walk through and the palace itself was quite decorated.

After warming up a bit, I headed out to Schloß Schönbrunn, which is a more modern (Baroque style) palace located just outside Vienna. It is huge, with an accompanying huge garten in back. It got dark fast, so I headed back to my hostel, where I ended up staying in for the night because it was so cold. The next morning I woke up relatively early and took advantage of the breakfast all-you-can-eat buffet, and then found one of the weirder sights in Vienna, which you can probably pick out from looking at my pictures.

The one thing I really enjoyed in Vienna were the pizza snacks. There are stands set up all over the city, which serve up a quarter of a pizza for a little over €2. It is a pretty good deal, and was my lunch (and sometimes dinner) on my time in Vienna. It was also a good way to stay warm, as they would put the slices back in the oven for a minute after you bought them to make them nice and hot.

Next stop: Regensburg, Germany, to visit a friend I met here in Blackrock that attends school there. It's crazy to have friends that live in Europe.

Keep in touch,

Dan McGee
Mobile: +353 87 056 4163