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Roaming around Salzburg in slightly more than a pair of old drapes…

Our time in Munich was short lived, just enough hours for some delicious Turkish food with the beautiful Krissi, a quick tour of her stunning flat and a good nights sleep. Wednesday awoke with a grey grumble as the pair of us took advantage of amazing showers and some peace and quiet. It was a gentle start to the day. After leaving Krissi’s we had to find our way to the bus stop (having received directions in the back of a car whilst it was pitch black and raining outside) then the S-Bahn and finally to the Hauptbahnhof in Munich. We got there with enough time to enjoy the vast array of coffee shops available (England needs to buck up its ideas!) before finding our way to platform 10 and boarding our train. Now, I’m sure I’m not the only one guilty of not really listening to announcements when in public places/on transport…more often than not they’re of absolutely no interest or relevance to you so you learn to just sort of switch off. However, when the announcement ends ‘once again, if your final destination is Salzburg please disembark and board the train up the platform’ you’re very glad your brain decided to switch back into gear!! So pastries went back into paper bags, suitcases came back off of luggage racks and we pelted down the platform to the correct train. Phew! Salzburg here we come!! 
It’s a quick and easy journey from Munich to Salzburg (luckily as I’ll be doing it in reverse on Friday!!) and within 2 hours we were there, quite alive with the sound of music, 16 going on 30 and ready for all our favourite things! Jen had booked us into Hotel Lasserhof, a really lovely place less than 10 minutes walk from the station with super friendly receptionists, cosy rooms and a delicious breakfast. One to remember! Another benefit is it’s also less than 10 minutes walk from the beautiful Meribel gardens which we went to explore after ditching the bags. First Sound of Music location ticked off! This is where they filmed the doe, re, mi scenes skipping around the fountain and up the steps etc. There were quite a few Asian tour groups taking selfies and posing amongst the statues, but no one appeared to be jumping up the stairs or skipping through the gazebos…it was lucky we were there really!! 

Oddly for a Wednesday most of the shops, sights and pretty much anything we walked by seemed to be closed. There were also an unprecedented number of men in uniform around, surrounded by guns, tanks and even boats patrolling the river. Just as we were about to assume there’d been a coup we hadn’t heard about the lady in the (thankfully open) tourist office explained it was a national holiday. Ah ha! Funny how everything makes sense when someone explains it. October 26th is the Austrian day of independence, where they declared future neutrality in all conflicts following the Second World War. Nicely for us this also meant there were lots of people in national dress, displays of music and dancing and also the museums were free admission. Sweet! Neither Jen nor I are huge museum buffs, but if it’s free why not. Firstly we stopped in an extremely Austrian looking restaurant for something traditional to eat. Sadly the waiter didn’t appreciate my attempts to speak German (first time I’ve been told not to try…”please just speak English” he sighed. Long day perhaps.) but he was happy to bring us soup and then dessert so you can’t hate him too much (though still hoping he hadn’t spat in anything!!) We had beef (I know) broth with a cheese dumpling, followed by a sweeter dumpling with rhubarb sauce and apple strudel…yum!!

Energised we ventured into the Salzburg museum and tried to explore as much of it as possible before it closed in 40 minutes. It was largely to do with a history of the town, which has been invaded more times than I’d care to count…goodness knows how the people kept up with which country they were a part of this week, I have trouble remembering Teresa May is PM!! The upper floor was a really amazing ode to music, with all sorts of amazing and intricate instruments on display. It smelled amazingly of scented wood in there, sadly we only found it as the announcements that the museum was closing were ringing out. Ah well! 

From there we got enticed into (I don’t know what’s come over me…first beef, now…) a Christmas shop! The place was filled with incredibly decorated egg shells, in a million colours and styles. Everything from Salzburg ones, Easter, Halloween, dogs, cats, and of course Christmas. I don’t know how you’d choose!! 

Having eaten quite late it seemed too soon to go back to the hotel, but the world around us was growing dark and quiet…what to do what to do…bar? Bar!  A handful of delicious cocktails and too many bowls of free savoury snacks later and it was certainly time for super important paperwork, FaceTiming people at home and then bed. Official Sound of Music tour tomorrow, who’s excited?!



On top of the Hungarian world…

On top of the Hungarian world…

The last day in Hungary had to be spent doing some touristy shiz, so we left our bags in the luggage store, hopped on a metro (our feet were walked out!) and headed towards the central market hall. One recurring theme on this trip has to be Luci exclaiming at how easy everything is, and navigating the Hungarian underground was no exception. Within 10 minutes we emerged into brilliant sunshine by the Danube and were soon meandering the many fruit, veg and ‘tourist tat’ stalls of the citys main market.
Having been strongly recommended the street food style vendors of the upper floors, breakfast was our first port of call. “We can see how much we have left to spend on souvenirs, after breakfast’ says Tig, as we strolled by delicious looking dishes of all shapes and sizes. Around halfway through the stalls my eyes focused on a huge glass of fruit filled lemonade, just as Luci’s honed in on a stuffed cabbage…we’d found ‘the one’! Not really sure of the system, but seeing some huge portions around, we decided to share a single plate….stuffed cabbage, sourkraut, mixed salad, a sprinkle of olives…then time for the bill. That little lot came to £16, making it by far and beyond the most expensive meal of the trip so far…most others haven’t reached £15 for both of us!

Stomachs full and souvenirs purchased we had a decision to make…trains to Bratislava left at 1.25, 3.25 and 5.25…which one to choose? Enjoying the stunning sunshine and generally atmosphere of the city too much to rush we settled on the middle option, with the later as a backup in case of calamity. Across the river from our sunspot Tig spied a fairytale castle carved into the cliff edge, worth a look. It turned out to be a church carved into the caves, which shares a name with one of the saddest Welsh legends; Gellért…but is apparently a Hungarian form of Gerard, named after someone who was thrown to their death from the hill above. Great bedtime story huh? It is thought the spring within these caves was the source of the nearby Gellért Baths. We overheard a tour guide telling their group that the Red Army had closed off the church in the 1950’s with a huge wall of concrete, and it had only reopened in 1991 after the fall of the wall. It’s amazing how recently all these things happened, and how different life was here just a short while ago.

A leafy green park surrounded the cave, so off we set in the general direction of up, up, and more up! 235m of up (I felt like I was back on the inca trail) until we reached the Liberty Statue, built to commemorate those who sacrificed their lives for the independence, freedom, and prosperity of Hungary. She’s a pretty impressive lady, touring over the Danube and visible from most spots on both the Buda and Pest sides. 

Having walked, shopped, gazed and sightseen it was most definitely time for coffee…which may have accidentally become cocktails, and lunch. Well, Hungarian Florint wasn’t going to get us far in Slovakia now was it! Watching further preparations for the Palinka Festival whilst catching some rays and sipping on Budapests versions of Tom Collins and Espresso Martini we weren’t sure we’d ever be ready to leave…but the next country was calling, to Bratislava! 
We arrived at the international station around 10 to 5 and located the ticket office, which operated a cheese counter esque system where you take a ticket and wait. Our number was 318…the current number 303…time till we’ve missed the train…29 minutes. This was going to be fun! The agonising seconds stretched out even more by the fact that everything here was done by hand…where was no computer, no ticket printing; our lovely helpful ticket lady wrote them all manually, stopping for a chat with her friend midway through to really add to the drama of running for a train. But we made it, phew! 

And what a view 🙂 

Enjoying the sunset, the last of our polish snacks, and for me writing blogs, the 2 and a half hour journey was over in no time. Country and city number 4 was beneath our feet! Our hostel is located around 2 minutes walk from the station, so within 10 minutes we were safely encamped in the Italy room of Hostel Possonium, enjoying the wonderful graffiti left behind by some truly charming previous travellers. Just to give you a brief snapshot…from my bed I can see 4 penis’s and multiple 4 letter words including the C-bomb. Also, Rob and Joe would like you to know that together they are ‘prankenstein’…I could go on. But the beds are comfy, and the garden bar outside offered a free welcome drink and some great stories from the bartender, a local guy called Lucas. Lucas has worked in/around this hostel for 9 years, but tonight was his last shift…which may explain why instead of 1 free shot we had 4, and he let us go behind the bar to make our own waffles. What a dude! 

Having ascertained that most of what there is to see in Bratislava can be done in just over an hour we’ve decided to add an extra city (country 29 baby!!) to our list and pop over to Vienna for the day tomorrow. Why not hey? 

A day of travelling 

Our last morning at Czocha was a bit of a whirlwind. Having checked the train time the previous night and booked a taxi all we had to do was pack…until we realised the train was half an hour before we thought, oops!! Luckily we had the type of driver who understood the actions for ‘step on it!’ and made it in good time. Whizzing through the Polish countryside we were really struck how beautiful, but poor, it seems to be. At least one in three buildings are either ruined or unfinished, roads unkept and cars left abandoned by the roadside.

The station looked like many other buildings we have seen in Poland so far, run down and slightly tumbling; reminiscent of something which was once beautiful, but is now just kind of a working ruin. After 5 minutes or so a little two carriage train trundled onto the middle track; luckily there were others waiting or else I’m not sure Luci and I would have gone against many years of ‘DON’T WALK ON TRAIN TRACKS!’ and crossed over to board. Another first time experience for us!

Travelling by train in Poland feels eerie. You cannot help looking at rusted tracks running alongside the well used modern ones and wondering if they were the tracks used to transport hundreds of thousands of families to the concentration camps and gas chambers which litter the countryside. Perhaps I’m being morbid, but it was a thought which struck us both. 

Our next train was far more fitting two girls who had just completed a term at a College of Wizardry, with individual compartments which offered all mod cons like your own temperature gauge, announcement volume control and showed facts about how fast we were travelling and other interesting snippets. Yup, this was the way to travel! Until the conductor came along and informed us this was first class and could we kindly pay up or leave…oops!!

Seemingly not long after (but actually 6 hours) we pulled into Kraków. Usually at this point I’d be trying to find tourist maps and working out my orientation, but travelling with Luci is a breath of fresh air – the girl is so organised! She whipped out a printed nap and we were off, strolling through a lovely ‘planty garden’ (aka park) in the direction of our hostel. Most people travel by tram or bus but, as we know, the best way to see a city is to walk it!

It took around 15 minutes to reach the street meant to house the B Movie hostel. Staying in hostels can be a bit hit and miss, usually with the standards of cleanliness, bed comfort and amenities varying greatly from place to place, but the people always being awesome. In Kraków we lucked out. The B Movie hostel greeted us with a long wait in the rain outside a dilapidated gate, with a worn sign which even had a hardened traveller wondering if perhaps I’d finally been duped and this place had closed 10 years before. In the end it took visiting asking another nearby hostel to call on our behalf and convincing someone who’d popped out for a cigarette to gain entry. We climbed the dusty spiralling tilled stairs to the first floor and went in, where the receptionist showed little to no concern that the buzzer appeared not to be working. Great start. We were in the Godfather room (not a B Movie, but that’s a separate point entirely).  I was all too aware this was only Luci’s second ever hostel and really wanted something positive to hit…unfortunately this place could only be labelled basic, but shoddy Internet, little to no breakfast and roomies from Indonesia who were freezing cold so the rest of us had to roast alive whilst breathing in the damp air from two loads of drying laundry. Hmm. 

That evening we explored central Kraków, inside the castle walls, losing ourselves in the labyrinth of alcoholes and a seemingly endless array of gelato shops. At the very heart of the city is the market square, apparently one of the largest medieval squares in Europe. It has a really Russian feel (not that I have been there yet!) and is surrounded by elegant townhouses, all with their own unique names, histories and curiosities. Horses and carriages stand in a row offering historic tours of the centre. Unbeknownst to us we wandered the Royal Route, the historical coronation path of the Polish kings when Kraków served as the royal capital from the 14th century to the very end of the 16th century. 

Around 8pm rumbling tummys got the best of us and we set out in search of food. Turned away from our first choice (though with reservations for tomorrow!) we ended up nestled between flame heaters right on the square overlooking the historic Cloth Hall where we enjoyed Bigos – a hunters stew served in a bread bowl. Warming and delicious for only 18zloty (about £3).

Tomorrow, the salt mines. 

Twitter Blogathon Day 4 – The wheels on the bus….

For some reason introducing these blogs makes me think of Sesame Street, do you remember the little bit they did at the end of each episode? “Today’s blog is brought to you by the letter C – for @catnipfields our latest member, and the number 4 because that’s how many of us are now blogging!” Yippee!!

Even though our latest member doesn’t have a blog yet, and won’t be posting till tomorrow, we decided to chuck her in at the deep end and ask her to provide today’s theme. Well it turns out @catnipfields is a jolly good swimmer when it comes to blog selection, took to it like a duck to water, all that stuff and selected ‘Public transport’.

Now being a car owner I must confess I very rarely use public transport these days. The thing that has struck me whenever I have the option to use it (since I left Bristol anyway) is that the majority of the time it’s both cheaper and quicker to drive. Not exactly the best way to encourage people to think of the environment now is it? The thing is, when I do use it, I actually like public transport (I’ll wait for you all to pick yourselves up off the floor….ready? Good).

Perhaps it’s the novelty of it, when you always drive it is really quite nice to just be able to kick back on a bus or train and watch the world go by. I enjoy looking out of the window at the English countryside or towns as they go by and train journeys with mum got me into the habit of enjoying looking into back gardens as we speed past (nosey I know!). Even when I was at university I would use my time on the bus to read, make phone calls or enjoy my iPod and people watch. There’s a saying that goes ‘enjoy the journey as much as the stay’, and while I do like driving, it’s far easier to enjoy a journey when you’re not concentrating on directions and traffic! Sometimes driving can be plain frustrating when you have things on your mind, you want to be getting on with things, but both hands and your eyes are busy so no can do!

In fact thinking about it, I actually met most of my university friends on buses, which makes it far more sociable than non-public transport. Then some of the train journeys I’ve been on have just been COOL! There were the double decker trains in Italy for example (we spent the whole time attempting a Sudoku mind, four of us, one puzzle. Took us practically the entire journey from Rome to Naples) and the night train in Thailand still makes me giggle. Carriage upon carriage of bunk beds, each with their own little ladder, luggage rack and curtain when you wanted some privacy. About an hour into the journey I sent my friend on the bottom bunk a postcard inviting her to a picnic on my bunk; it was all sorts of fun. We had this odd green jelly that came in a little plastic cup with a straw! Then in the morning the conductor came to get you all up so your your beds could be turned into seats for the day passengers. You’ve got to love Thailand!

Iain and I on our train bunk beds!

Don’t get me wrong, road trips can be brilliant. When you have a group of friends (4 max for comfort) and a decent road trip cd ( @iampenbot is an expert at these) then there’s something refreshingly freeing about jumping in the car and heading off to wherever you’re going. For me my car signifies independence, even after 7 years of driving I still get a thrill from getting in my car and being able to go pretty much anywhere. I want to do a driving tour of the states and the Gold Coast of Australia (think Thelma and Louise (with a happier ending) and camper vans respectively) at some point in my life. There was also a plan at some point to see how far we could get into Europe within a week or 10 days (had to get there AND back) until fuel prices got ridiculous. Essentially, I think I like travelling. Seeing new things, potentially meeting new people etc. I even enjoy my commute to work and the sights it offers (for example there is a large corgi style plastic dog attached to a telegraph pole on the way to Cardiff, very bizarre!)…Life is a journey not a destination, so enjoy the journey as much as the stay? Thank you, don’t mind if I do 🙂

Todays blogs:

Miss Peg Daily – I walked under a bus, got hit by a train…
The Blog of Sense – Public transport – It’s far too public.
@catnipfields -Atras palidzibas stacija