Let's dive right in to part 2 of our European trip in October-November! You can see all of the photos by going to my Europe 2014 Photo Gallery.
DAY 6: VIENNA, AUSTRIA
Unfortunately we only had one day in Vienna, which is not enough to see all of the really cool architecture that is there. While we were driving through town to get to the Hofburg Palace, we saw many beautiful churches, the really old ferris wheel in the park, and the parliament building. At Hofburg Palace, we didn't go inside but got to walk around the grounds and see the stables where the Lipizzaner horses are kept.
We then took a walk through the city centre, ending at St. Stephan's Cathedral which is an amazingly gorgeous neo-gothic church (built in the 19th century in the gothic style). The weird thing about it is that it's surrounded by an eclectic array of other styles of buildings:
After thoroughly checking out the church, we walked a little ways to a wonderful ice cream shop as per a recommendation from friends. We had coffee and the most unique ice cream concoctions and it was all SO good!
Next stop, naturally, was the imperial crypt, a museum housing all of the tombs of all of the Austrian monarchy throughout the centuries. It was a plain and simple place but the tombs were incredible. All made of metal and so intricately haunting.
We also checked out the fresh market that had amazing spices, fruits, veggies and snacks for sale, and we walked through the shopping district, stopping of course at my favorite store Desigual to buy more stuff. Lastly, we dined at Zwölf Apostelkeller, or the Twelve Apostles, an underground restaurant that dates back to at least medieval times. We had amazing snitzel and wurst and it was so cool down there!
DAY 7: DÜRNSTEIN, AUSTRIA
Day 7 began with 2 hours in the smallest town I've ever been in. Dürnstein is comprised of only a few hundred people and feels like it never really grew from its medieval size. It's just gorgeous on the banks of the Danube surrounded by lush hillsides and other small towns.
The big thing to do in this town is climb up to the castle ruins. The claim to fame here is that the medieval castle held King Richard the Lionhearted of England prisoner when we came through the region. Unfortunately they are indeed just ruins, so there are bits of walls here and there but not much else to piece together what the whole castle looked like.
Then we walked around town and saw the gorgeous medieval cathedral and other quaint buildings.
DAY 7: MELK, AUSTRIA
After our time in Dürnstein, we hopped back onto the boat and spent a few hours cruising down the Danube taking in the most scenic portion of the river, seeing several adorable small towns. Again, it's amazing that these places seem to be stuck in time, like the world forgot about them. The tiers up the hillsides are vineyards.
In the afternoon we arrived at Melk, which is another very small town but this one is known for its abbey which has been here since the 11th century.
The abbey buildings today are from the 18th century so they are baroque. Lavish rooms held royal visitors, monks to this day study and live there, and the library was the most amazing room of them all: it had floor to ceiling books, all really tall and thick tomes that are hundreds of years old. The last part we saw was the church which I think is the most gaudy baroque church I have ever seen.
The best part of it though? The two skeletons of "saints" in the most awesome poses.
DAY 8: SALZBURG, AUSTRIA
We actually docked in Linz and then had a nice 2-hour bus ride to Salzburg, stopping for a short break at the lake (I forget the name) where some scenes from the "The Sound of Music" movie were filmed.
In Salzburg, our tour was great. We started by seeing Mirabelle Garden, where more scenes from "The Sound of Music" were shot. The palace and gardens date back to the 1600's and the palace is now used as government offices.
Then we walked into the old city centre where there are the most beautiful iron signs for the shops, which are required by law to be hanging for each storefront to preserve the old character of the town.
When the tour was over, taking us to the cathedral and foot of the castle, we wanted to go up to the castle but my foot was hurting a lot and the funicular that runs up the hillside to take you up there was closed. So instead, we found the most amazing cemetery right around the corner. It consists of two church/chapel buildings, one clearly medieval and one half-medieval and half more modern, catacombs which were actually up the side of the hill, and a unique array of graves. Many graves have ornate iron crosses instead of tombstones, so they look really old but they are recent.
DAY 9: PASSAU, GERMANY
Passau, our only stop in Germany, was equally gorgeous. A small town situated on a bit of land surrounded by three conjoining rivers, it gets flooded all of the time. A fortress stands on one hill greeting you as you dock. Again, because we arrived in November outside of the tourist season, there was no shuttle bus up to the fortress, and my foot hurt too bad to climb the hill, so we didn't go up there after our guided tour.
The guided tour in the morning was amazing, though. Our guide was a hilarious art history professor from Scotland (and easy on the eyes) who gave us a lot of extra insight into the architecture of the town and the paintings inside of the cathedral. My favorite place was the Rathaus, or town hall, because it has these gorgeous paintings of the monarchs throughout the ages, as well as a flood meter of the worst floods Passau has seen since the 16th century.
Our guided tour ended with the cathedral, which houses Europe's largest pipe organ. I can't imagine what it sounds like!
So, because we couldn't go to the fortress, we spent the afternoon checking out more of the town. We found more churches to see, we walked to the more modern shopping area and we bought some great handmade wooden Christmas souvenirs.
All in all it was a great experience, and river cruising is definitely a comfortable way to see a lot of places, especially these smaller towns that are probably harder to get to by train or car. I'm just glad I finally made it to Austria, it's been a long time coming! And I never imagined I'd get to Hungary or Slovakia, so that was amazing!
Yeay for 3 more countries!