Salzburg – Vienna – Venice – Florence

Salzburg, Austria, Day 11. Today was the most incredible day weather wise. We were both a little disappointed that we had done a tour of the mountain region the day before in the fog, when we would have got a lot more out of it today. Nonetheless we made the most of it. We caught a bus to the central station, where we locked our bags up in the lockers as we were leaving that afternoon and the hostel was backtracking. We then stopped by the supermarket to buy a picnic lunch. We jumped back on the bus to the center of town, to catch an elevator through the mountain up to the top of the valley, who needs stairs anymore? We took some pictures of the gorgeous views and ate lunch (ham and mustard rolls) on a snowy park bench. Afterwards we wandered along the top of the mountain through properties along the old fort. It was a very beautiful walk, there was snow everywhere, the sun was shining, and there was absolutely no wind. We made it to one of the highest points of the walk and we sat on one of the many benches in the sunshine surrounded by a lot of other morning walkers with the same idea. I could have sat there all day, it was so beautiful, you could see right down the Austrian Alps, and the sky was magnificent. This was one of my favourite days of the trip so far, it was just so relaxing. It was great to see Salzburg in good weather; you truly can appreciate its beauty. But we did have to leave unfortunately. So we continued along the fort, we were going to enter the main building, but it cost money, so we continued walking. We were then going to go to the bathroom, but it cost 1 Euro, so we kept walking. The only things I can justify $$ on is good food! We then caught the bus to the station, collected our bags and jumped on the train to Vienna.

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This train trip was beautiful; the nice weather continued the entire way. The Austrian Alps did not disappoint. We saw people cross country skiing and people wind snowboarding, and we saw lots of snow! When we arrived in Vienna, we get some groceries and tried to sleep, with not much luck due to a very heavy snorer. I tried to buy earplugs at around 2am with no luck. The bunk was also very squeaky and felt like it would break with every breath.

Day 12, Vienna. We spent the day exploring the castles around the city. It was a really cold day, so we walked around pretty swiftly. We decided to visit the World’s Oldest Zoo situated on the premises of the Schönbrunn Palace. It was lovely way to spend the afternoon. I did feel sorry for the African animals however, in the snow, they looked pretty miserable in their cages.

The small monkeys and the wolves were my favourite to see. Afterwards we headed over to Prater to go on the Giant Ferris Wheel. We then followed a hostel map for a recommended restaurant, unfortunately it was closed which was pretty gutting. We then went to follow the 2nd recommendation and it was great. It was a pizza and Pita place where you ticked on a form what you wanted on it and you paid per ingredient. It was a clever concept. The sleep today wasn’t much better, Jono had to wake up the snorer in the room because everyone was so agitated by him. It was unbelievable how loud he was. The wake up didn’t work however and he was asleep within 10 minutes making the same loud noises every 5 seconds. This was one of the worst nights in a hostel noise wise.

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Day 13, Vienna, we followed a map given out from the hostel for a walking tour. The map was so cool, it showed you cheap places to eat, cool places to see, not just the cathedrals and main sights, it took you off the main tourist strip which was nice. We grabbed a hotdog for lunch from the Würstelstände. These sausages have melted cheese in the meat and sometimes when you bite into it, the chees squirts. I was talented enough to squirt it up my nose and burn the inside of it. We then went to the Natural History museum to see all the animals. It was a pretty incredible collection. Every animal you could think of was preserved there. They also had robotic dinosaurs that moved and looked very lifelike. My favourite room was the one with the Butterflies. There are so many varieties.

We then headed into the city for Vapianos! It never got old, I’m pretty sure we had Vaps in every major city. We then went to the hostel, cleaned up and got comfy ready for our overnight train to Venice, Italy! We boarded the train with our bags and snacks. Jono and I booked beds instead of seats; I didn’t want a repeat of the Polish overnight train. We got the top bunks and a lovely 50ish year old lady had one of the bottom bunks. We got given sheets and blankets and a pillow, I was already appreciating paying more money for the sleeper. We went to sleep after watching a bit of a movie on my laptop.

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Day 14 Venice, Italy, we were woken this morning by the train conductor with breakfast and tea. There was no turning back to the seat trains when bed and breakfast is an option! We packed our bags up and got dressed for the day. Leaving the Italian mainland and going over the bridge to Venice, you could see it was a very rainy wet day, so we packed warm. When we left the train, we were looking for a baggage room to leave our things in as we were only spending the day here. We had to pay $40 roughly to store our bags for the day, so it was a bit expensive. We then booked our tickets for the afternoon to Florence. Three Italian Police Officers, then ran background checks and took our passports, whilst we were waiting. When that was sorted, we hit the streets. There were street vendors everywhere flogging gumboots, ponchos and umbrellas to the tourists. We tried our best to avoid it and went on our way exploring through the little allies, turning every time the rising water stopped us. The water levels rises over the footpaths every winter. So the shops have water barriers at their doors, and bridges through the main areas. Living here would be quite difficult I would imagine. We began to realize that without gumboots we were not getting very far and not knowing our way around or where to even head was not helping us. So instead we decided to each purchase a ferry day pass to go around the canals. It was the best way to avoid the wind and rain whilst still getting to see the main parts of the city. The ferry ticket cost an arm and a leg, but it was the best way to see everything. We hopped off at St Marks Square, but that was completely underwater too. We had some toast and antipasti in a restaurant and used the free bathrooms. We then went back to the train station, changed our train to the next available, gathered our gear and left Venice. From what we briefly saw, it looked like an incredible city. It was just such a shame it was flooded, raining and windy! For the money you need to pay to stay in Venice, it will be worth going back in the summer.

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We arrived in Florence and made our way to the hostel by bus. We couldn’t really understand the bus driver and the ticket system, but somehow we managed. The hostel was lovely; we had our own room with a nice clean bathroom. Exactly what we needed after minimal sleep the past couple of days. We were advised on where to go for the best pizza in town. We entered the restaurant and no one was there as Italians eat later in the evening. We had an entire pizza and a glass of red wine each. It was such an incredible pizza, I thought I would maybe only need a few slices; you just need to eat the entire thing!

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Day 15, Today Jono had to spend some time working on an essay to complete his short course in Maastricht. So I lazed around in bed reading and not doing much at all. I did leave the hostel in the afternoon to find some food and walk around in the beautiful Tuscan sun. I was a little worried walking around on my own; as I found out that some Italian men don’t really know what personal space is. They walk alongside you and it can get pretty intimidating, even though to them it is flirting. I also didn’t know what they were saying, so that made it a little more concerning. That evening, we wandered into the city to find a supermarket to cook some food in the hostel kitchen. On the way we stopped in at this vintage store and had fun trying on all the old coats. The supermarket was incredible. Italian food is my favourite cuisine, so seeing that many forms of fresh pasta and sauces and olives and red wine, I was in food heaven! We grabbed some food and then made it back to the kitchen. The hostel was pretty empty so we had it to ourselves.

Day 16, Jon was still doing it tough with his essay, I slept in and then headed in to the city to take some pictures. It was beautiful and sunny and there were lots of tourists about shopping around the city. That afternoon Jono completed his essay and then we went to the supermarket for some meats, cheese, olives, bread and local red wine to celebrate! As if this wasn’t enough we then cooked pasta as well. That’s where Jon met his Italian muma. She was yelling at us in Italian, obviously we were doing something wrong? She then continued to yell until she came over and basically took over the cooking of the meal. I wasn’t watching what she did, but whatever she did was amazing. The pasta was perfection!

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Day 17, today Jon and I left the hostel to explore the cathedrals and city. It was once again a beautiful sunny day; it was hard to believe it was winter! We wandered through the markets of leather bags and then stopped off for lunch. It was at a posh restaurant so it was a little over priced, but we enjoyed sipping the red wine. We then decided to wander up to the top of the hill in the city to get a view for the sunset. We followed a stonewall all the way to the top. I wanted to see what was on the other side, so I placed my phone and wallet on the top of the wall whilst Jon gave me a boost up. Whilst he was lifting me, we both heard a thump. My phone and wallet had fallen off in to what we now realized was millionaire olive vineyards. It was impossible to climb back over the wall once you were in. We tried a few of the doorbells with no luck. So we ran back down the hill to find a police officer. Four non-English speaking police officers later, she told us we would have to ask the properties ourselves as it was private land and police aren’t allowed to take action. By this stage I had cried three times and given up, as it was dark. But Jon was determined saying that it isn’t stolen we can see it; we just have to get to it. So we made it to the top and by this stage the owners were home eating dinner. We rang the first house that eventually let us in, but unfortunately it wasn’t on their part of the vineyard, so they told us to go next door. The next house had lights on, but it took 10 minutes before they answered their doorbell. This little Old Italian man came out who laughed when I told him what had happened; he said, “You aren’t the first”. He then invited us in, grabbed a lantern and took us through his huge vineyard. He was so lovely chatting the entire way. I thankfully found it in his part of the garden and so everything was back to being ok. He told us he had worked in Australia launching rockets for UNESCO. Francesco was so lovely and he saved the evening. He recommended a nice restaurant to us but we already had plans to cook with the lovely lady again. With relief we walked down the hill through the city, stopping by a supermarket for some more pasta and wine. The Italian Muma then happily taught Jon how to make seafood pasta. It was incredible. We then watched some soccer with the hostel owners who were big fans.

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Day 18, this morning we left for Cinque Terre, on the west coast of Italy. We had seen pictures, checked the weather and that essentially decided it for us. The train was lovely through the Tuscan vineyards and Italian Alps in the distance. The train also pulled through Pisa, but we had heard it was a let down, so we decided to keep on keeping on. When we arrived in Cinque Terre, we caught the train to one of the five small villages on the coast where we had booked a beautiful bed and breakfast villa. The Italian man on arrival, couldn’t speak much English, but made sure we were ok and explained how he would deliver fresh focaccia in the morning. He also showed us the free bikes we could use and explained the Cinque Terre trails like charades. We then watched the sunset over the ocean that was amazing. Not much was open in the town, but we did find a small bar, which had cheap drinks with free antipasti platters. It was too good to be true! Every drink we brought, another amazing platter would come out.

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Day 19, we both lazed around in the garden after the huge breakfast. Jon put some finishing touches on his essay; we took a walk around the town and again watched the sunset. We picked up pizza and red wine to take back to the room and watch a movie.

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The last week of the trip, I will post soon.

-Abbey xx

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