Monday, September 6, 2010

No Kangaroos in Austria

It seems the Austrians are very passionate about making sure everyone is clear that there are no kangaroos in their country. You can imagine the scenario of some ignorant tourist, arriving in Austria, all excited about seeing one and being quickly informed that kangaroos actually live in Australia. We almost bought one of the many t-shirts that stated - ‘There are no kangaroos in Austria’ just in case we might get confused about where we are.

We were in Austria for 4 nights, shared between Salzburg and Innsbruck. After leaving Cesky Krumlov, anywhere that we went was bound to be underwhelming, which is how we felt as we walked around Salzburg on the first night. A pretty place, sure, but it just didn’t have the character of Cesky….it was obvious that we really needed to let go! Trying to find dinner was ‘fun’, especially since the prices of everything had soared. We had been enjoying incredibly cheap food and drink in the more affordable European countries for the past couple of weeks and it’s amazing how quickly you can forget just how expensive western Europe can be. After eating the worst sushi ever (full of bones and ‘fishy’) and wandering around Salzburg a bit more, we decided that we weren’t really that fussed about spending the following day there.

We returned to our hostel, which was an interesting place in itself….it felt and looked like a hospital or an aged care facility. High ceilings in the entry, straight lines, white walls & tiles and spotlessly clean without any character or colour. Definitely nothing like the hostels that we know. We were told by the guy on reception that the building was used for student accommodation, but we were left wondering if the names still labeled on the wall outside our room door were those of students….Dora & Marlene?? Hmmm. We definitely can’t complain since it was super clean! The guy was also really helpful and recommended for us to check out the lakes area about an hour from Salzburg. As it turned out, we were extremely thankful for the tip.

The Salzkammergut lakes region of Austria is incredibly stunning and with unobstructed sunlight, the water glistened and the stillness of the air created the most beautiful vivid reflections of the surrounding mountains. We caught an old paddle-boat ferry from Saint Gilgen to the nearby village of Saint Wolfgang and we had lunch on the shore where we tasted fish caught fresh from the lake as well as traditional apple strudel. Delish! We ended the day in another small village on the lake close by called Hallstatt, which has the reputation of being the most beautiful place in Austria….and we can definitely see why. Gorgeous chalet-style houses literally look like they are built on top of each other down the side of a mountain, until they reach the shore line of the lake. The air couldn’t have been more still and the mountainous backdrop to the crystal clear water was nothing short of magnificent. It is views like these that make you feel like you need to pinch yourself because they don’t seem real….it’s like a really big picture on the wall and all you want to do is reach out and touch it. We walked the shore, then sat and watched in silence for a considerable amount of time until the sun went down.

We were not disappointed at all that we didn’t get to see much of Salzburg or anything related to the Sound of Music. We felt like we had been so spoiled by nature and if anyone asked us about where to visit in Austria, we would definitely say the Salzkammergut Lakes.

Ferry ride on the lake

The view from our lunch table


The lake at twilight


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