Vienna and Salzburg, Austria

This entry is part 10 of 13 in the series Bucharest to Brussels:

  1. Bucharest to Brussels – Introduction and Our Route
  2. Munich, Germany
  3. All Roads Lead to Rome, Part I
  4. Bucharest, Romania
  5. Brasov and Dracula’s (Bram) Castle
  6. Smaller Cities of Transylvania
  7. Budapest part 1: Sziget Festival
  8. Budapest Part 2: Daylife
  9. Budapest Part 3: Nightlife and Food
  10. Vienna and Salzburg, Austria
  11. Berlin, Germany
  12. Beer Around Belgium
  13. Biking to the Best Beer in the World

A visit to Austria was not really in the cards from the outset of the trip. We had planned on going straight from Budapest to either Frankfurt or Berlin, but we found out one of Sara’s best friends from home would be in Salzburg with some of her friends. They were kind enough to invite us to their family’s house, so we ended up spending almost a week there!

Sara warming up for her solo at the Vienna Opera

Sara warming up for her solo at the Vienna Opera

The way our schedule worked out, we took a late evening train from Budapest to Vienna, which was an adventure in just getting tickets. The international ticket office at the Budapest train station was a mess, and when we arrived an hour before our train, there were about a hundred people inside waiting. We went to the number machine, chose one for “tickets”, and waited. And waited. And waited. Pretty soon there was less than 30 minutes until our train departed, and we were getting frantic, with our number still almost 100 away from being called. Fortunately we went back and checked the number machine, and buried in several lines of text was “urgent tickets for departures in the next 2 hours”. Once we got one of those we were called right away, and breathed a sigh of relief. We told at least a couple of others that were also frantically waiting about the magic button. Crazy times.

Tasty chocolate cake from Sacher

Tasty chocolate cake from Sacher Cafe

We only had about 8 hours to visit Vienna, which was probably sufficient. We started the day touring the opera house, which was beautiful inside and out. We got to see the box where the Habsburg family would view the operas, as well as tour the massive backstage area to see how the sets are made. It was very impressive – they have three stages that all slide around each other, so they can change over to an entirely new act in under 3 minutes. A highlight was visiting Sacher Cafe, which makes supposedly the best chocolate cake in the world. It was tasty, but I think my mom’s is better! We also visited the St. Stephen’s Church and Hofburg Palace, both of which were quite beautiful, and the Imperial Crypts, which contained hundreds of elaborate Habsburg family tombs, and was kind of creepy. Overall, though, we felt Vienna had quite a stuffy vibe to it and were happy to move on.

We ended up staying in a beautiful house about 30 minutes outside of Salzburg, set on a serene lake surrounded by lush green mountains. It was the perfect site to wake up to every morning. We spent our days lazing around watching the paragliders land in front of the house, or going to the lake for a swim. One day we took an old steam train up to the top of a very high nearby mountain, which afforded some spectacular views of the area.

What an amazing view!

What an amazing view!

Another highlight, which again was totally unplanned and just convenient timing, was the Emperor Festival, which happens every year in the town. The festival is in honor of the longest serving monarch in Austro-Hungarian history, Kaiser Franz Joseph I.

Dinner with the Kaiser and his family

Dinner with the Kaiser and his family

A man dresses up as the Kaiser, bushy beard and all, and his entourage (wife, family, military advisors), sail in on a boat across the lake with a full band in tow. They march through the town and end at the town square, where everyone shares a big dinner. Our friends got reservations next to the head table, so we liked to joke we were just having dinner with the King of Austria – no big deal.

Austria ended up being a really nice, relaxing break in our trip and recharged us for our next incredible destination, Berlin. Thank you to Philippe and François for being such amazing hosts!

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