Saturday, June 14, 2014

Awesome Austria

As always, it's taken me too abysmally long to get to writing this post. Basically, back in May I decided to go for a road trip into Austria. This was actually the first trip that I had completely planned on my own, and I was the only person going.  It even unexpectedly turned into a 5 country trip (counting Germany). I left work on a Wednesday and drove down to my first stop at Hotel Lindwurm, Bad Goisern, Austria. Before you enter Austria, make sure you buy your Vignette (Toll Sticker) to be able to drive in the country. They are easy to acquire as the stations near the border all carry them. Now the Lindwurm hotel was in a beautiful location in the valley between mountains and was a perfect spot to spend the night with many photo opportunities in the drive up to the hotel. The staff even complimented my car as I pulled up in my Mustang, and provided me a delicious dinner before bed.

The next morning after breakfast I drove off to the first major site that I had wanted to see in Austria, the Hallstatt Salt Mine. Hallstatt is one of the most beautiful places that I've had the chance to see, a small town nestled next to a lake in a scenic valley. 

 The salt mine itself offered a great tour through the first 3 levels of the salt mine, including wooden slides between each level that were great fun, a beautiful light show with history underground, and a quick train ride out of the mountain to conclude the trip. Honestly one of the most enjoyable experiences I've had in Europe. I wrapped up my time in Hallstatt by enjoying lunch with an amazing view of the valley at the restaurant next to the mine.

As I left Hallstatt, I started towards the real reason I wanted to come to Austria, the Grossglockner HighAlpine Road. Honestly, if you have any kind of car you enjoy driving, (like a Mustang ;-) ) then you have to take at least one mountain pass. And this was was amazing. After a fee, it provided 40 kilometers of breathtaking views driving through the Alps on my way to my next bed time destination of Lienz, Austria. I still fondly think about Grossglockner.

In Lienz, I didn't do a hole lot since this was mainly a break to make sure I didn't drive too much while trying to get some relaxation in on my trip. I stayed at the Best Western in Lienz, which while very nice wasn't really that special. I ate dinner at the Goldener Fisch, which was the restaurant in another hotel. The food was good but the service was a little on the poor side. That's about all there was to Lienz besides some walking around for me.

The next day I spent driving towards Innsbruck, Austria on a route that unexpectedly took me through a portion of Italy. The entire drive, while not a fast drive, was gorgeous running though valleys and low mountains providing an amazingly scenic and an unexpected joy to look at the nature.

At Innsbruck, I stayed at the Hilton there, and was the standard level of service from Hilton. More expensive and a little nicer. I spent the first evening walking around Innsbruck and I came to the conclusion that all of Austria is gorgeous and surrounded by breathtaking mountains. In Innsbruck there were many restaurants to try, I tried a few on Maria-Theresien-Strasse but can't remember the names... They were all good choices. 

Besides walking around the big attractions that I visited were the Hungerburg Funicular, which is a lift to the top of the mountain, two stops, that provides an astounding view of all around. You have to spend a little money but it is absolutely amazing and if you do only one thing in Innsbruck, this is it. If you have enough time you can also hike up and down the mountain under where the lift goes. It looked like it would be a challenging hike, but nice in the summer.  The other big site I saw was the Alpine Zoo. It was very pleasant and nice, and how can you go wrong at a "Alpine" zoo? Though, if you're on a schedule you can skip this and be missing a whole lot.

The next day I started my trip home, and my drive took me through Luxembourg, which while it had some nice scenery there really wasn't anything special to see. My GPS also started to accidentally take me into Switzerland, which I immediately bolted since I didn't have the Vignette you have to pay before hand. I jumped back into Luxembourg and drove an uneventful trip home. Even though on my own, this was one of my favorite trips (like all of them). Austria is a must see and beautiful. Enjoy your travels!

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