[Day 24] Things to do in Hallstatt and off to Vienna

I had a pretty packed morning scheduled. I had booked a train to Vienna at 3:07 pm so I needed to be make sure to get on the ferry before then. I made a quick breakfast with the materials from yesterday’s shopping spree. It was really nice to have a kitchen!

I left the apartment at 9am and headed to the Luggage Depot. There were several places to storage luggage in Hallstatt and this was one of them. They opened at 9am and was close enough to the ferry pier. It was €5 for luggage and €3 for handcarry/backpack. I stored both my luggage and backpack here and luckily, they took card!

With nothing to hold on to, I ventured around town. There were several cute locations that seemed like photo zone. One was behind one of the restaurant and it was a small pier at the lakeside. You could see across the lake and see the other city, Obertraun. The air was cool and the peaceful atmosphere just made me want to sit here (and I did!)

Another one was up from the square. I was really aimlessly wandering and I found this spot was accident. There were signs pointing towards a set of stairs but I could not read them. The view of the city from up here was very beautiful. Again, since it was early morning, it was really quiet and I really loved that.

TIP: If you want a city view, I think this place and the postcard photo point are the best. If you want the lake view, the alley behind the restaurant would be the best.

Around 10:30am, I headed to the funicular. I bought by tickets for €38 euro and headed to the top. Do not throw the ticket away until you get back down if you bought a roundtrip ticket. I headed to the World Heritage View point first since it wasn’t very crowded. It was amazing up here! I highly recommend it! The view of the lake and the mountains were just breathtaking.

At the view point, I asked another tourist to take pictures and since the line was starting to form, I didn’t stay long. But right above the view point, there is a balcony that provides a similar view so I took lots of pictures here.

After all the photos, I headed to the salt mine. If you are on a schedule, you might want to do the tour first. They have time slots and limited spot for each tour. I was able to get in the 11:20am tour and it was about an hour and a half long. The tour was interesting. They gave us suits to wear on top of our clothes and had lockers in the lobby area.

The tour is so much fun! You learn about the history of the salt miners and how salt was formed and how it gets harvested. The tour was in German and in English. There were some jokes thrown and the guide made it fun for everyone. And the highlight. The miner slide! It was awesome! I wish I could have done it more than once. My top speed was 22.3 km/h and I thought it was pretty fast. However, our guide’s record was 42.6! Amazing.

At the end of the tour, you are given a small souvenir (salt) and a chance to purchase your slide photo. After the tour, it was already 1pm so I headed back to the funicular and made my way back to the city. I had some time to do some shopping so I looked around several souvenir shops and made some purchases. They have several handmade shops that were worth a look.

Afterward, I picked up my luggage and headed to the pier. The line for the ferry formed rather quickly so I suggest getting here early if you need to make the train. Since it was during the off peak season, the ferry did not get packed but I could see the ferry turning people away during peak season. I took a last look of this peaceful town and I hoped I could come back again.

Since it was only one platform, make sure you listen to the announcement before boarding the train. My train had a connection at Linz so I stayed awake till then. Once I got off the platform, I checked the info display to find where the next was going to be. I made memorized my next train’s number so it was easier to find the platform.

When I got on the next train, I was surprised! When I made the booking online, I couldn’t figure out how to book tickets with seat reservation. I had a choice between coach and regular and I assumed coach was the cheaper option. When I got to the coach 2nd class, it was a 6 seater compartment! And on the door, there was a sign that indicated that a seat was booked. The conductor came around to check people in and it was really cool! I have never been in a closed compartment train before. Since I had the whole compartment to myself, it was able to get to Vienna in peace.

Vienna was already dark when I arrived and I took an Uber to my hotel. I checked in as fast as I could and headed back out. My brother and sister-in-law surprised me with a visit in Vienna! This was a total surprise for me but I do love a good surprise 🙂

So we met up at Ulrich for dinner. My sister-in-law found the place and it was a good pick. When I got there, it was pretty late but the place was still packed. It was a cafe/bar type of restaurant and they had a lot of healthy options, including their drink section. I ended up getting their schnitzel and here, they made it with boar! Plus, they used pumpkin seeds in their breading to make it more “healthy.”

After a good meal, we went for a stroll. Most of the places were closed but we were still able to enjoy the Holiday decors and architecture. One that stood out was Domkirche St. Stephan (St. Stephan’s Cathedral). It was huge and very hard to miss. The tower and roof was what made this unique. It was too dark to see all the features of the Cathedral but even with a short glimpse, I was in awe. The design and colors of the tiles on the roof was really pretty and I wished it was light out so I could see all the details.

After seeing the Cathedral, we visited Zanoni & Zanoni for some dessert. Luckily, this shop was opened until 12am so we had some time to eat. We ordered ice cream shakes and cake and they were all really sweet. I mean, REALLY SWEET. And the portions were pretty big for a dessert. So if you are not that into sweet things, be prepared to share.

Since it was a surprise, we had to go our separate ways to our accommodation. But we promised to meet up in the morning for brunch. What a day!

[Day 23] Goodbye Salzburg, Hello Hallstatt

To make the most of my last day in Salzburg, I woke up early and checked out. I was able to leave my luggage at the hotel and explore the last bit of the city.

First, I headed towards Mirabell Gardens to find the Schrannenmarkt, a weekly market that is held at the square by St. Andrew Parish Church. The Market is held every Thursday and they had various booths from produce to artisan bakery.

The wrapped around the whole St. Andrew Parish Church so and is worth exploring! Since I visited the market early in the morning, there were lots of empty spaces but there were enough things for me to see and eat. The market is a great place to look around if you are intrested in local food culture. It seemed that during the Winter there isn’t a lot of treeses but it might get packed during the summer.

I ended up buying several baked goods from one of the vendors and headed to my last destination: the Hohensalzburg Fortress. To get to the Fortress, I had to take the funicular. Both the funicular and the Fortress were part of the Salzburg card. Since it was morning time (9am), it was relatively empty and the ride was pretty short. Once you get off the funicular, you are literally inside the Fortress.

This Fortress sits at top of a mountain and is visible from every point in the city. It is really hard to miss. And it is considered one of the largest medieval castles in Europe and I could tell! Just walking around the courtyard area took some time. There is an audio guide for the Fortress as well so take advantage of it if you want to listen to some history. There is also a restaurant here that provides an amazing view of the city and could be quite romantic.

It was nice to get to the top early in the morning because it was so empty! I was able to take all the pictures I wanted without having too many tourist in them. One bad thing about going up early was that even though the castle was open at 9am, nothing was open, not even the information center. Most of the things including the museums did not open until at least 9:30am so plan wisely.

We spent about 2 hours just exploring the castle. They had an photography exhibition so I was able to look around and they also had a marionette museum where you could see some of the puppets from the Salzburg puppet theater and also the backdrops. It was really interesting and I wished I could have seen a show.

After seeing the castle, I headed back to my hotel to grab my luggage and to head to my next destination. Before heading in, I visited an Asian supermarket named “Look! Asia Supermarket” that was close to my hotel. I wanted to grab some food for later. I was really starting to crave home food. I ended up getting some Korean chips and ramyun. It wasn’t cheap but I knew it was going to be worth every penny.

When I bought the Salzburg Card, I thought that my bus ride to Hallstatt was included. However, I had to buy a separate ticket for the 150 bus and for a one way ticket, it was €11. They do give change on the bus by if you do not have any euros on you you can purchase the ticket on the mobile app. I downloaded BusBahnBim mobile app to purchase my ticket.

I first took the 150 Bus to Bad Isch and from there, took a train to Hallstatt Station. Once at the station, I had to take a ferry to the city. Train was €4.20 and the ferry was €3 one way, €6 round trip. I would recommend sitting on the right side of the train to get a quick view of Hallstatt as the train approaches the station. As for the ferry, outside definitely had a better view for photos but if you are inside, both side gets a nice view but I personally liked the left side.

Hallstatt was amazingly beautiful. I only got to spend 1 night here but I think it would be better to spend at least 2 nights here. I arrived around 1:40pm and headed to my accommodation first. The apartment I booked really had a great view of the lake and mountain. But it was quite far from the ferry pier and there weren’t a lot of taxis (none when we arrived) and I couldn’t use any taxi apps. So I had to walk with my luggage. Also since it was an apartment, I could not keep my luggage here after check out time.

One thing that was recommended to me was the salt mine tour so I headed over to the ticket booth to buy tickets for the funicular and the salt mine. However, the salt mine was already closed! During the winter time, the salt mine closed early at 2pm so even if I did go up using the funicular, I wouldn’t be able to do the tour. Since the salt mine was already closed and the funicular was too expensive to ride twice, I decided to do it tomorrow morning.

Everything in this small city closed early so I decided to just do some sightseeing. Right next to the ticket booth, there was a trail leading up towards the mountain so I decided to go on a hike. It was a bit of a hike but the view of the city and the lake was well worth it. Plus it was really quiet and I was able to enjoy this nature by myself. There was also a waterfall that was visible from the city.

I did meet some other hikers that came up from a different entrance and they told me that you can actually hike to the salt mines! If you have time and love hiking, this might be good! Walk up and take the funicular down.

If you keep walking, you find a set of stairs that lead back into the city. The trail ends at the church’s graveyard and terrace. You can take more pictures on the terrace or if you take a left and keep walking, you can find the “postcard viewpoint.”

This was the photo point that you see in all the social media. It was really beautiful. They said that Hallstatt was the inspiration for Frozen’s Arendelle and I could see it. It was just picturesque.

There were lots of people here with tripods and many of them were waiting for the sunset and taking time-lapse video. Tip: If you want a good picture here, go early and get a spot. A lot of the photographers did not leave their spot for very long period of time.

Even though I did not take time-lapse video, I stayed until it got dark and saw the city light up and how the lake reflected the city. It was beautiful. But it got cold real quick! I had several heat packs but my hands were still freezing. So I headed back towards my apartment.

On my way, there was a supermarket that was still open. And since I had a kitchen in the apartment, I decided to get some more food for breakfast. The supermarket was relatively big and had lots of options. I grabbed some eggs, bread, and bacon and headed home. For dinner, I cooked the ramyun I purchased in Salzburg. The best remedy for a cold day for Korean = ramyun 🙂

[Day 22] Starting of 2020 with a bang

Another busy day! Today was my last full day in Salzburg and I wanted to make the most of it.

First, I wanted to start 2020 with a clean slate so I decided to “hike” Untersberg. I didn’t really hike it. I took the cable car up to the top. The cable car was part of the Salzburg Card so I had to take advantage of it. It was about 30 minutes outside the city and it felt really nice to get some nature in. I got to the station around 10am and it was pretty empty. The cable car operated every 30 minutes and they were very true to their schedule.

There were several people who had ski gear and when I got to the top, I realized that there were areas that people could ski and I thought that was so awesome. Once I got off the cable car, the view that greeted me was just breathtaking. To see such a clear view on the 1st of 2020 was a blessing. The top of the mountain was full of fresh snow, the sun was beaming brightly, and no cloud in sight. It was a perfect weather.

I fully enjoyed the snow and hiked a little to the top of the hill. I always love getting the aerial view of the city and even though we were quite far from the city, I could see it in the distance. After making a small New Year’s Resolution wish, I took the cable car back down and headed into the city.

My big activity for the day was the Sound of Music tour by Panorama. Sound of music is one of my all time favorite movie and since I knew it was filmed in Salzburg, I could not let this chance pass by. I did some research and decided to do the Panorama tour. They had 2 time slots (9:10am and 2pm) and made it easier to schedule.

They ushered us into a huge tour bus with the Sound of Music sign (hard to miss) and we were on our way. Our first stop was Leopoldskron Palace. This was the back end of the house with the lake. It was where Maria and the children rode the canoe. We were able to see the Palace from afar because it is a private property. But you could still see where the filming took place. As I looked across the lake, I could imagine hearing the children singing.

Currently, it is used as a hotel and you can make reservation. (I wanted to stay here but they had a 2 day minimum stay and during the Holidays, they had several days that were closed so I couldn’t get 2 consecutive days)

Our next stop was the Hellbrunn Palace. The Palace itself was closed since it was winter time but this was where the famous gazebo was rebuilt! The one from “16 going on 17”! They tried to keep the gazebo at its original location (Leopoldskron Palace) but too many visitors came so they had to move it. We could not go inside but just looking at it and touching the door knob made it feel so surreal.

After seeing these two places, we were back on the bus for a long ride. While on the bus, our tour guide, Michelle, gave us some information about Salzburg as well as some movie trivia. I did not know that Salzburg was the 4th biggest city in Austria and that salt was their #1 source of income. 2nd being Mozart and 3rd being Sound of Music.

And some fun facts about the film. Did you know that the children stayed at the Sheraton Hotel and they almost got kicked out? Why? Back then, people who wanted their shoes polished overnight would leave their shoes outside their door. The children would go and swap the shoes between the floors! What little rascals! Also, did you know that the Captain’s singing voice is not his? I had no idea! It was so much fun learning these fun little facts!

While on the bus, we passed by two big lakes, Lake Fuschl and Lake Wolfgang. Lake Fuschl was a resort town for the people in Salzburg and during the summer, it would be filled with people, swimming in the lake. We could not get a good view of Lake Wolfgang because the fog started to come in. But that didn’t stop Michelle from making our tour fun! We did some sing-a-longs with mama goat!

When we got to Mondsee, the fog was gone and it was just starting to get dark. It was about an hour drive so why did we have to come so far? The church where Maria and Captain von Trapp get married at was here. In the movie, it looked they it was part of the Abbey but since they could not film inside the nun’s abbey (Nonnberg Abbey), they filmed it at the church in Mondsee and some of it back in Hollywood.

Mondsee was a very small town but had some cute characteristics. If I were a local, it would have been a great summer getaway location. There was a lake that was walking distance away and several shops and restaurants. It was small enough to just relax quietly. We were given some free time to enjoy the inside of the church and also to explore the city.

Afterward, we were back on the bus and off to Salzburg. On our way back, they played a small documentary about Sound of Music and it was a peaceful ride back. Once back to Salzburg, they gave us the option of visiting the Mirabell Gardens but since I already visited it, I decided to opt-out and go off on my own.

It was already dark in Salzburg and most of the museums were closed but there was one that was still open: Museum of Modern Arts. Plus, it gave me a chance to use my Salzburg Card again. I was able to take the Mönchsberg Lift and I highly recommend this. It might be a nice place to see the sunset. The terrace provides a good view of Salzburg Palace and the city. I was able to relax and take in the night view on my own.

I was starting to get hungry so I headed back to the main street. I’ve been eating a lot of the local foods and was starting to miss American food. So today, I decided to try Burgerista, a hamburger restaurant. It was like a fast food place. You order at the kiosk, sit yourself if there are empty tables, and grab your food when ready. The food gets prepared once you order so I guess it a little bit more high-end than Mcdonalds.

They also had an English menu so it wasn’t too hard to order. I ordered the Meisterstuck and I really wished I could eat more since it was really good! They had several sauces for fries (and maybe the burger) and they were really good too. Definitely worth it if you are craving some home food.

[Day 21] New Year’s Eve in Salzburg

New Year’s eve. I knew most of the places would be closed due to the holiday so I had to make sure to check online to see if the museums and palaces would be open. I ended up spending a lot of time doing research prior to leaving my hotel room. I decided to mix outdoor adventures with some museum times.

First, I headed to Mirabell Gardens. This garden (and palace) is famous as the place where they filmed the “Do-re-mi song” from Sound of Music. You can see the Pegasus fountain and the gates Maria and the children sing on. Since it was winter time, the fountain wasn’t on and the gates were closed. However, you could still see and walk by the filming location.

After seeing the Garden, I headed to the Mozart Residence to learn about Mozart and his family. I grew up playing the piano and I really enjoyed Mozart’s pieces. Plus, I really loved Amadeus, the movie.

Mozart Residence looked huge on the outside, but the museum itself was relatively small. They had a Mozart Lego figure by the entrance, greeting the guests. The theme of the exhibit when I visited was about Leopold Mozart and on his background. It was interesting to learn about Leopold since I only knew him as someone who took Mozart around for concerts. I didn’t realize that Leopold was also an outstanding musician/violinist but his son, Wolfgang was the musical genius of the century.

After seeing the Residence, I walked over to Mozart’s Birthplace (Mozarts Geburtshaus) to learn more about Wolfgang Mozart. This museum kept most of the apartment intact and created a timeline of Mozart’s life. It was amazing to see the piano he played, the musical pieces he created, the clothes he wore, and more.

If you are a fan of Mozart, these two are a must visit sites for you! I really enjoyed learning about Mozart and his family and how they became celebrates in Salzburg and in other European countries. Both locations had audio guides and they were very useful since they described things in detail. However, they did not allow photos to be taken in certain parts of the museum so be aware.

After seeing the two museums, I headed over to the Salzburg Cathedral. The teal colored domes on these cathedrals are a must see. There were lots of people in line to get inside but the line moved quickly. The cathedral was much bigger than I expected. And the high ceilings and the arches were impressive. But my final destination wasn’t the Cathedral. It was the DomQuartier.

DomQuartier was so worth it! They were using the old residence of the archbishop and converted into a museum space. I’m so glad I dedicated some time to viewing this. They also provided an audio tour but I decided to wonder the halls myself. I did not know any of the artists here and most of the artwork here were either about the royal family or Christianity. But everything, every corner was worth a look. They also had a terrace that overlooked the Residenzplatz that was picturesque.

One thing. I did not know was that the Cathedral was part of the museum! You were able to see inside the cathedral from up top. I believe it is where the choir would stand during mass. Not a lot of people must know about this because it was empty! I was able to quietly people watch for about 20 minutes and just take in the beauty of the Cathedral.

For lunch, I headed to Gablerbräu. This was a traditional Austrian restaurant but a lot of it overlapped with Czech cuisine as well. I tried their “The Original: Wiener Schnitzel” and it was delicious! The meat was so thin and tender and mixed well with the cranberry sauce.

After a filling lunch, I headed to an overlook/outpost following the Kapuzinerberg street. The entrance was very close to the restaurant. At first, I wasn’t sure what to expect but the overlook provided a beautiful view of the river, the city, and the castle. For a great aerial view, I would highly recommend this place.

Also, while we were up there, we met the prangerstutzenschützen koppl for their annual shooting. New Year’s Eve was their annual event and I was lucky to catch them! The men of the group were very nice. I was able to meet with Wolfgang, one of the members, and he told me about how he joined because of his father. It seemed it was passed down from father to son. Family tradition.

They were dressed in traditional clothing and all carried a rifle. They let me hold one and it was extremely heavy! They weren’t actually shooting anything. Just gunpowder and paper. Starting around 3:30pm, more members were showing up and getting ready.

There were also ladies in traditional dresses and they sold shots of beer and schnapps. Wolfgang’s father gave me a free shot and it was delicious!

And starting at 4pm, from all different parts of the city fortress, different groups all started shooting together and it was LOUD! It wasn’t just once. They did it 3 times! (The one with the sword is Wolfgang!) It was amazing to watch a city tradition that only happens once a year. If you are in Salzburg during New Years, please, please, please, go watch this! (I will post a video in Instagram)

After the shooting, I decided to take a small break before heading to Mirabell Palace for the New Year’s Eve Concert. I wanted to experience some Mozart while visiting Salzburg and I thought it would be a great experience.

And it was! They were very true to being the City of Mozart. Instead of modern instruments, the musicians used traditional instruments. For example, instead of the piano, they played the Harpsichord! It was fascinating and I fully enjoyed the concert. The concerts were relatively cheap but the music was top notch.

After the concert, I walked towards Residenzplatz to get ready for the fireworks. Around Residenzplatz, there were several concert stages and there were bands playing 90s pop songs. There were also several booths selling food and alcohol. They were only taking cash so I couldn’t buy anything. If you want to enjoy some music and food before the count down, this place was it.

Since I was excited about the fireworks, I asked one of the police officer where was the best place to view the fireworks and he told me to go to Kapitelplatz. There were already a lot of people hanging out in the square. It was much quieter here with no stages or booths. Just people. I waited here until the countdown.

However, there was no countdown. I looked at watch and even 10 seconds before the new year, there was no sound. Maybe there was a countdown at one of the stages but the fireworks just started. It wasn’t as big as I hoped but it was always nice to see fireworks. There was no music or any celebrations. Just people watching the fireworks quietly. It lasted about 8 minutes. What really bugged me was that no one was wishing anyone Happy New Year! They all just watched and left. It was quite bazaar to me.

After the fireworks ended, I walked back to the Residenzplatz and wished I stayed here. Right after the fireworks ended, they must have started the Waltz in front of the main stage. I wanted to watch but by the time I ran over, the song ended. They only do one song so if you want to see the New Year’s Waltz, stay by the main stage! I asked one of the locals and they told me that during the day time, they teach people the waltz if anyone wants to join. So if you want to learn the waltz for the New Year’s dance, you can!

[Day 20] Off to Austria

It was time to say good bye to the family. They were headed back to the States and I had one more destination to head to: Austria. To be more precise, Salzburg. We all packed our things, said our goodbyes, gave each other hugs, and headed our separate ways.

My bus to Salzburg was at 10:30am and it was going to take about 3 hours. I purchased my bus ticket via Omio and it was about $17 usd. I got to the platform about 15 minutes early and there was already a line. The boarding did not take long and I was lucky enough to have an empty seat next to mine.

I took a nap most of the way but woke up when we crossed the border. They stopped the bus and an officer came on board and checked people’s passports. They did not scan any passports but just did a quick scan to see if they had a valid visa.

Once we were at Salzburg bus station, I was really confused. They dropped us off at some parking lot! It wasn’t what I was expecting. There was a bus stop and I waited until the time that was on the schedule but the bus did not come. I ended up calling a cab and taking it to my hotel.

I booked a place called Bergland Hotel and it was nicer than I expected. The staff were friendly and it was about 15 minute walk from the heart of the city. There were several restaurants and shops nearby and a bus station into the city less than 5 minute walk away.

After checking in, I decided to walk to the information center in the city. I needed to pick up my Salzburg Card that I was going to use during the duration of my trip. This walked out great for me since I planned on going to several museums and other tourist attractions. During the winter time, some of the attractions were closed but they reflect that in the price.

When I got to the information center, it was packed! There were people picking up their Salzburg Card as well as people making reservation for concerts. Due to the Holiday season, everyone seemed busy. It took about 30 minutes for me to pick up my card.

Once I picked up my card, I headed to my first location. The house where the Sound of Music was filmed: Schloss Frohnburg. This wasn’t included in any of the Sound of Music tours and I really wanted to see it. I used Google Maps to find the buses going towards the area. Google Maps was very useful in Salzburg in finding bus routes and schedule.

The first thing I noticed when I got closer to Schloss Frohnburg was the wall that surrounded the house. It was where Maria sang and ran! The second thing I noticed was the music coming from beyond the wall. And I noticed the reason why when I got closer. The building was now a part of Mozarteum University and there were students practicing.

I kept walking towards the main gate and I saw the house. It was amazing to see the front end of the Sound of Music house! I was able to reminisce about my first time watching the movie and falling in love with it. It was exactly how I remembered it from the movie. The gates were open but since it was a private residence, I couldn’t dare go in.

After taking some photos, the sun began to set so I walked back towards the bus stop and headed back to the city. While walking around, I did some shopping and ended up at Cafe Sacher. I did not realize that the cafe was inside a hotel but it was easy to find. I really wanted to try the Sacher cake since people were raving about it.

I got really lucky with timing and was seated right away. The cafe was really fancy looking and the atmosphere was very romantic. I was told that ordering here could take some time so I took my time looking at the menu. I wanted to try things that were unique to the cafe so I ordered the Sacher torte and the sacher melange (espresso with milk and whipped cream). The cake was very rich chocolate cake and the drink was also very sweet. If you like chocolate cake, I would recommend trying the Sacher Torte for sure!

[Day 19] Last full day at Český Krumlov

This was my full day at Český Krumlov and also our last full day as a family traveling together. We wanted to make the most of it.

Like I said before, Český Krumlov is a very small town. You can definitely do everything in 1 day. 2 day at max. So with this being our 3rd day, we weren’t pushing to do anything extreme. We just wanted to see more of the town, do some shopping, and just spend time together.

We did not have any plans but to check out all the side streets and corners of this beautiful little town. So we just walked. Even though most of the museums were closed, we were still able to find things to do. (One thing we wanted to see was the marionette puppet show but they were closed, too)

We did find a marionette store but it wasn’t what we expected. It was called Puppet Museum – Fairytale House but when we got there, it seemed like a small store. The actual puppet museum was only upstairs and there was a small fee to get in. During the peak season, they have tours but while we were visiting, they only had a walkthrough.

So instead, we checked out their wine cellar. It isn’t much of a cellar but they do have some local wines. If you have a thing for local wine, you can check it out. We wanted to ask for a tasting but the staff did not speak English.

After, we were off again. There were a lot of local boutiques and we were able to find some gems! Austrian designer clothes, handmade ceramics, and even hats! Oh hats! I don’t think I’m a hat person but my sister-in-law and her family were all getting one so I ended up getting one too.

While walking around, we found a 3D museum that was open and we all decided to try it for fun. We were the only ones there (no surprise) and the fee was 100kc per person (about $4 USD). They had several different illusions and we tried them all. It was 3 floors high and had more than 10 illusions. We all had a blast and it was totally worth every dime! If you have kids, I think this would be fun activity.

We also found a record store! I feel like back in the States, we don’t have music related stores anymore? At least I haven’t been in one in years. So this was a treat. We looked through several CDs and vinyl records and it was actually fun finding different artist we all knew.

We wondered around town for a bit and headed to Restaurace Lazebna for dinner. Again, if there is a restaurant you want to try, make reservation 100%. We went to several different restaurants before finding this one. If it was peak season, we wouldn’t have been able to eat! This restaurant offered mostly traditional Czech cuisine. We ended up with several meat dishes including koleno, and soups such as goulash. The portions here were huge! So prepare to share.

[Day 18] The beauty of Český Krumlov

When we woke up, it was snowing! The red roofs from the previous night were slowly being covered white. It wasn’t a lot but it changed the view and the atmosphere of the town. Since we were staying at a pension, we had access to the kitchen. The parents went grocery shopping in the morning and cooked us a great meal.

After our breakfast, we decided to walk around time. We found things to do online but realized that almost everything was closed for the winter. So the best we could do is just find things that were open.

The town was really cute and colorful. Each corner, each alley was worth a look. They were all picturesque. Also, some streets were just residential houses and some were shops. And some of these shops were really adorable. We visited a handmade soap shop and a handmade toy store and found joy in just looking around.

While looking around, we were slowly making our way towards the Castle. The first thing we saw was the Cloak Bridge from the bottom. This Bridge was really impressive! The size of it was much more grand than what I imagined from looking at pictures. The arches made it possible to go “outside” of town and from top, it collected the Castle.

Once “outside,” we found a slope that led to the Castle on the left side. We slowly climbed up the Castle walls and found ourselves at a great view point of the city. This was how the city was kept safe. The Castle and its walls protected them. And someone made a family of snowman for the occasion! Adorable!

Once at the wall, we took a right turn and headed for higher ground, hoping to find a better view. We ended up at the Gardens but since it was winter time, it was closed. This place would be gorgeous during the spring. I could already see it.

We turned back and headed towards to Bridge. Right before you hit the bridge, there was a small door that led to what looked like a balcony. The view here was the best. It provided a panoramic view without too many trees in the way. Great place to get a picture of the city.

Afterwards, we crossed the Cloak Bridge. The view from the Bridge was good too. But the wind was really strong here so just be careful.

We walked around the Castle grounds, just exploring. We couldn’t see any of the gallery or the state rooms since it was winter. According to the website, the Castle opens mid-spring to late-fall. So if you want the full experience, make sure you plan accordingly.

While walking around, we found a small free museum called Muzeum Obchodu(Museum of Commerce). It was inside a shop that was selling local souvenirs and was a quick walkthrough. It provided an exhibition of the past with goods from different era and also machines/gadgets. It was definitely worth a look.

We ended up eating dinner at the Christmas Market. A lot of the restaurants were closed or full and we just wanted a quick bite. Again, we looked around and this time, we ended up getting the sausages. We tried to get different ones to share. One of them was “spicy” but not spicy at all. They had little bar tables for people to eat at and with a bottle of wine, it was a good meal.

After the meal, we decided to walk around the town more. Most of the stores were closed and the streets were empty but it was nice to take a stroll. We walked to the other side of the town and saw a gate into the city and we headed back into the Castle to see if we get some night view. The view at night time wasn’t as spectacular as I expected but the Cloak Bridge at night time was worth it.

[Day 17] On to Český Krumlov

We packed our things are got ready to move to our next city: Český Krumlov. I was looking forward to visiting this small town because a lot of my friends told me how beautiful the town was. We called 2 Ubers to head to the bus station. However, we ran into some problems with the Uber. A lot of the European cars were smaller than the States and had less trunk space. We could not fit all our luggage in the back and the driver would not let us hold them in our laps. After some struggles, we were able to get everything settled and headed to the bus station.

While on our way, I saw some interesting building, including the National Museum! I wish we could have visited this place. It was very picturesque. It did not take us long to get to the bus station but we had to look around to find the right platform.

We were at platform 1 and by the time we found out, there was a long line. We were towards the back of the line but since we had assign seating, I wasn’t worried about it. What worried me was the way baggage was being handled. You just threw it in the bottom compartment yourself and it filled up quickly. By the end, we noticed that people were trying to play tetris with the luggage and finding space for their stuff. And once everyone was checked in, the bus driver decided to help out. It was a bit of a mess.

The ride to Český Krumlov was uneventful. On our way, all there were was fields after fields. It was about a 3 hour ride and I was able to get some reading in.

Once we arrived, we claimed our bags and started to walk towards the city. At first, we did not know which was to head to. We ended up following the road down towards the left and found the city. You can also walk towards platform 9 and you will see a staircase that leads to the main street.

While walking, we found a small viewpoint of the city and it was so cute. Very serene with the river running through it. Almost fairytale like. And we were at the entrance of the city. The walk from the station took about 10 minutes because of all the luggage we had. And luckily, our accommodation was right at the entrance. We booked 3 rooms and we were able to have a whole floor to ourselves.

After unpacking, we headed out to grab some food. We ended up at a restaurant called Papa’s Living Restaurant. It was a cute restaurant that offered a mix of local cuisine and Italian. The decor was more modern and had a long selection of wine. We enjoyed our meal indoors but they had outdoor patio seating and during the spring and summer time, I think it would be amazing to sit outside with the view of the river.

After our meal, we aimlessly walked around town, visiting different shops on the way. We found a chocolate shop and ended up getting hot chocolate. The hot chocolate here was thick and they even gave me a spoon with it. Plus, they offered white and dark. Of course I had to go with the dark. It was extremely rich but it wasn’t too bitter nor sweet.

We also visited several souvenir shops and before we knew it, it was already dark! We headed to the town square to see the Christmas Market before heading home. Compared to Prague’s, this was really small. It only had about 15 stalls and most of them were food.

They also had a merry-go-round and we watched the children riding it. What we didn’t know was it was manual. The owner of the ride pushed the ride by hand and also stopped it by holding back one of the bars. It was interesting to see. And a lot of children were in line to board it.

After people watching for a bit, we headed home to get some rest. Even though it was early, it was already dark and the stores were mostly closed. To get an early morning start, we headed to bed.

[Day 16] Prague Castle and other architecture

Another early morning start but this time, it started with some home cooked meal. My brother’s father and mother-in-law cooked us breakfast. While eating breakfast, I quickly checked the weather map and it was going to be a beautiful day.

We headed back to the Prague Castle for a better look. With the rain yesterday, we didn’t get to enjoy it fully. We had to go through security to get into the Castle first and once inside, we headed to the ticket office. There were several ticket choices and we decided to do Circuit B (250 CZK). This included the Old Royal Palace, St. George’s Basilica, Golden Lane, and St. Vitus Cathedral. Take a look at the different ticket types to see which one fits your interest. They also have audio guides and guided tours if you want to learn more history behind the Castle. Also, they had signs that said cash only but when we tried to walk away because we didn’t have enough cash, the staff pulled out the card reader and we were able to pay with card. I was so confused but also grateful that they took our card! When you visit, it would be best if you prepare both cash and card, just in case.

Once we had our tickets, we first headed to Golden Lane. I was also very curious about it since it also had another name: Alchemist’s Alley. Rumor has it that the king had brought in Alchemists to the castle to make gold. I’m not sure if there were actual alchemists here but if there were, they must have been pretty tiny. The houses here had displays of what it would have been like to live here and everything was small! The beds looked like it was for children and even some of the doorways, I had a bend a little to get in. Also, the houses were really cute. Each house had a unique design and color and made the street look like a fairy tale. I wish I could’ve taken a picture of all the houses but there were lots of tourists here and was impossible to get a photo of the street without anyone. I would suggest coming here early morning to have the place to yourself. Also, some of the houses were used a shops! They sold handmade goods such as pottery, art, books, and more.

We also went up the tower and this was like the barracks. They had weapon and armor displays and even sold them. The tower was connected to the wall of the castle and they still had wooden barrels on the windows that closed and opened for when they were under attack. The wooden barrel could be turned to provide an oepn slot for archers to shot out of and turned to close it for when the enemy attacked. That was so cool! The Golden Lane also had a dungeon that had several torture devices used back during the 16th and 17th century. The hardest part of the dungeon was getting out! The stairs were narrow and when a flood of people came in one by one, we just had to wait to get out.

After seeing Golden Lane, we headed to see the St. Vitus Cathedral. It was the most impressive building in the Castle and yesterday, we were only able to see the outside of it. When we got to the square, there was a long line to get into the cathedral that wrapped around the whole square. Luckily, the line moved ralatively quickly. One thing to look out for was that there were a lot of people who were trying to cut in line. We even had to tell some people to get to the back of the line. I would watch out for these people.

Once inside the Cathedral, the staff scanned our tickets and told us that no hats were allowed. We took off our hats and headed inside. The Basilica was also as grand as the outside decor. There were several architects who worked on this project and they added their own spin on this Gothic architecture. I really loved looking at the ceilings for the net-looking arches and the light coming in through the windows. They also had several stained glass windows that brought in color into the Basilica.

We visited the Old Royal Palace afterward. After seeing the Basicila, the Palace wasn’t as impressive but the Vladislav Hall was still grand. What I found interesting was that this Hall was still being used by the government to host large events! Even though Czech Republic does not have a roayl family anymore, these old royal building were serving a purpose for the current state. I really liked that and would love to see a modern event being held in a historic building. The palace also had their royal family tree? on the walls and ceilings. I’m actually not so sure if it was a family tree but the staff there told us not to take pictures so I’m not sure what it was. Regardless, it was interesting to look at.

Lastly, we visited the St. George’s Basilica. The church building was bright red and very hard to miss. Once inside, we noticed how small this basilica was. Even though it was small in size, the Gothic style continued here. I walked around and saw some interesting artwork and Gothic architecture details and walked out. This was probably the shortest time we spent inside a building.

Once we were outside the Castle, we decided to eat from the Christmas Market. We wanted to eat light because we were getting a big dinner. So we had some sausages, potatos, grilled cheese, and of course, Trdelník. This Market was also cash only! A lot of places in Czech Republic were cash only so I would recommend bringing enough. The Trdelník here did only had plain or nutella and we got the nutella. Getting one fresh off the fire was the best! Crispy outside and sofe inside. And of course, nutella made everything even better.

After our meal, we walked towards the Dancing House. We walked along the Vltava river and saw the multi-color houses. I really loved how European houses/apartments were so colorful! I wish American apartments could be as unique as these. [One thing I do wish we had done was visit the Lennon Wall. I did not know it at the time but it was fairly close to the Charles Bridge.] But the uniqueness did not compare to the Dancing House.

It was so interesting to see a curved building! And there were actual people inside! We could see their shadows through the windows. I wondered what the people living there would think of the tourist who take pictures of their house. There were lots of people posing for a funny picture like kicking or punching and it was amusing to look at.

It was starting to get dark really fast. It was about 4:40pm when the sun started to go down. The parents wanted to take us to a restaurant called U Fleků and this was on my “eat here” list! From the outside, you wouldn’t notice it but inside, there were several different dining halls. The ones by the entrance was already packed when we came and we were led to a dining hall in the back. The hall had long tables with benches and a stage at the front. I asked the staff and they told me that they have live cabaret shows on certain days. We ordered several dishes including the pork knuckles (Koleno) and it was delicious! Again, they had huge portions here.

What was special about this place was their beer. They brewed their own beer here and you could not get this beer anywhere else. It was a dark beer and the test was almost velvety. Once you get hooked on this beer, you would have to come here to taste it again! And I think that is the reason why the parents wanted to bring us here. It was really good and I highly recommend it! We did not make reservation and were luckily it was non-busy season. However, if you plan on visiting during a busy time, make reservation!

Also, we did not get to see the cabaret but that doesn’t mean we didn’t get any entertainment. An accordionist made rounds through the halls and one made it to our hall. You could request songs and if he knew them, he played it. He played some old classic pop as well as newer songs. When he came by our table, he asked us what ethnicity we were and when we told him Korean, he played one of our folk song and he was actually pretty good. We tipped him and he stayed at our table for a bit and played more songs. It was actually really nice. Never had a chance to hear an accordion so close up. It was definitely a treat.

After our meal, we headed back home. However, I wasn’t done yet! I decided to go back out to the Old Town Square and go up one of the Towers to get a bird’s eye view of the square. Plus, the family wanted more Trdelník so I headed out. My sister-in-law’s sister wanted to come with and it was more, the merrier. We headed to the Old Town Square and decided to go up the Astronomical Clock Tower. Once inside, there was a line for the ticket. We tried to buy it online but the website was not working. The line moved quickly and we were able to get inside fast. We were ready to climb some staircases but was surprised with an elavator! An extremely modern looking one at that. Of course, there was a ramp along the wall that you can climb up but why walk when you can ride? So we took the elavator up and the view was amazing! You were looking right into the Square. The view of the Church of Our Lady before Tyn and the Christmas Market was spectacular. I could see why people were visting the tower. While we were up, we saw the Christmas Tree show and it was a sight! We must have gone right before closing time because when we left, we were the last few there. It was nice being semi-alone.

Once we were out of the tower, we looked for a place to grab Trdelník from. We couldn’t get any from the Market because they did not take card. We walked down the alley and found a place that took card. And this place had fillings and ice cream. We got 2 Trdelník (chocolate/vanilla swirl with pistachio spread and chocolate spread with vanilla ice cream) and rushed home to share it with the family. Best way to end the night!

[Day 5] Off to Seville

Our last day in Barcelona. We were lucky that our airbnb had a late checkout. We left our luggage and headed into the city for the last time. A lot of the places were closed on Sunday and because of this, a lot of cafes had lines out the door. So if you had a place in mind, make sure to make reservations!

We ended up at a Korean style cafe called Bing Bing Cafe and it was pretty legit. They had several bingsu flavors that are authentic to Korea which was pretty rare. We wanted to try some bingsu but we were here for brunch. And their brunch menu was also pretty good. They had several different bowls, smoothies, pancakes, hamburgers, and more. I got their poke bowl and it wasn’t too bad. If you are looking for something with a kick, I would recommend the Benedict Thai.

After our brunch, it was time for us to head to the airport to fly over to our next location, Seville. The check in line was long but we were able to check in online and only needed to tag our bags and send them off. The check in desk lines were long here so please check in online before coming to the airport. After we checked out bags, we headed through security. Weirdly, the line for the security seemed long but moved really fast.

Once we were inside, we headed to one of the lounges to relax before boarding our flight. There were several lounges but we settled in Canudas VIP Lounge. They had a decent food selection, mostly finger foods and snacks, as well as their drink selection. One thing about their drinks were that they were all bottles and you could not take them with you. It was weird to see glass bottles but also felt fancy.

When you are at the lounge, just check the time of your flight gate frequently. The airport is rather large and it might be at the end of the terminal. We had to run at the end and we were practically the last ones on board. But we made it to Seville safely.

We took an Uber to our airbnb and the driver could not get us to the front of the house. He ended up dropping us off a block away and told us which way to walk. So if you plan on bringing a lot of luggage, ask the airbnb if a cab can drop off at the front of the house.

Once we settled in, we started to look for a place to eat. We were pretty close to all the major attractions and had an array of restaurants to choose from. We didn’t want to go too far so we ended up at place called La Bartola. It was a small bar and we were lucky to have gotten the last seats at the bar. And this place was really good! They had an extensive wine list and a full list of tapas. Again, we wanted to try everything so we ordered one of each. They did have several tapas that also had meal size available. One that we really wish we got the meal size was the pork cheek stew. Carrillada Iberica con Parmentier de Patata. This was so good. We definitely need more. Everything here was good and I would recommend it. It is small so make reservation if you would like to try their pork stew!

With the travel, we wanted to be at our best condition the next day, so we decided to relax at home. We bought some snacks and wine from the local store and headed home. Nice day to relax a bit.