[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 15] Christmas in Prague

It was Christmas day and we started the day early. We knew a lot of things were going to be closed and decided to just roam around the city and hope for the best. A lot of “things to see in Prague” are architectures so we were in luck, in that aspect.

First, we started at the Old Town Square. It was very quiet in the morning with all the Christmas market stalls closed and only a handful of people in sight. The Christmas tree was still lit and provided some light for the Square.

The Prague Astronomical Clock was next. In the morning, it looked even better since I could clearly see all the colors and details. It was really beautiful. Even though it was early morning, there were lots of people here taking photos. If you want individual photos, I recommend coming in the morning.

And we followed the road down to the Charles Bridge. On the way, we admired the old buildings and its colors, the brick road that mixed in with the new concrete roads, and the smell of fresh Trdelnik.

The view of the Bridge and from the Bridge were both amazing! There were lots of status on the Bridge that made it interesting to cross. And from the Bridge, you could see the Prague Castle and the view was just beautiful! There were not a lot of people when we got there but there were several photoshoots happening.

Once you cross the Bridge, you see a street full of shops, cafe, and restaurants. We found a small cafe and enjoyed breakfast. We only saw trdelnik at the Christmas Market and they only had 2 options (plain and nutella) but the cafe/restaurants had several different ones, including savory options. They were making it enjoyable for all occasion.

We were slowly making our way up to the Castle when someone approached us about a concert. Since it was Christmas, the family decided to make it special and bought tickets for it.

We eventually made it to the top of the hill. There was a Starbucks here that provided a good view and also a small Christmas market here as well. While taking pictures, we had a bit of a crisis and had to take a break. I ended up using the bathroom at the Starbucks and they had a turnstile entry. If you bought a drink from Starbucks, you would get a code at the bottom of the receipt. If not, you had to pay to get in, so bring coins with you!

Once the crisis was averted, we headed back towards the Castle. It was interesting because I always thought a “castle” was a one large building. However, the Prague Castle wasn’t just one building but rather a complex. It included the Saint Vitus Cathedral, the largest church in Czech Republic.

After taking this photo, it started to pour! We wanted to see the Golden Lane but decided to come back tomorrow and headed back down. Before heading home, we wanted to grab lunch and headed to a restaurant called U Glaubiců. This place was good! A bit on the pricier side but I think that has to do with location. We were seated outside and because of this, service was a bit slow. But the food was good! We ordered duck, ribs, and pork knuckle, and shared family style. The portions are pretty big so you can definitely share.

After a filling meal, we all headed back to the house and took a nap before heading out to see the concert. There were multiple concerts happening that night (even in the Prague Castle) and ours was in the Liechtenstein Palace. It was a small venue but very pretty. Getting to see a concert on Christmas day in a different country’s palace! What a dream!

I knew all the pieces so the concert was very enjoyable. We thought it was going to be an orchestra but it was only a quartet. However, they were very good and filled the room with beautiful music. What a great way to end Christmas night!

[Day 6] Seville Cathedral and Plaza de España

Today, we were going to spend the day explore two of the City’s main attractions: Catedral de Sevilla and Plaza de España. We had purchased tickets online for the cathedral from the official website the night before.

TIP: Buy tickets in advance! Time slots sell out fast and you might have to stand in a long line to buy the ticket. If you buy them in advance, there is a separate line that is much faster.

When we arrived, the line for the regular ticket was already long but we were able to skip the line and head straight inside. While walking in, you can see all the details of the building and it will awe you. I mean, it is the largest Gothic Cathedral in the world and an UNESCO site. Everything here is grand.

When you first walk in, you enter into an art gallery. There are several Madonna and Child portraits and statues along with Crucifixion. There wasn’t any English description on the art pieces but I still enjoyed the artwork.

We didn’t get the audio guide for the Cathedral so we roamed around freely. Once you pass the art gallery, you are guided into the Cathedral. And wow! The ceiling are so tall and they had several chapels and tombs for famous people such as Christopher Columbus. There were so much to see

We walked around, saw several alters, more paintings, more tombs, and decided to walk up the bell tower, Giralda. First off, this was a walk. It’s all sloped and is about 34 floors high. I’m not sure how the tower’s numbering system worked but it goes up to #34. My brother said that we were almost there starting at 16 and I’m so thankful that he kept pushing me up because the view is breathtaking!

From the top of the tower, you can get a full view of the city in all directions. You might have to wait a little to see the view because it is a popular spot and a lot of people were taking pictures by the fences. And it was super windy and I saw a couple people chase after their hats so watch your belongings!

From a different angle, you could see the Cathedral and its orange tree courtyard. While looking at this, I couldn’t stop imaging what it would be like if we came during blossoming season. The orange blossom’s citrus fragrance would definitely reach the towers.

We were able to enjoy the views for about 15 minutes and the bells started to ring. At first, we were going to waited it out but they were really loud. 25 bells ringing in sync is not something your ears can handle. We decided to walk back down. This time, a bit slower and I was able to look out the windows and admire the architecture a bit more.

Once you are done with Giralda, you walk into the orange tree courtyard. There were several people enjoying the shade and relaxing. It was a nice pace to be at. It was also nice to see the bell tower from the bottom up this time. Different views, different perspective.

After leaving the Cathedral, we walked to Plaza de España and this was a long walk. Longer than I expected. And once we arrived, according to Google map, we were met with a fence. It wasn’t the entrance. Or at least it was closed when we got there. We followed the road along the fence and found the entrance. Once you are inside, you forget about the walk you just had to take to get here. It is beautiful.

Every corner of this Plaza is picturesque. There were families resting on benches, children playing by the water fountain, couples taking a stroll. It was just peaceful. The architecture is also unique to the region and I really loved seeing all the arches.

And because we were visiting during off season, there weren’t a lot of tourist around. We were able to enjoy time here like locals and hung around the benches and just talked and relaxed. The fountain turned off and turned on so you have to time it right for pictures. Also, walk inside the building to see the wall decors and the arches!

After all the relaxing, we were getting hungry so we took an Uber back to the Cathedral area. There were several restaurants gathered here and we decided to eat at Bar la Catedral. We ordered some Sangria for the table and more tapas and of course, paella.

And it was a good thing we decided to sit inside because right after we ordered food, it started to pour. With the sound of rain drops, the small chitchats of the restaurant, the smell of all the delicious food, we really enjoyed the food. And by the time we finished paying for the food, the rain stopped and we were able to walk home and relax.