Guest Blogger: Cecille Bawasanta
Best moments really do happen when they are unplanned. We didn’t really have the time to sit down and plan our holiday because we were so busy, stressed with work and I only had my leave approved a week before my scheduled trip to Europe. I arrived in Germany on a Saturday. The following day, we started our road trip to three different countries in Europe!
We drove over 2,000 kilometers – from Bavaria to Germany, then to Austria, a stop over in Italy and our last country, Switzerland. One week might seem to be too short for Europe, but during summer, the sun sets at 9 pm so we had a lot of time to enjoy the outdoors and the different sceneries.
Day 1: Touring Around Vienna
So the road trip begins!
We left Bavaria around 7AM and it took us about 5 hours (with stops) to arrive in Vienna, Austria. When you get to the border you need to purchase the vignette and stick it to your windshield before you enter Austria. Vignettes are compulsory for all motor vehicles. Because there are no tolls in Austria, the vignette acts as a toll purchase and we bought the minimum 10-day ticket for 8.90 euros. When we arrived in Vienna, we checked in at the artsy 25 hours hotel beim MuseumsQuartier for 2 days (100 euros/night) which was located right in the heart of the city and walking distance from our Austrian friend’s house.
After freshening up we met our local tour guide and friend, Markus and went for a walk in the city. It was grander than I have expected! The whole city is a masterpiece with baroque buildings, cobblestone paths and horse carriages.
Vienna is also known as the city of music and opera tickets are sold on the streets by people in Mozart costumes. We had the fanciest walk in the park with bottles of piccolo prosecco in hand which we got from the prosecco stand for free.
We then headed to Prater, one of the oldest amusement parks in the world. We rode the rollercoaster which was so much fun but had the scariest horror ride at Psycho Hotel. It was so scary that I cried and just closed my eyes half way!
Day 2: Belvedere Palace
We got up early, ate our breakfast and headed to the Belvedere Palace for the Museum tour. Instead of taking public transport, Markus suggested taking the city bike to the palace. I was hesitant at first because I was not feeling comfortable riding a bicycle on the streets of Vienna because of my bad experience with road rage in the Philippines. In Europe, they have a special lane for bikers, and bikers are always the top priority. When I found out about it, I started to feel more confident.
It’s so easy to rent and return a bike, you just need to go to any bike station around the city. There are around 120 stations in different parts of the city. To get a bicycle, you need to register your credit card in City Bike Wien for the bike to be released. The first hour is for free and the next hours are 1 euro per hour. Biking in Vienna is a great way to experience the city. You get to places faster and it’s more fun than walking because you get to see more in less time.
It was also really cool to see original art nouveau style like the Karlsplatz and the expressionist landmark, the Hundertwasserhaus.
I was so overwhelmed when we arrived at the palace; it was so huge and beautiful and it has a world class museum inside!
Visiting the palace is for free but the museum costs 21 euros/person. The Belvedere was built in the early 18th century as a gift for Prince Eugene of Savoy as a summer residence. Yup, just a summer residence… The palace was made in the Baroque period, so the artistic style of the architecture reminds me of Beauty and the Beast, especially the beautifully manicured gardens!
The main reason I wanted to visit the museum is to see Gustav Klimt’s most famous painting, The Kiss. The museum has the largest collection of Klimt’s paintings and also has a variety of art from different art movements. I saw paintings from Claude Monet, Egon Schiele, Oskar Kokoshka, Edvard Munch,etc. It was really nice to visit and imagine the artists during their time!
Day 3: Schonbrunn and Carinthia
We checked out early to visit Schonbrunn, another famous palace in Vienna. It was the residence of the Habsburg emperors during the 18th century. The palace is bigger than the Belvedere; it has 1,441 rooms, a Gloriette that stands on top of the hill, a labyrinth, huge gardens and even a zoo! We didn’t have enough time to go inside the palace though as we had to drive 4 hours to the countryside southeast of Austria.
After 4 hours of driving, we arrived in Carinthia. This beautiful province has over 200 lakes and of course, the first thing we did was head to the lake! We went to Lake Klopein which is famous for its drinking water quality. The water was so clear and had a really nice aqua blue color – it seemed unbelievable!
Day 4: Alpine Hike
we went for a hike to the Alpines today! When I think about the mountains of Austria, I think about Maria singing ‘The Hills are Alive’ at the beginning of the movie The Sound of Music. We drove up close to the mountain trail and I had to run down the hills like Maria before we started our 3 hour hike.
Even though there are trail signs before you go into the forest, it was good that we had Markus with us to head the hike because we’ve never been there before. There’s always a chance of us taking the wrong route or us getting lost… During summer, hiking the Alps can still get cold, so just in case the weather changes, you have to prepare a windbreaker or thick scarf in your bag. The forest is completely different from the forests in Asia – there are no bamboo, acacia or mango trees in sight but pine trees, maple trees and birch trees. There were also beautiful wild flowers, butterflies and mushrooms but I wasn’t lucky enough to see forest animals.
It was always a dream of mine to pick wild berries in the forest so I was thrilled to get find strawberries, raspberries and blueberries along the way!
When we got to the view point we got a 360 degree view of the Austrian- Slovenian Alps, it was just breath taking.
When we got back from the hike, we got so hungry and ate in an Italian restaurant. I ordered fresh pasta with wild mushrooms from the Austrian forest, I thought that was pretty cool! We were so sleepy after our feast but we have to keep going to visit the biggest and most popular lake in Carinthia called Worthersee.
Day 5: Venice, Italy
Viva Italia! We left Austria early morning and in the next few hours the radio station changed from German to Italian! It took us about 3 hours to get to Venice, our next destination. We had to find parking close to Venice because there are no cars allowed there. Parking in Europe is usually expensive and the best choice was the Venezia Tronchetto Parking (25 euros/day) which was just walking distance to the port. From the parking, we bought a two way Vaporetto (water bus) ticket to the city and back (15 euros / person).
We started our day in Venice with food and went to Ristorante La Calcina which was highly recommended by someone we met in Carinthia. It was the best place to start in Venice because it wasn’t touristy and of course, the food was great!
An Italy trip wouldn ’t be complete without espresso shots so we got some after our meal before heading to the touristy places. Venice is such an interesting city because there are no roads and the entire city is built on a foundation of wood! Every alley looks like postcard and you can’t help but fall in love with the city’s charm.
We decided not to take the gondola ride because it wasn’t as romantic as imagined and it wasn’t worth the price too (80euros/30 minutes).We saw a lot of water traffic on the canals and gondolas filled with a bunch of tourists.
We just walked around the city, ate gelato, visited Basilica Di San Marco, Palazzo Ducale and Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute. Venice is so much bigger than I expected and one day is not enough.
We then headed to Verona to stay for the night, it’s a 2-hour drive from Venice, a quieter and more romantic city. Verona is best known for its Shakespeare associations and the well preserved Roman amphitheatre that was built during the 1st century. We checked in at the lovely Hotel Marco Polo (150 euros/night).
After checking in, we went to the city around 5 mins walk and had wine, pasta and had a little tour around the city with gelato in hand. We passed by the arena and could hear live opera inside, wished we had more time so we can watch. Andrea Bocelli was in the schedule for August!
Day 6: Piazzale Castel San Pietro
The next day we left the hotel at 7 to find a coffee shop where we can have espresso and a little snack before we go to Piazzale Castel San Pietro .
It was so nice to walk in the morning and see the Italians opening their windows or their cute cafes.
You can still see Roman ruins in some parts of the city and the after a light breakfast we bought some salami and other Italian goodness from the local stores.
We then arrived at Casa di Giuletta which was said to be Juliet’s house from Shakespeare’s famous play Romeo and Juliet .
The play was adapted from the Italian Giuletta e Romeo which was based on a true story between two families , Montecchi and Cappelletti in Verona. People from all over the world visit the house and write letters to Juliet about their love story or star crossed romances. Just like in the movie Letters to Juliet, these people will get a reply from Juliet’s secretaries. There are about 15 of them and they can reply in different languages like German, Spanish, Italian, Japanese and English.
After Juliet’s House we continued our walk towards the medieval fortress on top of the hill, the Piazzale Castel San Pietro. It’s only a short walk up the stairs (150) steps and you see beautiful panoramic view of the city.
We arrived back at the hotel at around 1030 and had the buffet breakfast before checking out.
After breakfast, we started our way to Switzerland and stopped by at an Italian supermarket to get some food for our drive and to bring home to the family. The supermarkets in Italy are really cheap compared to other countries in Europe. You can buy a bag of pasta for only .40 cents.
Switzerland doesn’t have toll gates too like Austria so we needed to get the vignette again when we arrived at the border. We arrived at around 4 pm and stayed at the Easy room hotel (53 euros/night) on the mountains with a view of Lake Lugano.
We wanted to go hike Monte San Giorgio but we didn’t have enough time so we asked the locals if there’s something close we can hike up to. Fortunately, there’s a waterfall only 30 minutes away!
We had the waterfall all to ourselves and was brave enough to take a dip into the icy waterfall.
We saw a party on the way back to the hotel, it was a fundraising event of the local football club. They had barbecue, beer and a band playing so we decided to have dinner there.
Suddenly, we were drinking with the Swiss and even got free beers!
Day 7: Switzerland
Today is the most scenic drive of our trip, we were so distracted on the road because we saw at least 20 waterfalls on the mountains. We even missed our exit and had to turn back! We stopped over the little towns to take photos of their backyards.
The highlight of our road trip is definitely the San Bernardino Pass which is 2,000 meters above sea level on the Swiss Alps. It is considered to be one of the most beautiful mountain passes in the Alps and is only open during summer. We drove along the sweeping turns on beautiful valleys and moorlands of Switzerland.
Took us 7 hours to get home because we had a lot of stop overs in Switzerland! We arrived at around 2 pm, napped for 2 hours and woke up in time for the party at home. Prost!
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