Tag Archives: Europe

A Day in Vienna

The capital of Austria, Vienna is also considered a hotspot for art and culture in the whole of Europe. With beautiful palaces, museums where you could spend days exploring, operas, musical shows and old coffee shops, Vienna has a lot to offer everyone who visits. 

Vienna was the last stop in our Austria trip. It was a short stay – just one day. We arrived at the Vienna train station from Salzburg and left most of our luggage in a locker there – we had to be back the next day for our train to Budapest, so it didn’t make sense to carry all our luggage around the city. 

We picked up a 24-hour travel pass and took the metro to Schwedenplatz, which was the starting point of the Ring tram. We picked up some sandwiches, sat on a bench and made our plan for the day. We had a couple of must-do items on our list which we had to fit into our route and the rest depended on our mood and energy levels. As we got to the end of our sandwiches, we had decided to skip the Ring tram and instead do a walking tour. We took the metro to Stephansplatz where we started our walk. Our first stop was the St. Stephan’s Cathedral – a beautiful and imposing Gothic style building with huge pillars inside.

We continued our walk behind the cathedral to Mozarthaus (yes, he had one here as well in addition to the ones in Salzburg and St. Gilgen. We kept walking past the Trinity Column and St. Peter’s church.

The Trinity Column or Plague Column is a very interesting sculpture – made over a period of more than 10 years by various sculptors and indicating the transition to the Baroque era. 

A narrow street then took us to Michaelerplatz and the famous Hofburg Palace. Built in the 13th century, this palace served as the imperial residence of the Habsburg dynasty. As we walked in, we could see many horse carriages with tourists going around the square. We skipped the Spanish riding school and went to the Imperial Treasury. The place was unlike anything we’d ever seen – dresses of knights, archdukes and kings, gold embroidery, crowns with rubies and diamonds, crown and jewels of the Holy Roman Empire, staffs embedded with jewels and even a cradle which was gifted to Napoleon II.

We then walked to the Vienna State Opera (Wiener Staatsoper) and found out that there was a performance that evening of Swan Lake. We had read on a blog that they usually gave out really cheap standing tickets right before every show – you just had to be at the right place at the right time. We asked around and found the counter – we were told to come back at 7 and we could get tickets. 

Our next stop was the Natural History Museum – one of the best in the world!

There are close to 40 halls with exhibits spread across the two floors of the museum. Each one was dedicated to a different aspect of the earth – gems, meteorites, mammals, dinosaurs, mammoths and plenty more. It reminded us of the movie “Night at the Museum” where these artifacts came to life every night (that was the American Museum of Natural History). While we spent over an hour in the museum, it still felt like too little. This is definitely one for next time.

We were hungry by now and looked for the famous traditional Viennese cafe – Cafe Sperl. It was beautiful inside with warm lighting and we managed to get the cozy seats near the window. Sitting there in that cafe from 1880, we felt like we were transported back in time. We ordered Wiener schnitzel, Viennese cold coffee, a “tall brauner” (double mocha) and a cheesecake while we soaked in the atmosphere. 

Stomachs full and minds refreshed, we walked to the Naschmarkt – the most popular market in town. You can find all kinds of cuisine here – Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Italian and of course, Austrian. We even found Indian spice shops there! 

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It was almost 7pm and we had to rush back to the Opera to get our tickets. Thanks to the earlier visit, we knew exactly where to go and we managed to get 2 tickets for 6 euros (the normal tickets cost well over 150 euros per person!).

As we climbed up to the third floor, we could sense the history of this place. Built in the 1860’s the opera can seat over 1700 people. The marble staircases and portraits on the walls reminded us of Harry Potter.

We also felt out of place looking at the richly dressed people entering the premium seating area – we had worn the best set of clothes we were carrying and we were nowhere close to fitting in. We entered the standing area – we could see the entire hall shaped like a bowl with the stage on one side. The orchestra was seated at the lowest level just below the stage – there were all kinds of instruments – violins, cello, harps, you name it, it was there! The curtains slowly opened and the chattering audience instantly went silent. There were more than 50 performers and they all moved so gracefully in one fluid motion that they felt like one unit. The music transported us back to childhood when we had heard the Swan Lake track in Disney movies. The ballet dancers balanced perfectly on their toes and as they twirled round and round, we had goosebumps. I even noticed some happy tears from Nam and a few others around – it really was moving! 

The show paused for the interval and we decided to head back to our room. It had been a really long day starting at St. Gilgen and we had been walking all day. While our minds wanted to stay till the end of the show, our bodies needed the rest as we were only halfway into our trip. We took the tram to Schwedenplatz and the metro to Stephansplatz. For dinner, we picked up some hot dogs (the “wurst” kind). We had to take two more metro rides to get close to the Airbnb we had booked. The host had a ton of rules (he seemed a bit crazy about cleanliness) and the apartment was quite basic. Most Airbnbs we’d stayed at so far had been good without much hassle and this was our first weird experience. Thankfully we were dead tired and crashed as soon as we hit the bed.

New day, new country – we next headed to Hungary.

Bonus blogs:
Getting around Austria
Austria Food Guide

If you liked this, do check out our other blogs of our trip in Austria. We’d love to read your comments. Do subscribe to get updates on our latest blogs.

Croatian Chronicles

When you are planning your itinerary through Eastern Europe, Croatia is a country you just cannot skip. With its beautiful beaches, quaint little towns and pristine national parks, Croatia has something for everyone and is perfect for a relaxed holiday and not to mention light on your pockets!

Croatia (or Hrvatska in Croatian) shares borders with Slovenia and Hungary in the north, Serbia and Bosnia & Herzegovina in the east and Montenegro in the south. In the west the Adriatic Sea with over a thousand Croatian islands – is the ultimate island-hopping dream! The idyllic Dalmatian coast in the south offers everything from crazy nightlife and parties to spots where you can sit back, sip on a cocktail and enjoy the slow and quiet life.

Best time to visit

June to August is the peak tourist season as the weather is warm at this time of the year as in most other parts of Europe. If you want to avoid the crowds, plan your trip in late May, early June or September – the prices will be lower and you will also get good weather.

What’s the best way to get around Croatia? Oh, and what about the visa?

To plan your travel in detail, check out our blog on Travelling in Croatia made easy, but here’s a quick snapshot to get you started.

In most itineraries, you would enter Croatia from one of the two countries in the north (Slovenia or Hungary) and reach the capital, Zagreb.

Zagreb is well-connected to all neighboring capitals by land, air and rail. From there on, you can get buses to anywhere in the country. The roads are quite good and buses comfortable, making the commute easy. This is also the cheapest option available. The coastal cities and islands can be navigated using catamarans. Book in advance to get a good deal. You can also choose to fly to your destination – there are airports in all major cities.

Indians will need a visa to enter Croatia. Though Croatia doesn’t come under the Schengen Zone yet (as of Jan 2020 – they’re still trying!), you can visit Croatia with a valid multi-entry Schengen Visa. Which means, they will stamp your passport as you enter and leave Croatia. (Good news for those who get excited by immigration stamps like us!)  Get more details about the Visa requirements based on your country here.

What is the ideal number of days to spend in Croatia?

There is a never a correct answer to this question. You can spend months exploring the place! It totally depends on your budget (both in terms of number of days and money). We usually have a strict limit on our number of days as we have to get back to our jobs in India – so we try to optimize our number of places in order to get a true essence of the place (sights, culture and food!) while not being “too” rushed. Here’s our itinerary along with some of the options to help you decide!

Our Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive at Zagreb from Budapest by train. Explore the city and leave for Plitvice by the evening bus. Spend the night at Plitvice.

Day 2: Explore Plitvice National Park – read all about how to make the most out of your day at Plitvice, what routes to take etc right here. Leave for Split by the evening bus. Enjoy the Split nightlife.

Day 3: Morning catamaran to Hvar island. Spend the day relaxing and exploring the island. Eat some amazing seafood! Night in Hvar.

Day 4: Catamaran to Dubrovnik. Explore the walled city and take the evening catamaran back to Split. Don’t miss out the best the Dalmatian coast has to offer and check out our detailed account here.

Day 5: Explore Split old town. Evening bus to Zagreb.

Day 6: Fly out of Zagreb.

Here are some suggested changes based on the type of person you are / group you are travelling with:

The Slow and Steady Tortoise: you can add more days at each place if you have the luxury of time. Or if you have only 6-7 days, you could skip Dubrovnik and spend more time at Hvar/Split.

History Buffs: add more time at Zagreb to check out the museums and learn more about the history of the region. Croatia has had a troubled history witnessing unrest and wars till as recently as the 1990’s. The people here have done an amazing job to get the country to where it is today.

Terrestrial humans: you can head to Pula, Umag and the Istrian peninsula. This cannot be combined with the above itinerary as it will be completely off the route and you would need many more days. You can follow the itinerary upto Plitvice and turn towards Pula.

Water-loving humans: Add the coastal city of Zadar and more islands like Brač, Vis and Korčula.

Foodies: Check out our Croatia Food Guide to follow our food trail.

This should get you started on your Croatia itinerary. Check out our other blogs on how to make the most of your Croatia trip here. Croatia holds a special place in our hearts. You could get lost all day in the beautiful streets and discover new things on every corner. Among all the countries we’ve visited so far, we would not think twice before packing our bags for Croatia again!

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How to Make an Itinerary

The Plan

The summer of 2017 – Nam and I were planning our first long vacation together. We were looking at 13 days in the first half of June. After working out multiple itineraries, we settled on Eastern Europe. We wanted to experience the best of what each place had to offer. This meant staying with the locals, having the best of the local cuisine, exploring the small lanes by foot and travelling light by public transport across cities – in other words, backpacking! The way I see it, there are two types of backpackers – ones who go where the roads take them and others who research and plan well ahead. It is difficult to be the first type when you are a working Indian and have less than 15 days of vacation (sigh!). Also, I prefer to be second type – it ensures that you do not miss out on the top experiences. In fact, I enjoy planning trips almost as much as the travelling. Continue reading How to Make an Itinerary