Hallstatt – where beauty meets adventure

On a cloudy Easter Sunday morning, we began our short drive to Hallstatt. As we drove out of Salzburg, we were met with pouring rain. The snow-speckled alpine mountains surrounding Salzburg were completely hidden from view and dark clouds hung low. Several minutes into our drive, we move off the expressway and pass thru pretty little villages nestled at the foot of lush green hills. We drive past these villages and on to windy roads with the hills on one side and the gushing stream on the other. The rain had slowed down to a drizzle, the clouds were receding and finally, some spring sunshine filters thru the sky as we arrive in Hallstatt.

Our first stop in Hallstatt was the Dachstein Ice Caves and 5 Fingers Lookout. Unfortunately, this was still closed due to the cold weather (Austria was still getting its last snowfall in April!) We were a bit disappointed as the views from the 5 Fingers looked stunning and the ice caves looked simply fascinating from the pictures we’d seen. But, we knew we were not going to be able to explore some of the sights as we were still traveling during the winter period and most of the attractions would reopen only around the end of April. We didn’t despair though as we had quite an exciting adventure waiting for us!

We pulled into the parking area at the Salzwelten Hallstatt and made our way to the funicular that would take us up to the Salzberg (Salt Mountain). It’s a short scenic ride offering beautiful views of the Hallstatt lake and the Alps.

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Once you are off the funicular, you have a few things to do on the Salzberg – head up to the Skywalk or World Heritage View – it’s a viewing platform 350 metres above the Hallstatt village. Take the lookout bridge towards the Rudolf Tower to get to the Skywalk. The views from here are just jaw-dropping. You can see the Hallstatt village right below you and the nearby Obertraun village as well. The Hallstattersee looks quite magnificient from this height. Although we visited on a cloudy day and the alps were mostly hidden from view, the moody clouds added a certain charm to the views.

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And the main attraction on this Salt Mountain is the Salt Mine of course. If you’re feeling peckish before you head on over to the Salt Mine, you can grab a bite at the restaurant in the Rudolf Tower. They have a lovely patio which is right above the Skywalk deck so you can grab a pint and a bite while enjoying the beautiful views. Make sure you head on over to the salt mine in time for your tour. The walk to the Salt Mine is short but beautiful.

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Look back and you can see the Rudolf Tower in the distance..

The Salt Mine tour was the highlight of our Hallstatt trip. This is hands down one of our best tours and most fascinating experiences ever. Not only was it well-organized with informative and friendly guides but it was filled with a lot of high-tech entertainment and adventure! Before we set off on our tour through the oldest salt mine in the world, we had to don a miner’s suit which was just the beginning of making this a very real experience. We then walked thru long tunnels that had been dug up by miners a few thousands of years ago to get to the salt mine.

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And, then, it was time to take a mindblowing ride down a very long, ancient wooden miner’s slide to go further down into the mine. As you can tell from the picture, I was a bit nervous as is usually the case with rides but Steve just loves them! You could take the flight of stairs next to the slide if you don’t feel up to it. But, you really should do the slide – it’s a lot of fun! It’s quite safe for the young and old (just don’t put your arms out and follow the directions given).

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They also capture your embarassing but fun moment to take back as a prized souvenir

Once you’re further down in the mine, you’ll find lots of rock salt – on the ceiling, on the walls, everywhere… you can just pinch some off for a taste – it’s delicious!

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The tour guides are great – they give you excellent background on the salt mine and its significance. Here are some tidbits that we remember – Apparently, 250 million years ago, the entire salt mine area was covered by the ocean. The village of Hallstatt came into existence when the salt mine was discovered during the pre-historic times. And today, the Hallstatt salt mine produces 750,000 tonnes of salt per year. It is one of the first known salt mines in the world that helped uncover valuable information on the pre-historic era.

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In the salt mine, you’ll go thru several diferent sections – some like the one above where you’ll find salt blocks and some others where they display valuable finds from the pre-historic times. There’s also a little cinema room – appearing very rustic but built with advanced technology. The tour also includes a few short, interesting videos that take you deeper into the history of the salt mine and the remarkable discoveries that were made including the oldest wooden staircase in Europe and the Man in Salt (the body of a former miner was discovered in an astonishingly well-preserved condition due to all the salt he was buried under!)

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No, this isn’t him – this is just Sepp, a miner who tells the story of the Man in Salt

At the last level in the mine, you are 400 metres underground and there is a mysterious little lake that reflects an amazing light show – spectacular effects and very nicely done! The light show depicts pre-historic times and a day in the life of the miners.

And, finally, it’s time for the last ride through the mine… We hop on a miner’s railway and take another exhilirating ride thru the narrow tunnels of the mine.

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The Hallstatt Salt Mine is a sensational experience – filled with non-stop adventure from start to finish. We highy recommend a visit to the Salzberg / Salt Mountain – it takes about 3 hours to do the salt mine tour and the skywalk. If there’s only one thing you have time for in Hallstatt, do this. It’s an unforgettable, thrilling adventure! If you have more time to spare and love a hike, Salzberg offers a couple of lovely hiking options as well.

We had just a couple more hours to spare in Hallstatt and decided to ride the funicular back down and check out the little village.

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We took a stroll thru the village market place. (See how deserted it is? Definitely one of the greatest advantages of traveling off-season is to be able to explore a place without bumping shoulder to shoulder. It is just the kind of holiday we like.)

The Hallstatt village center is filled with colorful little buildings and the Evangelical Church dominates most of this little center.

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It has an impressive spire
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This other church you see perched on the hill is Hallstatt’s catholic church – St. Michael’s Chapel

This 12th century church is most popular for its Charnel House (or Bone House). The Ossuary boasts a collection of over 600 skulls, all adorned with artistic designs. Unfortunately, we got there only to find that we’d arrived a few minutes too late. The place had just been closed!

We took a walk around the lovely little cemetery at the back of the church. Much like the rest of Austria, the graves are beautifully decorated with personal effects adorning the graves. The view from the top of the church is lovely.

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We then walked up to the classic village viewpoint at the Gosaumühlstraße. This is where you can get the famous postcard view of Hallstatt.

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Although it was about 7 PM, there was still plenty of daylight and we headed down to the lake for a stroll. The views of the Hallstätter See are just delightful. We grabbed a coupla beers, plonked down on one of the benches by the lake, and sat admiring the alpine wonder that surrounds this little Austrian village.

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Of course you could do a boat tour as well and get up close to these gorgeous mountains
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It was nearing sundown and we were just content to sit there and watch the swans swim by..

There’s unbelievable beauty everywhere in this little village!

Although it can get quite crowded, just take a walk thru the village and its surounding area and you can find a cosy quiet little spot to admire the beauty that this small place packs in.

We spent a short day in Hallstatt. If you do choose to stay overnight, you could stay at the nearby, less touristy Gosau or Obertraun. They are just 10 minutes away from Hallstatt. We spent a short while in Obertraun – it’s a tiny village on the other side of this bridge.

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With it being Easter sunday, the locals were nowhere to be seen and the tourists were thronging little Hallstatt. We seemed to be the only souls in this sleepy village and it was lovely to walk through the quiet little lanes and sit by the lake.

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The beauty of Austria is in its little alpine villages – each one as breathtaking as the next. We had visited St. Gilgen and Mondsee the previous day and continued to be amazed by this incredibly beautiful country. The Salzkammergut region where all these little villages are has some of Austria’s prettiest lakes and most charming villages, all surrounded by the majestic Alps.

We plan on going back to Austria again, maybe in winter – we’d love to try some skiing and snowboarding!

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While we dream of that day and hope it comes sooner than later, here’s the ‘Salt Man’ wishing you Glück Auf or Good Luck for your Hallstatt trip!

Discovering Liquid Gold at the end of the rainbow

Whoever said “Money can’t buy Happiness” definitely wasn’t a craft beer enthusiast!

It is soon going to be 2 months since we moved to Ireland and in this short while, we have explored a great variety of outstanding craft beers from this little country! It has definitely been the best bang for our buck and we are still floating in a little cloud of joy.

What continues to amaze us the most is just how EASY it is to get good craft beer around here. There are a myriad of pubs that serve craft beer, some that serve only craft beer with no macro beers at all! Having moved from a little town in Germany, where we were starved for craft beer, Dublin has been pure bliss!

We no longer need to go scouring the little corners of the country we live in for a good pint of craft beer but walk less than a 100 metres to our friendly, neighborhood supermarket to get some of Ireland’s top-notch craft beers. And, better yet, we’ve also got an off licence store (or liquor store) that stocks the latest and greatest of craft beers from not only Ireland but all around the world. So, yeah, we are definitely in a happy place! 🙂

So far, we have tried over 70 beers from a number of breweries around Ireland (yeah, we know – more beers than the number of days we’ve been here! But hey, haven’t you heard – A beer or two a day can keep a slew of health conditions at bay!)

And, yet, we have barely scratched the surface! There is a lot more beer to be explored and enjoyed. The local breweries keep releasing limited edition small batch beers. New breweries as well seem to keep springing up ever so often. So, it seems like there’s always going to be new stuff – on tap and by bottle.

Through bold experimentation and radical flavors, the craft breweries of Ireland have carved out a prominent place for themselves in the craft beer revolution map. Ireland was already a renowned beer nation having given the world one of the greatest beers of all time – the Guinness. But, now, the country is garnering a reputation for itself among the top craft beer nations, and gaining international recognition for its impressive assortment of craft beers.

And, surely enough, there seems to be a large community of craft beer enthusiasts who not only indulge in all this amazing beer but also share their experiences with the community actively via Twitter, Instagram, podcasts and beer blogs. We had the absolute pleasure of meeting a few of these guys over the last few weeks – friendly folks who are hugely passionate about their beer – they gave us a warm welcome and lots of helpful recommendations! We have also been getting a whole bunch of recommendations from folks over Instagram. It’s been simply marvelous to connect with all these wonderful, beer-loving folks!

All in all, we are absolutely thrilled to be here in Ireland, in the midst of all this fantastic craft beer culture! We are happy to be spoilt for choice here and we look forward to making the most of it and sharing our experiences. Sláinte! 🍻

 

ECP – Singapore’s Jewel in the Crown

The East Coast Park was a big part of our life in Singapore and is our most loved place in this wonderful little island country.

The ECP is a scenic coastline that stretches over 15 kilometres and is a great place to go to for a ride along the coastline or a lazy day at the beach.

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You can spend a few hours or an entire day at the ECP. There’s a whole bunch to do. And, it’s a beach you can go to anytime of the year. You may be aware that Singapore doesn’t really have seasons.. it is situated just above the equator and has a tropical climate.. it’s humid and sunny thru the year in this little island. And yes, it is known to rain quite often but it’s usually the kind of rain that comes pouring down with all its might but lasts just a short while. There’s plenty of gazebos around the ECP for you to take cover while the rain clouds pass over.

ECP is filled with a whole range of entertainment options. You can ride a bike along the coastline – a single, tandem or a full family seater! The view is spectacular and you’ve got a dedicated cycling path for your uniterrupted biking pleasure. Many an afternoon/evening was spent biking along the coastline while we lived in Singapore. They also have other options like rollerblading, kayaking, wind surfing, and other extreme sports for the adrenaline junkies. There’s also a paint ball and laser tag arcade in Parkland Green. Or if you’d like to just sit back and drink a pint or two while some fresh fish take the bait, you’ll find plenty of fishing spots along the ECP – the pier near Marine Parade is especially popular for this.

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If you’d rather just hang out by the beach, get a beach blanket, some snacks, and a cooler filled with your favorite beers! You’ll find plenty of folks just lazing on the beach under the shade of a palm tree, having a jolly good picnic. At ECP, you can also camp by the beach, overnight as well if you’d like to. It is a very popular activity, so you’ve got to book ahead. We never got around to camping under the stars while we were in Singapore but would highly recommend this if you get a chance to. They provide for shower facilities as well if you’d like to wash off some of that salt and sand off your skin before you call it a night.

There are a ton of options all along the ECP for some lip-smacking food – you’ll find a whole bunch of hawker centers (Singapore’s quite famous for these). It’s basically street food that is cheap and delicious. We highly recommend the satays – they are just mind-blowing! You”ll find these stalls at the East Coast Lagoon Food Village. Just a little further away, you’ll find restaurants, beer bars, and cafes as well, if you fancy a quieter place. Many of these offer a great sea view too. We frequented the Parkland Green as it was closer to where we stayed. This section of ECP is newer and offers plenty of dining options. And, for the eager cooks, you can do your own barbecue in one of the many pits around ECP. Barbecuing at the beach is another very popular activity – make sure you book in advance!

The East Coast Park is part of the Singapore national parks and is interconnected to many of the other parks so you can indulge in some park hop too, by foot, by bike or simply skate your way through.

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The East Coast Park is definitely frequented more by the folks living in Singapore but it is a great place to unwind and soak in Singapore’s fantastic culture, and relish its variety of culinary delights during your short holiday to this little island.

If there’s one thing we miss the most about Singapore, it would have to be ECP. There’s nothing like it anywhere else. While there were beautiful cycle paths along the Donau in Germany and there’s sure a great variety of food and beautiful coastlines here in Ireland, having that all-in-one experience like the East Coast Park is something we crave for from time to time.

Some of our favorite moments in ECP were riding one of ’em big family cycles along the sea, building sand castles with two of our favorite little girls, enjoying a nice pint at sundown and watching the distant lights of the boats fade into the sea… priceless memories!

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The East Coast Park holds many a precious memory from our life in Singapore. It made our lives beautiful and complete. It will always be a special place!

Mondsee – a charming little place

Tucked away in the scenic Salzkammergut region, Mondsee is another one of Austria’s lesser known wonders.

After a wonderful day at St. Gilgen and the Wolfgangsee, we decided to do a quick stop at nearby Mondsee before heading back to Salzburg which was our base for our German Austrian alpine trip.

Mondsee is another little Austrian village in the Salzkammergut region that will have you fascinated by its beauty and idyllic charm in no time.

On a cloudy evening, we arrived in Mondsee. We parked in the main square of the village. It’s a small square, lined with colorful townhouses, mostly restaurants and stores selling handcrafted wares.

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Just opposite this main square is the Collegiate Church of St. Michael, which used to be the monastery church of Mondsee Abbey. The Mondsee Abbey was founded in 748 and there’s some interesting folklore around why the abbey was founded and how the name Mondsee, meaning moon lake, came about.

The church is possibly most famous for being the venue for the wedding of Maria and Captain von Trapp in the famous musical ‘Sound of Music‘. The church is quite the sought-after church for weddings in the area ever since the film was released.  Also known as the Basilica St. Michael, the church is one of the primary reasons tourists flock this little village. Even if you are not a huge Sound of Music fan, this little village will still leave a lasting impression.

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The Basilica of St. Michael
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The interiors of the church are quite impressive
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Especially impressive is its baroque style altar

Right outside the church is the city tram stop. Now, this is a tram ride we highly recommend you make part of your Mondsee itinerary. The tram ride is just lovely – the driver gives you a very informative tour (even if you are the only soul on the tram!) and takes you thru the smallest of Mondsee streets. The best part of the ride is when the tram arrives at the Mondsee promenade and takes you right in front of the Mondsee – and you are mere inches away from the lake! That was a fantastic and unique experience.

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At the promenade, you can get off the tram and enjoy a nice stroll along the lake. Take a walk around the promenade park as well… you’ll find gorgeous little streams and bridges that make you feel like you’re in a land of fairies.4836534628017574288-account_id=2 (2)

 

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The beautiful Countess Michelin Gräfin von Almeida

 

Just a few metres away is the Mondsee Pier where you can get the best views of the beautiful Salzkammergut region.

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It was just us and these ducks braving the cold, rainy evening…

We stood at the pier for a long time, just basking in the silence around us.. watching the tranquil waters of Mondsee make little magical ripples.

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We wish we’d had more time to explore this beautiful alpine village of Austria. We hope to go back to Austria someday soon during summer. Mondsee is quite popular for water sports – it is the warmest lake in the Salzkammergut region and folks from nearby towns flock this little village during the summer months.

If you are visiting the Salzkammergut region of Austria, be sure to make little Mondsee part of your Austria holiday – it is a special place!

We fell in love with Mondsee and the other little villages in the Salzkammergut region – they are filled with such incredible beauty that you’ll always want to go back for more.