Last weekend, we drove up to Skerries, a seaside town north of Dublin city. In about an hour, we made it to the centre of the small town. Easily accessible by Dublin bus and the Irish rail, Skerries is part of the Dublin county and makes for a great city break.
Skerries is especially popular for its historic tower mills that date back several hundred years. The Skerries mill complex includes 2 tower mills or windmills and a water mill.
The mills can be visited through a guided tour only and unfortunately the last tour was already underway when we got to the mills. And so, we just walked around the mill complex admiring the mills from a distance.
The one above is the four sail windmill and is the older of the two. It’s also known as The Small Windmill while the one below is called The Great Windmill. The taller one below is said to be more efficient considering its five sails.
It was good weather the day we were visiting – blue skies showing no trace of rain. Perfect weather to walk the little coast of Skerries.
We were soon peckish and decided to head over to this little cafe Goat in The Boat for some snacks and coffee. Funny little folk tale of St. Patrick and his visit to Skerries can be found on one of the cafe’s walls.
Skerries is filled with cute little cafes.
Storm in a Teacup is very close to the beach, perfect place to take away some icecream and a cuppa to enjoy by the beautiful Irish sea.
We walked along the rocky shore picking shells and watching little hermit crabs scurrying thru tidepools.
As the sun went down, it started to get nippy and we made our way back to the car park.
Right behind the car park is one of the two Martello Towers in Skerries. You’ll find plenty of such towers along the Irish coastline. These small defensive forts were built during the French revolution. Although primarily functioning as a watch-house, these towers were also homes to the guards and their families.
Alhough we spent only a few hours in Skerries and found Howth much more fascinating, it was nevertheless a lovely evening spent in good company.
Last year, incidentally around this time, we were touring across Germany and Switzerland. We wrapped up our 2-week long holiday in Lake Geneva, one of the largest lakes in Europe.
When we booked our AirBNB accomodation, we didn’t realise that the place we’d booked was actually on the French side of Lake Geneva. And, that’s how we ended up in France for the first time!
We hopped on a train from Grindelwald, where we’d spent 3 incredibly wonderful days hiking the Swiss Alps. We got off the train at Lausanne, one of the biggest cities on Lake Geneva. After a rushed unfinished lunch at a lovely restaurant by the lake, we ran all the way to the port with our bags trailing hard and just about made it in time for our short boat ride to Thonon les Bains.
It was a scenic ride with gorgeous views of Lake Geneva and the little towns on its shore.
Thonon les Bains is just across the lake, on the French side. It is one of the bigger towns on the lake and seems to be fairly popular with tourists looking to spend a relaxed holiday in Lake Geneva or Lac Léman, as known in French.
We stayed in a little French village called Anthy-sur-Léman, about 10 minutes away from Thonon. Anthy is also by the lake and is a quiet place to stay at if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the more popular towns on the lake. After a 10-day hop across South Germany and Switzerland, all we wanted to do was kick back and relax and this idyllic little village was perfect. The AirBNB we stayed at was just a few minutes away from the lake and had a lovely vegetable garden and chicken farm that my nephew was completely fascinated with.
We spent the first day just unwinding over a few beers and taking a stroll around the garden. Later that evening, we headed to a lovely restaurant by the lake – Les Pieds Dans L’Eau. It was our first time eating French food and my first time eating fish! We were absolutely delighted with the food at this place.
The next day, we headed back to Thonon for some sight-seeing. Thonon-les-Bains has a stunning port and is a very popular fishing village on Lake Geneva. It also seems to be well-known for water sports and the large number of yachts docked at the harbor surely was proof of the enthusiasm the locals had for sailing.
It was great weather that day and we took a walk along the promenade admiring the gorgeous blue waters of Lake Geneva and the Jura mountain range just across the lake in Switzerland.
The port or Port de Rives as it’s properly known, is lined with a good bunch of restaurants and cafes. It also has a great play area overlooking the lake.
The Thonon city centre sits high above Lake Geneva and we made our way up there on the Funiculaire de Thonon-les-Bains. Dating back to late 19th century, this little funicular is a fun ride offering splendid lake views as you ascend to the Les Belvederes, a large garden area that also acts as a viewing platform for the lake.
The views from up here are incredibly beautiful. And, on a sunny day with blue skies, you’re bound to fall in love with the shimmering blue lake.
It’s always such a fun-filled day with this little guy! We spent the next hour or so lazing on the grass and taking in the views of the spectacular lake.
Although we didn’t do a whole lot in Lake Geneva, we had a wonderful coupla days in the scenic little French villages by the lake. It was the perfect laid-back finish to an amazing holiday!
(P.S.: Watch out for more posts from the holiday!)
Salzburg is like that often overlooked sibling of an illustrious personality — in its case, the city of Vienna. However, just as the cliché goes, while it is similar to Vienna in some respects, Salzburg has its own unique mix of exquisite art, music, culture and incredible scenery. The city is perhaps most well known for being the birthplace of Mozart and for being the location of the heartwarming movie The Sound of Music, but digging a bit deeper reveals so much more of this enchanting city, nestled in the Alps.
Salzburg was our first and last stop on our spring holiday this year. We used Salzburg as our home base to explore the alpine villages of Germany and Austria. It was centrally located giving us easy accessibility and assured us of lively bars and restaurants that we could unwind at after a long day of sight-seeing.
While we did explore a little bit of Salzburg every evening when we returned, we fully explored the city only on our last day there.
There’s a lot to do in Salzburg – stunning cathedrals, excellent museums, great beerhalls, cool fountains, beautiful parks and the list goes on. Here are some spots we think are definitely worth a visit.
Even if you are in Salzburg for just the day or a few hours, make time for this. The Hohensalzburg’s not only got some great exhibits on the inside but spectacular views of the city and the surrounding alps on the outside.
It was mid April and the last snowfall was around early February but this year there was unexpected snow across Germany and Austria for a couple of days in April that took everyone by surprise. It definitely made our plan to see Salzburg that day mighty hard with slushy snow hitting us in bursts thru the day.
The Hohensalzburg Fortress is perched on a little hill, just above the old town area.
The fortress is easily accessible from the city centre via the FestungsBahn funicular (just around the corner from the KapitelPlatz). Once you step outside this little funicular, check out the panoramic terrace for outstanding views of the city and the alps.
There’s a whole bunch of things to do inside this 11th century fortress that includes several wings and courtyards. Some sections are converted into museums filled with interesting exhibits. The Fortress Museum in the Hoher Stock wing is quite fascinating with its large collection of weapons and ceramics. It gives a great background on the history of the fortress and everyday life in the castle.
The Rainer-Regiment Museum has a somewhat similar theme of exhibits including weapons, uniforms and a historical recount of the key role played by the Rainer Regiment in the First World War. They also have a few nicely done sets and it’s worth a quick stop.
The Marionette Museum is another little section in the fortress that has an intriguing set of puppets on exhibit from its very popular Marionette Theatre. The theatre itself is located in the heart of the city and has a variety of shows every day. We were unable to make any of these shows during our visit but it’s something we have on our list for a future visit. It seems like a fun show for children and adults alike and if you have the time, you should check it out.
As you walk thru the castle bastions, you’ll stumble into some of these (harmless) guys.
The Royal Apartments is another delightful section in the fortress. It features a few different rooms of which the Golden Chamber is most remarkable. Wall to ceiling, this room is exquisitely decorated in lush colors and gothic style. The main showpiece in the chamber is the large Majolica oven that is lavishly decorated with colorful, intricate designs. The Golden Hall, just beside the Golden Chamber, is another grandly decorated room with similar gothic designs. For over 40 years, the hall has hosted some of Salzburg’s best Mozart concerts and it definitely seemed like the best place in the city to enjoy an evening of delightful music coupled with some striking views.
Although it’ll take you a few good hours, the Hohensalzburg Fortress is a sight that shouldn’t be missed. On your way down to the city, you could do a quick stop at the Stiegl Brewery to get a refreshing pint of their lager or some local bites. The city views from their biergarten are quite lovely as well.
Another popular place in Salzburg for great city views is the Winkler Terrace, accessible via the Mönchsberg Lift. We couldn’t fit this into our day but it seems like a place that’s definitely worth the visit from the few pictures we’ve seen – stunning panoramas!
Built in early 17th century, the Salzburg Cathedral is incredibly beautiful. On the outside, it seems somewhat ordinary, but when you step inside, you’re struck by its true splendor.
Altstadt or Old Town area
Salzburg’s old town area is a great place to start your exploration of Salzburg. Most of the popular sights including the fortress and cathedral are centered in the old town or historical district. Just opposite the cathedral is the Residenzplatzwith its splendid horse-fish fountain or Residenzbrunnen.
The Residenz Square also includes a whole bunch of museums including the Dom Quartierand Salzburg Museum which we sadly couldn’t make time for in the one day we had in Salzburg. They looked pretty fascinating from their websites and if you are in Salzburg for more than a day, you should give it a go. Also, note that these museums are interconnected and seem to be covered in one pass.
Just next to the Residenzplatz is the Mozartplatz. Of course, the square is adorned by a statue of Salzburg’s most popular guy.
If you fancy a horse carriage ride thru the old town area, you’ll find these guys hanging around the Mozart Square.
For more of Mozart, head over to Mozart’s Wohnhaus (residence) and Mozart’s Geburtshaus (place of birth). Both these houses have been converted into museums exhibiting paintings, musical instruments, documents and a great number of other collectibles that narrate the life story of the musical genius.
Apart from being well-known for Mozart’s place of birth, the Getreidegasseis also popular for shopping in Salzburg. Even if you ain’t shopping, the street is a delight to walk thru. Every store has a uniquely designed sign above its door. Even McDonald’s is fancy in this street!
One thing you should shop for, in the whereabouts of this area, is the Mozart Kugeln. Launched for the first time in late 19th century, these little chocolate bonbons made of pistacchio, marzipan and nougat, are an Austrian specialty.
Music fills the streets of Salzburg. The old town area is bustling with musicians playing delightful classical numbers. Do take time to stop for a gelato, sit in one of the beautiful old town squares and listen to these guys.
If you’d rather sit indoors and listen to some great jazz music, head over to Jazzit. They have some great musicians entertaining you every day of the week. The place is very popular so get there early and grab a seat by the bar that faces the stage and you’ll be all set for a wonderful evening of incredibly wonderful jazz. This was one of our best nights on our week-long road trip!
Mirabell Palace and Gardens
Schloss Mirabell and Mirabellgarten is less than a kilometre away from the old town and it rose to fame when one of the popular scenes from the ‘Sound of Music’ was filmed here, right on these steps, that is the entrance to the garden.
It is a lovely garden to walk thru especially around spring time with gorgeous tulips and other spring flowers embellishing the vast garden.
The Dwarf Park is a lot of fun! There are some very cool looking dwarves throughout this little park. Here’s a couple of our favorites.
Take a stroll by the Salzach
Do take some time to walk the banks of the Salzach river that runs thru the city of Salzburg. It is not too far from the old town area and you can get some wonderful views of this charming little city.
Visit one of the many outstanding breweries
Finally, unwind in a cozy little brewpub and indulge in some of Austria’s culinary delights and excellent brews. You are spoilt for choice with their remarkable selection of breweries. Here are some that we tried and liked.
Looking back on our last day in Salzburg, we actually managed to see quite a bit in one day. If you have more time, there’s a lot more you can do in and around the city.
We hope to return to Salzburg someday, to explore more of the unspoiled beauty and culture that fills every little corner of this city.
Take a break from Dublin city and head over to Howth, a picturesque little fishing village in Dublin county offering gorgeous panoramic views of the Irish sea.
Two weeks ago, we visited Howth (pronounced Hoth). It’s just 30 minutes away from the Dublin city centre and makes for a great break from the city. We hopped on a DART and took a short ride along the Irish coastline.
As we stepped out of the station, we saw that the Howth weekend market was on. We wandered in to find something to fill our hungry stomachs.
It was a lovely little market with jewellery, some handcrafted items, freshly baked bread, dried fruits, candy and lots of other delicious little bites. They also offered an interesting variety of cuisines for the ones craving bigger bites. Being a fan of Mexican food, we packed ourselves a Quesadilla and Burrito and headed over to the pier to find a cosy spot to have our lunch by the sea.
Having stuffed ourselves happy, we were ready to start exploring little Howth. We walked around the harbor for a bit. It’s a pretty little harbor with plenty of sailboats docked at the harbor entrance and a few spread around the bay.
Perfect weather for a great cliff walk. The Howth Cliff Path Loop is a 6 to 10 km walk that will take anywhere from 2 to 4 hours depending on which loop you take. There are 4 loops; some are longer and more difficult. We opted for the easier one as it was our first cliff walk in Ireland and we were setting off on our walk in the evening.
Head towards the east side of the promenade for the cliff walk. You’ll see rocky shores just before you begin the steep climb up Balscadden Road.
There’s a bunch of lovely houses along the way, all boasting of stunning seaside views and beautiful courtyards. Wouldn’t mind waking up to this view!
Howth seems to be a popular spot for the angling enthusiasts.
The island you see just ahead in the picture above is the Ireland’s Eye and the one further ahead is the Lambay island. Ireland’s Eye is home to a variety of sea birds and in a short 15 minutes, you could be in the bird sanctuary. On the island is also an old Christian monastery. The island is fairly secluded and has a nice little beach from what we hear and it could be a good spot for an afternoon picnic. We were unable to visit Ireland’s Eye this time but plan to make it there on our next Howth visit.
As you approach the end of the short ascent on Balscadden Road, you’ll see a car park and just ahead of that a gravel steep path. This is the starting point to the Cliff Walk. If you are unable to make the cliff walk, you can just park your car here and go on a short 5 min climb up the gravel trail. This will lead you up to the cliff top where you are rewarded with breathtaking views of the Irish sea.
It’s a beautiful trail! The sea is just 50 metres below you and looks utterly fascinating as you walk along the cliff edges.
As you continue your walk, you’ll see plenty of jagged rocks where someone’s jumping off for a swim or fishing for a big catch.
The trails weren’t crowded as you can see. We did the walk later in the day and so we escaped most of the tourist crowd and ran into just a few locals. The trail gets narrower in some places but you should have enough room to allow a fellow walker to pass by.
Do take care as you walk though – you are after all walking on the edge and there’s nothing but the deep blue ocean below you. The terrain is a bit rugged but is a well-worn trail popular with locals and tourists alike.
It can get mucky and slippery when it rains so make sure you have the right footwear! And, may not be a wise idea to do the cliff walk on a bad weather day.
The cliff path takes a whole bunch of turns through the 6 kilometre walk and as you move further along the loop, the views change as well.
The Baily Lighthouse on Howth Head comes into view as you near the Howth Summit. The mountains you see in the distance are the Wicklow mountains, known for its stunning scenery and pristine lakes.
You can continue your cliff walk and do the full 10 km by heading towards the lighthouse. We decided to take a turn towards the uphill path that leads to the Summit car park area.
At the car park, you have the option to continue on the loop and take the path running parallel to the uphill path to return to the Howth station. We decided to take a break and grab a pint at the Summit Inn.
It was well worth the stop as this pint of Guinness is an excellent pint of the delicious dark beauty – it had a great creamy head that stayed all the way thru to its last drop!
We headed back to the Howth Harbor by bus and got off at a stop close to the East pier. We arrived in time to watch the sunset and it was just spectacular with dramatic clouds looming above.
The Howth East Pier walkis wonderful, especially at sundown. The tourist crowd was long gone and except for a few locals walking their dogs, we had the whole pier for ourselves to explore.
Colorful little sailboats dot the bay on one side and the beautiful Irish sea laps on rocky shores on the other.
At the end of the pier, you reach the Howth Harbor Lighthouse. There’s some interesting history behind this fine structure that was also used for defensive purposes.
Further ahead, you’ll find this little beacon tower – it is a great spot to take a break and admire the magnificent Irish sea before heading back.
We stopped for dinner at The Bloody Stream, a lovely pub although the name might indicate otherwise. It’s right at the station so quite convenient to head straight to your train. We finally got our craft beer pint in this little pub and were ecstatic. They serve just the Hope beers (one of Dublin’s good craft breweries) and of course the traditional Irish beers were also on tap.
It was the perfect end to a perfect day. Howth is a little hidden gem in Dublin that is well worth a visit!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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!
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.
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!)
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.
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.
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.
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.
We then walked up to the classic village viewpoint at the Gosaumühlstraße. This is where you can get the famous postcard view of Hallstatt.
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.
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 Gosauor 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.
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.
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!
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! 🍻
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.
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.
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.
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.
Just a few metres away is the Mondsee Pier where you can get the best views of the beautiful Salzkammergut region.
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.
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.
Although most would identify Munich as Germany’s beer capital what with the Oktoberfest craze… for us, it would be Cologne.
Cologne is where we first explored the craft beer variety Germany has to offer. It is where we saw locals relish craft beer as much as they do the revered Kölsch.
We started our beer journey in Cologne with the Kölsch – it seemed like the right thing to do. And, we were not disappointed. If you’ve read some of the posts on this blog, you will know that we are not huge fans of the Pils. That said, we don’t mind drinking them on tap every once in a while. It is full of fresh flavors and the Pils generally have a nice hoppiness to it, admittedly not the pale ale hoppiness that we like but good enough to drink occasionally.
We had our first Kölsch at the Gaffel am Dom. The Kölsch to us was really just a German pils, just not as hoppy. However, the Kölsch by classification is an ale as it’s top fermented unlike a Pils. Notice how it is served in a small glass. Now, that’s typical for a Kölsch. Another typical and somewhat amusing custom is the server filling your glass the second it is empty without checking if you’d like more. This makes you completely lose track of how much you’ve drunk but at the same time, it’s pretty cool that you’ll never need to wait for a beer! After a quite a few Kölschs, we put our beer coasters on top of our glass which seemed to be the norm when you’d had enough.
We were pleased to find that Gaffel brewed another style of beer – it was somewhat similar to the Kölsch yet different because of the hops and fruity flavors. Like the Kölsch, this beer didn’t look or taste like a typical lager or ale.. whatever it was, we liked it! The Sonnen Hopfen as the name itself indicates is full of summer flavors, bursting with citrusy freshness and juicy hops. Definitely, a must-try if you visit the Gaffel am Dom. It is the closest to a craft beer style in a traditional Brauhaus in Cologne.
We had a delightful evening at the Gaffel am Dom – loved the food and the ambience. This is a place worth visiting for that authentic Kölner experience.
The night was still young and we headed over to the Metronom, a jazz bar. It’s a tiny place but a bar that plays some wonderful jazz music and serves an authentic Guinness on tap. It had been ages since we’d had a genuine pint of Guinness and were so happy to find one, of all the places in Germany.
Metronom is a small place filled with locals and tourists. It gets crammed easily as it’s a small bar but just get there early and you can get a spot close to the bar. When we had visited, they had run into some trouble with the live music shows creating too much noise for the residents in the area and they had stopped the shows. But, we still listened to some great jazz music. They have the most amazing collection of vinyl records!
The next day we visited the Cologne Biermuseum. Although the place isn’t exactly a museum but more a bar with lots of great, old bier steins from all over Deutschland, Austria and other parts of the world. The place has a very cozy feeling to it and we kinda had the whole place to ourselves when we stopped by for some midday refreshments. Now, what’s notable about this place is that they have a huge variety of beers on tap, beers from all around the world and a bigger variety of bottled beers, mostly the traditional variety. The majority of the tap beers are Bocks and these are some pretty amazing bocks. We’ve had some of our best bocks in all of Germany at this little bar.
If you are a beer fanatic and especially one that loves Bocks, this place should definitely be part of your Cologne beer adventures.
Later that evening, we made our way to the Braustelle microbrewery in Ehrenfeld. These guys have a great set of beers on tap. Of course, they have their own Kölsch – the Helios. It’s one of the best Kölschs we had in all of Cologne. Braustelle has a great set of craft beers to suit all sorts of palettes. We weren’t too fond of their fruity Pink Panther ale but loved some of their stouts. They are always brewing new stuff and you’ll find their menu changing ever so often. It’s a great place where the craft beer loving locals get together. A must-visit if you are a beer enthusiast.
The next day we did a short trip to Bonn. It’s a university town that’s possibly most famous for being the birthplace of Beethoven and home to the United Nations German HQ. Incidentally, it’s where Steve worked while he lived in Bonn several years ago. More about Bonn in a separate post. On to the beers in Bonn – like Cologne they have their own brand of beer called the Bönnschof course. Interesting point to note: Kölsch and Bönnsch are also what the local dialects are referred to for the respective cities.
While the Kölsch is served in a small glass, the Bönnsch is served in a very unique looking pint glass.
The lighter (helles in German) beer is their classic, all-time brew – the Bönnsch Natürlich. It’s similar to the Kölsch yet couldn’t be more different. The darker brew you see is their Winter Bock – we quite liked this one! This, of course, is available only during the winter months. The Bönnsch beers are a creation of the Brauhaus Bönnsch which is a fantastic place to grab some delicious local bites and beers.
Later that afternoon, we headed back to Cologne and were quite excited about our evening plans. Not only were we meeting an old friend/roommate of Steve’s after nearly a decade, but were also planning on visiting Cologne’s kick-ass craft beer bar.
We started off the evening at the Päffgen Brauhaus. It’s a traditional beer hall atmosphere and is a fairly large place. They also have a nice winter beer garden that is covered and not too cold. After several rounds of Kölschs and some very tasty local food, we decided to get to the spot we’d been saving for the last.
Craft Beer Corner Coeln is one of the best craft beer bars in Germany. It is mostly filled with local folk who love their craft beers. They have 15 taps on rotation – beers include German and international craft. And they have a whole bunch more by the bottle. It is important to note that when we had visited Cologne in Dec 2016, we were living in Ulm, a small town in South Germany. The craft beer culture at that time was pretty much non-existent and we were always on the hunt for craft beers. [The scene today though is hugely different. More on this in a separate post!] So, essentially, you can imagine the palpable excitement in the air when we walked into this bar to find this mind-blowing collection of beers.
It turned out to be a long night of fun conversations over some hoppilicious beers. Also, we got our Pils loving German friend to try out a whole bunch of hoppy ales. Although he didn’t really develop a liking for the ales, he did enjoy the stouts quite a bit.
If you are a serious beer drinker and find yourself in and around Cologne, you should definitely visit the Craft Beer Corner. It is one of the very few places in Germany where you get such a varied and huge collection of craft beers. We promise you, you will feel like you’ve finally come home at Craft Beer Corner Coeln. And, if you’re an IPA lover, you will be in hop heaven with their horde of great IPAs!
And, that’s how we began our Christmas beercation. Next stop Belgium. Stay tuned for our beer adventures in the holy land of beers.
An enchanting little village where we wish we’d spent more time…
We visited Ramsau bei Berchtesgaden on a rainy evening. We’d just spent the day at nearby Königssee and wanted to visit Ramsau before heading back to Salzburg, which was our base for our week-long German Austrian road trip.
It was early spring and the clouds were lurking around and we knew it was going to pour. Through the entire day at Königssee, we fortunately escaped the rain. But, as we parked our car at Ramsau, it started raining and didn’t stop for the entire hour we were there. It was just relentless!
That didn’t stop us from getting out and exploring though. We got out our umbrellas, put on our hoodies, huddled closer and walked to the bridge near the Ramsau church where thousands of photographers have tried to capture the famous postcard view of this idyllic little village.
Ramsau is surrounded by incredible beauty. It is set amidst the Alps and on a clear day, you can see the massive Alps right behind the little church making the view even more remarkable. Despite the heavy downpour, you can still get a small peek at a snow-covered mountain in the pic above.
With the stream by its side, the Alps behind it, and green hills with flocks of sheep surrounding it, this is the most picturesque church we’ve ever seen!
The church is also adorned by the prettiest cemetery we’d ever seen. It was a wonderful sight of love and peace.
Cemeteries like these around the local church appeared to be customary in this region. Many of them have intricate and unique gravestones that are surrounded by figurines and photos. These evoke a feeling of comfort and peace rather than the usual melancholy associated with cemeteries.
The interior of the Ramsau church is quite simple but lovingly decorated.
Although we spent less than an hour in this little German village and had barely seen all that it had to offer, we left Ramsau with lovely memories knowing we’ll be back soon.
Berchtesgaden and its surrounding area is extraordinarily beautiful. It should top your list of places to see in Germany. It is our most loved place in all of Germany and we cannot wait to head back there someday soon.
Surrounded by beautiful blue lakes and stunning alpine panorama, this picturesque Austrian village will steal your heart.
We made our way to St. Gilgen on the second day of our German-Austrian alpine road trip. Situated on the northern shore of the Wolfgangsee, St. Gilgen is one of the most scenic little towns in the popular Salzkammergut region in Austria.
We had a late start to St. Gilgen after our delightful visit to Lake Chiemsee the previous day. But, located just 25 kilometers away from Salzburg, we were in this charming little town in less than 30 minutes.
We headed straight to the Zwölferhorn Cable Car station. Zwölferhorn is part of the Salzkammergut mountain range of the Eastern Alps. The eastern part of the Alps, although not as high as the western range, is blessed with plenty of lakes, most of which are in the Salzkammergut region of Austria. This is quite evident when you stand atop the Zwölferhorn. You are surrounded by numerous deep blue lakes including the Wolfgangsee, Mondsee, Fuschlsee and Attersee. It’s a pretty spectacular view!
The Zwölferhorn cable car is said to have begun operations over 65 years ago. It’s a short 15-minute breathtaking ride to the top.
Once you get to the top, there are a whole bunch of viewpoints you can walk up to, in just about 10 minutes. You get strikingly different views from each side.
The top of Zwolferhorn is simply a little paradise. The views are insanely good. We grabbed one of these benches and just sat there, hand in hand, admiring the beauty of Austria.
We were missing something though…
A delicious pint of one of Austria’s fine beers completes the delightful experience! Stiegl is one of Austria’s most popular, revered beers. Unfortunately, they just brew a lager style offering no ales. But, the beer is worth trying. It’s quite a refreshing easy-drinking not-too-hoppy lager. (More on our beer travels in Austria coming soon in a separate post!)
Despite the somewhat warmer temperatures, there was still some snow around. But the weather was pleasant. And, the place wasn’t too packed with tourists – one of the biggest advantages of traveling during the off-season. We found a cozy little spot and sat sipping our beers and basking in the spring sunshine – the perfect recipe for a great day!
The Salzkammergut mountain range is quite impressive. Dachstein is one of the tallest and most popular mountains in Salzkammergut and is known for its fascinating ice caves and glaciers.
We’d planned on visiting Dachstein as well on this trip but hit some bad weather and decided to save this for our next Austrian trip. The views of the Austrian Alps from Dachstein look mind-blowing and you should definitely make it part of your itinerary if you can!
Schafberg is another popular mountain around the Wolfgangsee and at the foothills of this mountain is St. Wolfgang, another charming little village. Schafberg is well-known for its historic steam cog railway that has been offering rides up the steep mountain for over 120 years! [Fun fact: The train has also featured in the hugely famous movie ‘Sound of Music’. Most of the movie was actually filmed in and around the Salzkammergut area.] The Schafbergbahn was sadly not operational in early April and we missed this exciting ride.
There’s so much to do around the Wolfgangsee and so much beauty!
But, we first needed some food! We decided to head back down to St. Gilgen and grab a bite in one of those lovely lakeside restaurants.
The Wolfgangsee Schiffahrt takes you on a beautiful ride across the lake, meandering through crystal clear blue waters. Apart from St. Gilgen and St. Wolfgang, there are a few other little villages by the Wolfgangsee you can visit if you’d like.
Having happily stuffed ourselves with some delicious food and ales at the Fischer Wirt restaurant, we decided to wander around little St. Gilgen.
St. Gilgen is a small village with lovely little houses dotting the lakefront. It is also sometimes referred to as Abersee. But is popularly known as ‘Mozart village’. Although Mozart never visited the place, a few of his family members lived here and there’s a Mozarthaus to commemorate the great composer and his family.
Not too far away from the Mozarthaus is a lovely statue of Mozart himself in front of the Rathaus(town hall).
It’s not just music but wonderful art as well that adorns this quaint little village.
Our last stop was the parish church of Saint Aegidius, aka Saint Giles, after whom the village gets its name.
It is a small church done up in baroque style. While the interior of the church was splendid, the little cemetery at the back of the church was heart-warmingly beautiful. It was so endearing to see the little notes on the tombstones, the fresh bouquets of flowers, the candles and the photographs on the graves.
It got us thinking about our own loved ones we lost in this sometimes difficult journey that is life. Our spirits weren’t dampened though. If anything, this town filled us with an overwhelming sense of love and appreciation for the beauty that surrounds us.
We simply fell in love with St. Gilgen. It is just a tiny place in the vast land of Austria but it is one of the prettiest places in this remarkable country. We made a silent promise to come back to this enchanting little village.