We started our drive from Vienna at 10 AM, and since then it has been one amazing scene after another. We gawked at Vienna’s grand buildings, at the countryside that looked like Tina Blau’s oil paintings come to life, the roads so smooth and well-maintained, and at the BMWs and Audis zipping past us as we drove our rented Seat within the 130 KPH limit. Little did we know, the best view was yet to come.
After brief stops at several points in Lower Austria and Wachau Valley, we entered Salzkammergut and began our mountain drive. It was like entering a dreamland – we passed through serene villages complete with cows grazing contentedly on emerald pastures, which turned into narrow mountain roads overlooking a glistening lake. Less than half an hour in, we caught the first glimpse of our day’s final destination. As we rounded a curve, the trees parted on one side of the road, and there it was, hundreds of meters below us – Hallstatt lying snugly between the imposing mountains and the serene lake.
As the sun set, we finally rolled in to our pension. The next few days we would explore Hallstatt and Salzkammergut, which became one of the most relaxing holidays and a welcome break from Central Europe’s busy cities.
Continue reading “Best things to do in Hallstatt – a travel guide to Austria’s most photogenic town”
It’s almost difficult to tear yourself away from Austria’s magnificent cities. You can spend days roaming around Vienna’s architectural wonders, marveling at Schonbrunn and the Gloriette, getting lost in mazes of manicured gardens and abundant artwork. There’s much to see and do in Vienna and Salzburg, and indeed, visiting these cities is a great way to discover Austria’s glorious history and culture.
But to get to the heart of Austria’s rustic charm, you must venture to its small countryside villages. You’ll find that there’s more to Austria than operas and schnitzels and all-out opulence. There are also stunning natural landscapes, breathtaking vistas, picture-perfect storybook towns, and plenty of outdoor adventures to be had.
If you only make it to one town, make it Hallstatt. Nestled in Salzkammergut’s mountainous region, Hallstatt is a narrow town sandwiched between a mountain and a lake, lined with pastel houses decked with flowerboxes, and with swans gracefully plying the coastline, making it the perfect storybook town to take a break from the cities. It’s a great stopover on a drive from Vienna to Salzburg, and a great base for exploring the rest of the gorgeous Salzkammergut.
If you’re thinking of venturing to Salzkammergut soon, here are our best recommendations on where to stay in Hallstatt.
Continue reading “Where to stay in Hallstatt – 5 gorgeous hotels in Austria’s storybook town”
My train stops on the border town of Mikulov in South Moravia, and as I step out onto the platform, I am treated to the distinctive beauty of a Czech castle town: red terracotta roofs, twisted cobblestone streets, and an imposing 13th-century castle set against the backdrop of rolling hills and the outline of a distant mountain range.
But the normally sleepy town is abuzz this beautiful September weekend. It’s the annual Palavske vinobrani, a weekend-long wine festival that transforms the usually sleepy town into a big wild street party. And even first-time festival-goers like me know: where wine flows, merriment follows. Continue reading “South Moravia – revelry and relaxation in the Czech Republic’s wine region”
From its medieval castle to its meandering cobbled alleys, Cesky Krumlov is the stuff of fairytales. Until now, it remains one of my favorite destinations in the world – and definitely worth more than a day trip from Prague.
You can easily spend two to three days in Cesky Krumlov. The first day will most likely be spent staring at the beautiful town square from the castle tower, pinching yourself in disbelief at just how amazingly gorgeous the old town is. Visiting the town’s top sights will take a day or two, while the enchanting Blansky forest surrounding the old town is worth a couple of days of short, relatively easy hikes.
If you’re still thinking if an overnight trip to Cesky Krumlov is worth it, you should definitely go for it. On my first visit, I originally planned to stay just for 3 days. I ended up extending my stay – and still I wished I stayed longer.
So skip the day trip and go for at least an overnight trip. Once you get there, you’ll know what I mean. In the meantime, here’s where to stay in Cesky Krumlov. Book early – Cesky Krumlov’s not quite Prague yet in terms of tourist density, but it’s getting pretty close now that this romantic medieval town’s “secret” is out.
Continue reading “Where to stay in Cesky Krumlov – the best hotels for a magical stay”
“Prague won’t let you go, the little mother has claws,” so said Franz Kafka, the capital’s most famous son.
And while Franz Kafka obviously had a deeper connection with the city, travelers to Prague can’t help but feel the same way to some degree. Prague never gets old and it never goes out of style or season.
There’s always something new going on in Prague – be it a new row of restaurants, a new edgy café in an up-and-coming neighborhood, or a new quirky art installation. But at the same time, the old is splendidly preserved, the centuries’ worth of Gothic, Romantic, and Baroque architecture still standing proudly even after world wars, fires, and natural calamities.
All these led to the Prague of today: a city that goes from medieval to modern, conventional to quirky, historic to hipster, and sacred to scandalous in a few blocks.
So it goes that your experiences in Prague can depend heavily on which neighborhood you choose to spend your days and nights. Whether you’re up for a crash course in European history and arts or you’re here for the beer, there’s a lovely Prague district that won’t let you go. Continue reading “Where to stay in Prague – neighborhood guide and best accommodations”
Have you ever had one of those crazy fantasies where you are the king or queen of a medieval kingdom? That the land is at peace, your subjects adore you and there isn’t a brewing coup or an impending invasion? And more importantly: that the person with whom you are betrothed is actually your secret childhood love and not some stranger you had to strategically marry?
Pardon the flight of ideas – it’s easy to get lost in a web of absurd medieval fantasies when you’re looking down on the old town of Cesky Krumlov from the castle tower. Continue reading “Cesky Krumlov travel guide – a trip to the Czech Republic’s magnificent fairy-tale town”
It started with the smell of roast pig.
As we walked down the meandering pathway from our pension to the old town, I stopped in my tracks. The sweet smell of garlic, herbs, and smoke wafted from a window, bringing with it the memories of fiestas, weddings, and summers spent with cousins and grandparents in the countryside. Roast pig had always been the star of every happy occasion, and now it heralded another one. Giddy with excitement, I declared to my boyfriend even before I set foot into the old town: “I love Cesky Krumlov!”
Continue reading “Love at first sight – falling hard for Cesky Krumlov’s charms”
When it comes to relaxing holidays, there’s no town like a wine town. One: you have the perfect weather that helps create the perfect grapes. Two: these grapes create amazing wine that inspires delicious food. And three: this makes everyone giddy happy and friendly!
But too much of a good thing can be oh-so-wonderful, so we add one more ingredient to this perfect holiday recipe: the open road. And that’s exactly how we spent our holiday in Alsace, France’s northeastern wine-growing region: a road trip through beautiful towns, lush vineyards, and breathtaking mountain roads, all while filling up on good food, great wine, and amazing sights.
Continue reading “Driving in Alsace – a road trip in the gorgeous French wine region”
If you’re in need of a holiday, you can’t go wrong with a trip to Alsace. With gentle weather, amazing gastronomy, and unbelievably friendly folks everywhere, a trip to Alsace is exactly what a holiday should be. And after several months of going from one wine region to the next, I pretty much have a solid rule of thumb: if the place is good enough for the grapes, it’s good enough for you.
Now you may be tempted to make Strasbourg your home while in Alsace. While Strasbourg is an amazing city (and not to be missed!), it’s a good 1-2 hours’ drive away from the best of Alsace’s historic wine route and natural landscapes. Rather than spending your precious holiday time driving back and forth, break up your stay into two bases: Strasbourg to the north and Colmar to the south. Here’s where to stay in Colmar.
Continue reading “Where to stay in Colmar, France – the perfect base for a holiday in Alsace”
From the moment you step into Strasbourg, you’ll feel it. A pleasant, welcoming vibe that’s a lot more than the friendliness of locals, the ease of getting around, or the odd familiarity of the storybook houses. Even on your first hour in the city, you’ll feel a sense of belonging – that you’re not a tourist to be scrutinized, or a stranger to be wary of. In a city that’s a mix of a lot of things, it’s just natural to fit in.
Strasbourg is known for many things – as the capital of the historic wine-growing region, Alsace; as the seat of the European Parliament; as the setting of one of the world’s biggest and oldest Christmas markets; and as a border city that derives from both French and German cultures – an intoxicating mix of countryside hospitality and multicultural charm.
Whether you’re here for the wine, the history and culture, or just to relax for a little holiday, there’s a lot to love in Strasbourg.
Continue reading “Best things to do in Strasbourg, France”