It was not five days after I returned from my Spring Break in Greece that I found myself on a ten hour bus ride from Nice to Salzburg late on a Thursday night. But it was a long weekend for the French, who celebrate Easter Monday, so I decided to take the extra time to explore a part of Europe I had not been to yet: Austria. The experience was filled with new amazing foods, gorgeous architecture and picturesque views, and about five million Sound of Music references.
My friend and I took a long, late bus ride to Salzburg (via one quick bus transfer in Munich) and despite how grueling it sounds, it was a great ride and I would definitely recommend taking a bus across Europe at some point. We left Nice at around 10:00 p.m. and I fell asleep very fast. I woke up occasionally as we crossed through Milan, Italy and then again as we passed through the Alps in Switzerland. I opened my eyes at four o’clock in the morning to see fog and trees outside my window. I squinted at the glare in the window and cupped my hands around my eyes to get a better view of the edge of a long drop off that was the edge of the Alps. It was dark, cloudy, and eerie to see that we were up so high, but also an incredible view. Then I immediately felt the altitude sickness hit me and went back to sleep.
I woke up again around six a.m. as we crossed the German border and border control had to check our passports. And I looked out the window to see a sky that was full of gorgeous pastel pink and orange colors set against the foreground of the most green shrubbery I had ever seen surrounding a highly traveled freeway. And I continued to be struck by the sheer greenness of Eastern Europe as we traveled from Germany to Salzburg. It was not like the greenery I had seen in the Northwestern United States, it was sharper and clearer than even that type of greenery. It was the perfect view for beginning Easter weekend.
When we arrived in Salzburg, we checked into our hostel then set out to explore the town. Our first stop was the Mirabell Gardens where I resisted the urge to frolic around, singing “Doe Rae Me.” But I loved the Gardens for more than just the Sound of Music references – it was full of beautiful flowers that reminded me of Easter because of all of the new life blooming and the sharpness of all the colors. After we left the gardens, the only thing that was really on our minds was food. Luckily, I had a friend from high school who’s studying abroad in Salzburg and gave me plenty of amazing recommendations. Our first stop: Schnitzel. And, to be honest, I still thought that schnitzel was only like the kind of stuff that Weinerschnitzel sells in the U.S. (yes, the hot dog corporation). I was beyond delighted to be surprised by what Schnitzel actually is: thinly breaded veal. Truly, I was surprised for a few reasons: the first being that I had no idea schnitzel is not actually a hot dog, nor does it resemble a hot dog in any way. But secondly, I have loathed the taste of meat for as long as I can remember but when I came to Europe I tried to give meat another chance. I generally still strongly dislike the flavor, but I knew that in Eastern Europe most of their food is just meat and potatoes so I figured I would suck it up and try some Schnitzel, since it is a specialty food. And it was amazing – it is probably one of my favorite foods now.
And after I was stuffed on schnitzel, it was time for more food – we made our way to a little café where we had the most amazing apple strudel and hot chocolate (You can see all of the restaurants and cafés where I had the best food on my Travel Recommendations page!). Then we were greeted by my friend from high school who gave us a beautiful tour of Salzburg and even took us on a small hike in the hills that surround the little city. I definitely recommend just taking your time to walk around Salzburg. It is small enough that you can plus the scenery is so breathtaking, you really do not need a tour guide to just take everything in on your own. Trust me, walking around Salzburg, you will finally understand how the hills are alive with the sound of music.
After our little hike, we had a very interesting cultural experience as we were taken to an Austrian beer hall where we drank amazing beer (made by the monks who reside in one of the Salzburg monasteries). It was a fascinating cultural experience because there had to have been dozens of rooms (had I not had a guide, I would have been totally lost) filled with loud, drinking Austrians, funnily enough, all wearing dirndls. The room was quite stuffy and filled with cigarette smoke but it was still a fun experience to have.
And thus concluded our first day in Austria. The next day, we were in Salzburg for most of the day, and we made the most of that day by exploring the city some more and eating a lot more food. Then at around six o’clock, we caught a train to Vienna. The train was ride was just as beautiful and green as the bus ride, and I one hundred percent suggest taking a train between cities in Europe (no matter the country). It is cheap, quick, and the views are always excellent.
We arrived in Vienna around eight p.m., checked into our hostel, then set off to find some food. However we were a little surprised to note that a lot of restaurants were already closed at only a quarter to nine o’clock. We finally found a quick bite to eat, then headed back to the hostel, unsure of what else we could do. The next morning, we woke and got ready for our Easter Sunday brunch. Our brunch was quite nice – I had a Viennese coffee and I actually got real scrambled eggs (which are truly not a thing in Europe). Then began a long day of exploration and adventure.
We bought a 24 hour metro pass which, if you plan on going to any large city that has a metro system, you should buy a pass. They are cheap and make navigating super easy. So our first stop was the Schönbrunn Palace and Gardens and it was the perfect place to begin our Easter afternoon. There was a giant Easter market set up just inside the palace gates where there were adorable handmade crafts and food that smelt amazing. Plus the palace is surrounded by the gardens which were just starting to bloom with the most beautiful and colorful tulips that really made me feel like it was finally spring.
Our next stop was the Sigmund Freud museum, which I was a bit skeptical of at first. I generally tend to find museums tedious and my feet are aching with apathy by the end of my visit. But this museum was actually quite interesting – it is located in Freud’s old apartment and offices and you take an audio-guided tour that allows you to explore at your own pace and actually gives you interesting factoids about Freud’s life. Plus a lot of his furniture and writings are preserved in the apartment so it is fun to even just go, look around, and take in the history.
Then we took the metro to the Museum Quarter where we ate hot dogs and searched for a long while for the Opera House. The Quarter was cute, the architecture was grand, but it was very quiet and there was not much to do. It was a fun experience but definitely a little bit anti-climactic after our fun morning at the palace and Freud museum.
The next morning, we checked our of our hostel and returned to France. Despite the small letdown that the latter half of Vienna ended up being, I would totally recommend spending Easter in Austria, especially Salzburg. Vienna is beautiful, but it is also a big city – meaning it has a lot of tall buildings and museums but comes nowhere near the beauty of the small town of Salzburg which is surrounded by gorgeous nature and mountains.