When beginning this crazy journey, we planned to circle the globe roughly from west to east, then end the year somewhere in Asia and fly home from there. This just made sense on the map. But like our mentality has been over this year, everything is breezy and changeable. So with that spirit, we decided to head back to Eastern Europe to see some places we didn’t have a chance to last summer/fall while in that area of the world. Cue us flying from Beijing back to eastern Europe for a victory lap to end our world tour.
From Beijing, we flew to Vienna with a layover in Moscow. I can’t even begin to describe how amazing it was to be back in a clean, westernized country like Austria. Without a doubt the best part was the fresh, crisp air. For weeks we had been breathing in the terrible smog in China, so the air here felt like heaven. Also, it was crazy to have clean streets, cars obeying road rules and not honking, and sidewalks not covered in phlegm (don’t get Katie started on this one).
The next morning, we skipped our way to the train in elation of being back in comfortable Europe and boarded the 4-hour train to Hallstatt. The ride was the beautiful. The Austrian countryside is gorgeous and looks out of a storybook. As we approached Lake Hallstatt, everyone in the train was glued to the windows taking as many pictures as they could.
We decided to stay in Obertraun, a tiny town across the lake from Hallstatt town. This was due simply to price as the only budget lodging left was on that side of the water (Easter week). But in the end we realized how lucky we got as it is 10x better to stay over there. There are very few tourists and the pace of life is as slow as it comes. It feels like you are staying in a farm village with only a few places to eat, a bakery and a small store. Whenever we wanted to go to Hallstatt we could walk the 2.5 miles or take a ferry across the water. We spent four nights here in a little guesthouse and were on cloud nine the entire time. We enjoyed breakfast each morning at the bakery and got to know the manager and hear about life in the small town, had picnics along the lake, I went for long runs and overall we just slowed down. We were just happy to no longer be in the massive crowds of China and be photographed like zoo animals everywhere we went.
The town of Hallstatt itself is so quaint. It’s nestled between the lake and mountainside and is beyond stunning. It almost seems like a movie set because it’s too perfect. The one thing that surprised us though is 90% of the tourists in the city were from China. Apparently a developer built a complete, real-life replica town of it in China as a tourist destination. While this is just wrong and creepy, it has led a bunch of Chinese tourists to the real one. So Katie and made sure to explore the city at off hours when the tour buses weren’t there.
All in all, we had an amazing time there relaxing and taking a bit of a vacation from the trip as we had no pressure to see anything and the ability to take a literal breather.
From Hallstatt, we hopped on another train to Salzburg and enjoyed yet another viewing of the beautiful Austrian countryside. Oh and don’t worry, we made sure to watch The Sound of Music before arriving so we wouldn’t be kicked out of the city. Can you believe we both hadn’t seen it?! We’re the worst. Little did Katie realize I would be singing the songs back to her over the next few weeks. I believe I was made to be on Broadway, except for the fact I can’t remember most lyrics and I don’t have a singing voice. She’s SO lucky to have me.
For me, Salzburg was a special city to see as I know my Grandma loved coming here and her favorite movie of all time was filmed here. It was cool to see the history in all the buildings in the downtown and Katie and I blitzed the city each day, walking countless miles exploring. The castle sitting above the city is well worth the views and an easy walk from downtown. While a bit touristy, you can get some great pictures of everything from above. We found a great beer hall on the way down to grab a beer (or two) and take in the views.