So my last three weekends here in Vienna have consisted of doing a bit of traveling to the more quaint regions of Vienna.  After doing quite a bit of traveling throughout Eastern Europe, and to Munich, I thought some time in the quieter parts of rural Austria might be a nice change of pace. 🙂

Here’s a map to help:

Wachau

A few weeks ago I traveled to Wachau, located within the Lower Austria region. This area is home to a few cities of note: Melk, where a famous Baroque abbey stands; Krems, a city that has unfortunately become quite globalized in today’s world; and most notably (for me at least) Durnstein.  Durnstein is a town that runs right along the Danube (the same river that cuts through Vienna and…fun fact: it cuts through ten different european countries and is the second longest river in Europe!).  Durnstein is home to an ancient castle that, really interestingly, was where King Richard the Lionheart was held when captured by Austria in 1192.  That’s right, Austria totes captured one of the greatest European military strategists of all-time. 🙂  But don’t worry- Austria released him for the steep price of 65,000 pounds of silver.  And then they built an entirely new town- the Wiener Neustadt- with that money.  Austria rulers…are awesome.

Anyway, the best part of Durnstein was the hike up to this castle where King Richard was held, and the amazing views the castle lent.  (Oh, and the Apfelstrudel jam that I bought from the castle town.) OM NOM.  Anyway, take a look at the view!

The trip ended with my very first wine tasting.  Austria is extraordinarily famous for its Vineyards! Oh, and fun fact: Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius was responsible for starting the production of wine in Vienna.  (Marcus Aurelius is the roman emperor who dies in the beginning of Gladiator)

Styria

My next weekend trip was to the region of Styria, in southern Austria right on the Slovenian border!  Also, for some perspective, Graz lies in Styria, which is the birthplace of America’s favorite Austrian…Arnold Schwarzenegger!  We spent most of our time in Styria within Graz, and another fun fact- Arnold himself was in Graz the same day as me!!  He had opened a museum in his childhood home the day before, and was flying out of Austria the day I got there.  I would love to lie and say that I saw him…but alas, I did not.  Graz itself is home to many students, as a major Austrian university lies there. However, Graz was a surprisingly quiet city for its large student population.

While in Styria, we also went to the more rural parts- which provided for some of the most spectacular views of Austria I have seen thus far.  You just don’t get rolling hills of vineyards like this in America.  ANYWHERE.  We finished our trip by stopping by a wine festival- with parades, and some of the best food I’ve had since being in Austria.  I’m becoming a quick lover of Kartoffelsalat (potato salad).  For some reason, Austrians know how to make some damn good kartoffelsalat.

Salzburg

Last but not least, Salzburg is easily the second-most (after Vienna) visited city by tourists within Austria.  Salzburg was home to the filming of The Sound of Music, and, more importantly, is where Mozart was born!!  Easily one of my favorite things in Salzburg was Mozart’s Geburtshaus- Mozart’s birth house.  Now turned into a museum, it houses Mozart’s very first violin, one of the clavichords he used to write music with, some of his hair (kinda gross), and just a ton of information about Mozart’s life that I was unaware of.  LOVED. IT.

Also high on my list of things to do in Salzburg was our visit to the Salzburg fortress.  This is where to get the best views of Salzburg, hands down.  It wasn’t until I ascended the hike up to the castle that I realized Salzburg is as beautiful as everyone says.  For some reason, a lot of times cities just look more beautiful from above.  Check it.

We also did the obligatory viewings of the sets where The Sound of Music was filmed.  My favorite part- the garden setting, as well as the pavilion in which they sang, “I am Sixteen, Going on Seventeen.”

Moral of this blog post: I have officially conquered Austria.  I LOVE the balance between the city of Vienna and the rural escapes that Austria possesses.  Also, Monday marked the halfway point in my semester’s travels. I can already tell that Vienna will forever be my home away from the States.

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