Whenever I travel for more than a week, I like including a ‘downtime’ to avoid burnout. Switzerland was my vacation from vacation during my 3-week trip to Europe.
From Salzburg, I briefly changed trains in Munich to get to Zurich. Now that I think about it, I wish I pushed through with my original plan of staying in Munich even for 3 days. Oh well, guess I’ll just have to save that for another Euro trip. 😉
I arrived in Zurich on a gloomy afternoon, but after emerging from the train station and having a glimpse of the Old Town, I immediately regretted my decision to just stay for a night.
I stayed at a hostel in the heart of Old Town. And while I almost died carrying my luggage up several flight of winding stairs, I couldn’t complain about the medieval surroundings.
I was craving for Asian food, and found there’s a Thai restaurant not too far from the hostel. I knew Switzerland was expensive, but I wasn’t prepared to shell out CHF15 for a plate of Pad Thai. 😐 My only consolation was the serving size can feed two people, so I saved half of it for next day’s breakfast.
If you’ve got a spare couple of weeks and you fancy getting off the beaten track and hitting the road, there can’t be many better European road trips than the Romantic Road through Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg in Germany. Named because of its original use by Roman soldiers as they marched through Europe, it’s a popular honeymoon destination by complete coincidence. The stunning scenery, beautiful castles, and interesting cities make it the ultimate road trip.
1. You’ll fall in love with the scenery
When you think of Germany, you might not think of tree-lined roads, great, towering castles, and beautiful river views, but with the Romantic Road, that’s exactly what you get. Located in southern Germany, it’s off the heavily beaten tourist track of the north, although it’s not surprising that it’s growing in popularity. The medieval cities, churches, and castles dotting the dramatic, hilly landscape make the route truly unique.
I can’t remember when I first learned about Hallstatt, but ever since I saw pictures of it, I knew I had to include it in my bucket list. It’s actually the main reason why I had to stop by Salzburg during my Eurotrip.
There’s no direct way of reaching Hallstatt. You’d have to take a train and/or bus, and ferry. If you have more time or on a tight budget, you can do that. But since I’m too lazy to commute, I just joined Panorama’s Hallstatt Tour for €55.
Our bus departed the Mirabellplatz bus terminal around 1:00pm.
We passed by many picturesque villages in Salzkammergut (Lake Area) like the one pictured above. One of which is St. Gilgen, which is the birthplace of Mozart’s mother.
Our guide also pointed out the Red Bull headquarters in Fuschl am See.
Fresh from a 17-hour journey (figuratively; I wish I could say that literally), I emerged from Staromestska Station and was greeted by the cool autumn wind. I can’t believe it. I’m finally in Prague. I’m finally in Europe!
I trudged the cobblestoned streets, luggage in tow, searching for my hostel. It didn’t take me long to find it as I easily spotted Tyn Church’s spires, so I knew the Old Town was close by.
I arrived at the hostel earlier than the official check-in time, so I left my luggage at the storage room first, and made my way through Old Town.
I was too excited to explore.
I meandered through Karlova’s alleys lined with restaurants and souvenir shops.
It didn’t take long for me to reach the Astronomical Clock where people flock for the hourly show. I decided to just check it out at a later time, and went straight to the center of Old Town Square.
The square is surrounded by beautiful buildings. Its center is filled with tourists, buskers and various street performers, and even Segway operators.
I think everyone will agree when I say that 2016 is one of those years that we all want to forget because of all the crazy sh*t that happened in this world.
Personally, my year didn’t start off right when I spent the second week of January confined in the hospital for 4 days for facial cellulitis. Ironically, it’s also when I found out I got the big project I was waiting for which kept me busy the whole month of February.
In March, my mom and I went back to Hong Kong and Macau where we enjoyed 13-degree weather even though it was already supposed to be spring.
We went back to Disneyland, the happiest place in the world, but skipped the other tourist sites. It was the first time in 4 years that we traveled again after her second breast cancer ordeal, so I wanted the trip to be as relaxed as possible.
Unfortunately, weather wasn’t on our side on our way to Macau. The fog was so thick there was zero visibility. We were stuck at sea for about an hour before we were allowed to dock at the ferry terminal.
Similarly, our flight to Manila the next day was cancelled because of the fog.
Within 24 hours, we went from sleeping in a 5-star hotel to sleeping on the floor of Macau International Airport. But my mom was such a trooper. I’m so proud of her. 😀
April and May were months of canceled trips to Palawan and Cebu, respectively, but at least we still got to squeeze in a little family outing at South Forbes before summer ended.
June to September was crazy! I had to juggle a full-time job and 4 side projects because I decided, you know what, it’s high time I go to Europe! Work hard, travel harder, ika nga!
I honestly didn’t keep my hopes high of getting a Schengen visa, but I guess the travel gods love me after all. haha I couldn’t believe I’m finally going to fulfill a childhood dream!
This Euro trip was the second time I traveled solo. Sure, I feel resfeber prior to embarking on one, but I never feel alone, lonely or afraid when I’m already on the road by myself.
Anyway, my first stop was Prague, the capital of Czech Republic.
I couldn’t have picked a better jumping-off point. I was totally smitten! It was everything I imagined Europe to be (and more).
The city is brimming with beautiful structures, lively squares, and each neighborhood has so much history the world know so little of.
And did I mention it’s pretty affordable too?
Next stop was Vienna, Austria.
I tried to soak in some culture, so I joined a guided tour of the Schönbrunn Palace.
More than the impressive rooms of the palace, I learned a lot about the House of Habsburg – one of the most powerful royal houses of Europe of their time. I’m not even a museum kind of girl, but I thoroughly enjoyed this one.
Also met Vins and Yosh of The Poor Traveler because we coincidentally stayed at the same hostel!
After a few days of gloomy weather, Mr. Sun finally came out when I went to Salzburg.
I didn’t have any expectations of Salzburg. All I know prior to going there was it’s Mozart’s hometown and where they filmed The Sound of Music. But man, Salzburg is gorgeous! I actually regret that I only stayed there for 2 nights.
Still, I’m grateful I got to visit one of my top dream destinations – Hallstatt! It still makes me giddy just thinking about it.
I spent a night in Zurich just to break the journey, and went to Interlaken the following day.
On the train to Interlaken, I met two Pinay nurses who work in Saudi Arabia who were also traveling around Europe. We planned on going to Grindelwald and Lauterbrunnen together the next day, but we didn’t see each other at the Interlaken Ost Station at the time we agreed and the train was about to leave, so I hopped on without them.
It rained the whole time I was in Switzerland, but that didn’t stop me from exploring. I think it even made me a pluviophile (at least while I was there).
Swiss people are some of the jolliest and nicest people I’ve met. Good vibes lang sila lagi!
Yes, Switzerland is ridiculously expensive, but it’s worth every damn centavo IMO.
Finally, I spent the last leg of my Euro trip in Italy.
My first stop was Florence – capital of the Tuscan Region, and often referred to as the cradle of the Renaissance.
Florence and I started on the wrong foot when a bus inspector tried to extort €50 from me, so we had an altercation. I demanded to be taken to the police station to which he sheepishly said “No. No. No polizia.” He must have been bummed I didn’t fall for his modus operandi. Laking third world ‘to, huy!
As a result, I missed the earlier train I was trying to catch so that I could go to both Pisa and Cinque Terre on the same day. Oh well!
Another item ticked off my bucket list was Cinque Terre – the 5 colorful fishing villages along the Italian Riviera.
It was crowded, as expected, but tolerable.
Of course I didn’t pass up the chance to eat the quintessential seafood spaghetti in Vernazza while watching people frolic in the beach.
Finally, no trip to Italy is complete without going to the eternal city of Rome!
I love how most of Rome’s famous landmarks are kind of close to each other, but man, I’ve never seen as many tourist per attraction as in Rome. It was crazy! Hindi uso off season sa Rome, bes. Eternal city kaya eternal rin ang pila. hahaha Even thoughI bought my tickets to the Colosseum and to the Vatican Museum & Sistine Chapel online, I still had to line up to go inside.
And the food…oh my goodness, Italian food! Grazie mille for contributing to my ever expanding waistline. LOL If you’ve seen Eat Pray Love, the part where Julia Roberts had to buy a new pair of jeans just because she couldn’t fit in her old ones anymore, yup, pretty much the story of my life. haha
So that’s it! That pretty much sums up my 2016.
I’ve been vitamin sea-deficient this year, so I’ll probably focus more on beach trips and local destinations next year. I also hope to explore more of East Asia.
Happy Holidays, everyone! See you on the road and cheers to more adventures! 😀
This is my contribution to the Pinoy Travel Bloggers’ 2016 Year End Blog Carnival. The compilation will be hosted by Mervin of Pinoy Adventurista.