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[Austria] Salzburger Freilicht Museum

Tim and I had another day exploring on our own as my mom hurt her knee when we were on the Sound of Music tour and didn’t feel up to doing lots of walking….and that’s what this day was. LOTS of walking!

We decided to visit the Salzburger Freilicht Museum, or Salzburg Open Air Museum. I originally thought this place would be like an Austrian version of Beamish, one of our favourite museums to visit in the North, but it was so much more. We also went to Freilicht to ride on their small narrow gauge train.

We started our day by driving to the local ÖBB station in Pfarrwerfen and taking the local train into Salzburg, where we then changed over to Postbus 180 as the museum is about 15KM outside of Salzburg. And here’s where it started to get interesting. Even though we sat at the front of the bus and told the driver where we wanted to go (in German!)…..he missed our stop. The screen that displayed upcoming stops was somehow off by one, so when we pressed the stop button it was after the stop for the museum. When we alerted the driver that he went past our stop….he kept going. He took us past FOUR OTHER STOPS, finally letting us out over 2KM away from the museum with the instruction that we should cross the road for the next bus back…..which wasn’t for an hour. So….we walked. It was very hot that day and there wasn’t much shade along the route, but we finally made it to the museum about an hour and a half later than we had intended.

Admission is €11, but discounted by ,50 if you arrive by bus and show your bus ticket.

The museum covers 50 acres and contains buildings and relics from as far back as 1442 from the provinces of Flachgau, Flachau, Tennengau, Pongau, Pinzgau, and Lungau. The museum is divided into sections where each province is represented. Some areas are simply buildings that have been carefully demolished, moved, and reconstructed while other areas have displays and even demonstrations. Visitors are given free range to go between the sections, and if a door is unlocked or a building open, free to explore in your own time. The museum has plenty of picnic benches dotted around for eating a picnic lunch, but there also is a very reasonably priced restaurant on site serving traditional Austrian dishes (and beer!). While we were eating our Lunch, there was a group of ladies and gentlemen sat at a table dressed in traditional Austrian dress. Judging by how familiar the restaurant staff was with them, it looked like they used the museum for a regular get together!

If you don’t fancy travelling by foot around the museum, they also have a small narrow gauge railway that has three convenient stops, including one at the restaurant, and unlimited use of the train is included in your admission.

Here’s a short video I took of the railway at the museum:

We absolutely loved the museum. It was quite awesome seeing and touching the old buildings and seeing how even things like the construction of fences varied across the regions and seeing buildings built out of wood with the notches in the corner to the more modern brick. But I’ll let my pictures tell the story:

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Follow along on our Austria trip

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The contents of this post, including images are © Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley unless otherwise stated and should not be reproduced without permission. If you are not reading this on http://blog.beccajanestclair.com, my facebook page, Networked Blogs, the RSS feed(s), or through an e-mail subscription, please notify me.

[LJ readers reading this on the LJ RSS feed: Please click on the link at the top of the entry to go directly to my blog to leave a comment, as comments left on the LJ RSS do not get seen by me. Facebook users reading this from my Networked Blogs link can either comment on facebook or on my blog. If you are reading this through an e-mail subscription, you might need to go directly to my blog to view videos and images.]

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[Travel] Grocery Shopping

A selection of food and drink souvenirs from Austria.

One of the things I love to do when we travel is to hit up the local grocery store even if we’re not self-catering. On our recent day trip to Rotterdam, I went into a grocery store and purchased a bunch of foods to try, but my pic of everything turned out too blurry to use for anything (sorry!)

Going to a local grocery store first of all can cut down on food costs while travelling. Even if you’re not self-catered, you can pick up snacks for your visit or in your room – a box of cereal bars that will last for 5 days is going to be cheaper than buying them in singles from the corner shop. Same with a bag of apples. Buying beer or other alcohol to drink in your room can cut down on your bar bills tremendously, and if your room has a kettle, you can stock up on tea, cups of soup, etc. And if you packed a spork and a set of nesting plastic boxes, you can even pack up your own lunches to take with you when you’re on the go.

Second, you get a better feel for the language if you’re in a foreign country and don’t have knowledge of the native language. Everything in a grocery store is labelled and sometimes there are even pictures of the item. For example, with a pile of lemons in Germany, you will see the word “Zitrone”. Now you know when you go out to a restaurant and see the word “Zitrone” on a menu the dish contains lemon.

I bought zitrone wafer cookies in Austria, and other flavours.

Third, it can help to get a flavour for local food. Check out the bakery section to see what breads and pastries the locals buy. Head to the deli section and see what meat (if you’re a meat eater) is popular. Look at the local beer options if you’re a drinker. And check out the chocolate aisle! Don’t forget buying chocolate at the grocery store will be a lot cheaper than buying it at a convenience store.

Our chocolate haul from Austria

Fourth, as you can see from my photos, bringing back food as souvenirs is fun! Feeling glum in the middle of Winter knowing your next holiday is months away? Break into some chocolate or make a bowl of soup. Giving food to friends and family is great too – everyone loves cookies and chocolate! Need a gift for a beer drinker? How about a few bottles of a local brew (space permitting, of course!)?

Fifth, if you’re really feeling homesick, or are travelling with children who might need a dose of “home”, you can always head to the grocery store and look to see if they stock a similar product or if they have an import aisle. Imported items will be expensive, but sometimes, you just need it. As an American now living in the UK, I can vouch for sometimes just needing a dose of “home” and yes, I have paid £2 for a single can of Root Beer.

And lastly, shopping in a grocery store can be fun! Check out this short video I made while Tim and I were shopping in a Billa store in Gmünd and at a MPREIS in Werfen.

Follow along on our Austria trip: http://www.blog.beccajanestclair.com/2016/08/travel-austrian-road-trip-summer-2016/

Watch the rest of the videos here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLDUaor7uXZQfPu6Un77YGHRkLMlPgKFp-

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Disclaimer: I received no compensation from products pictured in my photos or video, nor did I receive compensation from the shops visited.

The contents of this post, including images are © Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley unless otherwise stated and should not be reproduced without permission. If you are not reading this on http://blog.beccajanestclair.com, my facebook page, Networked Blogs, the RSS feed(s), or through an e-mail subscription, please notify me.

[LJ readers reading this on the LJ RSS feed: Please click on the link at the top of the entry to go directly to my blog to leave a comment, as comments left on the LJ RSS do not get seen by me. Facebook users reading this from my Networked Blogs link can either comment on facebook or on my blog. If you are reading this through an e-mail subscription, you might need to go directly to my blog to view videos and images.]

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Euro Road Trip Day 7: The Sound of Music Tour

IMG_9200 For my mom’s birthday, I decided to gift her with the Sound of Music bus tour. It was something she had told me she wanted to do, so Tim and I first thought about doing it on our own, but then in the end we decided to book the bus tour. Tim decided not to go with us today as he’s not a fan of the Sound of Music or bus tours. And honestly? I’m not really a fan of organised tours either. The last time I went on one was when I was visiting my friend in Germany and she had a lot of appointments one day, so she booked me on a tour out of Ramstein (her husband is USAF) and I hated it because it was designed for people who had never visited Germany and didn’t speak German. The Sound of Music Tour turned out to be fairly similar.

I booked the tour back in October through emailing the company and asking about available tours on the third (Mom’s birthday) because I knew I wanted to do it on her birthday. We reserved it at a cost of €42 per person. That’s A LOT of money for people who have mostly done things on a budget. But it was mom’s birthday. And I wasn’t going to send her on it by herself, so I had to book a ticket for myself too.

The tour takes four hours, and at first you think it’s pretty ambitious, considering the website lists 6 stops:

-Mirabell Gardens
-Leopoldskron Palace
-Hellebrun Palace
-Nonnberg Abbey
-St Gilgen
-Mondsee

Except that it doesn’t actually have 6 stops. It has a “hey, here’s a drive past some of the lakes and oh, we’ll stop at this overlook for photos” kind of stop, 2 stops that were basically get off the bus and walk to see a single thing and then leave, and over an hour in Mondsee. We never saw Mirabell Gardens. The tour guide claimed that most of the city was shut that day for a bicycle race….except that Tim had just driven into the centre of Salzburg to drop us off an hour prior and there were NO road closures and NO diversions. We were told that due to this race, they were doing the tour “backwards” and we would hit the gardens at the end….but then we actually somehow managed to run out of time even though we had started the tour 15 minutes early.

I’m not entirely sure what the St Gilgen stop even was. I guess that was when we stopped at a scenic overlook over Wolfgangsee? The tour guide never said the words St Gilgen, so I’m not sure if we did this or what it was. We did drive through part of the lake district though (to get to Mondsee).

Our stop at Mondsee was largely unplanned. We were told how to find the basilica, but left to our own devices to get to it and walk around it or to explore Mondsee. I did wish we had more time in Mondsee only because I really only had time to walk to the basilica, walk around it, and walk back to the coach. I would have loved to have walked to the lake front.

Our next stop was Hellebrun Palace to see the iconic gazebo used in the ’16 going on 17′ song:

And the stop literally was a hop off the bus and a walk through the back gates of the palace gardens straight to the gazebo for a 10 minute photo shoot before returning to the bus for the drive to Leopoldskron.

Leopoldskron palace was used as the back of the Von Trapp home….sort of. They don’t show the bak of Leopoldskron, but we see the lion statues and the gate that opens up to the lake as seen in this scene:

So naturally, the tour takes us to the park on the opposite side of the lake so we can see those lion statues and the gate. Leopoldskron is now a hotel, so you probably could go there for a meal and then get to see the statues and gate up close.

And that was basically it! We then were vaguely shown the outside of Nonnberg (“see that red roof?”) before returning to Mirabellplatz and the end of the tour, where we were told we could freely roam Mirabell Gardens if we wanted (how nice of them, it’s FREE), but the tour was over. Mom and I wound up grabbing a tram to get a train to Pfarrwefen to meet Tim and go see our next accommodation.

Our tour guide was an older gentleman, and you could tell because his jokes seemed to be dating back to the 90s. He also definitely assumed that all of his patrons were American and were unfamiliar with Salzburg and Austria in general and he spent too much time telling us about the owner of Red Bull and the Red Bull Headquarters we drove past!

Value for Money
If all 6 stops were genuine stops, then this would be a great value for money as you get to visit 6 sites for €42, or €7 each. BUT Mirabell Gardens is free, you don’t get to see Nonnberg except as a drive-by, You aren’t even on the grounds of Leopoldskron, just across the lake from it in a park (free!), getting into the Basilica in Mondsee is free (they ask for a small donation), and you see St Gilgen as a drive-by. So essentially, you’ve paid €42 for admission to the grounds of Hellebrun palace and the bus ride itself. Oh, and it turns out you can visit the entire Hellebrun (so actually see the palace, trick fountains, AND gazebo) for €12,50 and it’s a short bus or boat ride from Salzburg (for €18!) if you don’t have a car. So…not worth it for anyone who knows German or at least can communicate in it or who is familiar with Salzburg. BUT if you aren’t comfortable with the German language or if it’s your first trip to Salzburg, this might be a great way to see some of the sites! However I will warn you that while this is a bus tour, there’s still a lot of walking involved as the coach parking area in Mondsee is a fairly long walk away from the basilica and the other two stops involve walking from a coach car park which isn’t directly on site. So if you were looking for something to do that didn’t involve a lot of walking, this wouldn’t be the tour for you.

You can watch my YouTube video of our tour here:

I promise it’s not 4 hours long!

Suffice it to say, while I enjoyed seeing the sites for the filming of Sound of Music, I did not enjoy this tour and I feel like Tim and I could have taken Mom to all these locations for a lot less than 84 euros.

Read about the full trip here as links are added as new posts and videos are posted.

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The contents of this post, including personal images are © Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley unless otherwise stated and should not be reproduced without permission. If you are not reading this on http://blog.beccajanestclair.com, my facebook page, Networked Blogs, the RSS feed(s), or through an e-mail subscription, please notify me.

Unless stated otherwise, I have not received any compensation from any of the companies, properties, websites, etc. mentioned in this blog post.

[LJ readers reading this on the LJ RSS feed: Please click on the link at the top of the entry to go directly to my blog to leave a comment, as comments left on the LJ RSS do not get seen by me. Facebook users reading this from my Networked Blogs link can either comment on facebook or on my blog. If you are reading this through an e-mail subscription, you might need to go directly to my blog to view videos and images.]

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[Review] Urlaubsnest

urlaubsnestFor our first long stop of our Austria trip, I booked us in at Urlaubsnest in Moorbad Harbach (Weitra). I found it on Booking.com, after Tim and I had decided we wanted to stay within railing distance to Vienna (my pick), and within driving distance to the Waldviertelbahn and the JHMD. Originally, I started looking around Weitra, and this place popped up. We knew we wanted either a one or two bedroom apartment (remember, my mom was with us, so she needed a place to sleep to!) with a full kitchen. Urlaubsnest was reasonably priced and in a great location. We live in a small village close to a city centre, so it made sense that we would pick an apartment located in a village closer to a larger town (Gmünd was only about 30 minutes away, Weitra even closer).

The route in and out of the village is easy enough to find, but they were doing some kind of roadworks so part of the drive was spent driving on gravel roads (where we may have picked up the screw that killed our new tyre) with fields and woods on either side, it was quite picturesque (And you can see the drive on our driving video).

Our landlords, Dietmar and Brigette, were fantastic. Dietmar asked me if I was on Facebook, and when I said I was he suggested that I message him through facebook so messages would get to him faster. On our drive from Neuschwanstein I kept Dietmar updated on our ETA according to our sat nav (google maps on my phone) and it was no trouble arriving later than originally planned due to traffic. We arrived around 7PM, tired and hungry, and Dietmar and Brigette offered to feed us! Brigette laid on an amazing spread and Dietmar opened up a few bottles of beer. They even gifted us with a bottle of sparkling wine waiting for us in the fridge. Our holiday was on to an amazing start!

You can watch my tour of Urlaubsnest here:

We loved everything about this facility.

The kitchen had everything we needed for cooking main meals and they even had a minibar with beer and soft drinks available for purchase (no diet sodas though!). They have a wood burning stove for the winter months, and a modern electric range for the Summer months. They even provided coffee, filters, and sugar for the coffee pot (no measuring spoon though. I think I left my sliding spoon there though, much to my annoyance)! There were plenty of pots, pans, dishes, cutlery, and glasses and they provided some dish soap and a sponge.

The bedroom features a really nifty lighting feature where you can change the colours depending on your mood and time of day – it even has a nighttime mode that operates on a dimmer/timer. The bedroom also features an infrared sauna, which we only used on our last 2 days, but wish we had used it sooner!

(I made a video of the lights, and I will add it to this post after it gets uploaded!)

Wifi was adequate and I even managed to stream Netflix one night when I was unable to sleep.

When you stay at Urlaubsnest, you also have an extensive exterior grounds at your disposal. If you have children, we noticed they had a swing set, slide, sandbox, and trampoline. There is an outdoor picnic table with retractable awning and an outdoor grill/oven (which we did not use). My husband and I took a walk across the back fields and found a public walking path into a quiet wooded area and we’re sure we must have crossed the Czech border at some point since we were so close to it.

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(I’m really not sure why the portrait shots are showing as landscape. I’ve rotated them three times!)

We have put Urlaubsnest on our list of places to stay at again. While there is no main public transportation to Moorbad Harbach, on their website they say they will provide transportation from either the Weitra bus station or the Gmünd OBB station and I’m pretty sure we saw bus stops for a local village postbus that could get you around if you were going carless.

If you do travel by car, they have plenty of off-street parking. The driveway has a slight incline to it, but once you’re up you can park anywhere at the top as long as you aren’t blocking the tractors getting in and out of the barn (and of course, don’t knock over any of the plants).

Dietmar and Brigette have a dog, who does like to meet people, but she’s also shy. There are, however, several village cats that hang around. Some of which are friendlier than others and we even had one wander into our apartment to make herself comfortable on our bed!

I would highly reccomend Urlaubsnest to anyone looking for an off the beaten path place to stay.

Read about the full trip here as links are added as new posts and videos are posted.

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The contents of this post, including personal images are © Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley unless otherwise stated and should not be reproduced without permission. If you are not reading this on http://blog.beccajanestclair.com, my facebook page, Networked Blogs, the RSS feed(s), or through an e-mail subscription, please notify me.

Unless stated otherwise, I have not received any compensation from any of the companies, properties, websites, etc. mentioned in this blog post.

[LJ readers reading this on the LJ RSS feed: Please click on the link at the top of the entry to go directly to my blog to leave a comment, as comments left on the LJ RSS do not get seen by me. Facebook users reading this from my Networked Blogs link can either comment on facebook or on my blog. If you are reading this through an e-mail subscription, you might need to go directly to my blog to view videos and images.]

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[Travel] Behind the (former) Iron Curtain

Iron_Curtain_map.svg I had never been to Eastern Europe before this trip. The closest I had ever been geographically was Vienna (as in, the border with Hungary was nearby). I think I looked at Eastern Europe as kind of scary, and I was possibly a little Xenophobic about it because “they use a different alphabet” (though not all of Eastern Europe does….some just use a heavily accented Latin alphabet!). It probably didn’t help that I grew up in the 80s, when the Cold War was winding down, but I was still young enough that I really had no idea what was going on outside of New Jersey, let alone the world, and even in 1990 my German classroom still had maps of East and West Germany, both flags, etc. And even when we started studying European history, my class didn’t go into the present, focusing more on the Holy Roman Empire than anything else. My HS had a requirement to take two years of US history, but only one of world, so I never took a modern European history class and if I’m honest, I wasn’t even interested in learning anything until within the past 10-15 years.

When we started planning this trip, I was still really nervous about travelling to the Czech Republic. Mostly because neither Tim or I spoke Czech and they use a different currency from the Euro (They are in the EU, but not the Eurozone) and maybe there was still a lingering fear of the unknown in general. I had only ever travelled in countries that either spoke English or German or I knew enough of the native language to be polite (ie – French and Spanish speaking countries where I can manage to say things like hello, please, thank you, and do you speak English). But Czech? Totally foreign. Even looking in the phrasebook I bought left me with a puzzled look on my face.

I soon learned that because we were on the border with Austria, a lot of the people we would interact with spoke German, and many knew English, too. The few places where no one spoke anything other than Czech, we made do with pointing and trying to pronounce things in the phrase book!

After we griced (chased!) a Waldviertelbahn train to Gmünd, we noticed that we were very close to the Czech border and were in fat parked in an area where they probably used to have people pull over for inspection. So we decided to go on a short walk across the border just so I could say I had been in the Czech Republic, even though we would be returning in a few days to ride a train on the JHMD.

ceska

When we were getting close to our apartment, we also noticed how close we were to the border on the map. When we mentioned it to our landlord, he told us that when he was a child, if you got too close to the border you could hear the border agents cocking their guns, and they would occasionally hear gunfire. You didn’t want to kick your football too close to the border, that’s for sure!!

We’re also pretty sure that when we went on a walk in the woods behind our apartment, we must have crossed the border at least once. After we visited the JHMD (I’ll blog on that later), we needed to get rid of some Czech Kroner because neither of us had realised how cheap things are in the Czech Republic. I had exchanged £50 before we left and was given something like 1600 Kroner. We had intended on buying our tickets with the cash, but then we decided to book them online instead to make sure we got seats so we really had quite a bit to spend. We then assumed Lunch would use most of it, but Lunch only came to around 300Kr. We decided to wander into a grocery store (Lidl), but we still only spent the equivalent of £13. But at least I have some Kroner for our next trip. I’m totally ready to visit Prague now!

There will be more about our visit to the JHMD in a few days!

Read about the full trip here as links are added as new posts and videos are posted.

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Iron Curtain Map from Wikipedia

The contents of this post, including personal images are © Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley unless otherwise stated and should not be reproduced without permission. If you are not reading this on http://blog.beccajanestclair.com, my facebook page, Networked Blogs, the RSS feed(s), or through an e-mail subscription, please notify me.

[LJ readers reading this on the LJ RSS feed: Please click on the link at the top of the entry to go directly to my blog to leave a comment, as comments left on the LJ RSS do not get seen by me. Facebook users reading this from my Networked Blogs link can either comment on facebook or on my blog. If you are reading this through an e-mail subscription, you might need to go directly to my blog to view videos and images.]

For full Copyright and Disclaimer, please read http://www.blog.beccajanestclair.com/copyright/

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[Austria] Road Tripping Days .5, 1, and 2

roadtrip Yep. That does say 20 hours of driving!

I know I mentioned it before, but I’m pretty sure we were crazy when we organised our trip. 20+ hours of driving?

But it wouldn’t be the first time Tim and I have done a long trip – our trip right after our wedding was driving from my home in PA to my cousin in FL, which takes about 21 hours and when we went on our belated honeymoon in Autumn 2010 we drove to Austria. Still though, it is a lot!

We decided to break it down into several days of driving, and even started our trip around 7PM on the Sunday right after Tim had worked a 12 hour day shift. No, I’m not kidding. He got home around 6, and we loaded up the car and headed to Ashford where we had booked into a single room at the Travelodge for the night. We have booked into these family rooms before and have always found them to be spacious, but this time we had a very small room and there was only about 6 inches between our double bed and Mom’s single! Fortunately, it was the only night we were all staying in one room. We showered that night and went to bed around midnight with the alarm set for 6AM. Our channel crossing had a check in time of 0720, and we were 20 minutes away.

Checking into the Eurotunnel was easy and quick, and so was getting through French immigration……in fact, that nearly didn’t stamp my mom’s US passport (Tim and I travelled on UK passports)! Tim had to tell the I/O that we had an American in the car. He soon stamped her passport and we were on our way into the queue, where we sat for about 20 minutes before being directed onto the train.

The train was a lot faster than I had thought it would be. Probably because the last time I went by rail, I was on the Eurostar and travelled between London and Paris. It hadn’t dawned on me that we would only be on the train to go through the tunnel under the channel and the trip only took about 30 minutes. The rest of the time was mostly loading and unloading!

I also was surprised that you stayed sitting in your car and there were no snack bar facilities, but I also think that was du to my confusion on the length of the journey. Also, if they had to have coaches for passengers as well as the carriages for the cars it would have to be a VERY long train, or only take half the number of cars.

The rest of the drive on our first day was long and uneventful…..until we got diverted off the main road due to it being closed and could’t seem to find a way back (this clip wound up missing when I was doing the video, so I might do a separate one later) onto the autobahn! Our original hotel booked was called Schlossblick and was located in Schwangau. The check in deadline was a FIRM 2000. I kept watching the ETA on the sat nav (really, Google maps) and started to panic the closer the ETA got to to 8PM. I had read the reviews on Booking.com and saw that the owner does not give you any leeway, even if you ring ahead to tell her you will be late. As much as I was looking forward to having a balcony overlooking my favourite castle, we decided to cancel the booking around 4PM, as you could only cancel for free until 5. Fortunately, the booking.com app on my phone (I swear, I don’t work for them, I just really like their site!) helped me to find us a new hotel – this one with a 24 hour front desk. It was a SmartHotel, and we booked it about 2 hours before we arrived.

Of course, this couldn’t go off without some kind of hitch. The receptionist spoke perfect English, and I can speak German, but we still semed to hit some kind of language barrier and it took me nearly a half an hour just to check in. First, he said I didn’t have a reservation, then he tried to put the three of us all in the same room (at the rate for two rooms!). Finally, we sorted it out and we had rooms located next door to each other. Then, when we got to the room, I discovered someone had left their clothing in the wardrobe! After taking the clothing back to the front desk, I returned to the room and crashed for the night. I don’t know what Mom did, but Tim and I did not stay up very long!

In the morning, we ate breakfast at the hotel and got on the road to Schwangau and Neuschwanstein!

Credit goes to Tim for this shot #neuschwanstein

A photo posted by Rebecca L (@beccajanestclair) on

Ultimately, we decided against doing the castle tours – The Maria bridge was closed, so no opportunity for those amazing photos, but you still got dropped off at the bridge. We remembered it being a 20 minute uphill walk to get to the castle, plus walking around the castle and up the stairs and decided with Mom’s knees to skip it, and instead we wandered around Schwangau for the morning and early afternoon. Tim and I wandered down to the Alpsee for some gorgeous photos of that “toothpaste green water” as Tim calls the Alpine water.

Never leaving!! #bavaria #alpsee

A photo posted by Rebecca L (@beccajanestclair) on

We still had about 5 hours of driving to do, as once we were in Austria we still had to drive through most of the country to get to our first official stop! We encountered more road works, closed roads, and temporary roads. Fortunately, I was in contact with our landlord and was able to give him updates on when to expect us. We finally arrived around 7PM, long after the shops were shut for the night, so the landlords offered to feed us and we were treated to a smorgasbord accompanied by local beer. They spoke English, and I was slowly getting my German back….but Tim did much better than me!

After a pleasant few hours with our landlords, we retreated back to our apartment where once again, we fell into bed.

Read about the full trip here as links are added as new posts and videos are posted.

***

Map image at the top screenshot from Google.

The contents of this post, including personal images are © Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley unless otherwise stated and should not be reproduced without permission. If you are not reading this on http://blog.beccajanestclair.com, my facebook page, Networked Blogs, the RSS feed(s), or through an e-mail subscription, please notify me.

[LJ readers reading this on the LJ RSS feed: Please click on the link at the top of the entry to go directly to my blog to leave a comment, as comments left on the LJ RSS do not get seen by me. Facebook users reading this from my Networked Blogs link can either comment on facebook or on my blog. If you are reading this through an e-mail subscription, you might need to go directly to my blog to view videos and images.]

For full Copyright and Disclaimer, please read http://www.blog.beccajanestclair.com/copyright/

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[Travel] Austrian Road Trip Summer 2016

austriaschedule We might be a little insane.

After we got back from our trip to Austria last October, we immediately began planning a trip back, but this time, we were going to take my mom along who had always wanted to visit Austria and who would be visiting us for part of the Summer. I spent many MANY nights researching all our options….flights, rental cars, trains (while Tim and I have his BR privs, Mom would not), etc. I finally worked out that it was actually going to be cheaper by nearly £1000 if we drove our car across and road tripped because flights for the three of us were coming in at nearly £500 and it was very expensive to rent a car for three weeks!

I used our Tesco club card points to book the Eurotunnel for the trip over, and I booked the cheapest ferry (DFDS) for the return trip. We knew we were going to have a stop to visit Neuschwanstein in Bavaria, and started making a rough idea of things we wanted to do and then picked regions to search for apartments as after renting apartments and self catering in October, we have decided that is the best way to go if you don’t want to tow your caravan or sleep in a tent as it gives you the freedom to be in charge of your meals. You can eat out if you want, but you have the options of staying in for all three meals. We usually had breakfast and dinner in our apartments and Lunch out.

We tried to add in some down time, but our first week was turning out to be VERY busy as we wanted to visit two railways (one of them twice) on specific days (due to their schedule) and day trip to Vienna. We also had my mom’s birthday while we were visiting, and I had decided to surprise her with the Sound of Music tour on her birthday, so we knew we had to be toward Salzburg by the 3rd. We also wanted to ride steam on the Pinz again, which had to be done on a Thursday, and the Zillertalbahn was only running steam Wednesday – Sunday. Tim also wanted to visit another line on one of the Saturdays, but after realising he would have to drive for 9 hours in the one day alone (as Mom and I would have taken the train to our next destination to get checked in on time) he decided against it and we decided to make a stop in Germany at the Chiemsee since we were cutting through it anyway.

Our schedule wound up looking like this:

Day .5 – Tim worked until 6pm, then we drove down to Ashford for the night in a Travelodge
Day 1 – Eurotunnel and driving. Originally it was going to be all the way to Schwangau, but we wound up stopping in Kempton instead.
Day 2 – Neuschwanstein and Schwangau and then driving to Weitra for our first apartment (Urlaubsnest)
Blog post for days .5, 1, and 2 can be found here
Review of Urlaubsnest can be found here
Day 3 – Waldviertelbahn and hopping across the Czech Border [Blog link]
Day 4 – Driving in the Czech Republic and JHMD
Day 5 – Vienna
Day 6 – Waldviertelbahn
Day 7 – Sound of Music Tour (Mom and I)/ Mondsee (Tim) and moved to Haus Reider in Pfarrwerfen
Blog post for Day 7 can be found here
Day 8 – Tim and I explored the area in car and on foot
Day 9 – Freilicht Museum (video)
Day 10 – Murtalbahn
Day 11 – Pinzgauelokalbahn
Day 12 – Salzburg
Day 13 – Chiemsee and Drive to Mayrhofen (Gasthaus Zillertal)
Day 14 – Exploring the local area
Day 15 – Brenner
Day 16 – Innsbruck
Day 17 – Zillertalbahn
Day 18 – Too rainy for much, so we had a lazy day and went on a walk
Day 19 – Drive to Goe, Belgium (Yellow House)
Day 20 – Ferry and drive home

Other related blog posts & videos:
(video) Austrian Grocery stores
[Travel] Grocery Shopping

Or watch all the videos here:
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLDUaor7uXZQfPu6Un77YGHRkLMlPgKFp-

The countries we were in:
France*
Belgium
Luxembourg*
Germany
Austria
Czech Republic
Italy
Netherlands*

(*drove in only)

with the exception of 2 single overnights at the beginning and a single overnight at the end, we stayed in three apartments and spent about a week in each.

As I write blog posts and post videos, I’ll be revisiting this post to add links to everything….I’m hoping to blog it all. I was a little lax in blogging our October trip, so I’m hoping I will do better this time!

***
The contents of this post, including personal images are © Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley unless otherwise stated and should not be reproduced without permission. If you are not reading this on http://blog.beccajanestclair.com, my facebook page, Networked Blogs, the RSS feed(s), or through an e-mail subscription, please notify me.

[LJ readers reading this on the LJ RSS feed: Please click on the link at the top of the entry to go directly to my blog to leave a comment, as comments left on the LJ RSS do not get seen by me. Facebook users reading this from my Networked Blogs link can either comment on facebook or on my blog. If you are reading this through an e-mail subscription, you might need to go directly to my blog to view videos and images.]

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[Hotel Review] Apart Heim, Fügen

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When we first decided to visit Austria, we intended on it only being a long weekend to the Zillertal region. We decided to look for self-catered to cut down on costs, and we knew we wanted to be near the Zillertalbahn railway. When I spotted an apartment for rent less than 2KM away from the Fügen station, we decided to book it. The one-bedroom apartment was listed on booking.com at £50/night plus a cleaning fee of €50. It was amazing. I reviewed it over on Trip Advisor, but thought I would expand on it here.

We originally thought we would have issues crossing the border between Germany and Austria, so I contacted the hotel and asked for a late check-in, which we were granted. As it turned out, we didn’t need it and I wound up ringing the landlord several hours ahead of time to tell her we had arrived! Unfortunately, we arrived outside of their check-in hours, so we had to wait for her to come over to let us in, and then she had to leave to pick up her children from school right away so we had to wait for her to return to go over the rest of check in, but the important part was we were IN our apartment! Since we had arrived in Jenbach early, we took a quick walk over to the Billa (grocery store) and had picked up a few things, so waiting for our landlady gave us plenty of time to look around and explore the apartment.

Here’s a video I took of our apartment:

Our apartment was on the top floor, so lots of steps to walk up to get to it! Once in, there was a small foyer area to remove outerwear and a hallway. The end of the hallway opened up into a combination living room/dining room/kitchenette. We booked a one bedroom apartment, so our bedroom was off this hallway as was the water closet (toilet only) and shower room. The bedroom and the living room both opened up onto a balcony….my favourite part of the place! Of course, the weather was a bit chilly in September, but we still managed to spend some time out on our balcony each day, even if we were hugging a cup of tea at the same time!

As I mentioned in my TripAdvisor review, I was a bit disappointed with the kitchenette. There was mismatched glasses and in fact only one glass the appropriate size for a bottle of beer. There was a lack of some basic staples. It would have been nice if they had included some salt & pepper and coffee for their specific coffee machine. Because we were only staying for 4 days, it wasn’t worth us buying the required pods, but if they had provided us with a few pods it would have been a nice touch. And salt/pepper would have been nice to at least have some seasoning available. I wound up snagging some packets from one of the restaurants we ate at. The kitchen also didn’t have an oven, so everything we cooked had to be cooked on the hob (stove), and we only had two burners. We ate a lot of pasta and bratwurst based meals!

I found the bed to be very soft and comfortable, but Tim says he didn’t think it was comfortable. But we each had our own separate bed (the double bed was two singles pushed together, which seems to be the norm in Austria) so it’s possible his bed wasn’t as comfortable as mine! The downside to the separate beds was it made it hard for us to cuddle right before bed and one of us wound up in the crack between the beds, but I actually quite enjoyed having my own duvet! haha! The bedroom also had two bedside tables with lamps and outlets(!!), a dressing table, and a large triple wardrobe with shelves on one side. I unpacked our bags, but we really didn’t have a lot since we had packed so light.

The shower was hot and the water pressure was nice. The shower room also had a towel warming rack, but it took over a day for the rack to be hot enough to warm things (and then I used it as a hot drying rack to dry stuff I sink washed!). The toilet made quite a bit of noise though, so we tried not to use it in the middle of the night.

As I said, the kitchen/dining room/living room was all one large room with a door out to the balcony. The dining table was large enough to fit 6 (the apartment sleeps 4), with a bench going around the corner of the room and then a few chairs. The living room had a sofa, which would convert to a sofa bed if you needed it and then the living room also had a wardrobe and a TV. We didn’t use the TV at all, but obviously, it would have been in German! I tried plugging in my USB stick to watch a film, but it didn’t work.

Apart Heim is located partway up a mountain right near the Speiljoch and the Speiljochbahn (which we rode!), a few small shops (one was a news agent, the other was a very limited convenience store), and Hotel Kohlerhof, which was a spa hotel with several restaurants (we ate breakfast there twice, dinner there our first night, and pizza there another night) that our apartment was affiliated with. There also was a preschool located nearby, but since our room was up on top, we never heard the children. Instead, we always heard the cow bells from a nearby field.

One thing I had failed to think about was the apartment’s location. 2KM away from the railway station sounds great….until you realise that it’s 2KM up a mountain! We had to walk this every day, including once with all our luggage. The day we checked out, our landlord offered to give us a lift down, and I wish I had thought to have asked for a lift on the way up when we got there! We also found out there is a taxi service in Fügen that I hadn’t found online when I ran a search. The taxi service is called Egger Taxi. We did not use the taxi service, but I have made a note of it for future trips!

We hope to stay here again on a future trip. Unfortunately, it won’t be this Summer when we return as they did not have any rooms, but we will be back!

***
The contents of this post, including images are © Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley unless otherwise stated and should not be reproduced without permission. If you are not reading this on http://blog.beccajanestclair.com, my facebook page, Networked Blogs, the RSS feed(s), or through an e-mail subscription, please notify me.

[LJ readers reading this on the LJ RSS feed: Please click on the link at the top of the entry to go directly to my blog to leave a comment, as comments left on the LJ RSS do not get seen by me. Facebook users reading this from my Networked Blogs link can either comment on facebook or on my blog. If you are reading this through an e-mail subscription, you might need to go directly to my blog to view videos and images.]

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[Recipe] A Taste of Austria – Pork Schnitzel

12279459_10153834140982160_976593785_o Austria has some amazing food. Some amazingly fattening food. Did you know that Austrians consume on average more calories per day than most other countries in the world? I didn’t either until my husband found an article about it. No wonder he and I both gained weight on our trip to Austria. We figure native Austrians probably need all those calories since everything is on top of a mountain! One of my huband’s favourite foods is Schnitzel, and they serve it pretty much everywhere. Large pieces of chicken, pork, or viel coated in batter and then deep fried. Wow. I can feel my arteries clogging just writing that. A few years back, the Slimming World magazine had some international foods, and incldued a recipe for Schnitzel, which I have used to base my recipe off of. The breadcrumbs are best if you are able to let them bake and stand for several hours, but you can crisp them up just before you make them or you can use them soft. But this is best with crispy crunchy breadcrumbs.

Pork Schnitzel
1 Syn per Schnitzel

You Will Need:
60g wholemeal bread (loaf or roll, but measure to make sure it’s 60!)
2 tsp Celery salt
2 tsp mixed herbs (I actually used Italian herbs as I was out of mixed and it was fine)
1 tsp dried parsley
1 egg
6 pork chops with the fat trimmed off (or pork steaks or pork medallions)
Frylight

For the Breadcrumbs:
1. Preheat oven to 150C.
2. Blitz the bread along with the spices in a blender or food processor until crumbs.
3. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
4. Bake the crumbs for 15 minutes, stirring halfway.
5. Turn off the oven and and leave the crumbs in the oven for 4 hours.
6. Fold over the parchment paper and crush the now crispy crumbs with your hands, the back of a knife, or a rolling pin.

For the Schnitzel:
1. Preheat oven to 200C.
2. Whisk the egg white, then add the yolk and whisk some more.
3. Spray a baking tray with frylight.
4. Dredge the pork first in the egg, then in the breadcrumbs and place on the tray.
5. Spray the tops of the pork with some frylight.
6. Bake 25-30 minutes or until breadcrumbs are starting to brown.

This goes great with some chips, peas, and sauerkraut! Don’t forget to measure out your ketchup too. 1 TBS of reduced sugar and salt ketchup is half a syn. I just dumped all my ketchup on my chips, so it looks like a lot, but I only used 2TBS, bringing the total syns to my dinner to 4.

***

DISCLAIMER: I do not work for Slimming World, I am not affiliated with Slimming World beyond being a paying customer/member, I get no personal benefit from writing this post other than the joy of sharing.

Please note: Syn values are based on my exact ingredients using the online calculator. Your Syn value may vary based on your ingredients and the size of your baking containers and portions, so use this number as a guide only. Syn values also frequently change, but these values are correct at the time of publication.

The contents of this post, including images are © Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley unless otherwise stated and should not be reproduced without permission. If you are not reading this on http://blog.beccajanestclair.com, my facebook page, Networked Blogs, the RSS feed(s), or through an e-mail subscription, please notify me.

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Renting a Holiday Apartment

FugenBalconyOn our recent trip to Austria, we thought it would be a great idea to rent apartments instead of hotels so we could do a bit of self-catering to help cut costs. The last time we were in Austria, we were camping with our tent (and car) and had breakfast and dinner at our campsite, so shopping in Austrian grocery stores wasn’t a foreign concept (haha!).

When you are choosing to rent a holiday apartment, you have two options. You can either rent a private home through a site like airbnb or you can rent an apartment in a managed property, similar to a hotel through booking sites like booking.com (what I use)*. I also leave a tab open with TripAdvisor to check reviews of the apartments I’m looking at and a tab with google maps for checking the area the apartments are in for finding out how close they are to public transportation, shops, restaurants, and attractions. I’ve never used airbnb, but I have friends who have used it while travelling abroad, and they’ve had very good experiences. Airbnb also seems like they are on the ball with their customer service if you have any problems. Likewise, booking.com has excellent customer service. I have had good luck with booking.com, but also some less-than-perfect luck. Booking.com suggests not booking properties with a rating below 7, as their ratings are generated based on users reviews. So if you don’t mind renting someone’s private apartment, you might want to have tabs open for both to compare apartments. I also kept open a tab with google translate in case I needed to look up German words I wasn’t familiar with.

Firstly, you need to decide on your location and price range. Booking.com lets you search by towns as well as regions, so I put in “Zillertal” and then ticked the box for £0-£55/night which led me to several choices, including Apart Heim, the place we stayed. I wound up looking at around a half dozen places before making my decision, and one of our “musts” was being close to public transportation as we would be using the Zillertalbahn to get around and would not have a car. We also needed to be close to a grocery store, due to the aforementioned lack of a car. I used Google Maps to look at where the apartment was and zoomed in until I could see the icons. When I saw a shop icon, I googled to find out what the shop was and discovered MPREIS was the name of a grocery store.

Another thing to consider is what amenities you need. It was only my husband and I travelling, so we knew we could stay in either a studio apartment or a one-bedroom. When we travel next Summer with my mom, we will be looking at one-bedroom with a sofabed in the living room as well as two-bedroom apartments. Our only other requirement was that we wanted to have our own private bathroom (not usually a problem with apartments, but many hotels have shared bathrooms). I also looked at what was available in the kitchen and we picked an apartment that had a stove (hob), refrigerator, sink, microwave, and kettle. Our first apartment didn’t have an oven, but the second location did. We weren’t bothered by things like wifi or television since we knew we wouldn’t watch TV and we had our phones for internet. Our apartment provided dish soap, a sponge, and potholders in the kitchen. You also can assume that apartment rentals will include basic dishes and cooking equipment, though if you need anything specific you probably should pack it. Our apartments also included towels and linens, but some apartments do not or charge extra, so check the notes on the listing.

Most apartments also charge a flat cleaning fee between €25-50 no matter the length of your stay. You’ll want to make sure you factor this fee in when you’re picking an apartment as it won’t be part of your total for accommodation and many places will ask you to pay the cleaning fee separately in cash on arrival. Some apartments also charge a security deposit, so again, make sure you read all the information listed on the booking site.

Unlike a hotel, front desks at apartment rentals aren’t open 24 hours a day, so you will need to check and make sure you can arrive at the hotel while the desk is open or are able to ring the landlords when you arrive. This was another mistake I made with our second booking.

Even though you paid a cleaning fee, some apartments require their tenants to take out (and sort) the rubbish, strip beds, or sweep the floors. Most places will come with a set of rules, and it’s important you read over these. Google translate can help translate a picture of text. This is particularly important in case there are additional fees for breaking any of the rules!

Have fun and happy planning!

*~*
*But I did make a mistake and wound up booking a private apartment through booking.com….more details in another post on that apartment.

The contents of this post, including images are © Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley unless otherwise stated and should not be reproduced without permission. If you are not reading this on http://blog.beccajanestclair.com, my facebook page, Networked Blogs, the RSS feed(s), or through an e-mail subscription, please notify me.

[LJ readers reading this on the LJ RSS feed: Please click on the link at the top of the entry to go directly to my blog to leave a comment, as comments left on the LJ RSS do not get seen by me. Facebook users reading this from my Networked Blogs link can either comment on facebook or on my blog. If you are reading this through an e-mail subscription, you might need to go directly to my blog to view videos and images.]

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Packing for Autumn in Austria

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Whenever I plan a trip, I immediately start making pakcking lists. Things I know I’ll need, things I might need, and things I need to buy. If I’ve already made my itinerary, I try to match up my outfits to what I’m doing. So for example, if I have a trip to a beach planned, I know that autumatically means a bathing suit and sunblock need to go on my packing list. I also check to see if we will have access to a washing machine (this time, we wouldn’t) and plan appropriately. If there is no washing machine, I think about what clothing we have that could be sink washed and we plan on wearing one shirt for two days, and trousers or skirts for 3-4 days. I also bring Febreeze along on all trips in a small spray bottle to help keep clothing refreshed.

I also immediately start scouring the internet for suggested packing lists for the area I’m visiting to get ideas….and the one blank spot in many websites and travel blogs seem to be visiting Austria in the Autumn. Plenty of packing lists for going in the Winter, plenty of packing lists specific to visiting Vienna, too….but nothing for visiting in the Autumn.

I checked the long-range weather forecasts and saw that the weather was predicted to be chilly and slightly damp, with not many warm days. This immediately indicated to me that I needed to think in terms of layers. Things that could easily be taken on or off (either in public or by visiting a toilet), and easily packed into whatever I was carrying for the day, as well as packed into my main luggage.

Before I go any further, let’s go over luggage. My luggage consisted of my LL Bean deluxe Bookbag (I’ve had it since I was 15 and this was its third trip to Austria!), a borrowed cabin sized bag wheeled suitcase, and my camera bag (Tim had an LL Bean bag and a camera bag). We decided to share the single checked bag for on the way to Austria, and I packed a folding ‘weekender’ bag which we decided to pre-pay for to use as a second bag for the trip home (GOOD idea). The weight limit on Ryanair for both checked and carry-on luggage is 15kg per bag, so I didn’t want to use a bigger bag for fear that it would soon get overweight. Ryanair does now allow TWO carryon bags, but one has to fit under the seat in front of you (my canmera bag) and one in the overhead. They also let you carry on a single carrier bag from the duty free shops in addition to your two carry ons.

Ok, so now that we know how much space we’re working with, we need to think about what we’re packing.

12037841_10153724681382160_63833692_o

Toiletries for both of us immediately went on the list. I chose to buy pre-packaged travel sized versions of most things because I wouldn’t feel bad tossing them at the end of the trip to save space, but Poundland does a decent fillable set for £1 if you’d rather fill with your own products. I did also need a refillable pump with my armpit wash (prescription), and I filled a very small container with some aftershave for Tim. As you can see, nearly everything we needed fit into those two clear bags. I also had a separate bag that held both our razors and a small make-up bag that had everything non-liquid in it. I decided to put the toiletries in the checked bag, so I had an additional plastic baggie which I put in the things I wanted in my carry on (my liquid medicines, squash, and hand sanitizer). I packed minimal toiletries – Shampoo, conditioner, body wash, prescription armpit wash, face wash, deodorant, small body spray, toothpaste, face moisturizer, and pimple cream. My non-liquids included vaseline, a Clinique palate (blush, eyeshadow, mascara), a No7 face powder compact, a folding brush, nail clipper, tweezers, travel toothbrushes, and cotton pads. I went on the principle that Austria is not a third world country, and if there was anything we needed we could easily pick it up either at the Boots in the airport or once we were in Austria. Which we did do as I needed muscle rub, a sewing kit, and Tim needed bodywash partway through as I accidentally packed a 50ml bottle for him. Yes. I forgot my sewing kit. DON’T forget one, or if you need one you will be stuck for days wandering into shops using your German dictionary to ask for a sewing kit. Other than needing body wash for Tim, we managed to make 100ml of everything else last until the last day. If I was going for longer than 10 days, I would probably try to either pack extras of everything, pack bigger containers, or plan on purchasing things once I arrived.

Tim’s toiletries were just shampoo, body wash, deodorant, after shave, toothpaste, and shave gel. I also added a bottle of Dr Bronner’s All In One and a spray bottle of Febreeze to his bag.

The other thing I find incredibly useful day-to-day as well as for travelling is a pill container I picked up in Poundland. It folds over itself and one side has four large compartments (originally labelled Morning-Afternoon-Evening-Bed) and six smaller compartments on the other side. It’s supposed to be a weekly pill organizer, but I used Tim’s dymamo labeller and changed the labels on i onlit so I can keep with me paracetamol, ibruprofin, naproxin, pepto, kwells, antihisimine, and a few Metformin.

So now that I’ve waffled on about toiletries….let’s move on to outerwear, including shoes. You might have noticed from my pictures that I mostly wore a pink fleece body warmer (gilet). I deliberately chose this because I like having mobility in my arms and I knew it would fit over multiple layers and even if I purchased a fleece (I almost did, but stopped myself in the end), I knew the gilet would have zipped over that too. I packed the pink one only because I couldn’t find my black one the day before we left, but in the end, the pink matched most of my clothing anyway.

I also packed a black cardigan, black opera length wrist warmers/fingerless gloves, a headband earmuff thing, leg warmers, and a scarf. I always pack a scarf when I travel even in the Summer because it winds up being useful as a blanket or folded up as a pillow. I have loads of scarfs, but for this trip I took the pashmina I bought in a Vienna market in 2010. I bought one of those tube things (Tuk?) that can be worn multiple ways and a bandana as souvenirs. Both those items will be going into my regular travel rotation as I found them both very useful. You might be laughing at the leg warmers, but I wear a lot of skirts/dresses and a cheapie pair from Primark has kept my legs warm on more than one occasion.

Shoe-wise, I only had the hiking boots I wore most of the trip, and a pair of ankle boots. I hardly wore the ankle boots, but they were nice for my one dress-up day (my day in Salzburg) and they fit in the bottom of my rucksack. Because for the first four days we were staying halfway up a mountain, I was quite glad for my hiking boots. They were comfortable, dry, and generally warm. I paired my boots most times with wooly knee socks. Not particularly fashionable, but again, they kept my legs warm and I felt cute in them. Plus because they were wool I was able to wash them in the sink at our apartment and get multiple days use out of them, so I only packed 4 pairs of knee socks. I also packed 4 pairs of ankle socks for wearing with tights or leggings. I packed 3 pairs of cheap (Primark again) weather sensing tights, 3 pairs of footless tights, and one pair of thicker leggings. And while not strictly outerwear, I also had along a pair of bicycle shorts and a pair of knee-length leggings (to prevent chafing and to protect my modesty!). I only wore tights one day and I only needed leggings for two as my knee socks kept my pretty warm, but I always kept a pair in my bag (except for the day I forgot!) in case I needed them. They don’t take up a lot of room, so it wasn’t really a big deal.

I packed in layers on top. Most of my tops were hiking/exercise tops that also claimed to be “quick dry” (They weren’t and only dried because I had a radiator to hang them on!). My favourite top was a new top I picked up at TK Maxx for a tenner (Retail price was £55!) a week before we left. It was a Reebok brand long-sleeved top with built-in thumb holes to make the sleeves into wrist warmers. My other long-sleeved tops were a Nike top I bought on a trip to the US at a deep discount (mint green with shoulder vents), and a cheap Primark pink long-sleeved shirt. I also packed along a M&S short-sleeved work out top, a black primark T-shirt (didn’t wear it), and 2 camisoles (one black, one nude). I also had a pink dress (worn for travel) and a grey and black striped dress. For my bottom half, I only brought along two hiking skirts – a Columbia skirt I’ve had for years, a grey skirt from H&M that has bright pink shorts under it, and a pair of grey lounge pants/pajama pants. I did wish I had packed one more skirt simply because I got tired of the two I had, but it was manageable. I also wished I had added extra camisoles, as they didn’t take up much space. I also packed slipper socks (well, they looked more like booties) because they took up less space than slippers, 11 pairs of knickers, and 3 bras (black, white, nude). I also wished I had packed another bra, but I was able to wash one in the sink.

Tim’s wardrobe consisted of his hiking boots, 2 long-sleeved hiking shirts, 2 polo shirts, 1 short sleeved hiking shirt, 1 t-shirt, zip off trousers, walking trousers, and cargo trousers. He was supposed to also have a rugby top, but I wound up grabbing a dirty one so he wore his work shirt (button down) for travel instead. He also had 10 pairs of socks, 10 pairs of boxers, sleep shorts, and slipper socks. I think Tim probably wished he had an extra shirt or two by the end and possibly pajama trousers instead of shorts. For outerwear, he had a fleece pullover, fleece jacket, hat, fingerless gloves, and a neck warmer. He didn’t wear the neck warmer at all, but made use of the gloves and hat.

We also each had a kag in a bag and I had an umbrella. They weren’t needed, but we don’t travel without them!

As far as electronics go, we both packed our 10 inch laptops (didn’t pull them out for anything other than watching cartoons), DSLR cameras (with lenses), tablets, and mobile phones. We also brought the camcorder (barely used it), my ipod (didn’t use at all), and a tripod (also didn’t use at all). For charging our mobile devices, I picked up 4-port USB plugs that came with 4 changeable plugs for the UK, US, EU, and AU before our trip to the US. These plugs come in handy around the house too as they only need one plug to charge up to 4 devices. We also packed some emergency chargers, which can be picked up for as little as £5 to as much as £30, depending on capacity. I have three small lipstick sized chargers and Tim has a larger one. Since they also need to be charge via USB, having the multi port plugs was a big help. These chargers came in handy as we took lots of pictures on our phones for instant sharing and used our phone for internet access. Since our laptops and camera battery chargers didn’t have EU plugs, we also took along a two-plug converter. Out of all the electronics, we only used my laptop twice (once to watch cartoons and once to look up something that we could have looked up on the tablet), and I don’t think Tim used his laptop at all. We had planned on using the laptops to remove pictures from our cameras and possibly even post them while we were away, but a lack of wifi at most places prevented this and we didn’t take as many pictures as we had thought we would. Would we take the laptops again? Possibly. Only because knowing we had the capability to back up photos and clear off memory cards meant we weren’t afraid to click away, and loading my laptop with some silly cartoons (in English) meant we had a small amount of comic relief to wind down to in the evenings if we wanted it. Plus the laptops are so small they don’t take up much space. Tim’s fit into his camera bag, and mine was in my rucksack. We also had a small electronic luggage scale, which comes in handy for making sure all your bags meet weight requirements!

We took along a railway atlas (because…..train geeks.) and maps of the area as well as a German dictionary and phrasebook. The dictionary came in handier than the phrasebook did as I do speak German, but we occasionally needed to look up either an unfamiliar German word or how to say something specific in German (like sewing kit!). Yes, my phone had Google Translate installed, but that requires having signal and we couldn’t count on that. (I did later discover I could download an offline German dictionary to Google Translate, but I’m not sure how good it is). I also had a small notebook about the size of an airline ticket, though we never needed it. I organized all our tickets and itinerary in an A5 display folder from Paperchase (£2.50). This wasn’t entirely needed, but it gave us an easy place to keep track of train schedules and tickets and a place to pop in brochures we wanted to keep. We also brought along baggies of teabags because we remembered how horrendous Austrian tea was, and knew we would need the pick me up first thing in the morning.

I did not take a handbag along, instead I have a camera bag that functions as a handbag. I used a small Cath Kidston travel wallet for my money, debit card, credit card, and driver’s license. All other cards stayed at home in my regular purse. I used a wristlet from Cath Kidston that I usually used for makeup as my purse and kept my passports, travel wallet, and travel cards all in one place. It also gave me a small purse for the evenings we went out without our cameras. I did wish I had brought along a cross body bag for these evenings though, as my small wristlet wasn’t big enough for everything I wanted to take.

We also each had a folding shopping bag and folding rucksacks. I had been wanting to get us folding rucksacks for a while as we tend to take our large bags with us on holiday but then find they are too big to use as a daypack (like a day out at an amusement park), but the cost of some of them (£21 for a Sea to Summit) always put me off. I found some on clearance at trespass for £6 so I picked them up, assuming with the trespass name on it they would be good quality. They were…..ok. Mine seemed to have a factory defect on it with one strap not attached to the bag (hence needing the sewing kit!) and Tim had a strap start to go on his. But I was able to rig them back together with some duct tape (I always carry a little!) and safety pins until I was able to get my hands on a sewing kit.

The only other thing in my bag was a selfie stick (used to take “selvsies” as Tim called them), Bagpuss (I made sure I had room for him, but could have left him at home) and Hamish, the scottish rubber duck. We both had 750ml water bottles attached to a carabeaner on our bags. We took them empty through airport security, then filled them and used one of those Robinsons Squash’d to flavour them.

Looks like a lot, doesn’t it? I started looking on YouTube for packing tutorials and found lots of tips and tricks, but the one that appealed to me the most was an Army Roll/Ranger Roll as demonstrated in this video:

I used this technique on everything except for my knickers (too small and slippery as they were all microfiber) and bras (yeah, there is no way of folding bras. haha!). It WORKED. We really did fit nearly all of our clothing in the two rucksacks, and I think with a couple of better choices (less bulky clothing items) or a better rucksack (on designed for travel/backpacking and not one designed for schoolbooks) we might have been able to manage without the extra suitcase, but we were glad we had it for the trip home as there was plenty of room for lots of chocolate! I also used zipper top bags to compress things further. You can buy space bags for travel, but the zipper top bags work just as well and are easier to replace if they rip.

Things I wish we had packed:

-A sewing kit (mentioned above)
-Extra plastic zipper top bags for snacks OR plastic containers.
-Additional camisoles (also mentioned above)
-Hair elastics
-Dry shampoo
-fleece pullover for myself
-pajama trousers for Tim

Things we didn’t or barely use:

-tripod
-laptops
-black t-shirt
-camcorder
-make-up
-notebook

Everything I wish we had taken are all things that are small enough to add to a bag in the future, and all the things we didn’t use could either be left at home or didn’t take up much space to begin with.

For the return we decided to check an additional bag, and we needed it! Even after abandoning some of the clothing (all Primark buys – socks, my shirt and cardigan, tights, and a few pairs of underwear for each of us), we needed the space for the 3KG of chocolate we purchased! Plus since we had the room, we were able to put some of the heavier books into the checked bag to take some of the pressure off of our shoulders.

I know I wrote a lot, but I hope this helps you plan your packing for your next adventure!

***
The contents of this post, including images are © Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley unless otherwise stated and should not be reproduced without permission. If you are not reading this on http://blog.beccajanestclair.com, my facebook page, Networked Blogs, the RSS feed(s), or through an e-mail subscription, please notify me.

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Planning Austria

September 2015 032

Recently, my husband and I returned from a a rather spontaneous trip to Austria. I say spontaneous, because we planned it 2 days after I received my British passport (yes, there will be a post about that) for travel the following month. We originally planned for a long weekend away to one of our favourite places, the Zillertal area of Tirol, but then realised Tim’s week of Autumn leave happened to be right after his long weekend, so a 10-day trip was put into place!

We booked our plane tickets with Ryanair, and I was pleasantly surprised at the cheap fares. However, once we added in checked bags (1 going, 2 coming home) at £15 and paid for our seats (£5 each each way), it soon added up and I was surprised to discover that British Airways actually offers cheap European flights that include both one bag and your seat selection for around the same price once you add in all of Ryanair’s extra fees. So, my suggestion is to shop around on several airlines before making your final selection. Ryanair might wind up being the best or go to the destination you need, but you might find BA or Lufthansa or Austrian Air offered a better price.

We flew into Linz, simply because it was the cheapest Austria option for flying with Ryanair. We needed to actually be closer to Innsbruck, and could have also flown to Munich, but after all the problems being reported with cross border trains in the weeks leading up to our trip, it was a good thing we chose to fly directly into Austria.

Our options to getting over to our first destination included rail, bus, or a car. We might have also been able to book a flight on a smaller, local, airline, but we skipped that option all together. We don’t like travelling by bus for long distances, so we also didn’t bother looking that information up. I did price out a rental car and I found a car for around €10/day. However, as my husband is a former BR staff member, he retained his BR privs and we get 4 48-hour free travel passes on OBB, Austria’s railway, so I began to look up trains.

Remember what I mentioned above about the border issues? Yeah, our train should have been a corridor train that crosses into Germany for about 45 minutes with no stops, but due to Germany deciding to close the borders, this was going to become a nightmare with a 90-minute delay! In the end, Germany decided to allow the corridor trains, so we were fine and in fact, things worked out so well that we managed to snag an earlier direct train to Jenbach without going out of our way to Innsbruck and got to our destination a lot earlier than we thought we would!

For rail schedules, I downloaded an app to my phone called OBB Scotty. For ticket prices and buying, you will need a separate app called OBB Tickets, but the Scotty app will prompt you to download it if you want to buy tickets. Also helpful is the DB app as DB has schedules for all European countries. The nice thing about all of these apps is that they seem to be automatically working in English for me. And if you’re using Chrome to look at websites, Chrome can automatically translate things into English.

Our schedule looked like this:

24 September- TRAVEL Stansted-Linz-Fügen
25 September-Brenner/Brennero (Italy!)
26 September-Achenseebahn/Achensee/Spieljochbahn
27 September-Zillertalbahn Dampfzug
28 September- TRAVEL Fügen-Zell am See
29 September-Salzberg
30 September-Pinzgauerlokalbahn/Krimml Wasserfälle
01 October-Pinzgauerlokalbahn Dampfzug/TRAVEL Zell -Linz
02 October-Pöstlingbergbahn/Linz
03 October-TRAVEL Linz-Stansted-Lincoln

We did have to modify our plans slightly as due to the no trains to Germany thing we had to cancel our plans to visit the Chiemsee, but we replaced it with a quick trip to Italy instead, so not all bad!

We changed locations twice, so we had a 4 night stay in an Apartment in Fügen, 3 nights in an Apartment in Zell am See, and 2 nights in a hotel in Linz. I will detail our stays later, however you can read my reviews of the first and last place on TripAdvisor. On average, we paid €50/night for our accomondation, but both apartments also charged a cleaning fee.

The nice thing about renting apartments is you get to eat on your own schedule, and you generally have a bit more space. The downside is you have to buy all your own food, but more on that in a later post.

Over the next few days/weeks I hope to post about our entire trip, since after all, my blog was originally a travel blog!

***
The contents of this post, including images are © Rebecca J Lockley and Tim Lockley unless otherwise stated and should not be reproduced without permission. If you are not reading this on http://blog.beccajanestclair.com, my facebook page, Networked Blogs, the RSS feed(s), or through an e-mail subscription, please notify me.

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European Road Trip, Day 6 Part II – Camping Gruber

For the second leg of our trip, we really only knew we wanted to be close enough to both Salzburg and Vienna to go on day trips. The railways Tim wanted to visit would have taken us too far away from the cities, so we looked on a map to pick an area within reasonable driving distance of railways and the cities and picked the Salzkammergut lakes. We spotted many tent symbols on the map, so we were confident we could find a place just by showing up. We started by circling the Attersee. The first town we came upon was called, I kid you not, Attersee am Attersee. I spotted a tourist information centre, so we decided to stop. Unfortunately, the centre was closed, but outside the building there was a tourist information computer and brochures for the region. The internet terminal pointed directly at the area’s tourism website, and we were able view several campsites and printed out several locations that looked good.

We headed around the lake. Some of the campsites were hard to find, but we finally spotted the sign for Camping Gruber in the town of Nußdorf*. Unlike Camping Hofer, Camping Gruber had controlled access, making it a little safer at night – which was a good thing, as the campsite was nearly deserted!

Camping Gruber has a lot of static caravans – people who park their caravan there year-round and come up on weekends and holidays. We saw a few people around on Sunday while we were setting up, but after the weekend, most people had left. Out of the sites that were still occupied, we were once again the only tent.

Camping Gruber has sanitation buildings at both ends, though the ones closer to the lake were nicer and newer. According to their website, they are remodelling their sanitation building for the 2011 season, and I can only assume they will be upgrading the older building. The older ones were dark and operated with automatic lights. Fine when the camp is busy, but not so great when you need the loo in the middle of the night. Twice I had the light go out on me while I was using it, and we never showered in the older facility. Both buildings had washing machines and dryers, though I did not check on the price. Both also had sinks for washing your dishes. The new building even had hobs (US: stove tops) you could use at the rate of 1 Euro for 20 minutes. We didn’t use it since we had a gas stove, but it’s nice to know if you run out of gas, you could still cook!

The newer building is also located on the waterfront, and at the pool and there is a small snack shop/cafe attached, too.

Both buildings have keyed access. When you check-in, you are given a waterproof wrist band that has a chip in it to operate the bathroom doors and the main gate. We nearly had a panic on our hands when we thought we had lost one, and then again a day later when we asked to extend our stay but hadn’t gotten our wrist bands updated. We had to park outside the campsite and walk in, and fortunately, the older bathrooms weren’t locked!

Like I said above, we were one of the few occupied pitches while we were there. It was a bit odd for it to be so quiet, but I suppose with it being near to the end of September, it made sense. The campsite was gorgeous though, and they even had their own boat launching dock right on the Attersee, as well as a diving board partway out into the lake. I was daring and waded into the water up to my ankles, but the water was quite cold and definitely not warm enough to swim in! Apparently the Attersee is so large that even with freezing temperatures, the lake hasn’t frozen over since the 1940s!

Our first day saw us getting settled in and setting up the tent. It was gaining on sunset time when we decided to walk down to the waterfront to take some photos and video.

[If you click on the photo once, it will take you to that photo’s page. If you click on the photo again, you will be able to view it full size. I have no idea why WordPress made it so complicated!]

[Photos taken by either myself or my husband, Tim and are all © Tim and Rebecca Lockley]

Day seven is our trip to the Styrtalbahn, but I might have to get Tim to help me with my post…all the railways start to blend together for me from this point on. Not because they weren’t interesting, I just get the four remaining lines we visited confused with each other for some reason.

*In German, a ß is used for a double S, so the town of Nußdorf is pronounced “Nussdorf”.

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European Road Trip Day 6, Part I – Moving Camp (Camping Hofer Review)

[Finally blogging about our trip to Germany and Austria we took in September 2010!]

We learned something on this trip. Trying to break up the camping into two different sites is not a good idea – we lost nearly three days of our holiday just from setting up and tearing down our campsites. Next time, we will probably pick a location that’s not so much near some of the things we want to do, but within a reasonable driving/railing distance from everything we want to do, although I would go back to both campsites we were at in September in a heartbeat!

The first site, where we spent the first 4 nights of our trip was at Camping Hofer in Zell am Ziller. I picked this campsite based on it’s location to the Zillertalbahn, and based on the photos on the website. I emailed them, and the woman who runs the campsite wrote back promptly and let me make a preliminary reservation the day before we left!

When we arrived, it was still fairly light out. We were given a map of the site with circles around the available pitches. Tim and I took a mini tour looking at the different spots, and finally picked one that was located close enough to the sanitation building for late-night bathroom trips, but far enough away that the noise of people going in and out of the building wouldn’t bother us.

Our set-up took us a lot longer than we thought, hindered slightly by the rocky ground. It seemed that everywhere Tim tried to peg in a tent stake he would hit rock, but we finally managed to get ourselves set up.

We did not use many of the available facilities, and I honestly couldn’t have even told you where the pool was located, though there was one on property. As it was late September, I really wasn’t interested in swimming, anyway! We weren’t really there to just camp, as we had plans for nearly every day. If we had just been there on a camping holiday, we might have taken advantage of some of the facilities. They also have a restaurant and bar, but we glanced at the menu and though the prices were a bit steep for campers. The facility also has a gasthaus and is open throughout the Winter season for skiiers, though I wouldn’t fancy staying in a tent in the middle of Winter!

The sanitation building looked fairly new. It had washrooms and shower rooms for both genders – the toilets were in a separate WC room with just a single sink to wash your hands in, and then the room next door had a long row of sinks at a mirror, about 6 individual stalls with sinks and stools for washing, and 4 shower cubicles. The showers operated on an on-demand type system. Instead of just turning on the shower, you had to push to get water. The shower stream lasted for about 10 seconds, and you could press it as many times as you wanted (showering was free). While it was a slight inconvenience, it did mean you could lather up your hair without the water turned on, and I’m sure that helps the site to conserve water. The water was nice and hot, but you did have to usually duck out of the way the first time you turned it on to avoid the spray of cold as it warmed up. Each shower stall had an outer area to change in as well as the common area, so if you didn’t feel comfortable getting undressed in front of other people, you didn’t have to.

The sanitation building also housed 2 rooms for washing dishes. Each room had long counters along each side and 2 sinks on each side (4 in each room/8 sinks total). Not all of the sinks had hot water, however, so you always had to check first. The sinks were standard, industrial size sinks. You needed to provide the soap and sponge. We packed along our dishpan, too, but I wound up using it more for carrying the dishes back and forth than washing.

The facility also had a laundry room with only 2 washers and 2 dryers, as well as a hanging rack to drip dry clothing. I found the room to be very crowded and wound up taking my line-dry items back to the tent to hang outside. The laundry services wasn’t cheap, either. 7 Euros per load, so a wash and dry cycle cost 14 Euros. Crazy, but I suppose they have you by the nose. Next time we go camping, I’m going to try to pack enough underwear to last the whole trip, and hope our clothing doesn’t get too stinky, because I do not want to pay that much for laundry again!

Tim and I appeared to be the only people with a tent – everyone around us had caravans. Even funnier, a lot of the caravans had little satellite dishes outside! Can’t go on holiday without your telly, I guess.

The site had loads of international visitors, too. Lots of license plates from Germany, the Netherlands, and Denmark. Fortunately, the family that runs the campsite speak English.

As for the camping itself – we both had a great time. The only time we didn’t like camping was the night it poured down rain – the sound of rain on the tent really makes you have to go! Since it was pouring, neither one of us wanted to make the walk to the sanitation building, especially as we left our waterproof jackets in the car. I wound up sacrificing one of my cooking pots to turn it into a chamber pot. Yeah, I know. That’s kind of gross. Sorry. But I promise I never intend on cooking in that vessel EVER again.

Camping also tends to get boring late at night. The light would finally fade around 10PM, and then Tim and I would try to read by the light of our torches, lanterns, and candles, but it never was enough light. The lack of light, paired with it getting cold without the sun meant we had a lot of early evenings….which meant that most mornings I was awake by 5 or 6!

All too soon our time at Camping Hofer was ending, and we had to take down the tent and pack everything back in the car to drive up to the Salzkammergut region. It took us several hours to get everything packed and into the car – mostly because we forgot how we had packed the car! Next time, we’ll be taking a photo of the car.

I only have one other picture to share from Camping Hofer – the telephone booth:

How funny to see a red phone booth in Austria!

Next up – either driving in Austria or setting up camp. I haven’t decided yet!

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European Road Trip Day 5, Part II – Seespitz and Achensee

[Finally blogging about our trip to Germany and Austria we took in September 2010!]

When Tim and I were discussing all of our options for our trip, Tim mentioned the Achenseebahn, and told me about a cruise we could take around the Achensee on the Achenseeschifffahrt. And very conveniently, you can take the Achenseebahn from Jenbach to the Achensee (at Seespitz) and you could even ride the Zillertalbahn up to Jenbach from the valley, too.

I love riding on boats, so I asked Tim if we could go on the Achenseeschifffahrt…of course, this also meant riding on the Achenseebahn, so Tim wasn’t going to complain!

The Achensee is the largest late within Tyrol, spanning 9.4km and 133 metres deep at it’s deepest point. The Achensee has Trinkwasserqualität, which means you could dip a cup in the lake and drink it without any filtering. The Achensee is an alpine lake, bordered by the Karwendel mountains and the Brandenburg Alps (notice we’re out of the Zillertal alps), and the water temperature rarely reaches above 20°C. Despite the cold temperatures, the Achensee is suitable for surfing, but we did not see any surfers in late-September! The water itself was a beautiful shade of green. Tim calls it “toothpaste green”, but it just reminds me of pine trees. I’m surprised the water is potable given it’s shade of green!

The cruise originates at Seespitz, right next to where the Achenseebahn stop is. By the time the train had gone halfway up the mountain, we had collected a few more people, so there were about a dozen people boarding the boat at Seespitz. This by no means meant we had a quiet cruise! The Achenseeschifffahrt is used by tourists as a sea cruise, but is also used as transportation between the small towns bordering the Achensee. At one point, a bus worth of tourists boarded, only to debark at the very next port. Tim and I had purchased a complete trip around the lake.

We packed our flasks and some snacks, but were highly disappointed to see signs informing us not to eat/drink food brought onto the boat. Checking the prices of a cup of tea or coffee on the boat, and we could see why! The prices were quite steep, but they had a captive audience and if we wanted to drink a cup of tea without getting in trouble for drinking from our flasks, we had no choice. Later on in the cruise, after the top deck had filled up with lots of people, we did see several passengers pulling cans of coke out of coolers, but Tim and I still felt uncomfortable bending the rules.

We met several people while on our journey, too. I was attempting to take a photo of Tim and I by extending my arms out and hoping I could get us both in the picture, when an Italian gentleman sitting near us offered to take our photo for us. As the boat started to fill up, Tim and I had to share our bench with other people, and we wound up sharing with a German gentleman who had a very large, professional looking Nikon camera. He attempted to talk to us, but I don’t know many technical terms in German, Tim only knows railway technical terms in German, and the gentleman spoke little English, but between our strange mix of German, English, and just pointing at things, we did manage to “converse” with him….though Tim thinks the only thing the man was trying to point out was that his camera was bigger than ours!

Our cruise was cold, despite the beautiful day. Then again, we were high up in the Alps, so what did we expect? At one point I was bundled up in 2 jumpers, a fleece, scarf, gloves, and hat. I was very glad I had thought to stick scarves, hats, and gloves in the car while we were packing!

We had a great time on the lake, and once we got back to Seespitz, it was a short wait for the next dampfzug to take us back down the mountain.

[If you click on the photo once, it will take you to that photos page. If you click on the photo again, you will be able to view it full size. I have no idea why WordPress made it so complicated!]

[Photos taken by either myself or my husband, Tim and are all © Tim and Rebecca Lockley]

Next post – campsite tear down and set-up, complete with reviews of both campsites we stayed at.

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European Road Trip Days 4 & 5 – Zillertalbahn & Achenseebahn

[Finally blogging about our trip to Germany and Austria we took in September 2010!]


[the above vlog appeared on my blog months ago, I’m just re-posting it as it’s relevant to today’s post!]

I’m blogging about both railway trips in the same blog post because these two railways are very different, and yet related to each other. Both railways originate in Jenbach. Jenbach is very special, in that it is the ONLY railway station in Austria to have three different lines meet of three different gauges. First, there is the standard gauge OBB (Österreichische Bundesbahnen) line. OBB runs both passenger and freight trains, and from Jenbach you can get anywhere in Europe by travelling on OBB. Your trip might involve several transfers, but you can still originate in Jenbach! One of the best things I saw while watching trains in Jenbach was the train full of lorries (US: 16-wheelers), complete with cabs! Apparently moving them by train is the best way to get things over the mountains. Unfortunately, we were never fast enough with our cameras to catch photos or video of this.

The second line to meet in Jenbach is the Achenseebahn. The Achenseebahn is a meter-gauge (meaning the distance between the rails is measured in metric as opposed to imperial) partial cog railway between Jenbach and Seespitz. The Achenseebahn is Europe’s oldest cog railway, and about four miles long. The Achenseebahn takes you up the mountain to Seespitz and the Achensee. As this entry will be very photo heavy due to it being about two railways, I will blog about our trip around the Achensee in a separate post.

The third line that meets in Jenbach, and my personal favourite of all the Austrian lines we rode on, is the Zillertalbahn. Unfortunately, their website as it is currently down. The Zillertalbahn is a narrow-gauge railway line at only two feet, five and seven-eighths inches. The Zillertalbahn runs the opposite direction of the Achenseebahn, and takes you into the valley of the Zillertal mountains between Jenbach and Mayrhofen. The Zillertalbahn runs regular commuter-type passenger service, daily special steam (dampfzug) service, as well as freight movement for the logging industry. The Zillertalbahn also happens to run through the village we were camping in, Zell am Ziller.

We knew we wanted to ride the dampfzug the entire length of the line, but instead of driving down to Jenbach, we decided to get on one of the commuter trains from Zell am Ziller to Jenbach. We purchased day tickets, which would allow us unlimited rides along the Zillertalbahn for the day, but did not include travel on the dampfzug. We had to purchase those tickets separately at Jenbach.

The Zillertalbahn certainly is special. The dampfzug trips are special trips for tourists, so they pull out all the stops, including a passenger car entirely made from Swarovski Crystal (called the krystallwagen and a brake van (US: caboose) decked out to look like a giant beer barrel for the local brew – Zillertal Bier.

And the coaches looked rather familiar to me, too. The Zillertalbahn had donated some of their surplus to the Welshpool and Llanfair Railway, and I had a ride in one of their donated coaches when I visited Wales in August. This was not to be the only connection back to the Wales trip on this trip, either!

Tim and I both enjoyed the ride. Previously, we had seen the valley through the car windows as we drove back and forth between Zell am Ziller and Innsbruck the day before (the day we arrived it was too dark to see). The Zillertalbahn line runs parallel to the road for quite a bit of it’s run, perfect for gricing later, but it also runs through the valley and into some of the smaller villages you wouldn’t even notice from the road. We also got a closer look at the freight industry as the train ran directly parallel to the logging yards. I’m completely not technical, so if you want more technical information about this, you’ll have to ask Tim, but basically, they load standard gauge freight wagons onto narrow gauge chassis and take the freight up to Jenbach, where it gets loaded back onto a standard gauge train. I hope I got that right! Tim’s at work right now and I can’t ask him, but I’m sure he’ll correct me in the comments if I got something wrong!

We split up once we got to Mayrhofen – Tim to go take some more pictures, and me to find a loo! One thing I learned in my travels in Austria is that public toilets charge a fee. Anywhere from 20 cents to as high as 75 cents and even a full Euro in some cases. You just insert the coins into the vending slot on the door, and then the door will unlock for you. I had somehow wandered into the middle of a tourist group from Yorkshire who had also been riding the dampfzug, and the ladies all decided they would save their money by holding shut the stall door for each other, letting several people use the loo from one single coin. As I spoke English, the ladies in the group just assumed I was with them and let me join them in sharing the coin.

I found Tim, and we decided to get something to eat in the small pub (if you could call it that!) in the station. We had the classic German dish – frankfurters. This was not the first time nor was it the last time we had frankfurters on our trip – they seem to be everywhere and it reminded me a lot of finding hot dog stands on every corner in Philadelphia. This time, I urged Tim to try the mustard (Estragon Senf). He’s not a big mustard fan, but he decided he liked the Estragon Senf enough to ask what it was and where we could get some to take home. The barmaid showed us the bottle and we were able to find it on our trip to Billa that afternoon.

We boarded the train for our trip back to Jenbach, and as it was still fairly early, we decided to hang around Jenbach and took some photos. Then, we decided to find the railway bridge that crosses the Inn River. We were in luck, and not only caught several service (commuter) trains, but also managed to catch the second dampfzug of the day going across it!

The following morning, we returned to Jenbach, this time by car, to ride the Achenseebahn. We discovered an “early bird special” if we took the first train of the day. The Zillertalbahn wouldn’t have gotten us to Jenbach in time, so we drove instead, and just narrowly made it onto the train to discover that we would be the only passengers for the majority of the trip! It was like having our very own chartered train ride that we didn’t have to pay charter prices for! The Achenseebahn is very steep at parts as it takes you up a mountain, so the train uses a cog wheel or rack to get up the steeper parts. A cog wheel is a wheel in the middle of the train that has teeth on it and it uses it’s teeth to grab onto the middle rail to help pull the train up the mountain. The Achenseebahn also has to push the train for half of the trip as it is too steep to pull it. Tim told me this also acts as a braking system to prevent the coach from sliding down the mountain. Yikes! If you watch the video above, you can see the middle cog “track”.

When we got to the top, we took a boat trip around the Achensee. Like I said, I will blog the video and photos of the Achensee later to not clog up this entry with more video and pics!

Since we got up so early, we had plenty of daylight left once we returned to Jenbach. The boat ride was a few hours long, and the train ride not so long, either, so we wound up returning to Jenbach around lunchtime. We needed something to do for the rest of the afternoon, so after getting some lunch (I really think it might have been frankfurters again), Tim had an idea. He wanted to grice the Zillertalbahn’s dampfzug. He asked me if I would be willing to take the video while he took photos, and a new hobby for me was born. I absolutely LOVED chasing after the train and stopping to film it. If you watch the first video posted in this entry, it’s mostly all footage I took while we were chasing the Zillertalbahn. We even made some “friends”, too. There were two little girls who started to recognize us each time the train passed where we were, so they would start waving at us. Absolutely adorable. We followed the train all the way from Jenbach to Mayrhofen, though we didn’t catch it at every stop as we had to contend with other drivers and small country lanes! Once in Mayrhofen, we took our last photos of the Zillertalbahn and headed back to our campsite.

[If you click on the photo once, it will take you to that photos page. If you click on the photo again, you will be able to view it full size. I have no idea why WordPress made it so complicated!]

[Photos taken by either myself or my husband, Tim and are all © Tim and Rebecca Lockley]

Sorry about all the photos, but we have so many good photos and everything in Austria is so beautiful, I can’t help it! Hopefully, by putting them in gallery format with thumbnails it cuts down on loading time for you!

Next up, a spin around the Achensee!

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European Road Trip Day 3 – Kristallwelten and Innsbruck

[Finally blogging about our trip to Germany and Austria we took in September 2010!]

Tim and I decided to split our trip evenly – for every railway we visited, I got a day to pick something I wanted to see. Sometimes, things overlapped and we did both a railway and something I wanted to do because we needed the railway for transportation, but for the most part, we stuck to our plan.

Today’s trip was actually Tim’s idea for me, so kudos to him for knowing me so well! Swarovski, as many of you know, is a synthetic crystal made in Austria. They use it in all sorts of things from crystal figurines to dinnerware to jewellery…and I use Swarovski a lot in my jewellery creations. Tim spotted a brochure for Kristallwelten, and we headed out.

Kristallwelten was nothing like I had expected, but I still loved it. Kristallwelten is located directly next to Swarovski’s factory, but it is not a factory tour. Kristallwelten is more of an art museum with a twist – everything in the museum is made from Swarovski crystal or features the crystals in some way.

When you walk in, one of the first things you will get to see is the Kristalldom. You walk inside, and it’s like being in the interior of a giant Swarovski crystal. The panels reflect the room back at you, and it can get very confusing! One time I thought I was heading towards Tim, but it turned out I was walking towards one of his reflections!

Kristallwelten is based around a “giant” and his possessions – The outside of Kristallwelten is a giant head with a waterfall, complete with Swarovski crystals for eyes, and you enter the attraction through his ear. Inside, you can view his possessions, including a giant accordion, walking stick, and gloves. Outside the attraction, the grounds are an impressive garden culminating in a hedge maze in the shape of a hand. And even though it was a fairly “small” maze as far as hedge mazes go, it still freaked me out when I was in it and didn’t know where I was!

Kristallwelten is located in Wattens and is the second highest visited Austrian attraction, second to Schloss Schönbrunn in Vienna (we didn’t go there on this visit, as I was there in 1997). Kristallwelten caries a hefty admission fee. Adult admission is 9,50 Euros, but children up until the age of 12 are free, so that’s a break for parents. I’m not sure Kristallwelten is very child-appropriate, though. Some of the sections are quite dark and scary, and we witnessed children running around, not paying attention to where they were going or what they were looking at, and then getting separated from their parents.

Attached to Kristallwelten is of course, a Swarovski shop. I was really looking forward to our shop visit, because I thought I might be able to get some beads to make a bracelet as a souvenir. Unfortunately, the prices directly at Swarovski were just as expensive as ordering online from Swarovski, and my online supply company came in as less expensive even with factoring in shipping to the UK!

Kristallwelten took up our morning. We packed sandwiches and sat in the gardens to eat and took a stroll through the gardens, where we explored the hedge maze and climbed up to a lookout point where you could see the entire maze.

We headed back to the car and decided to go to Innsbruck, where we learned an important lesson: Don’t drive into a city without a map! We had our big Austrian road map, but nothing for the cities and we got lost several times trying to follow the directional signs. But we did get a spectacular view of the Bergiselschanze (ski jump) used at the Innsbruck Olympics! We planned to go to Schloss Ambras, but by the time we found it I wasn’t feeling too well and didn’t want to climb up all the steps, so we just took pictures of the castle and the gardens. Tim asked if we could instead take a ride on the trams up into the hills.

I thought this would be great fun and a great way to see some more scenery, but I was to be disappointed on the trip up. The tram was crowded and we wound up standing for most of the journey, which did not help my feeling ill. We also had to spend part of the time standing directly on the bendy part of the bendy-tram (like a bendy bus, only it was a tram), which really started to give me motion sickness.

But, the trip to the top was worth it, and we found a small cafe to get a drink and a bite to eat at. As we were the only patrons other than family at the cafe, we were treated very well and even were offered biscuits (cookies) out of their personal stash.

Fortunately, we were able to get good seats for the trip back down and were able to look out the window. Below you’ll find an edited video of our hour-long trip back!

[If you click on the photo once, it will take you to that photos page. If you click on the photo again, you will be able to view it full size. I have no idea why WordPress made it so complicated!]

[Photos taken by either myself or my husband, Tim and are all © Tim and Rebecca Lockley]

Next Up: Zillertalbahn!

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European Road Trip – Day Two: Neuschwanstein and Setting Up Camp

[Finally blogging about our trip to Germany and Austria we took in September 2010!]

Today was THE day. I was finally going to see what we affectionately dubbed “my castle”. I blogged about this all the way back in December 2009 when we started planning our trip, though at that time we had been planning on staying in Germany and not Austria. In between December 2009 and going on our trip in September 2010, our plans changed A LOT…but the one constant was always going to be visiting Neuschwanstein.

Neuschwanstein has been the inspiration behind many artists, poets, writers, and….animators. Cinderella’s Castle at Walt Disney World is partially based on Neuschwanstein. It’s no surprise…the castle is gorgeous. Even without going inside, I would have been completely satisfied with my visit having finally gotten the chance to gaze upon “my castle”.

I printed directions before we left the UK to get us from the hotel to the castle, and they seemed to work pretty well. At one point, we were driving on a tree-lined narrow road and I could catch glimpses of the castle through the trees. We pulled over and discovered a path through the bushes (obviously well-travelled by other visitors!) and I got my first in-person look at Neuschwanstein. It took my breath away and nearly had me in tears. We got back in the car, drove about 100 feet, and stopped again, this time to take a photo of the OTHER castle near Schwangau, Hohenschwangau. These two castles are within yodelling distance of each other. We did not tour Hohenschwangau that day, as my main focus was getting to Neuschwanstein, but we will go back and explore it on another trip. There’s so much to do right in that small area I could see us easily planning a week just staying right in that area.

We finally reached the castle grounds. You need to purchase your tickets before you get up to the castle at a special ticket booth (located next to one of the many souvenir shops!). This is also where you would purchase tickets for Hohenschwangau, as well as a combination ticket for both castles. After you have your ticket, you can opt to walk up the mountain, take a bus, or ride behind a horse-drawn carriage. As much fun as the carriage sounded, we opted for the bus ride up and the walk back down, figuring down would be lots easier than up! Tickets are for timed entries depending on what language you want the tour in (tours are offered in German, French, English, and then a multilingual tour where you walk around with a device similar to a mobile phone that translates into something like 30 languages), so you really need to watch how you get up to the castle and make sure there aren’t long queues! In fact, we nearly didn’t make it on time as the first bus to come down filled up with everyone ahead of us, leaving us standing about 5 people back from the front.

The bus drops off right near Marienbrücke (Mary’s Bridge), a very rickety wood and iron bridge that goes over the gorge giving you a perfect view of Neuschwanstein. Tim braved the bridge despite his dislike of heights to take a few photos for me. The bridge is still a decent uphill walk to the castle gates, so we had to get on our way quickly so we wouldn’t miss our booked slot.

Tours start from the courtyard. You can’t take large bags into the castle, so they offer lockers you can rent. Tim and I knew this ahead of time and left our knapsacks in the car, stuffing water bottles into the camera bag and my handbag. Each tour has a number attached to it and a barcode on your ticket. When your number is called, you have to go to the barrier, insert your ticket, and go in. When our tour was called, there was a mad (rude) dash to the barriers and I nearly got knocked over twice by people who seemed to think they had to be first.

Before I tell you about our visit, let’s talk about Neuschwanstein. The castle was built in the 19th century by a man who is better known as Mad Ludwig. It was intended to be his personal refuge, however he died while the castle was still being constructed. Ludwig wanted his castle to be a fairy tale castle and to pay tribute to Richard Wagner, and so all of the rooms are decorated to represent his musical works. Ludwig also had a slight obsession with swans, and there are multiple swans in every single room – carved into furniture, worked into the paintings, and even carved into the crown moulding. In fact, one of the first things you see when you walk in is a life-sized swan sculpture. Neuschwanstein means “new stone swan” in German.

Photography is not permitted inside the castle, but I did find a website with some interior photos.

The other people in our tour group continued to be rude. It’s really a shame, but some people just didn’t have the patience to wait their turn and were pushing and shoving at us. At one point, Tim and I even got separated by a crowd of people because they managed to push by me. It’s a castle, for crying out loud! It’s not going anywhere! Despite (or in spite of, take your pick) the rude tourists, we still had a great time. I was in awe. At one point we were looking out some windows at the scenery below, and I asked our tour guide if it was all right to take some photos looking out the (open) window. She gave me permission, so guess what happened? Yep. About a dozen people in our group all went over to the window and started taking photos and I had to wait until they were done before I could go take mine. Not that the guide wouldn’t have given the others permission, but it just really rubbed me the wrong way to have that happen when I was the one to ask about a picture!

At the end of the tour, you can take a self-guided tour of the kitchens on your way to the gift shop and cafe. The kitchen was amazing, and I couldn’t help but dream of the kinds of meals I’d cook if I had that large of an oven and hob at my fingertips! Once again, we ran into an issue when we tried to use the cafe. Tim and I didn’t know what was going on and there weren’t any signs, so we stood there by the counter waiting to place our order while one of the workers did something away from the counter (but saw us). Tim and I both assumed that since she saw us, she would come over to serve us as soon as she was done. Not so. Three ladies walked in behind us, got in front of us, and started calling for the woman’s attention. We thought we’d get served before these ladies because the woman had seen us waiting, but no. She goes and gets the food those ladies ordered, and then goes back to her other work, completely ignoring Tim and I. Not ones to hang around where we’re not wanted, we left and decided to grab food at the food and drink stands dotting the perimeter of the castle.

We started walking down the footpath taking photos and Tim was trying to find a spot to set up his camera for a self-timed shot. Ironically, a British couple heard Tim and I talking and asked us to take their photo in exchange for them taking ours. Worked out perfectly! We started hiking down the mountain and found a footpath to follow that went through the woods. It was dotted with benches, so we had someplace to stop and rest if we needed to.

By the time we got to the bottom, we decided it was time to head towards Austria. We had booked a few nights at Camping Hofer in Zell am Ziller, and we had about a two-and-a-half hour drive to get there. Since we’d be setting up camp, we wanted to make sure we arrived while it was still daylight, and the office at the campsite closed at 7PM. If we arrived later, we’d have been forced to find a B&B for the night. Arriving in daylight also gave us the chance to see what shops were available near the campsite. Fortunately, we passed a Billa supermarket on our way.

We arrived while it was still daylight. One of the very odd things about where we were was the complete lack of a sunset. I think it was because we were in a valley completely surrounded by mountains on all sides. The sun must have been behind a mountain. Tim and I just barely managed to get everything set up and Tim was blowing up the mattress as it started to get dark. I fished out a torch (US: flashlight) and managed to make us cups of tea and instead of going back out to Billa, we decided to eat whatever we happened to still have in the cooler that night. A review of the campsite will be made in a separate post.

We had an amazing day! Tim really spoiled me on this trip, and day three was to be another day of my choice – Swarovski’s Kristallwelten

And the photos…oh, you know you want to look!

If you click on the photo once, it will take you to that photos page. If you click on the photo again, you will be able to view it full size. I have no idea why WordPress made it so complicated!

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European Road Trip – Day One

[Finally blogging about our trip to Germany and Austria we took in September 2010!]

Or I should say, Day .5 and Day One.

On the Sunday before we left, Tim had to work a 12-hour day shift. So, we packed the car up on Saturday afternoon – I dragged everything outside while Tim was at work, and then when he got home we spent a few hours stuffing it…and boy, do I wish I had thought to take pictures of the packed car! My friend Lou lives down near Dover, and she offered to let us spend the night at her place on Sunday so we wouldn’t lose a half day driving through England. What a lifesaver! We didn’t actually get to her house until past 10PM, and didn’t get to sleep (too busy chatting!) until around 12, but it was well worth it to get on a Ferry around 8AM. Thanks again, Lou (Lou is currently cruising in the Caribbean with our favourite band, Barenaked Ladies)!

Our plans for Monday were to drive across France, through Belgium and Luxembourg, and finally into Germany. The drive was LONG. I think when we do this again (plans are for 2012 or 2013!), we’ll be breaking the journey sooner, as Tim was really tired. Unless by then I’m driving, in which case we would be able to switch off. But we had important plans and a sort-of itinerary to follow. Plus, I booked us a room for the night in Oy-am-Mittelberg.

We took an early morning ferry, around 8AM BST. Unfortunately, we crossed into a new time zone and we actually lost an hour. I think next time, we’ll aim for a 7AM sailing, as well. I also discovered that P&O sail continuously through the night, so we could have driven down after Tim got off work, gotten on the ferry and stayed at a hotel in France and given us a jump start. Oh well. We know for the next trip. The ferry was also cold. We went outside on the open deck while the ship was leaving port in Dover and while it was docking in Calais, but then we went inside and ordered breakfast. Food on the ferry was expensive, but it was worth it – They had a breakfast deal where you got something like 6 or 7 items for a flat rate. I took a picture of Tim’s plate!

We reached Calais around 9:30AM local time, and started in on the long drive. We made a bathroom stop somewhere in France, and stopped in Belgium for Lunch. I packed things into our cigarette lighter socked powered cooler so we could have a picnic lunch and we took a decent break. Original plans were to get to our Gasthaus in plenty of time for Abendbrot (evening meal), but that wasn’t going to happen. We finally gave in and stopped around 8PM at a service plaza. Our options were an expensive authentic German meal, or Burger King. Needless to say, we opted for Burger King. No reason to break the bank on a dinner break! This also is where we learned about Frauenparkplatz.

A Frauenparkplatz is a parking space, or series of spaces, reserved for women. The spaces are a little wider than traditional spaces, which lead you to think the Germans perhaps don’t think women can park. However, these spaces were actually created for women’s safety and are located close to doors and well-lit. Personally, I think it’s a great idea…it just also has the potential for jokes!

Around this time, we also discovered one of the perks of the Germany Autobahn — Many sections have raised speed limits or even NO speed limit. At first I was afraid for Tim to be driving at 100, but then I soon realized that if he didn’t, we’d get squashed by all the other passing cars! The sections aren’t very long, or at least, driving along at 100 they don’t feel very long. It helped us to make up some time, too. Our Gasthaus had a check-in time of by 10PM and if we didn’t get there, we’d lose 80% of the room rate plus not have a place to sleep. Fortunately, I was able to call the Gasthaus from my mobile and they were willing to “wait up” for us until 11. As luck would have it, we managed to arrive right at 10PM!

We stayed at the Ratskeller. A Gasthaus I picked completely by random based on it’s location and price. I just looked at a map of where we planned to be the following day, and picked out a few towns to check that looked like they were within an hours driving distance. I picked the Ratskeller completely blind, but it turned out to be an excellent choice.

Our room was basic, but it had all the basic commodities you expect from a hotel – comfortable, clean beds, a clean WC with shower stall, a telephone, television, and as luck would have it- free WiFi. Our hosts even offered to cook a meal for us when we arrived at 10! We declined, since we had made a stop already for food. We did make the mistake of assuming there would be a kettle or coffee maker in our room though and wished we had asked for some tea. We were really tired, so we set our alarms for 8 the following morning, plugged in some of our electronics to get them charged up, pushed the beds together (we booked a double room, but it consisted of two single beds), and collapsed.

The following morning we pulled back the curtains to absolute beauty. We missed it the night before since we arrived in the dark, but Oy-am-Mittelberg is in a valley of the Bavarian Alps. It’s stunning. Most of their tourism comes from skiing in the Winter, so in the off-season it is fairly quiet. When we went down for breakfast, there was only a handful of people present.

Breakfast (Frühstück) in Bavaria consists of a continental breakfast of meats and cheeses, and then there is usually a second breakfast called Brotzeit (“Bread Time”). The Gasthaus gave us a nice spread of breads, meat, cheeses, cereal, and hard-cooked eggs. The meal also included tea, coffee, milk, and apple juice. Surprisingly, the tea wasn’t bad! Tim and I adopted the continental style breakfast for the duration of our trip, as it made Frühstück a lot easier to prepare before we headed out for the day!

We were soon on the road and on the way to our first tourist stop of the trip – Neuschwanstein Castle. We stopped a few places along the way to take some photos. I’ll try not to overwhelm you with photos, but it’s going to be hard to pick my favourites!

If you click on the photo once, it will take you to that photos page. If you click on the photo again, you will be able to view it full size. I have no idea why WordPress made it so complicated!

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First Videos

I’m starting to edit the videos together from our trip, and I have the first one up on YouTube.

We compiled this during an afternoon of steam train chasing — basically, we followed the route of the train and met it at different places on the line to take pics/vid. I was the videographer.

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XNpTjIu5QVk

This one was compiled at Amstetten while waiting for our train to Vienna – some freight and even a brand new passenger train being delivered!

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ya-dDbQ1lyA

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