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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.

***

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.

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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.]

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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
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

And 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.

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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.

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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 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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2010 in Review

Sitting down to do a 2010 review seems so weird….didn’t the year only just start? But then, when I look back on things…wow, January 2010 was so long ago!

We’ll start the year out on December 31, 2009. Tim and I were waiting on my spousal visa to be approved, and I received one of the most important phone calls of my life shortly before midnight GMT. We had been approved and my visa was on it’s way to me! My boxes had already been shipped, so the next three weeks were filled with me trying to pack my remaining suitcases, visit places “one last time”, and see as much of my family as I could. I left the US on January 21, 2010 and entered the UK on January 22. The immigration officer asked me nothing beyond “Where is your husband?” when I went through immigration. He stamped my passport and said “Welcome home, Mrs. Lockley”.

Tim picked me up, and we headed to the hotel he had booked for the previous night. Since my plane was getting in at 6 in the morning, Tim went down the night before, and we had decided he would pick me up and we would go back to the hotel to get more sleep, stay the night again, and begin our trip back home on the 23rd. I remember bits and pieces of the hotel stay. I remember watching an episode of Doctor Who on BBC3 while we sipped champagne and celebrated finally being together.

Tim went back to work and I busied myself unpacking my suitcases and getting things ready for our late Christmas celebration. On the 28th, we had Tim’s parents and sister over to celebrate Christmas…complete with putting up the tree!

My boxes finally arrived in February and it took me a while to get them all emptied….I finally emptied the last book box on our anniversary in November! Tim’s aunt found a local chorus for me to get involved in, and I started volunteering once a week at the Cancer Research UK shop on the high street. I was starting to get myself established!

March was fairly uneventful. Tim had a week of leave and we decided to stay at home and began working on our garden – we were going to try our hand at growing our own vegetables this year. We also began work on extending the garden railway…a project that had a deadline of August 31! I adopted the area under the lilac tree as “mine” and began clearing it of weeds. I soon discovered that there is something wrong with the soil under the tree, as nothing appears to want to grow on the sunny side. 🙁 Oh well, Rock garden for next year!

In April, we held our reception for Tim’s family and our friends in the UK. My mom flew over for it, and he trip was only supposed to be a short one….but due to volcanic ash, we wound up with an extra week!

May brought my first choral competition with Lincoln Sounds…and we came home with a Bronze medal and the highest score the chorus had ever gotten! What a fantastic introduction to the competition.

June and July were both quiet months. Mostly filled with more gardening and garden railway building.

in August, I went with my friend Helen and her son, Mark, to Wales for a week. We spent the week visiting castles and railways, and I had a great time. I loved Wales, and loved being near mountains. The end of August brought my birthday and Tim’s birthday. Tim was hitting a milestone this year, so we decided to have a party and officially open the upper circuit of the garden railway.

September was our big holiday. Honeymoon part 2. Tim had wanted to take me to Germany and Austria for our honeymoon, but it wasn’t going to work out right after we got married, so we decided to take the trip when Tim had his two weeks off. We spent our time camping in Zell am Ziller and Nußdorf, making day trips to castles and railways and Tim took me to see “my castle” – Neuschwanstein. We had a great trip. Blog posts about it are coming, I promise!

in October, I took the train down to Southampton to visit a friend I hadn’t seen since college. We re-connected through Facebook and I found out she had also married a British man and was living in the UK, and she invited me to come for a visit. We had a great time. It was really nice to be around someone who I have known for so long and to catch up with her. We have plans to get together sometime soon.

November marked our one year wedding anniversary and we celebrated it by attending the fireworks at the showgrounds. We also celebrated Thanksgiving and I cooked a full Thanksgiving meal for Tim and my in-laws.

Which brings us to the most recent month past, December. I spent most of the beginning of the month preparing and cleaning because my mom arrived on the 16th! Our plans for Christmas involved going over to Tim’s parents house, so I cooked my Christmas dinner on the 23rd. Unfortunately, my MIL wasn’t feeling well and on the 24th decided to cancel dinner at hers and rescheduled it for the 26th. Tim and I had to brave Tesco on Christmas Eve to get all the fixings for our dinner. I didn’t cook a turkey, but we made do with a nice roast chicken. Mom left on the 30th, and Tim and I watched DVDs last night and flipped to BBC1 about one minute before 12….and went to bed shortly after the fireworks.

Bring on 2011!

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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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We’re Back!

We’re back from our two-week European road trip! We had a GREAT time and loved camping. Photos are slowly going up on Facebook….between the two of us, we have over 2500 pics to go through, but Tim has way more than me (since he took more when we rode trains than I did!)

Here’s a breakdown of what we did:

Day .5 – Drove down to my friend Lou’s house to spend the night
Day One – Got on the ferry from Dover-Calais. Drove across France, Belgium and into Germany to stay in Oy-am-Mittleburg for the night
Day Two – Neuschwanstein, then drove to set up camp in Zell am Ziller at Camping Hofer
Day Three – Kristallwelten and Innsbruck
Day Four – Zillertalbahn
Day Five – Achenseebahn and Achensee
Day Six – Drove across Austria to set up camp in Nußdorf at Camping Gruber along the Attersee
Day Seven – Steyrtalbahn
Day Eight – Vienna (by rail!)
Day Nine – Murtalbahn
Day Ten – Salzburg
Day Eleven – Ybbstalbahn and Mariazellerbahn
Day Twelve – Long drive into Germany, overnight near Köln
Day Thirteen – Drove back to Calais, decided to take an earlier boat instead of another overnight and we arrived back in Lincoln at 12:30 in the morning.

I still have to finish up posts about Wales, then I’ll start in on Austria, but I do promise to blog about everything!

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Camping in Our Garden

A few weeks ago, Tim and I went camping in our garden. One of his co-workers alerted him to a great deal at Halford’sa 4-man tent, 4 sleeping bags, 2 air mattresses, & 2 lanterns for £90 online marked down from over £200. We also tacked on to the purchase a cooking kit which has a burner, 4 pots/pans, 4 plastic containers, utensils, and a carrying case for £25, and then we picked up a kettle at Tesco for £6. We thought we ought to try to put together the tent – a) to make sure we knew how it went together before we book a pitch somewhere, b) to make sure there aren’t any defects with the tent or gear, and c) because it’s been on the warm side and last week I told Tim I wanted to sleep outside.

It was….

-Chilly. We unzipped two of the sleeping bags and used one as a pad for the air mattress and the other as a cover. But unzipped it isn’t quite big enough to cover both of us if we aren’t cuddled up, so I wound up covering myself with the spare blanket I grabbed last night (my Penn State stadium blanket) But it was also…

-Hot. Tim and I always are warm at night because both of us are human furnaces. It was difficult trying to sleep in it because if our bodies were touching, I felt sticky from the combined body sweat. But then when we weren’t touching/cuddled up, it was chilly!

-Small. The mattress, despite claims of being a double, is smaller than our bed upstairs. I wound up moving practically off the mattress close to the “bedroom” wall in order to try to put some space between us, and Tim rolled (in his sleep) towards the other wall. Another word to use might be…

-Cozy. Even though we have a huge 4-man tent, the side “bedrooms” are only large enough to hold the air mattress. It was nice when Tim and I were cuddling before bed, but once I zipped shut the door to the “bedroom”, it felt really small.

-Hard. The air mattress lost air overnight, but I think that’s fairly typical when using an air mattress. I’m wondering if we should get a bedroll/mat type thing for underneath it, since my back started to get cold from feeling it seep through the mattress. I think Tim has one already, but it might just be for a single mattress. Alternatively, since we have 4 sleeping bags, we could always line the floor with a sleeping bag, then put the mattress on top or even just get a tarp to add a layer between the mattress and groundsheet. I’ll talk it over with Tim and see what he thinks. (also, how did I manage to sleep on an air mattress at Mom’s for years*?)

-Noisy. Lots of wind that kept waking me up. I know at least twice I woke Tim up, too. Actually, I’m awake now at 5:30AM because I needed the loo around 4 and figured I might as well stay in here until I’m tired enough to go back to sleep.

Fortunately, the tent is a “two bedroom” tent. Our plans are/were to use the second “bedroom” to store gear, but I might suggest we take along the second mattress and set it up for moments like this. If I’m going to be awake well before Tim, I’ll need somewhere to go/something to do. I could keep a book in there and just move my pillows and a blanket if I couldn’t sleep, that way I wouldn’t disturb Tim trying to read until I felt tired again.

We still need to get a folding table (for dining/food prep), and some kind of cooler and then we might have everything we need to go camping. Our first big trip is scheduled for this September, when we’ll be camping in Germany & Austria! I’m really excited. Originally, we were going to take the train the whole way and stay in B&Bs and things, but even with adding in the cost of petrol, camping will save us money. The average campsite cost is €6/night, and with making our own food, we’ll even have money leftover for a few nights out at nice restaurants or for some souvenirs!

I practised cooking with the gas stove, and while I completely trashed the pan (fortunately, I was able to clean it!), I still managed to cook breakfast 2 mornings – the first morning I did scrambled eggs and sausage, and the second bacon & fried eggs. Tim even bought a device for making toast on the stove that works pretty well!

The tent we purchased IS kind of big for just two people, but the hope is that this will be a long-term investment even after we have kids. If we can keep the tent in good condition, there’s no reason why we wouldn’t be able to use it in the years to come.

….now to find a place to store it! I’m hoping it will fit in the loft after we get the flooring laid in there, but for now I guess we’ll have to store it in one of the bedrooms, since the workshop and shed are a bit full of workshop/shed stuff!

There also is a video, but youtube is taking too long to upload it, so I will have to post it later, as I’ve had this window open for THREE weeks…..

*Long story short – when I moved to Michigan in 2006, I told Mom to sell my bedroom suite because it was a four-poster twin sized bed and I knew I wouldn’t want it in the future. I had an air mattress (with bedframe) to use in my house in MI. After I broke my foot and had to move back to PA, my old bed was gone, so I set up the air mattress. The plan was to eventually buy a new bed, but I just never had the money for it, so I lived on the air mattress until the bedframe finally broke and then I yanked the mattress off the sofabed and used that on the floor.

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