(All photos taken by myself or Zak DePiero)
If the 2017 version of myself had traveled back in time and told 1990-2015 Catherine what 2017 Catherine would be doing, she wouldn’t believe her. 2017 was an unbelievable year of new cities, adventures and countries. Out of all of my travels, my early Summer road trip from Prague to a few iconic spots in Austria with my buddy and photographer Zak DePiero was one of the most memorable. We rented a car via autoeurope, picked it up at the airport and we were off!
Car rental tip: manual transmission is always cheaper than automatic. So when your 16 and your dad is insisting you learn how to drive manual; no matter how many green lights you sit through stalling and crying, make sure you learn! Also, it is about 1,000 euro (no joke) to pick up a car in one place and drop it off at another, so if you are going to road trip, plan on circling back to your rental destination. Unless you’ve got euros to blow – then by all means, go on with ya bad self.
Our first stop was beautiful Salzburg, Austria. Here, we wandered around the city and also met up with a friend of Zak’s, Ollie, who grew up in Salzburg and still lives about 15 minutes outside the city. If you’re into the car scene Ollie runs Supermade.
My Salzburg top to do’s:
Have a slice of apple strudel and a cappuccino at Café Tomaselli. The inside is wonderfully classic and will make you feel like you went back in time. I would suggest sitting outside if the weather and crowds allow. The umbrellas make for an adorable and cozy setting (v instagramable) and the people watching is spot on.
This is not a suggestion; this is a you MUST DO; get gelato as you stroll through the streets. Our friend Ollie treated us to some tasty scoops from his favorite spot, Eisgrotte. Then we took a walk up to the Museum Der Moderne (after hours, so we didn’t go inside) but instead took in a lesser known, but equally as great view of this incredible city. (Most people head up to the Hohensalzburg Fortress, which I also suggest.)
As we sat up there looking down on the city, the sun began to go down and we rushed to Ollie’s car so that he could take us to his #1 sunset spot. I am a sucker for a good sunset, so needless to say I was trying to move as fast as I could with my short little legs. Once in the car, Ollie whipped up to the top of Gaisberg hill just in time to see the sun retreat over the entire city and unbelievable surroundings. I highly recommend getting up here for the sunset if you can. Rent a car, make a friend that will take you, take a cab, hike up, it was beautiful. You can see for miles and miles.
Stop and have a drink and a bite to eat at any of the restaurants you find with seating out in the squares. My favorite thing to do when traveling? Square Beers. A beer in a square (or any other beverage you would like). However, choose wisely, you don’t want to have a square beer in a lame square. Someday I am going to open a bar in the perfect square and serve beers in square glasses. Just wait, it’s going to be big.
Salzburg is most famous for that wonderful ol’ film The Sound of Music, not sure if you’ve heard of it. That was joke. If you haven’t heard of it there was something terribly wrong with your upbringing. In the Salzburg area there are numerous tours you can take of the famous movie spots. We didn’t partake in any of the sound of music tourism, however I plan on going back to do so!
Lodging suggestion: Public transportation doesn’t run very late here and is quite pricey, and Uber is not a thing. Cabs are fairly expensive, but not outrageous. I would suggest booking accommodation as far in advance as possible and find somewhere in or close to the city center. Hotels, and even hostels in Salzburg are fairly expensive but if you do your research you can find something affordable!
After a few days we left Salzburg, stopping at Fuschlsee lake for dip. The lakes in Austria look fake, like you’re just trapped inside of a Bob Ross painting.
Those of you that know me know that I am part human part fish, lucky for Zak a storm came rolling in and I was forced out of the water. Otherwise, we would have been there forever and a day.
Our next stop was Schafberg mountain. Ohhh this was an interesting adventure. I consider myself a thrill seeking, adrenaline junkie, I rarely get frightened or back out of doing things. I can tell you this, I have never been more anxious or frightened in my life. Why you ask? Well, Zak and I typed in the address we found on Google for the restaurant on the top of Schafberg Mountain, and well, heads up… that’s not how you get up there. Google maps took us down some small roads, through a tiny tiny village, down a dirt road, and up a logging trail. Yes, a logging trail, a muddy, narrow, zig-zagging road up the side of a Mountain. Now, we got to the entrance of this road, and decided that this can’t be it. So we decided to go to the hotel, and try again in the morning. We googled and googled and googled, and it was still directing us to this road, so we thought alright, let’s go. We got to the end of the road, guess what, no restaurant, or any other people. We did hear a couple hikers say “Auto!?” so, that was the first sign that we were not where we were meant to be.
(Proof that it actually was a logging road)
Fast forward through a terrifying but somehow successful turn-around and ride down the mountain side. We made it to St. Wolfgangsee where you hop on a cog railway with all the other humans. How did they all know this? Google was not very clear? Anyways here is a link with information and an address so you don’t wind up with an anxiety attack in a small Skoda rental on a logging road in the middle of nowhere. However, it does make for a good story and ridiculous memory.
It was all worth it, this was one of the most breathtaking places I have ever been.
By far one of my best adventures with my BANGS shoes.
We spent the morning up on Schafberg mountain, and later went down into Hallstatt. An unbelievably adorable and iconic small town; tucked into the mountains up against Hallstätter See (Lake Hallstatt). This town will give you all the warm, cozy feels. However, there is not much to do here so I would say one day is plenty enough to explore.
Zak and I strolled around and took in the views and admired all the cozy details.
Met some locals.
We stopped in one of the most photographed squares for a cappuccino. In this square there is a little gift shop where we picked up a 6 pack of Hallstatt DAS BIER.
Which we later sipped on by the water and watched the stars peep out as it got darker and darker. With almost zero light pollution, the sky lit up like a Christmas tree.
We also ate dinner at Braugasthof’s outdoor seating area right on the water. With funky lanterns hanging from the trees, and breathtaking views, it was a perfect meal.
If it is warm enough outside, you can also take a paddle boat out onto the lake, which is always a great way to take the adorable town.
On our way back to Prague, we stopped at Eagles Nest, on the border of Germany and Austria. If you are unaware of what the Eagles Nest, or Kehlsteinhaus is; it was Hitler’s look out point bordering the two countries, as it is the highest point in the area. Aside from being a historical location, it boasts amazing views as well. Tip; get there EARLY. We went on a weekday, so we thought we were safe. We were wrong. The crowds were pretty unbelievable. Most people take a shuttle bus up to the top, where you enter a long tunnel back into Hitler’s bunker and take an elevator to the top.
At the top you can walk/hike around, take in the views, walk through the small historic timeline display, as well as grab some snacks/bites to eat. To avoid the crowds, you can also hike up to the top which is said to take about 2 hours, which is how long you can wait for a spot on a bus. Normally I would be up for a nice hike, but not in the middle of a 6 hour drive home. So, we waited in line, bought our tickets and joined the human cattle herds.
Unfortunately, there was nothing to see that day except for fog. From a historical sense, it was pretty crazy to be up there, from a photographer’s view, it was shit. Either way, very happy we went there.
All in all, this road trip was filled with sights and memories that I will never forget. If you’re headed there, hopefully some of these tips help you out! If you go, invite me, I want to go back.
Oh, we also stopped in Fucking, Austria.