(Disclaimer: This travel update was a bit lengthier than I intended. I really just wanted to tell everyone about the pure magic that is St. Gilgen, but felt I had to move in chronological order for the sake of my avid readership and of course – accuracy. Read as you may, but feel free to skip to the end and just read about St. Gilgen)
To share every story of every city and country would be a daunting task, if not an impossible task. Even sharing brief glimpses into our journey is intimidating at times. Am I telling the right stories? Am I casting the right light? After recapping the first two weeks of my trip, the Greek adventures, I’ve been a little quiet, not really knowing where to pick up again.
Quiet because after leaving Greece, there was so much to explore and too much to see that we’ve spent very little time stagnant. Walking everywhere, we’ve been constantly moving. Learning new cities rather quickly, walking, has proven to be a pragmatic and cost-effective way to understand our new surroundings. 10-mile days leave your legs aching and your eyes satisfied, and we’ve been aching and satisfied for a while now.
We spent our first few days in Belgrade and were pleasantly surprised by its charm. The Kalemegdan was our favorite site, an expansive park and Belgrade’s old fortress punctuated by the junction of the Danube and Sava rivers.
Saying goodbye to Belgrade we took an overnight train to Budapest. Arriving early in the morning, we set off for another long day of walking and sightseeing. Budapest was lovely, with beautiful architecture and culture. We made a stop at the iconic baths, although we were a bit perplexed at first. The Széchenyi Thermal Baths which opened in 1913 (much later than I would’ve thought) are the largest spa baths in all of Europe and draws large crowds to bathe in its supposedly medicinal water. I’m not sure how medicinal the water is in 2018, but it’s definitely worth checking out. Make sure you save some energy for the wild nightlife that Budapest has to offer. Ruins bars, party boats down the Danube and nightclubs all await you in Budapest!
From Budapest we took a short train ride for some relaxation in Vienna. We spent a few days there, taking in the stunning palaces and museums all teeming with interesting things both on the inside and the outside. The Museum Quarter in Vienna can have your mind occupied for hours, and the Schönbrunn Palace will give you all the information on the Hapsburg empire you could ever need. Vienna is also surprisingly a vegan’s heaven with one of their most common bakery chains (Anker) featuring dozens of vegan treats. Their apple strudel is worth the trip alone!
But after uninterrupted days of exploring city after city, we needed to some real rest and relaxation. We needed to get back to the mountains, have some green space around us. With Salzburg next on our itinerary, we decided to stay a little bit more removed from the city.
About 15 miles outside of Salzburg was the picturesque, perfect Austrian town of St. Gilgen. I wish I could accurately describe its immediate, irresistible charm, but I can only try. Right after getting off the bus (that we somehow rode for free) we dropped our bags, changed into bathing suits and walked not 300 meters to the most beautiful lake I’d ever seen – Lake Wolfgang. Situated in-between towering green mountains was the beautiful turquoise water, glimmering for us, inviting us to jump in.
Early the next morning we picked up a map of hiking trails and selected one that seemed up our alley – not too long in both distance and time. We hiked about 4,000 feet up one of the mountains. It was long stretches of steep uphill followed by even longer stretches of more mild, but more meandering uphill.
The whole hike was surreal – expansive greenery with the occasional view of the turquoise water poking through at certain bends and points on the trail. We got to the first end point, where the cable car lets off, and continued up a little longer before finding our ideal, secluded spot to lay amongst the bugs and wildflowers and bask in the golden sun heating up the meadow.
We only had a little more than 24 hours to enjoy the beauty of St. Gilgen but we definitely stretched those 24 hours as far as we could. If you ever find yourself in Austria and have a few days to spare, you would be remiss to not visit St. Gilgen. Take our word for it! The magical hills and magnificent lake will be waiting for you! They’ll be waiting for me till I return.