Friday, August 26, 2016

Werfen, Austria

So we woke up in Austria. Although we'd gone to bed before 9 the night before, our 7am departure still came too early. Our beds were cozy and we could have just relaxed all day. 

Instead, we grabbed our things and headed down to breakfast, where quite a spread was waiting for us. We had to eat quickly because the trains came once an hour and we needed to get on the 7:45 one. Breakfast started at 7:30, so we cut it close but made the train.

The train left at 7:45 and we were at the Werfen station at 7:47, so I guess we probably could have walked, but we knew we'd already be doing a lot of that. We waited for the shuttle bus to take us to Eisriesenwelt, the ice caves!

I don't know that I could have ridden in the front of that bus. The driver had no fear, it seemed. We sped along curvy narrow mountain roads at what can only be described as a breakneck pace. Other cars and people walking on the same road veered out of the way, and we made it up without incident. 

We bought our tickets at the main entrance and then had to hike uphill about 20 minutes to get to the cable car. We had our choice of taking the scenic route or a shortcut through a cave for part of it, so we chose the cave on the way there and the scenery on the way back.

It was okay, I guess (that's the shortcut cave on the left)

We took the cable car up and our ears were popping like crazy.

After the cable car, we hiked again for 25 or so minutes. We took a little longer than that because we were taking pictures.

There's the ice cave!

Here we are! It wasn't as cold as it looks, but we knew we WOULD be cold so we wore the jackets, not considering the fact that as we walked up, we'd get sweaty and then more cold. Not so smart.

We were part of the first group up there. We'd heard that it can get especially busy on the weekends and we wanted to avoid the lines. By the time our tour started (about 15 minutes after we got up there), there were a LOT of people, and by the time we came out people were crawling all over!

Long story short, this little Italian boy found Carson's knife on the ground, returned it reluctantly (apparently it's a thing with little boys and knives). Carson decided later to give it to him because he knows that little boys love knives. This kid was PUMPED about that. His parents said no at first but the little boy was so excited that they told him he could accept it. Carson told him about the knife and how it was the safety award for one of the years he worked for the fire crew, and told him all about the forest he got it in. His mom translated what Carson said into Italian, and then asked for a picture (and I stood next to her and got one too). She also mentioned that they live in Rome, where they run a bed and breakfast and she's a tour guide. We exchanged contact info, so maybe we'll see our new friend Marco again soon?

The inside of the cave was a balmy zero degrees. I think I must have known that when I was packing, but I conveniently packed a rain coat and a light jacket. The train on the way there was freezing, but nothing like this. Yikes!

Getting ready to go in the cave! The German tour group went first, and then about five minutes later they let the English tour group enter.

Jessie and I with our lamp. It blew out moments later because of all the insane wind blowing just inside the mouth of the cave, but our guide relit it.

So, you aren't supposed to take pictures inside because it will slow people down. So while we were stopped already listening to the guide, I took a couple of sneaky ones. It was SUPER dark in there and our guide lit up some of the ice sculptures with a lantern as we walked past, otherwise, it was just us and our lanterns in the dark up 700 stairs. They said that we were free to use the pictures on their website, so I decided to do just that. It's pretty obvious which ones I didn't take. Here's the website, in case you're interested.

 After an hour and a half inside the world's largest ice cave, we stepped back into the sunshine. It felt very warm outside to our little red noses. 

Carson treated himself to an apple doughnut.

We took the cable car back down.

This lunch tasted AMAZING. Anything would have been good, but we were tired and still getting warm and this was perfect. 

We tried this, which I would describe as tasting like flowers smell... and that is not a good thing. It sort of tasted like floral soap. 

We only had a little bread left, full stomachs, and a whole bunch of cheese, so Carson decided not to waste food:

We said our goodbyes at the shuttle drop off to the the Italian family as we decided to walk up to the castle we'd seen on the hill (we'd already walked 5 miles that day, what was a few more?)

It wasn't that long of a walk, surprisingly. It was semi-steep, but I think it felt worse than it was, due to all the walking from earlier.

To our chagrin, we discovered that admission to the castle was 14 precious Euro. I bought a postcard because we really were there, but that's all I purchased. We did discover their free wifi and hopped on that while we were up there.

Sidney and I explored a little bit. She's 6 feet tall and I am not, so in this picture, I have jumped and am holding on for dear life to the (extremely hot) slate roof tiles so Carson could snap a picture.

We headed back down toward the Bahnhof. I liked this sign because of the warning about strollers. Hilarious illustration.

We bought our tickets and realized we didn't have anywhere to be until our train left at 7pm, so we stayed another hour until the next train and enjoyed the river. Carson had been dying to jump in since we saw the water, so I'm glad we got to do that. It was really refreshing. 

Maybe a little too refreshing. 
In this picture you can see the castle behind Carson and if you look REALLY close, you can also see the mouth of the ice cave up there too.

We were looking at all the rocks and I mentioned that I'd never seen a heart shaped rock... and then on this day we found three.

We hopped back on the train, refreshed by the ice water :)

We didn't feel like doing too much more walking, so we wanted something close, but everything within a reasonable price seemed to be closed on Saturdays, so we navigated to the nearest McDonalds. 

We thought their "America" menu was funny. Breaded Gouda stars (like mozzarella sticks but with gouda) and of course a bacon burger. 

This happy dog watched us finish our meal. 

And everyone else had gotten one of these little apple pie things the day before in the train station and RAVED, but I didn't have one, so Carson and I split one of those. It was pretty good, I must say.

I just like all these new funny signs. 

We had to go back through Munich and Frankfurt before getting to Marburg, and we were so happy when we did. We got one of the last trains of the evening from Frankfurt and it was definitely the "party train" - most of the people going back were quite loud and some were singing loudly. Nothing rowdy or rude, just a bunch of people who'd had a fun night, I guess. I didn't get much sleep, so I entertained myself. 

We got back to our dorm a little before 3am. There weren't any buses running that late, so we had to walk up yet another hill, and after sitting for so long, our legs were very sad about that development. I spent the next day not walking very much and was really pleased with that decision!

It was a fantastic trip! If we'd have had one more day to explore Salzburg a little more, I think that would have been great, but since we weren't able to do that, I think we still got a really great little trip out of the weekend. I'm hopeful that we will get lots of weekends to take off and see new places, whether in Germany or elsewhere in Europe!

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