The Hills Are Alive…

The second stop on our Honeymoon was Salzburg, Austria.

This was my pick of cities to visit because…well…‘do’ a deer, a female deer; ‘re’ a drop of golden suuuuun

You get it. The Hills are alive (in a non-creepy way).

In fact, Salzburg is a perfect honeymoon destination. It’s such a romantic city, with music, history, and beauty in every corner.

We took the train from Munich, Germany (where we kicked off our Honeymoon with Oktoberfest) into Salzburg, Austria. It was a relatively short train ride as the two cities are only about 150 km (93 miles).

Our first moment of “wow” happened as we were entering the city.  When the train crosses over the Salzac River, you’re greeted with the sight of Festung Hohensalzburg looming high on a hill, watching over the city.

It’s just gorgeous in its Medieval splendor.

The Makartsteg Footbridge has become a Love Locks Bridge.

After checking into the Sheraton Grand in Salzburg (gorgeous hotel), we set off to walk around and explore.

One of the first things we wanted to see was the Hohensalzburg Fortress, of course. For about 15 Euros, you can purchase a trip/tour to this Medieval Fortress.  For those who do not want to hike up the trail towards the fort, there’s also a funicular that takes you up the mountain which offers the most amazing views.

The view taken from the funicular.

Inside, is one of the most beautifully well-preserved medieval halls, the Golden Hall. To think that construction of this fortress began in 1077.  This fortress was never breached…though it was surrendered peacefully during the Napoleanic Wars.

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The Golden Hall

On the day we visited the fortress, there was a dinner and a concert being set up.  It was for the “Fortress Dinner Concert” series. Which…if there was one thing we regretted in Salzburg, it was not taking in a concert. WHYYYYYYYYYYYY? I still feel it in my heart…but that just really means we have to go back someday, right?

You see, Salzburg is Mozart’s hometown. There’s statues and balls (Mozartkugel are chocolate covered pistachio, marzipan and nougat delights) and concerts featuring Mozart.

Again…it just means we have to go back. We must.

In a sheer twist of irony, as we went back to our hotel, our hearts full of regret that there was not ONE show we would be able to make last minute, three kids who attended local music schools were putting on a show for visiting family in the hotel lobby! It was so good, that it only solidified our determination to come back for a real concert.

Peterfriedhof – St. Peter’s Cemetery, featured in The Sound of Music
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The crypts where the Von Trapp Family hid.

Just below the Fortress is St. Peter’s Cemetery, the oldest cemetery in Salzburg. This is the cemetery featured in that scene where the VonTrapps hide behind the tombstones while the Nazis look for them.

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Later in our stay, the weather shifted and it started to rain. The brilliant blues and gorgeous greens of this beautiful city became one of moody contrast instead. And it was still a stunningly beautiful place.

Salzburg is also one of those towns where Sunday is still considered a day of rest. By early nightfall, storefronts and restaurants are closed giving the narrow streets and eerie yet still darkly romantic feel.

Come…follow me into the night…

Our hotel had a very nice restaurant where we had an extremely delicious and delightfully creative multi-course meal. We took photos…but like most foods served in tiny proportions…they don’t really look exactly like what they were…so we couldn’t quite remember what each of the courses were.

We do remember that we were very happy and satisfied with our meal. Not only that, but we got to try a traditional Salzburg dessert: the Salzburger Nockerl – a sweet souffle dumpling…thing.

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My Salzburger Nockerl after it was presented with several other Nockerl and dusted with powdered sugar to look like Austrian Alps. White stuff is the souffle, the “dumpling”, and some raspberry mousse.

For the most part, Salzburg felt like a nice almost-sleepy town compared to the sheer madness that was Munich at Oktoberfest. It was the perfect way to calm down and relax after the exhaustion that comes with having too many liters of bier.

It’s a place of beauty, music, history and so much nature — if we had time (or had known, also), we would have done some of the gorgeous hikes around the area, including hiking (spinning around, dancing, singing?) around the hills that were alive with the sound of music.

So, with that, and the concerts we still have to go to, we really have no choice but to go back, right?

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It All Comes with the Cold Water

“Kemur Allt Með Kalda Vatninu” 

In Iceland, this phrase–“it all comes with the cold water“– is used when someone is being impatient…or so they say. It means something like…if you’re patient, all will fall into place.

This phrase pretty much describes our third day in Iceland when all things seemed to have fallen out of place; we were late…and yet…we were still rewarded at the end for making the most of it.

After our jaunt around the Golden Circle the day before, we were completely invigorated and in love with Iceland. We couldn’t wait for our next day’s adventures.

Unfortunately, when one is on vacation, the specific days of the week tend to be of less importance…hence I accidentally set my alarm for the wrong day of the week…which means, we were several hours late in getting our start.

Sigh…kemur allt með kalda vatninu…

We had such grand plans for an epic road trip. After a quick discussion, we decided to forego some sights and still go for the long haul to Jökulsárlón.

First Stop: Another Random Spot off the Highway

It had rained the night before so the morning still wore evidence of it. Everything was wet and green and black–and it was beautiful: the rain-soaked soil bore a stark contrast to the bright green of the moss-covered hills. And even more stunning were the fissures of steam escaping throughout the landscape like mini volcanic vents.

We had to stop and take a picture.

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Black and green and gorgeous landscapes (even from a moving car and through a tinted window)

Stop 2: Keldur

Our feelings are a little ambivalent about this stop. It was a good thirty minutes off the main highway and over a bumpy, unpaved road (good thing we had an SUV). On paper, this place sounded epic, like the one spot where all your Medieval fantasies come to life.

It’s where Iceland’s oldest Great Viking Hall is located: built some time in the 1100’s complete with an escape tunnel that narrows and lowers so that enemies chasing you would have to exit single-file and practically crawling head first (perfect for a beheading!).  Great Sagas were written about Keldur!

Instead, we arrive to a … farm?

A beautiful, scenic, functioning farm. Which, in retrospect, makes sense since back in the 1100’s, farming was probably the most lucrative and productive thing one could do. (Raiding probably had diminishing returns…) And it was pretty cool to see the “hobbit” houses (turf houses).

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So now we know what a Medieval farm looks like.

Keldur is actually still a functioning farm to this day, and it’s kind of incredible how Iceland has maintained this land, honored it, and continues to use it.

Third Stop: Seljalandsfoss

So. Fricken. Cool.

And cold. But so worth it! This waterfall is known for being the one that you can go behind. It was just really fun and unique to get to go around a waterfall and see it from the “back” with very little hiking or effort. The line for the photo op is kind of long, though. Expect your turn to take up to 15 minutes.

One other cool thing about this place is that it is privately owned. It’s on someone’s land, and the owners just basically tolerate the tourists. They also have boxes for donation to maintain the area, and we threw in a few krona.

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This is a fun, short stop. IF we hadn’t woken up so late, I’d have wanted to take a hike around the area. There were at least another four smaller waterfalls along the face of the cliff.

Unfortunately, our time and daylight was limited, so we had to continue on to our next stop.

Fourth Stop: Lunch at Vik

We had a late lunch in the quaint small town of Vik. We had…hotdogs. Like our earlier posts about Iceland, we cannot emphasize enough how expensive eating out in Iceland can be. Our hotdogs (pyslur) cost nearly $6.00 each from the Kronan supermarket. It definitely made me miss the $1.50 Polish sausages from Costco in America.

However, Icelandic pylsur is one of the best hotdogs ever…they’re mostly made of Icelandic lamb, as well as pork and beef. It’s made even better with the condiments that traditionally go with it, especially with the crispy fried onions, and the “brown” sauce called pylsusinnep.

Unfortunately, we did not take any photos of the hotdogs we scarfed down. But I might write a quick blog about all the food we ate in Iceland, cuz boy did we eat some delicious (and some disgusting) things while there.

While stretching our legs at Vik, we took a short walk on the black sand beach just outside of the Kronan Supermarket.

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Black sand beach and lava rocks

Then it was back to a long stretch of road towards our main destination of the day.

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The Final Destination: Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

We drove over eight hours to get to this spot.

Jökulsárlón is a glacial lagoon with waters dotted with icebergs from the surrounding Breiðamerkurjökull Glacier, part of larger Vatnajökull Glacier. The Glacier Lagoon flows  into the Atlantic Ocean, leaving chunks of ice on a black sand beach.

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Chunks of Ice on the Shore

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The Reward: It took us so long to get to our destination even when we skipped a few stops that the sun started to set while we were there. We were rewarded by a peaceful, ethereal, breathtaking, soul-healing sunset.

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The temperatures dropped precipitously as soon as the sun went down the horizon, and we knew it was time to make the long, long drive back to our hotel in Reykjavik.

But on the way, we were given one last hurrah for patience and persistence: we got a glimpse of the elusive Northern Lights.

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The photos are a bit grainy as they were just taken from my phone, and the moon was actually shining full and bright. It was sheer luck that we even saw them.

It was the cherry on top of a day that could have been ruined — but we decided to make the most of it anyway. It all comes with the cold water.

Whatever “it” is…it’s all beautiful in Iceland.

Read about our jaunt around the Golden Circle HERE.