The Highlands

A year ago, when travel was considerably less risky than it is right now, I went back to one of my favourite places, Scotland. As it was my second time, I used the chance to travel outside of Edinburgh. I took a day trip to Loch Ness through the Scottish Highlands. I spent several hours on a tiny bus, looking out at the magical, mossy landscape, lochs and mountains. Our Scottish guide, sporting a kilt, told us about monsters and monarchs and about the time this area had mountains higher than the Himalayas. After centuries of ice pressing down on the Earth, the mountains are much smaller than they used to be, but they are still the highest in Great Britain. During our stops I walked on the soft, bouncy ground, made up of many layers of turf and dreamed of riding through these hills on my trusty horse, not meeting anyone for days. I think I would have enjoyed that.

Laxenburg//autumn

No, Laxenburg isn’t how I misspell Luxembourg. It’s a place, close to Vienna with a castle, a park and a lake that I’ve been to a couple of times, but only in the summer, so I thought it must be wonderful in autumn. I was right, of course. Laxenburg is a great place for a walk on a sunny Saturday and a convenient day trip from Vienna. The bus ride takes only half an hour from the main station. In the park, you can rent a boat or just walk around with your legs. The castle itself is rather small and on an island that could be reached through a bridge or a very short “ferry” ride (it’s a platform on underwater rails). You could also take a guided tour around the castle if you like and although I haven’t done it, I can tell you that you don’t need to go in to have a good day. I recommend strolling around the park or sitting on a bench by the lake, looking at the people passing by with their tiny dogs.

Erlaufsee

Erlaufsee is three hours by train away from Vienna and its current heatwave and so it is a perfect spot for a weekend trip. It’s a mountain lake where you can swim, dive or rent a boat. When we went there last weekend the weather forecast was less than ideal – there was supposed to be a storm and rain showers the whole day. We still went and in the end, it didn’t rain all that much. We managed to explore the lake by boat and enjoy the view before the rain came. Considering the heat in the city, I was glad for the chance to cool down and relax.

Loch Ness

Loch Ness totally lives off the Nessie hype, but hey it’s better than what most places have. A legendary prehistoric monster beats a tired ghost story any day. I went on a search for the monster myself during my visit to Scotland last month. My boyfriend and I took a one day tour from Edinburgh to the Highlands and Loch Ness. It was 12 hours, at least 7 of them spent on a bus, but the scenery and the driver’s stories kept me entertained, so that I didn’t even want to take a nap, in order to not miss anything.
We stopped at Fort Augustus in the afternoon and had time to walk around the lake, buy some fish and chips and expensive souvenirs (there are places where you just have to buy a touristy souvenir and this is one of them – I settled for a Nessie tea infuser). The village is a small one, but it’s thriving because of the tourism (check out the monster themed beers in the gas station). The lake itself is the second biggest in Scotland and it may or may not be an actual home to a giant monster. There are also boat tours from the village, for those who want to explore further.

I remember watching a documentary about Loch Ness and the monster when I was young. I was fascinated by it and I wanted to go there, but I didn’t really think that I would. It seemed so far away to a small, poor child in Eastern Europe. Now that I finally have the chance to travel, I am glad I went there. Even though we spend just over an hour there and we couldn’t explore the area as well as I wished, it was definitely worth it.

Moritzburg

You can rarely visit a place more idyllic than a baroque palace, surrounded by a lake. Even writing these words I hear the birds chirping and the wind rustling the leaves of the royal trees. And while I’ve already visited plenty of castles around Europe, there won’t be a day where someone asks me “Hey, do you want to go check out this castle?” and I roll my eyes and answer “What? Another one?”. Which is why when my boyfriend asked me this question when we were visiting Dresden I answered “Pfsh, of course” and got on the bus.

Moritzburg began as a modest hunting lodge in the 16th century and grew from that. In the 18th century, the garden was added. There, you can really feel like a royal while eating your sandwich.

Mondsee

Some gas stations are boring and ugly. Some gas stations have views like this.

And yet, I don’t own a car.

I was going somewhere with this…

With my life?

No, I was going to Salzburg. That’s when we stopped at the gas station next to the lake. It was a good gas station. It had all the right stuff. It had coffee. And gas, I suppose. That was what, 3 years ago? What is a gas station you remember from 3 years ago? And were you going somewhere with your life?

Do you ever start a post about gas stations and end up with a mid-week existential crisis? Those are all interesting questions.

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Hallstatt

Here’s the thing.

I grew up in Sofia, a city pretty much surrounded by mountains. Every day when I went outside I saw Vitosha – the 2290 m high constant companion to my struggles. Most of the times I didn’t even realise it was there, but I did realise that when it was gone, I missed it. It took me a couple of years of living in Vienna to notice that its landscape flatness left me yearning for something different. It took me another couple of years to start going to Google Maps obsessively looking for the fastest way to get to a mountain.

I didn’t want much! Just to sit somewhere with a glass of something (coffee or wine depending on the hour of the day) and to admire the magnificent earth wrinkles. Who would have thought that it would be so difficult to get to a mountain in Austria – the land has the fucking Alps for god’s sake! But every option seemed too far away or too expensive to a person who was used to having the mountains just, like, right there. But then came my birthday and I was desperate to get out. A friend of mine recommended Hallstatt a couple of years ago and I decided to see what all the fuss was about. It took me, all in all, 4 hours on 2 trains, some minutes on a boat full of Asian tourists and 20 Euro to get there and of course, the same to get back. But damn, it was so worth it! The hotels in Hallstatt were way above my price range, so the whole adventure took place on a single day – my 27th birthday.  Continue reading “Hallstatt”

Seestadt

It’s my birthday week (it’s not weird, I’m a grown woman) and after going to an Ice Cream festival on Saturday, I wanted to do something equally interesting on Sunday. As the Ice Cream festival wasn’t all that interesting, the bar wasn’t overwhelmingly high. And so, on Sunday I got some börek and went to the last stop of the U2 – Seestadt – with my book, my outside blanket and my easily impressed boyfriend. The district is actually being build right now and will be finished in some years. It’s coming along really well and I could tell it will be a trendy, fancy new area. The See itself had clean looking water, many little fishies and one enormous orange fish (that I could see). We managed to conquer the territory under the only tree on the hard, stony beach and eat our börek. It was actually pretty pleasant and I am excited to see what they build in the coming years. I hope they do something about that stony-ness of the beach…