Monday, May 04, 2009

World Heritage Scenic Route, Semmering.

Monday 20 April, we managed to catch the train at Sudbanhof Station just in the nick of time before it rolled out of the platform. It took sometime for me to regain my composure because we almost missed it, and the lesson was well learnt that plenty of space must be given for the time taken from the hotel to the Station the next time we are going to take the train to Prague from the same station, as it's quite a distance from the main Westbanhof Station.

Nurul had taken the Eurail pass for three of us to be used for the train trip to Salzburg and Semmering, otherwise we had to pay a lot more. The train journey this time passes through one of the most scenic route in Europe and it had been declared as a World Heritage site. It's truly a beautiful sight to behold as we passed by along the valley looking at the the mountain slopes overlooking the valley.

Nasimah asked me to take the snapshots when we were nearing the Semmering Station, and I had to move over to the other side of the passenger seat where an old man is seated and he seemed to be unperturbed by my presence snapping away at the scenery as he was engrossed on going through a pile of newspapers taken from his briefcase and choosing the pages that he wanted to keep.The densely wooded mountain slopes interspersed by what looked like limestone cliffs and villages must have been a familiar sight to him, but not for this first time visitor.

We got down at Muzzulshlag Station at 12.29 pm to catch the train back to Vienna at 12.37 pm. As I was walking to the other platform, I found the place to be much colder than Salzburg. Perhaps it's due to the proximity of the mountain range near the station and the sun wasn't out like when we were in Salzburg.On this return journey I managed to catch a glimpse of the plaque near Semmering Station where the World Heritage Site is inscribed and tried to take a snapshot of it. This time we did not get down at Sudbanhof but one stop before it at about 2.05 pm and then took the Metro to the place where we were going to find a Halal Restaurant at Alser Strasse.It was quite a long walk to find the As-Sala Halal Restaurant but it was worth it because I had rice for lunch.After a late lunch we then walked towards Mariahilfer Strasse to catch the Metro at Neubaugasse and back to the hotel. So another day well spent in this historical city of Vienna.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Salzburg, the Fortress on the Hill

On Sunday 19 April we boarded the train from Westbanhof Station in Vienna at 9.33 am going to Salzburg. We hopped on the nearest coach at the platform only to be told by the ticket inspector that we have to move forward by five coaches since the one we were in would be disengaged and we made the move at the next stop. This time the train ride is pleasant and comfortable, unlike the one which I had to sit by the door when we came back from Antwerp which was right in front with the engineer compartment.

My attire for the Salzburg trip was complete, in the sense that I would not want to shiver should the weather is unoredictable, after all it's supposed to be near the Austrian Alps. But what a bright and sunny day it turned out to be, Alhamdulillah! When we were on top of the 900 year old fortress called " Festung Hohensalzburg" I had to put on my hat and take off my pullover because it was hot. The view from the fortress to the city and the river Salzach the was just superb. I could well imagine how the Alps look like in Winter! The fortress is the biggest and one of the best preserved in Europe. The exhibits inside tell a lot of stories of the power once held by Prince-Archbishops and the splendour of their wealth.Rumour has it that Leonard von Keutschach, the Archbishop of Salzburg from 1495 to 1519 used to squander money and his uncle threw a turnip at his head to knock some sense into him. Ironically the turnip became a symbol for Leonard's new found wisdom.

As time was short we had only a few hours to spend in Salzburg and to make the trip worthwhile for Nurul, she went into Mozart's house which has been turned into a museum while we waited on the small park opposite it. We managed to catch the train after an hour of Nurul's tour of the museum and arrived back in Wien at 8.45 pm. Tomorrow we plan to go to Semmering which is a world heritage site and it's one of the most beautiful scenic route in Europe.

Wien, Vienna.

On the 17th April 2009, we departed from Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam by SkyEurope a low cost carrier towards Wien ( or known by most as Vienna). The plane was supposed to take off at 9.10 am, but it arrived late and thus it departed only after about twenty minutes delay. So even a low cost carrier in Europe can be late, I said to myself, no wonder back home Air Asia doesn't bother too much when it's late for the take off.

It was a one and half hour flight, and as we were about to land, the captain decided to go up again, perhaps on instructions from the control tower. On landing, the plane parked very far from the terminal and we had to be transported by bus for disembarkation and the ride took about ten minutes. Well you cannot complain much when you go low-cost carrier. Being at Vienna Airport for the first time it took sometime to get our orientation as where to look for the taxi. Fortunately I had written the information about airport taxi services from the guidebook to Austria, where the advice is to take a taxi that offers fixed fare.

The taxi took about 45 minutes to reach the "pension"( another term for a hotel with private toilet) which had been booked much earlier, as it's the most affordable alternative to a hostel where facilities like toilets had to be shared or the expensive hotel. The entrance to the pension looked somewhat "antiquated" and on approaching the lift, again surprise as it reminded me of the "lift" in pre-war period where the "carriage" is made of solid timber and has a sliding door as well as the steel framed outer cage. The keys to our room is pasted on the door entrance contained in an enveloped and when I rang the bell, there was no answer. It seemed that anyone who had confirmed reservation should just use the key to enter the pension and to our room.

What irked me most upon entering the room is that there were only two single beds placed close to each other and movement is limited. Except for the bathroom, it was hardly suitable for three people. I joked that this is somewhat like a cheap lodging house in Kuala Lumpur's Chow Kit Road. But of course not the bathroom. Later on we discovered that the person who took down the reservation made a mistake and the person who dealt with us profusely apologised and reduced the rate accordingly, after putting an extra bed in an already cramped room. Since we only wanted a clean room and a private toilet, this seemed a bargain in an expensive city. So that's how the stay in Vienna started off.