Sunday, June 21, 2015

EUROTRIP 2014/2015: Winter in Graz, Vienna, Salzburg and surrounding little towns and Sarajevo

We are happy to tell you a story. This story will lead you through Austria, Germany and Bosnia-Herzegovina. This is a travel diary from last winter 2014 -2015. We divided this post into three sections for you. After each "photo album" you will find our travel diary. Hope you'll enjoy it! We surely did! Posts from last summer are also almost finished so you'll be able to enjoy them too soon!


Sabina and I began our one month long trip with a night bus to Helsinki and a flight to Vienna via München. Our journey continued straight to Graz by train through beautiful Austrian towns and villages. Evi was waiting for us at the local train station and we were really happy to see her after a long and quite exhausting trip. We took a taxi to her student apartment she shares with three other students from the University of Graz. As you all probably know she has been in Graz as an exchange student (Erasmus) for one year now. It was really nice to see her again, we had missed her a lot. She showed us the campus area the first day. Sabina and I walked around it while she had a lecture and managed to find this really cute restaurant called Propeller right behind the corner. It was so warm and sunny, quite opposite than the weather in Finland we just had to escape from. First days in all that sun and warmth after living many months in dark finish winter was really refreshing, as if we were born all over again. 

Graz was really nice city, the second in size right after Vienna. We walked every day to the city center from Evi's home to eat different local specialities like Speatzle, Apfelstrudel (which by the way was the best we've ever tasted) and Glüchwein, visit christmas markets and just wander around the city and its parks. One place that was our absolute favourite was Schloßberg and the clock tower (Grazer Uhrturm). The view over the entire city was breathtakingly beautiful, sun shone and no tourists had yet invaded the entire place, which suited us better than well. There was one thing we noticed quite fast- almost half of the people spoke some language that is spoken in area of former Yugoslavia, it really made us feel comfortable and happy, almost like home in a weird way!


Finally also Elvira's winter holiday started and we were able to continue our trip to Salzburg by train. The views were spectacular but there was one definitely unforgettable group of passengers that made sure no one enjoyed those long hours near them. We are talking about this young pair and their one year old little monster-baby. Toddler took stuff that belonged to other passengers and threw them all over the train, screamed almost the entire time (for many hours) and his mom gave him candy to "keep him quiet", which only made him scream more to get more candy... well played mom. That entire train also smelled so much because this little guy had diarrhea and his parents changed him there on the passenger seat... and left his diapers on the floor... (ps. there were toilets also).

Otherwise this part of our trip was maybe the best one! Thanks to that goes to our dear dear friend Mirela and her family, these beautiful places and the joy we all experienced after reuniting after a long time. We not only stayed in Salzburg but also visited two little towns too Bad Reichenhall, where Mirela's family lives and Berchtesgaden. They all were absolutely beautiful! Alps, fresh air, sun, that great atmosphere, happy girls and all! City of Salzburg was just a big wow. It has always been on my bucket list. Salzburg itself pleased us all so much that we could easily see us all living in there some day. Old town, fortress, river and the alps, houses of Mozart and Doppler... We loved every minute!

Every morning began with a breakfast Mirela's beautiful mom (such a nice lady she is) made for us and a walk outdoors, petting their little dog Belka and exploring the surrounding nature or through little towns or Salzburg. Sun shone the whole time, air was so fresh and it was soooo warm in the middle of the winter! Something very unusual for us who have lived in a bit depressing and dark Finland through winter time. It was so nice to connect with the nature, culture, animals, history and all the beauty around us. We also tasted Salzburger Nockler, a dessert that tasted too much like sweet egg foam coated with hot raspberries. We coudn't finish it. We made a trip to Königsee and Eagel's Nest, a place where Hitler lived. It was located really close to the town where Mirela and her family lived. This place was just phenomenal! Alps, that beautiful lake, fresh air and the wind that blew through the valleys in a way it sounded like the strongest thunder ever. It was like a little piece of heaven on earth... In addition, while visiting Hitler's house, I couldn't stop thinking that we shared the same view with Hitler as we stand there in that mountain of his...

Days ended by listening to Mirela's dad sing and play accordion to us. I mean, bosnian hospitality is always something special and this time was not an exception by any means. Before we even realized it was time to head back to Vienna but we all left our hearts to this region of Austria and Germany. 


After the time we spent in the northern Austria and southern Germany it was time to take a train back to Vienna again. A big capital, with no mountains but with a wind that made us all sick. It was much colder in Vienna than in other parts of Austria or Germany we had visited by so far. Vienna was beautiful in its own way. It was like any other European big city. We decided to eat real Sacher cakes, visit Schloss Schönbrunn and Belvedere, Rathaus and the christmas market in there and the oldest church in entire Vienna. The parks around two palaces were beautiful even if it wasn't even a summer. The city itself offered much to see for art and history lovers or shoppers. I bought myself a copy of the painting Die Küss (The Kiss) painted by Gustav Klimt. I fell in love with his paintings in local gallery. Such a beautiful work! 

After all those exhausting and eventfull days there was only one thing in our minds in the end... Bed. Nothing felt better than taking a hot shower after those windy and long days and curling up to the clean and soft hotel sheets.


The last place we visited on out winter holiday was Sarajevo in Bosnia-Herzegovina. We have been in Sarajevo for many many times as you all know from previous posts. What was exceptional this time was that it was winter. Sabina has been in Sarajevo during the winter but we two haven't. This was one of our dreams for a long time to see our part of the Europe during the winter. What will it look like when there are no leaves nor green grass? Will it be foggy? Is it going to be cold this time on New Years Eve or +26 as it was last year? Do we need to buy extra blankets to our apartment? Will it be possible to drink a cup of coffee out? All our questions were answered soon after a long drive through Austria, Croatia and Bosnia by night bus. Arrival to Sarajevo was just mystical. The fog around us, smell of winter and wood-heating, entire city waking up slowly...

This was also our first ever New Year's Eve and christmas holiday outside from Finland and was really worth it. In Sarajevo we stayed in our own home. It was so cold first when we arrived! We had to put heating on and in addition buy many more candles to warm up the place for the first nights. :D This year the weather was changing a lot from day to another and it was almost impossible to know how much and what to wear. One day it was +15 and the second, for example during the New Years Eve, it was -26! Our butts literally froze and we had left all our winter jackets to Finland, because hey it can't be that cold there? Well it was... luckily we had warm chai to drink, great company and the view was absolutely amazing from Zuta Tabija. Entire Sarajevo on your palms. 

We also decided to visit our family friends every time we possibly could, went shopping and ate in different local restaurants. One of our favourite places though definitely was Srebrenica Exhibition near Sarajevo Cathedral. It was a gallery about Srebrenica massacre and Siege of Sarajevo. Documentary films and pictures stopped the world around you and took you back to those stories our own family has been telling us. We also helped poor local people, some treats to their children and food to entire family. Helping did not end there. We also bought food to all stray animals around us daily and saved one puppy from the street. She was maybe 2 months old and left in a box alone. We contacted our friend to pick her up, got her a place from local kennel and found her a new home from Finland. This all made us really happy. Helping others really is something... it just feels so good.

All journeys though come to the end. So did this one after four very nice weeks of traveling through the lands we love. It was really sad day when we had to pack up our belongings, say goodbye to the view from the balcony and take a bus back to Austria. Evi headed back to Graz and Sabina and I back to Vienna for one more night before our next flight to Finland... Buu.
- Herminica

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