Thursday, January 21, 2016

Europe Winter Trip ✈ Innsbruck

After roaming around Munich solo for half a day, I bid goodbye to Germany and continued my journey to the city of Innsbruck in Austria to meet up with hubby. I don't really remember why we decided to make a stop in Innsbruck but I guess it was the nice winter (snowy) photos and its proximity to Munich that brought us there. Innsbruck is supposed to real pretty in winter and a popular vacation spot for Christmas but unfortunately, it didn't snow at all before and during our trip (thanks for making your point global warming). I was indeed a lil' disappointed by the fact that the alps looked kinda sad without snow. Oh well, traveling requires some luck. At least we had clear blue skies so I can't really complain.

Dec 25 (Fri): Munich - Innsbruck

Got off the bus at Hofgarten around 5pm and quickly walked to the Old Town to meet up with hubby and catch the 'Festive Tower Music' trumpet performance. "As darkness falls, Christmas melodies ring out from the balconies of the Golden Roof and the Weinhaus Happ, as well as the Old Town Hall. This all makes for a very special musical experience." It was nice to end my looong Christmas day with this performance and hubby's company. =) 

We were both starving after hours of traveling and was happy that we made it in time to have Christmas dinner together at Theresienbräu on our way back.

Our Airbnb ($75) for a night in Innsbruck with a good view of the alps from the balcony, too bad it's not covered in snow. Our host went home for Christmas so we had the apartment for ourselves. It took us quite a few attempts before finally finding a place that cost less than $100 on Airbnb coz of Christmas I guess. Plus, a few people had their place listed on Airbnb for the date we wanted but when we requested to book, they said it wasn't available...waste my time. =.=

The apartment was not bad but it was weirdly located right beside a logistics company's loading dock and the train tracks. We were guessing that the apartment is probably employees' apartment. Oh well, it was good enough for a good night's rest and that's all that mattered. =P

Dec 26 (Sat): Innsbruck - Salzburg

We saw the old town briefly the night before so we went back the next morning for more sightseeing. Triumphpforte and St Anna's Column (Annasäule) with Nordkette mountain range in the background.

Clockwise: Cathedral of St James, Innsbruck’s City Tower (Stadtturm), random door that attracted hubby's attention, Golden Roof.

GoPro wefies. =P

Innsbruck Old Town is really small and all the tourist attractions are very close to each other so half a day of sightseeing is enough to see everything. =P

River Inn. Just in case you're wondering which building I'm talking about, no I'm not referring to an accommodation, the name of the river is Inn. =P

Tranquil (romantic) stroll along Mariahilf River Inn. =P

This was how we roll. Literally backpacking (with 4 backpacks) through! =P 

Walked 2km from the apartment to the train station (Innsbruck Hbf). Felt like I couldn't life my shoulders after walking half an hour with 15 kg on my back...good workout...haha!!

Bought our train tickets from Innsbruck Hbf to Salzburg Hbf in advance for €14/pax. First of our many train rides during this trip. The 2-hour journey was a comfortable one (as demonstrated by hubby). =P

Lastly, our route map for Innsbruck.

P.S. Came back from work at 10.30pm today and it's 1.30am now. Still gotta go to work tomorrow so it's time to end my '2nd shift' and go to bed. 6 more posts to go for this Europe trip...stay tuned! =P

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Europe Winter Trip ✈ Munich

Since hubby couldn't join me for the home trip this time around, we decided on a Meet-Me-Halfway 2.0 to celebrate Christmas and New Year together in Europe. This trip was booked since March and as mentioned in my previous post, I booked my flight back to the US with a stopover in Munich while hubby flew to Innsbruck from the US. We chose to visit Central Europe this time coz we both have never been to this part of Europe and it's supposed to be pretty during winter/Christmas. 

My last Western Europe trip was easier coz I went with a tour group, and this was my first time planning a Europe trip hopping through several countries. It took us quite some time deciding on our route for this trip coz we wanted to see as much as possible within 10 days, but also had to take into consideration the travel time between countries/cities. My initial plan was to cover 5 countries (i.e. Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Slovakia, and Czech Republic) but after spending days researching all the public transportation options, we decided to leave out Slovenia (Lake Bled) and Berlin. We also thought about renting a car but decided not to take the risk and stick to public transports instead coz we were worried about having to drive in snow/ice. 

One lesson I learnt planning this Europe trip was to NOT start planning for travels in December too early because the European train schedules changes from 13 Dec 2015 (2nd Sunday) onwards, and train bookings for dates after the December timetable change only open around mid-October, which is much lesser than the typical 90 days window. I admit, I wasted a whole lot of time trying to plan our itinerary during early September and ended up frustrated coz the search results either show no trains or only some odd trains here and there. Then I stumbled upon this website and realized the reason I was hitting a brick wall was simply because booking for our travel dates hasn't opened and the data wasn't loaded yet.

Anyway, we managed to finalize our routes and book most of our tickets on OEBB (Austria intercity trains) and DB Bahn's (Prague-Frankfurt train) website by end of October. We didn't consider the Eurail pass coz buying separate individual tickets in advance was much cheaper. As much a planner I am, I nerdy-ly made a hardcopy map of our routes with the costs for each!! 

My nerdy piece of 'art'. =P

If you're wondering how we navigated ourselves around each city, I had a pretty detailed itinerary and an offline map (using an app called Map Plus) with all the attractions pinned and directions mapped. I'll share it later on in my final post for this Europe trip.

I'm still slowly editing the thousands of photos I took on this trip and it's gonna take some time to finish with the blog updates but here's a summary of our 10-day Europe trip:
Dec 25 (Fri): Munich - Innsbruck (1 night)
Dec 26 (Sat): Innsbruck - Salzburg (3 nights)
Dec 27 (Sun): Salzburg
Dec 28 (Mon): Berchtesgaden day trip
Dec 29 (Tues): Salzburg - Hallstatt - Vienna (3 nights)
Dec 30 (Wed): Bratislava day trip
Dec 31 (Thurs): Vienna
Jan 1 (Fri): Vienna - Prague (2 nights)
Jan 2 (Sat): Prague
Jan 3 (Sun): Prague - Frankfurt (overnight train)

Dec 24 (Thurs): Penang - Singapore - Munich

Farewell lunch with the family before my flight. One last round of satisfying meal at Eastern Wishes for this trip (oh my favorite brussel sprouts and lemon steamed squid). =)

Glad to be able to spend some quality time with dearest family this trip. Take care y'all and cya in September! <3

Goodbye beautiful island! Spotted my previous work place from the air. =P

Had a 6-hr transit in Singapore and landed just in time to take the 6pm free transit tour to see the Christmas decorations around the city. 

The city lights tour was supposed to stop at the Merlion and Gardens by the Bay but since it was Christmas Eve and a lot of roads were closed, the Gardens by the Bay stop was replaced with a drive through Orchard Road instead.

Finished the tour in 2 hours, went to the lounge to have dinner and showered before starting my loooong Christmas day. =P

So happy that this flight wasn't full and I had a whole row of 3 seats for myself! SIA flights had always been full during my previous travels so this 'emptiness' came as a pleasant surprise. =P Made myself super comfortable and slept almost 10 hours...haha!

This is not Airbus 380 but it was much more comfortable for me. =P 

Dec 25 (Fri): Munich - Innsbruck

Arrived Munich at 5am and was welcomed by an empty airport. =P Had a good rest onboard so was refreshed and ready to spend half a day exploring Munich all by myself. I intentionally scheduled my bus to Innsbruck later in the afternoon so that I could spend few hours walking around Munich since I've never been here. Well, one more city for me to mark on my trip advisor map...why not right...haha!!

Empty Christmas market in Munich airport on Christmas morning.

Bought a day travel pass for €12.40 (one-way ticket would have costs €10.40) at the ticket machine (coz nobody was working yet), and took the S8 train to the city center. Could have saved on this ticket coz I was hopping on and off trains all day and nobody checked my tickets...haha! Oh well...I'm an honest tourist. =P

Arrived at the central station after a 40 min train ride. First thing first...rented a locker for €4 (smallest locker available) and stored my heavy backpack at the train station. Ain't no way I could carry 15kg on my back and wander around Munich. =P

Started my solo sightseeing adventure at 7am and apparently it was way too early. The sky was still dark (full moon still clearly visible) and the streets were deserted. of the busy square in central Munich was also scarily deserted. Even though I was a lil' cautious about my surroundings, it was actually fun having the whole street/city for myself...haha! =P

Here comes the A.B.C. of every Europe trip...Another Big Church...St. Michael's Church and Bürgersaalkirche.

Caught the very last bit of closed Christmas market before everything was taken down.

Marienplatz Square...the city's main square was also deserted. Pardon me for constantly emphasizing on the desertness coz how often do you get to experience such quietness and 'emptiness' in a big city like this? So if you are anti-social like me and enjoy sightseeing without anybody around, start your day early on Christmas morning. The song All By Myself was playing in my head all!!

Of course, aside from enjoying the desertness, I did spend time admiring the pretty architectures of the New City Hall & Glockenspiel also la. =P

And more churches around the square...Heiliggeistkirche, St. Peter's Church, and Old City Hall.

Allll byyyy myselffff ~~~

German souvenirs...nope I didn't buy anything coz the shop was closed. =P

Bavarian State Theatre. This was supposed to be the last stop on my itinerary but it was only 9am when I got here and I had 6 more hours to kill...out in the cold. =.=

Gotta improve on my GoPro selfies did I end up blocking and cropping off the buildings...haha!

And so I continued walking further to Hofgarten...this place was court gardens of the Royal residence in the 17th century. So glad that the sun is finally up!!

Had fun taking photos and selfies around the I look bored? =P

English Garden...saw some hardworking people running around the park on Christmas morning.

Saw people walking into Cathedral Church of Our Lady (Frauenkirche) as I passed by and decided to kaypo and followed them into the church. Lucky me, I got in just in time for the Christmas mass. Ended up standing there for almost an hour not understanding a single word, not knowing what's going on, and not knowing how to! But the church was pretty and it was quite an interesting experience witnessing a German Christmas mass. =)

Saw this cool window display of many cute moving teddy bears on the way back to the train station.

Spotted our Munich office right beside the bus station.

Collected my backpack from the locker and made my way to the bus station, which was just one stop away from the train station. Found a convenient store to eat and chill before boarding the 3pm bus to Innsbruck. Bought this bus ticket on Meinfernbus' website for only €8 and I was impressed with the free wifi and power supply onboard. =)

Mountainous landscape along the 2-hour journey across the border from Munich to Innsbruck. 

Here's my walking route map for Munich. That's all for my productive day of sightseeing in up...Innsbruck.