Saalbach-Hinterglemm: the green gem of Austria

Saalbach-Hinterglemm: the green gem of Austria

This really green, really airy-fairy place 90 km far from the Mozart’s city, Salzburg was my home for couple of years. Here you will find a colourful blend of my memories and some –mostly outdoor – activities. As I am an eternal lover of summer, I summarized my beloved spots and ideas for sunny days.

Saalbach-Hinterglemm provides several summer events, like the Biker Mania (Harley Davidson), the GlemmRide or the Lake of Charity. You can definitely find everything what meets your crazy or a bit more low-key needs. If you are not an events-fan, but addict to the wild nature exploring secrets of Glemmer Valley, read and enjoy the ideas below.

The playground of nature-lovers

With more than 400 km of hiking trails the area of Saalbach-Hinterglemm is without doubt paradise for those, who love biking, practicing yoga in shadow of the trees or simply discovering the jewels of the nature.

Most of these trails are very well marked, but sometimes it is worth to go off the beaten track and to find rare plants, secret places full of forest fruits, azure-blue lakes, which look like mirrors reflecting the beautiful surroundings upside down. There are several themed trails showing us the flora and fauna of Pinzgau region, letting us take a look into the everyday life of the locals, while the educational paths take us for a journey into the magical world of herbs. If you prefer these wonders of nature to articial remedies, then the Herbal Path is for you!

Except the herbs delicious blackberries are hiding in the bushes, while the famous „Eierschwammerl” – one of common mushroom species in this area – attracts many tourists. It is one of the essential ingredients of several mouth-watering local dishes, but I am writing more about that below, as well as about fabolous huts located mostly on the top of the mountains, or with other words: at the end of the trails waiting for us to crown the day with heavenly good bites and drinks.

The small piece of heaven

 

The Forest Wellness really was my piece of heaven. I am sure, I am not the only one having this opinion about this lush green place hiding on top of the mountain. On the way up I met cows – like here everywhere – picking their vegan lunch, while enjoying the sun. Before reaching the starting point of the Wellness Forest, we can take a rest at Reiteralm, where we even can order picnic basket and do a superb picnic with a marvelous view from the summit.

This place was my adored one, because of its unique ambiance: looking around I got into another world. From world of endless thoughts to the „green palace” of tranquility, or the shelter of fairies. Different jewels of the forest – like blackberries, mushrooms and herbs – were smiling at me, while I found a cute, open-air library standing there, like sanctuary for book-lovers. What’s more, at every corner hammocks tempt the tired wanderers and trust me: it is hard to say no. We tried it and immediately we fell in love. It is something magical to listen the birds’ song rocking in the hammock, whilst the leaves were playing with the sunshine.

I personally am addicted to yoga, so I was very happy seeing wooden spots maden especially for practicing it. If you are into it, don’t miss the chance to immerse you into yourself by yoga and meditation in „garden” of peace and harmony. I have good news for those preferring it in company: every week there are organized yoga sessions with guided tour up the hill and no worries, the yoga mats are provided.

Dear Sunrise, please stay with me!

 

There are several options for guided sunrise-hiking, but here I write about my unforgetable experience: hiking to the Tristkogel, which is located 2095 m above sea level. If you are obsessed with the sun’s first morning lights, don’t miss it out.

I have bad news for the „Sleeping Beauties”: the day begins at 3-4 am. in order to get to the summit in time, namely to capture the moment, how the sun comes up painting the world into gold. The starting point of the tour begins in Lengau, at the end of the valley and the top of the mountain can be reached in 3-4 hours. Please note, if you are afraid of heights or you feel not really in good condition, it is better to choose a simpler hiking trail.

At the beginning it was very adventurous: with a flashlight in hands we started our – little bit back-breaking – way up over steep cliffs and through wet slashes. Of course, I was the lucky one, who ended up in the mud…it was a special „mud wrap treatment” for my tired feet. No, it was not. Anyway, it was fun, but to be honest going up, I was thinking sometimes that I’d rather sit here under the stars and I simply miss the boat. However, I didn’t give up and it was definitely worth the effort. The scene from the summit is truly breathtaking.

When we arrived to the top, we had enough time to change our clothes, prepare some snacks and find the most perfect spot for gazing at the valley spreading in front of us. The misty, airy-fairy view above the clouds, the peace of mind, what meets you after realizing, that you did it, is priceless. Looking at the nature and small towns waking up around me I was sure, I would do this trip again and again. The emerald green pines, the rough mountains and the red-gold dressed sunrise amazed me completely, as always.

The gastro-journey across the Pinzgau region

 

I guess, visiting the „palace of flavors” is for many of us the best part of traveling or holidays. Well, here I collected for you couple of traditional dishes prepared with local ingredients, furthermore drinks, which shouldn’t be missed while staying in Saalbach-Hinterglemm.

First of all, the area is kind of paradise for meat-lovers. The beef, especially the super juicy steak or the local beef-tartare is practically an unmissable element of the menus. I have to admit, the second best beef-tartare – the very best, of course, my mum makes – I tried, was in Glemmer valley. Referring to veggies the traditional Kasnock’n on the „backet list”. This is a savory dish, which comes originally from the Pinzgau region. It is made by coating very small dumplings with many different sorts of melted cheese, caramelized onion and green salad on the side. The essence of the dish is the Pinzgauer Bierkäse, which is a very characteristic, semi-hard cheese. The other popular cheese-dish is rather topping of clear – mostly beef based – soups.

As I mentioned, the Chantarelle is a very popular mushroom variety in this area and according to this there is an endless choice of dishes – like the Chantarelle gulasch, spaghetti or risotto – coloured with these treasures of the forest.

Even the enthusiasts of sweets don’t stay hungry: the traditional Apfel- or Topfen Strudel is a very beloved dessert filled with kind of sweet cottage-cheese or seasoned apples in flaky crust, sprinkled with icing sugar and served with vanilla ice cream. The queen of Austrian desserts is the Kaiserschmarrn, which is kind of fluffy pancake, but splitted into small pieces. The traditional one is fried with raisins, caramelized with tones of sugar, rum and is served with a bit „more” sugar plus apple sauce, while the modern version is „seasoned” with local blackberries.

Except the delicacies dont forget about famous Austrian wine, furthermore the Spritzer – the perfect blend of wine and soda – for sunny days or the best company while enjoying the panorama from the summit: the Aperol. Another classical element is the well-known Schnaps – the Austria’s national drink – made of different local fruits. The destilleries can be visited with tasting tour, but be careful: drinking to much Schnaps causes „amnesia”.Or maybe not? I don’t remember…

Where to eat?

In Saalbach-Hinterglemm there are countless cool places to eat, especially on the way up the mountains with spectacular view. I could write a never-ending list about cute bars and restaurants but I tried to assemble some of my adored eateries.

For breakfast the best place ever is the Sonnalm located up the hill, so we can reward ourselves with a marvelous table full of local delicacies after a short hiking. Seeing the fabolous scene, the traditional, hand carved decoration we just get the feel of it. The icing on the cake is food including different sorts of homemade bread, bacon, local vegetables, ham, marmelades, coffee and of course the eternal companion of fancy breakfasts: sparkling wine or champagne.

Another lovely place – the Wieseralm – even can be perfect for resting after trekking. The restaurant provides tasty dishes for lunch, while the sunbeds tempt us for a drink. The Rosswaldhütte can be reached after a longer excursion, but I assure everyone, it is worth to visit. The valley is changing its colour into thousand shades of green and the wild nature enchanted me totally.

Of course, there are many bars, hotels and restaurants, which can be visited without doing hard „workout”. The Wiesenegg – located „between” Saalbach and Hinterglemm – is the only hotel possesing its own natural pool. As it lays in a fairytale-like area surrounded by sierras, is flawless spot for dinner, whilst admiring the superb panorama. For many, it is alluring to jump into the crystal clear water, but swimming is allowed for hotel guests only, so it is better if you book a room in order to enjoy it to the fullest

The Bärenbach is kind of „all in”: it is a fish pond, cool place for relaxing after an excursion along the river and unique for having a dinner. The main „attraction” is  – needless to say – the trout. The best thing is, that you can catch your own fish and is prepared to your taste. So you need to work a bit for your dinner, but it is fun at its finest.

Montenegro: Lost in Olive Groves

Montenegro: Lost in Olive Groves

For years it was my first spring spent in Europe, and after long searching, hesitating I decided to discover a small part of Montenegro. I had my doubts about this hidden – not so well known – country, but I have to say: it was one of my best choices ever.

As Montenegro was member of former Yugoslavia, counts to war affected areas, and the marks of the Yugoslav War in the 90’s we can still feel and see. The country declared its independency in 2006, so even its union with Serbia was over. I mention this fact, because visiting this amazing country, it can be seen straight at every step, that the Montenegrins try to be as much separated from Serbia as they can. Their official currency is the Euro, though the country isn’t part of the EU. If you don’t want to get unfriendly looks from the locals, it is better not to say or assume , that they speak the same language as the Serbians. The Montenegrins have their own lingo and „that’s it”. Simply do not ask and enjoy the scenic view of mountains hiding wild waterfalls and natural swimming pools.

The way to Stari Bar

Before heading to the little, mediterranean town of Stari Bar, I had one night in Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro. To be honest, I was not really motivated about discovering it, especially seeing the grey, melancholic soviet buildings. I found plenty of ruins, which take us back in time – like the Depedogen, a fortress from the 15th century, or the Skaline Medieval Fortress – while the contrast between the colourful villas and the crumbling socialist blocks show the huge social differences of the country.

Walking by the Moraca river the atmosphere of the city is a bit friendlier, surrounded by mediterannean trees and flowers. If we cross the Moscow brigde, which is for pedestrians only, we get a quite nice panorama with the Millenium Bridge in front of us. After a long walk several cute restaurants are waiting for their guest in tiny streets, and for drinks. I really recommend the Karver. This unique place – hiding under one of the small bridges – is located in the central area of Podgorica and is not only home to a bookstore, but a bohemian cafe and gallery, too. I loved this kind of hippie shelter with its colourful furniture and awesome music. It was simply the best spot for glass of wine, while enjoying the sound of the river.

Stari Bar

Stari Bar, located 1-1,5 hour drive from Podgorica has definitely much more to offer than Bar, the typical beach-city, crowded with tourists. This real gem is hiding in less popular part of the region, surrounded by rough, emerald green mountains. The old town of Stari Bar, with its tiny cobbled lanes, the wine and cured hame-cheese plates, the women selling their local olive oil and other souvenirs maden from lavender take us into the sunlit „Tuscany” of Montenegro.

Going up to the old fortress we get impressive view over the valley, with the luring sea in background. More, than 200 buildings are still in ruins, so this enchanting town operates as open-air museum taking the architecture-lovers for a fabolous expedition into the world of Rennaisance, Romanesque and Gothic. After discovering marks of history or the labyrinth of nature, delicacies of local eateries are waiting for hungry travelers.

To be honest, for us – as we wanted a little bit of impishness after the yoga lessons – the pomegranate beer and local wine was more attractive than the food. Anyway, trying local fish dishes, like carp from the Skadar Lake, the Buzara – shellfish, prowns and shrimps cooked in red or white wine – or the meat specialties, like the Njeguski Steak – made of pork of veal schnitzel – is absolutely a must! When visiting rural areas of Montenegro, don’t miss out on heavenly good cheese varieties, like the Kaymak cream cheese – awh, I really loved it – and the Njeguski cheese, which is aged in cool mountains.

Under the Olive Groves

Arriving to our place I had the feeling, I am dreaming right now. the castle-like stone house with its lush green garden, river running through and mini waterfalls looked like paradise on earth, but far away from the civilization. The Grove is located in a miracolous valley enclosed by wild sierras and ancient olive groves.

The area – like the whole country – is fairly easy to visit, most of the trails are well marked, not to mention the sensational national parks showing us breathtaking views and hidden treasures of Montenegro. The secret, natural „swimming pools” are a bit off the beaten path, but no worries, just let get lost, and discover the untouched beauty of this enchanted land.

Except the hiking trails, which lead us through wonderful paths full of rare flowers and herbs to the best points of Rumija Mountain, exploring the mysterious maze of aged olive trees fascinated me completely. Walking in shadow of the arbor I met small groups of wide-eyed sheep, while the thousand-year-old olive trees were whispering their secret story. One of the world’s oldest trees can also be found here – more than 2000 years old – called Stara Maslina, unfortunately partially burned due to thunderlight.

At the top of the groves I got a superb scenery with the misty mountains and the little, luring towns spreading in front of me, and on the way back we found a fairytale-like area – the Bartula Olive Garden Camp – which offers marvellous spot for camping, fingerfood or drinks for tired hikers, literally on the idyllic „island” of tranquility.

Adventures by the lake

The Lake Skadar is, without a doubt, the gold pot of hiking trails and water activities. From Stari Bar it is a short (20 min) drive along the coast, so even the way to the lake offers us mind-blowing panorama of steep cliffs and the Mediterranean Sea.

There are several points for starting our day by the lake, I personally visited the cute fishing village, Virpazar, where the most of travel agencies, event- and tour-offices are based. The old villas and the restaurants with damn good fish dishes create the pure Mediterranean-feeling. As the Lake Skadar is Balkan’s largest lake and one of Europe’s largest bird reserves, has much to offer even for nature-lovers. I have to admit: this is a real eden regarding to wildlife – especially birds – and different waterplants.

This amazing flora and fauna can be observed by boat tours or kayaking. I definitely recommend kayaking, as it was fun at its finest. It can be guided or you can hire the kayaks for hours or the whole day. On the way I admired thousands of waterlilies playing in wild colours, while the inhabitants of the reserve were grabbing their lunch from the water. Drifting on the water we took a small sightseeing too: the islet monasteries and the mystical ruins of Grmozur’s prison – island prison – stand in the middle of the lake, like ghosts of last century.

After back-breaking „workout” we reached the Pjesacac Beach, which is accessible by boat or kayak only. There is one cute, local restaurant preparing traditional dishes with organic ingredients, but this small piece of golden-sandy beach is perfect spot for picnic, delighting in the sunshine. It was an idyllic place – in the middle of nowhere – where the birds’ song and melody of the waves was the only „noise”.

The way back was pretty adventurous: the whole activity takes 3-4 hours, but the motivation, which was my best friend at the beginning, at the end disappeared. So the return journey was longer, than expected, not to mention the upwind, which shows up every time like the bogeyman in children’s nightmare. Being almost at the pear, only one thing was floating before our eyes: Wine, wine, wine… and some beer.

In addition to kayaking, there are countless other options to explore the area. Cycling is cool for those, who want to feel a bit more lively through hazardous – kind of mountain-biking – experience. This is mostly guided because of wilder, steep parts of trails hiding in forests and up in the mountains. For foodies I advice the wine tasting tour, which can be combined with a little tracking. If you are freak about local food and wine, you shouldn’t miss it out!

As you see, the Lake Skadar as well as the surrounding towns – like Stari Bar, or Virpazar – are perfect both for lazy days and playing Tarzan deep in lush greenery of Rumija. It is the paradise for backpackers, hikers and those, who are desperately in love with gastronomy.

Cats and cobble everywhere

The titel could be a riddle, but I let the cat out of the bag: it is all about Kotor, the lovely town surrounded by the bay and the fortress high, above the winding, medieval streets. It is true, that Kotor is super-crowded in summertime – mostly because of tourists coming by ferries for a short visit – but out of season it is really enjoyable to spend here a few days, especially if you love discovering bars and romantic sunset-spots of ancient cities.

Kotor is home of several architectural masterpieces and with its colourful history, traditions is listed as part of the UNESCO World Heritage site. Walking across the charming squares and lanes I got a bit of Croatia’s picturesque cities, like Split or Dubrovnik, a dash of Lisbon’s ambiance with the shiny, neverending footsteps and a pinch of Montenegrin everyday life. I think, the best option to explore the town is just wondering around and soaking in everything. Just get lost in tiny, golden-like cobbled streets, feel and try yummy bites of the local cousine and as perfect ending of the day immerse yourself in Kotor’s nightlights tasting craft beer and wine of the area.

Before you leave, don’t forget to take a look into the cute souvenir-shops selling vibrant copies of Frida Kahlo’s or Picasso’s works – but nothing to do with Montenegro – furthermore cool handmade bags and coasters with motives of the Little Prince and Bob Marley, in addition all kind of trinketry can be bought as little gift. Most of the souvenirs are decorated with cats in different colours. These furry little creatures can be seen on every cobbled corner of the town giving us the impression, that there are more cats in Kotor than humans. According to the story they were left here by the medieval merchants from all over the world and today they mean the famous symbol of Kotor.

10 things to do in Amsterdam

10 things to do in Amsterdam

10 Things to do in Amsterdam

 

Amsterdam is a vibrant, colourful city providing numberless opportunities for grabbing some culture and art, sightseeing, gastro touring or just simply hanging out.  In the narrow streets and among the canals of the city center thousand of secret places, museums, galleries and tiny coffee shops, amazing street food can be explored.

I personally like to discover cities mixing culture, food and chilling. So let’s see, what should be done visiting this crazy, little heaven of Europe.

  1. Visit one of the most famous coffee shops of the city

The city of freedom in several aspects. Among others smoking weed, hash, marijuana is legal, so according to this the meaning of coffee shops turned into something different: an establishment with good vibe, original interior, nice nonalcoholic drinks and wide selection of weed.

We chose the iconic Dumpkring, which is located in the heart of the city center. It is one of the most popular coffee shops of Amsterdam offering an outstanding smoke menu, fresh smoothies, shake (the strawberry-white chocholate shake is a must) and tea with unique flavours. This place with its bohemian ambiance is perfect both for young and old, local and tourist having good chance to hang out.

The staff is really professional and friendly so dear „smoke virgins” no worries: if you are a first timer, they will advice you the perfect smoke (marijuana, hash, kush) according to your wishes.

  1. Rent a bike and discover the city

/For the andventurers: cycling from Amsterdam to Keukenhof/

Amsterdam – and the whole country – is super bike-friendly assuring the essential infrastructure and background. However, it can be little adventurous for not experienced tourists. Anyway, if we want to get a dash of real Amsterdam-feeling, renting a bike is the best way.

Bike rentals can be found on every corner of the city for reasonable price (10-12 €/day). It is really easy and cool to visit the old streets, museums and other points of interest by bike. If you have about enough of hustle and bustle of the urban area and there is an adventurer lost in you, there are several options for cycling to surrounding towns.

As we were in the Netherlands in springtime, we tried the following: cycling from Amsterdam city center to Keukenhof to see the „world’s flower garden”, where more than 7 million flower bulbs are planted every year. Please note, that the garden is open to the public between mid-March and mid-May only. It is better to purchase the tickets in advance – all day trip or combined with other programmes – online. The park is perfect for chilling, nice lunch (menu for 15€), long walks and unique photos in ocean of tulips. If you do not want to go in, there is another alternative to rent a Keukenhof bike for taking a ride around the magical tulip fields.

I advice cycling straight from Amsterdam for those only, who are motivated enough to bike 75 km there and back. It is a flawless way to deepen your Dutch experience in every sense.

About tips for long distance biking in the Netherlands you can read here.

  1. Stamble on secret bars of Amsterdam

Oh yes! My favourite part is coming: experimenting with matchless drinks while traveling. You can choose from certain drink related programs, which are elements of the national gastro culture.

The Heineken Experience is highly recommended for beer fans. The Wynand Fockink Proeflokaal is a Genever Distillery established in 1679 provides Old Dutch liqueurs, genevers and fruit brandies made by traditional craft methods, which you can try in its Tasting Room.

The perfect ending of sightseeing can be Hiding in Plain Sight (HPS), which was selected as one of the World’s 50 Best Bars. The bar is open evenings only. You can sip your excellent – made of high quality ingredients – cocktail by candle light guessing HPS riddles hanging on the wall. These are real brain-teasers for free shots.

  1. Museum trip is a must

Amsterdam can be a true paradise for museum fans. Very diverse museums, galleries, old, secret hiding places are waiting for you. As the city is full of them, I would like to give some ideas related to different themes.

For art and painting lovers there is a never-ending list of museums. The Van Gogh Museum of Amsterdam has the largest collection of paintings, drawings and letters of Vincent Van Gogh, while the Rijksmuseum is a Dutch national museum offering for its visitors nice experience about the country’s art and history. If you are addicted to books, you can enjoy the authentic atmosphere of the museum’s library.

For more fun we checked the Ripley’s Believe it or Not, which has a really colourful, crazy exhibiton, we loved it. Something more special, unusual hides the Hash, Marijuana & Hemp Museum, the Micropia or the Red Light Secrets.

  1. Sleep on a boat

If you want some extra seasoning for your stay in Amsterdam, this type of accommodation is a flawless idea!

Due to price-boom of city’s flats and houses people began to get settled on their ships. Nowadays some of them operates as a boat hotel. To be honest, it was one of my favourite shelter while traveling. I recommend warmly the Hotelboat Amsterdam located in the heart of the city, from where almost everything is available on foot.

The price includes the breakfast, which we enjoyed on the deck in beautiful sunlight, whilst evenings is it possible to delight in nice sunset sipping wine.

  1. Swing on top of the city

’Over the Edge’ is Europe’s highest swing 100 meters above Amsterdam.

If a little adrenalin is what you need, I assure you, this is your place. For my brother it was fun at its finest, but for those – like me – who fear, I recommend something to drink from the bar as encouragement.

The tower houses an exhibition, restaurant and a roof top bar, which is perfect after your cool flying experience or – worse case – mini horror story. Anyway, it can be a good point of bucket list!

  1. Canal Cruise

Canal cruising in the Netherlands is like gondola ride in Venice: relaxing option for sightseeing and romantic pastime at the same time.

There are several alternatives to enjoy the view and learn about the Dutch history from the water, like small boat cruise, semi-open, candlelight or Amsterdam dinner cruise. Due to amazing weather we chose an open boat cruising in narrow canals with a really cool guy, who showed us the highlights and boathouses pointing out the consequences, what happens, if there’s too many people at a house party on the water…

If you have nice weather during your stay, I advise to book open cruise to catch the sunset while enjoying a drink or a nice dinner.

  1. Discover the Red Light District

Welcome to one of the most interesting, in some cultures still outrageous district – separate world– of Amsterdam. First of all, it is much more than simply restaurants and bars functioning as tourist attractions.

Before a pub crawl I have something different for you as evening program: Red Light District museums trip. What’s on the list: the Red Light Secrets, the Sex Museum and the Erotic Museum, I assure you: you will have a unique evening/night. We visited the Red Light Secrets, which has very special atmosphere with its real, „face to face” exhibition. I found positive, that it was at the same time mystic and educational. You can take a visit behind the scenes of the oldest profession in the world reading about facts and personal stories. The museum points out, how it feels to sit behind the window, how it feels, when people are staring at you…

At the end of the tour wild confessions of other visitors can be found. I was reading, smiling and I was impressed: how easy it is to share our deepest secrets with unknown people.

  1. Take a look into the world of waffles

I personally love tasting sweet from all of the world, actually I could do this all day and night. If you have the same feeling to these amazing creations of gastronomy, Amsterdam is your city.

First of all I want to clear the difference between the traditional Dutch stroopwafels and the waffles, which can be found almost everywhere in Europe and in USA.

The stroopwafel is made from two thin baked layers with caramel syrup filling in the middle, first appeared in Gouda in 1784, while the waffles’ origin is from the ancient times of the Greeks. It became famous in France and Belgium having specific size and shape.

The streets of Amsterdam present the sweet treat on every corner. From the huge sugary paradise to cute, tiny shops you can find everything, what gives you dose of happiness hormone. Let yourself dive in this kaleidoscopic world of goodies choosing tempting toppings, sauce and base – like oreos, fruits, marshmallows, caramelised nuts, ice-cream or nutella – for your waffle. The stroopwafel is a must and if you have more space in your belly I recommend to taste the hand-made cookies and the mini pancakes.

  1. Chilling on the beach

The Netherlands is not only about Amsterdam, canals and windmills. After busy days in the capital it is pure pleasure to sit on the beach listening the sound of waves, which is the nicest music for my soul.

We visited Noordwijk, which was love for the first sight: its unspoilt nature and stunning beach enchants everyone, while the beach bars, restaurants offer delicacies from the sea and cool drinks. My favourite is La Cubanita serving Spanish tapas and amazing cocktails with touch of Cuban feeling, whereas in the Pannekoekenhuisje you can choose from more than 30 different pancakes.

I am a big sunset lover seeking for the epic spots everywhere while traveling. After discovering the Walk of Space – the seafront promenade – don’t miss the magical colours of Dutch sundown.