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Salzburg - a heaven on earth.
Salzburg is famous for being the birthplace of Mozart and for the filming of the movie, Sound of Music, but there's so much more than that, that you can see and do for free in the city.
Having spent 3 days in Munich, one of the expensive cities, I was a little reluctant to spend more immediately and wanted to keep my budget in check.
So, when I was drafting out a rough itinerary, I decided between places or experiences that I really wanted to have and the ones that I was okay to miss and spend less.
Travel experience is all about the choices you make!!
Stay at YoHo Hostel
Just a 10-minute walk from the train station, YoHo International was a good budget hostel with clean and comfortable rooms. It had a complimentary bread, butter and jam breakfast with an option to upgrade to a full-fledged breakfast buffet. The staff was also very accommodating and readily gave amazing travel tips for touring the city.
PS: You get a free welcome shot of Apfelstrudel!
Visit an Alpine Salt Mine
Interestingly Salzburg means, Salt Fortress, and it has been the center of salt extraction for thousands of years. You can visit the salt mine at any of these three places surrounding the city - Hallein, Hallstatt, and Alatausee. The experience will be very similar in all of these places as the tours are organized by a single company.
I went to the mine at Hallein - it was a pretty fun experience, learning about the history of the salt mining business in the city.
Before the tour started, we were given overalls to wear to avoid soiling our own clothes. After that, we rode on a mine train that took us across the Austria-Germany border under the Alps. This was followed by a slide down deeper, under the ground. The tour ended with a boat ride across the briny water lake.
In addition to all these rides, you can also be more experimental, and actually taste the water inside the caves. And if you are lucky enough, you can also get a salt crystal from the mine to take home as a personalized memento.
Depending on the mine you chose to visit, you can plan to accommodate touring the nearby areas as well. At Hallein, you can also visit the Celtic village located right next to the salt mine and get an experience of the old Celtic times.
Tour Hohensalzburg Fortress and the surrounding gardens
I am a sunset lover and what better way to watch the sun go down - magnificent city views and the picturesque Alps in the background.
You can either hike up or take a funicular to reach the fortress. I preferred walking, and I swear the views kept getting better as I climbed up.
If you continue to walk straight towards Mönchsberg and not turn towards the fortress, you'll reach the gardens.
Now there are two reasons to go to gardens first and watch the sunset from there, one, it is far less crowded than the fortress, and the views are definitely unbeatable, second, you get a free entry inside the fortress after 7:00 pm(so if you want to save on some money!!).
Enjoy open-air Opera performance on a big screen
I was lucky enough to be in the city during the Siemens fest. The fest runs for 5 weeks (from July-August), during which the selected concerts and opera productions are shown on a big screen in Kapitelplatz. So just reach before the screening starts and grab a seat for yourself.
Walk around Old Town Salzburg
Take the Love Lock bridge to go across the Salzach river and to the city center. Spend some time roaming around the streets, and see places including, Mozart's birthplace, old market square, Salzburg Cathedral, and Kapitelplatz (with a giant chess board placed on the road).
Visit Mirabell Palace and it's gardens - FREE Tour
Fun fact - A few clips of the "Do, Re, Mi" song from the movie Sound of Music are shot in the Mirabell Gardens.
I was not able to roam around the Mirabell gardens because it was raining outside, but I have read great things about it - the statues, fountains, and the landscaping that is done.
In your urge to relax in the gardens, do not forget to tour the Mirabell Palace. A grand palace with baroque architecture and angel statues adorning the 3-level staircase. You can also take a look inside the Marble Hall which is now used for weddings.
As you continue to explore the city
- Dine in cozy cafes of Salzburg!!
- Visit the weekly local market held every Thursday right opposite Mirabell Palace
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Before leaving for Prague, I did a quick online search to see if I would need a SIM card in Europe or could I survive without it. Both options seemed feasible, but I decided to not buy a SIM card and avoid the hassle of reading too many details on what company's SIM card and what recharge plan to buy.
Countries that I had planned to visit were, Czech Republic, Austria, and Hungary, although I did not stick to the plan.
The two things that I relied on were offline google maps (that is the most important thing), and free WiFi hotspots.
I downloaded Prague's offline map before I reached the city and had taken a screenshot of the directions on how to reach the hostel, i.e, the bus, and the tram options.
A funny story: When I reached my hostel, I spent around 5 minutes standing outside a wrong building and feeling desperate about not having a phone network. Incidents like these might happen a few times, but don't be discouraged because you'll be able to figure out a way 🙂
Google Offline maps were a great help throughout my trip and I made sure to download an offline map of the city that I'd be visiting next.
Another thing that I did was, have a rough plan of my next day ready including the restaurants that I wanted to visit that day. I would add all the stops in my maps and select the walking option (because that's what I normally do) and follow that route.
The problem with this was, sometimes I had to change the order of stops or add a new place in my itinerary, then I would either go by the traditional way of asking people for directions or just navigate using the car option and judge if it's okay for walking or not.
Now, if everything above fails, all you have to look for is a free WiFi hotspot or go to a cafe/restaurant as most of them offer WiFi if you dine in. You can now do all the stuff, getting social media updates, talk to your family/friends, share pictures and navigate to your next destination.
I would say, it's not very tough to travel without a SIM card, rather more exciting. It's crazy figuring out a way when you are lost in the most secluded places and coming out alive.
All the best and safe travels!!