Mendoza Part II: The Wine Tour

I like wine a lot, especially red wine.  So on one of my full days in Mendoza, I wanted to tour some vineyards and taste some Malbec!  Now, how to go about that…  Doing some internet research, I discovered that a number of companies run full-day wine tours from Mendoza, most ranging between $130 and $200 per person.  I thought this was a bit pricey, so I did some more digging…and, spoiler alert – that’s the going rate and my tour was totally worth it! Continue reading

Mendoza Part 1: An Introduction

Dan and I visited Mendoza in November on our trip to Argentina! I liked everything about Mendoza, and recommended it as a short getaway to anyone in northern or western Argentina or northern Chile.

Mendoza is in Western Argentina in the Cuyo desert region, and it is the capital of the Mendoza province.  The city is a popular spot for wine production and tourism. While best known for wine, Mendoza has a number of adventures for the outdoorsy. Its near the Andes mountain range, including Aconcagua, the highest mountain outside Asia. There are opportunities to hike, fly fish, partake in extreme sports, etc.  But, we didn’t come to Mendoza to be extreme, we came to drink wine, and drink wine we did! Continue reading

24 Hours in Hallstatt, Austria – September 2014

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Hallstatt, Austria was our third stop of Eurotrip2014, and Hallstatt was quite possibly my favorite place on the trip!  Hallstatt is a tiny village in the Salzkammergut lake district in the middle of Austria, historically known for salt production, and recently known for tourism (and for the knock-off replica in China).  I added Hallstatt to our iteniary based on a picture that I saw two years ago on CNN’s travel photo of the day – seriously.  Random, but Hallstatt totally lived up to my expectations.

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Our trip was quite short – only 24 hours – and it took some effort to get here.  Specifically, we left Munich around 1 p.m. and took the train to Salzburg (about 2 hours).  From Salzburg, we took a different train to Attnang-Puchheim (about 50 minutes), where we changed again to a local (read: slow) train to Hallstatt.  Once at the Hallstatt train station, we took a boat, the Stefanie, across the lake to the town of Hallstatt.  This took a grand total of about six hours.  Hallstatt was worth it, but the trip can be difficult.

301 The train/Stefanie dock.

We arrived just as it was getting dark.  The boat ride across the lake was beautiful, and I think we all fell in love with Hallstatt on that boat ride.  We found our hotel, Gasthof Bergfried, pretty easily, checked in and set off for one of the best dinners of the trip!  Note – if you arrive late (like after 6:30) call your hotel and let them know.  Hallstatt is very much a morning/day town and most everything except restaurants close at night.  We called ahead and our hotel left directions and keys to the room for us.

Now, on to my favorite dinner of the trip!  We dined at Gasthof Zauner based on TripAdvisor recommendations.  It was delicious.  The meal started with complementary bread with two butteresque spreads – a potato-based one and a pimento cheesy one!  For mains, I ordered my favorite, the schwineschnitzel, which is pork schnitzel.  The schnitzel was so, so declicious here.  YUM!! Everyone else got pork medallions in gorgonzala sauce, which was also decision, but everyone agreed that mine was the best!  For dessert, we split the famous (and HUGE) Salzburg dessert, the Salzburger Nockerl.

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Before dinner, we stopped by the local Spar (a European grocery chain), which must be the best small grocery store in the world!  The Spar had a great selection of souvenirs, Austrian candy (including Mozart balls for less than in Salzburg), bacon-wrapped hotdogs  and a wine bar with Austrian wine (who knew?!).  Yes, a wine bar!  I lost Dan for a few minutes, and I found him at the wine bar!  The owners were really nice, too!

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For our only day in Hallstatt, we woke up early to head up to Rudolfsturm – where my CNN picture was taken!  Note, Rudolfsturm is the only lookout point in Hallstatt, but there are several more a short bus ride away.  Make sure you know what you are looking for before getting on a bus!

Rudolfsturm is directly above Hallstatt, very close to the entrance of the salt mine (which we skipped).  To get to Rudolfsturm, you take a funicular to the top of the mountain.

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The entrance is right behind our hotel, Gasthof Berfried, and you can follow the “salt mine guy” (above) to the funicular.  To go to the salt mine, continue following the “salt mine guy,” other wise head right up to the Rudolfsturm.  Rudolfstrum has an awesome lookout point with great views!  For an awesome picture, wait for the tourists to clear out (it will happen!) and take a picture of just yourself at the tip of the lookout!

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Rudlofsturm also has a restaurant and outdoor beer garden/tables.  When we went the outdoor dining area/beer garden was closed for food due to bad weather, so we just had drinks outside.  Prices were pretty reasonable!  My attempts at recreating my CNN photo are below!  The middle one isn’t bad!

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After visiting Rudolfsturm, we walked around town, tried the local Hallstatt Bier, shopped and had a great day!

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LOGISTICS

Rudolfsturm

Salzbergstraße 1

4830 Hallstatt • Austria

Phone: +43 (0)6136/8811-0

info@rudolfsturmhallstatt.at

Munich During Oktoberfest – Eurotrip 2014

The second stop on Eurotrip2014 was Munich, Germany (or München, in German) for Oktoberfest, and just because we love Munich!  Munich is the capital and largest city in the State of Bavaria in the South of Germany.  Munich (and the whole of Bavaria) has a very specific culture, and is very proud of that culture. Think beer, leiderhosen, pretzels – that’s Bavarian!  This was my third trip to Munich, and I was very excited to hit a few places that have long been on my wish list, but that I had not previously had time to visit.

Visiting Munich during Oktoberfest is a beast in itself.  Munich is extremely crowded and much of the city is focused on Oktoberfest – meaning some attractions will be closed all together, such as tours of the major Munich breweries, or on certain, unspecified days (to allow its employees to enjoy Oktoberfest with family & friends).  Weekends are the most crowded.  When we visited, we got stuck walking to our hotel for about an hour while the Costume and Rifleman’s Parade passed.  It was cool to see, but very unexpected.  Most attractions, aside from the brewery tours, will be open for most of Oktoberfest, so if you keep a flexible attitude you will be fine.  Also, hotels book up extremely early (AT LEAST 6 months in advance).  We booked our hotel in February.  Be guided accordingly.  You DO NOT want to be stuck at Oktoberfest without a place to stay!  I also recommend confirming the opening hours of all must see attractions, tours, etc. before leaving home and buying transportation before arriving in Munich.  Trains, planes and buses book up, too!

Enough warning, Munich is a great city anytime, and especially during Oktoberfest!  Per usual, our first stop was the Hofbräuhaus for lunch and beer!  Hofbräu is one of the large six breweries in Munich (along with Löwenbräu, Augustinerbräu, Paulaner, Hacker-Paschor and Spaten), and certainly the most famous in the US.  Dan is a big fan of the Hofbräuhaus because they have a lot of pork dishes that are not very expensive.  Actually, none of the food at Hofbräu is very expensive – its a solid budget option.

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We had planned to go shopping after lunch, but all of the shops were closed on Sunday (take note – all shops in Munich are closed on Sunday).  Instead, we checked out another famous beer hall, Augusinerbräu, which is also one of the big six Munich breweries.  This was my first visit to Augustiner and I really enjoyed it.  Augustiner had an atmosphere similar to Hofbräu, but was decidely less touristy.  We drank beers, listened to the band and made some new friends.  After Augustiner, we went to bed to prepare for Oktoberfest!

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Our other non-Oktoberfest day in Munich  was dedicated to the city and its history.  First up was one of my favorite places in Munich, the Viktualienmarkt.  The Viktualienmarkt is a huge, open-air market in the center of Munich.  Its open everyday and contains stalls selling crafts, food, wine, beer, candy, you name it.  We shopped around for a bit and lunched on traditional Bavarian food & fancy focaccia sandwiches.  The Viktualienmarkt is free to visit and it makes for great souvenir shopping and eating!

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After lunch, we had a busy afternoon, two tours and the Residenz…ready, set, go!  First up was Sandemans Free Walking Tour, which is a free, three hour tour of Munich that hits all the highlights, including Frauenkirche (inside & outside below, including the Devil’s footprint!), and gives a very decent historical overview. I  did this tour on one other occasion and it was good both times.  You can make reservations online.  Also, you should tip your guides!!  We tipped €10/person, but thats up to your discretion.

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We left the tour after about an hour and a half to tour the Residenz Museum.  The Residenz museum is the former palace of the wealthy Wittelsbach family, who ruled Munich for many, many years (huge influence!).  There are many rooms and gardens to visit, and you could really spend hours here!  We walked through the palace rooms, but regrettably did not see the Cuvilliés Theater or the Treasury.  I guess that will have to wait to 2016!  My favorite rooms were the Ancestral Gallery and the Antiquarium (below).  I also enjoyed the outdoor gardens, which are free!

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After rushing through the Residenz, we had a second tour at 5:00 with Mike’s Bike Tours (adjourned from Sunday due to rain…).  The tour started at 5:00, lasted about 2.5 hours and visited a few places that I had been wanting to see, namely the Munich surfers and the English Garden.  I had heard a lot about this tour, and was really excited to take it, but it was not that great and I do not think I would recommend it or take it again.  The surfers were really cool, though!

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Dan hates bike tours…191

Pryor loves bike tour guides…

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We ended the evening at the Residenz Weinstube, as recommended by our Mike’s Bike Tour Guide.  A good choice for inexpensive Bavarian fare!

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Here are some final, favorite pictures of Munich.  See you in 2016!

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Note – this post only pertains to Munich during Oktoberfest – not the actual Oktoberfest.  Stay tuned for my Oktoberfest post!

Have you been to Munich?  What were your favorite things to do and eat?  Any great day trips?

Schnitzelbank

We dined at Schnitzelbank on our final night in Heidelberg.  Schnitzelbank is a small restaurant/wine bar in the Altstadt. It is tiny (but oh so charming), so make a reservation. We called the day of and got their final reservation. The specialty is obviously schnitzel! They have schnitzel in veal, pork, chicken and turkey. I ordered the pork in a mushroom sauce and it was very tasty. I also tried the turkey schnitzel in a dijon sauce, and that was tasty, as well (but also not fried – booooo). Dan ordered the schnitzel cordon bleu. That was fried and delicious; Dan won the dinner game!  All of the portions were big and came with some delicious sides.

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Schnitzelbank is a also a weinstube (a wine bar) with local wine von fass (on tap!)! Schnitzelbank had an extensive wine list and the waiter – who spoke great English – helped us choose some delicious, local wines! To my lovely surprise, reisling can be dry, and red (who would have known?!), and Germany makes some good, red wines that are not super sweet! If you are in the Heidelberg area, you should definitely check out a weinstube! Wine seemed more important to the people here than beer (a change from Bavaria!), and we were happy to participate in the tradition.

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LOGISTICS

Weinstube Schnitzelbank

Bauamtsgasse 7

69117 Heidelberg

+49 6221 21189