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Monday, February 13, 2012

Winter in Gastein, Austria - What to eat

* Jause         * Glühwein        *Salzburger Nockerl         *Bosna         *Mozartkugel

Traditional Austrian cuisine has a lot of meat and little vegetables.  It is not a vegetarian friendly diet, but it is surely delicious!  Here are some of my favorites: 

1. Jause

Jause (pronounced as "yause") means snack in English. It usually includes various type of cold cuts, cheeses & spreads, and bread.  As far as I know, Austrians LOVE their jause.  They can eat jause for lunch, snack, and dinner everyday. I am not exaggerating.  This is what H grew up eating and still eats it every day when he goes home. 

2. Glühwein

Gluhwein is mulled wine that can be found during the holiday season in bars or outdoor holiday markets. I order them every chance I get.  It always put me in a festive mood sipping the hot spiced wine at the cold outdoor market. 

3. Salzburger Nockerl

Salzburger Nockerl is a specialty  in the Salzburg region, and you do not find them in many places.  Not a lot of chefs know how to make this dessert.  It is warm and fluffy with a creamy texture inside.  If you come to Bad Gastein, make sure to stop by Hotel Europaeischer Hof and order one freshly made. 

4. Bosna in Salzburg

You rarely find spicy Austrian food.  Bosna is one exception. They are the equivalence of American hot dogs, only much much better.  They are usually two bratwrst sausages, onions, and curry powder, wrapped in toasted bread.  The best bosna stand is tugged away in one of Salzburg's old town shopping streets, and I always get one when I am there. Unfortunately this time when I visited on January 1, the stand was closed for the holiday.

5. Original Salzburger Mozartkugel

Every tourist coming to Austria is bombarded with those red Mozart chocolate balls in every souvenir store. They make great gifts to bring back home, but I never liked them.  I found them way too sweet for my taste. Last year, a colleague mentioned the original blue mozart balls she had in Sazlburg.  It titillated my curiosity.  When I passed by Cafe Konditorei Fürst this time, I knew that I found the original Sazlburg Mozartkugal and I had to try it.  The verdict?  I must say that I like the blue Mozartkugel much better than the red ones!  The blue Mozartkugel is still hand made with the original recipe invented by Paul Fürst in 1890.  The chocolate filling was creamy and thgreen pistachio marzipan in the center was aromatic but not as sweet. There are only three shops in Salzburg, and you should definitely try the real deal when you come here!


Next: Winter in Gastein, Austria -- Planning your trip

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Winter in Gastein, Austria - What to see

* Bad Hofgastein              * Bad Gastein             * Salzburg

1. Bad Hofgastein

Bad Hofgatein is a lovely small town with many lodging options.  Most restaurants and shops are within walking distance.  During the month of December, the Christmas market is open in the town center pedestrian area.

Two shops you must check out if you visit Bad Hofgatein: Galerie Winkler (left) and Cafe Roeck (right).  Galerie Winkler is a boutique gift shop carrying many one-of-the-kind rare find items. A few doors down is Cafe Roeck.  All their delicious pastries and desserts are made on the premises. Granted, I am biased with both shops since my MIL owns Galerie Winkler and Caf Roeck made our wedding cake. 


2. Bad Gastein

The distance between Bad Gastein and Bad Hofgastein is about 10 minutes by car and 1.5 hours by foot.  There are frequent buses between these two towns.

Everything in Bad Gastein is more spread out. The town wrapped around the steep slopes with a beautiful waterfall on the hillside, and a golf course on the bottom of the hill.  The scenery is truly breath taking.


3. Salzburg

About 1.5 hours away by train from Gastein Valley is one of the tourist hot spots of Austria, Salzburg.  The Mozart museum, the old town's shopping streets with wrought-iron signs, and the Hohensalzburg Fortress are all some of the famous sites to visit. 

Summer Festival is the most important music attraction, and tickets are in great demands.  However, there are many cultural events throughout the year and a Christmas market during the holiday season.  


Next: Winter in Gastein, Austria - What to eat

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Winter in Gastein, Austria - What to do

* Horse sleigh ride             *Skiing/Winter sports             * Thermal Spa


1. Horse sleigh ride

On Christmas day, We met up with H's brother's family for an afternoon horse sleigh ride from my favorite hotel in the area, Gruener Baum.  It was the hotel where we had our wedding cocktail hour and traditional post-ceremony wedding game. Needless to say, I will always have a fond memory of this place.   H's brother booked the sleigh ride a long time ago since it is a popular holiday activity, and I can totally see why.  We all snuggled up together, wrapped in two layers of blankets, and another layer of some animal fur.  The ride took us through the Hohe Tauern National Park.  It was a crisp sunny day with clear air and barely any wind.  The horse trotting and sleigh bell ringing made a delightful rhythm for the gorgeous scenery right in from of our eyes.  It had been a while since the whole family got together.  We all had big grins on our faces talking about everything and nothing.  I knew this moment would go down as one of my favorite Chirstmas memory. 


  • You can find more information from Ski, mountains & spa Gastein, the Gastein vally's main tourism website or ask your hotel concierge for reservation. 
  • There are also horse carriage rides if you visit in the summer time. 
  • The ideal time for the ride would be early afternoon as you will be able to see the scenery during the sunlight and sunset. 

2. Skiing/Winter sports    

Surrounded by the Alps, Bad Gastein & Bad-Hofgastein are a great destination for winter sports. Many tourists poured in during the week between Christmas and New Year's. Most hotels only accept week long reservations.  I booked four hours of private sessions with an instructor to brush up on my rusty -barely beginner's skiing skills. Our friends took their three-year-old son to his first children skiing school.  It was really adorable to see all the little kids skiing.

Even if you don't ski or snowboard, it is also worth to get a lift ticket and get on the cable cars to enjoy the impressive mountain views.  There are also many mountain lodges within the ski area that you can ski in to get food and drinks.  The food served in these skiing areas were delicious!

3. Thermal spa

Thermal spa put Bad Gastein on the travel map as early as the 15th century.  It was once the popular destination attracting royals, and the "rich and famous".  The name "Bad" means Spa. The thermal spring water from the mountain contains radon.  Some people believe that the water has therapeutic effects to many illnesses. 

So, can you think of any better way to relax and rejuvenate after a long day of skiing other than soaking yourself in the therapeutic hot spring  pools? 

  • Alpentherme, Bad Hofgastein
  • Felsentherme, Bad Gastein
  • Remember to bring your own soap and shampoo. They are not provided in the showers.  


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Winter in Gastein, Austria - Prelude

Friends who are familiar with my traveling habits know that I have some peculiar rules when it comes to the definition of a trip. Here are the basic guidelines:
  • Taiwan & Austria do not count, because these trips serve a purpose to visit family and friends. 
  • Staying at friends' places do not count. Lodging is an important part of the travel experience. 
  • Destinations within driving distance do not count.  They are getaways, not trips.
I know my husband is rolling his eyes now, but the most memorable trips for me were the ones when I had  entered unknown territories with foreign landscapes, languages, and cultures.  I felt excited, stimulated,  and super aware of my surroundings.  These are the kind of experiences I crave when I travel. 

Having been to my husband's hometown for more times than I can remember, I never thought about putting these trips on my blog. That is, until this past holiday season when I spent 10 days with my husband's family in his hometown. Initially, I viewed this trip more of a family obligation rather than a pleasurable vacation. However, I was truly surprised by how much I enjoyed it! It had been way too long since my last winter visit, and I came away with a new found appreciation of this pristine alpine winter wonderland.  

This picture was taken from my mother-in-law's 3rd floor garden. 
Her garden reaches the river. (translation: lots of yard work in the summer time)  
There is a golf course on the other side of river .