Tag Archive: outdoor


Day 60: Trümmelbach Falls

The following day we woke up to the pouring rain, so we figured it would be the perfect day to go visit one of the caves in the area. We arrived just in time to catch the bus, but when we asked the driver for directions, he informed us that the caves were closed because of flooding.

That little setback didn’t stop us. We had also wanted to visit Trümmelbach Falls, so we took a train there instead.

That day was overcast and never stopped raining, but we weren’t put out by it, considering that we all know what Oregon weather is like.

As we drove along the road, the mountains towered above us with small waterfalls throughout the cliffs. Some of the falls even seemed to empty into nothing, becoming only a misty cloud halfway up the mountain.

Once we arrived at the falls the surrounding area was so beautiful that I took out my camera and turned it on to take some pictures. It was only then that I realized I had made one of the biggest camera mistakes one could make. Charging the battery and then not putting it back in the camera.

At first I was really upset that I had forgotten my battery, but later I realized it was probably for the best, because we got completely soaked through.

Despite my camera mishap, the falls were amazing and I can’t even believe there is such a place in the world. This particular falls isn’t massive like Niagara or even that tall. From a distance it’s almost impossible to even see the falls, but this is because most of the falls isn’t outside, but inside the mountain.

There are ten different “stops” along the falls. The first eight or so can be reached by an elevator, which you can ride up and then walk down a path along the falls. The last few lookout points have to be walked, but in reality the entire hike up and down only takes a half hour if no stops are made.

Because we wanted to get some exercise and breathe in some fresh air, we decided to just walk the entire thing. The first and probably most impressive stop along the falls is just to the right of the elevator. We walked up the short flight of stairs not really expecting much, but when we rounded the corner we were met by a massive roaring spout of water shooting horizontally from a hole in the mountainside. It was spectacular!

We stood there getting completely wet, but all we could do was look at each other in amazement and laugh. There was one corner where we could stand right next to the spout of water and feel the wind and mist. It almost felt like we were standing directly under the falls.

Half of the hike is outside, while the other half is inside a sort of crack in the mountain. Inside the mountain there are lights all along the stairs and corridors, so it was easy to walk and the stairs were nice and even, making it an easy hike. It was really cool to see how the waterfall had carved a tunnel right through the mountain. Sometimes, we were so deep in the middle of the mountain that all we could see was a slim crack of sunlight high above.

Afterwards, we were all completely soaked through our jeans and in Ari’s case her purse. My purse seems to not only be theft proof, but also water proof, which was lucky because I had my battery-less camera inside.

That night we had another wonderful dinner and we watched “Whose Line” while drinking hot chocolate and listening to the rain outside.

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The following day we boarded another train (this time everyone made it safe and sound) and headed up to Berlin.

We arrived later that night and checked into our room at The Circus. It was a really nice hostel, with very friendly people as well as secure and clean. We decided against going out that night, because we were so tired, so we ate unlimited pasta served at the hostel until we were full and then called it an early night.

The lounge of the Circus

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Day 23: Touring Venice

The next day we decided that we were going to see all the tourist sites around Venice, but that didn’t mean that we wanted to be surrounded by tourists, so we got up early.

Venice is divided into six districts called sestieri. They are, San Marco, Cannaregio, Castello, Dorsoduro, San Polo, and Santa Croce. There is also a small sliver of an island called Giudecca separated from the rest of the island by Canale della Giudecca. While we were in Venice it became obvious that San Marco and San Polo were the districts with the most tourist and many of the famous buildings.

At eight in the morning there were still quite a few people out on the street, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as the day before, so we were able to stop by the Rialto and see the bridge before all the shops opened and the streets filled up.

What the Rialto bridge looks like when all the shops are opened and all the tourists are out and about.

Basically our apartment was in the San Marco district so we didn’t have to walk very far to reach Piazza San Marco.

Piazza San Marco has quite a few attractions, the most noticeable being St. Mark’s Campanile, the bell tower, which juts up into the sky. It looks out of place compared to the low white buildings around it. To the left of the Campanile is the Clock Tower, which rang while we were there and filled the entire square with music. Directly behind the tower is the St. Mark’s, which was very beautiful and an interesting contrast to the rest of the city.

The entire Piazza

The Piazza about halfway to St. Mark’s

The very top of St. Mark’s Campanile

The Clock Tower

While most of Venice is rundown and very old, St. Mark’s is clean, white, and covered in statues. The grandeur of the church really didn’t match the rest of the city. The church has four domes, huge arches and painted murals above the doors. Compared to a lot of the other churches I’ve seen it was a lot more chaotic, with many colors and statues.

Front of St. Mark’s

The right side of St. Mark’s, where we were standing and waiting to get in.

The outside of St. Mark’s was impressive, but inside was even more amazing. Unfortunately, photos were not allowed inside. In fact, a lot of things were restricted inside the church.

Before going in we had to wait in a long line for the church to actually open. After a half hour we finally reached the door, but there was someone there turning away anyone who wore shorts, a large backpack, or a shirt that didn’t cover their shoulders. Lucky for us, Addison knew that this would happen so we were prepared and the line moved quickly as almost every other person was turned away.

Inside, the entire ceiling was gold, it seemed almost sad that such a wonderful and luxurious church was surrounded by so many crumbling buildings. We also made it into the treasury, which had some amazing swords, goblets and stones, from many different times and places.

When we walked back outside I immediately noticed just how many pigeons there were. Although the winged lion represents St. Mark and is Venice’s symbol, I would argue that pigeons are probably the unofficial symbol of the city. They filled the sidewalks, they sat on the sills of every building, they flew through the sky and they slept on every statue they could possibly find. There was more than one time where I had to duck, because a pigeon literally flew right past my face. Although pigeons are in general dirty, I found that they added to the charm of the city.

I noticed that some of the birds were unnatural colors, the one I was able to take a picture of was green, but I also saw blue, red and purple pigeons. I suspect that people catch and dye the pigeons, however I have no idea what it symbolizes, if it symbolizes anything at all.

After the church, we decided to go up the tower. About ten people had to cram into a tiny elevator for the ride up, but the view of the city was worth the awkward ride. To look out over Venice and be able to see the entire island from one spot was breathtaking. All the buildings looked so tightly packed that it was impossible to even see the waterways. From above it was also very easy to tell just how old Venice was, there were no modern buildings and all of the buildings were more or less the same height. Looking down on the city I felt like I could have been standing in Venice hundreds of years ago.

Three of the Four Domes of St. Mark’s

One of the possible views from the tower.

When we returned to the bottom of the tower the Piazza was suddenly teeming with people, so we decided to head away from the San Marco district and explore Dorsoduro. Immediately we noticed how much quieter the streets became and at certain times we were the only people out on the street. It was a very different Venice from the one we’d seen earlier that morning. The buildings weren’t grand, but they had their own special touch to them and the suddenly Venice seemed a lot more like a city than just a tourist destination.

We ended up walking all the way to the tip of Dorsoduro, where the church Santa Maria della Salute is. While we were there we sat on the steps and ate our lunch.

We were basically the only people down on this street, although there were some children playing.

Local children playing soccer in the street.

Soon after we headed back to the apartment, but on the way we encountered a persistent gondolier, who gave us a “discount” on a ride. I say, “discount”, because I really doubt he was giving us a special offer, but he seemed to want to convince us that he was. Usually I would try to avoid such an expensive and obviously overpriced boat ride, but we were in Venice and when would I ever get to ride in a gondola again?

The ride actually ended up being pretty relaxing and it was fun to be so close to the water. The gondoliers are incredibly good at navigating the waterways and I couldn’t believe how close they would get to the walls. Sometimes they even pushed off the wall with one foot to keep from hitting it.

The Rialto from the water.

That night we went out to dinner at a place along the water and we had some authentic Italian wine and lasagna.

Day 16: The Habsburgs, Schönbrunn

I’ve skipped Day 15, because there is nothing much to talk about, but don’t worry I’ll make up the extra post! Friday, was another super hot and humid day. To cool off we went swimming in the Danube after classes.

The following day was a Saturday, so naturally we slept in… just kidding.

I woke up at 7:00 so that I could get ready to catch the U4 (Underground #4) to Schönbrunn. Schönbrunn, meaning beautiful fountain, was the Habsburg’s summer residence, the Hofburg in Vienna being their winter one. Now Schönbrunn is home to a museum and many tourists.

As soon as we stepped off the UBahn it was immediately clear that we had stepped into another world. Most of the other underground stations are hard concrete and slick shiny walls covered in ads, but Schönbrunn’s was classy and old fashioned.

It’s hard to even explain how large Schönbrunn is. Sure, in pictures it looks pretty big, but in truth pictures just can’t capture how massive it really is. Not only is the palace itself huge, but the actual gardens go on forever. Even as I stood in front of the palace it was hard to wrap my mind around the wide open plaza. All I could think was, why in the world would someone NEED this much space? The very simple truth is that no one does, but it sure looks cool.

After about five minutes of walking from the front gates, we finally made it to the steps of the palace.

To either side of the palace there are gardens with trees lining each road and footpaths enclosed by small hedges. There is also a labyrinth and a zoo.

There were millions of roads like the one below, each tree trimmed exactly right and each hedge a perfect square. I could almost imagine the Habsburgs themselves taking a carriage ride or a nice stroll down the road. Schönbrunn was packed with tourists, but it’s so large that it was easy to get away from everyone and find a completely empty part of the garden.

To get to the back of the palace we took a side door and headed around the the left side of the palace. As it turned out we ended up going around the Prince’s personal garden, which is blocked by the towering hedge in the photo below. Although we could see between the hedges every once in a while, the Prince’s garden cost money so we decided to bypass it for the much larger and free garden.

While we were in the gardens for about two hours we were only able to see the area directly behind Schönbrunn palace. We’ve been told by a lot of people that Schönbrunn is a great place to run, because of its open paths and you can basically run in a different part every time and never get bored by the same scenery.

Directly behind Schönbrunn is a rocky area with six symmetrical flower gardens. If you stand on the steps of the palace and look out into the gardens everything lines up. In between the six gardens is the Neptune Fountain, then up the hill is the Gloriette, which was used as a dinning room, but now is a coffeehouse. Part of the building was destroyed by a bomb, but it was fully restored later on.

Neptune Fountain just at the base of the hill.

When we arrived early, around 9:30, the fountain was not on, so I was able to get a great shot of Schönbrunn from behind the fountain.

After admiring the intricate statues on the fountain we headed up the hill towards Gloriette. It was quite the climb, but not too difficult, because the air was much cooler and there was a little bit of wind too. Once we reached the top, the view was amazing. We could see all of Vienna spread out behind Schönbrunn.

Gloriette from afar.

On either side of the entrance to the dining room inside the Gloriette stands a statue with Roman armor, lions and standards (the scepter looking pieces). The standards were a symbol of Roman honor and were always protected in battle. If one was lost it was disgraceful and often Emperors of the Roman Empire would make it their goal to retake the standards if they were lost. The amount of standards this statue has just goes to show how highly the Habsburgs thought of themselves and how connected they were to the Romans.

Inside the Gloriette there is now a small restaurant.

After climbing the hill we headed back down to the labyrinth. The labyrinth in Schönbrunn is not very big and it seemed to be more geared towards children, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t hard! Although Addison could see over the hedges it was impossible to tell which path was a deadend. It took us a while to make it to the center and finally a little Japanese tourist, standing on a platform high above the maze, took pity on us and pointed us in the right direction. Inside there were three labyrinths. One that was meant to be complicated, another than had fun games and another that had a quiet little resting place in the center.

After we wandered through the gardens we made our way to the zoo, which is supposed to be one of the best zoos in the world. I have to admit, it was a pretty amazing zoo. All the animal’s inclousures were large and made to look just as fancy as the palace itself. It took us another few hours to make it through the zoo and by the time we left everyone was exhausted. We made a promise to come back and see the rest of the garden some other time.

Making my way back, I had the intention of returning to my room and just watching TV or drawing, anything to get off my feet, but that didn’t happen. As soon as I got back and sat down I realized how silly I was being. I was a Saturday, it was a Saturday night and I was in Vienna! It was then that I decided to go out and take more pictures!

****If you would like to know more about the Habsburgs, I’ve found a very cool interactive site that displays their history really well. I’ve linked it at the top under “Habsburgs”, but here is the same link.

The World of Habsburgs

It was almost time to leave Dorfgastein. Although we had only been there for about a week, we had also gotten to know the little town pretty well. We no longer got lost on the main street (this did actually happened, but it only took us a few seconds to figure out we were going the wrong way), we hiked every hill you could possibly hike and we had eaten at every restaurant.

Instead of sitting cooped up inside the pension, we decided to head out into the town and explore one last time.As we were walking I looked up and saw the sign Römerplatz. It was only then that it hit me that I was standing in the exact same place that the Romans lived, breathed, and worked. It’s hard to think about such a distant past and such a different culture, but it’s truly amazing how a single place can connect us to the past.

We came up to a small bakery and there we decided to have ice cream and because everything looked so good, I decided to be adventurous and bought some sort of cookie with berries and peanut brittle. Both the ice cream and cookie were delicious.

With only an afternoon left, Annika (another student in the program) and I decided to take a walk along the Hauptstraße or main street to see where it would take us.

On the way we passed the volunteer fire station where we sometimes had classes. It’s only in a small town like Dorfgastein that you would actually be able to get away with volunteer firefighters.

As we headed out of the town the road turned into a footpath.It was a very nice walk along the fields and there were a lot of fun games for kids along the path. The start of the path and the end were both marked by one stone pillar. We weren’t sure what exactly they meant, but they looked as though they were built from  the different stones that could be found in the Alps.

Also along the path we came across a stone with writing on it. Zum Schutze unsere Almen.To Protect Our Pastures. Beneath these words was a spout for water, but it was dry. We really had no idea what it meant, but perhaps the well is dry so that the farmer’s fields will never have to be.

After only a half hour, we arrived in the next town over Bad Hofgastein.

Just getting out into the air and walking until we felt like stopping was a great way to end our week in Dorfgastein.