Austria is by far the most underrated country I have ever been to. I do not know anyone studying abroad there, so we went in blind. The person I went with and I both knew we wanted to go hiking in the Austrian Alps, and see much as possible from Thursday night to Monday morning. We began our stay in Vienna and it was our home base throughout the trip. We aimlessly walked around for hours hitting all of the big monuments and wandered into every open church we could find. Coming from Rome my expectations when I step inside a church are high, but Vienna still managed to blow me away. The city is very clean and has an amazing public transportation system. The first meal we got there was a cute little cafe that sold heart shaped everything bagels with cream cheese, tomato and lettuce. You may be thinking “so?” but when you have been in a country sans bagels for three months I could not tell you how excited I was to devour one. We ended our day in Vienna by watching the sunset at Schonbrunner SchloBpark. It was so beautiful and peaceful we stayed way past sunset and ended up having to jump the fence in order to get out! We also came across a delicious market with fresh food and ended up walking thru there for hours.
We then went home after grabbing a bite to eat and slept HARD. After walking 35k+ steps all you want to do is hit the pillow. The next morning we woke up at 5am to make our train to Salzburg. Once we got in we used the public transportation to get to our Airbnb, which was literally only $15 for the night and had a perfect few of the mountain we were about to climb. We picked up groceries for dinner that night and then were off to Untersberg. We got there at about 1pm and took a trolley up to the summit, because hiking would take three hours both ways and you needed heavy duty rock-climbing gear. (Kyle and I were in joggers and long sleeves) Once at the summit we hiked to a cross about a mile away in the snow. We had a perfect view of all the mountains surrounding us and it truly felt like we were at the top of the world. We picked up a beer at a small hut that only sold one kind at the top of the mountain, and drank it overlooking the German-Austrian border. My phone plan texts me whenever I enter a new country, and I even got a text saying welcome to Germany! We got into the city by 7pm and were able to walk around the cute, quaint town. It has an old town charm that made it seem like tourism had not taken over its culture. The castle we climbed to was equally as gorgeous.
Finally, we woke up and hit Hallstatt for four hours before going back to Vienna for one final night before our 6am flight the next morning. Hallstatt is like a chapter out of a fairy tale. The little town was nestled into larger-than-life mountains and had swans swimming in its lake. You can only get there by ferry, and it was definitely worth seeing in real life. When we finally got back to the Vienna Airbnb and got a couple hours of sleep we almost missed our flight!
Bottom line: Austria is an incredibly underrated country and I definitely want to be back!