Speed travelling in Europe - 3000 miles, 14 days, 12 cities, 2 lakes

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Day 5 - Vienna

Road distance from Salzburg to Vienna is only about 290 kilometres (180 miles). First thing to remember about driving in Austria is that by law your headlights have to be on at all times (day or night) when in built up areas. Needless to say, we did not know this and were soon pulled over by the police! They were very nice about it though... I guess they are used to ignorant Brits... and we were soon on our way again.

Vienna is a big change to Salzburg... whilst Salzburg is laid back, casual, & easygoing, Vienna is austere, grand and perhaps a wee bit self-important. I think to see the city in all it's glory you would need several days and either a large number of tram tickets or a very sturdy pair of walking boots (and legs)! Our plan, however, was to park the car and see what we can in 4 hours!

Parking first... you need to go to a local shop, get the appropriate tickets and then mark off the correct times on these tickets before displaying them in your window. So that left us with only 3.5 hours! Off we hurried through the Burggaten, past the Mozart statue and started to explore the impressive Hofburg Imperial Palace. This building was orginally a medieval castle and was then transformed by the Hapsburgs into a magnificent residence. You could spend a whole day just exploring here but the highlights include Schatzkammer (the treasury), Spanish Riding School (Spanische Hofreitschule) & Sisi Museum, & the Butterfly & Palm house.

Other highlights in our hurried tour of the city were: enourmous goldfish in the Volksgarten pond plus excellent wine and snacks at the Naschmarkt food market & restaurants. Others recommended: Schönbrunn Palace, St. Stephen's Cathedral (Stephansdom), & State Opera House (Staatsoper), but we'll have to do those next time. It's quite a large city but has excellent transport links so for future visits we would definitely try a Vienna Card which gives unlimited transport on the underground, tram & bus system. I think it costs around 20 Euros.

No time for an overnight stay in Vienna... so back in the car - HEADLIGHTS ON - and off towards the Slovakian border. Just a short hop and soon we entering the capital city of Bratislava.

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Day 4 - Salzburg

It's well under 100 miles from Munich to Salzburg (just over the Austrian border) and whether you take the motorway or even prettier back routes, it's a stunning drive. In this part of the Alps you are passing not far from the famous Tirol ski areas such as Kitzbuel, but in springtime the mountains are starting their transition from white to fabulous colour.

Salzburg also does not disappoint. Easily my favourite stop so far... a charming town nestled in the hills with the warm and friendly atmosphere that always seems so prevalent in Austria. First stop was to drop our bags at the NH Hotel and then off into town... but it wasn't long before we are tempted by a bar with outdoor tables. Chilled Austrian lager, gorgeous sunshine & crisp clean air... it can't get much better than that!

Suitably recharged, we then made the walk up to The fortress Hohensalzburg which is on a hill overlooking the old town. It's one of the largest castles in Europe but the real bonus is the beautiful views over the old town and the Salzach river snaking through it. You can even take a cable car up if you don't fancy the walk!

The centre of town is equally impressive and of course features many tributes to its most famous son, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Other sites we enjoyed included: Salzburg Cathedral, Franziskanerchurch, St.Peter cemetery & The Nonnberg Abbey.

Indeed, by the end of the day we were well and truly bushed with all the walking and so welcomed the fantastic meal we had at one of the local pub eateries. Fantastic local food at takeway prices... a few of these back in the UK and the "gastro" pubs would soon be in trouble.

We will sooo be coming back to Salzburg. I think quite a few ski holidays fly into Salzburg but I'm guessing most people just pass through which is a real shame cos it's a beaut. Designated a World Heritage Site in 1996, all in all Mozart was very lucky to have Salzburg as his birthplace.

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