Today, we are traveling to Linz, Austria as a stop off point on route to Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic. We had heard so many wonderful things about this Czech town, we finally gave and decided to see for ourselves if it is as fabulous as we have been led to believe. Getting there is not easy from here, but the easiest way is to go to Linz first and then to Cesky. Many go there after having first been to Prague.
We will spend two nights in Linz, then two more in Cesky, with one final night in Linz on the way back to break up the trip and return on Halloween. As I was getting my toiletries together, I had concerns about the saline solution for my contacts thinking of restrictions of liquids, then it dawned on me, we were taking the train. No restrictions, no hassles, no bother. The station we leave from is only one metro stop from us or one stop on the express bus. Keleti station, here we come.
We had a full compartment all to ourselves. We were the only reservation until after we made it to our destination. Six seats to sprawl out on was a luxury and no budget airlines to fiddle with. There are none that go this route anyway. Tickets with reservations cost us $180. round trip. The trip was five hours going through Vienna, but with books in hand, it was not a hardship. I was reading “The Memory Keeper’s Daughter”, so engrossing the miles flew by with little uninterrupted naps along the way.
Linz is the capital of the Austrian federal state “Upper Austria”, and located on the Danube river in the Eastern part of the province. Having a population of 190,000 people as well as the reputation for being an industrial city, in the last few years Linz has tried to rid itself of that image. The city improved its cultural and tourist attractions to add to its tourist base so more people would choose Linz as a destination for a short city trip or during their holiday time in Austria. In 2009, it will be a “European Capital of Culture” together with the Lithuanian capital Vilnius.
The Linz train station is a modern affair with lots of shops and bakeries galore. As soon as we arrived, the Tourism office is our first stop. We purchase 2 Linz cards for 20 Euros each. This turned out to be a good bet. It entitles you to:
- entrance to all 12 museums in the city
- a one day transportation pass
- 10 Euro discount at 40 different participating restaurants
- a trip on the Linz “City Express”
- a free postcard
- a free Postlingberg adventure ticket
- entrance to the zoo
- entrance to the Grotto Railroad
- free entry to the botanical gardens
- other vouchers for discounts
They are smart in not making time limited like many cities do. The discounts are all good until the end of the year. Now it was up to us to make this a value deal by getting our 20 Euros worth for each of us.
We booked the Ibis Hotel for 70 Euros a night, which was conveniently across the street from the station. After dumping our things in the room, we headed out to explore the city. Strangely though, it was only 3pm by this point, but all of the stores were closed. The signs on the doors showed they were to be open until 5 or 6pm, but yet they were shut tight and dark. When all else fails, go for a coffee. We found the ‘Original’ home of the Linzer torte, making an early rest stop a necessity. Not a Sacher torte by a long shot, we could not figure out why this torte ever gained in popularity. It was like eating cake sand with the jam between layers getting overruled by the rest of the confection’s blandness.
The afternoon was spent walking and looking at the sights from the outside. Most of the city was dead still. In the main square, there was a demonstration, which by judging from the crowd, was mostly Islamic. We found a second tour office and discovered that today was a national holiday celebrating the day the last troops left Austria in 1955 after having been occupied since WWII.
There is no denying this is a Catholic country. Religious monuments are all over the city.
For our dining pleasure, we came across a fun pub/restaurant called Josef (www.josef.co.at). They took our voucher for 10 Euros each. We were convinced by the waiter to try the Austrian sampler platter, which was typical Upper Austrian food dishes. The pork slices were the size of my hand, the doughy balls had bacon cracklings inside them, the bread balls were not very flavorful, and I passed on the blood sausage completely. With a large beer, it was 9 Euro for both of us after our coupon.