It was my mum's birthday a few weeks ago so my dad took us to Vienna and Salzburg for five days - two places we were desperate to visit as we're a family of music-lovers.
^ In the Saltzburg food market near the Mirabelle palace gardens (which was where the steps were for a dancing scene in The Sound of Music)
Things you kind of have to do when in Vienna/Salzburg:
1. Visit the Haus der Musik - it's this amazing music museum, but before you rule this out thinking it's some kind of library with histories of composers and old manuscripts to observe (like I thought it would be), it was actually really different and had an interesting focus on sound in general, like the science of sound and how we interpret it. Loads of the rooms were filled with interactive activities involving pitch, frequency, tone and layering different sounds and the weird thing was that it wasn't even music like we know it - the sounds they used were completely random eg. the sound of writing, building works or the everyday street sounds in different cities (I just made this look so boring but I promise you it wasn't.
2. Visit the Winter and Summer palaces because the state rooms are beautiful and you actually learn a lot about the aristocracy of Mozart's time i.e late 1700s, which was actually much more interesting than I anticipated (coming from someone who generally finds history before 1800 dull and irrelevant)
3. Go to the state opera house; the inside of it is so ornate that it's worth going even if you're not seeing an opera (we were lucky enough to see Don Giovanni (Mozart) on our last night, although we had to bargain with the dodgy last-minute ticket sellers outside the building who were pretty drunk, smoking heavily and speaking total nonsense in broken English, which was stressful (worth it though)
4. Go on the ferris wheel that overlooks the whole of Vienna. It's really special - we went at night but I think during the day would be amazing as well. Apparently you can even have a 4 course dinner in your own private car if you're a millionaire (thumbs up)
5. The Leopold Museum and the Vienna Modern Art Museum are always there with various different exhibitions (we went to the Leopold and saw some Schiele and a bit of Klimt which was the well-known thing in the area)
1. Visit the Mozart houses (there's his childhood home and then one from his later years). They are quite touristy but you kind of have to if you're in his home town..
2. Go cycling along the Danube because why not
3. Climb up to the medieval fortress and view the whole of the city from above (the fortress itself is a bit dull, but the view is absolutely amazing)
4. Visit one of the traditional coffee houses - the coffee in Salzburg/Vienna is 100x better than in London, as much as we all love Starbucks ;) Also, the specialities in both towns are schnitzel and apple strudel (both mentioned in These are a few of my Favourite Things) which are both delicious so that's pretty compulsory.
A view of Hvar marina from the ancient castle above
Last week my family, as well as the family of one of my best friends, was part of a large flotilla (group of boats) on a sailing route around some of the Croatian islands. Being enthusiastic but amateur sailors, we weren't quite ready to take such a big (53-foot) Sunsail yacht into our own hands, so we hired a young skipper to help. This unfortunately meant that I learned literally nothing new about any of the procedures of the boat (I can tie a bowline knot, hook on a fender and that's about it) however it did give me loads of time - in between numerous swims and a lot of reading - to take photos.
Almost all of these are from the island of Hvar, as that one was my favourite and by far the most picturesque, but a couple are from a village called Trogir which I also really liked.
The cobbled streets (which reminded me a little of Italy):
An adorable street market:
I would absolutely recommend Croatia as a summer destination for people like me who always go to the same places on a loop (Italy, Greece, France etc.) and are looking for somewhere new, but not too expensive and exotic as that can be quite overwhelming. It's similar enough to Italy and Greece that you'll feel at home, but different enough (especially the language, which sounds to me like a mixture of Polish and Russian) that you get a bit of fresh change as well which can be interesting.
I can very safely say that every single Croatian we encountered did everything they could to make our vacation as comfortable and easy as possible - some people going very much out of their way to help (for example, one night I carelessly left my sunglasses in a taxi, and not only did the driver fish them out from wedged underneath the seats, he came all the way back to where he had dropped us to return them to me without protesting or asking for any money in return).
The food there is sort of a cross between Greek taverna food and Italian food, mainly veering towards Italian; very pizza-pasta-gelato dominated (the pizzas there are great). Obviously as we were mostly on the coasts of islands and in fishing marinas, fresh seafood took up a big chunk of the menus as well. They had some specialities, but not that well advertised, so we didn't get the chance to try any.
As for the sailing, we'd been going to Greece and Turkey as obvious sailing hotspots in previous years, so weren't too sure if Croatia would match up. Actually I thought it was even better than both - a lot windier which obviously was a plus. It was also noticeably hotter and more humid (good for those who love mediterranean weather - I don't), but maybe that's just because of the season we went in. You don't really notice the heat when you're out on the water though.