Via Ferrata in Switzerland

During our first trip to Switzerland, we learned about Via Ferratas from Jen's cousin, Shannon. Unfortunately, it was too cold and late in the season for us to go. 

Since the weather was really nice this time, Shannon offered to take us and it was SO worth it!  

A Via Ferrata is a route making method to make passage easier and more secure. It’s done by a installing steel steps, handles, ladder rungs, and a steel cable in places where the trail steepens. Now, they are used for adventure seeker trying to explore the mountains in a different way.

We woke up early morning to meet up with Shannon and her boyfriend, Oleg.  We drove for about 2 hours and took 2 cable cars up the mountain to Murren where we had lunch in a plaza overlooking the valley.

After lunch, Oleg left us to go paragliding while we went to rent equipment for the Via Ferrata.  

Here are some interesting facts: 
 - Length: 2.2 km
 - Starts in Murren, 1670m above the valley
 - Ends in Gimmelwald, 1370m above the valley
 - Length of the Nepal bridge: 80m

One unique thing about this particular Via Ferrata is that it actually descends about 300m to the end point, whereas via ferratas typically ascend to their end location.  

Here are some of the views along the way

Part way through, we encountered 3 base jumpers just as they were preparing to leap from a base jumping platform.  

Our group was attached to the mountain with thick metal ropes and we felt super nervous just walking out to look over the platform!!  It was just incredibly crazy to actually see people leaping off the edge without any hesitation!

After a couple of hours we finished and met up with Oleg in Gimmewald. We then walked through the valley soaking in more amazing views before going for dinner at Shannon’s and Oleg’s favourite burger joint in Interlaken (Hüsi Bierhaus).

We spent the entire day amazed at the non-stop breathtaking views.  It's such a beautiful country and we had such a great time!   

Many thanks to Shannon and Oleg for being our guides on such a fun and awesome adventure!!

Science Fiction Party

While in Sri Lanka, we met up with our Swiss friends, Fabian and Iris, and they invited us to their place for another epic Iris Party - Episode 2. The moment Dom heard the theme for her birthday party was "Science Fiction", the tickets were booked.. in fact, thinking back, maybe they didn't invite us.. maybe Dom actually invited himself :P. 

Finding a costume for a party when you're not in your hometown is tricky. Different costume ideas crossed our minds (Dom was originally thinking of going has Optimus Prime!), but after considering our limited time to finding the perfect materials and put it all together, we both decided to go as Jawas. 



A lot of fun went into preparing for the party:

We also met one of Fabian’s friend Michael (dressed as a character from Men in Black) who had just released this cool new music video: 


Balassagyarmat

From Bratislava, we took a train to Vác where Krisztina picked us up for a quick visit with her and the kids.

We went out to a local festival to watch some live music and eat cotton candy.

We took a ferry to Visegrád where we rode the bobsled, had a delicious fried fish picnic, ate more cotton candy, and hiked up to the top of the hill for a beautiful view.

On the last night, we taught Bogi how to make her own pizzas :)

Many thanks to Krisztina for taking time out of her very busy schedule and treating us to such a lovely weekend!

Bratislava

Although the arranged bike tour ended in Vienna, we had originally planned to continue on our own to Bratislava, Slovakia.  However, once reaching Vienna, we changed our minds and opted to spend some extra time visiting Vienna before leaving on a late afternoon train. 

We had no idea what to expect in Bratislava and we were pleasantly surprised!  It has a really nice historical centre and we were blown away at how good the food was - very rich, but so delicious!! 

Dom’s favourite dish was Bryndzové Halušky - a gnocchi-like potato dumpling with a sheep cheese and sour cream sauce and fried bacon on top.  Jen liked the Zemiakové placky (potato pancake fried in oil) and the Svickova na Smetane (a typical Czech dish with pork tenderloin and a creamy white sauce).


After all that biking, we were really happy to treat ourselves and fill our bellies with so much yummy food!


Krems to Vienna (Day 7 & 8)

Day 7: Krems to Vienna

So far we had been lucky with the weather; other than a few clouds, mother nature had spared us from the rain. 
For our last day, we thought our luck had ended as we awoke to dark skies and rain. Fortunately, we had to do a 40 minutes train ride before doing the last leg of our trip and what do you know, by the time the train reached our destination, the rain had stopped!! 

Near the end of our last ride, we stopped for a picnic in a park just before entering Vienna.  We checked into our hotel and explored the Austrian capital on foot while indulging in some delicious local treats like apple strudel and coffee with Chantilly cream!

All of Vienna's pedestrian signs come in every variety!

After a good night sleep we said goodbye to Jen’s dad and Lloyd. They were off to Budapest for a couple of nights before meeting up with their wives in Rome, while we had plans to continue on to Bratislava, Slovakia.

Marbach to Krems (Day 6)

Day 6: Marbach to Krems (~50km)

Today was all about wine and Richard the Lionheart. 

We entered the Austrian wine country and passed through several vineyards. Every small town had signs filled with arrows pointing to the nearby vineyards and wine shops.  

Our tour included free samples of schnapps and 4 bottles of wine that we picked up along the way.  The schnapps tasting was so good that we couldn't resist buying a couple of small bottles of the apricot and cherry schnapps to take home. :) 

We then climbed the cliff in Durkstein to the Castle where Richard the Lionheart was imprisoned on his way back from the crusade. What remains are mostly ruins, but the view of the wine region from up there was fantastic!

We finally arrived at our hotel in Krems where we enjoyed some of our wine and schnapps before wandering around town and grabbing dinner.

Bad Kreuzen to Marbach (Day 5)

Day 5: Bad Kreuzen to Marbach (~40km)

As we finished up breakfast, we heard a fanfare playing outside our hotel. We started preparing our bikes in front of the hotel and 5 minutes later the entire town passed in front of us dressed in traditional attire. We were told that it was the Ernkdankfest (Celebration of Harvest). 

The first part of today's ride was super fun and easy.  We zipped downhill through rolling fields for about 6 km to get back down to the Danube River. Then it was a short ~34 km to our hotel. 

We arrived at our hotel fairly early and had the option to climb up to the Maria Taferl, a local basilica that is a popular pilgrimage destination.  Just as we finished lunch and got ready to climb to the church, it started to rain... so bakery treats and an afternoon nap became too tempting to resist.  We tried a local drink called "Sturm" which is a young semi-fermented wine.  It was sweet, fruity, and delicious!

Linz to Bad Kreuzen (Day 4)

Day 4: Linz to Bad Kreuzen (~60km)

We left early so we could have time to visit the Mauthausen Concentration camp, which sits atop a huge steep hill. We spent about 1.5 hours visiting the site and listening to the audio guide which talked about many interesting yet horrible stories of what happened there.  Mauthausen was chosen as one of the larger concetration camps because it was nearby a granite quarry, so prisoners were used as slave labourer who were starved and worked to death.  They were made to repeatedly carry large 25kg granite stones up 186 stairs until they were so exhausted that they would simply fall down the stairs to their death, taking those who were following close behind, along with them. 
After the tour, we then hopped on our little bikes and zipped back down the hill.  From here we rode through various farms including pumpkin/canola/corn fields, and apple/pear orchards. 

We also lost David and Lloyd on the way!  Thanks to Sharon's careful planning to ensure we were all equipped with Zello, a walkie-talkie app, and Freedompop Global SIM cards with free data, we were able to communicate our locations to find each other again about 30 minutes later :).

Since we arrived at our pickup location an hour early, we treated ourselves to a nice ice cream treat!

Wesenufer to Linz (Day 3)

After a big buffet breakfast we headed out for our longest biking day. 12 km later, we arrived at the Schlögener Schlinge, the area along the Danube where the river actually loops back on itself.  So we parked the bikes and climbed 30 minutes up to the lookout point to see the famous view.

From there, we continued along the river, taking a couple of ferries whenever the pathway switched to the other river bank.

After 70km (total), we finally arrived in Linz. It was a long day, but we were happy (and exhausted!).

Passau to Wesenufer (Day 1 and 2)

We boarded the Dusseldorf train at 20:30 and settled in for a good overnight-train-sleep to Passau, Germany.  We arrived in Passau at around 5:30am and met up with Jen’s dad, David, and his friend, Lloyd, at the hotel.  

Our 8-day adventure crossing Austria along the Danube River, with our little folding Brompton bikes, was about to begin!


Day 1: Passau
While David and Lloyd went to pick up the bike tour packages and bikes, we tried to get a bit more rest before heading into town for a stroll and visit.

Day 2: Passau to Wesenufer (~35 km)
Our first day biking was short.  We left at 11am and rode down to the Danube River to begin our journey.  At the edge of town, we stopped to hike up the cliff facing Passau to get a view of the city and a glimpse of the castle.

Along the way, we stopped at Engelszell Abbey, a Trappist Monastery where they make beer and liqueurs.  We bought some sample sizes to bring home as souvenirs.

We spent our second night near Wesenufer, Austria, at a really nice hotel-spa called Gasthof-Pension Luger.  The rooms were super fancy/nice (compared to the way we usually travel), and the food at the restaurant was delicious!