Hallstatt by Those Fancy Gems


Hallstatt was a place that we have swooned over and over while researching for the trip. It was this extremely unreal looking alpine town, tucked away amongst the mountains. And having the thought to take a ferry across the lake to get access to it - that in itself was enough to make us fall head over heels for this magical little township. 

Getting there

Imagining it to be unreal and finally being there felt surreal. We took a bus from Salzburg to Bad Ischl and then a train from Bad Ischl to Hallstatt.
Tip: The train ride is very scenic so remember to sit on your right side!


What was facing us while on the ferry was an amazing view of houses (those kind that we draw as kids!), a tall clock tower of sorts, very clear blue waters, with the Dachstein in the background. The Dachstein was even snow capped!

The water was extremely still when there were no ferries on it, and the reflection of what's on land was almost exactly the same image in the water. 

We decided to spend a night in Hallstatt as it was on the way to our next stop the following day, Graz. Instead of rushing, we took it slow and stayed a night. The day was spent exploring the 'city center', but really it was not a city because of how small it was! There are only 700 odd people living there, and its 'center' consists of many hotels and probably 1 expensive restaurants and 2 middle range ones. It was extremely surprising that alot of shops and restaurants/ eateries were not open. I had a daunting moment thinking we might have to starve! Even the supermarkets opens at 9am-12pm, and closes from 12pm, and only reopens back from 3pm-6pm! Perhaps the traffic is really very low and there is just no point to be open for business for a full day. 


Things to do

By the time we arrived in Hallstatt it was already mid-day, so we decided to soak in whatever Hallstatt had for us, walking along the lake. There were many little lookout points and pontoons as opportunity for some scenic photographs.

There are obviously other things like the Bone House, or Catholic Parish Church to visit, but even if you don't, its really ok! I thought it was quite enjoyable just getting lost in the beauty of the town, walking through different lanes and admiring the houses, the colours, and the stillness. 

We did however took up the challenge to hike up to the salt mine early the next day. The hike took about 1 hour, with our pace being quite slow and leisure. On other days a furnicular runs from the foot to the top however it was closed when we were there. The hike was good in a way because it was extremely informative on what kind of ancient and medieval methods were use to retrieve salt from the mine. It was also accompanied by the ever changing view of the lake from above, as the fog moved in and out, and the lake and mountains seemingly playing hide and seek with us. 

The view on the observation deck was V-shaped, and perched over the mountain, sticking out and hovering above the town Hallstatt. There are just no other words. I just have to re-iterate again, it's breathtaking and beautiful and truly stellar.

Follow Min and Kiat to Hallstatt by Those Fancy Gems

A slice of Salzburg to try - Mozart Balls by Those Fancy Gems

It is hard to unlink Mozart from Salzburg, as this city is the birth place of the famed child prodigy. He also lived for quite a number of years in this Salt Fortress. Mozart had definitely been used as a marketing tool to attract some 8 million visitors yearly, from all over the world to drop by to discover Salzburg's charm. 

We spotted many souvenir shops in the old town, Alter Markt, which were selling these chocolate balls with mozart’s face printed on their red aluminium packaging. What exactly was it? 

These Mozartkugeln, or rather Mozart balls (it seems more fun to say it this way ;) ), was first created by Paul Fürst, a confectionary, in 1890, and was named after Mozart. They are quite small and the main ingredients consists of marzipan, nougat and dark chocolate. The original Mozartkugel can be found at Cafe Fürst and 3 other specialty stores in Salzburg, while many other companies and manufacturers have various other similar recipes. Such other brand names are Mirabell and Reber, which you can find in absolutely every other souvenir shop littered on the streets of the old town. 

We decided to check out the original Fürst cafe, which the first Mozartkugel was made, located at Alter Markt branch. It is in the heart of the old town and features a nice Austrian kaffeehaus setting.

Unsure about the taste and also the hefty price for a single ball, we decided once again to share just 1 ball first. We also had some tea to warm ourselves up as well as a strawberry cake to share. 

Indeed, the original Mozartkugel does live up to its name of being the best. Since it is made of dark chocolate, the marzipan which I assumed to be extremely sweet, was in fact toned down by the dark chocolate. It was so great we decided to buy 3 more before leaving to take with us on the train to Hallstatt the next day.

After trying the original, we were really curious whether the Mirabell ones which we have seen everywhere tasted similar to Fürst's Mozart balls, or what was the difference. Curiosity killed the cat. We purchased a single ball by Mirabell from one of those souvenier shops and shared amongst ourselves. It was actually pretty good I must say, very different and much sweeter. But since we had both balls one after another and the taste was still fresh in our mouths, Cafe Fürst wins hands down due to it being not overly sweet. 

Other than Mozartkugelns, Cafe Fürst also sells a number of other truffles as well as traditional cakes. The Mozart balls could cost a little more than others, but I don't see why they can't be edible souveniers of Salzburg to take away for friends and family!

1 Mozartkugeln - €1,10

Café Konditorei Fürst - Alter Markt | Alter Markt, Brodgasse 13, 5020 Salzburg | Summer Opening: Mon-Sat 0800h - 2100, Sun 0900 - 2100 | Winter Opening: Mon-Sat 0800 - 2000, Sun 0900 - 2000

Other locations: Cafe Konditorei Fürst - MirabellplatzCafé Konditorei Fürst - RitzerbogenCafé Konditorei Fürst - Getreidegasse

A day (or two) in Salzburgerland by Those Fancy Gems

I have always only recognised Salzburg as the birthplace of Mozart, having attended piano lessons since I was a kid. It was not until we arrived in Salzburg did we realise it was not just about Mozart, but also a lot about the movie Sound of Music - think 'Do, a deer, a female deer'...

Many people - or rather just the tourists - relate to Salzburg with the Sound of Music movie. I have never watched it, but have heard of the songs and the brief storyline. The hostel we stayed in, YoHo international youth hostel, plays the movie every night in the common room for all their guest to watch. And that was when I caught it. The movie was shot in Salzburg and features the beauty of the Austrian Alps, with Julie Andrews singing on the mountains and running through gardens of flowers or rowing a boat. I am sure the Austrians themselves are so sick of people relating this movie to this city already!



Do you recognise this meme? If you do, you'll probably be taking some interest in the Sound of Music, and perhaps Salzburg. Yes, that is Julie Andrews running on the hills and singing "The hills are alive with the sound of music" at the opening of the movie. This meme had taken the internet by storm, but I think many do not know it's origins!

Though bombarded with all things Sound of Music and Mozart, one thing they have in common is that they are all music related, which makes Salzburg even more delightful. 

Salzburg is pretty small in a sense, and its old town and nearby surrounds could be explored within a day or two. Here's 5 things we did in our short stay in this pleasant city. 

1. Admire the Mirabellgarten

Staying at YoHo youth hostel, which is located on the opposite side of the old town separated by the Salzach river, allowed us to take a slow walk through the Mirabellgarten over to the bridge to get to the town. As we were there in Winter, there were flowers regardless but were not in full bloom.   

The Mirabellgarten is part of the Mirabell Palace, a large palace of baroque architecture. The gardens was opened to the public by Emperor Franz Joseph in 1854. The current palace is office of the mayor of Salzburg and municipal council. 

The walk across the river also allowed us to admire the Festung Hohensalzburg Fortress towering over the old town, as well as the view of some of their architecture from afar.

2. learn more about Salzburg at the DomQuartier 

The DomQuartier ticket is a combined ticket to get into several venues like the Palace, the Salzburg Museum, and the Salzburg Cathedral. The museum paints a good picture of the archbishops and bishops who ruled the land. Its ruling system was quite different from the one in Vienna. I always get super in awe in palaces, thinking about how much effort is put in to sculpt all those facades using tools from the past which were definitely less efficient.

A bird's eye view of the Christmas market could be seen from the 2nd level of the DomQuartier that links to the Salzburg Cathedral.  

3. Have a panoramic view of the city from the Festung Hohensalzburg

Take the funicular or take a slow hike upslope to get to the Festung Hohensalzburg. As the fortress is perched on a hill, it offers a fantastic view of the city. Who doesn't like a panoramic view? I can never get sick of it! The castle is one of the largest medieval castles in Europe. Its size grew as different rulers took over the compounds and added on as they passed on their reigns. It was most recently used as a prison in World War I in the 1930s, despite being refurbished in 1892 to welcome visitors and being a major attraction. It is still, now, a huge tourist attraction, and I can totally see why. 

4. Visit Mozart's Birthplace & Residence 

Though a touristy location, it is a fantastic place to learn more about Mozart and his family. Even if you are not the least interested in music, take a look at the vintage instrument, pen and parchment paper he used in the past. These two places are at different locations. The Mozart family moved to the residence across the river when the place at Getreidegasse became too small for their family. 

Be sure to  have fun with the Mozart Cam at the Mozart residence and superimpose your face to become Mozart too ;) We had so much fun there and could not contain our laughter as we looked so ridiculous. 

5. Take the Untersbergbahn to Untersberg 

Untersberg is located a short 20 minutes bus ride away from Salzburg's old town and sure is a popular side trip. Due to its close proximity and the fact that we bought the Salzburg card, we wanted to maximise the use of the card and also experience some snow (hopefully!). Up the gondola, we were greeted with a view of the nearby Rositten Valley and other mountains. The view was very inviting, very sound-of-music-esque. My sister and I were secreting wishing for snowfall.. and I guess you've got to believe to get what you want. Upon stepping out of the gondola, light waves of snow that were like cotton candy, fell and littered the ground. It soon covered the whole mountain with a blanket of white and was absolutely gorgeous. I attempted to make a snow angel, we built some snowmen, and just soaked in the atmosphere. Since we got really excited, it wasn't that cold for us at the end. In fact, I think we overdressed and soon started taking off our layers. 

If one is up for adventure, you could even hike up. We chose to spend an hour or two up in the mountain to enjoy the snow. It was our first snowfall since we stepped foot in Europe, the 22nd day of our trip. 

I think that even though Salzburg is small, I like it very much and even much more than its big sister Vienna. Salzburg is like the goody-two-shoes of a person who does everything right - It has a bewitching atmosphere, produced a child prodigy, every nook and cranny in the town looks so very perfect, it is cool and has the mountains as a backdrop, displaying a postcard-eque view standing from anywhere in the city. I hope to be travelling outwards to do more activities in future. 

See you again soon, Salzburg. 


Mirabell Palace and Gardens | Mirabellplatz, 5020 Salzburg | Gardens opens daily dawn to dusk

DomQuartier Salzburg | Residenzplatz 1/Domplatz 1a, 5020 Salzburg | Daily Wed-Mon: 1000 - 1700 (last entrance 4 pm), July & August daily: 1000 - 1700, Wed 1000 - 2000 

Festung Hohensalzburg | Mönchsberg 34, 5020 Salzburg | Jan-Apr & Oct-Dec: 0930 - 1700, May-Sep: 0900 - 1900

Mozart's Birthplace | Getreidegasse 9, 5020 Salzburg | Daily 0900 - 1730, July & August daily 0800 - 1900, last entrance 30 min before closing 

Mozarts Wohnhaus | Makartplatz 8 5020 Salzburg | Daily 0900 - 1730, July & August daily 0830 - 1900, last entrance 30 min before closing 

Untersberg | Dr.-Friedrich-Oedl-Weg 2, 5083 Gartenau | May/Jun/Oct: 0830 - 1700, Jul & Sep 0830 - 1730, last ascent 30 min before | Take bus 25, 28 or 840 from main train station and alight at the last stop to take the Untersberg


YoHo International Youth Hostel | Paracelsusstrasse 9, 5020 Salzburg, Austria | +43 (0)662 879-649 | | €19-29 per night | One of the few hostels in Salzburg. Breakfast buffet at €3.50 per pax. 


Get the Salzburg Card if you are looking to visit most attractions, like the DomQuartier Museum. It also includes the ride up the Festung Hohensalzburg's funicular as well as Untersbergbahn. 2 ways on the funicular was already €20, the 48hour card costs €31.

Why you must try THE original Sacher torte at Cafe Sacher Wien by Those Fancy Gems

Doesn't the Sacher Torte just look so palatable?

My first impressions of the cake was that it looked way too chocolatey albeit palatable - the kind of thick chocolatey goodness that may be so thick it'd cause me to have a sore throat upon swallowing a mouthful. I have the tendency to link my thoughts to a sore throat whenever a certain dish seems thick, dry and gooey, just like the likes of thick ganache and peanut butter.

That aside, the torte itself fashioned an even coating of chocolate icing on it's exterior. It is in a nutshell, two layers of soft fluffy chocolate cake with apricot jam sandwiched in between. 

I had a first bite and I was blown away. I instantly knew why this torte is such a big hoo-haa!

It was that soft fluffiness despite it's looks (yes, never judge a book by it's cover!). Anything that looks too chocolatey also always seem like it'll be too sweet. Fortunately for me, it wasn't too sweet nor bland, and I thoroughly enjoyed it - accompanied by a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream and a cup of tea, it was the perfect sweet ending. 

The Sacher torte (pronounced as Sacker) was created by Franz Sacher in the 1800s for the Prince Wenzel von Metternich in Vienna. It is served in Hotel Sacher in present day - the Hotel which was opened by Sacher's son Eduard, in 1876. This torte stayed the same way, made in the same way, since Eduard himself perfected his father's recipe. 

What makes the torte so special was arguably not the cake itself, but the chocolate icing. It was said that the chocolate used are three different chocolates, produced exclusively for the production of the Sacher Torte. It is amazing how much effort goes into this signature cake, and it is no wonder it is able to withstand the test of time, and still remain a Viennese specialty. 

Here is a little on our experience there, with nothing to do with the torte. 

It was an abrupt decision to visit Hotel Sacher cafe, to try out the Sacher Torte. It was yet another rainy evening (damn these winter temperament!). Many people were queueing to get in. Be prepared to wait for about 10-15 mins at the later hours of the evening, say about 8pm-ish, as everyone has had their dinner and are making their way to get desserts. Also, we were unaware of the tradition of having to put our coats in a coat room and having to pay for it - a little bit of a culture shock there because it seemed like a compulsory thing to do even though we did not require such service. I later understood that perhaps our coat may dirty the seats, or wet them in this case, as we just came from the rain from the outside. 

We were already shocked from the fare from the coat room, what happened next was totally unexpected. 

Our cake and tea arrived and we were busy photographing it like typical Asians, feeling that tinge of excitement to give the torte a try. My sister felt a cold sensation on the underside of her thigh. No, she did not pee in her pants or anything like that. There was a gooey mess of yellow and blue on the seat - that of what seemed like the remnants of someone who did not know how to eat properly - and my sister had conveniently sat down on the exact spot without noticing it due to the fanciful fabric on the seat, and the juice or whatever moisture left it the cake seeped through her pants. Not nice. That was shock number 2. 

It was a frustrating moment for my sister to have her pants soiled with cake as we were backpacking and each only had 2 pair of pants (wear one bring one). The staff whom we approached to talk about this seemed a little flustered at the start, as the cafe was just packed with customers and he could not even stop to talk to us. Then came the manager who very kindly heard us out, though she looked doubtful at the start. She offered laundry services to us, but we were unable to accept her kind offer due to us leaving the next day. Instead, the bill was on the house, and also tons more apologies from herself. 

P/S: Of course I'm not writing this to inform others on ways to be able to get a free meal in the cafe. It is just one of those interesting experiences that we collected during our trip that I think was worth sharing.

Other than our interesting experience, I would have to say that the Sacher Torte is definitely worth a try. The interior is beautiful like all the other Viennese coffee house. It is highly raved but also highly loved and rated. My story is just a part of our experience; don't shy away from this cafe as it is THE place for Sacher Torte. They have other branches in other parts of Austria too (Innsbruck, Salzburg and Graz), but the one in Vienna is the birth place of this torte. So if your geographic location permits, go to this one!

Fun fact: The Sacher torte is so famous, it has its own day dedicated to it - 5 December.

Hotel Sacher (Sacher Cafe Wien) | Philharmonikerstraße No. 4, Innere Stadt, Vienna, Austria | Opens daily 0800-0000