Salzburg, Twice

Why twice? Because once wasn’t enough!

We first passed through Salzburg, Austria, several weeks ago when we were on our way to Berlin, because Salzburg is the closest airport to Passau. I didn’t know much about what to see in Salzburg besides The Sound of Music tours, but I was delighted to discover that there were a lot of things that were great for family travelers.

Here are my top 5:

  1. The Sound of Music Tour

Did we do the Sound of Music tour? Of course we did! There are a dizzying number of options to choose from, most of which involve large busses, large groups of people, and four to five hours of the day. Knowing Hugo wouldn’t have the patience for something like that, we opted for a shorter, private tour on a bicycle rickshaw through Rikscha Tours.

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A quick pic with our driver Leo

Hugo wore a similarly dour expression on his first becak ride in Indonesia last year.

Our driver Leo took us around the old city, giving us bits of local history as well as pointing out various filming locations for The Sound of Music.

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This fountain makes a brief appearance in “I Have Confidence”

 

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Do-Re-Mi! It’s Mirabell Garden!

 

If you’re in Salzburg with small children, I definitely recommend the bicycle rickshaw tour. It’s much shorter than the standard Sound of Music tour, but you still get to see a lot of great places around the old city. If you’re a real fan of the movie and want to see all you can, then opt for one of the extended tours that can also take you to the filming locations outside of the city, such as the gazebo from “Sixteen Going On Seventeen.”

2. Hohensalzburg Fortress

Hohensalzburg Fortress sits atop a hill overlooking Salzburg, serving as an easy landmark when orienting yourself in the old city.

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Hohensalzburg Fortress and the Alps visible from our apartment during one of our visits to Salzburg

The fortress is more than 900 years old, and is one of the best preserved castle complexes in central Europe. It is easily accessible either by a walking path, or by a short funicular train ride.

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The view of Salzburg from the lookout tower

We spent a fun morningwandering around the castle and museum.

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Would you like to try your hand at cooking in this kitchen?

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Of course the gift shop full of armor and weaponry was a big hit

3. Haus Dur Natur: The Salzburg Natural History Museum

This museum includes interactive science exhibits, an aquarium, and a reptile zoo.

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We spent a lot of time in the aquarium, as you can imagine. This fish is called a Lookdown, a name which fits its disapproving expression.

This museum is huge. You can spend hours here just wandering through all the exhibits.

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The space expoloration room

There were multilingual touchscreen guides throughout the museum, so everything was very accessible even for non-German speakers.

Find the website and visitor information here.

4. Toy Museum

Remember how it was raining all the time in Passau? Well, the rains followed us to Salzburg (despite the sunshine in some of those other photos), and the Toy Museum is a fun place to go when you need to stay indoors.

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Junior railroad conductor

We got there when it first opened and it was pretty much empty. There are complicated marble runs, model trains, giant slides…lots of hands-on fun for kids.

Find the website and visitor information here.

5. Mirabell Gardens Playground, Home Of The Most Spectacular Slide In The World

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Here it is, in all its glory

Where is this most amazing structure? It’s in Mirabell Gardens, just around the corner from the more popular area of the park where the Do-Re-Mi song was filmed.

To get to the top you have to navigate a series of ladders and platforms, then get ready for the white knuckle ride to the bottom! There are other things in thie playground, but this giant tunnel slide is what brought us back, day after day.

In fact, Mirabell is full of little hidden gems, so don’t be afraid to wander away from the tour group or go back later to see the parts you may have missed.

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Goofing off with the gnomes

 

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Sea Life Berlin (or, Berlin, you are no Bangkok)

If you know my son, you know he loves sea creatures. He may be in an insect phase at the moment, but the underwater world is his first and deepest love.

As luck would have it, Sea Life Berlin is within walking distance of my brother-in-law’s house. I’m familiar with the Sea Life aquarium brand from our breathtaking trip to Bangkok Sea Life Ocean World last year, which was the most spectacular aquarium I’ve ever visited. Seriously, click through and look at our photos from last year. That place is amazing.

Compared to Bangkok, Berlin was just kind of…meh.

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Sure, there were some weird things…

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and some close encounters…

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and some things lurking in the deep…

…but none of the drama and majesty of the Bangkok experience.

The highlight, though, was the AquaDom, the largest freestanding cylindrical aquarium in the world. It holds a million liters of water, 1,500 fish, and is 25 meters tall.

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Photo credit: By Dellex – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7511724

More than just a huge fish tank, there is a built-in transparent elevator in the middle.

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The ride up and down takes about eight minutes and was the highlight of our visit to SeaLife Berlin

I’ll just close with this gorgeous photo from Bangkok. Perhaps if my expectations were a tad high.

Bangkok sharks

Don’t feed the wildlife

Rainy Day Distractions

As I mentioned before, a cold front moved in, bringing with it gusting winds, brisk (to us) temperatures in the 60s, and lots of rain. Lucky for us, just around the corner is a two story, 24-hour pet store! All the free rainy day entertainment you might want, close to home and under one roof!

Does your local Petco have a moray eel and a zebra shark in the front window? I didn't think so.

Does your local Petco have a moray eel and a zebra shark in the front window? I didn’t think so.

It turns out this place is pretty amazing for fish lovers.

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Row after row of aquariums

There were fancy goldfish with their brains on the outside:

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And regular goldfish with their brains on the inside:

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There were even more exotic things that I’ve never seen for sale in a regular fish store before (I feel like I’ve been in a lot of fish stores.  More than the average person at least. I’m a sucker for easy kid entertainment.), like stingrays and jellyfish.

When Hugo is older and can take care of a tank himself, maybe we'll get one of these gorgeous discus fish

When Hugo is older and can take care of a tank himself, maybe we’ll get one of these gorgeous discus fish

Hopefully it clears up soon and we can head back outside.

In the meantime, we’ll make do with tapping on the shark tank.

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The weirdest thing about these black tip reef sharks is they didn’t have any teeth. How do you go about removing a shark’s teeth? Is that normal practice for shark-keepers? What do you feed a toothless shark? So many unanswered questions…

Gembira Loka Zoo

This morning we headed out early to check out the Gembira Loka Zoo, which is not too far from where we’re staying. In a town with very few parks or green spaces, the zoo was a refreshing change of scenery.

We got there pretty soon after it opened and almost had the place to ourselves

We got there pretty soon after it opened and almost had the place to ourselves

The zoo grounds also include a large arboretum and a lake, so it makes for a pleasant shady walk.

The lake. You can rent paddle boats, too, if just looking at the lake isn't enough for you.

The lake. You can rent paddle boats, too, if just looking at the lake isn’t enough for you.

I never thought I’d say this, but the reptiles and birds were really the highlight of the zoo. I suppose that makes sense since a lot of them are native to the region.

There were lots of opportunities for creature interactions

There were lots of opportunities for creature interactions

Hugo has been making me read him this huge book about reptiles on repeat for the last 10 days, so he was pretty excited to identify all the different things we were seeing.

This guy seems pretty nonchalant about the giant Komodo Dragon standing right behind him

This guy seems pretty nonchalant about the giant Komodo Dragon standing right behind him

The bird area had a large space where the native species were just flying around freely. I wish I had made some video so you could hear the cacophony of bird squawks and see them swooping here and there.

In the giant bird house. Did I mention that it was already a thousand degrees outside at 9 in the morning? Poor Hugo looks like he's wilting.

In the giant bird house. Did I mention that it was already a thousand degrees outside at 9 in the morning? Poor Hugo looks like he’s wilting.

This guy glared at us from his perch:

He was probably pretty mad about being awake during the day

He was probably pretty mad about being awake during the day

One of the main differences between zoos in developing countries and zoos in the US is how close you can get to the animals. This is often cool, but sometimes terrifying. I could have tapped a 15 foot crocodile on the head if I really wanted to.

This tapir trotted right up to us. Do tapirs bite? I didn't want to find out the hard way.

This tapir trotted right up to us. Do tapirs bite? I didn’t want to find out the hard way.

We also got uncomfortably close to a cassowary bird. Not familiar with the cassowary? Well, they’re huge and deadly and make the most disturbing didgeridoo sort of sound.

There was also a large playground and lots of tunnels and slides and interesting things for kids to climb on.

Overall I’d say the zoo exceeded my expectations. There were some low points (elephants in a bare dirt field), and some disappointments (small and depressing aquarium), but the reptiles and birds were fantastic, and the park itself is very well maintained.

Tickets were 20,000 rupiah each (approximately $1.55; children under 3 are free).

The zoo and park are stroller-friendly, so if your little one tends to get tired, I’d recommend that you bring one. There are ramps next to all the stairs, but be warned there are 2 very steep hills (down at the entrance, back up at the exit).

Taman Pintar: The Children’s Science Park

This morning we ventured out to a place on the top of the list of things to do with small children in Yogyakarta: Taman Pintar, a children’s science park/museum.

Basically all I knew about this place was that it existed, so I didn’t really have very high expectations. I have to say that I was very pleasantly surprised!

The outside play area is free and includes some playground equipment, some interactive science stations, and a splash pad fountain for kids to play in. If your child likes these sorts of things, be sure to bring a towel and a change of clothes.

The inside part requires a ticket and was way bigger than it looked from the outside.

The first hall is a big exhibit about Indonesian history (unfortunately none of the captions had English).

The next section started with Hugo’s favorite thing:

Surprise! There's a giant aquarium!

Surprise! There’s a giant aquarium!


Sorry for the poor photo quality, but it’s really hard to photograph a toddler jumping up and down and scampering around in the sheer joy of discovering a large room full of fish.

The biggest hall has displays about astronomy, interactive physics stations, and a chemistry magic show.

The big hall. Most of the people working there spoke some English, and a lot of these displays had at least a short English explanation.

The big hall. Most of the people working there spoke some English, and a lot of these displays had at least a short English explanation.

There was a lot of stuff about power plants.

Checking out the power plant. I took this picture for my dad, who made us visit power plants when I was a kid. Never underestimate how funny a child will think it is to say "We're going on another dam tour."

Checking out the power plant. I took this picture for my dad, who made us visit power plants when I was a kid. Never underestimate how funny a child will think it is to say “We’re going on another dam tour.”

The most fun parts were these interactive floor projections:

The fish one was, of course, the favorite.

The fish one was, of course, the favorite.


The water would “splash” and the fish would swim away as the kids would jump and run through the projection.

All in all a fun way to spend a morning.

I’d say it wasn’t ideal for toddlers since most of the activities were geared towards older kids, but there’s fun stuff here for all ages.

Bangkok Sea Life Ocean World

We spent the morning at

Bangkok Sea Life Ocean World!

Bangkok Sea Life Ocean World!

Which is pretty much Hugo’s idea of heaven.

Relaxing in the jelly room

Relaxing in the jelly room

We bought tickets online ahead of time and arrived right when it opened.

Don't feed the wildlife

Don’t feed the wildlife

We ended up having the whole place to ourselves for awhile.

He will name all of these fish for you if you're willing to listen

He will name all of these fish for you if you’re willing to listen

Special bonus: kids under 3 are free! And Hugo won’t be 3 for two whole days!

We climbed in the tank!

We climbed in the tank!

If you’re interested in aquariums, I highly recommend this one. It’s enormous and truly world class. It comes with a world class admission price, too, but is worth it for the sea life obsessed.

Racing the fishes

Racing the fishes

Definitely aim to arrive early and miss the crowds of school children being led around by obnoxiously loud guides with bullhorns.

Oh, and don’t let the giant moray eels bite you on the way to the gift shop!

This may be the least flattering photo that I've ever purposefully posted on the internet

This may be the least flattering photo that I’ve ever purposefully posted on the internet