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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Playgrounds in Passau

Since we’re about to leave Passau, it’s time for a round-up of some of our favorite places!

For a small town, there are a lot of great places for kids to play. Here are some of our favorite playgrounds, all within walking distance of the old city.

Bschütt Park

Map

Located on the banks of the Ilz River, this amazing playground has something to please children of all ages. One section has a water feature, tree house, swings, and multiple places for climbing.

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Playing in the water feature

There is also a more advanced rope climbing area for bigger kids and stronger climbers.

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Hugo wasn’t brave enough to attempt this one

Dotted throughout the park are various skill games, such as a labyrinth game that you move by shifting your body weight, and a basketball game you play while standing on a wobbly platform.

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Even kids can play the labyrinth games!

Because of the water feature, this park is especially popular on hot days. People will even swim and stand-up-paddleboard in the river.

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Climbing into the treehouse

This was definitely Hugo’s favorite place to play in Passau. Every few days he’d request the “water pipe park” as he called it.

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A general shot of the whole playground. Please notice that there’s a trampoline! This is really the best playground ever.

Even on days when there were a lot of children at the park, it still never felt crowded because there were so many different places to play.

Lindental Park

Map

First a quick note: I don’t know if this is the actual name of this park, but it’s on Lindental Street, on the Innstadt side of the river.

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A lot to do in a small space

This little park is tucked away on a quiet street in Innstadt and is full of fun things to explore. There’s the big fort in the back which looks like something from the pioneer days, swings, a sandbox, a teeter totter, swings, and an area that looks like a horse barn that you can’t see in this picture. This park tended to be very quiet with not a lot of other kids around.

Innpromenade Park

Map

This is probably one of the most popular parks around the old city area because of its central location.

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Not to mention its beautiful views across the Inn

There are slides, a play house, and lots of places to climb.

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Dreiflüsseeck

Map

We usually just called this park “The Point” because it’s at the end of the peninsula between the Inn and Danube rivers.

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It’s a great spot if you like to play with a scenic backdrop

Notice the people sitting on the bench? The river tour boats dock very close to this park, so there are often a lot of people here. It’s one of the only places that affords a view of all three rivers joining.

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It’s a lovely place to sit contemplatively at the top of the slide

In addition to the play structure above, there are also swings, another slide, and a zip line.

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Did I mention the lovely view? Danube on the left, Inn on the right, Austria straight ahead.

A Few Days in Berlin

My brother-in-law lives in Berlin with his family, so we headed north for a long weekend. It was Hugo’s first time to meet his cousins in person and to say he was thrilled to have another child to play with would be an understatement. He would disappear into his cousin’s room for hours at a time, the two of them playing with Lego or dinosaurs or Star Wars ships or whatever it is little boys do, while we adults happily sipped our coffee in peace. This is why people have more than one child, right? They play happily together all the time, right??

We did a little sightseeing, too.

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We wandered through the Brandenburg Gate

And in and out of the concrete monoliths of the Holocaust Memorial.

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There were a lot of other visitors on such a bright, sunny weekend

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It doesn’t take long before you are alone in the narrow canyons

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Known formally as the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, it consists of 2,711 concrete slabs arranged in a grid pattern. They are designed “to produce an uneasy, confusing atmosphere, and the whole sculpture aims to represent a supposedly ordered system that has lost touch with human reason.”

Not everything in Berlin was a somber reminder of turbulent history. We had a chance to visit the farmer’s market at Kolwitzplatz and eat food from food trucks.

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I think Hugo will eat pretty much any kind of food from a truck

But mostly the weekend was a chance to reconnect with family we don’t get to see in person very often.

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Plus lots of shoulder rides, Lego space ships, and trips to the playground.

 

Sunshine and Apfelwein

Our first day of travel brought us to an overnight layover in Frankfurt where we were greeted by dazzling sunshine. They say sunshine helps with jet lag, so we met up with an old friend of Gareth’s and set off for a walk along the Main, a wide river bisecting the city.

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Taking a closer look at the river after playing in the playground and sandbox

There are wide pedestrian paths and greenbelts along both sides of the river. Apparently this was the first sunny day after a long, dreary winter, and just like in the Pacific Northwest, the sunshine brought everyone outside. There were picnickers, bikers, runners, and ice cream trucks in every direction.

After checking out the playground, we took a break on a shady bench to enjoy the local specialty, apfelwein.

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Apfelwein, a kind of cider, is made from apples, then mixed with juice from the fruit of the speierling tree

I also learned that it is traditionally served in these textured glasses to improve grip, a holdover from a time before people regularly ate with utensils.

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Hugo had a lemonade

Lest you think we were all bright eyed and happily frolicking along the river after eleven hours on an airplane, here is Gareth carrying a sleeping Hugo back to the hotel:

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He weighs about 40 pounds now, so this is much harder than it used to be

Tomorrow is another travel day before reach our final destination.

Taichung Big Jade Market and City Hall Park

In search of some last minute gifts, Hugo and I went to the Taichung Jade Market (台中文心玉市 Táizhōng wénxīn yùshì) to see what we could find.

The Jade Market is only open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, and is just around the corner from the City Hall BRT station

The Jade Market is only open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, and is just around the corner from the City Hall BRT station

Situated in a warehouse-like building, the Jade Market has row after row of every sort of jade jewelry and trinket you can imagine. In addition to jade, there were glass ornaments, some artwork, and more teapots in more shapes than you ever imagined.

A real turtle shell!

A real turtle shell!

The vendors were less than thrilled to have a small child pawing their wares, so we ended up leaving pretty quickly without buying anything.

Since it was still pretty early in the morning, we wandered over to the Taichung New City Hall building which is surrounded by a vast open square and a newly built park.

The shiny and imposing Taichung City Hall building. You can see it was an overcast and hazy morning.

The shiny and imposing Taichung New City Hall building. You can see it was an overcast and hazy morning.

I have walked by here dozens of times but I’ve never actually gone into the park before. I had thought it was just a small greenbelt between buildings, but was surprised to find some very nicely landscaped gardens and pathways, a small temple, and lots of benches to sit and escape from the hectic traffic of the city.

I imagine there are a lot more people here on days when Google isn't sending out poor air quality notices

I imagine there are a lot more people here on days when Google isn’t sending out poor air quality notices

Then, we stumbled upon the best part of the park:

A huge sandbox!

A huge sandbox! A much more fun place to play than the Jade Market.

I think this made up for taking him to a place where he wasn’t allowed to touch anything.

Taichung Jade Market Visitor’s Notes:

  • Name in Chinese: 台中文心玉市 Táizhōng wénxīn yùshì
  • Hours: Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 9am-6pm
  • Map

A Walk Through Taichung Park

Taichung Park (台中公園 Táizhōng gōngyuán) is the oldest park in Taichung city, built in 1903 during the Japanese occupation.

Footpaths shaded by broad trees criss-cross the park

Footpaths shaded by broad trees criss-cross the park

It contains a large man-made lake full of ducks and turtles.

Looking for turtles

Looking for turtles

Situated in the center of the lake is the Lake Heart Pavilion, built in 1908 for Japanese Prince Kanin-no-miya Kotohito.

A view of the pavilion from across the lake

A view of the pavilion from across the lake

You can cross a foot bridge to go inside the pavilion. It is almost entirely made of wood. Even though the park is in the middle of a busy urban area, from inside the pavilion all you hear is creaking wood and the lapping water of the lake under the floorboards.

Checking out the view from the pavilion. On most days you can rent paddle boats on the lake (the small blue boats in the background), but today the day we were  there they were closed.

Checking out the view from the pavilion. On most days you can rent paddle boats on the lake (the small blue boats in the background), but the day we were there they were closed.

In 1999, Taichung Park was granted historical landmark status.

There is a small waterfall and koi pond tucked in among the trees.

There is a small waterfall and koi pond tucked in among the trees.

Today the park is popular with families because of the large playground, and people looking for a shady spot to walk their dogs.

Hugo explores every corner of the playground

Hugo explores every corner of the playground

It is also the site of large celebrations for Lantern Festival, marking the end of Chinese New Year. I imagine the lake and pavilion are beautiful on a cool night in early Spring, lit only by twinkling red lanterns.

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Taichung Park Visitor’s Notes:

  • Name in Chinese: 台中公園 Táizhōng gōngyuán
  • Map

24 Hours In Taipei

We got up early and headed to the high speed rail station (HSR or 高鐵站 gāo tiě zhàn, which is different from the train station or 火車站 huǒ chē zhàn. Be sure you’re headed to the right one!) to hop on a train to Taipei.

High speed trains leave Taichung for Taipei about every 20 minutes, and the journey takes about an hour.

High speed trains leave Taichung for Taipei about every 20 minutes, and the journey takes about an hour.

We bought our tickets in advance at a 7-11, but it turns out that you can easily just arrive at the station, buy a ticket, and board the next incoming train.

Our train pulls into the station

Our train pulls into the station

Our first stop in Taipei was the National Palace Museum, which houses a dizzying array of Chinese art and artifacts.

Checking out the jade collection. It turns out you're not supposed to take photos in the  museum, so after being chastised by the security guard I sheepishly put away my camera.

Checking out the jade collection. It turns out you’re not supposed to take photos in the museum, so after being chastised by the security guard I sheepishly put away my camera.

National Palace Museum Visitor’s Notes:

  • In Chinese it is called 故宮 gù gōng
  • Admission is $250 NTD for adults. There is a student discount of $150 NTD, and children are free.
  • We were there on a Saturday and it was very, very crowded.
  • Website
  • Map

Since the weather was nice and it was still too early to check in to our hotel, we decided to take a walk through a couple of Taipei’s many parks.

There is a small park with a fish pond right next to the Palace Museum.  Admission to this park was $20 NTD. You can feed the fish and black swans, and explore the pavilions and walkways. It was a nice contrast to the noise and crowds of the museum.

There is a small park with a fish pond right next to the Palace Museum. Admission to this park was $20 NTD. You can feed the fish and black swans, and explore the pavilions and walkways. It was a nice contrast to the noise and crowds of the museum.

We found a fantastic playground in a large park just behind our hotel, too.

For a short time we had it all to ourselves.

For a short time we had it all to ourselves.

There is an extensive network of city parks in Taipei, and a lot of mountain hiking in the hills around town. We didn’t have a chance to go into the mountains on such a short trip, but I’ve heard they’re worth it if you have the time.

After checking in to our hotel and having a bit of a rest, we headed out to dinner. Everyone raves about the night markets in Taipei, but unfortunately a torrential rainstorm started just as we were leaving. So we headed toward Yongkang Street (永康街 yǒngkāng jiē) to meet with the group for dinner. Yongkang Street is a small lane full of popular restaurants, so if it’s a rainy night and you have to skip the night market it’s a great place to experience the different foods that Taipei has to offer.

We ate ourselves silly at James Kitchen (大隠 酒食  dàyǐn jiǔshí, then began the arduous task of finding a cab home in the rain.

We ate ourselves silly at James Kitchen (大隠 酒食 dàyǐn jiǔshí, then began the arduous task of finding a cab home in the rain.

The rain had cleared by morning, and after checking out of our hotel we headed downtown to Taipei 101.

Taipei 101 was the tallest building in the world until 2004 when it was surpassed by the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

The view from the bottom. Taipei 101 was the tallest building in the world until 2004 when it was surpassed by the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

We whizzed up the super fast elevator…

Up we go!

Up we go!

…to the 91st floor observation deck to check out the views.

The skies were a bit gray and hazy but the views were still spectacular. There's something thrilling about being so high and seeing a grand cityscape in miniature.

The skies were a bit gray and hazy but the views were still spectacular. There’s something thrilling about being so high and seeing a grand cityscape in miniature.

And to prove that I was there:

Look, Mom! I'm at the top of a tall building!

Look, Mom! I’m at the top of a tall building!

If you are interested in such technical architectural features, there is a 660 ton steel pendulum that helps prevent damage to the building in high winds.

This giant golden orb is the largest damper sphere in the world. Take that, Burj Khalifa!

This giant golden orb is the largest damper sphere in the world. Take that, Burj Khalifa!

You can even hop an elevator to the 91st floor to an outdoor observation deck. Due to high winds that day, most of this deck was closed while we were there. However, we could still go out onto one section.

Here I am, carrying my backpack since we had already checked out of our hotel. Because the bars obstructed the view it was actually much nicer to look out from the indoor observation deck.

Here I am, carrying my backpack since we had already checked out of our hotel. Because the bars obstructed the view it was actually much nicer to look out from the indoor observation deck.

If perchance you think Hugo is always a happy-go-lucky travel companion, this is the expression he wore most of the time in Taipei 101.

Sure, he looks pretty miserable here and refused to get out of his stroller and look around, but if you ask him what he did in Taipei he will excitedly tell you he went to the top of the world's tallest building.

Sure, he looks pretty miserable here and refused to get out of his stroller and look around, but if you ask him what he did in Taipei he will excitedly tell you he went to the top of the world’s tallest building.

After zipping back down the elevator, we grabbed some lunch at the Taipei 101 mall, then caught our train back to Taichung.

Taipei 101 Visitors Notes:

  • Tickets were $500 NTD for an adult, children are free
  • We got there first thing in the morning and there was no wait to go up. However, we had to wait in a long(ish) line to come back down, about 15-20 minutes. I’ve heard from other people that it can get very crowded, so I definitely recommend going on a weekday morning.
  • There is a subway stop for Taipei 101, so getting there is very easy
  • Map

Calligraphy Greenway and the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts

Calligraphy Greenway is a long, narrow park and sculpture garden that stretches from the National Museum of Natural History to the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts. It’s a wonderful greenbelt oasis in the middle of a bustling downtown, connecting museums, shopping and dining areas along meandering shaded walkways and open grassy fields.

We hopped on the BRT (the Bus Rapid Transit system, which is a free and efficient way to get around town!), got off by the Natural History Museum, then headed south into the park.

The northernmost point of Calligraphy Greenway. As you can see, this would also be a great place to go for a run!

The northernmost point of Calligraphy Greenway. As you can see, this would also be a great place to go for a run!

There are lots of little things to discover along the way, like this Reading Bar:

This is just like the Little Free Libraries we have in the US, where you can take and leave books, or just borrow one to read on one of the park benches.

This is just like the Little Free Libraries we have in the US, where you can take and leave books, or just borrow one to read on one of the park benches.

These rental bikes are very popular and available in lots of parks around the city.

You just make a deposit at the kiosk, then return the bike when you're finished. See those people in the background in the orange shirts? It was a ballroom dance class!

You just make a deposit at the kiosk, then return the bike when you’re finished. See those people in the background in the orange shirts? It was a ballroom dance class!

There is public art all along the walkway.

Pretending we're in Chicago and taking a photo of our reflection in a mirrored sculpture

Pretending we’re in Chicago and taking a photo of our reflection in a mirrored sculpture

After a couple of miles of walking, taking time to stop at the various fountains and playgrounds along the way, we finally reached our destination: the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts.

There was a garden of giant pink ladybugs out in front

There was a garden of giant pink ladybugs out in front

The museum is free, and has a variety of temporary and permanent exhibits. My 3 year old is not very interested in fine arts museums generally, but this one has a special Family Room full of interactive art projects for children.

Building block patterns

Building block patterns

Almost every surface has something interactive for the children.

Painting with water! There were also white boards, crayons, paper, and sculpture materials available.

Painting with water! There were also white boards, crayons, paper, and sculpture materials available.

Did I mention there were blocks? So many kinds of blocks.

Hugo says he's building a train. Some of the older children were making very elaborate, multi-room structures that they could climb into.

Hugo says he’s building a train. Some of the older children were making very elaborate, multi-room structures that they could climb into.

I’d recommend the Family Room for kids under age 8, since most of the activities are geared toward younger children. We’ll definitely be back again before we leave Taichung!

Taichung Botanical Garden

The Taichung Botanical Garden is part of the National Museum of Natural Science. It includes a large outdoor park and gardens, as well as a multi-story rainforest greenhouse.

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Approaching the main entrance to the greenhouse

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A giant birdwing butterfly guards the entrance to the conservatory

Entering the greenhouse gives you an otherworldly feeling. The sounds of the city fade away and all you can hear is the sound of the waterfall in the central pond.

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Hugo races ahead

We paused to look out from behind the waterfall.

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The pathway will take you down to the lower level of the greenhouse and the galleries

Down on the lower level, we made a surprising discovery:

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Hugo House!

The first character, 雨 (pronounced “yu”) means rain, and the second, 果 (“guo”), means fruit. The “rain fruit” house is a fitting name for the galleries and cafe inside the rainforest conservatory, don’t you think? This is also the common Chinese translation of Hugo’s name.

And what should we find inside the Hugo House?

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Fish!

And also tree frogs:

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If you look closely you can see a yellow one in the center

It looks like the sunshine has found us once again.

A view across the fish pond in front of the conservatory

A view across the fish pond in front of the conservatory

Visitor Info:

The gardens are free, but it is NT$20 to go into the conservatory/greenhouse

Hours: Tuesday-Sunday, 9am-5pm

Address: 1 Guanqian Road

Map