Joel and I first traveled internationally together for our honeymoon in the fall of 2008. (Before smartphones!) We decided on Europe since we had both independently visited, Joel in January of 2000 with his sister and I visited in 2001 and 2002 with my family. Although the Mendoza region of Argentina was our 2nd choice, one day we will get there.
We ended up choosing Austria because Joel had already been to Innsbruck on his previous trip and wanted to go back so I could experience it for myself. While planning our trip we realized we would be in Europe during Oktoberfest! (more about that in a future blog post). This was a no brainer, the prospect of experiencing Oktoberfest on our honeymoon was Joel’s dream come true, well besides marrying me that is.
St. Johann im Pongau
We settled on a small skiing village in the middle of Austria’s Salzburger Land, St. Johann im Pongau (a convenient 3.5 hour train ride to Munich) and boy were we in for a treat! The town was absolutely beautiful and it was the perfect location to take day trips by train to Munich, Innsbruck, and Salzburg.
Our journey to St. Johann
After traveling for more than 22 hours from the United States, our flight arrived in Salzburg and boy were we exhausted. After a quick bit of caffeine and the realization that we only had another hour to go, the caffeine and excitement gave us the energy to hop on the train to St Johann.
An hour later we had arrived at the St. Johann train station sitting at the bottom of the hill. We made our way up the road with our one suitcase, yep just the one, to our hotel Alpenland Sporthotel. After promptly checking in we used the last bit of energy to find some delicious food and then called it a night, excited for the next week’s adventures.
St Johann Im Pongau was our base camp for the next week as we had fun exploring the area.
Some of our fondest memories
Some of our fondest memories in St. Johann was strolling through town and taking in the local culture. Since we were married at the end of September we honeymooned during shoulder season which meant that most of the tourists had already left. That made it much easier to meet locals and experience the town more as they do.
Our first full day there we happened upon the town’s Oktoberfest celebration to Joel’s delight. The rest of the afternoon was spent sitting in the sun, drinking tasty beer and enjoying music with the locals.
One day while out exploring the lovely town, we were coaxed into a bar by some locals to drink schnapps with them. The schnapps eventually turned into a few pints of beer and a full belly of wurst. A lovely way to spend the afternoon in Austria.
On another night we made friends with a German couple who promptly invited us to have dinner. They didn’t speak a lot of English and we barely knew any German but we shared a love of good food and drink and had a wonderful time. It still amazes me how good food and some drinks can overcome language barriers!
On our 2nd to last night in St. Johann we met the owners of the only Irish pub in town, The Black Sheep (formerly Johnny Fox’s). Upon hearing it was our honeymoon they insisted we come back to their pub and we happily obliged. We were then overwhelmed with their hospitality including stories, karaoke, and a night of free drinks! These are the kind of experiences that Joel and I love and what draws us to traveling.
Between our adventures in the town itself, St. Johann’s location was a great central place for our other adventures exploring the surrounding Pongau District and cities like Salzburg and Innsbruck. But if you come in the winter we are told the winter sports here will probably keep you more than occupied.
A few of our favorite places to see in St. Johann
- Breakfast at Cafe Schiebel for delicious pastries. http://www.cafeschiebel.at/
- The beautiful Pongau Cathedral & Anna Chapel
- The Black Sheep Irish Pub
Attractions To See in St. Johann im Pongau District
Giant Ice World- Worlds Largest Cave https://www.salzburg.info/en/sights/excursions/ice-caves-in-werfen
Liechtensteinklamm Gorge- One of the largest, deepest gorges in the Alps with a waterfall and a new spiral staircase for better views of the scenery. The Gorge has been closed since 2017 due to rock falls but is set to open June, 11th 2020! https://www.josalzburg.com/en/summer/liechtenstein-gorge
During the Winter Months
Skiing is the main attraction during winter in St. Johann with direct access to the ski resort Snow Space Salzburg. It’s great for all ages and they even have a family mountain for beginners and children. https://www.josalzburg.com/en/winter/skiarea-snow-space-salzburg-alpendorf
Tips for Traveling in Europe
1. Go during shoulder seasons which are fall and spring. We went the last week of September and stayed for 2 weeks. Attractions were not as crowded as there are fewer tourists, and it is much easier to meet locals and enjoy the culture.
2. Set up a base camp and take day trips. Europe as a whole has really great public transportation with a lot of intercountry trains, including high speed trains to zip you from one country to the next. Within the countries there are regional and city trains that take you nearly everywhere. Check out this link to plan out your itinerary. https://www.eurail.com/en
3. Go for as long as you can. Traveling from the United States or for any long distance, make the most of your travels by spending as long as you can at your destination. We have found it usually takes us a couple of days to settle into a place once we get there. Especially in a country where you don’t have a good command of the language. We travel to experience the culture and not just for the sites.
4. Travel as lite as comfortably possible. For some people this is really hard, but it will make your trip a lot easier especially if you’re visiting more than one city. Trains and public transportation are a fantastic resource all throughout Europe, but they also have limited space. Do yourself a favor and try to keep your luggage easily manageable.