Tag Archives: Austria

Facts about the Alps, Europe’s great mountain range

The Alps have always been an important part of Europe.

They are geographically important, representing 11% of Europe’s surface and heavily influencing its climate. They are important from a historical point of view, as they were a barrier for people movements and trade. They are culturally important for a shared, cross-national Alpine culture has developed on their valleys and mountains.

matterhorn in winter

Matterhorn, at the border between Italy and Switzerland

Local lifestyle and the way the Alps are seen from the outside have both changed dramatically during recent decades. From a remote, hard-to-live-in region where economy was mainly based on livestock, the Alps turned into one of the most important tourist destinations in Europe, especially in winter.

This is not a surprise, since the Alps provide awe-inspiring and majestic views.
If you’ve ever been on the bottom of one their valleys, which look like being hollowed out of the surrounding rocky walls, or on a flower-covered meadow on the top of a hill with high snowy peaks all around, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
Besides, since the Alps are made of high mountains spanning for several hundreds of miles, they are a natural venue for countless ski slopes and related resorts. Here is one of them featuring the highest suspension bridge in Europe.

Let’s check some facts about Europe’s most famous mountain range.

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Visiting Zagreb in search of a new conception of Croatia

After knowing Croatia only for the terrible events of the 1990s, it was time to get to know it for what it is today, in person.

Zagreb uptown

Zagreb uptown

Croatia is a beautiful country located in the Balkans, one of the several ones emerged from the disintegration of former Yugoslavia. Actually Croatia existed long before Yugoslavia itself, but only a small part of its history was marked by independence.
An important and long part of its past was under Austrian rule, and that reflects in Zagreb’s downtown appearance, which is characterized by beautiful Middle European atmosphere and architecture. Zagreb old uptown could easily be a neighborhood of Vienna or Prague, and its old streetcars crossing downtown are not so different from the ones you can find in Budapest or Bratislava.

Statue of Josip Jelačić in the middle of Trg bana Jelačića, Zagreb's central square

Statue of Josip Jelačić in the middle of Trg bana Jelačića, Zagreb’s central square

As for me, I had never been to Croatia until a few days ago, therefore the image about that country engraved in my mind was the one we all received from TV news during the 1990s: a country suffering war misery, its tanks facing enemy forces, and people hit with cluster bombs on the streets of Zagreb.
That’s the reason why I was twice as happy about visiting Croatia for the first time. Not only the city covered in snow introduced itself in the best possible way, but I also finally had a chance to get to know the country for its present, not only for its tough past.

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Our Bratislava Hotel

Travel from Vienna to Bratislava for the night

We were in Vienna, Austria. Since Vienna is near the border with Slovakia, we decided to sleep in Bratislava, Slovakia’s capital city.

Where is Bratislava?

Bratislava is in Slovakia, close to the border to both Austria and Hungary. That makes it only 50 miles away from downtown Vienna. You can travel from Vienna to Bratislava in a very short time. We thought it was a good chance to visit a new town, to see a piece of Slovakia, and to save on the hotel. In fact, prices in Slovakia are lower than in Austria. Therefore, we booked a hotel in Bratislava and left Vienna.

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Wandering in Austria

A village somewhere in Styria

Francis of Assisi’s church in Vienna

A Street Car in Vienna

The Danube in Vienna

I Fly Niki Air for (almost) cheap plane tickets

I flew with Niki for the third time. I think it is a good alternative to Austrian Airlines and Swiss when you have to fly to and from Austria. Also, it is one of the few low-cost carriers serving Zurich. Actually, Wikipedia defines it as a semi-lowcost airline, which I deem appropriate. In fact, it has intermediate features between normal airlines and low cost airlines.
It has rather convenient fares, cheaper than other carriers, although in average higher than the ones of low-cost airlines.
It serves both major and almost unknown airports. Niki offers also a few intercontinental flights.
Service times are quite normal, as compared to other European low-cost carriers that seem to compete on which one is taking off earlier in the morning or landing later in the night.
As about airline food with Niki, we were served a free snack during our short international flight of one hour. Well, it was a very very small one, even for European standards, but at least you didn’t have to pay if you wanted a bite of food, as it happens with most low-cost airlines.
Aircraft’s interior was nice and new. Space among rows was acceptable. The route was shown on overhead screens. In our case, aircraft was an Airbus A320.

What I initially found very funny about Niki, is its logo: The Fly. A stylized fly is painted on the front section of the fuselage of all Niki aircrafts.

Niki air is named after Niki Lauda, a former Formula One racer.

This time, I was given a seat with Niki air after purchasing a ticket with another airline: Air Berlin, the German carrier owning Niki. I hope I will soon have a chance to fly with Air Berlin so to have an idea as to what kind of service they offer. Here you can find a review of it.


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