Where 'the Sound of Music makes me feel like dancing'... and 'pickled food makes you happy'
31.07.2008 - 01.08.2008 28 °C
We left Switzerland for Salzburg, Austria the day before the national holiday (not intentionally, but that was how things worked out). We had really enjoyed Zurich, and it seemed like a great place to live in, if you could afford it I guess. Now it was time to enter the home of the Sound of Music, and Mozart’s birthplace (although we read that he hated the place and couldn’t wait to leave). We crossed into Austria past snow-capped mountains, and the housing style changed once again to very rustic cottages, with sharply inclined roofs so the snow doesn’t settle too often. We arrived with an hour to spare before the hostel opened for afternoon check-in, and headed to a nearby park through the industrial side of town to relax underneath a tree. Our hostel was a very tidy place, where we shared a three-bedroom room with our own shower, which we were very happy with.
Still feeling the heat in the late afternoon, we left the hostel to walk towards the river and the old town. Our first stop was a brewery just out of the old town ‘Weissbierbrauerei’, which looked completely dead at the entrance and through the inside until we entered the bustling and lively garden at the back. Immediately branding ourselves as tourists through our poor German, we were offered the English menu, which proved to be great entertainment as one section translated to ‘Pickled food makes you happy’. Testing this theory, we ordered some (and were happy). I asked the waiter to get me a beer you would try if you normally hated beer, and he brought over one that was actually pretty good, as were the others.
From there it was off to the old town, past the Mirabell gardens (where the Von Trapp kiddies danced around the statue, although I had to be told as I wouldn’t have otherwise remembered). Along the river to the old town, which was another maze of high-walled narrow streets, with horse-drawn carriages (which provide a very unappealing stench to the streets of the city), statues of Mozart, museums, artists, buskers… We found a reasonably priced traditional foodhouse just out of the main square, where the boys got their first and much anticipated batch of sauerkraut. The skies darkened, but no rain came, as we walked back to the hostel via the river, where teens had congregated for a few drinks and music on a Thursday night, and we pondered Andrew's comment that one of his favourite things about travelling was seeing how the rest of the world lived their lives.
Wanting to get an early start for our one full day in the city, we mapped out the places to see, including some of the token Sound of Music sites, but definitely choosing to ditch the long guided tour… We instead hired bikes for the day, which was a great move as it is an incredibly bikeable city. The first stop was Hellbrunn Palace, about 4km out of the centre, which was a very easy riverside bike. The palace was built by a bishop in the 17th Century, and boasts expansive gardens and many sculptures and fountains. It is also now home to the Sound of Music pavilion which was gifted to the palace, and is now locked due to an elderly woman breaking her hip while recreating Liezl’s scene (so the story goes). We climbed to the lookout over the area, and then left the palace to bike towards the lake and pick up picnic supplies along the way. Loading up our bike baskets with food (my bike ‘Hercules’, didn’t live up to the power of the name it was branded with), we passed people swimming in the narrow blue chilly waters of some smaller rivers on our way. Biking around the lake (which is the one they also used in the film that the children fall into at the back of the house), we biked past their house to a nearby park for lunch.
After biking back into the old town, and visiting the grand Dom Cathedral adorned with beautiful paintings on the roof and walls, we walked up to the huge towering fortress of Festung Hohensalzburg for a view over the city. After visiting the museum and getting a bit of history about the area, we visiting the staterooms richly decorated with gold trimmings. Josh also got to have a play with a marionette string puppet... those awful things had a museum dedicated to them. The rattle of thunder quashed our chance to visit the observation deck, as they didn’t want to electrocute the tourists… so it was instead off to Nonnberg Abbey (yet another Sound of Music site), which was a beautiful old church set on the side of a hill overlooking the other side of Salzburg. A very quite and peaceful place, we were basically the only ones there. Then after a beer at a beergarden with a great view over some of the old town, we headed back down the hill. The bells in the square ring every hour, so after waiting for them to sound, we visited St Paul’s, passing through the cemetery into the Cathedral. This was the first one we’d been to that had an organist playing, which made our visit very memorable.
Once we’d biked back to the hostel, we got a recommendation for a dinner place from the hostel worker, and jumped back on our bikes to ride down the riverside to a beer garden. A place with casual service, nice beer, and when we finally pounced on a table, we were able to order some food – Austrian staples of schnitzel, dumplings and bretzels… We’d managed to secure a table under cover without realising, and were joined by two others when the first few drops of rain arrived with the distant sound of more thunder. Later, flashes of lightning began before the rain came pouring down by the bucketload and all the patrons were rushing for cover.
Dinner was over, and the rain was not yet easing so we moved inside for warmth, tried some strudel (which was delicious and encased in a soft baked dough rather than pastry), and had a few more drinks. More rain, hours of lightning, and once it had passed midnight we realised it wasn’t looking like easing at all, and maybe we were going to have to make a run (or a bike) for it. Riding in the pouring rain, the boys discarded their shirts while I layered up, and we were in hysterics as we saturated ourselves, the rain driving into us in the pitch-black night. Andy’s bike had no mudguard, so he arrived back with a stripe of thorough saturation down the middle from back to front… and we were all just plain wet, though we did find it damn hilarious. It was time for showers, then sleep.