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Austria – Well, really only Salzburg

AUSTRIA | Sunday, 22 September 2013 | Views [622]

Amazing views!

Amazing views!

We left beautiful Bled in Slovenia and made the even more lovely train ride through the Austrian countryside and mountains to Salzburg.  We had a few days to kill before we met Chris’ Dad, Greg, in Munich so thought we would spend some time in between in Salzburg.  Our four days there it was mostly raining off and on, but we found a few nice breaks to go out and explore.  The city is beautiful, and we have begun to realize that over time people have formed the major cities in beautiful settings near water.  Obviously there is a practical purpose for this (water supply), but there is also an aesthetic that we believe has occurred, where people find a value in living near water for its beauty.  Salzburg is another city that is divided from City Center and Old Town by a wandering river (the Salzach) and also has a medieval fortress on the towering hillside.

Our hotel was an interesting combination of modern hotel and hostel.  It had washers/dryers as well as a kitchen you could use, but the rooms were definitely hotel rooms with stone bathrooms and maid service.  Nice, although a little out of town.  We quickly figured out the local bus lines (we’re getting quite good at public transit at this point in the trip) and headed into town twice a day for sightseeing and food.  Speaking of, the food is getting better the farther north we go into Europe.  Chris is also liking the Zitron beer! We’re not headed to England, so we should continue to enjoy the food through the rest of the month. (Sorry to any Brits reading the blog.)

The first day we decided to head out of town to Berchtesgaden (technically in Germany, but closer to Salzburg than to Munich) in the Bavarian Alps and up to the “Eagle’ Nest”.  This was the Alpine lodge that was built for Hitler as a 50th birthday present, although it is said he spent little time here due to his vertigo and dislike of heights.  There is no Nazi memorabilia here, as it is now just a restaurant and tourist site. But there is a little eerie feeling that happens when you walk through the stone entrance into the long tunnel that takes you to the center of the last part of the hill.  Here you catch an elevator straight up into the lodge: the perfectly well-protected entrance. It is clear why this site was designed as a “special” place for the dictator, as it affords the most amazing views over lake Konigsee and the Alpine mountain ranges (giving a very “King of the World” feeling).  The process to get up to the Eagle’s Nest was more complicated than we had planned.  As usual, we tried to travel cheaply, so we took the train and bus.  However, it was unclear upon our heading out for the day that you take a train, transfer to another train, catch a bus, then transfer to another bus for the last ride up the hill. (Wash and repeat for the ride home in reverse).  So all in all we spent several hours making the trip there and back.  It would have been much easier to rent a car and after all the various fees, probably about the same cost.  Advise to all – just rent a car.  We spent so much time in transit, that we didn’t have enough left over to see the “Dokumentation Obersalzberg” – the museum with history of the area, including more details of Hitler’s reign in this area.  Despite being a little rushed for the long day, we enjoyed the Eagle’s Nest quite a bit.

Day two we decided to do a little climbing and schlepped our way up to the Hohensalzburg fortress on the hill overlooking Salzburg.  We were going to take the funicular, but the cost was 22 Euro a piece, so we decided we’d walk.  However, once we arrived at the top, we realized that the fee included entrance into the fortress and we should have definitely shelled out – we were both so tired of packing Jackson.  Oh well – we needed a little exercise after eating all the good food and desserts the last few days. The fortress (not sure why it’s called this instead of “castle” but ok) was built in 1077 and remains one of the best preserved buildings of its kind in Europe  There were beautiful staterooms inside, which were very Middle Eastern in design. This was rather surprising to us given that we had recently seen the Muslim architecture in Southern Spain and didn’t realize there was that much cross over with Germanic culture. We spent several hours viewing the museum, torture chambers, war rooms, and grounds of this lovely “fortress”.  The hike down (which was so much nicer than the hike up) also gave us great views of the city, including St. Peter’s Church, with it green domed spires (some of my favorite pictures).  Next to St. Peter’s are the Katakomben (catacombs) dug into the side of the cliff, which were fun to poke around in too.

Day three was pretty rainy, so we put on some hats and walked along the river shopping in the street stalls.  If only I had space in my luggage! The only thing I bought was an anklet.  I have started collecting anklets from each country we have been to (I am up to eight – having not thought of it until our second country). It was a nice relaxing day and Jackson got to play in the puddles.  We are starting to feel the chill a little, having cooled off a lot since Croatia.  Moving north tomorrow, we expect to stay cool for a while, as rain is in the forecast for at least a week.

Our last day in Salzburg we walked to the hillside across from the fortress for another view of this beautiful city.  We stopped into a collectibles store, where Jackson got another toy car – he chose a white Fiat over the silver Mercedes Gullwing Chris was pushing him towards – oh well, he’ll learn one day the error of his ways. This is now his prized possession! Although in 24 hours he has manage to break off both bumpers, crack the windshield, smash the headlights and break the door from dropping and crashing it so much – the lady in the “collectibles” store would be horrified. We also visited the Friedhof St. Sebatian cemetery, where several of Mozart’s relatives are buried. Salzburg is where Mozart lived most of his life, and where there are still many classical music concerts all over town.  We didn’t view any of the museums/houses dedicated to him – viewing these graves is the closest we came, as apparently Mozart himself is buried in an unmarked popper’s grave somewhere. 

So that was Austria.  We didn’t really have extra time to see Vienna, Innsbruck or more of the Bavarian Alps.  But we both agree that another tour of this combined with Switzerland is in order at some time in the future.  Off to Germany…

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