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Adventures of a short vet

Ice Caves, Eagles and Mozart?

AUSTRIA | Thursday, 12 May 2011 | Views [923]

But still wild animals - bit of a fight over a piece of chicken. They are scary when they're angry!

But still wild animals - bit of a fight over a piece of chicken. They are scary when they're angry!

The 4 hour train trip to Salzburg passes through some beautiful mountains and pretty villages. Tip of the day: Just because road names are very very similar does not mean they are the same – make sure your hostel is actually on the map you’ve cadged from the information centre! After wandering the streets of Salzburg I managed to get directions from a helpful concierge at a lovely hotel where I wished I was staying, and finally arrived at Meininger Salzburg, a hotel/hostel that is big, new and modern, but with a very soulless “hotel” atmosphere.

Keeping in the caving theme I caught the 8am train to Werfen, where I caught a shuttlebus up the steep mountain to catch the cable car to visit the famous ICE CAVES. A 20 minute walk from the cable car took me to the mouth of the cave, where I watched thick clouds rolling in to cover the previously sunny mountain top over the space of about 30 seconds. You can see how easy it would be to get into trouble hiking the goat paths they call tracks here! The ice caves were AMAZING and, with only 7 of us in the group, we were really able to enjoy the spooky cathedral-like atmosphere in the caves. Luckily I’d been warned to wrap up warmly, as the outer 1km of the 40km cave system is consistently below freezing point, regardless of the time of year. The exchange of cold and warm air as the door is opened creates a rushing wind that can reach up to 90kph! We entered the cave and marveled at the massive ice formations as we climbed 700 steps to top of the icefall. I thought the old lady in our group was about to have a heart attack and wondered how they get people out in an emergency…slide them down the ice?

I decided to brave the narrow paths & scree slopes of the mountain and walk down instead of catching the cable car. I nearly changed my mind on the way up when looking down at the steep, unbarriered drops; but once on the path it wasn’t so bad (you just really really don’t want to slip), and it felt pretty cool standing on the scree slop looking out at the view as the cable car passed overhead. Back in town I had time to visit Helsingor Castle where I attended the falconry show, where I even got to watch a fight between to massive eagles over a piece of chicken. Pretty sure it wasn’t part of the show.

The following day was wet and miserable and all I wanted to do was stay in bed. But you can waste a day on holiday so I braved the hideous weather and headed out to explore the city. My first stop was “Mozart’s Geburtshaus” (or birthplace) where he spent the first 25 or so years of his life. It was interesting to read about his life: composing from the age of five and court musician at seventeen; and see some of his instruments and music scripts. After hiding from the rain for a couple of hours I wandered back through the narrow pedestrian streets lines with shops and a surprisingly busy fruit & veg market where I bought a chocolate prezel. I then visited the Dom (cathedral) and St Peter’s catacombs; a small tunneled cavern tucked away against a hill. By the time I’d visited the free Salzburg Museum the sun managed to fight its way through the clouds and it had turned into a lovely afternoon. I stopped in a café in the square for a coffee, ordering “eine latte bitte” but was instead brought a large beer…apparently my accent made it sound like “eine radler beire”…really? Eventually I got my coffee and then walked up to the castle, Festung Hohensalzburg where I did a little audiotour and checked out the “puppeting museum” (a little creepy to tell the truth). Tip of the day: Don’t advertise a “Torture Museum” when the castle never actually had one and the current one only consists of a room containing shackles.

Tags: falconry, ice caves, mozart, salzburg, werfen


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