|December 15, 2010
Today we took the train to Salzburg and after the snow from yesterday the short walk to the station was a bit more treacherous and the train itself was running a few minutes late, too. Some trains were over an hour late so we were glad when ours arrived just 10 minutes after schedule. The journey to Salzburg is just over 2.5 hours and it was lovely watching the scenery go by. We’re not exactly in the heart of the Alps here but the rolling hills covered in snow looked really pretty.
When we arrived at Salzburg we had a 10 minute or so walk to our hostel which was again a little tough going as dragging your bags through the snow is never easy. We soon got checked in though and got to our room and managed to warm up. The light in our room wasn’t working and inconveniently the maintenance man was off sick today. The receptionist did provide us with a light bulb though so I changed it myself! We also found that the kitchen at the hostel has no cooker or microwave or anything very much and is also only open from 11am until 5pm making it useless for either breakfast or dinner. As a hostel, you’ve got to expect people want to eat in and save money so it seems stupid not having the kitchen open for longer. We decided anyway to head to the grocery store and pick up some rolls and honey for breakfast – we didn’t need a kitchen to make that! On the way back I started to feel a bit sick so when we got back to the hostel I lay down and slept for a while. I’m not sure if it was something I ate but a bit of extra rest did me some good.
I felt better in the evening so we went out for dinner and we headed to a nearby Indian, vegetarian restaurant called Spicy Spices! I thought it would be a good test for my ailing stomach! Once there we found they did a set menu and after a lovely potato samosa we both tucked into a big plate of a mixed veggie curry, a dhal and a spinach and potato curry. It all tasted really good and I managed to eat all of mine and wash it down with a yummy wheat beer called Neumarkter Lammsbräu so there wasn’t much wrong with me now!
Back at the hostel we found there was no-one else staying in our four-bed dorm room and so we were able to relax and spread out and get a decent night of sleep.
December 16, 2010
On our trip to the grocery store last night we’d stopped by the tourist information office and purchased Salzburg Cards which gave us free entry to a number of sights around the city. Given these cards are usually only good value if you pack lots of things we decided to get an early start today and see what we could do on the first of our three days here.
We had worked out a few things to do and if we did all of those we would manage to just about break even on the cards but by the end of today we’d done a couple of extra things, too! The first stop was the fortress which overlooks the city on the far side of the river. We took the funicular up to the top of the hill and entered the castle grounds. Immediately, we had a view over the city and some of the surrounding mountains which looked stunning especially with the dusting of snow. There were three museums at the fortress which we looked around beginning with the museum about the fortress itself which had a timeline of the history of the building and the city as well as a detailed plan showing the extent of the castle. I’ve been to Salzburg before and I remembered coming to the fortress before and, in particular, I remembered a display of soldiers with armour and weapons within this part of the museum. The second museum was the Rainier Museum which was a military history museum. Much of the displays were similar to that we’d seen at the HGM in Vienna and as this only had captions in German we didn’t dwell too long. The final part of the museums was the state rooms which were mostly wooden (wooden floors, wooden walls) but had some quite ornate marble door frames. Cut into some of the walls were some interesting shields and just off the main bedroom was a slightly less interesting toilet room! The museums were pretty good but the highlight was definitely the views from the castle.
Once back on ground level we walked past the large, imposing cathedral and onto the main area of the city where we found the Mozart Geburtshaus. This is the house where Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born and spent most of his childhood living there. The house is really interesting and tells the story of the entire family, including his father Leopold who was a very talented violinist himself. Leopold and his wife had 7 children but only two of them survived infancy – Wolfgang and his elder sister. Both of the children were talented musicians and as youngsters their father toured Europe with them putting on concerts for royalty and officials in various cities including Vienna, Munich, Brussels, London and Paris. As a child Wolfgang wasn’t pushed to pursue his musical talents and his father in fact had to often tell him to leave his piano or violin alone and do other things. Inside the museum was one of Wolfgang’s child-sized violins, lots of locks of his hair, buttons from his clothing and a number of letters written by the family to one another and some manuscripts. Of the letters, there was a funny letter which Wolfgang wrote to his wife telling her he missed her and how she “wouldn’t believe the things he did with her portrait” and referring to her as his “pussy pussy”. This letter was obviously in here to show Wolfgang’s passionate side but Elizabeth and I thought it was very funny! The story about how his mother died was particularly sad as she had accompanied Wolfgang to Paris and died away from her husband and daughter, having written to them just a few days before telling them how much she missed them and couldn’t wait to be home. She’d been away for quite a long time already by that point and to think that letter was the last she ever sent and the fact she never saw her husband or daughter again was really sad. Of course, Mozart himself died young and left his wife widowed and burdened with the debts he had racked up during his life. Contrary to earlier beliefs, Mozart was actually very wealthy during his lifetime and was well paid for his performances but lived beyond even those means, often getting involved in gambling. After his death, his widow published and advertised much of her husband’s work and whilst this looks like she was trying to capitalize on his name it soon becomes obvious that she was doing so to pay off his debts and provide for the two young children he had left behind. The museum is really good and gives a great insight into the entire family, not just the world-renowned Wolfgang Amadeus.
After leaving the museum we had a stroll around the shops and headed to get some lunch, picking a restaurant called Il Sole for some yummy, non-Austrian pizza! After our schnitzel, I’m struggling to get motivated to eat much more Austrian food, having had my fill of just meat and potatoes!
The next stop on our marathon day was the Modern Art museum. The museum is on top of another of the hills around the city and we took the lift to get up there. Although this was included in our pass the lift would’ve cost almost €3 if we’d had to have paid for it. This seems a lot for a quick lift ride to the museum. Besides, you’d think the museum would subsidise it a bit to enable them to get more paying customers! After getting some great snaps of the city and playing in the snow for a while, we decided we couldn’t throw any more snowballs and get any colder so we headed into the museum! The main theme of the three exhibits was bodies. On the first floor the most notable things were a woman and child made of clothes patches which was really cool but looked a little freaky looking, a model of a child who kept talking to himself and was, again, freaky, and finally a model of a man who whistled pop songs (we heard “Let it Be”!). They were all a bit strange but we often expect that of modern art. Another exhibit of slide pictures was comparing a random, regular woman with Marilyn Monroe, finding pictures of the regular woman which matched the pose of Marilyn. The effect was quite funny and really quite clever had the two had been matched. The 2nd floor had a number of sketches of bodies and body parts including a couple by Klimt and a series by Schiele, too. The 3rd floor was the smallest and was based around the theme of paranoia. The pictures in the gallery were of a variety of plug sockets and leads, with the leads swinging, the photographer playing with them and all other variety of things. I’m not sure the pictures had anything to do with paranoia and I’m not sure the pictures were very good either but I guess you win some and you lose some with modern art. I just wonder who this guy was sleeping with to get his works displayed. See, it is much more cynical than paranoid, I reckon!
The next stop was the Natural History Museum which we hadn’t originally planned on visiting but as it was mid-afternoon and was opposite the Modern Art lift we decided we had nothing to lose. We didn’t look at much of the contents of the museum but we quickly noticed that there was an aquarium and lizards/snakes. We took our time going around these things and breezed around the rest of the museum. Much of it seemed to be stuffed animals or 40 year old dioramas or interactive exhibits which didn’t work. I’m glad we hadn’t paid to get in!
After this we were going to go to the Salzburg Museum but we were too tired so we just walked around the shops and the Christmas market and listened to some carol singers and tried some free dips with bread. There was no way we were going to splurge out at the Christmas market on anything they were selling there so we made the most of the freebies! Back at the hostel we were getting hungry so we went to buy dinner from the supermarket but the one nearest to us and the one at the train station were both closed as well as a couple of “convenience” stores we passed, too. We were short on choices and didn’t want to spend too much as we’d had quite a big, expensive lunch so we took the crap option and made the most of the Euro menu at McDonald’s – it’s like the dollar menu but things cost a Euro and you don’t have stupid tax added on to make things actually cost more than a dollar! The place was a hang-out for the city homeless people so we didn’t hang around long after we’d finished as the smell wasn’t very nice and it wasn’t coming from the kitchen this time! We walked quickly back to the hostel as it was getting pretty cold again and we were glad to be back in the warm and resting our feet after a long, hard day.
December 17, 2010
We started this morning with a bit of a wander through one of the small castles in the city, called Schloss Mirabell. The castle was used in The Sound of Music, when the children came into the city and skipped around the gardens and the statues (apparently). It looked a lot different though (apparently) as everything was snow covered, including a fair amount of yellow snow. Elizabeth isn’t used to snow but thankfully I taught her a valuable lesson about never eating yellow snow and she adhered to it!
From the castle we headed for Mozart’s Residence. Much of the stuff here was a repetition of the exhibits we saw at his birthplace but here we had an audio guide to help us around. The advantage of the audio guide was that as well as telling some of the stories about the life of the Mozart family, it also played some of the music to accompany and explain some of the items, including not only Wolfgang’s work but that of his father, too. Mozart lived here after his family moved away from the place of his birth and stayed here until he decided to move to Vienna to further his musical life. Given how much Mozart travelled, estimated at almost 4,000 days of his life, to say he lived here is probably stretching the point as he was rarely at home. In fact, those near 4,000 days represent around a third of his 35 years and was an astonishing figure for those times. The house contained his original piano, too, which was really cool to see. There were also some copies of an organ and a harpsichord he’d played as a child and the music we heard on the audio guide coming from these instruments was certainly interesting. The stuff here was pretty good but there was a significant overlap with the other museum, particularly in detailing the lives and backgrounds of all the family members. I think these two museums should really get together and make better use of the space they have.
From there we hopped onto the bus and headed for Stiegl Brewery. It had been a nice day so far so we thought the best way to spend it was at a brewery and trying some beer! The Brewery Museum was quite good and we started off by watched a part funny, part corny video of a 500 year-old brewer telling you the history of the company and the beer-making process. The museum then went on to tell you more about beer making and the ingredients used and they had a great collection of lots of cool old bottles and metal advertising signs. After the tour of the museum we headed to the restaurant to taste the beer. Included in the ticket price were three free samples but by this time we were hungry, too, so we ordered some traditional Austrian meatloaf and potato salad to accompany. Given we had three beers each to try we decided to try some different ones each. I started off with the seasonal Christmas Ale which had a very sweet, honey flavour and was quite good despite being sweet. Elizabeth tried mine and didn’t like it and was glad she’d gone instead for the not-to-be-confused Christmas Beer. This was much more like a regular beer with some mild spices in it and was very drinkable, too. Next up we tried the Weizengold wheat beers with Elizabeth going for the regular light version and me choosing the dark one. They were both really good and we were both feeling pleased we’d picked this place as one of the free activities we could do on our Salzburg Cards. Not many cities offer free beers with the city passes! The final beer we both tried was called Paracelsus-Zwickl and was a light, cloudy beer. By this time we were well finished with our meatloaf (which actually looked like two bits of spam/sausage meat but tasted OK!) and decided to treat ourselves to apple strudel. The food and all the beers were really good and it was an enjoyable and relaxing way to spend a couple of hours after feeling like we’d been running around museum after museum for the last few days, Vienna included. At the shop we were also given a free gift and we both chose beer glasses, which will hopefully last the next 6 months or so until we are back in Texas! We also bought one of the cool metal signs and a beer-top magnet. We’re going to need a bigger fridge…
By the time we left the shop the snow had started to fall quite heavily and the five minute walk back to the bus stop had us covered. Back in the city we stopped at one of the supermarkets to buy rolls and ham and cheese for a cheap dinner tonight having learned our lesson from last night’s supermarket disaster and stinky McDonald’s!
What I did forget to mention was that we had a snorer last night in our dorm room and so after having to leave the room for an hour to avoid killing him, I finally fell asleep at about 1am only to be awoken by the two of them having a conversation at 2am. They then decided to get up before 7am and were in and out of the room and the lockers constantly for the next hour so we ended up getting up early. As a result we came back to the hostel after our beer stop to have a nap and we were pleased to find that the couple had left and we had some peace and quiet. We did have another couple of people in the room and they were a couple of guys from England who were really friendly, chatty and, thankfully, quiet and respectful! The remainder of the evening was spent lazing around, eating our yummy sandwiches for dinner and trying another Stiegl beer, this time from a can and this was their regular lager, Goldbrau. It wasn’t as good as the ones we’d had earlier and were pleased with the ones we’d picked at the brewery!
December 18, 2010
As a result of the previous night of disturbance we were both in bed fairly early last night and even when the other guys came back (apparently about 4am when we spoke to them later) they didn’t wake us at all. It is amazing how quiet people CAN be when they put their minds to it!
We had got ourselves into a bit of a routine of late and we decided to try and stick with it s we were both awake about 8am. We were going to go out to one of the nearby mountains today but the weather didn’t look too good so we changed our plans. After a late-ish breakfast and some hanging around we headed to the Augustiner Brewery only to find it was closed until 2.30pm. Even after such a short walk around, maybe only 30 minutes or so, the weather had cleared up and the weather was crisp but clear. We decided to get the bus out of the city and give the Untersberg cable car a go. This was also included on our cards and would’ve cost us €19 EACH had we paid for this individually. Given our cards cost us €35 for three days going to this sight was going to be great value regardless of the view from the top! The bus arrived just in time for the cable car and we took it to the top of the mountain, up 1,776m, accompanied by a whole load of skiers. There were some great views of the city on the way up and despite going through a band of cloud near the top we were greeted by clear skies and lovely scenery one we reached the end of the cable car. It was bloody cold at this height and the wind really whipped around us. I decided to go for a walk towards one of the edges to get some pictures but by the time the snow was up to my waist I decided to give up and turn back before I disappeared! It was great to have such clear weather up here and the views of the mountains and the city in the distance were beautiful.
Back on the bus towards the city we decided to hop off at Schloss Hellbrunn, the house where the von Trapp’s lived. Elizabeth tells me this house is grey in the film but in real life the house is yellow so she didn’t find it instantly recognizable. We walked around the gardens and the Christmas market there and went past the pavilion where one of the daft Sound of Music songs was sung – she recognised that! After walking around the von Trapp house and seeing the lakes and fountains (not running at this time of year) we walked back to the bus stop and got the bus back into the city.
Once back in the city we were quite hungry and thirsty so we headed back to Augustiner. We’d tried their wheat beer when we were in Munich so we were keen to see what they had here and were glad to now find it open! It wasn’t quite what we were expecting as it was almost like a big food hall where you grabbed your food from one of the stalls and did the same with your beers. Either way, we were going to hang around to try some of both and after Elizabeth had got us a couple of currywürst and I’d got us a Märzen and Bockbier we both tucked in. Elizabeth started with the Bock and I had the Märzen but by the time it came around to second helpings we both had the opposite, this time accompanied by a really, really salty but yummy pretzel!
Back at the hostel we lazed around having had another quite busy day. We’d made great value of our Salzburg cards and had probably saved ourselves well over 50% on what the entry would’ve cost us if we’d paid for each item individually. Almost every city has some discount card or other and it is rare that we have not taken them as they are such great deals. We had a quick glance over what we wanted to do in Munich while we had some time, too. We only have a day and a half there and we did most of what we wanted to do the first time so other than drinking lots of great beer we didn’t have much on the agenda!
For dinner tonight we went back to Spicy Spices and again had their set meal with more beer. This time we had the spicy pickles with it and they certainly gave the curries quite a kick! Afterwards we decided to try the final place on our drinking list for this city and headed to a brewhouse called Die Weisse for a beer. Elizabeth had their light (helles) wheat beer and I had the dark one (dunkel). After some excellent beers at Stiegl, some just as good at Augustiner and a good one with our curries, this beer proved to be even tastier. It was probably lucky we hadn’t found this place on our first night here!