Trip Start May 04, 2007
Trip End May 11, 2007

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Flag of Austria  ,
Sunday, May 6, 2007

It's about time to mention my lovely neighbors: Austria.  Salzburg is the hometown of Mozart, The Sound of Music, Reber and a UNESCO heritage site.  You might be wondering what in the world Reber is, but once you've been to Salzburg you won't be able to live without what they have to offer and suddenly explore every World Market in a 20 mile proximity...

Salzburg is only a 45 minute (toll) drive from my hometown of Bad Aibling (Germany).  You can get around the toll (a sticker that you need to purchase at a gas station and place in your window before you enter the Austrian Autobahn) if you map your way to go by country roads (wich is more scenic anyway).  FYI - Getting gas in Austria is much cheaper than in Germany so start with a quarter tank of gas and fill up before you come back.

Salzburg has so much to offer.  Here are my favorites and I'll start with the castles:

Castle Hellbrunn:

This castle is so much fun.  It doesn't look that much like a castle on the outside, but once you enter, it has a lot to offer.  Now you're probably wondering why I deemed the castle fun.  It's famous for its watergames.  There are fountains everywhere.  And for the most of them you won't know they are there until they get you wet.  That's because they are hidden - the pathway suddenly starts sprinkling you with water, the deer head on the wall will spray and so forth.  

But not only the prank fountains are fun - there's an organ that plays a tune while little figurines with meticulous details dance through the monstrously big scene - all waterpowered and going on 300 years...  Or take a peek at the "bird" cave.  The water running through it  mimics bird noises and it appears that they are singing from every corner of the cave.  The archbishop ordered plenty of mischief and political satire to be built into the castle, there are plenty of fountains mocking his enemies.  By the way there are no bedrooms in the castle - this place was for daytime entertainment only - long live the church...

There's a zoo that is located close to the castle - I haven't been there, but I've been told that it is very beautiful and cozy - this is a Salzburg standard. Everything here is done in moderation, but with meticulous detail and perfection.

Mirabell Palace
This place is sooooo on my to do list, but so far I always had to finish looking at other castles. 

Mirabell palace belonged to yet another archbishop and has amazing views of the fortress and the city.  Most famous however are the gardens with their beautiful flower arrangements and old greek mythology statues.  There's also a gnome garden as well as a hedge theater.

Fortress Hohensalzburg
The fortress was built by an archbishop - surprise - I think by now you get the picture. Archbishops were powerful political figures.

In order to get to the fortress you first have to walk to the bottom of the rock that it's built on.  This is especially nice, because you'll maneuver small medieval streets, see massive baroque churches and beautiful architecture as well as touristy markets.  I love their catchphrase that's plastered onto every mug, t-shirt, bumper sticker and so forth: 

There are no kangaroos in Austria!

Once you arrive at the bottom of the rock you can take the cable car to the top or you can walk.  I prefer to walk, because number one you see more because you walk from one side to the other instead of straight up and second you can stop where you like and enjoy the view over the city - it's gorgeous!  

We were pooring sweat by the time we got to the top though.  So far everything was free (not the cable car if you choose that route), but to enter the fortress you have to pay a fee.  It was interesting, but then I always think fortresses are interesting. They are tiny villages enclosed by massive walls, very different from castles that are normally a smaller scale.  I don't remember seeing anything that I thought was very memorable and worth the fee though.  Maybe the torture chamber.  Yes, they did have one, though the tour guide said it was never used.  Thank goodness - it's horrible to see what sick ideas people come up with to hurt one another.  

On the way back down the rock we stopped at the Stiegl brewery "Biergarten".  It was a rainy day, so we went inside, but even inside it was very pretty.  I tried some traditional Almdudler, which I really liked.  It contains zero alcohol, but I thought it did.  So I wasn't sure whether I could have a second one and still drive back home, which earned me some confused looks from the waiter who was very friendly by the way.  

Their food was soooooo delicious.  Ever had the need to lick your plate and not leave a single crum of food?  Well that's how I felt.  I even ordered desert and I never order desert!  My husband tried their "Apfelstrudel mit Vanillesauce" (apples backed in dough and a vanilla sauce) and I tried "Preisselbeerpalatschinken" (crepes with lingoberries).  Soooo good.  I'm not kidding!  Here I took a picture:

That concludes the castles and we're moving on the town itself.  I adore the architecture of church

This is a very busy shopping street and it also holds Mozart's birthhome.  Every store proudly presents their name on an iron plate above their shop door.  Some of them are quite artistic.  It's cute, but if you're not so much of a crowd person like me, then stop at one of the countless cafe's and just sit and watch people, while enjoying a hot chocolate. 

Talking about Mozart - there are little pralines that bear his face on the wrapper and their name is "Mozartkugeln".  I'm not sure my translation is accurate - but I would translate as "Mozart balls" :)  I know... but they are delicious!  They consist of several layers, in the middle there's a pistacio core, surrounded by creamy nougat, which is enclosed by marzipan and two final layers of light and dark chocolate.  Mhhhhhhhhmmm, they are manufactured by the Reber company, which is why I initially mentioned once you try their product you're hooked.  They don't come cheap though.  Discount stores like "Aldi" that you find overseas carry a much cheaper imitation, but to me it tastes the same.  I'm sure I could find some Austrians to disagree with me.

Not a lot of people think about taking a vacation during the cold winter months, and if they do then they usually have a tropical location in mind.  What a lot of people don't see is the alpine landscape and all the cities around it have a very enchanting winter charme.  First of all your chances for white Christmas are really good.  And I understand that most people like to spend xmas at home, but what about the weeks leading up to Christmas?  In my hometown xmas markets start 4 weeks before Christmas and they really are special.  The setting is usually very festive with lights glowing everywhere, xmas trees, hot wine or punch, roasted chestnuts, the smell of cookies coming from every booth, artists selling their crafts, Christmas carols, ice sculptures, Santa and everything else you can imagine.  It will really set the mood for the holidays.  Salzburg and its setting in the alpine landscape is especially beautiful during the winter.

House of Nature
This is kind of like the Museum of Natural History, just smaller, more intimate and with an aquarium!  The aquarium is actually my most favorite part, but there are plenty of other exhibits: dinosours, world history, crystals, mythical creatures, the human body, air & space, worlds oceans.

Siegmunds Gate
This place marks my official "Wow - I'm in Salzburg" location.  To get into the city you'll have to drive through a massive mountain tunnel - the Siegmunds gate.  It is so amazing - it's not a concrete tunnel, it's just a whole in the mountain and so intimidating to drive through.  I love it.  Also I usually follow the blue "P" signs that take you to parking and I always end up in the same mountain.  Have you ever parked in a mountain?  The walls being sheer rock coming down at odd angels?  This is truly uniuqe to Salzburg.

Here's a pretty little video from Salzburg, too bad that an ambulance seems to drive by while the video was shot, but the views are just as I remember them:


One last note - you NEED to have an umbrella with you.  Salzburg is known for its torrential downpours...  They even have a name for it: "Schnuerlregn".  It can happen any minute.  Don't say I didn't warn you.  And that is it, my little review of what I've seen in Salzburg, I'm sure there's tons more to see, but what I've told you should be more than enough to inspire your visit.

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