Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Honeymoon in Europe: Salzburg

After exploring Paris for the week we jumped on a Niki flight to Vienna and then an OBB train ride to our next stop: Salzburg.

When discussing locations for our honeymoon I never even considered Salzburg. But for Chrissy it was a forgone conclusion that we would be visiting the city; for basically one reason only - The Sound of Music.
It's Chrissy's favorite movie of all time and a key part of the Christmas season for her. Since she was young its been an X-mas tradition for her and her mother to watch the movie with some Baileys and hot chocolate. As the location of  Salzburg is as much a character in the movie as any other it's been her long desire to visit. And as the devoted husband I agreed to add it to our itinerary as long as we had the chance to explore the other sights of Salzburg. And so began the pilgrimage of Christina:

The Sound of Music Tour

Immediately upon arriving at our hotel Chrissy booked us on "The Original Sound of Music Tour" for the next morning. She woke up giddy as a school girl and within no time at all we found ourself on a big luxury bus zipping through the streets.


Between site stops the tour guide provided some great commentary both on the making of the movie and on the highlights of the city. An interesting piece of movie magic passed on was in regards to the Van Trapp residence. For the movie they actually used multiple buildings as the residence and were careful to shoot each facade from certain angles. 

The frozen over lake at the back of the house


The tree lane and front of the house
The gazebo, famous for fictional Nazi's stealing kisses from blondes was high on Chrissy's list to see. Funny enough, the gazebo is located way outside town, mostly due to it's popularity. Apparently it used to be located closer to the lake house. However, that location was right next to a conference center. The continual influx of visitors to the gazebo though made it intolerable to host a meeting near by. All of the tourists and fanatics singing and carrying on made so much of a ruckus that on the behest of the conference center the City had the gazebo moved.


The gazebo is locked down and you can no longer go inside to serenade yourself or others. A few years back an elderly woman was so compelled by the experience of being in the gazebo that she attempted to skip from bench to bench. Not as nimble as a 17 year old 'Fraulein' she slipped up and knocked her head pretty hard. Isn't that just like the elderly? Always getting in trouble and ruining things for the kids ;)

Included in the Sound of Music tour is a picturesque journey through the 'Lakes District' to the location of the big wedding.The journey was quite a nice change of pace after being in the middle of a major city like Paris so recently. 

While driving through the countryside the tour bus had music from the movie pumping to a) build on the experience and b) solidify cult like adherence to Julie Andrews. We were told that on some days it breaks out into a cacophony of song, but for us that day it was more of a modest sing-along.



St. Gilgen and Lake Wolfgang
The church of the big wedding was fantastic. From the outside, it looks like a nicely preserved church but the inside is where it really shines. Our pictures don't do it justice.


Mondsee (the town with the church) is a cute little place with a nice main square flanked by buildings with decorated facades. We only had about an hour in the town and spent most of that time wandering through the Christmas market and the traditional Austrian clothing shops.



Our tour ended back in the centre of Salzburg near the Mirrabell Gardens. The gardens were scaled back during the winter but they remained quite picturesque. If you are familiar with the movie you may recognise a couple of these sights.



The tour did not take us to every location that was used in the movie, but it did point out how to get to the remainder of them. 

Mozart Bridge

The nunnery where Maria resided
Christina thoroughly enjoyed the tour and thanks to the knowledgeable and charming tour guides surprisingly so did I. If you ever find yourself in the city, take the tour.

Christmas Markets

With only a few days left before Christmas the numerous markets were in full swing. Chrissy and I enjoyed multiple mulled wines, sausages and strudels while we strolled through plaza's looking for deals and soaking in the atmosphere.





Bräustübl Tavern

Co-located at the Augustine Brewery (founded in 1621 by monks) the tavern is the largest beer hall in Austria and considered one of the top beer gardens in the world.

The tavern is massive with 3 large halls that I can only guess seats close to nearly 600 people. The beer is distributed from massive kegs and can be ordered at the table or in person at the keg. The process of getting a beer at the keg is pretty cool and I would recommend doing that for any first timers. First, you select a mug off a side wall, bring it to a central fountain to wash (it was most likely placed on the shelf straight off the table), pay for the beer at a cash register and get a ticket, hand the ticket over to the keg master for a fill. Chrissy had some concerns about the sanitary nature of it all but I kind of liked the communal aspect of it and trusted in the healing principles of alcohol.

I of course had to order a full liter of beer.


Christina selected a smaller size but gave mine a try as more of a weightlifting exercise.



With all that beer we decided that some substance was needed to protect our stomachs. An Italian woman and her two young kids (family friendly establishment) held our shared table for us as we browsed the cafeteria vendors selling food between the halls.

I scored a sweet leg of ham with mustard while Chrissy went with a more traditional snack.

 



Before I could get too crazy (I had already expressed my desire to live in the building) Chrissy pulled me out of the beer hall. We didn't get too far though as something caught my eye...a man pulling a steel bar out of a fire and into a sleeve of beer. I had to try it.



The result was a delicious contrast of cold beer and a warm frothy head. Surprisingly fantastic.

Hohensalzburg Castle

While in Salzburg we were treated to exceptional weather that was about 10-12 degrees warmer then the usual (think +6 as opposed to -6).  However, our good fortune was balanced by an unfortunate fog that settled over the city for the first 2 days of our stay. Here we were in a city recognised for it's beauty and one of the largest medieval castles in Europe and we could barely see it.

Waking early on our last day in the city we ventured outside to find the fog had finally lifted. Relieved we bee-lined through Mirabell Gardens to the downtown and the Castle.



We rode the funicular up the hill to the top and took our time wandering around reading the multi-language signs describing the history of the city and the structure. My favorite sign relayed the story of the 'Painted Bull'. Basically, the city was under siege for an extended period of time and things had gotten so dire that they only had one bull left as livestock. The commander of the troops with a flood of inspiration decided that he would parade this bull atop the main walkway of the castle so those conducting the siege could see it. The next day he ordered the bull painted a different color and once again paraded, and then again the next day. Eventually after a few days the soldiers that had the Castle surrounded decided that since the Castle was so well provisioned with winter coming they might as well end the siege and return to their homes before winter trapped them in the City. The gambit of the painted bull paid off. Pretty cool little story I thought.

The castle itself is nice but the most impressive aspect of it is the view it offers. With the sun shining down on us we enjoyed our last few hours in Salzburg looking out at the city and surrounding countryside.





Other Highlights:

The specialty dessert of the city - Salzburger Nockerl

Our awesome tour guide and his dramatic flair

Painted Cows

Notes: 

  • Mozart was born in Salzburg and his image is nearly everywhere. Other than a breakfast at the Cafe Mozart and eating chocolates with his image on it we didn't do anything Mozart related on our trip. It was a pilgrimage of more modern music sensibilities.
  • On our first night in the city I got terribly turned around in the fog and ended up leading us a few km in the wrong direction. Eventually we found a sign that had 'zentrum' written on it and Chrissy recognized it as meaning center. We followed the river for 4km past the control damn and weir into the city from that point on. A few days later when we got to the top of the castle we could just barely make out how far away we were in the wrong direction. Whoops.
  • The founder of Red Bull is from Salzburg and the Head Quarters of the company is located outside the city near the Lakes District. We drove past it and it looked pretty cool. I want to work there.
  • Stiegl beer has a fantastic pub halfway up the walking route to the castle. It's a great pit stop.
  • Next Stop - Vienna




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