I’m currently on a train to Vienna with Emmaline, sipping Red Bulls (first one since the Dimond Library, fell off the bandwagon) and munching sandwiches while an older couple next to us is engaged in some serious PDA. Not cute PDA, but unusual by US standards, raunchy howhighupherleg is he going to go PDA. If there’s one thing I’ve noticed this trip to Europe, it’s that people just aren’t as shy about touching as we tend to be back home. Every stranger I’ve been introduced to has gone in for the customary double cheek kiss- EXCEPT for any other Americans I meet. Even the younger kids greet each other this way, with the boys shaking hands and clapping each other on the backs, and hugging their girl friends. Couples are super cuddly in public, no matter what age, and there are tons of kids my age walking around holding hands with their parents. It makes me wonder what they think when they visit America, like do we come off as super standoffish and cold? Or prude. Who knows, that’s all besides the point. Thank you, my lovebird aisle-mates for leading me to that tangent.
Like I said, I’m on a train back to Vienna where Em and I will spend the remainder of my trip before I head home Wednesday. Having almost three hours to kill, I figured now would be a great time to recap on a lot of what has happened in the past week. For whatever reason, I love writing while I’m on a train. No major distractions, clear and flowing thoughts, no stress about having to navigate myself. It might actually be my favorite way to get anywhere.
OK SO. Down to business. Having the bad tendency to ramble, I’ll break this post up in sections. Let’s start with the actual city of Salzburg.
When Emmaline picked up from the train station on Sunday, our taxi drove us on a path that went around the Old Town, the part of the city most well known and photographed. I, like many others I’m sure, tend to forget that a place is not compromised just by the parts that it’s well known for. There’s much more to the city than just the Old Town, it’s a place just like any other you might know. Practical stores, apartment buildings, gas stations, subdivisions and plenty of traffic lights. So, my introduction to the Old Town the following day was made even more magical by seeing the “normal parts” of the city first. To get into the city, we walked through this massive tunnel literally carved right into and through a long and thick wall of rock. Think Lord of the Rings entrance to Moria (Yup, I know how dorky that makes me sound. Over it!) and you have a good idea of what this entrance and tunnel looked like. So you walk through this tunnel carved into rock, almost feeling like you’re underground, and emerge into the light to find this beautiful, antique city that looks like it’s been frozen in time. The detail paid to all the buildings that make up the city is actually insane, you can’t imagine there’s ever been enough time to have completed it all. The majority of streets and pathways are made up of cobbled stone, and there are elaborate fountains and statues around every corner (most of which are covered in protective cases from the upcoming snowfalls). Food stands and trucks pop up randomly amongst the hundreds of specialty shops. There are more bakeries with drool worthy display windows than you can count, and nestled between and through buildings are little alley ways. At first, they seem daunting, but after a few days of walking, you realize they all connect in an easy to follow path. Every hundred feet it seems like there’s another important landmark to take notice of. Famous for The Sound of Music and Mozart (amongst other things), there is plenty of sights to see attributed to the two. Every day there was something new to see, whether it was another church, museum or amazing view of the city from high above.
Ok this is hard because there was very little about Salzburg that I didn’t love, but I’ll try to give you a quick recap of a few of my favorites.
The Salzburg Fortress (Festung Hohensalzburg): This is an enormous and very famous fortress that sits upon a high hill overlooking the city. It’s been found in records dating as far back as the late 10th century and has been excellently preserved. To get to it, you can take a funicular directly up the incline. From the walls of the fortress, you can get an amazing view of the city. Emmaline and I did this the second night I was in town before we attended a classical advent concert. All the city lights splayed out beneath you definitely take your breath away.
The Horse Fountain: After you come through that tunnel I was talking about earlier, you’ll be directly near the Horse Fountain- a giant horse sculpture surrounded by a mural of horses that at one point served as a horse bath where people would come and groom their horses. Pretty self-explanatory, and very beautiful. This was easily my favorite sculpture in the Old Town. Next to the pickles of course.
St. Peter’s Abbey: The church of the Abbey is pretty incredible. Every church in Salzburg was beautiful, but this one was especially notable. Every part of the church is carefully painted and sculpted, with Biblical stories covering the wall and ceiling in mural form.
Nonnberg Abbey: The Abbey is great, but it’s the walk to it that is particularly spectacular. Following a slow winding path uphill, the view of the city gets better with every step. And of course, the door and gates of the Abbey were widely used in The Sound of Music.
Other great spots were Mozart’s house, the Salzburg Museum, Hellbrun, and Leopoldschloss, a famous palace overlooking a lovely little pond.
Food and Christmas Markets
Obviously one of the best parts of going somewhere new is trying the local eats, and it seems like coming at Christmastime was a great choice in this regard. I’ve put these two topics together because they really go hand in hand. Many cities in this part of Europe put up extravagant Christmas markets for most of the Christmas season. They’re comprised of various vendor stalls selling baked good, candy, candles, hats and gloves, Christmas decorations, fresh produce, tons of traditional Austrian good and of course, plenty of Gluhwein and Punsch. The markets seem to be more of a social even then anything else, with tons of people gathering all day long to get drinks and eat. All around the markets tiny, high tables are set up that people will gather around to catch up. Most of the people buying trinkets seem to be tourists (guilty). And of course, the markets are decorated to the nines. So many lights, so many trees, and tons of live Christmas music performances. It’s like Christmas went and threw up all over the city- I LOVE it. As is evident by the thousands of pictures I’ve taken of the markets so far (and just wait, Em and I are hitting up the Viennese markets tonight :p ).
Ok, more on the food. I’ve only dabbled a bit in the Austrian food scene. To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of sausage and it’s definitely very popular over here. I did find a milder form I like called Bosna, pretty much two halves of long, thin sausage served on freshly baked bread with your choosing of toppings. Sort of like a hot dog, but definitely way more flavorful. The bread choices in Salzburg are insane, it’s a bread lovers paradise. Also very popular are giant pretzels done in a variety of ways, pretzels being the image logo for multiple bakeries around town.
My favorite dish I’ve tried while here is Kaiserschmarrn. Seriously cannot stop talking about it, and probably will try to master a recipe once I get home so I can have it whenever I want. It’s almost like a pancake stirfry, Big pieces of pancake make up this dish, but for a Christmas twist they add raisins, apple, and walnuts and top it with powdered sugar and apple or plum sauce, or both if you’re a glutton like myself.
Most important out of all these traditional dishes and drinks are the gluhweins and punsch. Gluhwein is hot mulled wine, red or white, and it tastes like Christmas in a cup. It’s heaven and hands down my favorite way to drink wine. As my friend told me, it’s the best way to stay warm when walking around the chilly city at night. Where there’s gluhwein, there’s usually punch, which comes in a wide variety of flavors. They consist of a base alcohol, such as rum or vodka, mixed with various flavors and warmed. My favorite was a caramel, chili pepper rum punsch I tried in Vienna the first night I was here.
Excursion to Munich and Neuschwanstein Castle in Fussen
On Wednesday, Emmaline and I got up at 5 to catch a train to Munich, Germany where we caught up with a guided tour that would take us to Neuschwanstein Castle (The New Swan Rock is the translation, according to Roggie). Unfortunately for us, the castle was pretty much hidden by fog. Here’s what it looks like normally:
Long story short behind the castle is that there was this crazy ruler named Ludwig who was a recluse because he was never close with his parents, didn’t want to get married and produce an heir, and struggled with his sexuality his entire life until he died by very mysterious circumstances at the age of 41. The dude was obsessed with Hans Christian Andersen and all things fantasy. He built several incredible and extravagant palaces, two of which remain unfinished.
While the inside of the castle was pretty cool, the best part of the trip was the people we met. There was Dana, a warm grandmother from Texas who was quick to take Em and I under her wing, and the mother/daughter duo of Sarah and Pria, from Georgia. All three women are widely traveled and it was so cool to listen to all of the interesting places they’ve been. I sort of felt like a novice in comparison! We stayed relatively close throughout the day, and by the time the tour came to an end, it felt like we were saying goodbye to friends. It’s definitely been so cool to see the way travel can bring people together.
Upon getting back to Munich, we decided to walk the city with another tour member, Travis, who had just arrived in Munich from Perth, Australia the day before. Like us, he’d just graduated and is taking the next two months to travel. I give him major kudos, I’m definitely realizing I prefer a shorter trip to a longer one. Munich, like Salzburg and Vienna, has gorgeous Christmas markets and was a scene out of the most Christmassy of Christmas movies. By the time we rolled back into Salzburg at 10:30, we were exhausted by quite happy with how the day had gone.
All in all, Salzburg was absolutely fantastic and I was sad to leave it behind this morning. On our last night there, Em and I cooked up omelets for dinner and watched The Sound of Music with Roggie while sipping on some red wine. Having not seen it for at least a decade, it was especially great to watch it after having gotten to see so much of the scenery for myself and walked away from it with an all new appreciation. A chill night was exactly what we needed before setting off on the next part of the trip.
If you’ve read this all, that’s awesome and I’m beyond flattered, I know how long winded I can get 😉 Our train ride’s wrapping up and we’ll be getting into Vienna shortly.
Let’s see what today brings 🙂