The train is chugging us back to Vienna and the snow is slowly thinning out the further we get from Salzburg. I can see little specks of green peeking out from under the white fluffy blanket. The fir trees that weren’t cut down for decorating this year are left to grow for another 12 months. They’re slowly waving goodbye to us as the train passes by. Salzburg was such a great trip. *Warning: This post may contain many photos and words. Please stay calm. We had a long day*
We only spent two days there but I had a marvelous time. We started off the day pretty early because we had tickets to a tour later on in the day and our Salzburg Card expired at 2PM. I wanted to see as much I could so we could get our money’s worth and soak in everything the town had to offer. My top choices were the Toy Museum (they had Austria’s oldest toy collection!), the Untersberg cable car and the Hohensalzburg fortress. In the end we decided to trek over to the fortress because the cable car was a good 30 minutes out of the city and it was drizzling so I wasn’t confident how clear the skies would be for sightseeing.
Did you know that people who live in Salzburg are called ‘Salzburgers’? I wish I was a Salzburger.
After a quick breakfast at the hotel, we took a bus down to the city centre. Buses that go to the old city centre are marked with ‘Zentrum’ so it was fairly easy to make sure we were headed in the right direction. The drizzle and fog didn’t dampen my spirits at all but it did make my city map quite limp. We were trying to find St. Peter’s church. There is a funicular station behind the church that takes visitors up to the fortress. Seeing as though the fortress was up on this huge mountain, I thought the funicular was a good idea. While navigating through the square, we bumped into an old friend, Mozart!
He was hanging out in front of his chocolate shop. Handing out of free samples like a boss. The marzipan Mozart chocolates are very famous here in Austria (at least as a tourist I think so!) and I’ve bought 4 bags already. I may have to buy some more. While Alice and I were taking photos with Mozart, a lady came out a store and said “This is not the real Mozart, he is dead!” She was really nice and after we told her that we were trying to find a way up to fortress she pointed us in the right direction and wished us a happy holiday. I really like nice people.
We followed her directions and found ourselves in a little courtyard that had a water mill. Bells started going off in my head! My good friend Hilary Duff, baker and cook extraordinaire, was in Salzburg in the summer and wanted to check out this famous bakery but it was closed during her visit. She told me to try to hunt it down, and I found it completely by chance! The bakery has a water mill chugging outside and the most deliriously delicious smells waft out of the underground bakery. The bakery is still in its original spot and the the stone walls are incredible. Their bread is freshly baked in stone ovens and I was so tempted to buy myself a loaf of bread. But I didn’t want to carry a loaf of bread around for the whole day, so that idea died quickly. The smell was good enough though.
After peeking into the bakery, we found a wrought iron gate that lead into a gorgeous cemetery. We walked in and found rows upon rows of graves. I usually get spooked about things like that (okay, I was a little scared) but I was distracted by the beautiful headstones and plants. The whole cemetery was quite an attraction. There were general plots that had low iron gates around them and relatives must have just been there because there were lighted candles, incense and fresh flowers. Bordering the graves were these larger tombstones behind huge iron gates. All of them had some sort of painting above the grave. I think these were noble family graves or the tomb of religious icons like archbishops, priests, that sort of thing.
We later learned that the escape scene in the Sound of Music was filmed there. The Von Trapps hid behind tombstones in that cemetery, I almost had heart attack from excitement.
After a nice detour into the cemetery we finally found the funicular station around the corner. The FestungsBahn goes up a track in the side of the mountain and drops off passengers at the base of the fortress. I didn’t know what to expect at all so when the trip took less than a minute, I was amazed at how short it took to climb all the way up. The cable railway is the oldest funicular in Austria. It was built in 1892. I was scared that it would crack and collapse because I had a big breakfast, but they’ve renovated and upgraded it since then.
The rides up are every ten minutes so the wait isn’t long. Once we were up there the view took my breath away. Not because it was cold (it was SO cold!) but because we could see the entire city of Salzburg from the top. It was really foggy so the pictures were simply of us standing in front of clouds, but you have to trust me when I say that the tiny glimpses of the city that I managed to get while the mist moved, was beautiful.
The Hohensalzburg Fortress is central Europe’s largest, completely preserved fortress dating from the 11th century. I had never been to a fortress before so I didn’t know what to expect, but I loved what I saw. We took an audio tour of the fortress and went to some amazing locations. We saw the salt room where we learned about the growth of the fortress under a number of archbishops. There were models to show the fortress’ expansions throughout the years as well as portraits of the different archbishops.
We headed up to the torture room and spent a good 5 minutes in a room that creepily reminded me of underground prisons. There were shackles, iron handcuffs and a huge torture wheel that was dropped on prisoners back in the day because it was the worst way to torture someone. Halfway through the audio guide explained that torture was not actually carried out in the room, it was just where they stored all their equipment! What a way to scare me!
We then made our way up a spiral staircase and ended up on the top of the vulture tower. It was a look-out tower when the fortress was used for battles and wars. I stood up on the top and just took in all the splendor that lay below. I couldn’t get any good photos because it was cold and raining. The Untersberg mountain and the Bavarian Alps seemed so close. I felt as though I could reach out and touch their icy tips. After what seemed like hours of just gazing out at the city that lay below us, we had to head back down and end the tour.
I was really amazed by the fortress because it looked as if they had taken a whole town and just plonked it on top of a mountain. We took a stroll through the Fortress Museum and the buildings.
The rooms that I loved most were the ones that belonged the archbishops. They were so nicely decorated and grand. They were ornaments hanging on the wall, stars attached to the ceilings and crests painted on the beams. The floors were wooden and rickety so that whenever you walked, it creaked. There were gold panels on the seats and a huge furnace that made out of expensive material and was so ornately decorated. I saw pineapples painted on it.
After spending my lunch money for the next three years in the gift shop, we made our way to the World of Marionettes. Marionettes are a big deal in Europe. They have theaters just for these puppets and they’re a great form of entertainment. We found the museum for marionettes and had a great time snapping photos and trying out the little puppets that they had. If I never make it as journalist I think I might have a bright future as a marionette puppeteer.
After lunch in a traditional tavern, we made our way back down the mountain and joined the regular land folk. I highly recommend a visit to the fortress if you are in Salzburg. They are so many wonderful things to see up in the sky and getting a Salzburg card is definitely worth it.
At the base of the mountain, we roamed around the square outside the cathedral and took in the sights and smells of another Christmas market. It was very similar to the market that we saw in Vienna, but this time it was in daylight! I stumbled upon a booth selling homemade soaps. They had a row of hanging heart shaped soaps in different colors and my hand just reached for it. Before I knew it I had a basket of soaps and was piling it up! The nice lady had baskets of chocolate soap, olive oil soap, peppermint soap and so many other kinds. I never thought myself as a soap kind of girl, but I loved the shapes, colors and smells. I also loved the way they had stamped in classic patterns into them.
I ended up buying the hanging heart shaped soaps, a bar of purple periwinkle soap and a long bar of soap that I don’t know what it’s made of, but it smells really good and looks to pretty. I don’t know how I’m supposed to pack all that and make sure it gets home in one piece.
After painfully tearing myself away from the soap booth, we enjoyed the rest of the market and started walking towards the main city centre for our Sound of Music tour. While walking we passed an arched walkway and heard the most beautiful sounds coming from the middle of crowd. Being as curious as two journalism students can be, Alice and I shoved our way to the front and saw four teenage boys singing carols. I’m guessing they were carols because they sung in German, and we all know I’m not very fluent. Their voices were so beautiful, I was surprised to think that those sounds came out of teenage boys. We stood there for a good five minutes and just enjoyed their singing. A lot of people stood with us and dropped money into their hat. There was even an Asian lady who has selling magazines who decided to join business with pleasure. She stood there with her magazines while enjoying the carols. Alice took a video of their singing, I’ll see if I can put it up here later.
Our next stop was the Mirabell Gardens, the meeting point for our Sound of Music tour. I’ll end this post here and tell you all about the tour in my next update. I really want to stare out the window and listen to my Sound of Music soundtrack. The train is steadily moving towards Vienna and I’m excited to be back in the big city. Till next time!