Salzkammergut - Salzburg
Day 5 - Tuesday, September 20, 2005
It only takes a couple hours to get from Vienna to Salzburg, but it took us a good part of the day. This was the moment that being part of a tour group was a good thing, because they brought us places we never would have known even existed. We'd have just hopped on the train and gone straight there.
First was a little stop along the road. To the left of us was the Danube that had never been blue, regardless of Strauss' waltz. At best, it was grey or muddy brown, and even if it wasn't full of silt, it would have a greenish tinge to it because of the minerals. Anyways, to the right of us, up on the mountain one could make out some ruins of an old castle. This happens to be the castle Richard the Lionheart was held for ransom.
We piled back into the bus, and we were off again. Our next stop was Melk, the baroque monastery. Here are the front gates.
And inside the courtyard. On our way out we noticed a group of young girls peering around a doorway, not what you'd expect in a monastery. But it turns out they are now using it was a private school, as there are very few monks still in residence in this very large building.
We weren't part of any guided tour, so we were only allowed to see what the non-paying tourists get to see. That was what I showed you above, and the inside of the chapel. If we had been on a tour, we'd have been allowed inside the chapel itself, however, we were held back behind some glass panels, which explains the reflected flashes.
The word that came to mind as we looked around was "gold". My other pictures were very dark and hard to see anything, but here is a nice one of the ceiling.
We exit the front gates again and stop for a hot chocolate and some cake while we wait for the bus to bring us to the summer resort town of Gmunden. For those of you familiar with the Laurentians, this is their equivalent. A small town next to a mountain lake, with quaint and colourful buildings. This one held a cafe, and if one wandered a ways behind it, one would come across a small garden.
Still in this little paved square, if you turn to the left of the green building, one finds oneself on the edge of the water. The lake was surrounded in mountains, who were themselves enshrouded by clouds on this day. When we first got there we could barely make out the mountains at all. On the lake were ducks and swans and we watched them paddling around for a while.
And finally, if one wanders along the street to the right of the green building, one comes to the street the bus drove down on the way in. I liked this pink building for some reason, it seemed so fairy tale like. The colours were just amazing. Again no bricks, just pink and green and blue and yellow and white. Felt like you were wandering a village of houses made of iced cakes.
From here, we drive around the lake and along the mountains, and a one point, through the mountains. We pass the lakes of Traunsee and Attersee (the largest lake in the Austrian Alps), to the Mondsee lake. We stop at this village and park the bus next to what looks like a riding school. We follow a small path into the village of Mondsee where we find the church that was used in the filming of the movie, the Sound of Music. Inside of here the wedding scene was filmed. Note that this is not the church the Von Trapps were really married in, they had been married in the nunnery in Salzburg. The nuns refused to let the movie producers film there so they used this as an alternative.
Now turn to the back and one sees the rest of the village. Again, cute and quaint like Gmunden. This was a lovely raspberry coloured cafe where we snuck in to use the bathroom. I would have stayed to eat a pastry or cake, but *everyone* was smoking in there. Smoking is a big thing in Europe, and there are certainly no laws limiting its use anywhere. And based on a few shop signs and ads I saw in Vienna, they may not be strangers to pot either. Anyways, my mom bought a little pastry to eat outside.
Once again we make our way back to the bus in time to catch its departure. We now go straight to Salzburg. Well, it seemed straight until the bus made this crazy turn. A tiny little road was coming down a hill at a strange angle, and a car with two people in the front had just stopped to let the traffic pass. The bus then decides to turn almost 180 degrees around and go up this little road. You should have seen the look on the faces of the people in the car as the bus started coming at them. They backed up real fast. I'm not sure if we had gotten lost or if that was the way one was supposed to go.
We do however make it to the Europa hotel without incident or injury. We are right across the street from the bus depot, and the train station my mother had gotten off at when she came over thirty years ago. She even saw the little inn where she stayed nearby. Salzburg is divided in two by the river Salz, and we were on the other side of the river from the old city. However, we were on the 14th floor and had a great view. Unfortunately no digital pictures so I'll try to describe.
Looking to the left from our window was the old city. Behind it, a mountain on the top of which was the Hohensalzburg, an old fortress. Your eyes drift down and you can see the river, and crossing that, the rail yards where trains were constantly in motion. We were worried when we couldn't figure out how to start the air conditioning that we'd have to sleep with the windows open. The trains were very noisy, but we got the AC going. Now keep moving to the right and you can see the part of the working city, people's bicycles in their backyards and laundry out to dry. More to the right is a more industrial part, with the airport. Occasionally we saw a plane coming or going. And if you raise your eyes at any point along this sweep, you see mountains. These are not the towering peaks of Innsbruck, but they are impressive enough (and we hadn't seen Innsbruck yet to compare).
I suppose part of this view was what kind of turned me off of Salzburg a bit. The twisted iron of the rail yards and the messy driveways of the apartment complexes made it feel like a dirty city, not like the elegant and clean Vienna we'd just left. It was an unfair comparison, but it ended up sticking, thus this city being the one I like the least on the trip. I guess first impressions really do matter.
The hotel had an interesting quirk though. As we walked to our rooms at the end of the hall, another couple on our tour stuck out their heads and said their electricity wasn't working in their rooms. "Weird," we thought to ourselves and entered ours. Flicking the switch we find that we are in the same situation, none of the lights worked. It took us a while to turn back towards the door and notice the little box next to it. Sticking one's door key into it, we found the lights would turn on. "Great!" we thought, and pulled the key out again. A couple seconds later the lights went out again. I thought it a great idea to save electricity, no reason to have the hotel room lights on when no one was in there. On the other hand, it would have been nice had their shower had a shower curtain...I had to squish to one side in an attempt not to get water everywhere...
This was also the day we had a funny little incident with the bus driver. My mother realized she'd forgotten her jacket on the bus and my dad went down to see if he could get on the bus but it was locked. So he went to the front desk to ask the lady there to get ahold of the bus driver. Oh, the poor guy, he was taking a shower when the phone rang and he hopped out dripping wet to answer it. We felt bad about that, he was such a nice, quiet guy. He got the jacket for my mom when he went to put the bus away for the night.
His name was Rolff. Every morning when we got on the bus we'd chorus, "Gutt Morgen, Rolff". He'd rarely come with us on any of the tours, his duty was to remain by the bus. Usually we'd find him standing outside the door, smoking. Once we saw him cleaning the windows. When we got off the bus he was always there to help us down the steps (though the front of the bus was much easier to get out of than the back). He didn't actually work for Trafalgar directly, he was just hired by them for this one tour. He spoke very little as he wasn't supposed to socialize with the group, but we did get out of him that he was from a small town in the south of Austria.
That evening we had dinner in the hotel. Our soup was brought out, and instead of noodles, it had what was like long thin, cut up, pancakes in it. I won't say I liked it, but it was edible. The meal was a (boiled) roast. It was funny how the next day one lady inquired if we were going to have a non-American meal that night, as if Austrians don't eat roasts just because Amerians do. Well she was lucky because it turned out to be wiener schnitzel.