Day 6 - Wednesday, September 21, 2005
So we get our tired bodies out of bed bright and early once more. It's still dark outside as we climb one flight of stairs to the restaurant on the 15th floor. We didn't bother with the elevator, it was extremely slow, and a few people were almost late for the bus because of it.
Anyways, the restaurant is nice with large windows with a lovely view. The sun was just rising and everything had a pinkish glow to it. The breakfast was a buffet, as were all the breakfasts we had on the trip.
Then we make our way downstairs, hop on the bus, and got driven a couple of blocks to where we unloaded again. I don't know why we bothered with the bus in the first place. Anyways, we were now at the Mirabel gardens. Some of you may recall the scene in the Sound of Music when the Von Trapp children are singing the Do-Re-Mi song and end up posing like the statues you see in the distance here. I actually hadn't see the movie for a few years before going on the trip, and remembered very little of the specific locations. Watching the movie afterwards we pointed out things we recognized, though there weren't as many as we'd hoped. They spent most of their time at the Von Trapp residence.
From here we had to cross a couple of streets. In Austria, cars will actually stop for you if you stand at a crosswalk, and won't run red lights, so it's safe for pedestrians to cross. On the other hand, don't try to cross on a red yourself, they almost have the right to run you down then. And the lights in Salzburg change fast. We had to stop and wait for the second half of our group to join us a couple of times.
At one street corner we are shown the house where Mozart lived as an adult. An interesting note, Mozart's 250th birthday was going to be the next year, so the city was preparing for the big celebration by covering up most of the monuments. His home in the old city was covered in a tarp, and his statue was in a box.
We arrive at the river Salz. This river was used to carry salt that had been mined upriver and was how it got its name. This is looking to the left with the Hohensalzburg above and the old city behind the front row of buildings.
And to the right. I just noticed that building that is kind of coming right out of the cliff face. Kind of interesting.
We now pass through a series of passageways to enter the old city itself. The streets are narrow and winding, and most curve back upon themselves. Its impossible to get lost here, though its very easy to start going round in circles. Very fanciful signs were hung in front of most shops and restaurants and added to the atmosphere of the city. A few even had signs without words, as they would have had in the past as much of the population would have been illiterate. For example, keys in front of a locksmith's. In contrast to Vienna, even MacDonald's had a very small delicate sign that blended in with these others, and thus wasn't so annoying. We did go in to use the washrooms, but we didn't actually eat there.
If you look to the end of the street, you can see a cliff. Many streets ended in this way, with a giant wall of imposing rock. The old city was built between the river and the mountain, with the fortress on top for protection. The streets were so small because everyone wanted to live within this protected region. Fortunately, the streets are now closed to traffic, except during the early hours when trucks are allowed to make deliveries. We were there early enough to see them, as you can tell by the picture above.
We then visited the church of St. Peter's Abbey, and the graveyard behind it. The headstones were very delicate things, made you feel like you were in a garden, rather than a cemetery.
From there, we pass a bustling market with people selling food. And around to the main Residence Square of the old town. It turned out that this particular weekend was Saint Rupert's celebration. So the entire square was filled with little rides and games and booths selling trinkets. It was a little overwhelming and ruined the effect of the old city. My mother was particularly disappointed by the whole thing, but since I had never seen the city before, I had nothing to compare it to, so I didn't mind the silliness as much.
This was the end of the guided tour and we were released to explore on our own. We visited a few shops, my mother buying a Christmas ball to hang on our tree. We bought some food from a street cart and sat down at the base of a statue or fountain to eat it. At some point during our wanderings we find ourselves at the back end of the city, up against the mountain. There we found a horse mural, and anyone who knows me knows I needed to take pictures of it.
A little to the side of it, there was what looked like a big black hole through the mountain. This connects two parts of Salzburg. My grandmother used to live on the other side of the tunnel and used to pass through this very opening.
And here is the right half of the horse mural.
In the center there was a fountain, with a mythological/religious scene painted. I'm not sure if it represents any particular story, or if it was just a mix between Greek and Christian legends.
This is the famous horse fountain (Residence Fountain), again something one can see in the Sound of Music movie. It was surrounded by the rides and booths, and the water had been turned off. I was able to take a picture of the top part, but the horses were pretty well obscured.
We were now going to join up with the tour guide for an optional trip to the Eagle's Nest. First we leave the old city. By now it has actually gotten quite warm, and coats were being removed. We walk down to a parking lot where we are to meet the bus, but just before we get on, we are shown a good place to get a parting shot of the Hohensalzburg. The one regret I have is that we did not go up to explore it.