Ode to Salzburg

While we are currently in Argentina, I can’t give the shaft to Salzburg by not sharing our experience in Mozart’s birthplace.

Mozartplatz, City View, & the Ultimate Job...Horse Pooper Scooper

Mozartplatz, City View, & the Ultimate Job…Horse Pooper Scooper

From country to city to town, we are always asking “Would we come back?”  Salzburg is a resounding yes. Not only is the city our “perfect population” — 150,000 — it delivers on quaint feel with modern amenities.  Visiting in January takes nerve.  Perhaps it’s easy to join a Sound of Music tour the day of, but you’ll miss basking in the sun on wide stretches of green grass that meet up with the mountains surrounding Salzburg.  There is a picnic lunch and a good book in my future, perhaps during the shoulder season.

We spent a brief four nights in a wonderfully eclectic apartment built into the stone mountain on Lindergasse.  Of course, the refrigerator froze our food and a mildew problem was in full effect due to a burst pipe, but that is the life with Airbnb.

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There’s much made of the American obsession with The Sound of Music…people will tell you haughtily that Austrians have never heard of the Von Trapp Family.  Judging by the multiple two story tour buses with Julie Andrews blown up mug, I believe that time has passed.  The kids and I cozied up one night to watch the movie and imagine my glee when they actually enjoyed it.

We did the tour with Panorama the next day and while entertaining, it makes for a long day.  I recommend only doing it with a dozen obsessed, slightly inebriated fans who will unabashedly sing all of the songs as you drive.  Our group was a bit reserved, whispering the songs quietly.

All things Maria!

All things Maria!

The Rick Steve’s walking tour was an easy way to explore the city.  Rumor was of a thick snow and it eluded us so we could enjoy exploring the city on foot.  The homage to Mozart is everywhere, understandably.  There are numerous free concerts throughout the city, even in winter, but the creme de la creme is the summer Salzburg Festival, which is quite the opposite of free.

Scenes around town

Scenes around town

We of course partook in the local foods, both sweet and savory Tylorean style.  Mozart Balls (yes) were on sale everywhere for obliging tourists…chocolate and pistachio truffles.  We visited a few würstleständes for sausage sandwiches that we ate while shivering in the cold.  Our best discovery was a date night evening in a cozy bar with simply the best cocktails we’d had in many months, small bites and great conversation with the other clientele.  I complimented a gentleman on his scarf (clearly a replica of the U.S. flag) and he shared that he recently became engaged to a Californian and the scarf was a gift from his daughter.

Stumbling upon a church concert, the much recommended Fredrich's, Human Chess & the Love Bridge

Stumbling upon a church concert, the much recommended Fridrich’s, Human Chess & the Love Bridge

There’s so much in Salzburg we didn’t do….Mozart’s house, the salt mines, the Hohensalzburg Fortress. All the more reason to go back!

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Straddling the German-Austrian Border

Before landing in Argentina, we spent part of January exploring Austria. With visions of snowshoeing, sledding and cross country skiing, we made our way two hours south of Munich just over the border to Reutte. Alas, with a warm winter, very few snow sports were to be ours. Here’s what we did instead:

Rode Gondolas Up High Peaks & Marveled

Zugspitz is the highest mountain in Germany…9,718 feet above sea level. On clear days the peak is perfectly reflected in the lake that sits at its base, Lake Ebisee.

The cable car from Lake Ebisee to the peak is a wonder. It dangles thousands of feet above jagged rock cliffs while one stands pressed to its door by the 20+ other occupants, praying that the locking mechanism will not chose to malfunction in this moment.

But the payoff….rippling snowcapped peaks as far as the eye could see.

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A short lift ride down to toboggan rentals taught us humility. We spent far too much time walking down the seemingly vertical terrain while skiers passed overhead in chairlifts smiling down at our march of shame.

Trekked Up Local Mountains to Soak in Castle Ruins

Prior to visiting the much-ado-Neuschwanstein Castle, we hiked up to more modest abodes in Reutte. Four separate castle ruins dot the countryside and at the base, a wonderful interactive museum on life in medieval times.

We weighed ourselves down with suits of armor, followed the trail of merchants in the 13th century before hiking, sans the armor, up the path to the ruins of Ehrenberg and Schlosskopf castles. We were the only visitors which allowed us to stand amidst the rubble and shout “Who ruined my castle?!”

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Spent a Day with Mad King Ludwig in his Modest Home

What is a trip to Bavaria without a visit to Neuschwanstein? We joined throngs of tourists in a visit of Ludwig’s first home and father’s castle, Hohenschwangau, followed by a tour of the castle he built over 17 years but only lived in 145 days. Poor Ludwig. A bit eccentric, he was deemed unfit to rule and the next day found drowned in a lake, naked, with his psychologist. Today, he would be a celebrity.

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The castle is worth seeing….the paintings on the walls transport one to a decadent, indulgent time period. The tours go too quick…30 minutes is done in a flash. Best to reserve online in advance. Visit both castles, booking Hohenschwangau first to see hear about Ludwig’s influences as a child, then Neuschwanstein to see where his active imagination led him.

We also spent a week skiing in Zell am See, Austria. Alas, the lack of snow made it an underwhelming alps ski experience but the boys made the best of it…skiing every day until exhaustion. Julia and I skied a little and took in quirky alpine hikes.

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We left Reutte and Zell am See thirsty for what it would be like in summer…rolling green meadows set amidst steep, slate peaks under endless blue sky. I felt a little Julie Andrews coming on…so we headed to Salzburg.