Glad to be moving on from Munich, I boarded a train for Salzburg and ate my breakfast bratwurst on the journey. I’ve found that on trains where seats are not allocated it is easiest to find the disabled seating or the seats nearest the door as no one tends to want to sit there and consequently there is usually room for my bag as well – without having to lug it onto the overhead racks.
Salzburg seemed so clean, was pretty and it smelled fresh. Considering we were 400m above sea level that was not surprising, however it was a refreshing change from the standard city smells of Munich. The air was crisp and cool and there were little streams of water everywhere. All the water I saw, including the river, the Zentrum, was an icy blue-green colour, giving a pure and pristine allure. The city was set along the river and was famous for Mozart and The Sound of Music, it was a big draw card for tourists. The blue skies contrasted nicely with the green trees and cool waterways, and the buildings and churches were well preserved.
I found my way to the bus station, and then my hostel. It was south of the city centre, but was one of the few places with availability that was not ridiculously priced and would accept a booking for just one night. Walking from the bus stop to the hostel I could see the mountains in the distance and I couldn’t help but think of the scenes in The Sound of Music, with the snow capped mountain backdrops.
I walked around the city centre with a young 18 year old American girl from the hostel, Kelly. She was travelling by herself for a few weeks and in need of some company. We sampled the local speciality ‘Mozart Balls’ – chocolate balls with a pistachio flavoured fudge centre, and I laughed at the t-shirts, stickers and badges in the tourist shops that looked like a yellow Australian road sign complete with picture and stated ‘No Kangaroos in Austria’. I asked a woman if people seriously got the two countries mixed up, and she said that yes, when they travelled and told people they were from Austria, often the response was ‘Oh, with the kangaroos!’, to which they then had to state ‘No, Austria, not Australia’. I considered this extremely funny, that the good old kangaroo had such a worldwide renown, and enough to cause the Austrians to fill their tourist shops with paraphernalia declaring their annoyance.
I visited several of the ‘famous’ sites, took a picture of the large Mozart statue in the square named after him, and of his tombstone in the cemetery where he is apparently buried. I strolled through the Mirabell Gardens, made famous in The Sound of Music, and saw the Sift Nonnberg, the Abbey from the same movie. In regards to the movie, barely any of the locals have seen it, and if they have they don’t like it, referring to is as ‘that movie all the tourists like’, which I found amusing.
I had couch surfing organised for Salzburg, and eventually found my way to my host’s place. I seemed to have forgotten my pre-planning skills and was becoming more reliant on maps provided at bus and train stops. Upon reaching the required bus stop I found there was no map, so trudged up the hill to the nearest petrol station to ask for directions. One station attendant didn’t speak English, and the other said she’d never heard of the street I was asking about. Luckily I found a map on the wall and located where I wanted to go, which ironically was the same distance from the bus stop only in the opposite direction.
My host, Erik, was a really nice guy, as were his house mates. Everyone spoke German and English, so I had an easy time communicating, and I was made to feel immediately welcome in their home. I was introduced to their chooks and pet pig, although I was told the intention is to eventually eat him, so I am not sure how long he’ll retain the ‘pet’ status for. Erik was interested in environmental sustainability and had been working on a project to reduce the number of cars in Salzburg city and on the roads in general. He had some great ideas and showed me the project website www.fairkehr.net which had photographs of the recent public weekend event they held in May this year.
I met his friend Michael, and enjoyed an evening of home cooked food, a few drinks and good company. The following day Erik took me to see Lake Fuschl, at my request to see the most beautiful lake nearby, and it was stunning. The water was brilliantly clear, sparkling blue or emerald green depending on the depth, and I was reminded of the large lakes in New Zealand with similar colours, and I was in my element. Give me a body of water to admire and explore and I will be satisfied for hours on end. We decided to walk around the entire lake, a journey of which the sign indicated three to three and a half hours, yet we did it in about two hours. I was determined that my shorter stature not hinder Erik’s longer stride, and I’m pleased to say he had to keep up with me for a while 🙂
Erik had a meeting to attend after we visited the lake, so I rode his spare bicycle (of which he’d kindly lowered the seat for me so I could reach the pedals) back to his house. I was confident I could find my way and if not the worse case scenario was I rode back to the bus station and took a bus as I had the day before. Luckily I only made one wrong turn and was home well before his meeting finished. He later apologised for not confirming if I knew the way and said he’d been so impressed I’d found his house originally that he didn’t think to ask if I needed directions for the bicycle track. I was touched by his concern and found him to be a very likeable guy overall.
Salzburg, Erik and Austria in general are now on my list of places I want to visit again. I figure Austria is close enough to Eastern Europe to be included on a further trip and I intend to do just that.
Photos of Salzburg can be seen here. Enter ‘europe’ if asked for a password.