Monday, October 28, 2013

RTW 2013 / Austria / Salzburg Part 1

We packed our bags and trundled our way down the cobblestones to the U-Bahn for the short trip to Vienna's Westbahnhof to pick up our train to Salzburg.
From this recently upgraded and very modern station, the OeBB Railjet wizzed us down the track at 220km/hr to our destination. Quiet, comfortable seats, lots of room, catering if needed and internet all the way, not to mention no security checks. This is the way travel is supposed to be.
Checked into the Hotel Bristol. Very 'olde worlde' and very nice. Parts of the building date back to the 17th century. Around 75 years ago the hotel came into the possession of the Hübner Family, who still run it today.

The first settlements at Salzburg were apparently begun by the Celts around the 5th century BC. Salzburg is on the banks of the Salzach River at the northern boundary of the Alps with the closest alpine peak, the 1,972m Untersberg, a few kilometres from the city centre. The Altstadt, or "old town", is dominated by baroque towers and churches and the massive Festung Hohensalzburg, the city's fortress, which was built in 1077 and expanded during the following centuries.
The city is home to three universities. Mozart is probably its most famous 'son'.
We walked around the myriad of narrow streets, laneways and squares of the old town to get orientated.
This place was one busy tourist town.

Then it was a few glasses of wine at Wein & Co at Salzburger Platzl which became out evening watering hole for the 3 nights. We tried various Riesling, Gruener Veltliner, Blaufraenkish and Zweigelt over this time. I think we decided we could pass on the reds but the Rieslings we had here were outstanding.
And the people watching is great too as they throng to and fro along Linzer Strasse. Plenty of amazing 'sights'.

Then it was a simple Italian dinner at a new restaurant, Refettorio Simpliticas with a new concept "arme Kueche" or cooking of the people. Absolutely marvellous.
Sorry, no English web site.

After a great breakfast, and armed with our Salzburg Pass, we caught the local bus to the cable car at the foot of the Untersberg.
Anyone who knows me, knows that heights are not my thing.
This was going to be a test.
The ride up is amazing. Just when you think you have reached the top, there is a drop over a ridge and another huge loop up onto the peak. The view from up there is spectacular.
The ride down? Just OK for us acrophobiacs.......if you don't look down too much.
Back on solid ground we took the bus to Hellbrunn Palace with its trick fountains.
This is a major attraction in the Salzburg area.
It was built in 1613-19 by Markus Sittikus von Hohenems, Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg and was only meant for use as a day residence in summer, as the Archbishop usually returned to Salzburg in the evening.The Palace is famous for its "watergames". These games were conceived by Markus Sittikus, a man with a keen sense of humour (apparently), as a series of practical jokes to be performed on guests. Notable features include stone seats around a stone dining table through which a water conduit sprays water into the seat of the guests when the mechanism is activated, and hidden fountains that surprise and spray guests while they take part on the tour.
Yes, well, all this didn't appeal to us at all and we 'escaped' the obligatory tour and headed back to the city.

A great lunch at the Zipfer Bierhaus in the old town. The building has been there since 1300. Rostbratwürstel mit Sauerkraut und Erdäpfel for the co driver and Groestl (a bacon, onion and potato fry-up) for me. Who cares about cholestrol when on holidays.
We had been warned that Austrian waiters, especially those in Salzburg, could be a bit 'short' especially with tourists. If that were to happen this could be one of the places. Maybe it was because we were relaxed and not in any hurry or because we always attempted to speak the language that we never encountered any problems. Many in fact replied in English (is my accent that obvious or my language skills so bad?) and went out of their way to be helpful.

From there it was up the up the funicular to the fortress. It is one of the largest medieval castles in  Europe. We explored the courtyard and some of the accommodation wings.
The views over Salzburg from walls are quite spectacular.

The Salzburg Dom is a seventeenth century Baroque cathedral. Founded by Saint Rupert in 774 on the remnants of a Roman town, the cathedral was rebuilt in 1181 after a fire. In the seventeenth century, the cathedral was completely rebuilt to its present appearance.

After a bit more wandering around the streets and squares we decided that our day was finished. All touristed out, we 'retired' to Wein & Co for sustenance.

What to do tomorrow? I think we had had just about enough of the frenetic pace and relentless crowds (and tour groups) of the city and our taste for the countryside had been whetted by the Untersberg excursion.
A trip into the Salzkammergut seemed like a good plan. We had an itinerary packed away somewhere in the paperwork for such an 'emergency'.
By the way, you may have noticed there has been no mention of "The Sound of Music" so far. This article pretty much says it all.

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