“That’s a lovely accent. New Jersey?”
“Austria? Well Then! G’day Mate, Let’s Put Another Shrimp on the Barbie!”
Why Austria? Why not. We were so bloody close that I decided I was going, Caitlin or not, just for the passport stamp and to add country 28 to my list. And I’m super glad we did because it ruled!
The train from Munich to Salzburg is incredibly short, boring, and uneventful…at least ours was, and that’s the way I like my train travels. It was £31 each, and about 2 hours and they were beautiful. In fact, the only thing I remember about the flight is we were wondering what the heck we were going to do in Salzburg because, per usual, I had decided to come in an irrational, impulsive decision and just figured I’d figure things out when we got there. As usual (hopefully its usual), it worked out beautifully.
NO CAR? NO PROBLEM
I’m giving you two pieces of advice for Salzburg, particularly if you do it in a day like we did (which, in my opinion, was the perfect amount of time, we saw everything and more than we planned on): A: Don’t get a car. Their public transport is all by bus and it is PHENOMENAL! It seemed like everywhere we needed to go, and at any given time, there was not just one but but multiple going to either the general vicinity or the exact spot we needed. In fact, it was probably the easiest and most efficient public transport we’ve ever used. Which brings me to piece of advice B…
GET A SALZBURG PASS OR FOREVER REGRET IT
When we got off the plane, we had figured we’d see a Mozart thing or two and just eat good food and that was the only plan. Some blog said the Salzburg pass was good, so we headed to the in-airport tourism booth and looked at what it included. Not only did it cover pretty much everything in the city (and I mean everything, I think there was maybe one museum or something we looked at that wasn’t on the pass, but we didn’t care about going too much anyway), but it covered public transportation. We knew our flat was right by a bus stop so we were sold. The pass was £37 apiece for 48 hours (less for 24), which was exactly what we needed. The pass had so much cool stuff on it that we simply headed to our flat, dropped our bags and greeted out host, and went straight back out to party in Salzburg.
Since our Salzburg trip was pretty much just a flyover and was done with no planning, we just chose the cheapest place we could find and it turned out really well. (If you use my Airbnb referral code, you will get $40 credit to spend towards your booking. Disclosure: I will get travel credit as well). Our host Mila was very gracious and helpful, and the place had (brace yourselves) TWO BATHROOMS! Absolutely unheard of in Europe! So even though it was a shared place with the host (and the second night a couple from who knows where who we heard but didn’t see), it was not an issue at all. We used the fridge and the one time I tried to use the upstairs bathroom and it was in use, I just walked downstairs and used the other john. Absolutely perfect for a quick Salzburg stay.
GETTING THE MOST FROM THE SALZBURG PASS, STARTING WITH…EVERYTHING…RIVER CRUISE
The thing that the dude who sold us the Salzburg Pass told us to book in advance was the river cruise, so we took a bus right to the desk and booked it. It’s something you have to book and get tickets for, then show up at the dock at a specific time. In the end, it wasn’t overly crowded but it’s certainly a good idea to book ahead rather than show up and try to get on. You actually have to have a paper ticket, not just the pass itself, so just save the hassle and do it in advance.
The river cruise itself was…meh. It was, however, a great starting point, because as you cruise (very slowly and it was very hot), they point out all the cool stuff in the city, so we made notes of what looked the coolest. It was just under an hour, and did include some interesting tidbits about Salzburg’s history and heaps about Mozart, so it was worth doing but not exactly a thrill.
MOZART IS MY BROZART
Nick and Carley (shoutout to the French Horn) had been to Salzburg a year or two earlier, and they loved all the Mozart stuff so we figured we’d rip them off and do the same stuff. I think visiting Mozart’s birthplace was my favorite, which we did first.
And no, it wasn’t my favorite just because there is a Spar grocery store (cheapest groceries by far) which carried ripoff Red Bulls which were called (seriously) BUDGET SUGAR FREE, although that was a nice fringe benefit. It was rad because it’s just in a cool, busy area with narrow streets and just feels like classical Europe. Cafes everywhere, crowds of all colors, weird smells (sometimes nice bakery smells but oftentimes gross Euro cigarettes…like do Europeans realize we know smoking is bad yet? Is anyone going to tell them?), it’s just rad. And inside his birthplace is organized really well with informative stuff about his parents, family, etc. I literally knew nothing about him besides his name, and even though I recognize some of his famous stuff, I’m more of a classic rock guy than a classical music guy. Still, I have learned at the foot of Sir Nick Dudoich, and my appreciation for classical is increasing and improving. Plus, it helps me appreciate Sigur Ros more because they seem like classical music played with guitars.
His birthplace has lots of cool artifacts too, and it was amazing to learn about how much he accomplished so quickly. Whenever I lose faith in humankind (happens often, such as every couple days after another mass shooting in my homeland and lots of rhetoric and hate from both sides of the political spectrum but no action taken, ever, and then the next mass shooting happens and we rinse and repeat), I go to a place and learn about someone like Mozart or Michaelangelo or whoever and I marvel at what people are capable of. Then I realize not all people suck, and some are super talented, and I guess that makes life OK. Plus, I know there are trillions of good everyday people who may not be Mozart-level but just live quiet lives of goodness, so it’s all good. I hope I’m in that category.
THEY THREW US A PARADE
From Mozart’s birthplace, we just wandered around the streets until we happened upon a parade. Seriously. It was like my own personal Ferris Bueller moment, although they didn’t let me march or lead and I’m still torn up about that.
It was weird because as we walked around Salzburg, we saw HEAPS of people in traditional Austrian (?) clothing, like lederhosen and cool hats and everything. It was a Friday night so we just assumed people liked to be festive and had this national pride and we thought it was rad. It made a lot more sense when we saw the parade and little kids playing accordians and all sorts of crazy stuff. In fact, as proof, here’s a video of an Austrian marching band jamming out, who knows where they marched to:
As usual, we didn’t do anything spectacular for a couple hours, just chilled and watched all the dancing and music and ate street pastries (not as good as they looked, but still pretty good) and just took it all in. Before it got dark, though, I had a look through the Salzburg Dome since we were right there, which was cool but not something I would want to pay for. And since we knew our time the next day was going to be limited, we headed up the mountain to the fortress, which is super cool because, much like Edinburgh Castle, you can see the fortress from almost anywhere in the city, so it’s a cool landmark and really bloody cool to go up and see.
The real highlight of Hohensalzburg was the funicular you ride up to get to it. What is a funicular? I have no idea, it’s like a tram but that’s what they call it. It’s surprisingly steep, and I felt like that alone, along with the fortress, made the Salzburg Pass worth it because the views from the top freakin RULE!
There’s just something amazing about sitting above a city and seeing everything. I would highly suggest doing the river cruise before the fortress, because it’s nice to be able to point out things around the city that the cruise will show you, and it’s cool to see their proximity to be able to make a game plan. Now I know what a diva I sound like, but I didn’t absolutely love the inside of the fortress. (How ridiculous is that, I’m acting like one of Europe’s oldest medieval castles and the absolute icon of Salzburg isn’t that cool).
It was cool, but the views are what I loved. We went up just before sundown, so with the river and the views of the city, it was hard to beat the scenery. But hey, prove me wrong. Just get the Salzburg Card to do so. After the fortress, we headed back to the festival and had another hour or two of just reveling in Austrian culture and marveling at the fact that children were drinking heavily. But alas, the day ended and we caught one of the many amazing buses back to our flat for a good nights rest before the next day’s adventures.
There are few things I love more than seeing a cool city from above.
AUSTRIA DAY 2: HELLBRUNN PALACE IS LIFE CHANGING AND GOOD AND COOL
Ok, so my expectations of day two were pretty low, which isn’t a bad thing. Going to Austria in general was spontaneous, and I loved day one, so I figured day two was just playing with house money. Anything cool was just gravy on top of an already amazing city that I had no idea was so great. Which is why Hellbrunn was so bloody amazing, I had no expectations and it was so rad!
So all I knew about Hellbrunn was what Caitlin had told me like 5 minutes before we went, that it was some water fountain filled prank palace. Yawn. I mean, it sounded cool, but whatever. Luckily, as usual, there was a bus right to it, although this time, we had to make a connection…which was insanely easy and fast. Like, I don’t think a bus in Salzburg came more than 1 minute late at all. It’s a beautiful thing. So to Hellbrunn we went.
The palace itself is pretty cool, big and yellow, and the first thing to do is get in the queue for a tour since they do them at specific times and you have to be in a group to go through. So while we waited for our time, we walked around the little museum and checked out the grounds. Nothing spectacular but still cool, and some really quirky things in there, like a cartoon of cute little pigs and sheep attacking cute little villagers…weird stuff. At long last (20 minutes), tour time!
You can Wikipedia Hellbrunn itself, but suffice it to say, it rules. It was pretty much a massive palace built as a practical joke. This dude built all these hidden water fountains that squirt everyone all the time. There was actually some impressive architecture and whatnot, but the engineering was just mind boggling to me. Like, all these hidden places just spraying people in the face, showering like rain, just pretty much getting everyone at least moderately wet. My favorite was some random dude who acted semi upset when he got wet. Dude, there are signs everywhere warning that you WILL get wet, and it happened, get over it. I guess Hellbraun is one of those places that’s hard to explain the coolness of, but it was covered by the Salzburg Card (as usual), so you should absolutely do it. It was my favorite part of Salzburg. It’s also really close to the Salzburg Zoo (which we skipped due to time but yes, it’s also on the card).
Also, Hellbrunn had the famous Sound of Music pavilion, which people wanted me dead for not recognizing. There was a lot of singing and dancing around it, I think those people were nuts. But I digress, the palace was dope.
UNTERSBERG CABLE CAR: CONQUERING ANOTHER MOUNTAIN
We had hoped day two would provide some clear weather for the cable car, as by the time we got to it the day before, it was already closed. Alas, mother nature can be heartless, for the weather was gloomy and cloudy, but the trip was still totally worth it.
I’m pretty sure just doing Untersberg by itself would cost nearly as much as the Salzburg Card, so…have I preached the Salzburg Card gospel enough yet? Get it. The ride up is fun and super pretty as you leave the city behind and get further up the mountain. The view at the mountain was…cloudy? We couldn’t see anything. Or at least not much. But there were all sorts of cool hiking trails and places that looked fun and photogenic if there wasn’t zero visibility amongst the fog. Even so, it was a fun activity and one of the many highlights. Do it.
Did I not tell you Mozart was my brozart? Well he is, and I know the one popular riff thing to prove it. After getting off the cable car, we headed to the Wohnhaus, which, different than his birthplace, is his longtime residence. In fact, I think it was even cooler than his birthplace because it was bigger and had heaps more artifacts and information. Alas, to my dismay, it did not have a Spar grocery store in the bottom level, but you can’t win them all.
There’s cool furniture and instruments (some genuine, some copies) that are freakin rad to see and thing the master sat there and played that. It’s got lots of cool stories and letters and information that I found more interesting than his birthplace. It was really fun to read personal stories and letters and stuff, and I was especially fascinated by his obsession with Vienna. Sounds like Vienna was a pretty happening place, and he loved it and loved writing to other people about how much he loved it. Add Vienna to my list, I guess.
MODERN ART IS RUBBISH (AT LEAST THIS MUSEUM WAS)
Honestly, I would have been so satisfied with Salzburg at this point. We had done so much, and coming in with no expectations, it had crushed it for us. We loved it, and it was certainly one of our favorite parts of the trip. But, since we still had a few more hours of light and didn’t leave until early the next morning, we decided to make the most of it and head to the Museum of Modern Art. It was…you guessed it, on the Salzburg Card, so why not, right? I mean, if anyone likes modern art, it’s me because I like to argue with people about the artistic merits of a urinal on display. Unfortunately, Salzburg museum was a fat thumbs down.
But first, the good. The card gets you on the elevator which goes fast and high, and there’s a sweet viewpoint you can visit before going into the museum. It was much, much cooler than the actual museum itself, but I digress. So that made the short journey worth it, because the weather was slightly better so we saw more of the beautiful city.
The museum itself? Meh. Seriously, I love modern art. In fact, as I write this, it’s not been but a week since we were in the Tate Modern in London (more on that in a different post). But this one just didn’t do it for us. There was very little that we felt was worth seeing. Lots of it seemed very basic and non-artistic and yes, I get that’s some of the value of modern art, but we felt like it was kinda a waste. We only spent about an hour, desperately looking for something worthwhile but didn’t see much. Oh well, can’t win ‘em all. It had been an amazing day so we weren’t too shattered about it.
MIRABELL GARDENS… DWARF GARDEN?
The absolute best way to end a stay in Salzburg is at Mirabell Gardens. End of story. No further argument. We headed in just as the sun was setting, and the weather was finally clear and it was just freakin beautiful. So many pretty plants and everything is so well maintained. We just sat on a bench and watched the people and the scenery and it was rad. We walked around and saw all the plants and fountains and it was rad. We saw some sculptures and they were rad. But the dwarf garden? It was…cool?
We saw a sign for a dwarf garden and we were intrigued. Naturally, we wandered around, guessing aloud what exactly this could mean, until we found…a dwarf garden. Seriously, it’s a bunch of mini statues of…um, not as aesthetically pleasing (read: ugly) creatures. Since there were a couple missing and we are relatively short, we filled in perfectly and I’m sure the random people there appreciated our artistic interpretations. It was very weird but super cool and just one more unexpected part of a totally unexpected city which we unexpectedly loved.
Just like that, our time in Austria was over, but I admit I had a hard time sleeping because I was so excited for our next destination: Switzerland!