Cities / Towns Visited: 25
Countries Visited: 10
Steps Taken Today: 15,378
Steps Taken Around the World: 1,027,261
Awaking, we headed out straight away, as our hostel did not offer a free breakfast and we figured we’d be able to find something cheaper, and lets be honest, a bit nicer, than the breakfast they charge for. The sun was shining and our spirits were high. As we wandered across the river, and wound our way through the old buildings towards our first stop, we found ourselves passing through a series of town squares. As we reached the furthest one we stumbled upon a small market of vendors selling knick knacks and a couple selling food. We quickly decided to grab a couple of giant flavoured bretzels (one cheese and bacon, and one apricot) to eat at the summit; you see we were just about to go up to Festung Hohensalzburg, a medieval fortress atop a rocky peak just beside the main city of Salzburg.
Bretzels in hand, we jumped on the funicular, with a large group of nattering school children, for the swift but steep ascent. Reaching the top we sensibly decided to head in the opposite direction to the group and make our way towards the panoramic lookout; what better place to eat our breakfast. Looking to the far side of the city, and away into the distance, you are able to see one of the previous Emperor’s pleasure palaces. We had initially intended to go there, as they have trick musical fountains, and beautifully manicured gardens, however it was a bit out of the way, and there simply wasn’t enough days to go round, so we had to settle for just admiring it from here. As you look past this, the houses peter out, and give way to fertile green mountains and valleys, undulating off into the distance.
One we had fed our stomach and our eyes sufficiently, we headed into the fortress, grabbing an audioguide, and walking through the first section of the giant complex. Through the rooms of the former Archbishops, who used to reside in and rule this castle and its surrounding areas, past the dungeon only accessible from the prison room above, all the way up to the top of one of the battlement towers, we were accompanied by the fascinating history of this important town. You see Salzburg, although now known mostly due to it being the setting for the ever popular ‘Sound of Music’, was once a thriving and important city, mainly due to its huge production and trade of salt (hence Salzburg: meaning ‘salt’burg). A fact that made its people, and of course its Archbishops, extremely wealthy. From the top of the tower, you also had a stunning view of the main city of Salzburg, as well as the mountains which surround it; you could even see remnants of the old city walls snaking through the foliage of the pine covered slopes.
We headed back down, returning the guides, and after a quick duck into the Marionette Museum, which was a little weird, as anything with large numbers of puppets is bound to be, we went forth into the main museum part of the keep. The first section takes you through some of the old private rooms of the Archbishop. The most interesting and impressive part must have been the bright blue ceilings, which had a fascinating story all of their own. To obtain blue dye (as I have spoken about in previous blogs) used to be achieved by grinding down precious stones like lapis lazuli, and was only within the reach of the wealthy, thus having several large ceilings, and the walls of his personal chambers, painted in blue was a feat in and of itself. The story becomes more interesting when you find out that when they tried to restore the colour some time ago, they had used a different blue paint. What they didn’t know was that the paint they used did not mix well chemically with the original colour, and thus turned it an odd blue/grey. The current attempts at restoration are looking to try and figure out when the original colour was and restore it, some parts of the ceiling under the golden semi-sphere attachments meant to resemble stars in the night sky, hide remnants of this paint, but it is still hard to find which parts are original and which have been added over the top throughout the centuries.
From here you are lead through displays of medieval torture devices and weaponry, and a large display on the more modern military history of the local troops in the first world war. Lastly you are sent through a number of rooms filled with old furniture from the previous centuries; from bedframes, to wardrobes, and chests.
As we were released back into the inner courtyards, we stepped into an old chapel, then continued on to another room which looks down on the old foundations of what used to be an ancient chapel, which was obviously deconsecrated when the new one was built.
At this point we had seen all of the offerings of this vast fortress, and as it had been a couple of hours and the sun was high in the sky, we decided it only apt to have lunch in one of the restaurants here, and enjoy the beautiful weather and view. Settling in, and agreeing that it was only right to order a couple of Austrian classics we took it upon ourselves to order Wiener schnitzel, and a dish of mixed sausages with hashbrowns and sauerkraut. After this we made the mistake of looking at the dessert menu. Now being a pastry chef and having a curious palette what chance did I have against finding a Salzburg dish on the menu; Salzburg Knockerl? Besides, its made for two to share; it was basically fate, at least I’ll keep telling myself that. So the dish in question is a kind of soufflé, and so after 20 minutes it finally came out, and…it was huge! With three mountainous peaks of airy, golden brown goodness, filling a large ceramic dish , we dug in with the excitement of children on Easter Sunday. Its pillowy vanilla foam melting gently in our mouths, and when you scoop all the way to the bottom you are rewarded with a compote of black and red currants. By the time we got through the heavenly dish we were thoroughly stuffed, and thoroughly content.
We waddled back to the funicular, and headed back down to the city below. Walking off our mighty lunch, we headed to Schloss Mirabell, another of the Habsburgs many palaces left from their reign. The interior of this one isn’t open to the public, save for a marble entrance way and staircase which leads up to a theatre area where they often hold classical music concerts. It was grandiose and elaborate as you would expect, but not hugely interesting. The main drawcard is the impressive manicured gardens. After a suitable amount of wandering and admiration, we headed back to the hostel to spend a couple of hours doing life admin and catching up on a few episodes of one of our favourite shows, before going in search of food. After a couple of cheap pizzas, we settled in for a good nights sleep, as we were going to have to wake up a little earlier than usual; tomorrow we were going out of town in search of adventure.
The world may look at Salzburg, and only see the image of Julie Andrews, but I’m here to tell you, the hills may be alive with the sound of music, but they are also alive with so much more; it has a history and culture all of its own. I beseech you to come and discover it for yourself.