Visiting a place is always a little more fun when it throws your expectations a curve-ball. We knew Salzburg, Austria, as the land of Mozart, the Von Trapps, Hapsburgs and idyllic meadows; a cultural hub of sophistication crowned with art, architecture and music. We were welcomed to this postcard perfect city on the Salt River by a very different magical tune.
The 2km walk from the Salzburg station to central city is a wonderful introduction. The walk along the lush bank of the Salt River gives way to a skyline that is a more perfect version of a fairy-tale European City than Disney himself could have dreamt. The perfect white buildings spread across the valley interspersed with the green patina of weathered copper church spires all framed by perfect alpine meadows. You can almost hear Mozart in the whispers of the wind.
That wasn’t Mozart in the wind though it was roaring crowds, thundering engines, and the whining of tires pushed beyond their grip on sharp corners. A regional blend of the Tour d’ Elegance (or Fancy Car Show) and a chance for anyone with an old car to drive it fast through Salzburg was in town with all the gearheads in force. From quarter million dollar Ferraris to souped up Volvo’s (yes, those exist) we were greeted with music of roaring engines under the hoods of midcentury mechanical art. Maybe it wasn’t so different from what we expected after all.
Bond’s Aston Martin…
Our minds now expanded to the diversity of art forms this city pursues, and with time to kill we decided to tackle our walking tour of the city right out of the gate. For a city of only 150,000, Salzburg takes quite a long time to scratch the surface. We visited churches, chapels, princely estates, monasteries carved into hills, a couple of famous bridges, two markets, the old water works, and much more. Only going into two churches the walk took us 4.5 hours.
Tired from walking we checked into our AirBnB and found one of the more unique places we’ve stayed along the line. The apartment was built into a wall several hundred feet tall, had it’s kitchen carved into the mountain, and a stunning rooftop deck. You had to work around the mess of a bunch of college aged kids in the house, but for two days it was a great base camp.
We capped our night off with a visit to the Mirrabelle Gardens. Something we’ve only quickly touched on here is our wonderfully lucky timing visiting Europe, everything has been in bloom. From the lemon trees of Amalfi & Sorrento to the wildflower meadows of Germany & Austria, the entire continent has been accented with the bright colors of fruit and flower. The Mirabelle Gardens offered our best chance yet to stop and smell the non-proverbial roses. Hundreds of fully bloomed roses of a million colors were accented throughout with sculptures and other flowers with the Salzburg Fortress looming over head. Standing in the fading light of evening with the sun setting behind thunderhead clouds is a memory that will not soon fade in either of our minds.
Day two consisted of a more relaxed schedule. Up early we wanted to climb the hill to the castle before the midday heat.We quickly found and took the easy way out however, as the train up the mountain was included in the admission price to Salzburg Fortress. Already suffering a little from “castle fatigue” (travel speak for, this stuff all looks alike…) we debated whether to spend the euros on the entrance fee. Fortunately, we choose wisely and enjoyed the most historically interesting castle visit yet topped with 360 degree views of The Salt River plains and surrounding Alps. The museum was particularly good, covering the Hapsburgs to hazards of medieval life.
A mild panic ensued halfway through as we found Kate’s water bottle (which is jokingly referred to as her security blanket) was missing. We ran all over the city retracing our morning’s steps only to remember where it was sitting, back atop the hill. It was recovered safely, fear not. You’d think we’d have learned from that, but more on that later.
We spent most of the remainder of the day doing what has really turned into our “job” on this trip, planning the next stages of our travel, before venturing out for an evening stroll about town. Salzburg was wonderful, but we really felt like we’d seen most of what there was to see in just a day and a half. Catching a concert would have been nice, but it didn’t work out and more importantly the Alps were calling.
Writing a novel on the incredible beauty, wonderfully friendly people, and adorable creatures of the Alps would be easy. But suffice to say for the next three days we did little but hike to beautiful lakes, take long strolls along mythical wooded trails, and wander about the quaint little mountain villages of Gosau & Hallstatt. We’ll let these pictures speak their thousand words.
The area near our hotel is Gosau:
Our hike to Gosausee (Gosau Lake):
Gosausee Itself (Props to Kate for getting her picture picked up by Real Simple Magazine’s Instagram page):
Last but not least, the oft-photographed Hallstatt:
It’s indescribable, reasonably priced, and should be at the top of every nature lovers life list.
Of course… we’re fans of the people as well. It’s rare we’re ever short of examples of the inherent goodness of people when we’re on the road, but thought this story warranted telling.
We seemed determined to leave something of value (either monetary or sentimental) behind in Austria. So Grant, having rescued Kate’s water bottle in Salzburg, promptly left his phone on a bus en route to Hallstatt. After a 4 hour frantic search all seemed lost as the phone wasn’t with the original bus driver, at the bus stop, or anywhere in between. However, thanks to a little technology that allowed contact information to be remotely posted to the phone (and lock all other functions) another driver in the system found the phone and worked with three other drivers and our hotel to return the device safely to us the next day, only two hours before we were to depart for Slovenia. This is the second time a bus driver in Europe has rescued the phone of an Ayers family member and returned it to them out of nothing but a desire to do the right thing. Kathleen, Grant’s sister, went through essentially the exact same experience in Wales with her driver at his own expense mailing her phone to the States. We’ve met so many wonderful people on our trip, but it never fails to lift your spirits when people work so hard to do something nice for you, just because it’s the “right” thing to do. So, here’s to the PostBus drivers of Austria, namely “George”. We owe you cold a one next time.
We picked up the phone via bus driver relay on our way back to Salzburg where we caught our train south to Slovenia on time and despite our best efforts, with all gear in tow.
After our memorable experience with our new family friends in Germany and an almost immediate love for Austria just 100km south, it was refreshing to leave an area for the first time thinking, this isn’t goodbye, it’s simply see you later. So, auf wiedersehen, Austria. We’ll see you again soon, but for now we’ve a date with the Balkans.
Mr & Mrs Trading Paradises
Filed from: Split, Croatia