Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.
Jack Kerouac, On the Road
As gorgeous as Vienna is, you might just want to “get out of the barn” for a few days and take advantage of Vienna’s perfect location in Central Europe as a jumping off point for some amazing side trips.
Because let’s face it – we all need a break once in a while – even if you’re in the world’s most livable city. And that’s the reason why I’ve been neglecting you the past two weeks. It’s true. I left my beloved Vienna and had an absolutely wonderful time in Palm-treed, Pina-Colada Panama. And the highlight? A spontaneous outing to the Zapatillas Keys – white sands, turquoise waters and a long walk around the entire uninhabited island of Zapatilla 2 with a cool smooth Balboa Cerveza to compliment the ocean breeze and the Caribbean sun.
Some locals recommended the day trip to Zapatillas and even though the snorkeling left me with a sunburned lip that could rival the best of the botoxed country club moms, I loved it. Which is why, dear readers, I am going to dedicate a few weeks to Vienna side trips. Just for you. The places I would take you. Because I don’t want you to miss these. Book yourself a long vacation – two or three weeks. You deserve it. See Vienna and hopefully a bit more.
This week’s recommendation?
A man of ordinary talent will always be ordinary, whether he travels or not; but a man of superior talent will go to pieces if he remains forever in the same place.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (I will refrain from using the quote about his hometown of Salzburg and its archbishop in a letter to his father on 12 July 1783 but it is oh so tempting because the man had such spunk)
Save yourself some money and get yourself the Salzburg card. You can buy the card with or without hotel. It’s a very good deal no matter what you decide. I would definitely recommend getting at least the 48 hour card if not 72 hour card.
Link for card with hotels: http://www.salzburg.info/en/sights/salzburg_card/salzburg_card_packages
Link for card without hotels: http://www.salzburg.info/en/sights/salzburg_card/salzburg_card_online_booking
Which sites are included: http://www.salzburg.info/en/sights/salzburg_card).
I’m not getting any kickback on this card. I had to buy my own while there and did. The Salzburg Card will give you entrance to a lot of the tourist attractions AND serve as your public transportation ticket throughout the city and out to Hellbrunn (read more below) AND give you a boat tour of the Salzach complete with your boat doing a little waltz number in the water to the tune of Strauss (I am serious — cheesy – but you’re a tourist – drop the cool and embrace the cheesy).
The bridge linking Franz Josefs Kai and Ferdinand Hanusch Platz is solely for pedestrians and the one you will probably traverse to go to and from Mirabell Gardens. The first bridge was erected in 1905 and the latest version opened to much fanfare in 2001. More than 20,000 people cross this bridge each day. Don’t miss the romantic locks (and handcuffs) left by lovers on the bridge.
What’s that hanging from the trees – Sloths? Monkeys? No! The von Trapp family singers! “Do-Re-Mi.” Remember? I walked through this garden once while a British children’s choir sang Elvis’ In the Ghetto. They sang behind some trees hidden in the park and their sweet little voices made the park all the more beautiful.
(for your best Salzburg photo)
(included in Salzburg Card) Take incline up and take a leisurely walk to the castle through the woods – great panorama shots of the city and castle – leaves from Anton-Neumayr-Platz
Hohensalzburg Castle / High Salzburg Fortress
Practically a must-see – the breathtaking white castle on top of the hill in Salzburg is one of the largest medieval castles in Europe. Construction began in 1077 (!) and Hohensalzburg Castle remains one of the best preserved castles in Europe.
St. Peter’s Cemetery / Petersfriedhof
(Go see this when going to Stieglkeller or when taking the Festungsbahn cable car up the mountain). You know this place already. Besides being Salzburg’s oldest cemetery, it’s the cemetery where “the dramatic flight scene of Sound of Music took place.” You remember the heart-stopping scene when Julie and the kids hid behind the tombstones and we weren’t sure whether or not sweet-kid-turned-Nazi Rolf would blow his whistle. The Cemetery is located at the foot of the Festungsberg and Hohensalzburg Castle.
Salzburg Cathedral / Salzburg Dom
Salzburg’s beloved Baroque cathedral founded in 774 (!) on the remnants of a Roman town and rebuilt after a fire in 1181. In WWII a bomb crashed through the central dome. The US bombed Salzburg 15 times and though our target should have been the train station, we very unfortunately missed our mark. If you’re interested, this website provides an overview of the US bombing of Salzburg complete with stats.
Be sure to do the Hellbrunn Palace tour. The palace is a bit outside the main city but bus #25 (#25 – click here for PDF of schedule ) will take you there rather painlessly. And just for you, loyal reader, I have included the bus schedule here b/c I love when websites make my life easier too.)
The bus is free if you have the Salzburg ticket (see above) and easy to catch in the city. The palace is worth the effort – especially on a hot day. Just don’t be water shy (no matter how sweet you might be, you won’t melt) and maybe have some kind of plastic bag to cover your camera. That’s all I’m sayin. I don’t want to ruin the surprise. Oh and one last thing – fight to sit at the head of the table when you tour the gardens. You’ll love me for it. And don’t forget to look for the Sound of Music Pavillon (“I am 16 going on 17”). If you are so inspired – do a selfie video of your rendition of Rolf or Liesl singing and hanging from the sides gazebo and I will post it here – no matter how off key you are. Bound to get me a few clicks.
(cause you gotta eat and the beer is really really good)
Austrian cuisine, great beer and dinner with the best view in town (see Salzburg Dom photo above for exact view from terrace)
(contact them ahead of time and reserve a table on the terrace for a time around sunset – have your hotel call for you) for a stunning view of Salzburger Dom. Last time we went, the weather didn’t cooperate and we ended up inside – also nice but not nearly as beautiful. So if you have to choose – do Müllner Bräu if the weather is lousy.
Reserve your table here: http://www.taste-gassner.com/stieglkeller/kontaktformular_dt.php
Familie Gassner, Festungsgasse 10, 5020 Salzburg
Tel.: +43 662 / 84 26 81
Dinner with the best monk-brewed beer (+ garden) and coolest Harry Potter style dining rooms
The monks do know how to drink – a bit of a walk and a bit hidden but super worth the effort, I promise.
Beer garden it for the evening and plan to walk or taxi it back to the hotel (this should be your last stop because you will need to enjoy a pleasant sleep after these brews). When you enter the building, you will probably think I led you astray because you might feel like you’re in the wrong place. But would I ever lead you astray? Go through doors, down steps and through the hall, pass a bunch of food vendors in the marble corridor (get your chicken later) and then go around the corner until you reach the doors to go outside. (Let’s just hope you really are in the right place at this point).
Just follow the others once you are inside or ask: “May I trouble you to ask where the lovely beer garden may be?” Always smile and rely on Austrians’ boundless patience with clueless tourists.
Now comes the point where you have to act strategically. One person in your party needs to queue for the beers (one person can generally manage two 1-liter beers in the big mugs (see fuzzy photo taken after beer) while the more nibble and intimidating person (martial arts experience perhaps?) in the party needs to see about engaging in the beloved Austrian contact sport of “Grab-the-free-table-at-the-beer-garden.” This requires quick reflexes and the ability to act blind and deaf if someone else claims they had it first. You see one free, grab it and secure the chairs with your life. Don’t let the Dirndls and Lederhosen fool you. Austrians are ruthless when it comes to snatching up a free table – no civilized waiter-shows-you-your-place here. Get to know the locals and other tourists a bit better and wrestle if you have to. It will be worth it. I promise. (and send pics!).
And if nothing is free and someone dares to hog up a table much too big for their group –kindly ask if you can join them by saying “Ist das noch frei?” (Is that still free/available? Pronounce “frei” as if you are saying “fry” or “cry” – as in ‘I will cry if I can’t get a seat in this beautiful awesome beer garden’ And if you do join another party, at the end of the evening, you’ll all be fluent in the same language and the best of friends. And if you have extra seats, be gracious and let the desperate join your party). Be sure to use the same phrase (“Ist das noch frei?”) when trying to swipe an empty unused chair from another table.
If the weather is cold or rainy don’t fret — the dining room inside will make you feel like you are Harry Potter at Hogwarts – As an American, I have to say, this is how we picture the charms of the Old World and it’s even better. Epcot Center got nothin’ on this place! It alone makes a trip to Salzburg worth it.
Last but not least, a somber but lovely poem from Austrian poet, Nikolaus Lenau, about that beautiful cemetery with my attempt at a halfway decent translation:
ST. PETER’S CEMETERY
– Austrian poet Nikolaus Lenau
O schöner Ort, den Toten auserkoren, zur Ruhestätte für die müden Glieder! Hier singt der Frühling Auferstehungslieder, vom treuen Sonnenblick zurückbeschworen.
Oh beautiful place, the chosen of the dead to rest their tired limbs Spring sings here a resurrection song summoned back by the view of the faithful sun
Wenn alle Schmerzen auch ein Herz durchbohren, dem sein Liebstes senkt zur Erde nieder, doch glaubt es leichter hier: wir sehn uns wieder: es sind die Toten uns nicht ganz verloren.
When all pain pierces the heart as well whose loved one sinks down to the earth yet the belief „‘we’ll meet again‘ is easier here the dead are not completely lost to us
Der fremde Wanderer, kommend aus der Ferne, dem hier kein Glück vermodert, weilt doch gerne hier, wo die Schönheit Hüterin der Toten.
The foreign wanderer, coming from afar who here no luck decays, yet likes to linger here, where beauty keeps the dead
Sie schlafen tief und sanft in ihren Armen, worin zu neuem Leben sie erwarmen, die Blumen winkens, ihre stillen Boten
They sleep deep and gently in her arms where she warms them to new life The flowers wave, her silent heralds (Translation KC Blau)