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Do I sound a little tired by now?  Yeah, I hear it too.  Salzburg was yet another lesson in balance and conscious, non-judgmental awareness of my physical and emotional states.  Do I sense a theme developing on this trip?  It wasn’t until halfway through Day 3 that I realized how exhausted I was – walking zombie-like through the Altstadt yet again, looking for something to do so that my trip would be absolutely full, so that I wouldn’t have wasted a minute.  Knees stiff from walking everywhere, including many trips up and down the five flights of stairs to my hotel room each day.  Still, gotta do more…gotta do more…  Stop.  Breathe.  Listen within.  Gotta do more…ah, that old chestnut!  The sickening seesaw ride of too much/not enough, knee-jerk protection against the voices that say “You can be tired when you’re dead!” or “Geez, stop complaining already.”  Do you know those voices?  I know them well by now.  The voices in my head of judgment, of pushing through, of gotta-prove-you-are-worthy.  So exhausting, those voices.  Enough already!  (It took me until about 2pm to wake up and say that.)

Still, I have to report that much seeing of sights did get done in those hours before I woke up and as gingerly as possible put the screaming voices of too much/not enough to bed for the day.

First stop: the Festung Hohensalzburg.  The big white fortress atop the hill, remember?  I hiked my weary body up that steep hill (it did feel good, despite the pain inside the screaming thighs) and caught my first beautiful vista of the day.

Trivia: the first settlements in Salzburg belonged to the Celts in pre-Christian times, but the city of Salzburg itself was started in the early 700’s by an archbishop who wanted his own bishopric on the river.  The fortress’s construction began in 1077 and was built on for centuries thereafter, which is why it has its distinctively disjointed architecture.  (I have a personal interest in learning how the Celts moved across Europe from the Caucasus to Ireland, so knowing that I am so near early Celtic settlements is kind of exciting to me.)

Some of my favorite pictures from the fortress are of the life currently there – the beautiful tree in front of the chapel, the billowing geraniums hanging out of ancient windows, the moss still climbing the craggy walls.  I also got a kick out of some of the interesting artifacts, like the tavern sign that showed, even long ago, how important beer and pork were to the Germanic peoples; and the iron witch that hung over a window in the old kitchen.  (I love that witch!  It reminds me that my favorite time of year, Autumn/Samhain/Halloween, is swiftly on its way.)  Please notice also the awesomely beautiful sundial painted on the side of the chapel.  Inside the fortress was a large exhibition about the military history of the fortress.  For some reason it surprised me, although of course the fortress was always all about defense and warriorship.  Still my favorite piece in the exhibition was a guitar carved with the names of many men – perhaps the owner’s regiment?  I don’t know, I couldn’t read the sign.  But I loved the guitar itself.

Coming down off the mountain, I wandered the Sunday morning streets of the Altstadt for a while, visiting a colorful yarn shop, a farmer’s market in the Grün Markt (how perfect), and what might be my favorite advertisement ever for a spiritual book.  (It’s in the slideshow.)  Peeking into my new favorite chocolate shop, I spied the chocolate-dripped bust of Mozart which made me giggle.  Along the way I came across this lovely quartet playing Italian music in the Residenzplatz:

Then there was the stop for Salzburger Nockerl…see three posts back for that deliciosity.

And…then began the wandering.  I was done with the city, but somehow worked myself up into an expectation that I must do more, see more, so I could report more.  Of course there is so much to do in the city that I could have done a hundred things, but I finally realized that I didn’t want to do any of it; I felt done, really, and wanted to head out.  So I finally noticed the urge and followed it, with one not-so-quick stop on my way out of town: I just had to scale the Untersberg.

The Untersberg isn’t a terribly high mountain (1800m) but it is a landmark of Salzburg, and the mountain on which Julie Andrews twirled in her novitiate’s dress to the rising strings before breaking out into the famous refrain, “The hills are alive…”  I wasn’t burning to go there, but I wanted to see it and it was well worth it.  It was nice to walk in the silence, in the fresh-scrubbed mountain air, among the high-flying black crows and diminutive alpine blooms and mountain-breaking-turning-to-rock pathways.  I stayed up there for an hour, came down and had a surprisingly good plate of the usual (you know by now, right?), then headed home to my now-familiar hotel room in the rolling hills of Middle Bavaria.

Salzburg is definitely a highlight of any trip to Europe; beautiful, chock-full of history and culture, and very welcoming to the approximately 6 million visitors it receives each year!  I’m so glad I went, and would go back in a heartbeat.

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Day 2 started with a quick walk through the Mirabell Palace Garden, the beautiful garden where most of “Do Re Mi” was filmed in The Sound of Music – do you recognize the fountain?  The matched lunging statues?  The ivy-covered walkway?  Yep.  Pretty, pretty place.  Why didn’t they use the sweet little theatre tucked away behind the boxwood?  A perfect setting for A Midsummer Night’s Dream

At 10am I joined another bus trip…well, more of a van trip this time.  This was an 8-hour excursion into the lakes region with stops in Hallstatt, Gonau and Mondsee, plus a boat trip on the Wolfgangsee (“see” is pronounced “zay” and means “lake”) between St. Wolfgang and St. Gilgen, the birthplace of Mozart’s mother.  It is a lovely, dramatic landscape and I enjoyed the scenery, although I didn’t spend enough time in any of the towns to really get the flavor of the town.  What I saw was mostly a lot of souvenir shops, all of them carrying similar postcards and the same Austria t-shirts and salt from the nearby salt mines, a lot of cafés and conditoreis (sort of a bakery specializing in cakes) and a fair number of vistas ripe for photo-taking.  I really enjoyed the day, but in hindsight the rather touristy and homogenous towns did leave me a little flat.

One unexpected highlight of the trip came on the ride home, right after we had left Mondsee where I got to visit St. Michael’s cathedral for the second time.  St. Michael’s, you’ll remember, was where the wedding scene from The Sound of Music was filmed.  Although I have seen enough ancient churches by now to last me the rest of my life, I still enjoyed seeing the church – I always like trying out my Hipstamatic on the statues inside.  One statue in particular, depicting the crucifixion of Christ, was so heartbreakingly rendered that it brought a tear to my eye.  Now, I don’t consider myself a Christian although I am spiritual, but still the wood carving opened my heart with such empathy for the man who endured that unimaginable torture…as we piled in the van a few minutes later and drove out of town, I looked up to see a beautiful set of angel’s wings in the sky.  I attach no meaning to it, but it left my heart full.

The van pulled in across from the Mirabellplatz just before 6pm.  I went back into the Altstadt in search of dinner, then remembered a recommendation to visit the Augustiner Bräu, a strange mix of cafeteria and beer hall that is absolutely enormous – between its beer garden and five beer halls, it can serve over 5,000 people at a time – yowie!  I finally gave in to curiosity and ate a quick plate of leberkäse (literally translated as “liver loaf” although I was told that it is actually made from brains – honestly it just tasted like bologna) with the perfunctory sauerkraut and potato salad, and drank a ginger ale type drink called Almdudler.  It was fine, but not stellar or anything.  (I had already started dreaming of my Salzburger Nockerl by then…)

After dinner I walked my weary body home and got an early night’s sleep – I think I was in bed by 8:30pm!  I was strangely exhausted and wanted to feel refreshed for Day 3: the totally unplanned day.

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My first day in Salzburg began in the most cheesy possible way: the Sound of Music tour!  A half-day bus tour with a fantastically funny tour guide (can you see him posing at the end of the bus?) through parts of Salzburg and the lakes region just out of town.  I joined several dozen tourists, most of them American, many of them happily singing along to the soundtrack that played as we wound our way through the sights.  We visited the beautiful mansion (photographed from across the lake) which served as the backyard of the Von Trapp family manse.  Did you know that the backyard facing the water, and the actual back of the house, are in fact two different locations?  And that all scenes had to be filmed twice, so that when Julie Andrews was talking to Christopher Plummer in the backyard, she would have the lake behind her and he would have the house behind him?  So we saw the mansion from across the lake, then went to visit the famous “16 Going on 17” glass gazebo, which was built by 20th Century Fox for the film and given to the city of Salzburg when filming was finished.  We also drove by the walled front of the Von Trapp manse, which could only be seen from about 1/4 mile away so I couldn’t take a picture of it.  Then we set off for the lakes region, where the wedding scene was filmed in a town called Mondsee, at St. Michael’s church.  A real live wedding was about to start in the church, so I didn’t get a picture from the inside that day (I did see it again the next day, and got a picture then).  The tour guide was full of interesting tidbits about the film, plus a lot of really bad jokes such as “Why did it take so long to film The Sound of Music?  Because Plummers don’t work on Saturdays…”  Are you groaning?  Of course there were more film sights to see, but the rest I would have to explore on my own.

The tour was over by 1pm, which meant that I still had most of the day to myself.  I crossed the Salzach River and headed straight into the Altstadt (old town), absolutely packed with interesting sights, the most famous being the Mozart Geburtshaus, the house in which Mozart was born and spent much of his youth.  There’s a museum in there, but I visited it last time I was in Salzburg and just couldn’t muster the interest to see it again.  Not a problem, because there is so much to see!  I wandered around and did some souvenir shopping, then headed over to another Sound of Music sight: St. Peter’s cemetery connected to the Nonnberg Abbey, site of the film’s convent scenes and also the abbey where the real Maria Von Trapp was a nun.  I’m pretty positive that the climactic cemetery scene in the film was shot here in this cemetery – it just looked right.  For one euro I visited the catacombs, a downright creepy series of rooms built into the side of the mountain behind the cemetery which, I’m pretty sure, has housed the bones of deceased in the past but is now empty.  Seriously creepy.  The cemetery itself, though, is really pretty.  Most of the graves are marked not with stones, but with pretty tin markers that are painted with the name of the current skeleton underneath; I’m pretty sure these particular markers are made to be re-used as sufficiently old bodies are dug up and replaced with more recently dead bodies.  But don’t quote me on that, I have nothing but intuition going there.  The inside of St. Peter’s is absolutely gorgeous!  It’s unpainted, pure white plaster, like a huge Baroque meringue.

Overlooking the Altstadt is the foreboding Festung Hohensalzburg, the commanding Medieval fortress that protected the city from its origins in the 10th century.  You’ll see more of it on Day 3.

In the evening I went to the Salzburger Marionetten Theater, and saw their famous production of Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute), the only Mozart music I heard all weekend.  This was my first time at a marionette performance, and it was strange and enchanting.  The stage was so tiny!  I probably wouldn’t see another such performance, but I am really, truly glad that I experienced it.  Definitely a singular experience, and a kind of storytelling all its own.

I ended the day with the best meal I’d had in a looooong time, at a tucked-away restaurant called Shrimps.  Can you guess what I had?  Yes, the avocado salad with shrimp – a beautifully colorful plate of greens, half an avocado dolloped with pesto, and a bunch of shrimp in thousand island-ish dressing.  It was fresh and exactly what I needed.  I ate well and slept very well.

Day 2…tomorrow!

Salzburg has been an overwhelming experience – full and rich and so much to take in.  So much, in fact, that I have wondered how I would tease it all out and write about my time there.  I thought I might go by themes such as culture, history and food, but in the end I am a pretty linear person and will just take it day by day.  So this week I’ll share with you each day as its own little travelogue, but tonight I am weary in a (mostly) good way, so I’ll focus on one tasty little tidbit: the Salzburger Nockerl.

There are two sweet delicacies for which Salzburg is famous – the Mozartkugel, a cute little round chocolate (“Mozart’s balls were first dipped in chocolate in 1890” I read in one guidebook, I kid you not) and the Salzburger Nockerl, a large, airy, sweet soufflé that can be found in most restaurants in the city.  Served in a large creme brulée dish, it has three big peaks, symbolizing the three mountains that surround the city (Mönchberg, Rainberg, and Kapuzinerberg) and is designed for two to share.  I eyed this monster for two days, looked up the recipe on the internet (hm, only 1 tablespoon of flour for four servings…maybe…), hemmed and hawed, and finally today I just decided to go for it.  I’d already had a ton of sugar anyway, so why not top it off?  And so what if I ended up with a stomachache afterward from the flour – would it not be worth it to have this singular experience?

When I bellied up at the inevitable Café Mozart (just down the street from his birthplace) and was told that “of course” the chef could make the nockerl without wheat, I was all in.  After a salad to whet my appetite, the dish arrived, and I dug in.

And just like that…

…it was gone.

And it was effing delicious.

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This is a site about saying yes to life - written by a multi-passionate rock star who loves to take life between her fists and kiss it full on the mouth.

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