On Friday the the 27th of March, I left my apartment at 5:50 in the morning to catch a bus to Madrid so that I could catch my 3:00pm flight to Munich; so that I could take a 2 hour and something minute train to Salzburg, Austria, my destination.
I arrived to the hostel at 9:20 pm, exhausted and happy to have finally made it. On my walk from the train station to the hostel I was surprised at how few people I saw. For a decently sized city about 120,000 it seemed a lot smaller. The first night I didn’t do anything; I found some food; had a couple of Austrian beer at the bar and went to bed.
The Sound of Music Tour
On Saturday I woke up early because I had plans to do the sound of music tour. Now, unlike many others, I didn’t go to Salzburg because I loved the sound of music, I actually hadn’t seen the movie until the week before. I didn’t know what the Sound of Music was until my mom mentioned it. I didn’t know this until after I watched it, but growing up she always sung the songs from the movie (and I thought she made them up). I wanted to go to Salzburg because I saw a picture (similar to the one I took above) and thought it looked like the most beautiful place ever. I wasn’t wrong, it was incredible.
The tour lasted about four hours and we visited many places where the film was filmed. The tour guide was one of the best tour guides I have ever had. He was hysterical in a kooky, weird, said things under his breath type of way. It’s difficult to describe him and I wish I wrote down more of the things he said, but here are some:
(As we are on the bus driving though the country) “Look to the right behind this building and we’ll see some deer, there’s got to be deer because there’s a restaurant that serves them, doe a deer a female deer…. they’re deerlicious”
(On the bus and he’s about to play a song) “Lets listen to the nazi boy Ralf now, who never really existed”
(As we are waiting to cross the street) “Be careful, there’s a crime scene here” (pointing to the little white walk figure on the road)
Anyway, on the tour we visited the lake where the boat scene takes place and a lot of the backyard shots. For filming they used two houses, the Von Trap Villa as well as the backyard and balcony of the house on the lake. We then saw the famous gazebo. For the film, only the outside was actually used because the inside was too small to preform the dance scenes. We saw the Von Trap Villa, but only in passing because there’s a pedestrian path in front of it and we were on a huge bus. Unfortunately it was a little far outside of the main town for me to return to. We saw St Michael’s church, which is where the wedding scene was filmed and is actually in the town of Mondsee and not Salzburg. It was about a 45 minute scenic drive through the lake district of Salzburg. Luckily it was clear and we were able to have an incredible view of the surrounding mountains. We had about an hour and a half in the town of Mondsee; it is an incredibly cute, quaint little village on the edge of a lake. There, I had an amazing apple strudel. When we got back to Salzburg we visited the Mirabell gardens, where do re mi was sung. They were nice, but would have been a lot nicer with color. None of the trees had leaves yet and there were only some flowers.
After the tour, I went to the Salzburg Fortress and toured it. At this point, it was a beautiful sunny day (the forecast showed rain all week) and I spent a while just staring out over the city looking towards the alps. The view was breathtaking. The fortress itself was beautiful and has been around since 1100, with several modifications made over time.
When I was finished with the castle I stopped by the Salzburg Cathedral. It was built in the 17th century in Baroque style. The exterior was awesome, but the interior was incredible; amazing architecture, black painted between the molding created a unique contrast and an intricately painted ceiling topped with a massive dome. Truly a sight to behold.
Later, I met with some girls that I had met on the tour and we went to the Augustiner beer hall. The beer hall is attached to a monastery and run by monks. There were three massive rooms full of people, mostly locals. The beer was great, as was the food. There were many different stalls with many different options to chose from. I ended up getting an amazing pork leg with cabbage-slaw. The perfect way to end a long day.
Salt Mine Tour
Since I enjoyed my tour so much the first day, I thought I’d do another one the next day with the same company. This time a salt mine tour. Since salt was and still is so important to Salzburg; it’s where it gets its name; Salz, meaning salt in German; I thought it would be a good idea to learn about. Unbeknownst to me, it wasn’t just a tour to the salt mine, we stopped at a really typical Bavarian German Village and learned a lot of history (from our guide). The salt mine was actually in Germany, only about 30 minutes away from Salzburg. Crossing the boarder couldn’t have been easier, there wasn’t even a sign and if not for the guide I would have never known. Here are some of things I learned along the way:
1. The mine has been in production since the early 1400’s
2. With current production rates there’s enough salt for 10,000 more years
3. The mountain area was the second seat of the German government during WW2 and housed many German officers’ mountain homes as well as Hitlers. It is also home to Hitler’s Eagles Nest. It was given to him as a 50th birthday present and meant as a place to entertain dignitaries. It’s situated on top of one of the peaks; from it you can see the city of Salzburg (it doesn’t open until may). All the houses and residences were destroyed by bombs leaving only their ruins except maybe the farm house and one other building (they have been converted).
4. Hitler spent 33% of his time in these mountains while he was ruling.
It was incredibly interesting to learn about and even more so being in the place. It wasn’t easy for the guide to speak about because his voice was very somber. You could tell he definitely wasn’t proud. To think such a twisted and malevolent person enjoyed the same beauties as we do today is weird.
The German town we stopped at was called Berchatesjaden and was a small typical Bavarian town. It was dead quite; everybody was in Church (I know because I entered it for a little). Everyone there wore traditional German outfits. The architectural style was really unique (to me) and playful, almost fantasy-like.
After some time in the town we went to the salt mine and took the tour. The tour was incredibly interesting, very well done and much better than I expected. To summarize, it included: a train, two slides, a boat ride in the dark with a light show, a separate light show and salt facts! What more could you want?
Overall Salzburg is an incredibly beautiful city and I had an amazing time. Small enough to walk around everywhere and interesting enough to spend a week there. I only had two full days, but could have spent two more.