The Untersberg

Sixteen kilometers (ten miles) south of Salzburg is a mountain called the Untersberg.  From the city center, bus line 25 will take you all the way to the cable car station at the base of the mountain.

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The cable car that runs up the Untersberg is called the Untersbergbahn.  Naturally.

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Some examples of the cables in use for cable cars.

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Today’s weather on the Untersberg.   From top to bottom, it’s “sun, bright, cloudy/overcast, rain, fog, snowfall, light wind, strong wind.”  I should have known before I went up that nebel meant fog…

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The height of things. The cable car covers 2.5 Kilometers across ground, and brings you to a station at 1,776 meters up the mountain.

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This is what the cables look like from the station at the base.

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Because of the fog, it looked like it was just sort of going up into nothingness.

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The mountain looked fascinating from the cable car- at least the bits I could see before we ducked into the fog and cloud cover.

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…and this was the view from the top.

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Seriously, there could have been an alien civilization just past that low rise, and I would never have seen it.  I did catch this picture just as the snowball thrown by man-in-red hit man-in-grey.  Snowballs in late May when it’s raining on the ground are kind of comical, but that’s mountains for you.

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I’m sure on a clear day, this is a beautiful place to have a drink.  The bus stop sign (the H in the circle) cracks me up.

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And finally, the view back down the mountain, looking out from where the cable car leaves the station at the top.  This builds confidence, wouldn’t you say?

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Have you ever been up to the top of a mountain? How was the view?

Mozart’s Balls Are Delicious

So far in the crazy travel-heavy month of May, I’d already visited Venice, Rome, Vatican City, and Dublin.  For my last trick in May, I also spent a couple of days in Salzburg.  I took hundreds of pictures, of course, and I’ve whittled this post down to thirty-eight images that tell the story of my weekend.

Before I get into the pictures, though, I wanted to say this:  My first few hours in Salzburg made me despise the city.    After I got to the hotel and had a brief nap, I felt a lot better and I started to really enjoy things.  Those first few hours were really shaky though, and here’s why:

The public transportation didn’t work.  The city’s famed bus system seemed to be using the posted schedule as a vague suggestion rather than an actual schedule.  The city also has a very small underground train system which didn’t appear to be running at all.  One of the bus lines I tried to use seemed to have a “next bus” time that was about eight hours in the future.  There were no easily readable line maps, so when I did try a bus, I wound up in a part of the city that I was unfamiliar with, and I never reached anything even remotely recognizable.  I found out later that a lot of this is because there were major streets closed for some sort of vintage car rally.  I eventually snagged another bus back to the Hauptbahnhof, and just took a taxi to my hotel.

My hotel was amusing to me.  It had upside-down cows painted in the room.  The lamp said “Moo!”  (Although it said it in German.)  And in between the thermostat and the slot for your room card, there was an inspirational message.  I’m not sure if there was beer hidden in my room.  If there was, I never spotted it.

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After I checked in and had a brief nap, I felt much better.  I went out to try to grab the bus into the heart of the city for my first evening in Salzburg, and I wound up waiting another 45 minutes for the bus that was supposed to be there in five.  I did eventually make it to the old part of town though:

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While walking through the town, I spotted this sign.  It made me giggle because I am apparently eight years old.

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Giant statue of Mozart?  Check. This must be Salzburg!

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While I was waiting for my dinner to start on that first evening, I saw some people coming out of a church with cameras.  I’m always curious about what other people find interesting, so I ducked inside.  I’m glad I did; this is what I saw inside of St. Peter’s.

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I don’t normally do this sort of thing, but I made a donation and lit one of these remembrance candles.  Something about this church moved me to do so.  Perhaps it was because of all the musical history in Salzburg.  I’m not sure.  People who have known me for a long time can probably guess who I was thinking about when I lit the candle.

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After I spent a little bit of time in the church, it was time for dinner.  As a treat for myself, I booked a seat at the Mozart Dinner Concert in the Barocksaal, the wonderful baroque room of Stiftskeller St. Peter, which is the oldest restaurant in Europe.  It’s referenced in a document from the year 803, which is kind of staggering to think about.  This is what the Baroquehall looks like:

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The Mozart dinner concert is this:  Drinks and bread rolls, followed by music.  Then a soup course, then a second set of music.  Then a main dinner course, and a third and final set of  music.  Finally, a dessert course.  The photo below was my program, both musically and food-wise.  The food was amazing.

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The performers were talented, personable, and quite funny.  This was a wonderful way to course-correct after the public transportation cock-ups earlier in the day.  By the end of the evening, even though  I still had to wait for the bus back to my hotel, I was feeling much better about Salzburg.

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For day two, I started with a nice walking tour of the city.  This is the part at which I mention that it was raining the entire time I was in Salzburg.  The entire time.  From my arrival to my departure, it never stopped.  Not once.  It did get lighter at times though, and it was a little bit lighter during the walking tour.

Part of the tour was in the gardens at Schloss Mirabell, Mirabell Palace.  If you’ve ever seen The Sound Of Music, then these shots will look a little bit familiar.  Julie Andrews and the kids went through here during the “Do Re Mi” bit.

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The guy in the hat was our tour guide.  He was very good.  And yeah, it was an umbrella-laden tour.  Lots of rain.

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I should mention that the “I Heart London” umbrella I bought last summer finally bit the dust on this trip, and I replaced it with an appropriately musical Salzburg umbrella.

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Seen on the walking tour: The house that Mozart lived in.  I came back to this later.

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The house where Christian Doppler was born.  I think of him every time I hear “Sailing” by Christopher Cross.   He’s a one-man Doppler Effect demonstration.

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Another nice view of the old city.

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So I’d never heard of Urban Knitting before this trip.  Apparently, there’s a lot of people who go around knitting hats and whatnot for statues.  I’m not at all sure how I feel about this hobby.  It’s strangely entertaining, though.

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There’s a fun (but completely fictional) story behind the “Stierwascher” image below.  I’ll borrow text from visit-salzburg.net to tell the story, because they can tell it way better than I can.

During the period of the peasant′s riots of 1525, the city of Salzburg was under a siege. Soon the city′s population was running short of food, and fear spread when only a single bull was left within the mighty city walls.

Then the commander of the defending troops is said to have had an idea: he ordered to paint the naturally brown bull with white stain and lead it up and down the city walls on display to the enemy. The next day, they would wash the bull, paint it in black and do the same thing again. The next day, they would paint the bull red, then spotted, and so on.

In the end, the enemy thought that the people of Salzburg were slaughtering a bull every day, expecting that the live stocks were still large enough to feed the troops and people in the city for a very long time. Eventually, the troops that kept Salzburg under siege withdrew, leaving Salzburg to freedom. Under cheer and laughter, the bull was led to the Salzach river and washed until he appeared again in his natural brown. Ever since then, people from Salzburg are called “Stierwascher” – bull washers.

In fact, bull-shitters would be more appropriate with respect to this story. The whole legend is nothing but fiction, the real reason for the name “Stierwascher” are the butchers of Salzburg that were committed to slaughter bulls in public spaces to allow the authorities to control the quality of the meat. The slaughtering was done by the shore of the Salzach River to allow the blood being washed off quick and easily. This is the less romantic, but apparently more authentic root of the “Stierwascher”.

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This is a view down the Getreidegasse, a popular shopping street.  The close up shot is the detail on the classiest McDonald’s sign I’ve ever seen.  McDonald’s was not allowed to put up their traditional supertacky sign here-  they had to adjust their sign to conform with the rules of Getreidegasse.

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Mozart’s birth house.  A museum and gift shop.  Kind of interesting, if you’re into musical history.

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The walking tour went through a very populated old cemetery near St. Peter’s, and I took a few shots of interesting headstones while we were inside.  I think these two shots came out particularly well.

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It’s Europe, so of course there are giant cathedrals.

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…and big courtyards.  The tower in this shot is full of carillon bells that ring three times a day.  I was never close enough to hear them at any of those times.  Oh well.

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The walking tour concluded back at Mozartplatz.  My earlier shot didn’t really give you a good sense of just how big Amadeus is here.  Both literally and figuratively.

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Street musicians.  Street musicians in costume.  I didn’t stop long, but they sounded good.

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This cool statue is in the alcove behind where the last group of guys was singing.  The graffiti on the wall behind the statue totally makes it, don’t you think?

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I know this is random, but I passed a snack shop at one point, and I have to say that this is perhaps the creepiest advertising image I have ever seen.  It’s all kinky and weird with his four-fingered hands and weird stripey knee socks.

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Not far from the creepy hot dog figure is a funicular that will take you up to Hohensalzburg Castle.  We have already established in this blog that I like high places, so of course I’m going to go up.  You can get there on foot- it’s about a 25 minute climb- but it was rainy and wet, so I elected for the funicular instead.

A quick Salzburg travel tip-  I paid for the Salzburg Card on this trip.  Not only does it give you entrance to a lot of the museums in the city, but it also includes unlimited bus usage for your stay, as well as a ride on the funicular up to this awesome view:

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The Salzburg Card also included entrance to the Salzburger Spielzeug Museum.  I can’t pass up a Toy Museum!  We’ve already established that I’m basically eight years old.

There’s one small problem, though.  The toy museum won’t allow you to go through in your normal street shoes.  You have two choices.  Option one:  You can use some of the communal Crocs in the lobby.  While these are slightly more stylish than most Crocs, I have sworn never to wear Crocs.

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Option two is to put these little plastic booties over your shoes and just wear them around the museum.  While this looks infinitely sillier, the choice was a no-brainer.  Besides, now I have something to put over my bicycle seat when it’s wet.

salzburg-33 The toy museum was indeed full of toys.  There was a rather fantastic race car track, for example.

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This was the find that got me the most excited.  It was in a section of the museum where very small toys were suspended in clear cylinders and there were magnifying glasses nearby to look at the detail.

I didn’t need the magnifying glass though.  I’d know this car anywhere, because I used to play with one just like it when I was a kid.  This is Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and the slip of red plastic along the running board is a fold out plastic wing.  There’s a matching wing on the other side.  One of my siblings had this Matchbox flying car when I was a kid, and I remember it like it was yesterday.

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Last but not least, I have two pictures from Mozart’s residence house.  The first picture is of some of his musical instruments.  I took this right before a woman told me I wasn’t allowed to take pictures.  I’m a rebel!

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Just before you leave the museum (and exit through a gift shop, naturally,) there’s a place where you can “Mozart yourself.”  I thought this was too fantastically silly not to share.

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Other than the umbrella, there was one other thing that I brought back with me from Salzburg, and it’s what I was talking about in the title of this post-  Mozart Balls.  Mozartkugeln, actually.  Words cannot describe how delicious this candy is.  I’m glad I only got a very small box of them.

Have you ever been to Salzburg?  What was your favorite part?  Did you take the “Sound Of Music” tour that seems to annoy the locals quite a bit?