Saturday, January 28, 2012

Austria - days 2 and 3

Salzburg, part 2

There's been a bit of a delay in my blogging (technology again grrrr), but the exploring of an amazing cultural centre has certainly continued. It's Saturday morning, my brother just arrived from Los Angeles (via meetings in New York), and he's just crashed for a couple hours after not much sleep on his flight over. Somehow he was in first class on Luthansa Airlines, versus my no class on Air Canada, yet I managed to get more sleep than he did. While he sleeps, I'll catch up on my writing. I will be writing more in depth later as I've been taking lots of pictures, and some things are best explained with visual examples.

It's always a little strange exploring a city on your own, particularly when you don't have a decent grasp of the local language. My German isn't too bad - I can order food in quantities up to ten, and I'm pretty good at saying 'hello' and saying 'good-bye' and saying 'really? My drink cost that much?'. Well, maybe not exactly that last one. But the Red Bull Cola I'm drinking so that I can have the priviledge of sitting in the hotel lounge did just cost more than yesterday's seafood lunch. In Salzburg, particularly this time of year, you don't hear many English conversations taking place. I always trust a destination that the locals (in this case Austrians and Germans) like to visit. It's like walking into an ethnic restaurant and seeing people of that ethnicity eating there. It's just a feel good situation.

Yesterday (Friday) I started off exploring along the river bank - my trusty tourist map showed a couple of areas where it appeared that I could get a good view of the river, the old town and the fortress up top of the mountain using explanding red lines. So it was either going to be a good view, or the map was indicating areas of high radiation. Not knowing which, I took my chances. And boy o boy was I rewarded! Of course it ended up being some tremendous gains in elevation, but for that view, it was worth it (pictures to come in a later blog). For an area that should have been completely over run with tourists, it was absolutely quiet. I came across what I was excited to think was Mozart's grave - there was a monument that was very headstone like, a description of when he was born and when he died, so I figured heck, this must be it! Research later on at the hotel sadly proved me wrong - turns out no one actually knows where he's buried as he was originally, after a sadly short life, buried like a commoner, and the thought is that his remains were later dug up, crushed, and moved aside for someone else. His skull though possibly was spared, though that's not completely proven. Anyway, moving on from the monument I climbed up and up and up, losing a layer every 100 meters or so of elevation, eventually reaching my destination of the Franziskischlossl Castle. I should note here that when I originally lived in northern Germany, I went on a 'Castle tour' with my friend Heike and 30 of her closest tourism classmates. Excited by the thought of visiting castle after castle, it was not until I reached the first one and thought to myself 'this? This is a Castle? It's just a large home!' did I get educated on the fact that in this part of the world, a Castle is really just a large house. Not even that large, in fact. No moat or draw-bridge or even a turret were ever present. So this is what I stumbled upon yesterday, but what it lacked in size, it more than made up for this with the view.

My other gain in elevation took place the day before, when I went to visit the most visable and famous structure, the Festung Hohensalzburg. This was the old residence of the church, which is more like a fort than anything else. There are two ways of getting there - walking (I think there's a gain of at least 200 meters from the old town), or taking the FestungsBahn, a railroad type device to carry people up the side of the mountain, sparing them them hardship and sweat of climbing it on their own. My plan was to walk up, tour the buildings, take in the sites, then take it down so I could see the city from top to bottom. Turns out it closes for major maintenance only one day of the year, and that happened to be the day. It did add to the fun of the day though watching some pretty out of shape tourists making the challenging journey up, not looking nearly as festive as they would have been taking a ride.

Again, what a view, a full 360 degree panorama that just took your breath away (if you had it back after the climb). I have to say, the church certainly knew what it was doing when they developed that space over a thousand years ago. Ruling the lands and basically being able to get what you want, where you want it, who wouldn't have chosen the highest and most easily defended space? Of course those who actually built it lived below in it's shadows where they were more vulnerable to attacks from any hostile group.

With all of this climbing and continual walking, I usually have to find creative ways of keeping myself energized. Some days, after 4 or 6 or even 8 hours of exploring, my energy does fail. Years ago when traveling with my wife in Sydney, Australia, not being a coffee drinker, I discovered chocolate covered espresso beans. Believe me, being 10 time zones over, sometimes it's nice to have something to aid you. This habit though evolved - it's now iced-mochas that keep me going. The only problem is that that's a heck of a lot of liquid to take in, and anyone who's traveled throughout Europe can confirm that here, particularly in tourist areas, there is only one washroom per 10,000 people. The ratio in Paris is even worse! So maybe it's good that a) I have not found one single Starbucks here, and b) any decent coffee shop here does NOT make any espresso drinks iced. That, or the combination of my minimal German and general hand gestures is not as effective as I'd hope them to be when it comes to communicating. So that's where Red Bull comes in. Not something I'd usually drink, I justify this in two regards - it's keeping me energized (gives you wings, hey?) and it's a local specialty. Just like Weinersnitzel. As they say, go local, or just go home.

And that I don't intend to do, at least not yet. There are still more adventures to be had! Now they'll include my brother. We're not completely the same. In fact, we're probably quite opposite in many ways, so we'll see how the adventure continues.

My comfy blogging spot 

No comments: