It was nice to be able to drive back from Zurich at a speed more appropriate for the German Autobahn… but I had many more kilometers to drive. The first stop of the remaining two cities is the birthplace of Mozart and culprit of excessive salt consumption: Salzburg, Austria. (I kid — I’m just sillyily and cornyily blaming “The Salt Castle” for Germany’s apparent salt craving. I don’t actually think Salzburg has anything to do with the amount of salt that the Bosch cafeteria insists on dumping into every meal.)
When I first mentioned Salzburg to Brian, I wasn’t really sure what exactly it would offer. It looked close on a map and also wasn’t too far from Prague, so I figured that breaking up Brian’s week in Europe into Switzerland, Salzburg, and Sprague (sorry. was trying out alliteration.) would be a nice round-trip. A friend of Brian’s suggested that we go to Hallstatt, so there we went on the first day in the area. It’s a cozy little town sitting on a lake; we hiked around the lake for a little bit and then had a lunch of fish. Whole fish, that is; bone and all. I had no idea western Europeans ate whole fish as a normal meal; Austria isn’t exactly a maritime economy. (I could be stereotyping here.)
We then visited the salt mine in the area… we were fortunate to have caught the last funicular up to the top of the mine. The hike wouldn’t have been too steep (hooray switchbacks!), but holy cow did that train have to climb.
There wasn’t significant “evidence” of salt inside the mine — it’s not like there’s little containers of Morton Hallstatt Salt hanging from the ceilings — but I thought this was one of the best tours I’d ever been on. The tour guide did a great job explaining the history of the mine and the process for extracting salt, and we even got a little container of Hallstatt salt to take with us. All in all, a good day… walking around a lake, fresh fish, great tour, and great weather. We decided to drive through Gosau on the way back to Salzburg in order to see another lake. Even with clouds, this place was phenomenal at sunset. The water was dark when peering parallel to it but blue when looking into it and nearly perfectly reflected the mountain ridges above its banks;
they even had a mini science exhibit along the side of the walking path! (That silver thing above the wheel pumped water into buckets mounted on the wheel, spinning the wheel. *together, now: oooh, ahhh.*)
The next day, we stayed in Salzburg proper and visited the castle and the house where Mozart stayed for much of his adulthood (at least when he was actually in Salzburg). The castle was pretty impressive — we were there about three hours, but I generally took my time through it. It offers some nice views of the city and also has a fine collection of all sorts of items… including various instruments of punishment.
I have to admit that of all the individual continental European cities I’ve visited so far, Salzburg was the most intriguing. I don’t quite know what it was about the place, but by the end of the day I was happily babbling that I wanted to go back. It could be its proximity to the mountains and greenery (think “The Sound of Music” fields), or maybe I was drawn because it’s the birthplace of a fascinating classical composer who actually despised the city. Either way, given that it’s only a few hours from Stuttgart, I’ll see if I can visit again sometime in the next (looks at calendar nervously) fourteen weekends. Six of them are already taken for sure, so it will be interesting to see if I can visit the ten cities left on my list in the eight that are left! (… don’t get your hopes up. Soon, this blog will probably settle back into its familiar, reticent self. What’s that? I think I might hear applause!)