Austria day 1: Exploring Salzburg

Despite very comfortable beds and an Ambien, my first night in Salzburg was horrible. Couldn’t fall asleep or stay asleep. This is going to be a heavy coffee day!

The hotel breakfast is one of the better inclusive ones I’ve seen Europe. Wonderful scrambled eggs with fresh herbs, little salads, fresh fruits, meat platters, pastries and croissants and lots of coffee. Soon we were off to explore.

We began with the Rick Steve’s self guided historic city walk. While we had already covered most of this area yesterday, this time we actually knew what we were seeing! The Salzburg Panorama was a fascinating painting reflecting life and the town from 1829. While the description sounded corny it was impressive and we had it to ourselves. The oil painting had such detail made you feel you were part of history.

Our next stop was the Salzburg Cathedral. It was nearly time for mass so while we were unable to explore the church, we experienced the musicians and the procession. The pews were packed and we felt like we had joined a huge Austrian family. We soon ducked out and continued exploring up the hill toward the head up the hill toward Hohensalzburg Fortress.

One interesting site was old dwellings built into the side of the mountain supposedly used by hermit monks.

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The fortress itself is a massive keep with fortified walls surrounding an impressive courtyard and seems to simply emerge from the rock. The views are breathtaking but the fortress exhibits and museums are a disappointment. A highlight of the fortress was actually enjoying coffee and an apple strudel from a cafe with outstanding views.

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There is a great walk/hike that runs from the castle along the hilltops through the forest winding toward the museum of modern art.

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We passed under fortified walls and across hilltops adorned with stately old manors.

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The panoramic views were spectacular. From the museum we rode a public transit elevator back down to street level where we returned to the crowds of Salzburg’s famous main shopping street.

Since strudel doesn’t a meal make, we discovered a fancy restaurant called Carpe Diem. It’s definitely in the “see and be seen” category where we enjoyed a refreshing glass of wine and some appetizers. The Austrian basic white wine is crisp and refreshing.

And apparently the one glass of wine had me walking across the street to the Louis Vuitton store and picking up a bag I’ve had my eye on for some time. While the exchange rate now is unusually high, the lower price and VAT refund resulted in a great deal (that’s if you can consider spending that much for a purse a deal!)

We finally wandered back toward the hotel to drop off purchases, refresh and head back to the festivals. After a bit of window sopping we managed to squeeze into a high tip table near a wine stand where we enjoyed more of the crisp Austrian white and watched the swarming crowds. Today is the last day of the festival so folks are put in mass!

The lure of the pastry booth we saw yesterday called us back and we finally sampled the pure delight of the straumrollen. Oh my goodness. Light crisp pastry. Perfect cream filling. Not to sweet. Perfection. Luckily we arrived in time as soon the cries of “straumrollen out” filled the air while somber potential patrons turned away.

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On a mild sugar high we continued to explore the festival. Locals in traditional dress, bands with dancing troupes and marching bands were just some of the interesting sights.

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All in all, the festival offered better amusement than the “tourist” sites of the city! I’m rather glad we reduced our stay from three nights to two.

For dinner, we escaped the crowds by heading to a large beer hall halfway back up the hill toward the fortress. The portions have been so large that we’ve easily split most items and still end the meal stuffed! Tonight was cream of pumpkin soup followed by weinerschnitzel. Thank goodness we had a good walk back to the hotel!

Shortly after arriving back to our room, the sound of fireworks had us leaning out the window for a great view of fireworks wrapping up this years festival. What a wonderful end to a full day!

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Tomorrow we pick up a rental car and head out toward Hallstatt.

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