….with the Sound of Mosquitos…
or at least it felt that way after our first night in Salzburg. After a long, but scenic train ride through the east of Switzerland and much of the Austrian country side, we finally arrived in Salzburg about 4 in the afternoon on Sunday. We took our first all-inclusive tour of the city by hopping on the wrong city bus and riding around the outskirts of the old town for about an hour. When we finally looped back to the train station, we hopped on bus #1 which took us to the Old Town where we had to catch another bus to MoostraBe; a road that lies just outside the city, sprinkled with bed and breakfasts and privately owned pensions. Because it’s the Salzburg Music Festival, finding a decent priced room in the heart of the city was difficult, so I had booked us a room at Haus Ballwein, a cute little bed and breakfast owned and run by the family Ballwein.
We were warmly greeted upon our arrival and taken to an adorable room decorated in country fashion one story up from the main floor. After freshening up, we took the bus back into the Altstad (old town) and walked around exploring the narrowed alley ways filled with resturaants, bars, trendy stores such as Louis Vuitton and Mont Blanc, as well as souvenir shops beaming over with a plethora of trinkets capitalizing on Mozart and the Sound of Music. We made our way to the Tourist Information office to inquire about music tickets, and half-heartedly tried to do Rick Steves’ walking tour until we finally called it quits and went looking for a place for dinner. I had been craving Wienerschnitzel since I woke up that morning but I didn’t want to eat in a tourist trap either. At first, it looked like we found the perfect place; a beer garden packed with locals sporting lederhosen. We asked for a table inside, but when the waitress heard us speaking English to each other she aruptly took the German menu away slammed down an English one (without us asking), didn’t smile, and made some sneering comment to her friend in German who looked at us and laughed….at which point I insisted that we leave. I’m sure the food was excellent and the beer would have been delightful, even with the waitress’ spit in it, BUT there was no way I was going to eat in a place where we clearly weren’t welcome. So the quest for a perfect meal continued until finally we came across a really quaint and somewhat fancy restaurant located on the first floor of a Hotel KK just off of Mozartplatz. The meal was well worth the hour we walked around in the rain to get there as the food was delicous and the service was welcoming.
Belly full from weinerschnitzel, strudel, and wine, when we arrived back at the house I quickly fell asleep, only to wake up three short hours later eaten alive by mosquitos and breathing in the heavy smell of cow manure. We had opened the windows earlier in the evening to cool out the room which seemed safe as there were screens on them. We learned the next morning that the screens were rather flimsy and some were actually glued into the window frames. To make matters worse, every time I would start to dose off, the mosquito, or black fly, or whatever it was that was haunting our room that night, would linger, buzzing just over my ear long enough to cause me to conjure up images of a gigantic bug eating my brains out while I lye aloofly sleeping.
Still, coming off of what may have been the worst night’s sleep of the trip so far, I thoroughly enjoyed Salzburg the next day, confirming my initial love for this place a couple of years ago. By the time we woke up, the rain had broken, the sun was shining, and all thoughts of horrific mosquitos sucking me dry had cleared my head. We strolled down to the breakfast room to be met by Ruth Ballwein, fully decked out in a lederhosen, serving coffee and tea. Utterly adorable, I quickly forgot about the mosquitos and enjoyed a breakfast of their farm raised cheese and meat.
When we arrived in the city that morning we rented bikes along the river and biked down to Hellsbrunn Castle, a very scenic palace with gardens that sits about 4 miles outside of the old town. The bike path takes you along a flat stretch of the Salzach river with scenic views of the city, eventually leading you into a tree covered, paved trail that lands you at the palace. We biked around exploring the castle’s grounds and gardens, seeking out the gazebo used in the Sound of Music and the Stone Theater located up a hill in the woods. We were successful with the first, couldn’t find the latter.
We decided to bike back on a different route, perhaps more scenic, on a bridled cow path that was clear of any traffic other than pedestrians and bicyclists. With views of the Alps and chalet sprinkled meadows, we happily pedaled along randomly singing songs from The Sound of Music, (who wouldn’t), when we realized we might be close to the Von Trapp Mansion filmed in the movie. More determined to find it than me, Michelle began asking local bicyclists how to get there until finally, at a suburban flower shop, we came across a fashionable and fabulous woman who had an uncanny resemblance to the Baroness Schriever. She tried giving us directions, but upon realizing it was to no avail, she told us to go with her, that she would take us. Confusion must have fell across our faces as she reiterated…”Yes, I get my flowers then you follow”…So there we were pedaling as fast as we could so we could keep up with and follow this unlikely tour guide to the tip of the lake that sits behind the house used in the movie; a place we most certainly would never have found by ourselves. I am always touched by and grateful for the kindness of strangers in foreign countries who go above and beyond to help you find your desired destination. They often leave more of an impression of a place than the most touted attractions.
Later that day, we returned the bikes, bought tickets to a concert being held that evening in the Festung Hohensalzburg, and strolled up and down the main shopping street, Getreidegasse, looking for trinkets to bring home to friends and family. I was particularly excited to go to the concert, a classical music ensemble that would highlight the music of Beethoven and Mozart. We then grabbed some brat from the local sausage stand and for dessert, Michelle bought a chocolate covered pretzel the size of Austria itself! Full and tired from aimlessly wandering old cobble stoned streets, we decided to head back to the house and rest up a little before attending the concert that night.
By the time we were ready to head back into the old town for the concert, it was pouring out, virtually clearing the streets of the Altstadt of any semblance of life. After grabbing another street sausage, washed down with a beer under the arches of the church, we made our way to the funicular which shoots you up to the fortress/castle in less than 3 minutes and found our way to the concert, which had a very intimate setting, held in a small, dimly lit room that sat at the top of the fortress with windows that allowed you to look out on to all of Salzburg and the surrounding area. The concert was an hour and a half, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, though I had been nervous I wouldn’t because I had never been to a classical music performance before (barring high school concerts.) The concert ended with a piece from Mozart’s famous Eine Kleine Nachtmusik which was met with enthusiastic, yet polite applause. This is perhaps one of my favorite things when traveling; how one minute you can be drinking beer from a bratwurst stand on the street, shielding yourself from the rain like a homeless refugee, and the next, you can be sipping wine out of champagne flutes, listening to Mozart at the top of a castle.