Salzburg-Vienna

After schlepping up the sneaky-steep hill at the rear of Vienna’s Schönbrunn gardens, we appreciated the nice view and cooling breeze

Before heading east, we decided to spend a few days in Austria. Our first stop, Salzburg, was one of my favorite cities so far on the trip. Smaller than most of the cities we’ve been to, the big streets, crisp air, and beautiful green scenery provided a nice change of pace from the hustle and bustle of Paris. Salzburg (as well as Vienna) was also extremely biker-friendly, which combined with the scenery puts it at the top of the list of international cities I’d want to retire to. We spent our first day hiking around Fuschlsee, a scenic lake 40 minutes outside Salzburg. Even though it was cloudy, chilly (mid-40s), and drizzling, the crystal-clear lake and deep greens of the surrounding coniferous forests were a pleasure to hike through — we can only imagine how pretty the scenery is when it’s sunny. After hiking for 4–5 hours (about 10 miles), we headed back to town and had dinner at a local establishment called Fuxn, which served traditional Austrian delicacies (schnitzel, pork belly, all kinds of “würsts”) along with a nice selection of beer in a modern, lodge-like building. We ended up liking the food (and their home-brewed beer) so much that we went back the next night — highly recommend if you ever find yourself in Salzburg.

Even though we were cold during the beginning of the hike, we eventually warmed up and were able to appreciate the scenery.

The next day was devoted to seeing the sights in the old part of Salzburg, including the Nonnburg abbey of Sound of Music fame, Mozart’s childhood home, and a massive bike swap event that we stumbled upon while wandering. The most interesting items we saw at the museum in what was Mozart’s childhood home were hand-written compositions of his from the age of 6 and the violin he received at about the same age. The museum also did a nice job of dispelling many of the popular myths about him (he wasn’t the stereotypical poor-but-brilliant musician, but rather had extravagant tastes and gambled away his savings from time to time) as well as offering frank insight into his family life (his father was loving but strict in his nurturing of Mozart’s musical talent, and Mozart actually fell in love with his wife’s older sister before he ended up marrying her). The museum also emphasized the fact that Mozart was “on the road” for most of his performing career, traveling all around Europe in search of his next composing or performing gig. He was rather weak and frail throughout his life, dying around the age of 40, but not before leaving behind a prolific collection of composed works.

Nonnberg Abbey and Mozart’s statue, two of the highlights of the day

When we booked our hostel, it advertised that there were nightly showings of The Sound of Music in its lounge, so we decided to spend the evening enjoying Mozart-themed bonbons and Salzburg-brewed beer while humming along to the familiar tunes. It was very enjoyable but for the fact that the disk skipped once in a while, which elicited groans from the audience — we joked that we would leave the hostel a 10/10 review but harshly criticize this unforgivable issue. Still, it was cool to see things on screen that we had seen earlier in the day.

Our time in Vienna consisted of wandering about the city and its various food/wine/Holy Week festivals and partaking in as many kinds of beer, meat, and pastry concoctions as we could find (with Passover beginning last night, I treated the past few days as a kind of Jewish Mardi Gras, traife and all). We very much enjoyed the combination of würst, sweet-spicy brown mustard, and beer, though the horseradish that accompanied each plate of meat was sometimes too much for Kelsey (and for me, if I took a massive bite of it). The people came out en masse as well, with their lederhosen and milk-maid outfits that made for fun people-watching. We also took a trip out to the Schönbrunn Palace, summer home of the Hapsburg dynasty, where we found a nice little Easter festival with yet more beer, pancake/jam dishes, and pretzel-shaped donuts. Maybe it was just being in the right place at the right time, but the Viennese food and drink scene rivaled what we had in Italy for best of the trip so far (in my opinion).

Views and brews were very much enjoyed on a beautiful warm day at the Schönbrunn Palace

We’ll be in Budapest for the next few days before heading to Prague, then Warsaw, and then to the Ukraine to visit a family friend. From there, it looks like a combination of the UK, the Nordic countries, and Amsterdam to round out the trip. A happy Holy Week/Passover to all who are celebrating, and thanks for reading!

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