Here’s another late update for you. This one covers my time in the towns of Salzburg and Halstatt, which are both in Austria.
I left for Salzburg from Vienna earlier than I had originally intended. My original plan was to see a few more museums in Vienna and then go to Salzburg in the late afternoon, but I decided that I was much more interested in seeing Halstatt and to do that I needed get to Salzburg sooner and see the city so that I could day trip to Halstatt the next day. In a way I sort of left Vienna a bit incomplete, but I like to think that I have a reason to go back one day. Austria’s ever punctual train system took me through the Austrian countryside and delivered me promptly into Salzburg by midday, and from there I set out into the town. Salzburg is not a large town, and many of the sights there are dedicated to either Mozart (who spent his early life in Salzburg) or The Sound of Music. Since I was not overly interested in either one of those, I covered nearly all of what I wanted to see that afternoon. It was a hot day in Salzburg, so I refilled my water bottle a few times as I went around town. I walked down to the Salzach River, passing through some nice flower gardens along the way, and crossed to the south side where most of the sights are located. From there I started my sightseeing at Mozartplatz, which if you haven’t guessed already, is a town square named for Mozart, and moved on to Salzburg’s main cathedral. The prince-archbishop (the rulers of Salzburg were both nobles and clergy at the same time) wanted Salzburg to be the “Rome of the North” and built a large cathedral in town. Although Salzburg is nowhere near as grand as Rome, funding from the Vatican and profits from local salt mines allowed the cathedral and other buildings in the old town to get built. The cathedral interior is on par with what you would expect from a cathedral in a much larger town, and this is partly due to Salzburg siding with the Vatican during the Reformation, so Rome sent money and relics to Salzburg as thanks. Moving on from the cathedral, (whose cool interior was a nice break from the heat outside) I passed by the oldest waterwheel in town (still in use today) and came to St Peter’s graveyard. Normally graveyards aren’t what you have in mind for sightseeing, but in parts of Austria they have a tradition where each burial plot has a small garden on top of it that is tended by the dead person’s relatives or friends. It makes for a strangely beautiful graveyard, but the downside is that the plots of land are rented and every ten years the rented plot has be renewed. If you run out of relatives or friends willing to pay and maintain your grave, your body gets dug up and moved elsewhere, and someone else will be put in your former grave site. Coming out of the graveyard, I took a quick look in St Peter’s Church, and saw nearby what is supposedly the oldest restaurant in Europe, being founded in 803 and having Charlemagne as one of its first guests. Outside the restaurant there was a wedding reception going on (how many of these am I going to see on this trip?). I walked over to Universitatplatz where Salzburg’s outdoor market is held and from there continued on to a street called Getreidegasse. This street used to be Salzburg’s main commercial street, and all the shops had small metal signs outside with an image of what they sold (most of the town was illiterate at the time). Today the street is mostly modern chain stores, and even has a McDonalds, though it is a bit easy to miss because all the stores have to use the old style of street signs rather than the modern big ones you normally would see. I got some decent ice cream while walking down that street, and continued on to another town square where I ended my little tour if Salzburg. The only thing left at that point that I still wanted to see was Salzburg Castle, which I would get to at a later time.
The next day I took a train out to the lakeside town of Halstatt. At the Halstatt train stop the intrepid boat Stefany ferries people across the lake to Halstatt with each train that arrives (I image the owner makes good money from ferrying so many tourists back and forth). Halstatt is a picturesque town built on a mountainside that slides right down to the lake. The houses appear to almost be set on top of each other, and I’m not sure how they were originally built. Alas, Halstatt has been “discovered” by the tourist horde, but even so it is still an enjoyable town to visit. From the boat landing, I checked out the protestant church and then walked around Halstatt’s side alleys before moving south to the only flat piece of land in town, called the Lahn. From there and several other points in town you can rent boats to go about the lake, and I thought about it but decided to spend my time in town. Coming back to the main part of Halstatt, I hiked up to the catholic church, where you can find more of those “garden graves” like in Salzburg. I also saw the bone chapel behind the church, which is where the skulls and large bones of people whose remains get removed from the graveyard are put. Because most of the people in town choose to get cremated these days, there haven’t been any new bones added since the 80s, with the exception of a woman who specifically asked to be put in there (you can see her skull with her gold tooth just to the right of the center if you ever go there). From there I took a path up the side of the mountain to see what was up there, but after a few minutes I hadn’t seen anything interesting, so I came back down. I walked to the north end of town (just houses up there) and then came back to the town center. Before catching the boat back across the lake I hiked up to a parking lot up above the town which had a nice panorama of the area, and also a waterfall that flows into town. There’s very limited parking inside Halstatt itself, so if you drive into town you may have to leave your car up there. I then took the boat back to the other side of the lake and then got on the train back to Salzburg. On the way back my train stopped for some reason and I had to get on a bus to carry me to the next train station (they explained what was going on in German, but I don’t speak German so I just went along with it). From there I got back to Salzburg without incident.
On the day I departed Salburg I checked out my hostel and then went over to the castle, which I had meant to see earlier but ran out of time. The hike up was a bit steep in places, but not too bad overall. Within the castle are a few decent museums, but the main draw is the castle itself and the views you can get up there. I took a tour of some of the castle rooms and the viewing tower, which came with an audioguide explaining what everything was. Take my advice; if you do this tour be sure to get your photos first when you reach the viewing tower and then listen to the audioguide, as the tour is escorted and you have only a set amount of time in each area before you’re supposed to leave (I listened to the audioguide first, but then had to hurry to get my photos before being ushered back downstairs). When I finished with the whole castle I took a trail that leads along the hill that the castle is on and had multiple points where you can get panorama views of Salzburg. The hike supposedly takes only 30 minutes, but I spent about 2 hours on it because I kept taking detours to check out other areas on the hill. After coming down I crossed the river back to the north side and sat in a park for awhile. At that point it was time to catch my train to Munich, so I got my backpack from my hostel and went to the train station.
That concluded my time in Salzburg and Halstatt, where the hills are alive with the sound of tourism. The next entry will cover my short time in Munich, Germany.