Thursday, November 18, 2004

Austria, Part II: Salzburg 

We awoke in Vienna on Tuesday, November 9, to find a white powdery substance falling from the sky. It wasn't sticking to the ground in the city, but we went through some amazingly beautiful scenery on our train ride to Salzburg.

We arrived in Salzburg a little after noon and set out on the bus ride from hell. Fortunately, we were on the bus for only 4 or 5 stops, but we were stuffed in like sardines. Sardines with luggage. Sardines who were eager to get a bite of lunch before setting out on their Sound of Music tour!

When we arrived at the gift shop that serves as the office for Bob's Tours, the shopkeeper sent us away with vague directions to a restaurant and said that she would have the tour guide pick us up there. We left our luggage in the shop and set off in search of our lunch.

Cafe Fleischlaberl (Kapitelgass 11, open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day except Sundays) turned out to be our new favorite Austrian restaurant, and we ate all 3 of our Salzburger lunches there. The owner, Chris, is a very friendly Englishman who is married to an Austrian woman, but it was George the waiter who won our hearts. On each of our subsequent visits, he knew our drink orders (1 Sprite, 1 Fanta, 1 water, 1 Coke, and 1 Diet Coke) and offered us "the usual." The kids raved about the spaghetti, while Gretchyn and I mourned on the second and third days when we were unable to re-live the glory of those stuffed peppers. The apple strudel was new-shoes good--it was served on a bed of warm vanilla sauce.

After lunch our Sound of Music guide picked us up in a bright yellow minibus, and we headed off through the snow flurries to look for the Von Trapp Family Singers. Our first stop was the Leopoldskron Palace, whose rear view was the back of the family home in the movie:

From there, we continued on to Hellbrunn Palace, where we got to see the gazebo. Our guide told us that tourists used to be able to go inside the gazebo. Then one day a tourist who was so totally NOT 16 going on 17 tried to pull a Liesl by leaping from bench to bench. She messed up her knee, and the gazebo has been closed up tight ever since. I did get a picture of the kids standing outside:

From there we headed out of town and up into the hills where the snow was really coming down hard AND sticking to the ground. We drove to the village of Mondsee to see the church where Maria and the Captain tied the knot.

On our way from Mondsee to St. Gilgen, our guide pulled over to show us this privately owned castle:

We stopped in a gift shop in St. Gilgen, and Alex bought a traditional Austrian dress. Mike and Annabelle made snowballs in the cemetery across the street:

From there, we continued on to a restaurant for a strudel break.

It was dark by the time we arrived back in Salzburg, but we were still able to visit Mirabell Palace and see the steps the children in the movie played on when Maria was teaching them to sing. We hopped up and down, singing, "Do mi mi! Mi so so! Re fa fa! La ti ti!"

We were thoroughly exhausted by the time our guide dropped us off at our hotel, the Goldene Ente (Golden Duck). We had splurged and decided to stay right in the middle of the old town, and it turned out to be an excellent choice. We had to take 2 separate rooms, but they were still a good deal: Gretchyn's double was 68 euro, and my triple was 93. Here's a shot of our room before we spread out all our stuff:

Dinner in the hotel restaurant was a true bargain. We asked if they had a child's portion of Wiener schnitzel, even though it wasn't on the menu, and the waiter said of course. Each kid got an enormous slab of schnitzel as well as french fries for just under 5 euro.

The next morning another guide picked us up for our salt mine tour. As we drove through the snowy woods, I couldn't resist shooting a little video from the van. Twice.

Before long we had driven over the border from Austria into Germany and into the little summer resort town of Königsee:

From there we went to the town of Berchtesgaden where we saw several Wolpertinger in the window of a gift shop. Apparently, this is the Bavarian cousin to the American jackalope:

I took this panorama of paintings that commemmorate the soldiers from Berchtesgaden who died in WWI and II. If you click on the photo below, you can view a larger version in a separate window:

The next stop on our tour was a salt mine. We all dressed up in ridiculous looking miner garb and road a train deep into the earth:

One of the high points of the salt mine tour is the really big slide. You can't see Annabelle in this picture, as she is tucked in between Mike and me. You also can't see that Mike is screaming in agony, as he somehow managed to wrench his shoulder on the way down:

Here are my little miners trudging off into the bowels of the earth:

After our salt mine tour, we returned to Salzburg for another delicious meal at Cafe Fleischlaberl. We spent the rest of the afternoon shopping and visiting Mozart's birth house.

For dinner that night we chose to return to our hotel restaurant. There's a lot to be said for trying new things, but when traveling with children there's a lot to be said for sticking with the tried and true!

I had planned on sticking with the tried and true apple strudel, but Gretchyn convinced me that we should try the Salzburg nockerl. The menu said it was for 2, but this sucker was HUGE!

We heard people from another table of Americans gasp in amazement when they saw it. One of the women was trying to convince her friends that they should order one. Gretchyn and I offered to let her try ours, so the waiter gave her a clean spoon, and she took a big spoonful back to her table. Her friends all tried it and agreed it was quite good. Gretchyn and I agreed that there was no way we were going to be able to eat the whole thing, so Gretchyn got up and delivered the untouched half of our nockerl to their table. We all shared a good laugh over this, and I got a photo for the blog. Here's Gretchyn with our new friends:

While Gretchyn and I enjoyed dessert, the kids were upstairs playing with the rodents. Yes, rodents. Mike and Annabelle have a collection of Beanie Baby rodentia that they play with obsessively. Every rodent has a distinct personality and family history, and if you ask Mike or Annabelle about the rodents, you will regret it when they talk your ears off. Anyway, here are Mike, Annabelle, and Alex holding Cheeser, Flinch, Nutty, Ears, Pellet, Pux, and Ratso. Pat (the other groundhog) appears to be MIA from this photo:

The next morning, Gretchyn and Alex went to visit another Mozart house while I took Mike and Annabelle up to see the Hohensalzburg Fortress, which looms over the town.

The view from the fortress was quite impressive. If you click on the picture below, you can see a larger version in a new window:

We met up with Gretchyn and Alex at Cafe Fleischlaberl for one last delicious lunch before getting on our train back to Mannheim. Here are Mike and Annabelle with George the waiter:

We opted for a taxi to the train station instead of reliving the bus hell and arrived with plenty of time to spare. The train ride home was uneventful, and we cruised through Burger King's drive-thru on the way to my house.

The next morning I took Gretchyn and Alex back up to Frankfurt to catch their flight home, and before we knew it, our Austrian adventure was over.

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