Wednesday, December 2, 2015

A Drop of Golden Sun

Salzburg, you great and oh so finished symphony. A city that sings of do-re-mi’s, mountains silhouetted against clear skies, and pumpkin flavored dishes. It takes the cake for favorite city; and after watching The Sound of Music with Kayla the night before we embarked on our travels, I was so ready to arrive to the sunny scene.
From Bratislava, Kayla and I took a bus to Vienna, then a train that brought us across the country in less than three hours. That sentence sounds silly in my brain, because things like that just don’t happen on the other side of the pond. It’s true, brain: let that sit there!
Sunshine flirted with the foliage along the hills and fields, and the unreal mountain range appeared as we closed in on the train station. We stepped off the train, a breeze blasting the platform and following the mass of people (where we saw a woman carrying Dunkin’ Donuts bag! Apparently the company’s made it there) to the local train. After deciphering our destination, Kayla and I hopped onto our desired train and found our AirBnB with a brief walk. The room we were staying in was so comfortable that it should have been illegal. With a king sized bed made of clouds, cotton candy comforters, and a splendid sunrise in the morning, I was entirely caught up in almost three days of a dream.
A forty five minute walk along tree lined roads, scattered with burnt orange leaves, carried us to the city center. We traversed the characteristically narrow streets, window shopping and observing the world transform under night’s ever present gaze. Salzburg, comprised of multiple squares and palely colored buildings, was enveloped in an eternal peace. There was no rush; I was too starry-eyed to worry about time. All that penetrated the contentment was hunger, and we perused the menus displayed outside most all places.

We decided on the restaurant built below Mozart’s birthplace, and I satisfied my taste buds with pumpkin lasagna. It remains my favorite meal from that entire trip, and makes the top three of my entire time abroad. 

Our hearty meals left us sleepy, so we trekked it back to our lodging to shower and map out our plan for the next few days. We purchased the Salzburg Card, which gave us free admission to almost every museum and attraction, as well as provided tours and cable car rides. In the end, we saved over fifty euro!

The following two days were jam packed with beauty. On Sunday morning, we passed the local Lidl (a major grocery store chain in Europe) to find it closed. We should have known, as they list hours for everyday of the week save Sunday. It was just shy of eight in the morning, and when we arrived in the center of town—with the help of transportation this time—came to find that everything was closed as well, except for a McDonald’s. With a quick bite of some pocket sandwiches, we traipsed up a set of stairs to the Stiff Nonnberg, the abbey where scenes for The Sound of Music was filmed. I was doubly emotional: initially, at the sight of the gate that Julie Andrews dances from, excited at the prospect of nannying; then, at the world it overlooked. Tears genuinely pricked my eyes, and I was at a loss for words. The juxtaposition of man-made versus natural elements in the scene was all too moving.

I walked in Julie Andrews' footsteps. Holy gosh.

The Church in the Abbey
It didn’t stop there. We took a trip to the Fortress, sitting on a hill that guards the city below. Like the Edinburgh Castle, the Fortress encompasses a large area and could be considered its own town, with all of the ins and outs. Before lunch, we returned to earth and visited St. Peter’s church and cemetery, where beautiful plots are dedicated to the deceased and the final scene of The Sound of Music was filmed. And after lunch, taken at the outdoor café of the Salzburg Museum, we spent a little time there as well as in the Panorama Museum.
The view from the Fortress
St. Peter's Cemetery
With our Salzburg Card came the opportunity to tour the Stiegl Brewery free of charge. With the tour came the opportunity to sample three glasses of this Austrian delicacy. With the samples came a young Korean man from our tour who told us he ordered too much food and asked if we would like to share it with him. So the three of us sat among tourists and music, picking at fries and some form of pork and recounting our travels. He was backpacking through Europe for three months, taking a break from engineering school in Korea. He also let us know that in Korea, the age of a person begins in the womb, at zero. So really, they are considered one year older than the rest of the world perceives.

No, I could not finish all of them.
At around 4:30, we thanked our friend for having us and we journeyed on. The façade of the von Trapp house was our next destination, and after trying to maneuver the buses but not seeing any that would take us there, we walked. Twenty five minutes later, we had passed suburban streets scattered with leaves and the sun was quickly falling away, leaving us confused and ready to make our way back to the old town. Our eyes were drawn to the right at a crossroads, and saw the sign for the Leopoldsville Hotel—a “private” lot that did, indeed, contain the von Trapp house. Another car was turning in, so we jumped in as the gates opened. The pale pink and blue sky, a swirl of subtly popping colors, reflected in the lake, and for the few moments that we were there time ceased to exist. The von Trapp house was, of course, spectacular; I danced through the garden walkway and stared at it in awe. Absolutely stunning. Hashtag rebellious.

The von Trapp residence
Another twenty minutes led us through a park and modernly-housed neighborhood. We followed the Fortress, perched high in the sky, until we found ourselves back in the city center. Dinner was taken at a pizza restaurant tucked into one of the side streets, and I ordered their pumpkin soup. I never realized just how much I loved pumpkin until I arrived in Salzburg.
And we could never forget dessert! Being Sunday, much was closing and the squares were practically empty. That didn’t stop us from finding an internally lit café, where I ordered a chocolate and vanilla combo cake. I really didn’t know what it was, but I loved every single bit of it.

Home awaited us, and we crawled into bed upon arriving and slept until our bodies woke us up at around 6:30 the next morning. Our last day in Salzburg was spent among the very lively hills, palaces, and delicacies.
Monday, October 26th was a holiday for Austria: it is the date in history in which Austria declared permanent neutrality following World War II. The grocery store was closed yet again, but we poked our heads into a café that the server opened for us fifteen minutes before it was supposed to. Kayla and I both purchased cinnamon rolls and sat waiting for the number 7 bus to appear. A waiting game was laid out for us then, for we also had to wait a bit for the number 25 bus to take us to Untersberg Mountain. A free cable car ride was included in the Salzburg card! And it couldn’t have been any more beautiful.
We “landed” at the top of the mountain at about 9:40 in the morning, and spent the next hour and a half there. We hiked to a peak across the way, and both Kayla and I had our Maria von Trapp moment, twirling around the unbelievable mountains that surrounded us. For the one millionth time in two days, I couldn’t have felt any luckier to be there.

Shots from the Untersberg Mountain
We also met a family from New Hampshire! The father went to school nearby Kayla’s father, which was so wild. It is the smallest of worlds.
To boot, we ordered apfelstrudel at the little bar on the way back to the cable car. We’d been craving it since arriving in Austria, and it couldn’t have been better than served warmed on the top of a mountain. Around us, people were celebrating with beer and wine. It was barely eleven in the morning, but to each his own. That would have been my next choice.
Apfelstrudel and some Austrian beer, perhaps?
Our afternoon was spent in the presence of Hellbrunn Palace, where we toured the trick fountains and the palace itself. For lunch, both of us ordered pumpkin soup and sat in the warm autumn sunlight. I needed to take my jacket off, it was so not cool as one may expect! (I was even quite warm on the mountain. I did not dress for it correctly at all.)
The gardens are stunning. The Sound of Music gazebo is located there, and the whole park was dressed in October afternoon glow. The pictures say it much better than I ever could.
The Trick Fountains--here, dinner was served with a side of dampness.
Through the looking glass of one such fountain room
Hellbrunn Palace's Gardens
I felt sixteen going on seventeen...
We then whisked ourselves back to the city center to visit the Mirabell Gardens—the filming location of “Do-Re-Mi”—and after, Mozart’s birthplace. Dusk fell in around us, and we headed for the Museum of Modern Art to visit the sky deck, offering sweeping views of the city. It is a postcard of a city, held gently by reality, and built from the bottom all by people of centuries ago. I was left in, as always, awe. Kayla and I stumbled down a little footpath, only to find a dead end. What we got as a result were new, equally as grand perspectives.
Julie Andrew's famous final note to "Do-Re-Mi" was hit at the top of these steps!
Still in bloom!
For dinner we located a traditional Austrian restaurant, ordering beef goulash with a bread dumpling and sausage. Our server initially brought over a basket of bread and pretzels, but removed it after we ordered our drinks. The rest of our time there was left in a state of confusion and hysterics.
The final leg of our journey in Salzburg called for a sprint to the bus, which we saw in the distance and knew wouldn’t come round these parts again for at least twenty minutes. In that time, we not only fought of the chill, but burned calories as well!

We had been blessed with good weather, the timelessness of the city, and lots of laughter. All worked to form a beautiful harmony that will forever rest in my mind with fond memories and a heart full of song.

“My heart will be blessed, with the sound of music: and I’ll sing once more.” –‘The Hills are Alive’ from The Sound of Music

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