Tuesday, December 30, 2014

CNY 2014, Salzburg: Castling, Mozart, and an Escape from Schnitzel

After Munich and Vienna, it's time for the third part of my February jaunt across old Europe. I've put off typing this for quite some time- it's been some 3 months since then, but I'm pretty sure that I can remember most of what I did during this day trip that was somehow decided on a whim. There are a few things that are still burning fresh in my memory though- the first being the insanely high cost of inter-city rail travel in Europe, and the time needed to get from Vienna to Salzburg- around 3 hours in all. In hindsight, it might not have been that bad, seeing as how a shinkansen trip from Osaka to Tokyo takes 6 hours, though I can't recall the price for that, as I had a Japan Rail Pass for that- Austrian train fares caused quite a dent in our metaphorical pockets, no thanks to the exchange rate So what really hurt was the time needed, and not because of the actual journey time, but because of our own requirements: some of those in our group just weren't the 'get up early' type, and absolutely had to wake up at a reasonable time and have breakfast. Add in- wait, subtract 3 hours from the day, 3 hours for the return- and subtract all that from the brief window in the day when the sun is actually out (it was winter, by the way), and what else is left? Not much time. Or light, for that matter. But enough of my rambling- on to Salzburg.

Salzburg felt more cheerful than Vienna, though I can't really put a reason to that feeling. Perhaps it just felt somewhat more open, being further out in the country, surrounded by mountains and mist (Since when has mist been cheerful? Now I'm just blathering). We took our time wandering through town- I didn't have much of a plan ready- all I did was stick some stars on several touristy points on Google Maps the previous night. We stumbled through the Mirabell Gardens- which appeared in the Sound of Music, though I really can't recall which scene it showed up in. We admired the slowly deteriorating statues, and stared at a photo of some random Oriental lady in an orange jacket which was inexplicably propped up against a wall, like some kind of wordless memorial, before moving on.

We passed more statues and sculptures before finally reaching the river (Salzach?), and crossed a bridge with lovers' locks decorating both sides. I wonder what they do when the fence reaches maximum capacity- do they have a lock-picking contest? We spotted a seafood restaurant (a rare sighting) and decided to have lunch there- fish and chips, grilled fish and the like. After that, a quick stop at a souvenir shop selling Mozart themed chocolates- Mozartkugels, a little round chocolate which is actually pretty nice. As far as I could tell, the other chocolates were all liquor based, and rather thick and disgusting. I've had chocolates with liquid champagne and alcohol in them, but their's had the alcohol melded (?) into the final piece itself. I like my chocolate sweet (and perhaps syrupy)- I do not like chocolate that tastes like the breath of a drunkard with gingivitis.

The next destination after lunch- the mountain fortress Hohensalzburg. We took some time to find it, mainly because of the lack of proper signage pointing to what I presume to be a major tourist attraction- or perhaps we missed it. We actually walked a fair bit around the mountain itself, before I got fed up and decided to ask for directions. If I were alone, the classical modus operandi would of course have been to look for a lone and possibly single Teutonic lass- being surrounded by family and pressed for time (though they were kept blissfully unaware), I looked for the first reliable looking person (and hopefully English speaking) to cross our path. We made it there after some backtracking, and took a short funicular ride up to the fortress. This is the only way up, I think, so don't even think of skimping on the ticket, which really covers the entrance fee to the fortress itself.

The view from the top was quite nice- we could see all of Salzburg- well, most of it that was not covered by mist (or fog?). Compared to Vienna, it felt rather quaint, with patches of greenery between the grayish blocks of housing. It was quite impossible to see what sat on the horizon, so I can't say for sure if Salzburg is surrounded by mountains, or if it sits at the foot of one. Anyhow. The fortress (with the ride up and down by funicular train/lift) was well worth it's entrance price. We pretty much had freedom to wander around most of the fortress- there were a few negligible gift shops selling Salzburg related curios, but simply being able to wander around the fortress was a plus in itself. There was a small museum displaying uniforms and weaponry, and other historical bits and pieces (real or replicas, I forget). One section of the throne room, (?) or perhaps part of the royal chambers, was under restoration, but visitors were still allowed to pop in for a peek, which gave me the chance to take the photo which I'm placed up top and for which I am particularly pleased with, given how it seems to look somewhat like an oil painting and not an actual photo (come now, I am allowed to flatter myself a little now and then, right?).

I'm not entirely sure why I stopped typing at the last paragraph, since not much was left of the day- so I suppose I really have no excuse for leaving this post unfinished for (several?) months. That's procrastination for you. It is now 31st December 2014, and I am determined to finish this post before 2015. That's my final (and only) resolution for the year. So without further ado- we headed down the mountain, walked around a bit and stumbled upon an Italian restaurant for dinner. The restaurant's name was unfortunately rather dull (albeit straightforward)- "Spaghetti & Co.", but the food was satisfying, after continuously being subjected to schnitzel, potatoes and sausages. Another long train ride back to Vienna, for a walk around town (to aid in digestion). I spotted something you would never see in Malaysia- a bookstore with a copy of Penthouse featuring a topless girl posing on a snowmobile. I wonder if the background (snowy mountain ridges) was photoshopped in- I for one don't relish the thought of exposing tits in such weather. Back in our hotel, we discovered another amusing thing- late night call-girl/escort TV advertising. We laughed for a bit and took photos of the ads as evidence- no photos for you though.

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