For the first time in a while, we spent an entire week just being tourists… and it was awesome. Salzburg is a great place for it.
Monday 29/4: We had spent the weekend with couchsurfers Steffi and Sebastian, and we started the week by leaving their place and heading across town to check into Villa Cicubo. This small hotel is brand new — it only opened a month ago — and we really liked it. It’s located about five minutes’ walk from the pedestrianised Linzergasse, in an area where there are quite a few other hotels, and the rooms were beautifully decorated.
We’d arranged to meet our contact from the tourism board (Gunda) at the Hotel Sacher, and we spent a pleasant hour or two with her, eating a tasty lunch and talking about what we could do in Salzburg. After that, we stopped into Jack Wolfskin to get Craig a new shirt, then headed back to Villa Cicubo, though we didn’t stay for long — we headed out for a beer with Hana, the daughter of the hotel owners.
Tuesday 30/4: We had arranged to meet our tour guide, Heidi, at 9.30, and since we had problems with the website we started out a little late. Luckily the hotel was only about a 20-minute walk from the meeting point, so we ended up arriving right on time.
Heidi took us into the Panorama Museum, where she explained the history and present of Salzburg with the help of a 200-year-old panoramic painting of the city. As we entered the museum, we activated our 72-hour Salzburg Cards, which we found absolutely awesome — they gave us entrance to almost everything we wanted to do over the next three days, as well as use of public transport to get us all over the city.
After saying goodbye to Heidi and stopping for a quick coffee, we went up the elevators and visited the Mönchsberg modern art museum — which we enjoyed, but didn’t think was worth the €8 entry fee; we only spent about half an hour there. We spent more time walking along the ridge of the hill, enjoying the views and checking out a tower that houses both a restaurant and a youth hostel. The stairs back down the hill led us almost straight to Triangel, a restaurant opposite the Festival Halls, which Heidi had recommended, and which we loved. The food was delicious, well priced, and promptly served, and the servers were friendly and helpful: an all-around win, really.
We had time to visit another modern art museum (the Rupertinium) before heading to the Festival Halls for a 2pm tour; and I enjoyed this gallery more than the other one. The rooms were all quite different: one was like an attic, another like a tool shed; I particularly liked the children’s nursery.
The Festival Hall tour was also good, even if we couldn’t visit one of the halls, the House for Mozart. We did get to see the Rocky Riding School room though, which was fantastic with its galleries cut right into the rock of the mountain. The Large Festival Hall was also nice, but not quite as interesting.
Most of the attractions covered by the Salzburg Card close at 5pm, but we managed to cheat the system a little. We arrived at the Steigel brewery Brauwelt at around 4pm and spent half an hour or so looking at the brewery museums and attractions before settling into the beer garden to enjoy our free “tastes” — and their definition of taste is the most generous I’ve ever encountered: a full 200ml glass. It took us over an hour to order and drink all three of them, so we were there until well after the attraction itself properly closed.
We did have to get some work done in the evening, so we caught the bus home and got down to it.
Wednesday 1/5: Probably Salzburg’s biggest attraction is the castle, which dominates the entire city. We certainly didn’t want to miss it, so we got up early and caught the funicular to the top of the hill soon after it opened. We only had to wait about ten minutes until the start of a personally guided audio tour, which I thought was a great way to deal with groups of tourists from multiple countries. It was a good tour, too, it lasted about half an hour and l learned heaps about the castle and the city as well.
Our next stop within the castle was the main building, which houses several museums. I definitely preferred the marionette museum to the war one, and the general Fortress Museum was quite interesting. After a final wander around the castle grounds, we walked down the steep pathway to a different exit, and headed around to a nunnery located nearby, where we heard the nuns singing on the other side of the wall.
Then, we stopped in at the catacombs for great views over the graveyard and city, then jumped on a river cruise before running through the Nature House natural history museum — we were starting to run out of time! We did have time for a light lunch of Bosna hotdogs at the Balkan Grill, though, after which we walked through the Mirabell Gardens to the bus stop we needed, where we found that our bus would be leaving in five minutes! Considering it only goes once every two hours on a public holiday, this was a serious stroke of luck.
We were headed to the Freilicht Museum, an open-air historical village. It’s more of a family attraction than anything else, and we probably wouldn’t have gone if it hadn’t been May Day. As it was, Gunda had specifically recommended it as THE place to see the maibaum celebrations, and we respected her opinion. Our Salzburg Cards gave us a 20% discount off the entrance price, which was pretty cool, as was seeing all the visitors dressed in lederhosen and dirndls. We stopped in at several of the houses as well, and saw schnapps being made and a waterwheel hard at work. The best part was watching people (mostly young boys) climb the maypole to try to grab a ribbon from one of the wreaths at the top.
Hana and her boyfriend Josh joined us after half an hour or so, and we had a beer and wandered around a little before driving into the middle of nowhere for a spectacularly large and delicious grilled-meat meal.
Thursday 2/5: We were checking out of Villa Cicubo in the afternoon, so we packed up our stuff and put them in their storage area before making another early start. This time, we caught the bus all the way out to Grödig, where we caught a cable car up to the top of the Untersberg mountain. Unfortunately the clouds were quite low, so we couldn’t see too much, and snow was covering the path to the second viewpoint. We wandered around a little and caught a glimpse of a few other peaks, then headed down the hill and on to Hellbrunn castle.
The trick fountains tour was really cool, even though I was trying to be alert I was still caught out several times by jets of water. Next, we climbed the hill behind the palace to see the folk museum before heading into the palace itself, which had a good audio tour; and there were several displays about how the trick fountains worked — so I was glad to have seen (and experienced) them before going into the palace.
Back in the city, we spent some time at the excellent Salzburg museum, then stopped into Mozart’s residence. I found this quite disappointing, perhaps because almost the entire space was being used for an exhibit of Mozart paintings, which I didn’t think was particularly interesting.
After picking up our bags, we headed across town to the house of our second Couchsurfing host, Uwe. He hadn’t gotten home from work yet, but his flatmate Fred let us in and spent an hour chatting with us, which was pretty cool. When Uwe got home, he locked himself in the kitchen and prepared us all an amazing meal then helped us set up our room.
Friday 3/5: Our Salzburg Cards were going to expire at 9.37am, so we left the house early and arrived in the city right on 9am. We’d decided to make Mozart’s birthplace our last stop, and it was well worth it — so much better than the Residence. We spent an hour or so there, then walked to Mirabellplatz to catch our bus to Germany.
We somehow managed to miss our stop, but that was no problem as there was a tourist information office by the terminus, so we could pick up some maps and information about the area, and the walk back to our real destination took us alongside a pleasant river.
Our destination was the Salzwerk salt mines in Berchtesgaden, one of many mines in the area. After picking up our tickets we had to wait an hour or so for the next tour, so we sat in the sun and had a picnic lunch while watching the river flow past.
The tour itself was great, we were all given miners’ overalls and put onto a ride-on train for the journey into the mountain. We had a German-speaking guide with us, and non-German speakers like us were given audioguides in their own language. As well as the train, we also went down two slides, on a boat across an underground lake, and up a funicular railway. The tour was great, as was the discovery room where we used large touchscreens to learn all we ever wanted to know about salt.
After the tour, we wandered through the picturesque town of Berchtesgaden, where I finally replaced by brown fleece with a pretty new black one. Sadly, we arrived at the bus station just as the bus we wanted was leaving — and there wasn’t another one for an hour. So, we decided to walk. The route to the Konigsee is a popular walk, as it’s nice and flat, and very scenic. We arrived just as the bus back to Berchtesgaden was leaving, so we spent an hour at the Konigsee enjoying the views over the lake.
It was a bit of a trek to get back to Salzburg, especially because we couldn’t find one of the bus stops we needed, but we eventually managed it, and had a light salad for dinner.
Saturday 4/5: After a bit of a sleep in, we got a bit of work done before heading out for a guided walk around Liefering with Uwe. He headed home and we walked over to the shopping centre to buy some groceries and to continue the never-ending hunt for trousers (no luck). Uwe was out for the evening so we just watched a movie on TV.
Sunday 5/5: The weather was nice enough to sit outside for lunch, so we enjoyed the sun a bit before heading in to pack our bags. My sister Anna and her husband Mat picked us up at around 3.30pm, and we drove out to the airport to see Hangar Seven, a private aircraft museum out by the airport. My nephew Henry was totally enchanted, and it was a bit difficult to get away!
Our next stop was the Stiegl brewery, which was having its maibaum celebrations a bit late. Their maypole was a lot taller and wider than the one we’d seen at the Freilicht museum, and almost nobody was trying to climb it — which was a bit disappointing. At least the beer was good, we enjoyed a couple of glasses before heading off again.
We’d decided to spend four days in Cesky Krumlov, and I had found a well-priced apartment rental right in the centre of things. Unfortunately the city centre is a maze of one-way streets with restricted access, and we couldn’t find anywhere to park. Eventually, after many adventures, we checked in and Mat and I drove a fair distance to a parking lot on the other side of the castle — by foot, it’s about seven minutes from our apartment, by car it took a good 15.
Anna and Craig had found an open restaurant and ordered our dinner, which arrived not long after we got back into town — and they were a delicious start to our time in Cesky Krumlov.