Bachelor dandies and drinkers of brandies…
The alarm goes off, we throw our curtains wide and twist to see above the buildings of our narrow street. The sky is blue. Not just blue. It is azure, ultramarine, sapphire. The type of blue associated with alpine meadows, mountains and lakes. Yesterday we were concerned we hadn’t bought enough warm clothes. Today, we are mourning our decision not to bring shorts. I am already mentally recalculating today’s itinerary, taking into account that we did half of it yesterday.
After breakfast (cheese, ham, bread, fruit, eggs, cereal – typical continental fare) I reveal this morning’s plan This mainly consists of re-enacting “Do Re Mi” by skipping around Mirabell Gardens. We leave the “I Heart Salzburg” umbrella behind, but pack the sunglasses and suntan lotion. After yesterday’s “ban” the River Salzach is revealed in its full glory, and the hills and mountains provide a beautiful backdrop to the turquoise waters. We cross at Staatsbrücke, stopping to take photos of various points at the bridge. It is a “selfie” taken with Pa Lee that reveals him as looking worryingly like the antihero of the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise Freddy Krueger. I warn him not to brandish any knives or stare too long at small children for fear of inciting bed-wetting.
With Freddy in tow, we avoid the dancing fountains by Hotel Stein, and head left towards Mirabell Gardens. Our reason for coming to Salzburg wasn’t exclusively because of ‘The Sound of Music’ but as we approach the gardens, there is an unmuteable soundtrack running through my head of various songs from the movie. This is not helped by an unmuteable Freddy Krueger behind me singing “High on a hill with my overcoat on….”
We walk through the guard of honour formed by the imposing statues and there it is. Beautiful landscaped gardens, fountains and the magnificent Mirabell Schloss in the background. I skip around for a while but my excitement goes up a small notch when I discover the vine-covered tunnel raced down by the Von Trapp children, Mr Fletche tries to ignore my “Fa…a long, long way to run” pose but I won’t get up until a piccie has been taken. Numerous photos are taken in front of the fountain. Ma Lee looks teary again. At the top of the garden, in front of the palace you get that magnificent view with the fortress framed perfectly, the one seen on all the postcards. We patted the dwarf statues on the head, and resisted the urge to march around the Pegasus Fountain. I “may” have secretly hopped up and down the steps when no-one was looking.
We exit the gardens. It will not be the final time we make our way through the gardens on this trip, but nothing will beat that first breath-taking view. As we make our way out towards Mirabellplatz, Panorama Tours catches our eye. I had made no plans for an organised tour as we dislike being constrained by a set timetable, but now we have a gap in our schedule. We hold a family discussion (over a beer as the sun is now over the yardarm somewhere in the world) and decide to return to Panorama to book the Lake and Mountains tour at 40 euros per person for the following afternoon. Pa Lee has “conveniently” left his credit card back in the hotel safe, so 160 euros in debt later we emerge with a ticket for tomorrow’s 2pm tour.
That leaves this afternoon then. The plan had been to visit Hellbrunn Palace and its Trick Fountains on Tuesday morning, but now, due to the still glorious weather we decide to visit this afternoon instead. I have researched my transport options, but some little voice inside me – the energetic, enthusiastic one which I don’t let out very often – makes a suggestion…”Why don’t we WALK to Hellbrunn?” Now, I have been known to get in the car to the local shop about 10 feet away from my front door, so I am not surprised by the cautious glances at each other from those that know me best.
“Are you sure?”
“It’s only a couple of miles, straight down the river (ish) – we’ll pick up a picnic on the way, it’ll be so much FUN!!!”
Not one to dampen my newfound enthusiasm for light exercise, it is agreed that we will walk to Hellbrunn, via a quick stop to pick up a schnitzel in a bun and a pastry as sustenance. We also pop back to Hotel Elefant to pick up a handy map from reception. And so we begin. A signpost on the riverside cycle path suggests it is 4 ½ kilometres to Hellbrunn. We amble along the riverside, shaded by the trees, stopping shortly for our picnic lunch. We’ve been walking for about 10 minutes and already I’m regretting not getting the No 25 bus that I had so meticulously researched.
We walk and walk and walk. Mr Fletche uses his phone GPS to get us back on track once we find ourselves away from the river, and instead walking along a busy main road. It is no longer a beautiful gentle stroll; the temperatures are hitting mid-20s and we are now marching along looking for a sign. Or somewhere to sit down. We have not seen a sign for miles. Eventually we peel off from the Alpenstrasse and find ourselves on Hellbrunner Allee. We could have taken this direct route all the way from Salzburg, but we are not a family to take the most direct route anywhere (Pa Lee’s lack of navigational skills are legendary and I may have inherited that gene…). This is much more pleasant, surrounded by meadows and with a mountainous backdrop; however I fear we have all now exhausted all our enthusiasm. I even fail to notice as we walk past Schloss Frohnburg – the front of the “Von Trapp mansion” in the film.
Eventually however Schloss Hellbrunn is in sight. And we follow hordes of tour groups piling off buses plastered with Sound of Music livery. We turn into the gardens, and I admit to giving something of a squeal of excitement to see the gazebo used in the film. Mr Fletche is unwilling to recreate the leaping from bench to bench scene with me; indeed the summer house itself is locked after a poor unfortunate soul allegedly broke a hip doing that very same thing… I satisfy myself with mumbling something about being sixteen going on seventeen whilst fighting Japanese tourists for a picture.
We are all enjoying the opportunity to have a sit-down in the park in the sunshine. But we haven’t walked almost 6km (taking into account veering off track on one or possibly more occasions) just to dance around a glorified greenhouse. We haul ourselves up to purchase our tickets for Hellbrunn’s famous trick fountains. These were commissioned by the Prince Archbishop Markus Sittikus in order to “entertain” his guests. His idea of entertainment however was giving everyone a good soaking whilst remaining dry himself. This is a man who had far too much time on his hands. The children in our tour group had a great time volunteering to be drenched for our amusement…but no-one avoided at least one saturation at the hands of the demon tour guide (keep an eye on your gadgets if they’re not waterproof, and beware if wearing a white t-shirt ladies!)
The afternoon is creeping on, and we don’t have time to visit the palace itself. There is a unanimous agreement that we will NOT be retracing our steps back to the town. It’s time to test out the public transport. We stand outside the gates for a while pondering the direction of the bus stop (it’s left out of Hellbrunn to the main road for those following our well-travelled footsteps). It’s a 15 minute wait for the no 25 (having just missed one whilst pondering the whereabouts of the bus stop); we purchase our tickets from the driver and settle down for the 20 minute journey back into the town.
I was confident that I knew where to get off. After all, my research had led to me noting where we would catch the bus from Salzburg to Hellbrunn (but not from Hellbrunn back to Salzburg). As we cross the river, I am confident that we will cross back over at the next bridge. Or maybe the next one. Here’s Mirabell Gardens – surely the next stop must be ours? When the no 25 appears to be heading out of the other side of Salzburg, I decide that now may be a good time to disembark. Clearly it turns around at some point, but I fear we may find ourselves somewhere around Munich. And as much as Munich is on our travel wish list, it was getting a little late in the day for a bus trip into Germany. Ironically, on our way back we are passed by a no 25 bus going in the “right” direction. Was it the same one? I swear the driver gave us a little wave as we faced another hike back to our hotel.
We have a well-deserved rest back at the hotel. The weather has been beautiful all day, we have seen some of the iconic locations from “that” movie, and we have walked off our pastry ten times over. Now it’s time to fill up again. Salzburg has woken up tonight. Restaurants and bars that were in darkness last night are now filled with laughing and chatting customers. Tables and chairs spill out into the streets as tourists and locals alike seek an al fresco dinner on this unseasonably warm evening. Zipfer Bierhaus on Sigmund-Haffner-Gasse, just a few steps from our hotel, is our destination of choice tonight. At first we just plan to drink, and eat later, but once we have all perused the menu and selected what we would eat if were staying we decide that we might as well order food there and then. I have the goulash, which Mr Fletche tests and proclaims tastes nicer than the one he had had the night before at Zum Mohren. Ma Lee has some sort of potato and meat combo served in a tiny little frying pan. We all declare this to have been a successful food selection tonight, and a couple of glasses of red wine slip down nicely.
Ma and Pa Lee are ready to hit the town, and as we wander around the streets we find a small cellar bar in a courtyard with tables and chairs outside. We settle down for a beer and I find myself snuggled up in an orange blanket that has thoughtfully being provided for customers. Pa Lee and Mr Fletche debate the merits and pitfalls of world travel. Final stop tonight is the bar at our very own hotel to sample their cocktail menu before hitting the sack after a wonderful but tiring day.
Tomorrow…Letting the parents loose in Salzburg and experiencing the Austrian countryside!