Today, I am allowing everyone “freetime”. I am finally confident enough to let Ma and Pa Lee loose alone on the streets of Salzburg. The day has dawned a little overcast, so Mr Fletche and I decide to do a bit more “hiking” and find ourselves huffing and puffing up the steep winding pathway up Kapuzinerberg to the monastery. It is still early, and there is no-one else sharing this vantage point looking over the river towards the Old Town. As always, Fortress Hohensalzburg is looking down on us from atop the Festungberg, and we hope to get the opportunity to visit tomorrow morning. We descend the hill via a stairway, taking us through tiny little alleyways and giving us a different view of Salzburg from between buildings. By the time we have reached the river, the early morning cloud has burnt off and the sun is shining once more. It’s going to be another lovely day here in Salzburg!
In order to soak up a little culture, we make our way back across the Salzach to the 17th century cathedral (Dom zu Salzburg). We ooh and aah at the baroque architecture, the majestic organ and the fantastic frescos which give you neck ache or vertigo if you stare at them too long. We continue our whistle-stop cultural tour by heading towards St Peter’s Abbey. Mr Fletche is enamoured by the buildings and windows of the courtyard, making a wonderful photo subject. But the real joy of this church and monastery is the beautiful cemetery, with its ornate iron memorials and gated crypts. This was the inspiration (although not the actual location) for the final scenes where the Von Trapps hide from the Nazis before their escape from Salzburg. Once the tour guides barking their stories at their followers have disappeared, this is a wonderfully peaceful corner of Salzburg, and a perfect final resting place. We complete our trio of churches by popping into Kollengienkirche at Universitatszplatz, presiding over the market in the square.
It’s finally time to meet up with Ma and Pa Lee before our afternoon tour. They are in the allotted meeting place at the allotted time, and they too have had a pleasant morning mooching around the cathedral and market stalls. They have also stopped for a sneaky beer when we weren’t looking. I recommend St Peter’s to them highly, and they promise to seek it out the following morning. We pick up another schnitzel sandwich and pastry on the way, and once more eat our picnic lunch overlooking the river. We make our way towards Mirabellplatz to pick up the 2pm tour; we turn up early so spend a little time watching the people and the hustle and bustle. Another no 25 bus goes past to taunt me – I swear it is yesterday’s driver…
At about five to two, we are seated on our luxury coach along with our fellow tour-goers. Our guide Ingo ascertains that the majority can speak either German or English, and continues his dual-language spiel. The one Polish couple on the bus make do the best they can. Within 25 minutes, we are out of the city, and we are surrounded by meadows and mountains. Those beautiful little chalets, with the wooden balconies? They really do exist, nestled among the green hills, with brown and white cows grazing away. It is idyllic. We pass Lake Fuschl, and are a little disappointed that we don’t get to stop for at least a quick photo. We do get a quick photo opportunity overlooking Lake Wolfgang and St Gilgen, birthplace of Ma Mozart. We can’t linger though as we have a boat to catch!
The tour includes a boat ride on Lake Wolfgang; however it should be noted that this is on a passenger ferry which is something of an equivalent of a “hop-on, hop-off” bus for the lake region. This means that although this is a pleasant trip, with stunning scenery, as many people as possible are squeezed on. It is standing-room only; akin to rush hour on the London underground. Apart from having your nose wedged in someone’s armpit. And that stunning scenery, which is unlikely to be found on the Bakerloo line. But when we disembark at St Wolfgang, it is totally worth it. This lakeside town is just like an Alpine fairy-tale, and carries many myths and legends regarding the axe-wielding saint of the same name. It is also the home of the “White Horse Inn” – a musical much loved by Austrians and Germans. The Sound of Music is NOT a musical much loved by Austrians and Germans despite its Salzburg links.
Ingo gives us 40 minutes to explore the town. Mr Fletche and I spend 10 minutes admiring the maze of cobbled streets and quaint buildings housing hotels, shops and restaurants; and 30 minutes admiring a beer overlooking the lake. We share a table with a man who is the double of Albert Einstein. I’ve never really fancied a lake holiday before but this has changed my mind and I am already mentally calculating when we have a gap in our holiday schedule to come back. Of course, the beautiful sunny weather helps, but I can’t help imagining how stunning this area would look in the snow.
We meet the rest of our tour group just as some dramatic clouds are gathering over the mountains; a thunderstorm appears to be rumbling in the distance. As much as Mr Fletche would love to stop and capture this on film, Ingo is herding us back onto the bus for our journey back to Salzburg. We pass Lake Mondsee, and Ingo points out that this is the movie location of the “wedding church” in the Sound of Music. He also points out that if we want to see the church, we have to book on their official Sound of Music tour. Clever ploy Ingo; we see what you’ve done there. However we are quite possibly all Von Trapped out for the time being. We arrive back in Salzburg just before 6pm. Really enjoyed this tour, particularly our time at St Wolfgang, but wish we could have had a few more stops for photo opportunities, or just more time to get out and sniff that amazingly fresh alpine air
Mr Fletche and I want to pay a final visit up Monchsberg Hill to view Salzburg in the late afternoon sunlight, so we leave Ma and Pa Lee to make their way back to the hotel via Mirabell Gardens. As we did on our first evening, we pay our 2,10 euros up in the lift, and walk back down to the Old Town. It’s a view we never tire of, and Mr Fletche is able to capture the warm glow of sunlight on the rooftops. We meet back up with Ma and Pa Lee for dinner, and decide to dine in the restaurant attached to Hotel Elefant. We clearly don’t fancy walking too far tonight… This is the priciest meal of the trip, but the food is good and plentiful; and my veal schnitzel is almost the size of my plate. The apple strudel to follow is definitely a step too far and I know that tonight I will be unable to eat or drink anymore. Ma and Pa Lee trundle off to find somewhere for a further drink (ending up back at Zipfer Bierhaus) whilst Mr Fletche and I settle down for a final night in Salzburg.
Final morning blues descend as we meet up for breakfast. Whilst we all want to make the most of these last few hours in Salzburg, we are all too aware that we must return to Hotel Elefant to checkout at 11:30. Ma and Pa Lee are off to check out St Peter’s, and Mr Fletche and I head for the funicular to take us up to the fortress. Unfortunately, it isn’t running when we arrive at 9:30, despite me checking beforehand that it opened at 9am. So we walk around aimlessly for a while, perusing the market stalls and popping into souvenir shops. We purchase the obligatory Mozart chocolates and “Austrian boy in lederhosen” fridge magnet. The old town squares have been taken over by beer tents, market stalls and fairground rides, suggesting we are leaving town just as the party’s starting.
With heavy hearts, we drag our suitcases down into the lobby, and hand over our keys to the receptionist. Ma and Pa Lee have drunk their mini-bar dry, so they settle their bill. We leave our luggage in the lobby, and take a final stroll along the river, and back down through the Mirabell Gardens. We are envious of those that are experiencing this for the first time, dancing around the fountain and jumping up and down the steps. Mr Fletche and I had sourced potential lunch venues during our morning amble, and kept coming back to Café Mozartwinkel, nestling in a passage between Geitredegasse and Universitatszplatz. Two tables for two were available in the tiny al fresco eating area; and we eventually managed to squeeze around a larger table. Pa Lee and Mr Fletche had various salads with meat accompaniment, Ma Lee tucked into a chilli con carne and I had a wonderfully tasty potato strudel which definitely tickled my tastebuds. Simple, but quite possibly my favourite meal of the break. Mr Fletche treats us to an ice cream at Domplatz and we watch the incredibly talented musical duo ploughing their way through Mozart’s greatest hits. And Bizet’s Carmen for a bit of variety.
It is time to say “So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen and Adieu” to Salzburg. Our receptionist bids us a safe journey as we pile into a taxi bound for the airport. The sun is still shining, but our moods are grey and dreary. Even the fact that Salzburg airport is amazingly tiny, and a final beer overlooking the runway, can’t lift our spirits for long. This has been Ma Lee’s dream for so long, and Pa Lee, Mr Fletche and I are so glad that we have been a part of making this wish come true. Time to work on that next dream destination!
Thank you to CPF Photography for the fab image at the top of this page! For more shots like this, please visit www.cpf-photography.com/