This weekend, I took two trips: one to Salzburg and one to Venice. Both were with my friend from college, Erin, who I would be meeting in Salzburg. The plan was simple: fly from London to Salzburg, take a train from Salzburg to Venice, and then fly back from Venice to London. I had booked all my travel and accomodations and was ready to go on the Thursday I left. Unfortunately, all my travel experience couldn’t prepare me for the string of bad luck I ran into.
Thursday started off well enough. I stopped by Keble for a small breakfast, returned my library books, and made it to the airport in record time. From Oxford, it’s relatively simple to get to either Gatwick or Heathrow using the airline bus or the National Express bus. Airport security was quite fast too, mostly because leaving the country is very different from coming into a country. I was happily on my way to my flight which stopped in Dusseldorf to connect with another flight.
However, my connection in Dusseldorf was one hour which apparently was not enough time to get through the passport check line. This meant I ended up missing my connecting flight and, per my luck, there were no other flights out of Dusseldorf to Salzburg in the next two days. Instead, the only thing Eurowings could offer me was another flight the next day from Cologne which would get me to Salzburg around 4PM. Additionally, I’d have to pay for my own accomodations and transportation to Cologne. They could not even give me a refund because this was “not caused by the airline, but by the airport itself”. I don’t typically have bad anxiety, but everything just boiled over after this and I ended up crying for most of the time. It took a few facebook messages to my friends to calm down enough to actually strategize my next steps. I ended up just paying an extra 150 euros for a train to Salzburg with the thought that one full day in Salzburg was better than less than half a day in both Cologne and Salzburg.
I was pissed off, but I calmed down somewhat by the time I arrived in Salzburg at midnight. I made it to the hostel safely and it was a relief to finally be in bed after such a stressful day. We woke up bright and early the next morning at 8:30am, prepared to start our day. Unfortunately, our hostel, MEININGER, was not actually in city center as it claimed to be. Or rather, it was probably in city center, but it was some distance away from the part of the city most people want to explore which is known as Old Town. We ended up taking a train and bus down to where Mirabell Palace and Gardens was located and walked from there.
Our first stop for the morning was breakfast, but we ended up wandering through Mirabell Gardens on accident first. The gardens just looked so stunning as we passed by that we couldn’t ignore it. For those who don’t know, Mirabell Gardens is famous because it is where many of the scenes from the Sound of Music were filmed. It’s also free to view and is quite beautiful, making it a must-see while in Salzburg. It’s also apparently a popular wedding destination (I’m pretty sure Erin and I accidentally crashed a wedding because we took some pictures near a heart of roses and when we came back, dressed up people were gathered together to take a picture with it). While the gardens themselves are pretty (and also very big), one of the parts I liked the most was the small sculpture garden hidden in a corner of the garden. Each sculpture was a small troll with some sort of expressive pose or face. They were super cute!
It was then time for breakfast. We ate at this place called Cafe Bazar that I found on TripAdvisor. Pricewise, it seemed okay. We got the classic breakfast which seemed to be a common European breakfast of deli meat, cheese slices, and bread. We also got soft-boiled eggs which I had never had before. It was very similar to a hard-boiled egg except the insides were runnier. The view from the cafe was excellent since it was right at the bank of the river that splits the old part of town from the new part of town.
Next, we began our exploration of the city. One of the most interesting things about Salzburg is the emphasis on the arts. In addition to being known for the Sound of Music, Salzburg is also known for being the birthplace of Mozart. The city also has a cute art walk where pieces of art are scattered around town. Each of them is unique in their own way and can be quite fun to spot, even if not entirely understandable. Our initial exploration took us to a square where a market was taking place. The market was quite small, but was very lively overall. Near this market was a large church called Kollegienkirche. I wasn’t expecting much from the churches in Austria, but I was impressed when we walked inside. The church was super bright which is a stark contrast to a lot of the churches I’ve seen on my trip so far, especially when compared to the chapels in Oxford. The whole inside was a pure white which is also not something I’ve commonly seen. There wasn’t a lot of what seemed like permanent seating, but the inside had its own unique charm.
After Kollegienkirche, we began walking towards Mozartplatz/Domplatz/Residenzplatz which seem to be the three major city squares in Old Town. On our way there, we passed by the University of Salzburg which had this odd art piece outside of five cucumbers lined up in a row. The piece is known as “Gurken” which means cucumbers and was made by Erwin Wurm. It was definitely very out of place in such an old city.
We then walked to Residenzplatz where there was live music for some festival happening. We stopped by Cafe Glockenspiel and had a small snack (I had gelato!) while just basking in the warm weather and nice music. I wanted to listen to the glockenspiel that’s above the museum, but it only plays at 7AM, 11AM, and 6PM. We were there around lunch time which was way past the time it would play. Technically, we agreed to come back later, but whenever that decision is made while traveling on a trip, in your heart of hearts know that means you won’t be coming back.
Salzburg Cathedral was close by, so we stopped by there next. The inside was quite amazing, but what was even cooler was the underground portion of the cathedral. There was an art exhibit on one side and then more tombs and a small silence chapel on the other. The art exhibit was quite unique because it made use of shadows casted by these odd metal cutouts of creatures. There was also one that moved around and it scared me the first time I saw it.
I would definitely visit the cathedral again because I thought it quite nice. The cathedral is located near Domplatz which is also nearby another piece of art of a boy on top of a large, golden ball. The piece is quite stunning and immediately draws your attention when you are near the square. It apparently mirrors another of the artist’s work of a small girl in a rock. Near this is a fairly large place called Saint Peters Abbey which is a Benedictine monastery. There is a large cemetary when you enter that is overrun with lots of flowers and elaborate tombstones. I had never seen tombstones that fancy before. The first chapel we went to in the abbey had a bunch of clay heads sitting on the floor. This was also some sort of art exhibit, but since neither Erin nor I could read German, we just took the art as it was.
The whole cemetary was filled with not only tombstones, but also statues here and there. I don’t know the significance of any of them, but one green statue caught my eye. It was of a girl and sat on top of what appeared to be a coffin. Again, no idea of the meaning, but the statue was easily noticeable in the large cemetary. While in the abbey, we also visited the catacombs which allow a good view of the abbey below.
The big thing to see in the abbey, though, is the large church/cathedral. It’s entrance is located in a separate, but connected square to the cemetary. The inside is quite nice and, as seems to be the trend with churches in Salzburg, very bright. The contrast between the dark wood and the lighter green that encompassed the inside seemed to light it up even more. This was definitely a very detailed cathedral, but also had some very odd pieces of work.
Before riding the cable car up to our next stop, Hohensalzburg Fortress, we decided to get lunch. I again relied on TripAdvisor and we stopped at Cafe Triangel which was rated highly on its list. The food and experience was okay overall. I got the fish soup and Erin got the gnocchi. Her portion was quite small for the price, and my fish soup, while good, seemed to clash with the actual fish. I think I was spoiled too much by the fish soup in Oulu that I had (which was hands-down the best fish soup I have ever had). Still, the price wasn’t bank-breaking and the food wasn’t bad.
After lunch, we rode the cable car to where Hohensalzburg Fortress was located. The view from the top was astounding. The fortress itself is also quite big. The tickets we bought for the cable car included entry into most things on the peak except for the state rooms. This meant there was quite a lot to see in general. My favorite thing we saw was this puppet museum that seemed very out of place in such a historic fortress. The tower was also quite nice and we got a fantastic view of the river that snakes through the city as well.
The final thing we did during our busy day in Salzburg was attend a show called the Sound of Salzburg show. The show was supposed to include music from the Sound of Music, Mozart, and other famous Austrian operettos. I was expecting it to be some big production, but it turned out to be a small room in a hotel that was turned into a stage of sorts. The show itself was okay. Erin was pulled up as a volunteer which was fun to watch and the actors attempted to make it engaging. I think I was probably too focused on the lack of effort that went into production to fully appreciate the show, but production is important to me. I am not sure I would go again to that show. For the price we paid, I would rather go to the opera or watch a classical music concert. The only saving grace of the show was probably the interaction and the use of well-known songs people could sing along to (although there was a distinct overuse of Do-Re-Mi).
Salzburg is quite a fun city to be in. I really appreciated Old Town since it felt very folk-like. Many of the older cities I’ve been to in Europe have retained their old buildings and interspersed newer ones in between. In Salzburg, I could tell there was some mix of old and new, but it wasn’t as extreme as some of the other cities had been. I think one thing I would’ve liked to do is more hiking since one of the things I enjoyed about the city were the views of the country side and surrounding areas. There’s definitely a lot more than a day’s worth of stuff to see in Salzburg and I would recommend at least two days to fully enjoy what the city has to offer. Even if there’s not much you want to see there, it’s still a fun place to just walk around and explore with all the tiny side roads that are present throughout Old Town. Overall, I don’t know if I would go back to Salzburg, but I enjoyed my time there!