The Hills Are Alive…
With a weekend in Munich (read more) and a successful Saturday spent seeing many of the main attractions, we were exited to get out of town and set our own schedule with the freedom of a car. We had rented a little white BMW Z4 convertible and decided to put the top down and hit the Autobahn for a day in Salzburg, Austria, the backdrop for one of Jen’s favorite movies The Sound of Music.
We packed a simple picnic, and hit the road at a leisurely noonish timeframe. Opening it up on the road and feeling the wind on a perfect summer day just felt awesome. We couldn’t have asked for better weather, as was the case for just about every minute of the trip.
Along the way to Salzburg from Munich there’s a great little lake called Lake Chiamsee. We were running late, and were about to skip it, until I took a closer look and saw dozens of sailboats out on the lake in what looked to be a race. Being Father’s Day and so far from home, I couldn’t very well pass up a regatta.
We found a little dirt parking lot for €3, and walked down to the lake. We checked out the main dock, the beach, and then heard some live music. We noticed a stage and dozens of little white tents and figured it was a farmer’s market or fair. It was in fact a biker, leather, bondage festival, full of all the whips and clamps you would expect on a fine summer’s day in Germany.
After that we were a little hungry, so we stopped by a shack for some churros and nutella, with a latte and espresso of course. And then we were back on the road to Salzburg.
I found an article online that perfectly laid out how to spend a day in Salzburg, and planned everything around that. They should rename that article, “How to spend a day in Salzburg, as long as that day isn’t Sunday.”
Even though the place was nearly a ghost town, many of the things we wanted to see were still open and available, and the quiet streets were a nice break from the metro areas we had been in since arriving a couple of weekends prior.
We started at the famous Reiner Wolfsburg Hotel, expecting a grand lobby and view of the river, the hills of the Austrian Alps stretching out before us. What we found was a really tiny little awkward hotel lobby and people looking at us like we were lost. We worried that we were in for a long day, but kept going along the route and hoped for the best.
Behind the hotel was a cemetery, the resting place of a Mozart (but not THE Mozart), and the tomb of the town’s greatest hero, Archbishop Reiner Wolfsburg. Past the cemetery and down the main road we finally arrived at the river and saw the beauty that made Salzburg famous.
Hanging a right at the river we continued on to Mirabell Palace, walking around before finding a perfect picnic spot underneath a raised sculpture garden. Even though we found our German mini mart cheese to be a few steps down from what we had in Paris (read more), it was just great being out in the grass on a lazy Sunday.
The gardens were full of sculptures, flowers, and very badly behaved european children – looks like the real governess/nun wannabe Maria von Trapp was in the right place…
We walked across to the other side of the river after our picnic, finding an awesome old church courtyard, which just happened to be the famous Salzburger Dom. Priests, nuns, and tourists wandered the wide open space while artists and musicians in the nooks and crannies of the courtyard sold their wares and entertained the (small on Sunday) crowd. We found a large statue in the center of the square, and after viewing from every angle Jen discovered that the cathedral and centerpiece sculpture play together in what must be an intentional way. The golden crown centered over the church’s entrance floats over the head of baby Jesus when viewed at this angle. Pretty cool Da Vinci Code stuff here.
Rising up before us was a giant cliff leading up the hill to Hohensalzburg Fortress which looks over the city. With a closer look, we noticed little windows carved high up into the mountain like something out of Game of Thrones.
Those windows were part of the Catacombs, ancient tombs carved out of the stone through steps up into caves and little chapels. It was the perfect combination if you’re afraid of heights, enclosed spaces, and ghosts. So naturally, we went up.
We took the tram to the top of the hill for a look at the city before sunset from the old fortress. This was incredible and something we could have spent hours at. From one side of the fortress you can see the entire city stretching out before you, the river carving through the town and the valley below. On the other side, it was an insane view of the Alps from as far left and right as you could see. They have a restaurant on that side where we would love to go back for a long lunch one day.
We finished our day with a modern twist grabbing a Latte and an Americano on the rooftop at Hotel Stein. Right on the river it’s a good place with a cool vibe similar to a W or SLS type of place, at least for Salzburg standards.
As we began the drive home we had 2 things we really wanted to do. The first was to find a place for Jen to take a Sound of Music picture that truly said “the hills are alive.” We didn’t find a close mountain anywhere, and basically gave up. We also wanted to get McDonald’s fries and diet cokes for the drive home.
One wrong way on the Autobahn and 20 minutes later, we found both in a truck stop complete with a nice little hill and a McDonald’s. We were in for a real treat, as this Austrian McDonald’s had the first McMozarella Sticks we had ever seen. It would have been rude not to try them.
The drive home was an extra added treat. Leaving Salzburg at 7:30, the 2-hour trip was an incredible way to see the sun set over Germany. It was a perfect night, and seeing Lake Chiamsee at sunset on the way back was the icing.