Changed Plans and Crazy People

img_4923After a pleasant night in a large room all to myself, I ate breakfast, checked out, and booked a tour to Eisriesenwelt ice caves, the largest known to man.  The desk clerk told me that the tour operator would meet me in the hotel lobby around 1:30.  I loitered for a bit with e-mail, called the Cheniers to confirm mine and Babette’s visit tomorrow night, then set out to explore the Festung Hohensalzburg (literally, high Salzburg fortress).  This iconic landmark looms high over the city, perched at the top of the rocky crag that sharply interrupts the old city.  If this were Athens, the Hohensalzburg would be the acropolis.  Lazy tourists can pay to take the funicular up to the castle’s entrance, but I enjoyed the walk up the steep, cobbled paths.  Surprising to me was the steep, dirt road that lay just inside the castle’s gates.  I was trying to picture soldiers and horses from the fortress’s medieval days coping with the steep path.  I imagine a few must have slipped and fallen.  I spent a couple of hours roaming the expansive area and the inner rooms and towers.  This is one of the largest, unspoiled fortresses from the medieval period surviving today.  The place had magnificent views and the imagination-sparking atmosphere of walls, tunnels, and towers that date back to 1077.

I sat out a brief cloudburst beneath a covered archway between a couple of buildings.  By now it was about 12:30, so I descended back into town, stopping at Cap & Chino, a trendy, modern coffee shop and café.  I had a delicious prosciutto Panini, a perfect cappuccino, and a delightful fruit tart.  From here I hurried back to the hostel, arriving with 5minutes to spare.  As 1:30 passed, I asked the receptionist if the tour guide would meet me in the lobby or outside.  He placed a quick call and gave me the bad news that the tour actually left at 12:30.  The lady he spoke with in the morning when he booked my ticket had told him the wrong time.  Could I possibly do the tour tomorrow?  No, I’m leaving for Lyon tonight.  So I settled for an alternate trip to one of the salt mines that gives the area its name.  This tour didn’t leave until 2, so I sat outside under one of the umbrellas until I saw my driver show up.

Salt is actually what gave Saltzburg all its wealth.  It was referred to as white gold.  The city also managed to survive for over 1,000 years without experiencing any military conflict.  This is due no doubt in part to the imposing fortress, diplomatic relations, and a bit of good luck.

The salt mine I visited was not the one that gave Salzburg its wealth, but was rather just over the border in Germany.  The tour was quite interesting and even included some brief thrills.  Part of the tour took us down a couple of long, wooden slides which the miners use for quick descents.  We donned blue jump suits for the tour.  This protected our clothes from getting dirty and gave some extra padding on the rear for the slides, which was simply a double rail.  The tour began with a ride on a small, open air train, which we straddled much like a horse.  The tunnel was quite long and only just big enough for us to fit through.  It kept feeling like we’d hit our heads on the low ceiling, and we had to keep our arms in to avoid smacking the walls.  The mine is still in operation, though our tour only brought us to areas that are no longer in use.

On the way back to Salzburg, we stopped for a brief visit in Berchtesgaden, a quintessential Bavarian town nestled in the valley beneath Hitler’s famous Eagle’s Nest.  Many of the buildings featured the Bavarian trademark of quaint murals painted on their exteriors.  The mountains surrounding the town provided a stunning backdrop, some with massive, toothy spires gnashing at the clouds.

I was back in Salzburg shortly after 6, and I decided another walk around town would be nice.  The weather was nice and the streets were busy with tourists.  I made a wide loop along either side of the river, finally stopping at a quiet sidewalk table for dinner.  I ordered a simple spaghetti, which turned out to be a tasteless disappointment.  Halfway through my meal, however, it started to rain.  Fortunately I was under a large awning, enjoying the noise of the rain as it began to pour.  I decided to extend my time a bit as I waited out the rain, so I ordered what thankfully turned out to be a delicious crepe with cinnamon sugar.  Some of the people sitting near the outside edge of the awning needed to move in a bit to avoid the runoff, but one particular couple declined having their table moved.  The lady was staying dry because she was leaned forward, but her jacket draped to the back of the chair was getting wet.  Finally she got up to move, but she decided to start talking with me.  She spoke German with a heavy Austrian accent, rendering the very little German I understand to be completely useless.  I told her I only spoke English, so she called her husband over and they both started speaking to me in German.  Finally a bit of English was mixed in and I figured out that they were trying to figure out if I lived in Salzburg or was just visiting.  I thought the fact that I only spoke English made that pretty obvious.  Then they wanted to know how long I was visiting.  Next they wanted to know if I was a monk, commenting on the brown hoodie I had put on against the chill that came with the downpour.  Nope, I’m just a tourist wearing a hoodie.  Finally the husband pulled her away, pointing out that I just wanted to eat my dinner without being accosted.  Well, yes, but it was a little late for that, eh?  They returned to their table and continued their conversation with each other.  The husband sounded slightly exasperated.  I think she was asking him if he lived in Salzburg or was just visiting.  When I eventually walked off to return to my hostel, they called a cheery “tschuss!” after me.  Clearly they were either drunk or crazy.  Oh wait, isn’t that the same thing?

I’m back in the lobby of the hostel now, taking advantage of the WiFi before heading to the train station in a couple of hours.  My train is scheduled to depart after midnight, and I’ll only get about 5 hours in the sleeper car before I have to transfer to Geneva and then to Lyon.  Well, that’s about all the sleep I’ve been getting for the past few months anyway.

3 Responses to “Changed Plans and Crazy People”

  1. Amandine Says:

    Beautiful photos ! They make me dream….
    You are a very good photographer.

    I hope you spend a good holiday for the rest of your trip with Babette.

    Sorry for my little english….

    Bye !!!

    We’re waiting the next photos and travel book in France :p
    Bisou à Babette

  2. Ken Says:

    Merci Amandine! Ton Anglais est meilleir de mon Francais! More photos coming soon…

  3. biuteria srebrna Says:

    Thanks for your marvelous posting! I certainly enjoyed reading it, you could be a great author.I will always bookmark your blog and definitely will come back very soon. I want to encourage that you continue your great work, have a nice evening!

Leave a Reply