Tag Archive: Mountain

Day 9: Salzburg

It was time to leave.

We woke up early that morning so that we wouldn’t miss the one train stopping in Dorfgastein. It was sad putting everything back into our bags knowing that we probably wouldn’t be back for a very long time, if ever. However, there was also excitement in the air, because we would be traveling back to Wien and our host families would be there waiting for us.

The plan was to travel to Salzburg and spend the day there. After Salzburg we would then, finally, make our way to Wien.

Although the train was nothing exciting we did get to pass by Hohenwerfen Castle. A few scenes in The Sound of Music were shot at this castle.

Now, if you like The Sounds of Music, Salzburg is the place to go. As soon as we started walking away from the train station we were informed that the mountains in front of us were the ones that the real Von Trapp family crossed. They are also the mountains that separate Salzburg from Germany.

Our main destination in Salzburg was the old part of town, so we had to travel through some of the newer areas to cross the Salzach, the main river that runs through Salzburg. On our way there we glimpsed, for a brief second, one of the houses that Mozart spent some of his life in.

We crossed through Maribell Gardens, which were amazing and had a great view of the castle on the hill above Salzburg, called Hohensalzburg Castle. The garden around Maribel was very long with designs in the grass created from flowers and impressive statues of men and women in twisting poses. There were a lot of weddings taking place both in the gardens and inside the palace.

The statue below was one of my favorite, because of it’s elegance and modern feel, but it also fit well into the scenery of the garden and looked out over both Maribell Gardens and Hohensalzburg Castle.

The gardens were very large and long. One section on the right had a fountain, some flowers and then it turned into a tunnel of trees that provided shade from the blistering sun. The garden on the left and hidden behind the palace was wide open with multiple statues decorating each side and a fountain in the middle that lined up perfectly between all the statues, the garden and the Hohensalzburg Castle.

A pegasus statue in the middle of the gardens, overlooking Hohensalzburg Castle.

For a few minutes we were able to go inside the large baroque style palace. Inside it had high arching ceilings and a stairway with banisters decorated with cherubs. Some of the weddings were being held in the upper floors of the buildings.

The ceiling at the entrance to the castle.

A closer look at the detail on the ceiling.

The bridge we used to cross the Salzach was covered in padlocks of all different shapes and sizes. They are meant to keep love alive and once a couple writes on the lock and then secures it to the bridge, they throw the key into the river so that their love can never be broken. In some sections of the bridge the entire fence was obscured by locks.

Once we crossed the bridge we were in the older part of the town and immediately came upon the most crowded street in all of Salzburg. Getreidegasse is known for its cute shops and impressive signs. Long ago the signs out front use to hold pictures that informed people of what exactly the shop sold. There are still a few signs like that now, but mostly they just say the name of the business or shop. Most of the shops were more for tourists and also very expensive, but we were able to find a place that sold a scoop of ice cream for one Euro. Although the street was crowded, I especially liked this part of the town, because there were secret alleyways that looked like shops, but were actually shortcuts to the other streets and the farmer’s market.

Now, if McDonalds looked this fancy in America, I might actually eat something there.

One of the more creative sings along the street.

Along this same shopping street is also the house where Mozart was born. He lived on the third floor. Now, its a fantastic museum with paintings, pianos, and actual documents from Mozart.

It’s hard to imagine what the street would have looked like when Mozart was around, definitely not so crowded, but in general it seemed like the city had preserved his house pretty well. Although Mozart often talked about leaving his boring life in Salzburg for something more, just going back through his past and seeing all of Salzburg made it easy to see where he got his inspiration from. Out his back door he had the towering churches, a giant castle, and the market place full of people.

The picture below was one of the only pictures I was allowed to take while inside. The apartment had rooms on the side where I’m standing and then it went down a long passageway that was open to a small courtyard below. It then continued into another two rooms that looked out over the farmer’s market.

After the museum we headed towards some of the churches. There were a lot of churches in the area and quite a few that I can’t remember the names of, but one of the more dramatic ones was Dom zu Salzburg. The outside was impressive with huge white and black statues of saints, inside was even more so.

Going inside churches like the Dom zu Salzburg always floors me. I can’t even fathom how someone could think up such tiny intricate details and make them three dimensional and as large as possible. I could have stayed and stared at a single spot on the ceiling for hours if we hadn’t been on a schedule. The wonder of it all is what makes me really love and appreciate architecture.

This particular part of the ceiling wasn’t even in the main room, it was off to the side.

Just off to the side of Dom zu Salzburg is Residenzplatz. It’s a huge open square with a large fountain in the center that was not only beautiful, but great for cooling off. Although there was nothing there the day we visited, Residenzplatz is the main place for events in Salzburg.

The fountain.

Just for kicks and because who doesn’t like to be a tourist sometimes, Annika, Ari and I took a ride on a carriage with the famous Haflinger horses from Austria. They took us to all the different attractions around the area and it made for a nice break from walking.

Before heading back to the train station we made our way over to the elevator to get a better view of the city. The elevator shaft runs straight up through the natural stone wall that protects part of Salzburg. It took us up to the top where there is a museum and also a restuarant, but most importantly a beautiful view of Salzburg and the Hohensalzburg Castle. The castle was placed up on the hill not only to protect the city, but also to act as a toll station.

After a full day of walking, we headed back to the station to catch the 6:00 train to Vienna. It was a smooth ride until we got closer to Vienna and were informed that the station’s communication system was not functioning. After that announcement it was a mad dash to the underground to get on the next tram and head over to the Westbahnhof ourselves.

Luckily, our families were still waiting for us and we all got in taxis and headed to our new homes.

Day 5: The Schwimmbad

After our grueling hike down the mountain we all woke up sore and tired.

Thankfully were given a day off.

With so much free time we decided to go check out the Schwimmbad, or the pool.

Inside there was a spa, which unfortunately we did not have the money for, but we paid for the outdoor pool which was just as amazing. While in the water you could look out and see the mountains above you, the sky was blue and the water was just the right temperature.

The inner circle of the pool was two degrees warmer than the outside ring. There was also a colder pool down the hill, which had a slide. We went down the slide once, which really didn’t go very fast and we had to push ourselves down most of it, but mostly we stayed in the warmer inner circle and just enjoyed the sun.

That night we hiked an hour to dinner, basically straight up the mountain. It was both exciting and painful. Going up, Ewan ( our Scottish guide who works at the Institute as an English teacher) and Nick (another student in the same program as myself) were determined to make it to the restaurant without stopping for a break, so naturally we all arrived at the restaurant sweaty and red faced.

The food was great though and afterwards we had a lot of fun walking back down the hill waddling like penguins, because our legs hurt so much.

Today we went on another great hike.

All throughout the mountains of Dorfgastein there are hundreds of trails and roads that are great for hiking and sightseeing, but instead of hiking all the way up to the top, which I think is probably a day long adventure and only for the most intense hikers, we took cable cars. On the way up we could see the entire town of Dorfgastein and a few of the towns around it.

At the top lift, called Bergstation, Berg meaning mountain, we could see out across the whole valley. Although it was cloudy while we were at the top, we could still see most of the mountain range streached out in front of us. The view was made even more spectacular by the deep blue reservoirs that sat on some of the smaller hills below.

On the ridge it was very cold and windy, but it was a great place for paragliding. Throughout the week we’ve been able to look up into the sky and see at least four or five brightly colored paragliders spinning around in the clouds. Apparently, on this hike we also saw the brother of a very famous Austrian skier strapping on a helmet to go paragliding.

From the top the hike was all downhill. We started out along the ridge, which allowed us to see on either side of the mountain.

On the left we could see Dorfgastein and on the right we could see further into the mountain range and also a few little homes here and there. All along the path there were also signs that talked about Yin and Yang. In one spot, the sign would tell you to leave all your negative thoughts and energy behind and then you would walk over to another, more beautiful, lookout and there you would think only positive thoughts. It was refreshing to let all my worries go while standing on top of the world!

After only a half hour or so, we made it to a crossroad. One path continued up, while the other turned down and went back into the valley. The path that went up eventually went to the halfway point and also the highest peak in the area. On the very top we could see a large cross.

We decided to head back down and go towards another Alm where there was a hut for eating and drinking. I’ve come to realize that in Austria the only “true” meal as Americans would see it, is dinner. Breakfast so far has consisted of bread, cheese, meat, and chocolate cake (which I very much approve of) and your choice of orange juice, vitamin juice, coffee or tea.

Lunch is also very similar to breakfast and usually very light.

So far the only food I’ve had for lunch is a small sandwich and a peach. Even after all the hiking we’ve done and all the traveling, I haven’t found myself searching for more. It’s been surprising how much extra food I consume when I’m just sitting at home in front of the TV.

Before heading down we stopped at a small cabin, which turned out to be a shrine. There we took a break and made sure to put on a lot of sunscreen, most of us having woken up in the morning with a sunburn from the day before. From there we headed down into the Mushroom Field. I never actually saw any fields of mushrooms, but dotted here and there in the woods were some large Mario Kart looking mushrooms. The winding trails and thick trees reminded me very much of the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon. Halfway down we also wandered onto a logging road and I felt at home.

Whenever I’m walking or hiking I would probably say that I would rather go down than up. After hiking down to Dorfgastein this has changed. We hiked down some of the steepest trails and roads I’ve ever been on and they were not very forgiving on the knees, legs, or butt. We were all hurting so much by the end that soon we all just decided to run down the hill, both because it was easier on the knees and because it would get us back to the pension faster.

It was definitely worth the pain.

Day 3: Sportgastein

After getting settled in to Dorfgastein for a day we took a trip farther up into the mountain to Sportgastein. To get there we had to travel by bus through some smaller towns and eventually we make our way  through some very long and dark tunnels. The trip us was beautiful with a lot of great views and many cute towns along the way.

In this area where we are staying there are three main towns. Dorfgastein, which is family oriented has many restaurants, pubs and small guest houses, Bad Hofgastein has more shopping and I guess what you would say is more teen oriented, then there’s Badgastein which has healing spas, a casino, and is, in general, a great place for people to get away from the rush of everyday life. Lastly, Sportgastein is the most scenic of the towns and is great for hiking. Naturally, all of these towns are covered in tourists during winter when the ski season is in full swing.

We arrived in Sportgastein to find ourselves completely surrounded by mountains. I’ve seen a lot of mountains before and there aren’t many places that I’ve been that can rival Mount Hood, Mount Rainier or Mount Saint Helens, but the Alps were stunning. The Alps are a different kind of mountain range. There are hardly any foothills. One minute there’s no mountain and the next your looking up and wondering how such a giant beast could have snuck up on you. The Alpine peaks towered above us and the rolling green hills made me constantly look over my shoulder to make sure that Julie Andrews wasn’t running down the pasture singing “The hills are alive”.

Not only was the scenery beautiful, but there were also cows and goats wandering around and hanging out with people like it was no big deal. Dotted everywhere were little huts, where people could stop and drink and at each one there was a small band singing and playing the accordion. Many of the local people were also dressed in their traditional clothing, the men in lederhosen and the women in dirndls. Usually Sportgastein isn’t so active, but we were there during the Almfest. I’ve come to realize that for many people hiking in the Alps, the main goal of the trip is to hike to a hut, sit down and finally have a drink with cheese, bread and maybe some meat. All in all it doesn’t seem like such a bad way to live life.