City of Mozart
Mozart is everywhere. There are Mozart bridges, Mozart cycle routes, Mozart roads, Mozart buildings and much more. If it isn’t Mozart, it’s Amadeus, or Wolfgang. You can visit the tiny home in Old Town where Mozart was born. You can tour the more lavish home in New town that he moved into at 17 years old. Mike and I stood outside these residences listening to our audio guides, but we didn’t actually go inside. It turns out that the entire Mozart family was extremely musical with both Mozart and his father playing the organ while working as musicians at the Salzburg Cathedral. Mozart and his sister toured some of the capital cities with their father when they were younger. She was known to be an exceptional musician. One thing that Mike and I missed on this visit was attending a small concert or music venue. We had expected to do this one evening, but it didn’t happen, maybe in Vienna.
Almost tied with Mozart for visibility is anything to do with “The Sound of Music”. There are all sorts of tours around all the various sites that were used in the movie. You see “The Sound of Music” posters and advertisements everywhere.
When you hear about Austria you nearly always hear about Vienna first and Salzburg second, unless you are a skier and then Innsbruck is right up there. I was surprised to find out that Graz and Linz are both cities with larger populations than Salzburg which only has about 150,000 people. We expect to eventually visit all these cities in our travels around Austria.
Salzburg means ‘Salt Fortress’. In the past its money and trade came largely from the salt mines. This is different from the towns on the Adriatic that we visited, where their salt came from the sea.
Salzburg is a fairly small city and it is easy to walk around in. There is the Old Town on the south side of the Salzach River (Salt River) and the New Town on the north side. The few buildings that I dated in the New Town were built in the 1700s or earlier. Europe and North America certainly have different definitions of “New”. We were lucky to have our first day in Salzburg coincide with their annual St. Rupert’s Fair. That was an unexpected but fun afternoon that I mentioned in my previous post. The city was fairly busy while we were there. I can only imagine what it is like in the summer. We are expecting that Vienna will be even busier. We have recently watched a few documentaries discussing the problems in many cities specifically due to the huge number of tourists. I guess that makes us part of the problem. In our favour, we do spend a lot more of our time in rural areas, outside the main tourist spots.
Many cities in Europe have a city card that gives you access to many of the local museums and attractions. I said earlier that we might purchase the Salzburg Card and we did. We bought it for the longest possible period, which is only three days. This means that you have to try and fit everything that you want to see in Salzburg, that has a charge, into three days, even if you are visiting for a few weeks. It also means that you visit a lot of different museums and sites that you might not otherwise stop in to see. Many of these visits are short, but the card gets you in the door to at least have a look.
Museums often have audio guides which you can rent and listen to as you walk around the museum. In two museums in Salzburg, we saw separate audio guides that were specifically designed and recorded for children. I am not sure what was on them, but I thought that was a great idea. Kids certainly wouldn’t have been interested in the history that we listened to on our adult guides.
I checked to see if Toronto has anything like these city cards. It appears that many cities in North America have a CityPass. The good news is that this pass is good for 6 days which is better than in Europe. The bad news is that in Toronto you have access to 5 attractions with the card. In Europe you are more likely to have 50 – 100 places you can visit.
One of the items on the card was access to a cable car just outside of town. It was supposed to have a beautiful, panoramic view of the city and the river. The ride for two people up and down was $75, not inexpensive! Luckily our ride was included in our Salzburg card because this was the view at the top of the ride. This view must have really upset the paying customers as they exited the cable car. In all honesty, the clouds did move, and we did manage to get a nice view of the city. Our card also included a boat tour (the boat was named Amadeus) of the city which was very nice and informative. It is amazing how many cities have a river either down the middle or surrounding the city. It just reinforces how important the water was in the old days when finding somewhere to settle.
One museum that we might not have made it to without the card was the Marionette Museum. Although we toured the museum, we didn’t get to see one of the live shows which we had heard good things about. We heard that when these marionette shows started, a hundred years ago, they would have a full set of musicians and singers backstage making for a great show. Today one performance involves about a dozen puppeteers.
Mike and I drove into Salzburg and had problems finding available parking near the Old Town. After that, if we were going into town, we used our bikes. The campgrounds near where we stayed all advertised a bike path, implying an easy cycle into town. Our campground was really useless helping one figure out a route to take to get to town on bicycles. We were camping 5 kilometres (3 miles) from the Old Town. The first few times we biked in, it was on roads and not the dedicated bike paths that we had expected. One couple followed us to try and learn how to get into town after they didn’t get any help from the campground. After biking into town a few times, I found a new cycling website and tried to plan our ride using this website. It increased our ride from 5 kilometres to 7 kilometres but it was almost completely along a dedicated bike path, much of it beside the river. It was lovely and worth the extra 2 kilometres. The bike path started about one kilometre from the campground. I was really disappointed in how little help the campground provided. If I had thought of it earlier, I would have tried to create a proper map for the campground to photocopy and hand out and possibly make a gpx file available to other campers. I am making this ride sound difficult and it wasn’t at all. You just needed to know where to turn to get on the path to start. It was a great ride into Salzburg.
Once, as we were walking in town, we saw a case of beer come flying through the air. We stopped to see what was happening. There was a chain of about four people, starting from the bottom of a set of stairs below ground level, up the stairs, and finally to a guy standing next to an open van. A case of beer would be thrown, not passed, from person to person until it ended up in the van. These cases were full and certainly not light. It was an entertaining couple of minutes.
We have had lots of rainy days. It wasn’t pouring rain the entire time, but it was threatening rain for much of it. This puts one off things like longer hikes or bike rides.
On our last day in town, we avoided the city and drove to a gorge south of town where we went for a nice walk and then took a drive on one of the designated panoramic roads. These roads all have their own tolls. This one was $15 Cdn. We haven’t been doing nearly enough hiking or even walking recently. We have been continuing our bike riding. I previously said that we were trying to bike, in a continuous line, around much of Austria. In the last couple of months, we rode our e-bikes north from Italy to Salzburg and then turned east towards Vienna and the Danube. So far, we have ridden over 1,000 kilometres on this route.
Talking about bikes, here is a quick update. Our new bikes finally left Montreal and made it through the St. Lawrence. That was a very slow process. The crossed the Atlantic in no time, stopped in Southampton and should arrive in Antwerp later today. The next stop will be Hamburg where they exit the ship and are hopefully sent on to Vienna. We still have no idea about what we need to do to import them. We don’t know if they will cost us import duties that we have to pay, duties that we get back when we leave Austria or if Austria is like Belgium and we can simply sign a form saying that they are a temporary import and not pay anything. Hopefully we get to make contact with the shipping company’s agent and find out some details once the bikes arrive in Hamburg. As far as bringing our current bikes home, there are a few wrinkles there as well. We were going to bring them home with us on the flight without the batteries which are considered “hazardous material”. Batteries only last 3 or 4 years, depending on how many times you charge them. We thought that we might store the current batteries in our RV until we come home and buy new ones in Canada for now. Well new batteries cost three-quarters of what we originally paid for the bikes, including the batteries. Now we really need to investigate how to get the bikes, and probably the existing batteries, home.
P.S Mike thought this photo looked like it had been modified or photoshopped and that he had been copied into it. Not true.
P.P.S. We have just arrived near Linz, Austria’s third largest city. We are one kilometre from the Danube and can easily bike the 10 kilometres into town, if it ever stops raining.
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