I reluctantly left Paris early Saturday morning, saying one last good-bye to the Eiffel Tower and the streets left unexplored. Though I was sad to leave, I was also excited to get to my next stop: Salzburg, Austria. I was excited for many reasons, the foremost ones being (a) I wouldn’t have to try to speak French anymore, (b) I could quote Indiana Jones at my leisure, and (c) KSue would also be there!
And so I hopped on a train out of Paris, switched in Stuttgart, Germany (add it to the country list), and made my way to Austria.
First impression of Salzburg: wet, as it had started raining somewhere between Stuttgart and my current locale. Second impression: confusing, as I had a very difficult time trying to get a bus ticket from the automated teller and ended up paying at least €5 for one. Either way, I eventually figured it out and made it to our hostel, which (as KSue informed me) plays the Sound of Music every night at nine. Jufa hostel in Salzburg is one of the better places we have stayed in. It is nice, clean, fairly cheap, breakfast is included, and a Sound of Music screening is always a welcome sight to my weary eyes.
I was sitting on my bunk, just having arrived and checked in, when my phone rings. It is KSue. She is lost. I am not much more found, but I believe I can find my way to her. Thankfully, I managed to find her. Not surprisingly, I got lost on my way back to the hostel. We made it back….eventually.
After chilling out for a bit, it got dark and we decided it was dinner time. It hadn’t stopped raining. We found a place on the internet to eat (Mexican!), but it was reservation only. Defeated, wet, and hungry, we headed back towards the hostel only to find a little place on the corner advertising some sort of Austrian dumpling fiasco called knoedel. It was food, so we stopped in.
I AM SO HAPPY WE DID. First we ordered a Radler, a brand of shandy popular in Austria. For those who don’t know what a shandy is, it is basically beer (or in German, bier) and lemonade. I’ve had versions of this at UVA with Eda when someone mixed beer, lemonade, and vodka in a pitcher and then served it, as well as at my pub in DC where our over-21 friend Eric was ordered a shandy. It is utterly delicious.
Second came the dumplings. I ordered a kind with spinach and cheese in a basic tomato sauce. KSue got the something similar but with chicken. I was worried about the serving size being too small, as we were very hungry and the menu only mentioned two or three dumplings. However, this was not a problem. Our plates were put in front of us and they each contained a few very large bread-based balls of cheese and (for me) spinach in a tomato sauce. Each ball was about as big as my fist and quite dense. We dug in and in minutes we were worried about being able to finish our meal. But I desperately wanted to! I have never tasted anything quite so deliciously satisfying as those knoedel. It was cold and rainy outside, and yet this random restaurant was the perfect escape, filling my stomach with all the right comfort foods. And bier. It was the perfect way to start our Austrian stay.
We got back to the hostel just in time to catch a nightly Sound of Music showing, but had to sit at an awkward angle, because the Sound of Music is very popular at our hostel and there was nowhere to sit to view it properly. However, four American girls noticed our awkward predicament and invited us to sit by them on the bench directly across from the TV. Due to the unprecedented kindness of this action and country-in-common, we all became friends fast. Carrie and Maggie, working in London (!) and studying in Austria, respectively, and Emily and Steph, both studying in Florence. Two guys, also American and also thoroughly enjoying TSOM (as it will now be referred to) joined us after Maggie noticed they were eating peanut butter. KSue recognized one, Brian, as her classmate, which led to a crazy “we’re both in Austria at the same hostel!” moment. He was travelling with his friend, Eric, who had been studying at Oxford. We all get along so well we decide to meet up for dinner the next day before some of us departed to different parts of the world. Crazy, random Americans-in-Europe friends. I love it. Salzburg is a-okay in my book so far.
We slept in the next morning as both of us were extremely exhausted from our early morning travels the previous day (KSue actually hadn’t slept at all the night before) and decided to do some low-key activities, likes museums and shopping. (Because, let’s face it, we can always shop.)
Outside was white. It had, and was still, snowing. Luckily, I had packed my boots. Unluckily, KSue hadn’t. This did not deter our shopping, however. It may have even enhanced it. Old Town Salzburg became Christmas-like, with its narrow streets and cute shops. Generally, everything had a “winter wonderland” feel to it, despite the fact that it was Easter Sunday.
The day was cold and wet and crowded, but ultimately beautiful. I decided I loved Salzburg and its Austrian quaintness.
We then visited a surprisingly amazing modern art museum near the fortress. We didn’t know any of the featured artists going in, but we were fans of their work by the time we left. Much to my dismay, there were no tapestries at this museum.
We met the others back at the hostel and headed off to dinner, where we were split into two tables of four. When it came time to toast to our new-found friendship, we laughed at the table-specific decision to either order Radlers or water. (Our table ordered the bier.) More beer was had at the Irish Pub (the beginning of a trend) we went to in order to kill time drinking and swapping relationship stories before Steph, Emily, Brian, and Eric’s 1 am overnight train to Venice. (We would be taking the same train the next night.) The bartender, Tony, decided we were good people and also became our friend. Brian wins the prize for most epic love story. It involves sharks and poetry and Paris.
We said our goodbyes and headed back to our hostel, hopeful to see each other again soon in another country or two.
SOUND OF MUSIC TOUR DAY. Yes, we opted for it. We had a sing-a-long bus and super spunky tour guide. It was all awesome. Truthfully though, some of the best parts of our tour were the views. The views of the snowy Alps were just as breathtaking as the view of the non-snowy Alps on the train ride from Geneva to Paris. I loved being in those mountains. Not to get too transcendentalist on you, but it was utterly gorgeous in a way only nature can be.
We got off the bus and hopped on a funicular (my new favorite form of transportation, I think I’ve been on three this trip) up to the Fortress that towers over Salzburg. Inside the fortress is basically a little town and museums. And I totally saw some tapestries. I didn’t even have to impersonate a Scottish Lord or punch a butler! Some people still live up there to be protected from the Mongols and whatnot. Or maybe they just like the view.
Back down the Funicular, we packed up our stuff at the hostel, met up with Maggie and a new friend (!) Jett and headed off to dinner and the Irish Pub for another night killing time by drinking before we had to catch a train.
The night wore on, we hugged goodbye and headed toward the station, perpetually dragging our suitcases behind us. As the train pulled away from the station at 1 am and I hopped up onto my top couchette-bunk, I felt so unexpectedly satisfied by my short time in Austria. KSue and I had decided to travel here as a “filler” country, something between our separate trips and Italy in order to get the timing right to go to Greece. Yet as I look back, Salzburg turned out to be one of my favorite places to visit due to the perfect combination of snow, quaintness, Sound of Music, mountains, and new-found friends. Really, it was everything topped off by meeting great people who made the visit so enjoyable. I hope to see some of you soon, but it not maybe we’ll cross paths once again in the States.