While not originally in my plans, Salzburg was only a couple hours’ bus journey from Munich. I had heard good things about it and decided it was a good opportunity to experience the Alps as well as another country!
Once again, the weather during my time in Austria was divided into two categories-cold and rainy, and sunny and warm. Luckily, I was able to do a lot of the indoor sightseeing during the crappy weather, so my plans weren’t hindered too much.
Perched high up on the hill, Hohensalzburg Fortress is viewable from anywhere in the city. I was surprised to learn that it was built back in the 11th century. Europe’s churches and castles definitely make the United States’ “historical buildings” look pitiful when you compare them on age alone. Inside the fortress was a small museum, although I didn’t find it too impressive to be honest. I did enjoy the short audio tour though, as it provided interesting information on how the castle was expanded over time with each succeeding bishop. Lastly, the views from the top of the castle provided extraordinary views of the surrounding countryside and the Alps!
Mozart’s Birthplace and Residence
While these are actually two separate buildings and museums, I am combining them together for simplicity purposes. Wolfgang Amedeus Mozart was born in Salzburg, Austria and lived most of his life there (when he wasn’t touring around Europe), until his tragic death at the young age of 35. The building where he was first born and the house where his family later moved to have been converted into to museums in homage of this talented musician. Having played the piano for many years as a child, I was familiar with some of Mozart’s music and found it interesting to wander through the museums and to learn more about the life of himself and his family. The Residence Museum had a free audio guide, and each museum only needed about 1-2 hours, depending on how long you like to linger at a particular exhibit.
I visited these museums (as well as the Fortress and the Stiegl Brauwelt Breweri), with the purchase of the Salzburg Card. It cost 27 Euros for one day and it was definitely worth the price, as visiting these four attractions on their own would cost over 40 Euro. The Salzburg Card also allowed for free public transportation for the day, but as the city is fairly small, I found it easier to explore on foot.
Stiegl Brauwelt Brewery
After touring the Fortress and Mozart museums, I was ready to end the day with a tour of the Stiegl Brauwelt Brewery. They conduct an English-speaking tour at 3:30 pm every day! As I was walking to the brewery, I realized that the only other brewery I’ve toured before was the Guinness Factory in Dublin. Chicago is home to multiple breweries including Lagunitas, Revolution, Goose Island, and many more! I vowed to myself to visit a few of these upon my return. The tour was both informative and interesting, although the highlight was the 3 beers that we were allowed to have at the end!
The Beautiful Austrian Countryside
On the second and better weather day, I was able to see some of the beauty of the Alps and Austrian countryside, courtesy of my CouchSurfing host, Thomas! First off we drove to the top of Mount Geisberg, just on the outskirts of the city, which offered incredible views of the city and the Alps in the distance. It was also a popular place for paragliding, and we watched several of them takeoff and soar through the air with their multicolored parachutes. It reminded me of my paragliding experience in Manali last month!
Our main destination was the small and picturesque town of Hallstatt, nestled alongside a lake. This small town is home to beautiful and brightly colored houses, and the residents are experts on using every available square inch (or centimeter as they use here)! The funny thing about this town is that it is so popular with Chinese tourists that their government has attempted to build their own version back in China! Although it is missing two of the most important parts, the mountains and lake! I really enjoyed walking around this beautiful town and we also stopped to have a Sachar torte, a traditional Austrian chocolate cake!
Along the way between Salzburg and Hallstatt we would stop periodically to admire the beautiful countryside and I would play tourist and take some pictures. Below are just a few of them. Austria is such a beautiful country and many thanks to Thomas for showing me some of the amazing natural sights!