Salzburg: Simply stunning!
Salzburg (& Vienna), Austria – October 4 – 10, 2014
The Eurolines bus ride from Sarajevo to Vienna was, well, long. I’m not really sure how else to describe it. It was about 13 hours and six border checkpoints. However, 13 hours doesn’t feel as long when it takes you through four countries and you can watch the gradual shift in landscape, society and culture as you travel northwest through Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, Slovenia and into Austria.
In total, we spent about a week in Austria and we were looking for a mix of relaxation and retail therapy. By relaxation we mean sleeping in a proper bed and having a hot shower, indoors, before three weeks of camping in Africa; and by retail therapy we mean hunting down sleeping bags, bug spray and other camping gear.
We rented a car in Vienna, as we wanted to drive to Salzburg and see the Austrian countryside along the way. The car made it easier for shopping, not to mention that driving on the autobahn is an experience in itself; not only for the speed, but also for the pristine pavement. You can see that drivers respect the road.
Obviously we booked the cheapest car for the best rate, which in Europe, is usually a three-cylinder, glorified golf cart, so we always hope (and ask) for an upgrade. We ended up with a brand new, fully loaded Ford C-Max. No Cadillac, but it was quick and could haul my body weight! After spending the first night in Vienna, we left in the morning for the three hour drive to Salzburg.
Over the past three years I had travelled (well, commuted to work by plane) quite extensively, just about every week really, allowing us to amass quite a few hotel reward points. This combined with the fact we choose credit cards with the best travel reward programs, we are able to accumulate travel rewards for just about every dollar we spend (Note: you only get the rewards once the statement is paid!). Using Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) points, we stayed at the beautiful Sheraton Fuschlsee-Salzburg Hotel Jagdhof, about a 15 minute drive from Salzburg. The place is tucked away in the Austrian Alps so having the car was a must.
Salzburg is located on Austria’s western border with Germany. It is famous for many things including it’s Hohensalzburg Castle, but probably more so for being the birthplace and home of famous composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. It is also the setting for the musical, The Sound of Music.
We had perfect weather for exploring pretty well the entire time we were in Austria, sunny and about 20 degrees, everyday. A small city, Salzburg is basically a pocket of culture and incredible architecture placed beneath an ancient fortress and divided by a giant turquoise canal.
Without a doubt the best views of the city are from the castle, so a visit is a must. To the north sits the city centre of Salzburg and to the south and east you can see the alps for miles.
A walking tour of the castle costs €11.30 (approx. $16.00 CAD) and you can take the cable car up instead of walking, for an additional fee of course. We opted to walk.
From the castle, we were on the hunt for the house where Mozart was born as well as the house where he grew up as they are on opposite sides of the river. There are various tours you can take to each of the sites, but given that everything is so close together it is just as easy to walk, although you will probably learn more with a guide. We didn’t go in to either of the houses (we’re on a budget, remember?!) but having grown up playing piano, Jess was content just to have her picture next to them.
Our self-guided walking tour took us next to the UNSECO World Heritage Site, Mirabell Palace and Gardens. The palace is only about 600 years old and apparently it is a popular location for weddings. Also, if you’ve watched the Sound of Music, you’ve pretty well been there as it is the site of several scenes from the musical.
We found Heart of Joy Cafe which serves amazing food and deserts and has tons of gluten-free options, including carrot cake. Oh, and the service was impeccable!
Speaking of food, we went against all travel laws again and ate at the same restaurant twice. Not only was Steinlechner an easy drive from our hotel, it was reasonably priced and the food was tasty, including the gluten free options.
I almost forgot! Salzburg is home to Stiegl, one of my favourite beers and a visit to Salzburg wouldn’t be complete without a tasting.
We did spend a couple of days in Vienna, however it was very ‘North American’ as we went to an outlet store to get our gear for Africa. Like Venice, another visit to Vienna is required to truly experience everything it has to offer.
We thoroughly enjoyed our few days in and around Salzburg. It’s one of those cities that makes you feel safe and at home. Overall, Austria gave us everything we were looking for on this stop so we are giving it an A+.
jess + trickett