Callum’s 2015 Adventures: Interrailing pt.12 Salzburg, Austria

‘Salzburg is storybook Austria. Standing beside the fast-flowing Salzach River, your gaze is raised inch by inch to the Altstadt’s mosaic of graceful domes and spires, the formidable cliff-top fortress and the mountains beyond.’ – Unknown

Day 25: Salzburg 09.09.15

Plan of Action:

  • Explore Salzburg
  • The Glacier Hike
  • Watch the Sound of Music in the evening at the Hostel

The great thing about Yoho Hostel is that it has a pre-organised service allowing you to book day trips with them – and they have quite a heft catalogue to choose from. Amongst the options  (which are available all year round) are a Glacier Hike, a Bavarian Mountains and Salt Mines tour and – of course – the effervescent Sound of Music tour. Unfortunately when we turned up at reception in the morning, we learnt that the Glacier Hike was fully booked. Inexplicably, we opted against the Sound of Music tour (I will go back to do this though) and instead decided to take part in the afternoon Bavarian Mountain and Salt Mine tour. As we had risen quite early to book something via reception, the fact that the tour as taking place in the afternoon meant that we had the whole morning in which to explore.

Another advantage of staying at Yoho Hostel is that it is tailor-made to accommodating backpackers and other travellers who come through. As a result, not only do they provide a map of Salzburg (as is customary at all the hostels we stayed at throughout Europe), it is a map that contains several different highlighted walking routes that allow for different experiences of the city. They are worth doing as well. Each highlighted trail also comes with an estimated walking time and, as a result, we were able to plan the walk we took around what time we would need to arrive back at the hostel in order to catch our mini-bus for the Salt Mine tour.

Although we didn’t have enough time to to do the Castle trail, we did still get around quite a lot of the city, seeing sites that I had only previously seen winter photos of. I’ll be honest also, what our eyes feasted on in Salzburg was the sight that I wished had been provided by Vienna – A tale of two Austrian cities, eh?

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Aside from being “home” to The Sound of Music, I had only ever known Salzburg as a skiing resort, so to see it in the summer sun was something to behold. As with Vienna the architecture was exceptional and the entire city was filled with colour, thanks in part to the beautiful flower arrangements that were around every corner. As we made our way through the palace gardens and down to the riverbank, we saw a massive billboard stating that Austria would welcome refugees, referencing the ongoing refugee crisis that was dominating so many headlines and would continue to dominate them over the following months.

Other than going for a wander and popping into the odd shop, we didn’t do much else in Salzburg, but you don’t really need too. Despite how busy everywhere was, there was a really serene and calm atmosphere – it almost felt as if you were just drifting through the streets, absolutely wonderful. Moreover there was so many independent stores selling a variety of hand-crafted goods. My personal favourite was a shoe-makers who not only had a variety of different styles on display, also offered a personal service where he would take your measurements and make you a shoe to your own personal specifications – in a time-span just shy of a week.

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Stopping for a late breakfast as we followed the walking trail meant that we forgot all about the need for lunch as we headed back to the hostel to catch the mini-bus for our afternoon tour.

The mini-bus actually took us on a short tour of the city as well whilst visiting various hostels and hotels, gathering up more passengers, before stopping at a meeting point in the heart of the city where we learnt all the tours actually began. Once here, we transferred to a coach and began our journey through the Bavarian mountains towards the Salt Mines.

The drive itself was quite interesting, passing through the Obersalzberg region, with a guide telling us about the area and its history. I must admit, I fall asleep on any sort of journey, and this one was no different. However I was awake for when we passed the mountain where the Eagle’s Nest was situated, which made the little history geek in me very happy as I had studied the Eagle’s Nest whilst looking at the Third Reich both in school and when writing my dissertation.

As we eventually arrived at our destination, we were hurried along to the waiting room where we were provided with overalls. We were also informed – much to my dismay – that photography inside the salt mines was not allowed and that our camera’s should be left with our bags in the main area. However after a brief chat it was agreed that I would be able to take my camera along with me due to its cost and the fact that we had been advised “to keep valuables on our person or leave them at our own risk”. Not only did this allow me to breathe a sigh of relief, it meant that I could be a little bit sneaky too.

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As the above photo demonstrates, by “sneaky” I meant “break the rules”… but no-one caught me! The picture is of what I have seen (through reading reviews) dubbed the “mirror lake”, a quite fitting name. In order to not be caught, the image was taken by resting the camera on the fence around the body of water and using an exposure of between 3-5 seconds. At the time I didn’t realise I was seeing a reflection in the water, such was the calmness and clarity of the reflection.

The tour itself was fascinating and is well worth a visit. You learn about how this particular mine has developed over the years, as well as the mining process and the evolution of the equipment used.

Our return to Salzburg saw us visit Berchtesgarden’s Old TownHere, Faye and I spent the majority of our time wandering the most beautiful graveyard I have ever seen. The gravestones themselves went back several centuries and is one of the oldest sections of Old Town.

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We arrived back at the hostel later than expected meaning that, once we had finished dinner, we had lost out on the opportunity to watch the daily screening of the Sound of Music. So instead I went to the hostel bar and watched Austria qualify for Euro 2016 in style, much to the delight of the staff behind the bar!

After a couple of drinks and a few rounds of cards with some other travellers, I dragged myself away from the celebrations as we were due to head over to Munich the next day; our final destination and the city where Faye and I would part ways.

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