We left Lucerne and started toward Innsbruck, Austria, where we were to spend the night. We drove for a bit before stopping for breakfast. We found a wonderful stop right on the autobahn, Freshmarket! It had an amazing choice of options: croissants and coffee, a huge variety of fruits and vegetables, sweets and ice cream, amazing choices of main dishes. And as we sat enjoying our selections we were once again surprised to see a dog curled up at his owner’s feet. It would be so much easier to travel with a dog in Europe than in the US!
We had planned to arrive early enough in Innsbruck to do some sightseeing and then also have a couple of hours there in the morning before driving on to our stay just outside Salzburg. Because of the Alps the motorway is a mass of tunnels. (I think we counted 41 on just this single day of driving.) We left Switzerland and crossed into tiny Leichtenstein. While there was a small building that at one time must have been the border crossing it was vacant this morning. I think it took us no more than fifteen minutes to cross the country. I read where in 2011 Snoop Dogg tried to rent the country. It’s unclear whether it ever went through but at one time it was advertised that it was possible to rent out the entire country for $70,000 a night complete with customized street signs. Novel idea!
The countryside throughout the day was stunning! We understood before we set out in the morning that a major tunnel just outside Innsbruck was closed for construction and we’d have to go over the pass. As it turned out it was one of the most spectacular views of the day and because this had been the major route before the tunnel was built, it was well-marked and well-maintained. I think it might be the only time in all of our travels we’ve ever encountered a traffic jam on a mountain pass.
Innsbruck is a beautiful city that sits on the Inn River (a tributary of the Danube). And we never tire of walking the streets of the old cities in Europe. Early evening is a particularly lovely time to walk among the old buildings. The Goldenes Dachl (Golden Roof) was definitely a high point. The roof was completed in 1500 and designed to mark the wedding of Emperor Maximillian I. The emperor and his wife would often appear on the balcony to celebrate festivals and tournaments. An interesting fact is that in 1536 Jakob Hutter, preacher of the Baptists, was burned alive in the yard in front of the the building.
On to Salzburg…we had rented an Airbnb just outside Salzburg near Frielassing, Germany. We later read that Frielassing was an imporant Allied target near the end of World War II. Although it had no real strategic importance it was the area where Hitler, Goering, Bormann and others had vacation homes and where they would gather to do strategic planning.
We visited the new museum, Dokumentation Obersalzberg which gives the history of National Socialism. This area has been a tourist mecca since the 1800’s and Hitler had a summer home here since the 1920’s.
He later converted it into an “off limits” area forcing all the local inhabitants out. The region was occupied by American forces after May 1945 and was used for recreation by the US Army. The area was returned to the Bavarians in 1996 (even though they technically owned it since the end of the war). We were able to rent an English audio guide that explained the many posters, photos and documents. We found the museum interesting; the views from the museum stunning, but it’s also very depressing. And we found far too many comparisons to our present situation in the US: the blatant racism, fear of people who are different from us and the willingness of thousands to follow a leader without ever questioning his ideas or motives.
Freilassing has a wonderful huge supermarket. Two escalators facilitate customers use of the two floors. They have a huge selection of just about anything we could want from fresh vegetables and fruits to frozen food, to entrees we could heat in the oven. My daughter had introduced me to Google Translate which is a handy free app that allows you to translate on the fly. This had been a great help in our previous travels. But I recently learned that you can also take a picture with Google Translate and it translates signs or any other text instantaneously! I found this particularly useful at the grocery store when I could take a picture of a package and immediately know what the product was. It was really helpful in deciphering subleties…like diced tomatoes from tomato paste, etc. I also really like the app when dealing with home appliances. For instance, when I want to do the laundry. You may recall that two years ago we got our wash locked in a washing machine in Prien, Germany, because we couldn’t understand the signs on the machine. With the app all I had to do was aim my phone at the machine and it translated: short wash (big difference between 1 hr 55 min and 40 minutes!), prewash, machine lock, etc. Really helpful!
We generally don’t drive in big cities because of the chaos and also the expense of parking. From where we stayed it took us about 10 minutes to drive to the train station and then another 10 minutes by train into Salzburg. Because Freilassing is a small town, the ticket machine at the train station was only in German. Before I could translate with my phone a young man came by and quickly showed us how to get the tickets we needed. The cost was about nine dollars for round trip for two of us (second class). You can’t beat that! And trains run about every 20 minutes.
We wanted to see the traditional tourist sights. The old city is a pretty city with the Hohensalzburg Castle looming over it. It is a small area that was easy to traverse by foot. The castle was used as a prison in the 20th century first holding Italian soldiers during World War I and then Nazi activists before the Anschluss with Germany (or annexation of Austria by Germany). Salzburg is Mozart’s home; that’s what I most wanted to see. So we walked to his birthplace and then also to his residence. We decided we’d wait and attend a concert when we get to Vienna! (We did notice a street sign near Mozart’s birthplace that read, “Urban Decay.” We had to wonder about the history of that sign!)
The Mirabell Palace has a lovely garden that we enjoyed! We’ve been particularly lucky this fall to have generally warm, sunny weather which is perfect for our sightseeing.
I was a bit disappointed with Salzburg; it seemed more “touristy” than most places we’ve been. And I think I generally enjoyed the sidetrips more than Salzburg itself.
One particular day trip we enjoyed was driving to Mondsee. It’s a pretty resort city in the Alps. This is the location of the church where the famous wedding in the Sound of Music was filmed! The village is located right on the water and while on most summer weekends it is mobbed with tourists, we found it beautiful, quiet and relaxing on a Monday in early October!
The ladies we rented from had a meditation room and were definitely into energy healing. The pastoral location seemed perfect for that! They told us a lot about Salzburg and the area’s salt history and suggested we go to Bad Reichenhall just a short distance from where we were. The salt works from this area date from the 1840’s. For hundreds of years the “white gold was mined here.” I was surprised to learn that salt comes in different colors and that it’s often white because the other colors are bleached out of it. The colors come from natural elements incorporated into the salt crystals.
Two years ago when we were in Bavaria I wasn’t thrilled with German food. I found it heavy, even their salads. But I have a different opinion this time and maybe because I’ve found my favorite foods among the offerings. We found three absolutely wonderful restaurants. These are restaurants that are local favorites. They had great selections, wonderful staff that would help us translate to English and all were very busy locations. One of them was a hotel restaurant (Gasthof Moosleitner), right on the edge of Frielassing. There I had boiled beef with parsley potatoes and creamed spinach and applesauce with horseradish! Spinach and horseradish are two of my favorite foods! But whoever decided to add horseradish to applesauce was pure genius! Wow! Amazing. We went to another, more of a tavern, and they brewed their own beer which was available throughout the area (Braustuberl Schonram). Lots and lots of locals. And wow! I was amazed when my boiled beef, creamed spinach and applesauce with horseradish was on the menu! Yep, I got it again! And finally there was another restaurant, we found on Yelp, a local restaurant in Frielassing (Gasthaus Zollhausl). There I had the most amazing spareribs! Bob is becoming a gourmond when it comes to his favorite: schnitzel! He knows that the REAL schnizel is veal but he’s had pork, chicken and his favorite? Maybe that’s what he’s eating at the moment! And of course, German and Austrian beer are wonderful! (We hear the best is Czech beer. We’ll let you know what we think when we get to Prague!)
Soon it was time to move on to Vienna but I had a friend who said we should visit Melk with its Benedictine abbey that dates back to the eleventh century. As we meandered through the town we came upon a memorial that honored the 4801 people (Czechs, Poles, Hungarians, Yugoslavs, French and Italians) who were brought to death in the KZ-Nebelagenmelk in 1944-1945.
We found a hotel there right in the city center, complete with parking and breakfast for $65. The parking, however, was located through a gate, in the back of the hotel. I had suggested to Bob that if he were to turn around it might be easier to drive out in the morning. Just as we are manuevering; Bob behind the wheel, me outside directing, a man from the hotel, I think perhaps the owner? came out to assist. Obviously, we didn’t look like we knew what we were doing. He spoke no English but every five seonds or so, he would holler, “Stoppen!” We finally gave up and just parked faced forward! The next morning after we checked out we were pleased he was no where in sight! We began our manuevering just as we had in the afternoon previous when, “Oh no!” He reappeared! This time we just ignored his calls, continued our process and waved a friendly goodbye as we pulled out the gate!
We had a short drive to Vienna, but we knew we wanted to drive the Wachau Valley following the Danube into the city. Googlemaps makes traveling much easier when you want the most efficient directions to a location but it’s not quite as easy if you want to take the scenic road. Again and again it wanted to guide us back to the motorway. We finally decided just to try the old fashioned way and use a paper map! The drive through the rolling vineyards and encountering castles along the way was like a trip back in time. We encountered river boat cruises along the way, and roadside fruit and vegetable stands. Definitely a slower way that allows the traveler to savor life along the way.
Switzerland, Leichtenstein and Austria are most amazing places and really the first landlocked countries we’ve visited. We look forward to our next two weeks in Vienna!