stories of life & wanderlust

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Strolling Through Salzburg's Old Town

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First of all: Merry belated Christmas! I hope you spent a couple of relaxing days in good company and are now ready to tackle the start of the new year! As the passionate cook and foodie of the family, I was responsible for all the Christmas cooking this year and definitely had a blast spending my time in the kitchen. We had a very traditional German Christmas meal - a whole roasted goose with potato dumplings and red cabbage - and it was super delicious. As a kid, I would look forward to the food on Christmas the whole year and who am I kidding: That's still the case today!

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Speaking of Christmas: Nothing could have prepared me better for the holiday season than our little trip to Salzburg in Austria a few weeks ago. All decked out in festive lights and my new favorite Christmas Market, the city truly embraced the holiday spirit and nowhere was it as obvious as in the Old Town that we headed down the mountain to after visiting Salzburg's iconic landmark, Hohensalzburg Castle.

Before I go on, I should also mention that I'm not really into The Sound of Music - I know, I'm sorry, America! I only watched the movie once, during an excruciatingly long bus ride to the Ukraine a few years ago and it kind of failed to leave an impression on my cold-hearted continental heart. Not that I'm in bad company: Pretty much no one in Austria (& Germany) has ever even heard of the movie. That being said, those of you that really dig this movie (I know you do, Jordan! ;) ) may recognize some of these shots as Sound of Music locations.

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We had discovered St. Peter's Abbey the evening before when the area was so dark that you could barely make out the cobble-stone paths between the ornate graves. It was an eerie, yet somehow hauntingly beautiful place and so we had vowed to come back the next day to see just what we had stumbled upon in the darkness.

St. Peter's Abbey is one of the oldest monasteries in Austria and while there are some beautiful buildings, for me the highlight was the graveyard. The tombstones were all so different from each other: Some were over a hundred years old already, while others were fairly recent and they all had different features. Some were very intricate and little works of art, while others were a bit more simplistic, but they all blended in so very harmoniously with the surroundings.

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In need of a little late lunch break, we ventured back into the more lively parts of the Old Town where we discovered the narrowest house of Salzburg. Having convinced S that I wasn't actually taking a picture of the adjacent Hermès Store (what does that tell you about me? No comment.), we headed to time-honored Cafe Tomaselli for a cup of coffee and a piece of cake.

Coffee culture is very big in Austria, especially in Vienna, and so for me no visit to this country is complete without trying to decipher an Austrian coffee menu and hoping that I haven't accidentally ordered a cup of strong, black coffee: Austrians use very different words for coffee specialities than Germans and so that can lead to some serious confusion. Austrian may look like German, but at least as far as coffee is concerned, it may just be a completely different language.

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After coffee, we slipped into the nearby Salzburg Cathedral for a bit. The cathedral was one of the biggest surprises for me in Salzburg, because while I had read about it beforehand, I hadn't quite been aware of just how regal and large it would be. The cathedral is just one part of a much larger complex known as the DomQuartier that also includes the former residence of the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg and that we visited a couple of days later and you should not miss out on seeing the opulent, yet not ostentatious interior.

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Afterwards, we went for a first quick stroll across the Christmas Market. It was the first day of the market and since our hometown market back in Germany hadn't started yet either, it was our first taste of the holidays.

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We decided to cross the river next and went on a little walk up the little mountain Kapuzinerberg, from where we had a great view over the city and of Hohensalzburg Castle. It's possible to go along the old city walls of Salzburg, but the park along the walls looked a tiny bit shady, especially in the impending dusk, and so we opted to head down to the city again instead.

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By the time we had reached the Old Town again, it was dark already and we stopped at the Christmas Market again for a quick first Kinderpunsch of the year. For many, Christmas Markets may be all about the Glühwein, but I hate to say this: Kinderpunsch is just so much more delicious! It's the non-alcoholic, sweeter and fruitier little brother of Glühwein, originally thought of as a festive drink option for kids, and it's everything I always want Glühwein to be.

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With our bellies growling (cake just isn't quite a proper lunch, after all) and our fingers starting to freeze, we soon headed off to dinner at Guerilla Burger though. People sometimes have a hard time believing this, but there are not many things in the world that I love to eat as much as a great burger. For me, London still has the best burgers in the world, but as Salzburg shows the rest of Europe is gaining ground at lightening speed - and I love it!

What's your favorite food? 

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Saturday, December 20, 2014

A Morning at Hohensalzburg Castle, Austria

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I started writing this post ages ago, but then got completely caught up in exam frenzy and did little more than sit in the library all day - my everyday life sure is glamorous, isn't it? Well I don't know about you, but it definitely isn't particularly exciting or varied for that matter. I get up, scroll through Instagram, study for most of the day and then maybe hit up the Gym or work on my blog in the evening. Every once in a while I take a day off and visit my parents or go do something interesting, but for the most part it's the same thing every day. There's nothing wrong with routine, obviously, but one of the things that I love most about traveling is that my days always seem to be fuller when I'm on a trip and that's especially true for city trips.

Salzburg is a pretty small city, but considering its size there is a whole lot to see and do. Hohensalzburg Castle is one of Salzburg's prime tourist sites and majestically nestled on top of a small mountain, it overlooks - you could also say overshadows - the Old Town. The fortress definitely dominates the cityscape: It was one of the first things I noticed when we arrived by train and it continued to be in our line of sight for most of our stay. Whether we were strolling through the alleys of the city or heading to our hotel through the Mirabell Gardens - it rarely took more effort than lifting our heads to see the castle. It was obvious, therefore, where we would spent our first morning in Salzburg.

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On our search for breakfast, we wandered to the beautiful Mirabell Gardens again. The weather was much nicer than the day before when thick grey clouds had cast their shadows over the city and my photography heart did a leap at the glow of the soft morning light. I'll never be a morning person, but if all mornings looked like this, it would be a whole lot easier!

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We stopped for Breakfast at 220 °C and according to the internet it's THE place for breakfast in Salzburg. Focused on great coffee and equipped with an extensive breakfast menu, it's the perfect place for reluctant morning people like me. The place is tiny and packed, but we managed to get a table and enjoyed some Scrambled Eggs with Basil Bread as my brain slowly started to awake up from its slumber. I always prefer to take my mornings slower and taking the time for a lavish breakfast really is one of the best ways to do so - I should make this a part of my usual routine more often!

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After breakfast, we went on our way up the mountain to the castle. There is also a cable car, but I figured that I couldn't have lived in Norway for ten months for nothing and so we decided to walk instead. And what can I say - we struck gold! When we were halfway up the mountain - I use the term mountain lightly, it probably took about five minutes to walk up the first set of stairs - we noticed a street that was going to a small convent and so we followed it to the other sight of the mountain where we were greeted with a view that can only be described as magical:

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Did I promise too much? I kicked myself a bit for not grabbing the Polarization-Filter I had bought in preparation for this trip in the morning, but the mountains distracted me too much to feel bad about it.

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Eventually, we managed to tear ourselves away from the view and walked up to the castle. The path wasn't particularly long, but it was quite steep and I quickly noticed just how sedentary I had become since returning to Germany - living in Norway, or rather regularly hiking up mountains, had done wonders for my overall fitness and I was kind of embarrassed to admit that I seem to have lost all of this newfound endurance - oh, the joys of law school!

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The Christmas Season isn't off-season in Salzburg, but it's probably save to say that tourism in most Central European cities is less abundant in the winter than in the summer and for me that definitely more than makes up for the not-so-ideal weather conditions: Who cares about sunshine if you're just getting shoved around by the masses? We weren't the only people at Hohensalzburg Castle, but because of the size of the castle - it is one of the largest fortresses in Europe - we may as well have been.

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We spent a good couple of hours exploring the castle grounds and marveling at the magnificent view of the Alps. I'm a mountain girl through and through - I know many people share an almost magical connection with the sea, but for me it is the mountains that call to my soul. I want to see mountains, Gandalf, mountains! is totally something that I could have said. And to be honest: The fact that Salzburg is so close to actual proper mountains was half of the appeal for me to visit. The one thing that I miss the most about Norway is not waking up to the sight of mountains every day, so being in Austria was a treat.

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In the end, we climbed up the highest tower of the castle through the former torture chamber and were treated to yet another sweeping, panoramic view - can you ever get tired of them? - before finally trotting down the hill to the Old Town again and thinking: Can I live in Salzburg?

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What's your favorite castle?


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