I’ve been to Salzburg enough to be able to show you around the city no problem, and we did walk the main area. We began outside the main city however, on the most touristy looking bus you’ve ever seen, in order to visit some castles and film sites from The Sound of Music. Firmly against being obvious tourists, we took a deep breath and accepted our transportation.
Hilariously, we were the only two on the giant tour bus, so in essence we were pleasantly chauffeured around in the most hideous vehicle ever. It was interesting to learn some of the details about both the filming of the movie as well as stories from the real-life Von Trapp family who lived in Austria.
We hopped off the bus at a castle where the gazebo from the film lived: on the grounds of Hellbrunn Castle. The site was relatively un-eventful, but the castle and grounds were beautiful. I was extremely surprised to find the grounds familiar when we stepped through the main gates: I had been here for a Christmas market last month! Sometimes I forget how crazy life is, and then things like that happen. Or that I’ve been here long enough to return to places like this.
“Stumbled Upon” became a theme of our whole trip. We stumbled upon many extraordinary or famous places completely by accident. The first such place was the Nonnberg Convent, which was almost completely unmarked and had very little information for tourists. It was only upon looking it up on our own that we learned this was the place where Maria [Von Trapp] lived as a nun, where she taught, and where she and the Captain were married. No big deal, you know… but actually super cool.
In my experience a few hours in Salzburg is about all the human brain can handle as far as taking in the sights and beauty. I got to see a bit more of the stunning views in Salzburg, and that afternoon we hopped on a train for Vienna.
We arrived in Vienna ready for bed- so we found our hostel and crashed. The next morning we had a hearty breakfast provided by the hostel and joined in their suggested free walking tour.
While sounding unattractively touristy, these walking tours were another “stumble-upon” and became one of the most informative parts of our trip. We are so glad we took them. Along with about 50 other random young people from all over the world probably all in their 20s-early 30s, we walked through the streets of Vienna. Descriptions are in the photos below:
The most extraordinary experience of Vienna was the Viennese Opera- our next “stumble-upon.” Recommended by the hostel as having cheap standing-room-only tickets, we never would have got in without the timing recommendation from our tour guide. After having walked around Vienna all day long we stopped at a sausage stand, another iconic Viennese experience, and had a quick dinner before queueing 3 hours before the the Curtain to try and get in. That alone was an experience. This group of high school aged kids there with their professor: they all had scripts and were animatedly discussing the plot. (So I gathered). Risa and I also looked up the story and much more as we sat there in line.
This cheap ticket opportunity clearly had ‘regulars’. we witnessed a dozen or more old folk with folding chairs and books, ready to camp out in line for a few hours. Men in suits and women in fancy dresses all sitting on garden chairs reading in a hallway. Opera is for the normal person. We were lucky: we were towards the front of the line and paid 4euro to be at the front of the standing-room section, directly in front of the stage.
The Wein Staatsoper (Viennese State Opera) is famous. Built for Emperor Franz Josef and later popular during the Habsburg Monarchy, it has a long history culminating today with it’s reputation as the biggest repertory Opera houses in the world. For a theatre major, that’s a big deal 🙂 Did I mention we got in for 4 Euro? yeah so that was cool too. The performance was El Ballo in Maschera, an Italian Opera by Giuseppe Verdi which is also very popular and is based off the assassination of a Swedish King. Do I feel very cultured now? Yes, yes I do.
The day ended with a stop at the Sacher Café, yet another famous Austrian place. This is the home of the Sachertorte, a classic Austrian chocolate cake. Austria was a dejavú place for me since for the past few summers I have worked at an Austrian restaurant. Therefore many dishes here both in south-eastern Germany and especially in Vienna such as the Schnitzel, Apfel Strudel, and Sachertorte, are words I can pronounce and dishes I am familiar with. So it was pretty cool for me to be in the country and have “the real thing.” I think my employers back home would appreciate my taste in travel.
Our time in Austria was finished, and we were off to Hungary. We hopped on another train early the next morning and arrived in Budapest before noon.