Salzburg has long been one of the star tourist attractions of Austria — and anyone who's ever visited should understand why. Located in the "sub-alpine" area that borders Bavaria in Germany, the city is best-known for being the home of the story, and the set-location for the movie The Sound of Music; however, there's plenty more to Salzburg than raindrops and roses and warm woollen mittens. It's also the birthplace of Mozart, and is a thriving university city. The city itself is a visual delight, and is surprisingly small and homely — considering its fame and popularity.
As with the previous two nights, my final night here at Yoho in Salzburg was a blast. No need to go out: more than enough fun to be had, simply by "going out downstairs" — and considering the cold, that's the best type of going out you can do around here. Big group, lots of beer-drinking (and mainly "wheat beer", which they have on tap at the Yoho bar, and which I far prefer over other beers), plenty of card-playing, and plenty of laughs. I'm really going to miss this place: and it's hard to believe that my next destination is probably going to be even better! Austria, you're giving me a good run.
When you backpack around the world for a year, you become introduced to quite a few card games. Also to quite a few drinking games. Sometimes — as in the case of Circle of Death, which I learned this evening — you get introduced to both at once. Circle of Death is a simple enough game: a deck of cards is fanned out in a circle on the surface of a table; and each player in turn pulls a card out of the circle. Each number (or royal) in the deck has a certain action — failure to achieve the requirements of the various actions results in the loser(s) drinking. Very fun game, and a great way to turn a group of sensible, amiable friends into a bunch of loud-mouthed, hammered knobheads. But, hopefully, still friends.
There's no Austrian dish more famous than schnitzel, and I could hardly visit the country without trying it at least once. This evening at Yoho, I ordered a plate of Weiner schnitzel for dinner (lit: "Vienna schnitzel"). Unfortunately, it wasn't actually made of veal, as a true Vienna cutlet should be (hey, we're talking hostel food here :P); but then again, at least it was chicken, as opposed to pork (which I've already been forced to eat once too many lately, and which apparently can be found in many Austrian schnitzels). Not bad: but I'm afraid that Il Bolognese, an Italian restaurant in Sydney's humble suburb of Boronia Park, still takes the "best all-time schnitzel" prize hands-down.
Craig and Sarah are a friendly couple from the wonderful Aussie city of Perth. I met them last night at Yoho, where they basically arranged our big Augustiner Bräu visit. Sarah's (almost) a dentist, but she's not too evil (yet). This evening, they were joined by their friend Kade — also a Perth boy, and now living in London and working as a high-school music teacher. The three of them (co-incidentally) are coming to Kitzbühel with me tomorrow, where we'll all be hitting the snow for Christmas.
I was walking through the Christmas market in Salzburg this afternoon, with Lisa, when I couldn't help but notice some dried figs for sale in a stall. This wouldn't have been such a noteworthy moment, were it not for a little fact that Lisa explained to me earlier today: the word "fig" (with different spelling?) is apparently quite a rude word in German. If you tell someone you want a "fig" in Germany, then you will supposedly receive a stinging slap on the face. Anyway, they weren't labelled "figs", they were labelled with the equivalent German word "feigen": but hey, that sounds like a few other things in English, doesn't it now? Clearly, the fig is simply a dirty fruit, no matter what language you name it in.
Follow every strudel, don't resist the lure. When you visit Salzburg, you're visiting the home of "The Sound of Music", one of the most famous movies of all time. And whether you caper, cringe or cry out at the thought of doing anything so cheesy as the official SoM tour (I still haven't decided which I should do), the fact remains: you know you wanna do it, and you know you gotta do it. Today, Lisa and I fulfilled our solemn duty, and hopped along for the ride. It certainly was cheesy, as well as more than a little lame; but it was also a fun, colourful and song-filled day.
Salzburg may be politically part of Austria; but geographically, it's actually much closer to Bavaria. And when it comes to beer, it's clear that the closeness is measured by more than mere kilometres. The Augustiner Bräu is where Craig, Sarah, Kade, Lisa, Thierry, Wilson and myself went tonight — for something to drink, and for something to eat — and it's the kind of place that could only possibly exist somewhere whose heart is of Bavarian fibre. I kid you not when I say: the Augustiner Bräu is a beer hall that has been operated for centuries by Augustine monks; that serves the Augustine beer that the monks themselves brew and copiously drink; and that is physically connected to the monks' fully-functional church. Of course — this being the crazy beer-religion-wotzdadiff place that it is — all that is perfectly normal and acceptable. Anyway, all I can say is that these monks sure do a good job, because they brew some of the best beer known to mankind; job satisfaction is no doubt a part of life for them.
This evening we went to the Augustiner Bräu, and we went there both to eat and to drink. They offer one selection of drink: beer. Good Bavarian beer, served strictly by the litre — no problems there, beer don't get much better than that. They also, basically, only offer one selection of food: pork. Ahahaha... not so good — not for the Juden and the pork-averse amongst us, anyways. But what choice did I have — G-d didn't command that thou shalt drink thy stein and otherwise starve, didst he now? So yes, I admit, I ate a bit of pork knuckle. And yes, I admit, it was surprisingly very tasty. I hope I'm remembering correctly, when my Sunday school teacher once told me that we Jews don't believe in hell.
Lisa's a fun, beautiful, red-headed girl who's originally from Harrisburg (the capital of Pennsylvania — no, it's not Philadelphia), but who's been studying in Washington DC for several years now. Lisa's a smart cookie: she's almost finished her Master's in special needs education. I met Lisa this evening at Yoho, and as well as joining in on the Yoho drinkfest this evening, we also went on The Sound of Music tour together the next day.
Perched high atop a hill, the Hohensalzburg fortress has — for well over 1,000 years — watched over the city of Salzburg below it, both visually and militarily. The Hohensalzburg is one of the highlights of the town, and at least ½ a day is required to do it justice. After our morning stroll through Salzburg, today Thierry and I embarked on the trek up the mountain, and went to see this grand edifice both inside and out.