Sunday morning I wake up at 4:30 in the morning by Michigan who is rummaging through her suitcase until she finally falls asleep; making a quick survey of the room (mother instincts?) I see that Argentina is fast asleep after her coming back to the dorms around midnight, taking a half hour to shower, and then packing and repacking, unclicking and reclicking her suitcase for 25 minutes; but Ireland’s bed is still empty. A full night out! I snuggled back in until 7, when I tiptoe around the room getting my things together and myself ready for breakfast downstairs. The smell of freshly brewed strong coffee and the sweet, yeast smell of fresh, warm bread flooded the downstairs reception. This hostel, the Meininger, is known for its breakfasts; few offer anything more than coffee and tea because of a kitchen access. So I eat, write some postcards, and plan my day. I opt for nothing too strenuous, as yesterday’s Berchtesgaden hikes offered a lot of walking and tomorrow’s corn walk-through will demand more of the same. As I go back upstairs to get my overnight bag as I will check out for the day, Argentina comes off the elevator and apologizes profusely for the racket she made last night. She is off to check in to the Von Trapp mansion and begin her English journalism course.
Heading back to Old Town, my goal is to get to the fortress by foot. (Did I just concede to nothing strenuous? Can’t help it – I love a challenge) There is something akin to an elevator that moves up the mountain at a diagonal, but that seems way to easy. After the third cup of coffee and packing another sandwich, hard boiled egg and an apple, I head down to Old Town and Getreide Strasse, which, according to this newspaper caption has nothing to do with grain (Getreide) but a dialect that sounds like Getreide, which essentially means “to be in a hurry” – and so this small shopping alley was just as busy and commercial back in the 12th Century. The elaborate, intricate and unique store signs are like large Christmas ornaments, and the Church, St. Michael’s, happened to ring its Sunday morning bells just as I am passing through. It feels so wonderful, so absorbing, so full and rich.
I walk for several more blocks, to an approximate location of the footpath according to a tourist brochure I picked up at the hostel, and pass the oldest bakery in Salzburg, right outside of one of the old medieval portals to the city. Unfortunately, someone left the trappings of a midnight, or probably more likely, 4 am snack on the counters, but the picture is nevertheless interesting, as the brass table and sills look quite original (below).
I walk through a few more churches, and then give in, and ask a ticket agent at the entrance of an elevator to a monk’s home where I can find the footpath, and she points me back toward the direction I came, and so off I go, eventually arriving at this huge city entry portal that goes right through the rocks of large hills that surround Salzburg to the south. Below, left: entrance to Salzburg from the south; right: exit from Salzburg to the south.
I walk through here and come to a residential neighborhood, where I soon realize I am on the other side of the mountain with no access to the fortress, so I walk back through, make a right, and continue on.
By now the horse carriages are becoming regular, and all I have to do is to follow one of them, and I’m sure it will take me to a junction of important places. At this point, I don’t care if all I find is this diagonal lift, I want to get up there. So I ask again, this time a young waiter at a cafe, and he directs me right around the corner, where I can tell I am getting close: souvenir shops and stands one right after the other, and a whole line of horse carriages that wait and sweat in the already hot, close-to-noon sun. I pass and ogle the jewelry, the bags, the leather, the magnets, the coffee cups, the paintings, the summer dresses, the Mozart emblazoned bric-a-brac, and find a treasure indeed: a small cookbook of Austrian desserts, and know right away, after looking through it, that I must add it to my collection of cookbooks. So I pay, and in it goes, to add to the shoulder weight of my overnight bag. Up a little further through an alley way, the lift awaits – but lo and behold – right next to it is the foot path, and so up I step. 15 minutes later, I am at the fortress gates.
One of the most well preserved fortresses in Europe, it started out as a little tower in 800AD, and each successive century did its bit to extend and build onto it. Once inside, it becomes obvious that the occupiers of this fortress had created their own mini city, as it has a main courtyard/square, complete with a well and a church; the priest’s dwellings, a metallurgist, a gunnery, horse stables and now of course, a cafe. I find a little lookout through a barred window from which a cool breeze flows up and around me; I sit down next to it, admire the view and relish the relief for my feet and shade for my head. After a several minutes of quiet, as this little lookout is off the beaten fortress path, I walk around some more, enjoy some lookouts, and walk down to a lower level, where I run into Ireland, with two new friends: sisters from Australia. We are so delighted to run into each other again and so spontaneously that we chat for a while; Australian sisters seem to be just as smitten with the Sound of Music tour as she was. In fact, all over Salzburg I hear adults and children humming any one of the songs from the movie. Anyway, Ireland is safe and happy and seems none the worse for wear and soon we bid each other a final goodbye. I look around for a bench and a view, and eat my sandwich and egg and apple, and feel that with another walk through Salzburg my weekend here will be concluded. Above: all views from the fortress. Below, the fortress from “the love locks bridge.”
Perhaps I bit earlier than I originally plan for, I will catch the 3 pm train back to the farm as the budget for this weekend has been met, and would like to relax before work on Monday; maybe even catch some of the World Cup game.
Birgit picks me up right before half time, as it so happens, when the family is once again at the neighbors to celebrate Croatia’s pre determined win against France. The neighbor who is an elderly woman has a caretaker, Anna, who comes from Croatia, and as she is hosting the event which includes food and drink, the applause for goals will likely be for the country she comes from. As I arrive, two men from the family or neighbors themselves shift apart and make room for me to sit; Anna stabs a large schnitzel and places it on the plate in front of me and the bowl of potatoes (a cold sliced potato salad made with vinegar and sugar) and cucumber salad (sliced cucumbers in sour cream and dill) make their way towards me. I’m just in time for dinner! After the beer from the evenings with the girls in Salzburg, I had intended to drink dry for a while, but the jester to my right pours me a glass of his own homemade wine which he insists I try, and I have to admit, with the schnitzel, the long hot day, and the camaraderie now surrounding me, it is perfect.
Yet I can’t understand a thing, as the Austrian dialect is so distorted from standard German that it sounds like another language entirely, and I am left with certain words here and there that I can’t even synthesize into a reasonable inference but from which I can gather a tone at least. And what a jovial crew. The joker to my left insists I try his homemade Walnut schnapps, which he calls the best medicine in the world- for that he switched to German – but then returns to the colloquial chatter that he and the jester to my right has the whole table laughing by despite Croatia’s lack of points on the board. The Walnut schnapps doesn’t taste like schnapps at all, and therefore not fearing an impact on my efficiency the next day of plucking flower stems off the corn stalks, I have another. Then a neighbor from down the other end of the table pours me a shot of apricot schnapps, which is terrible and tastes like it would get a truck running. All the while joker and jester trade what sound like rejected mottos for beer stein mugs – because they elicit such raucous laughter – and then dessert comes out. Apricot cake, cherry tort, nut rolls. Coffee or tea? Nope. More wine and beer. The game, which only Anna and a few others show interest in, is slipping by into an inevitable defeat for Croatia. The dishes are cleared and people excuse themselves. While the French president offers his congratulations to the French team, the evening offers me an authentic neighborhood party on a warm summer night on an Austrian farm.