Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Hills Are Alive, With the Sounds of Tourists

Wednesday night, Annie and I had dinner at Cafe Nil, near the hotel. At first we thought it meant "nothing," but the middle eastern themed cuisine hinted to its proper translation: Nile.

Afterwards, we all went to Cafe Central in the Inner Stadt. Unfortunately, they are no longer open until midnight, but close at 10 pm (we suspect the economy). When we came in at 9:35, the maitre d´ warned us. Luckily, there were still some pastries in the case, and I had a raspberry yoguhrt torte, while Cherie had the strawberry slice. It was a trifle stale, but still tasty.

On Thursday, we got up at the (relatively) early hour of 8:45 am to make our train to Salzburg. One my problems with Vienna is that despite the culture, architecture, art, and cafes, the city itself can feel oppressive. Other than the parks along the Ring, there´s very little green in the city center. It was delightful to see the green fields and forests of lower and upper Austria from the train. We traveled besides small farms and past small towns. We occasionally saw deer that came out of the forests to graze in the fields.

As we neared Salzburg, we could begin to make out the northern and eastern range of the Alps in the far distance. This was the first time that I´ve been to Alps, so I was quite excited.

I had never been to Salzburg before, but Annie really loves The Sound of Music, a film I´ve never been able to sit through, so I had downloaded some information on places where the filmed particular scenes. We caught a bus to the Mirabelle Palace and Gardens, where Julie Andrews and the children sang "Do-Re-Me." We ate our lunch in the gardens (kosher salami from the Kosherland store in Vienna) and then snuck into the palace to see the marble hall.

Somewhere I had found a note online suggesting that if one had only a limited time in Salzburg and wanted to see Alps, to take the #25 bus to Untersberg. We decided to do so. One 30 minute and very crowded bus ride later, we reached the cable car, known as the "Untersbergbahn." The cable car takes 12 minutes to take people up to the top of an Alp (height: 1772 meters). The ride up was thrilling, with wonderful views of the Alps, Salzburg, and the region around it.

There´s a little alpine lodge above the cable car station on top, but they´re redoing the path, so it´s all torn up. Nonetheless, we made it inside. We all ordered cafe lattes, and after some negotiations, I had the small order of kaiserschmarren with home made apple sauce, while Cherie had the "hauskuchen," in this case, something described as a banana yoghurt torte on biscuit cake. It turned out to be a small mug, with white cake on the bottom, a mixture of yoghurt and banana in the middle and schlagobers (whipped cream) on top.

I was particularly excited to try kaiserschmarren, since I make this often at home (particularly during passover), and I wanted to finally try an authentic version. When the plate came, I was quite glad I ordered a small. I usually describe it as "scrambled pancakes," but that doesn´t really do it justice. It had rum-soaked raisins inside, and dusted with powdered sugar. Just before she plated it, I saw the cook pour on a liquour and I think flame it. It was golden rum. The thick, homemade apple sauce complemented it perfectly.

There was about a dozen people of retirement age but in very good shape at one of the other tables. As one came by I asked about them. She told me they were part of a Alpining association in Austria and had begun their hike in Berchtesgaden (or Berchtesgarden -- I couldn´t tell which she said) at 8 am that morning and had hiked 6.5 hours to get to Untersberg.

Afterwards, we walked up to an overlook with a statue dedicated to the Alpine brigade members who had fallen during the first and second world wars. We tried to avoid having it in any of our photos.

The air and the views were spectacular and there were paragliders looping over head. The hillsides were covered in small yellow and white wild flowers, with a few violet ones for contrast. We met a woman from Utah named LaDawn who had been on one of the Sound of Music Tours and was able to fill us in on where all the scenes were filmed.

We took the same cable car down and bus back to town, so she pointed out other √≠mportant film locations in route. We walked across the bridge into the Alt Stadt. While the others were shopping, I went to get some cash (our hotel in Vienna doesn´t take credit cards, and I was low). After I met back up, we went to a small garden cafe where we were able to try Salzburger Nockerl. I tried to make this once, but my version didn´t come out nearly as nice. It is very light like a souffle.

Then it was back on the train for the 2.5 hour journey back to Vienna. This morning, we´re off to our last stop: Budapest.

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