Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Mental Health Day - Salzburg

Wednesday was our mental health day for the trip (at least the official one – there are two other unofficial ones).  There were no assignments or scheduled events for the students.  They could sleep in, do nothing, or anything they liked.

In the past, I’ve gone to tour the Belvedere Palace, but this time I decided to go to Salzburg for the day.  Three other students decided to come with me, so we went to the train station and bought a combination ticket for Salzburg for 99 Euros. This included round trip tickets (normally 103 Euros), plus all ground transportation in Salzburg (5.70 Euros), plus various museum entry fees.  I think we figured out that altogether, each of us saved over 60 Euros).

It’s a somewhat long trip to Salzburg from Vienna; even at 150 – 225 km/h it took nearly three hours to get there (coming back was quicker – just 2.5 hours).  On arrival, we hit the supermarket and bakery for lunch materials and then headed out to the Mirabell Gardens and Palace for our picnic lunch.  One of the students was a very big Sound of Music fan, so I suggested the gardens, since that’s where they sang the “Do-Re-Mi” song. 

The weather was somewhat nice.  Not too hot, but a little humid if we were not getting the breeze.  The gardens were lovely and some of the roses even had scents.  Tons of tours groups coming through like swarms of bees every few minutes, with the guides recounting the Sound of Music scene in English or German.

We took a bus over to the main town side of the river and visited Mozart’s birth house.  It was about what you would expect.  The story of his life illustrated with portraits and a few family items.  I enjoyed seeing his violin.  No photos allowed, but if one’s phone is on mute and no guards visible …

By now it was around 2:30, so I suggested we go up to the top of the alp (the Untersberg) before it gets any later.  We arrived at the cable car just after 3:00 pm, missing that tram up as it turned out.  For reasons I don’t understand, the bus to the cable car station arrives five minutes after the cable car leaves.  Since the cable car runs every 30 minutes, you end up wasting all this time at the bottom just waiting.  Same problem on the way down, by the way.  The bus leaves five minutes before the cable car arrives at the bottom (though since the buses run every 20 minutes, the wait to leave isn’t so bad).

Once we were on, the car climbs 1300 meters in 9 minutes, with spectacular views on the way.  From the top, you can see all of Salzburg and Alps that lie to its south.  I love being in the mountains, probably more than the beach or anywhere else.

Last time I was here, I had Kaiserschmarrn in the lodge, but they told me that they couldn’t make it for me today.  Instead, we had to settle for hot apple strudel with whipped cream.  I know it’s kind of snobby of me, but I could tell the whipped cream was from a can, not fresh.  The strudel was good, though.

I glanced at my watch and saw that it was now 4:20.  The last cable car leaves for the bottom at 5:00 pm, and if we missed it, it was a 3-hour walk down.  We took a few last photos and ran for the 4:30 car.  It turns out that they add an extra car at 4:45 to make sure that everyone can get down, but I didn’t know that.  We shared our cable car down with a cute dog that seemed somewhat scared (though I don't think he was tall enough to see the view)
Back on the bottom, we took the bus back but stopped at Schloß Hellbrunn, a 400 year-old pleasure palace of the archbishop who ruled Salzburg. They filmed the gazebo scene here, but as we entered, we went to the Wasserspiele entrance.  They asked for our ticket and we showed them our Salzburg cards.  “But you need this ticket” he insisted, but I kept showing our cards and he said “alright, you can enter.”  We were able to catch the last tour of the “water tricks” section of the palace.
The archbishop appears to have had rather secular tastes, and liked to play tricks on his guests when they came to have wine parties at his palace.  In each area, the guide can flip a switch and spray everyone with water.  I found this out when she asked for volunteers at the first grotto, where the archbishop and guests would sit around a fountain drinking wine.  No one would do it, so I volunteered. As I sat, water shot up from all the other seats around me.  However, I was sitting in the archbishop’s seat, so I remained (nervous but) dry.  This was the only time, however, where we didn’t get sprayed.
Further on, there were a variety of grottos where the guide flipped a switch and a fountain squirted water on us.  In one, I saw she was standing behind a low metal barrier, so I scooted in right beside her. “Do you think this will protect you?” she asked me.  “Oh, I’m just trying to hear you better,” I answered.  It did shield me, though.
The water-driven mechanical orchestra and birds were a lot of fun, and everyone got a laugh out of being sprayed with water.  We dried pretty quick and no one was soaked through.
Afterwards, we headed into the garden where we found the gazebo and took many, many pictures.
By now it was nearly 6 pm, so we headed back in town so the students could buy some souvenirs. Along the way, we found a fountain by the cathedral where Julie Andrews shot one scene. 
Eventually, we found a decent place for dinner.  We all ordered the Spinatknödel, which were two dumplings made with spinach and nuts and served with butter and cheese.  They were light but filling and came with a side salad.
For dessert, I was finally able to order Kaiserschmarrn. I was so excited that I forgot to take a photo until after I had eaten a third of it.
By the time we finished dinner we had about 45 minutes to make the 9:08 pm train back to Vienna.  We walked to the river and found a bus in no time at all.  
 I think we all were pretty tired when we made it back to the hotel a little after midnight, but emotionally and psychically, we were rested.

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