Salzburg, Austria

Salzburg, Austria
June 19th 2010

The birthplace of Mozart. The setting for ‘The Sound of Music’. That’s all I knew of Salzburg. It was as pretty as they say it was. It rained the whole time I was there but there in lay a hidden silver lining.

I love arriving to a freshly cleaned hostel room that doesn’t have any people in it yet. The bathrooms are fresh and clean, while the room is neat and orderly. I can sit there in peace and quiet while I contemplate my next move for the day. I get to take the inaugural “first shower” of the fresh bathroom. I guess I appreciate these little things after living in hostels for a while; I’ve rarely had neat and clean hostel mates as they always seem to destroy the place with their filthy ways.

I liked the fact Salzburg was really small. One could cover the entire Old Town in a matter of hours. It had its fair share of attractions like Mozart’s birthplace and the place he lived in until he was about 24 years of age before leaving for Vienna (the small town was not enough, he wanted to play for bigger crowds, understandable). I didn’t bother paying any money to see the insides, just the outsides were enough. I guess at this point, I’d rather spend money on food than museums. An entry fee is the cost of a good meal at a restaurant. I walked around, looked at churches, old buildings, the shops surrounding the area, nothing really stood out compared to what else was found in Europe.

I ate some sirloin steak with noodles at a small little Austrian joint tucked away in the alleys. I liked the fact the guy serving me wore lederhosen (I think that’s what the German/Austrian get up is called. Hat, shirt, knee long shorts, suspenders…?).

I made my way back to the hostel. Saw an older Asian lady walking into the hostel to meet up with her Asian family inside. I thought to myself “LOL lady, you look out of place in a hostel.” I went to finish watching a World Cup game that was on and headed up to my room, hoping that I was still the only resident of my room.

Jong family

Turns out, the Asian family WERE my roommates! I was so bemused. The older gentleman of the group immediately introduced himself and asked me where I was from. I told him and his face lit up; so were they! I am naturally pretty happy at this coincidence since I liked meeting Malaysians on the road. I guess I assume there aren’t many of them out there but over the course of my travels, I find this to be false.

The Jong family were from Kuching, Sarawak. They spoke a brand of Hakka I haven’t heard before although I could make out some things they say. They were friendly folk but also very touristy. All they’ve been eating on their European travels were Chinese food. I personally refuse to touch any American food while in Europe (meaning McDonalds, Subway, KFC, Burger King etc.).Well, the Jong family were lovely for the most part but they flooded the bathroom within the first hour. I don’t know how. It was impossible but they did. It was disgusting.

The next day was interesting. I wanted to do the “Fraulein Maria Bicycle Tour” and headed out in the rain to look for it. I don’t know why I thought anyone would hold a bicycle tour in the rain but I wanted to try anyway. I looked around at the place it was supposed to be at but didn’t find anything but I did find a tour happening across the street called “The Original Sound of Music Tour”. The bus was just about to leave so I decided to pay €38 (!!!) for it and hopped on the bus. I don’t know if it was worth that much but it was certainly a good decision on my part.

St Gillen

Von Trapp home backside

16 going on 17

Got to see lots of locations where the SoM was filmed. The two palaces that served as the front/back end of the Von Trapp family home, the glass house where Liesl/Rolf sang “I am 16 going on 17”, the river where everyone fell out from the boat, the trees were the kids climbed, the church where Maria married Capt Von Trapp, the steps where the kids did the “so do la fa mi do re” song. etc. We passed the town of St Gillen which had a stunningly beautiful landscape.

Anyway, that’s it for Salzburg. I am too tired to remember all the details of the place, those were the highlights.

Salzburg, Austria Pictures

Vienna, Austria

Vienna, Austria
June 17th, 18th 2010

It took me about an hour to get to Vienna from Bratislava. I arrived at a train station all the way across town from where my hostel was at. I managed to take the metro (underground trains) all the way to Hutteldorf, which was on the outskirts of Vienna (that’s what I get for booking hostels so late). I still haven’t figured out the metro ticket system in Europe (or tram tickets for that matter). I buy a ticket, validate it, no one checks it, I have no idea how long the ticket is valid for. I’ve been told it’s valid for one direction only but unlimited transfers in between. But is there a time limit for each ticket? Not sure about the one in Austria, I know other countries have a time limit (15 mins, 30 mins, 2 hours etc. I think it says on the back of tickets). So sometimes I get off at a stop, do whatever I want, come back a few hours later, hop on the train with the same ticket going in the forward direction to the next stop. I didn’t even buy tickets for trams because I didn’t see ticket machines at tram stops. I see so many locals just hopping on/off, do they have some tram pass? Or are they skipping out on tickets too?

I spent the first day wandering the middle of Vienna. Lots of tourists, shops, sightseeing material (the Stefandom, museums, Parliament, Rathaus etc.) I didn’t actually go in any of them since I am sick of these touristy things already. For me, it’s more about being there on the streets, looking at life around me, and the food. I will throw in some sights if they are unique enough or that piques my interest (Schloss Schonbrunn and the cemeteries of Beethhoven/Schubert/Brahms/Strauss come to mind). I am not a pub crawler nor am I a clubber. More on that subject in another entry.

I ate some streetfood (severely overpaid for what I got but I didn’t see prices listed). Schnitzel box (gotta have schnitzel in Vienna right?) and some wursts. Went to an Irish pub to watch Argentina/South Korea play. Had a Guinness (€4.80 for a pint?! I’ve been spoiled by cheap beer in Eastern Europe…). Good game. Left after to wander some more.

There was a square full of high end shops and baller tourists. I look at everyone and I’m usually the only guy not sporting designer jeans and shirts, and stylish shoes. I prefer practicality over fashionable due to my long-term travel agenda. Lots of backpackers I’ve met travel with enormous packs and luggages, filled with outfits for all occasions. It’s ok, I travel light and I’m happy with it.

Schnizel

I finally navigate my way to a restaurant that’s been serving wien schnitzel (Vienna schnitzel) for 100 years. Yeah, for a place that’s been around that long, I had to try it out. It’s called “Zu den 2 Leiserln”. It’s a small joint, decorated very old fashioned, which was charming. I ordered a bottle of herbal soda called Almdudler and got served a humongous portion of schnitzel and potato salad. The waiter was one of the friendlist I’ve encountered in all of Europe so he got a 20% tip. Tipping in Europe is not customary. The waiters don’t work for tips, so they don’t provide customer service and smiles either, so American people should just accept this instead of being shocked like the ones I had dinner with in Cesky Krumlov.

The next day, I had three objectives : Schloss Schonbrunn, getting my ticket to Salzburg, then the cemeteries of famous composers.

SS

Schloss Schonbrunn was a pleasant surprise to me. This was the summer palace of the Hapsburg family (one of the most powerful families in Europe for a time period). The garden was amazingly large and beautiful (my pictures don’t do it justice). At the end, you have the world’s oldest zoo.

penguins

I’m a huge zoo fan. I’ve been to all the zoos in all the cities I’ve lived in (even the famous San Diego zoo). And I just can’t pass up Tiergarten, the world’s oldest zoo but also one of the most modern. Sure, I found lots of the same animals I’d find in every other zoo but the layout of the zoo, the fact that all the animals decided to come out that day (instead of hiding), the amazing penguin display, the interaction people can have with animals (walking into rooms with bats, birds flying all around you), how close people could get to the animals…I never say this but this was a fine fine zoo. I thoroughly enjoyed it like I’ve never enjoyed a zoo before.

Back to Schloss Schonbrunn. Went on a tour of it. The thing that struck me most about it all was that Empress Elizabeth (or Sisi as she is more famously known) wasn’t one for royalty. She, the mother of the famous Marie Antoinette, was married for political reasons, and so were her daughters. Despite Emperor Franz Joseph loving her dearly, she was always longing for a life of freedom, to travel around to satisfy her curiosities of the world.The family only allowed one of the many daughters to marry for love. It was just the way it was back in those days, marrying for political reasons. I will be reading up more on Sisi as the days go by. An intriguing woman.

beethoven's grave

The cemetery was an interesting one. It was raining, it was gloomy. And I was wandering one of the biggest and finest cemeteries in all of Europe. Some 30000 people are buried her and I’m gravehunting. There weren’t many people around me, just lots of gravemarkers. But after much walking around and some directions from those in the know, I found my way to Group 32A. There lay the graves of Beethoven, Schubert, a marker for Mozart (but he was buried somewhere else in Vienna), Johann Strauss, Brahms…just interesting to be at the final resting place of these legendary composers. I find fun in that.

I arrive back at the hostel, hungry. What does one do when he’s hungry and in a small town with so few restaurants? He eats Chinese food! Beef and broccoli, classic. Except it wasn’t even American broccoli, mere spring onions. But the old Asian man who owned the place had a friendly smile. He cooked the meal for me, and then an Asian lady waitress walked in for her shift and gave me a complimentary glass of Coke. I was the only customer. It was a damned good meal. I find I really enjoy the few Asian meals I’ve had so far. Just brought some comfort to me, being so far from home. I found out they are Chinese and have been in Vienna for 20 years. I find it normal for Asians to immigrate to Canada/USA but Vienna? How about that huge Vietnamese population somewhere in the Czech Republic? What about the huge Japanese population in Brazil? Wow.

Off to Salzburg early tomorrow.

Vienna Pictures