Salzburg, Austria it was for 3 nights to kill time until I met Denise (and Sofian) in Vienna (a random destination we selected since she could fly direct from Heathrow for a reasonable sum with only a few days notice).
The train ride to Salzburg was a bit bazaaro (and pricey). Oddly, I was in a compartment with a Chinese man that seemingly spoke neither the local language nor English, but kept saying "mamma mia, mamma mia" and speaking to me and the British girl despite the fact that we had NO idea what he was saying. It was actually kind of amusing until the other three seats were occupied by loud, obnoxious Austrian teens (I guess teens are the same worldwide, thankfully they weren't there too long).
The rain continued so I was not about to tour the city upon arrival- nothing looks very nice in the rain anyway (plus, I had already walked to the guesthouse in the rain lugging my backpack).
Salzburg is the home of Mozart, so I spent my first afternoon visiting Mozarthaus, the apartment where he lived which is now a museum with old pianos and a fairly interesting audio guide about his life.
That evening I really just wanted a glass of wine at a cute wine bar I passed on my walk home from Mozarts. So, they don't have a menu, but they would be happy to make me a small fish meal. Yeah, that turned into a 4-course meal (good food makes me happy, even more so now). They left a full bottle of Slovenian wine on my table and just charged me for what I drank- everyone should do that! So what if it was twice what I paid for a bed that night ;-)
Alas, the rain plaguing the region for days has passed- sunshine!!!!!!!
But wait, I can't enjoy the sun just yet since the real purpose of coming to Salzburg was not classical music, it was "The Sound of Music."
I dedicated a whole day to the film, first watching the movie for 3 hours in the morning (all the hotels in Salzburg seem to show the film since so many tourists come for this reason) and then I went on the 4 HOUR tour of sites, including the gazebo, the family home (2 palaces were used- one for the front and one for the rear) and the church where they got married. In between the stops there was singing along to the soundtrack. It was really silly!
After (wasting) the whole day on nonsense, I felt I should take advantage of the fact that the famous Salzburg Festival happened to be going on while I was in town. Since all the cheaper tickets were sold out and the operas were going for 290 Euro, I opted for a Brahms violin and piano concert for 70 Euro. Sure, not traditionally my thing, but I was willing to expand my horizons. As it turned out, I didn't have to expand them for very long since the concert was ONLY 45 MINUTES! Yes, cost per minute wise the opera may have been more of a bargain!
On the walk to and from the concert I did get to stroll through Mirabell Gardens, the site where Doe-Ray-Me-etc. was filmed. Besides being amused by the movie sites, the gardens were beautifully landscaped with the backdrop of the Cathedral, Castle and mountains in the background- not bad (I actually never made it across the river to the old town to see those up close- where did the time go?)
That night I had a beer with some Dutch and Canadians laughing about my shock over the 45 minute concert (yes, I had considered it was only intermission, but it wasn't!) and other Salzburg sites. Not being a WWII buff (or "Band of Brothers" watcher) I had no idea that Berchtesgaden, German, only 11 miles away, was such a point of interest. What the hell, I'd go.
The next morning Matt and I boarded the 480 bus to Germany (which was 10 minutes late- so un Austrian!).
The Eagle's Nest Tour took us to all sorts of Hitler related sites in the Obersalzberg area- site of Hitler's former residence, the Berghof, and the SS' second seat of power.
We toured the bunker system that was underneath the former Nazi headquarters in the Alps. The tour claimed that many of Hitler's ideas and decisions can be traced back to this mountainside, including the thoughts expressed in Mein Kampf (a popular wedding gift at the time, interestingly).
Although the Allies destroyed nearly all the Nazi sites (whether in the original air raid or before their departure from Germany so the sites did not become shrines to Hitler or the Nazi party), we did see the locations of Hitler's and Albert Speer's homes, Martin Bormann's model farm, the Platterhof's theater and Nazi party headquarters. The SS-Officers' housing is actually still standing and rented out by the government to private citizens.
The tour culminated at the Eagle's Nest, the tea house built at 6017 ft. as a gift for Hilter's 50th birthday. It seemed like an awfully passive aggressive gift to me since it is atop the highest road in Germany and Hitler was afraid of heights.
The original brass-lined elevator is still used to bring visitors inside the building, which is really nothing special (despite that it was a feat of engineering back in the day based on where and how quickly it was constructed). The outside however- wow, what views (we were lucky, 50% of the time it is fogged in)!!!!!!!!
All that Hitler called for a beer. Coincidentally there were two New Yorkers on the tour, Matt and Phil, so the four of us went to the Augustiner Braustubl, a beer hall run by MONKS! I had never been to a beer hall before, but it is kinda cool- people of all ages were hanging in this huge garden picnicking and drinking beer from 1 liter mugs. Although our first pour was uber foamy (cause the guy just tapped the wooden keg with a giant mallet), the pretzels and other treats were yum.
See, now you can understand why I never got to the old town!