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Rainy Birthday

One of the reasons I chose to visit Germany at this time is that Jenny’s 31st birthday is this week. In fact, it was a couple of days ago on Saturday. She wasn’t thrilled about the start of her prime and odd year, and the sky cried for her all day long. Still, I think we made the most of it and it was a good birthday in the end. As always, forgive spelling errors and weird words that seem random – I’m battling autocorrect and biergartens.

Jenny’s German roommate suggested Cafe Tomaselli in Salzburg for breakfast, a well know spot to see and be seen. We snagged a spot on the covered patio and ordered coffee to go with our people watching. A tour guide later told us this was one of the oldest restaurants in the world, which I don’t buy because half the restaurants in Europe say this.

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You know what we haven’t discussed yet? People in Germany and Austria love their dogs and take them every where. It is completely normal to see dogs politely joining their masters on the train or in a department store. It’s like everyone here fancies themselves a young American heiress. This little guy joined us for breakfast.

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During our first day in Salzburg, we continually noticed the great fortress on the hill. It showed up in many of our tourist photos like a photo bombing drunk girl.

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That day, despite the drizzly weather and sharp cold breezes, we would tour the fortress.

When I was about 13, my parents took me to Paris while my dad was on business there. My dad, champion traveler, insisted we beat our jet lag by visiting the Arch de Trriomphe on the day of our arrival. When we got there. he decided we would climb to the top. Flights and flights of smelly tourist filled stairs, we emerged in the open air with sore legs, sweaty skin, jet lag hangovers, and a favorite “My Dad Is Soooo Annoying” story. I mention this now because the steep and slippery climb to the top of this fortress put me back in my 13 year old mindset. Only this time my shoes were filled with wet sludge as well.

This is only one of the hills we climbed.

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But it was fine because we got to tour the fortress. There’s no tour guide, though, so you just amble around and read occasional signs indicating a cannon or portal or something. Salzburg likes to brag about this place because it managed to hold off takeovers for 1000 years without actually doing any battle. Outsides just really feared the imposing structure.

Fear my stone walls! Grrrrr.

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For some reason, the fortress is home to a marionette exhibit. If you thought puppets were creepy already, this is not the place for you. Lots of wide staring eyes and fixed smiles.

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Also, this display did not help the “Puppets Are Our Friends” movement.

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We rewarded ourselves with apfelstreudel in the fortress cafe. This is where I found out the German word for whipped cream is “schlag.” And I laughed like a 12 year old boy for 5 minutes.

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In the aftermath of our fortress trip, we carefully picked our way down the steep passage back to the city and tried to find a beirgarten suggested by my friend Rick Steves. After sloshing around for nearly an hour, we found the bar… locked up for the day.

The new philosophy became, “Screw Rick. We are going in the first place that doesn’t reek of smoke.”

And that’s how we found a great hidden gem: a quiet wine bar committed to serving local and sustainable food with special emphasis on the curly coated hog. It ended up being a very happy accident.

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Fortified by wine, we braved the rain again in search of souvenirs and our dinner reservation.

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This is the restaurant. Yes, it is adorable.

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And then we went in Jenny’s birthday pub crawl in which we found out that Austrians make a good approximation of a margarita (but sadly no queso on the menu).

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Prost to Jenny on her 31st! Glad to be here with her.

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OMG It’s the Sound of Music

My sister is razzing me about my delay in writing this post. As you will see, she has an investment in learning about my adventures in Von Trapp land. As always, forgive typos or odd words. I’m doing my best to catch typos and autocorrect mishaps on the iPad, but I still miss some

What trip to Salzburg is complete without a Sound of Music tour? Actually, many trips since English speakers are the only ones who give a flying buttress about the movie.

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When I was small, my older sister loved this movie. We watched it on a near weekly basis at one time. When I told her I would be going to Salzburg, she gushed like a Justin Bieber fan at his Madison Square Garden show. She asked for something cheesy and Sound of Music related as a souvenir. Sadly, as the English speaking tourists are the only ones who care about Maria and the Von Trapps, there’s not actually that much SoM kitsch to be found. Don’t worry, Al, I found something actually useful for your day to day life. There are, however, many SoM tours. We chose the biking tour because Jenny is athletic and I really wanted to see the gazebo and none of the other tours go there.

So, Allyn, this one’s for you.

We met the tour guide and the pack of mostly American tourists at 9:30 AM. It was a good, enthusiastic, and respectful bunch with one glaring exception.

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Here is my enemy. The dreaded woman in the white hat. Totally oblivious to everyone around her. Ran me off the road without realizing it. Kept trying to pass people even though we were riding single file. Taking pictures while riding her bike even though she didn’t seem to have great balance. She is to be despised and avoided. You are warned.

But she was a small annoyance in an otherwise great ride. Even if you are not a SoM fan, this is a great tour because it does take you into the Salzburg countryside, which is harder to access without a tour.

Without further ado, here are the major SoM stops on the tour:

The theater where they sing Edelweiss and escape from the Nazis. Fun fact: the cast was only in Salzburg for 2 weeks and filmed all the location shots at once. Everything else was done on Hollywood lots.

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The fountain where Maria sings about having confidence and splashes herself. In person, it’s much more obvious how far out of her way she had to go to splash herself. You get the sense she was kind of off her chain.

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The abbey where Maria was a problem to be solved and the Von Trapps hid on their way out of town.

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Another fun fact: that iconic scene at the beginning in which the hills are alive makes it look like Maria is in the hills dancing, hears the bells, and is home in 5 minutes. But the hills are not close by, as you can see below. She would at least need a train.

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I call this photo, “Please, Rolfe.” Jenny had to be coerced. She told me I couldn’t put it on Facebook. She said nothing about this blog.

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This is part 1 of Captain Von Trapp’s house. They used 2 buildings for the house on film. This is the back where the kids crawl out of the boats dripping wet and the Baroness acts snooty. Harvard now owns it because OF COURSE they do. Evidently you can stay there like its a hotel in the summer.

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Here is the front of the house, or part 2, and it’s now a college dorm. This is also where the tour guide convinced me to attempt frolicking in the fields a la Maria. Jenny says we look more like figure skaters. I think I look like I’m psyching myself up to do a cartwheel.

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And this is the gazebo! It was originally at House #1 but had to be moved because of tourists sneaking on to the property to take pictures and sing. It’s now in a public garden and there’s a line to take a picture. Jenny declined to humor me on this one, but the guide was eager to play Rolfe to my Leisel. We had a fun tour moment when some girls on the tour started to sing the end of “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” while we posed.

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Fun fact: you can’t go in the gazebo because an older woman was dancing on the benches singing “Sixteen Going on Sixty Three,” and she fell and broke her hip. She sued the city because it is obviously their fault that she was being dumb. And now it is ruined for everyone. Thanks a lot, litigious tourist.

The tour ended at the Mirabelle Gardens, which we already visited and staged a photo shoot.

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This concluded the SoM tour. It also included several more stops relevant to Slazburg history, but who cares about that? All I need to know is that singing well can get you out of most big scrapes.

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Salzburg is Exhausting

Jenny and I just got back to Munich after a full weekend in Salzburg. There’s still much to tell about that trip, but I’m bone tired tonight and I have an early wake up call for a tour of Cinderella’s castle. I’ll have more time to write tomorrow. In the meantime, here’s a preview of our very exciting Mother’s Day morning.

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Fräulein Maria? That sounds familiar…

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Here’s Jenny getting suited up for the day’s excursion.

And here is me looking less athletic but more enthusiastic.

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I don’t know if you can tell, but my bike has the words “Reverend Mother” stenciled on the side. Most of the bikes were named after Sound of Music characters, and I really would have preferred Fritz.

Details forthcoming. Suffice to say there was frolicking in fields and dancing outside a certain gazebo.

The Rick Steves Walking Tour

Today we caught the train from Munich to Salzburg, which was really only interesting when an undercover cop blatantly racially profiled a guy next to us.

Rather than hit every museum in town, we opted to spend the pleasant afternoon strolling through the Old Town. Luckily my old steady Rick Steves has a walking tour for the city. Here are the highlights.

We started at a statue of Mozart that was completely unremarkable. Thanks, Rick. We went on to discover this Italian fountain right in the middle of an Austrian square. I wonder if Bernini knows he got ripped off?

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We moved on to the first of many churches, Salzburg Cathedral. Catchy name, eh? There’s a neat sculpture of Mary in the square right in front of it, and if you stand in a certain spot, the angels on the church facade appear to be crowning her.

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Inside, the church is about what you expect: dreary paintings of the suffering of Christ, swirling Rococo stone work, confessionals that look more like playhouses, and a dome that could be heaven itself.

But this church had a dark underbelly– a secluded crypt area featuring some strange modern art. Jenny and I walked into a cave-like room and recoiled when we noticed a strange shadow moving across the wall.

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Turns out it was a projection in an art installation. Maybe depicting the journey to hell? I don’t know, but we got outta there fast.

Outside the church, we were some what surprised to find a Ringwraith in an alcove. (It’s from Lord of the Rings, Mom. Kind of like a dementor in Harry Potter.)

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The Ringwraith seemed to be looking on in judgement of this courtyard in which a guy is standing on top of a golden ball. No picture here because the sculpture was lame.

Also in the courtyard, another statue of Triton looking really pissed off about not being in Rome. He was accompanied by this creature with questionable genitals and a hamburger.

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Hiding behind the courtyard, we found this ridiculously lovely cemetery in which each plot is a sweet little garden.

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We also noticed this odd door in the middle of a rock face. We decided this is where Sirius Black was hiding. Okay, I decided that. Jenny just said she wandered about the rent there.

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And then we ate an enormous chocolate covered pretzel on the street and we did not regret it.

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My arms look enormous. Nothing but ex lax and water until prom. (Don’t worry– that’s just a quote from Never Been Kissed. I completely ate an apple strudel today and my arms look nice enough,)

Rick’s tour concluded on a busy shopping street, but we decided to ditch his schedule and find a Biergarten. You can only see so many churches and birthplaces of famous composers before you’re like, “Whatver, Europe is old, we get it.”

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We did find something curious on our way to dinner: this bridge covered in locks. Our best guess is that married couples write their names on the locks and then leave on the bridge for good luck. No reason given for why this bridge.

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Dinner was from a food truck. I know– how hipster of us. Jenny went for weinerschnitzel, and I got dangerous with a mystery meat sandwich.

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Jenny knows the name of this sandwich, but she’s asleep right now. Let’s just assume it starts with an “L” and has too many consonants.

It actually wasn’t bad. Kind of like a strange ham sandwich bathed in mustard.

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With solid food in our stomachs, we scurried into a street wine festival that popped up outside the concert venue for our evening’s entertainment. Random wine is preferable to planned wine any day.

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Check it- fizzy strawberry wine! We are like a country song!

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The drinks led to our play date in the Mirabell gardens which you can see here.

We ended our night with a string quarter concert in Mirabell Palace, the former Salzburg home of some drooling Hapsburgs. We didn’t take pictures there, but we met a pack of older women traveling together who called themselves “The Traveling Grannies.” They were quite posh and seemed utterly shocked by our Americanness. I couldn’t tell you much about the music except that I knew two of the songs because my employer uses them as hold music.

Tomorrow it will supposedly storm, so we’re cooking up some alternate plans. Stay tuned!

Delay in Blog

I meant to post a long blog tonight about our first day in Salzburg, but I forgot to ask for a wifi password at the hotel desk and they are now gone and I am wifi-less. I’m using the cell network on my phone right now, but I’d rather not write a long blog here.

So, don’t worry, we are fine and I’ll post some things tomorrow. To whet your appetite: today there was mystery meat, a surprise wine festival, a really large pretzel, hide and seek in a garden, and a pack of ladies who call themselves “The Traveling Grannies.”

For now, so long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, good night….

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