Home > Germany, Personal > Salzburg: More than Mozart

Salzburg: More than Mozart

The rest of my first work week went pretty smoothly, if a bit dully. The whole rising in the dark and leaving work in the dark aspect of my days puts a damper on making plans, although I did have a nice time hanging out with my roommates in our apartment. Friday though, I took advantage of an offer Simon had made Monday night at our oh so delicious Mexican dinner to travel with him to Salzburg where he lived (pre and soon post ESO) in a house with his girlfriend, his sister and four other housemates. Eager as always to grab opportunities like these when they come up, I accepted and Friday at 5 we hurried out from work to catch a series of trains leading from the office to Munich, and then onto the hour and a half train to Salzburg, crossing the apparently unimportant border into Austria without even a wilkommen sign or any sort of passport check. Simon, who makes this trip every weekend, bought some beer for me and him to share on the ride, and the conductor who took our tickets didn’t even blink at the sight, itself a surreal experience to one used to the rather more uptight views of transit personnel in America. Quite randomly, we saw someone Simon knew from his last train trip who totally coincidentally had also just graduated from Boston University, just a reminder of how small the world is I suppose. Once we arrived in Salzburg we took a bus to Simon’s place, a converted barn (really) on the northeast outskirts of the new city.

How to describe the house and the inhabitants? Well the most all-encompassing description would perhaps be “bohemian.” From the scattered cushions and strange homemade oil paintings interspersed with Asian or abstract wall hangings to the miasma of tobacco, incense, and cooking that clung to every nook and cranny, the house was like the distilled essence of teenage independence dreams. The constant reggae or similar sounds played in the living room for hours merely complemented the Bob Marley/Rastafarian shirts won under the dreadlocks and headbands sported by several of the housemates. Not that they were burn-outs by any means, just that they had taken certain aspects of American and general pop culture to their logical extremes. I met Simon’s girlfriend Nina, his sister Silvana, and most of the rest of the group living there/ hanging out there for the evening. Everyone spoke at least passable English but much of the time they spoke German amongst themselves with me straining to pick out a word here and there. One of the housemates was among other things a chef of some sort and made us a delicious and fancy cake with chocolate and raspberry sauce in between playing with devil sticks (shades of my time in Israel), and I spent an enjoyable time getting to know the group a little bit before eventually heading to bed.

The next day, while everyone else in the house had to work or study for exams, Simon and I took a bus into the old city of Salzburg, crossing the Salzach river (so-called because the city had grown wealthy and powerful from controlling the salt that was shipped down the river from nearby salt mines). The old town was a Bavarian/Austrian mélange, so realistic it seemed almost fake. The baroque and often exquisite signs above most of the stores fit the cobblestone paths well although seeing the golden arches of McDonald’s surrounded by a wrought iron wreath was a bit jarring. Accompanied by Simon and my incredibly helpful Rick Steves guidebook (thanks Uncle Bruce!) I found my way from Mozartplatz, with its enormous statue of…well Mozart, to the Salzburg panorama, a gorgeous 360 degree painting of Salzburg a few centuries ago. Not too long after, we made our way to the HohenSalzburg, the enormous fortress that sits on the cliffs over the city like a brooding vulture (helped by the Vulture Tower in its demesnes). Forgoing the funicular as recommended by Rick, we hiked up the mountain to the castle and wandered around inside, looking at exhibits ranging from marionettes dressed like 16th century soldiers, to a broad range of military outfits and paraphernalia covering four centuries and ending (rather conveniently I thought) after World War I. We took a guided audio tour of the inner courtyard, which allowed us to get to the top of one of the tower ramparts and look down at the spreading sight of Salzburg in winter. I liked comparing the small but bustling metropolis to the tiny town of centuries before. It was easy to see how Salzburg had remained independent so long, and even easier to see why they surrendered without a fight to Napoleon. Afterward, we rode the funicular back down the mountain because it had grown rather chilly and walked the streets a bit more, seeing when Mozart lived and crossing back across the river to the newer part of the city. After about 20 minutes we reached a restaurant that Rick recommended as good and not touristy, which was what I was looking for. The Wies Biergarten was very much the classic yet modern Austrian beer hall and brewery. I’m pretty certain I was the only non-European there, which suited me fine. With Simon to help me translate, we ordered house beers and pickled beef (pretty much everything in both Germany and Austria is pork, which can make things difficult for me as I try to avoid schwein). It was very tasty although I could almost hear my arteries clanging shut as I mopped up the remaining sauce with the provided black bread. Content, we made our way, a little more slowly and unsteadily than before, back to the house and another night of relaxing by the fire with a reggae and German susurrus providing background for my own conversations with Simon, Nina and others. Having spent a semester studying in Hawaii, Nina was delighted with the chance to speak English with someone whose American accent and idiom matched her fond memories of Waikiki. In turn, I was fascinated to hear about how life works in Austria, the schooling system and the (to me) intensely complicated path to a career people my age in the country must take. Worn out, everyone eventually made their way to bed with Simon and me agreeing to meet in the kitchen at 10 the next morning.

Around noon, Simon got up and came down. I had spent the morning chatting about America, Europe and other topics with two of his other housemates, Johannes and Colvana, who had just recently come back from a fabric exhibition in Frankfurt as part of their plan to make clothes and provide clothes-making jobs to the needy. After Simon was ready, we hit the town once again, this time making our way to the Museum of Modern Art, an elevator ride up a steep cliff away, for a few hours of culture. Culture in this case turned out to mean some interesting experiments with light, the crazy paintings and life of famous Austrian E.L. Kirchner and an awful lot of nudes either drawn or manipulated by Arnulf Rainier. After a coffee (hot chocolate in my case of course) we wandered the streets some more, looked in at a truly enormous store of fancifully decorated Easter eggs, and made our way back to the house. After a pasta dinner and the expected hours abhängen (hanging out) in the living room, we went to bed early because we had to catch an early train back to Munich and Garching.

The morning started out well enough, waking up early and catching the bus was not an issue. The problem started when the secret police of the bus came and asked us for our ticket, flashing a badge like some sort of low-rent Joe Friday on Dragnet. He gave us a hard time about the tickets, which in our early morning rush we had forgotten to buy. He wanted us to pay an exorbitant fine, but we talked him down to paying half, which promptly went into his pocket: my first bribe, I was very proud. At the train station we got on the first train just fine but when we got off to transfer just inside the German border we saw the train we needed leaving. Apparently our first train had gotten in one minute late. Simon was shocked, saying that this had never happened to him before but all I could do was laugh as it just absolutely fit the Three Stooges tone of the rest of the morning. We finally got a train a bit later than we had intended, and five hours after we arose, pulled into the station for work. As for the rest of the week, I will have some of my first written pieces coming out and will be working on the script of a video podcast, a project I am excited to tackle.

Categories: Germany, Personal
  1. Hannah Z
    January 21, 2010 at 2:41 am

    Wow Eric! Sounds amazing and like such an adventure

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