Salzburg return!

Friday, September 29th – After a very busy event in Vienna from September 15-18, I had Friday the 19th all to myself. I met with my boss and colleague over brunch, had some food with Norbert and Theresa, and they took me to the west train station to catch my 15:45 train to Salzburg. I got on it okay, and then spent most of the ride moving backwards to Salzburg, listening to good music on my iPod (Leonard Cohen, Boris, Elliott Smith, Acid King, etc.), drinking big cans of beer as the trollies rolled by. I got there at 7:00. I went to look for a tourist information, but at 7:15 I found one that had closed at 7:00. D’oh!! Got a can of Stiegl beer from the local grocery store for E0.89, cheap. I walked towards downtown, my feet guiding the way. Although I hadn’t been in that part of town for nearly 20 years (I had visited Salzburg in 1989 after my work exchange in Fussen, Germany – arranged to meet Pete Hovinen there and ran into Gerry Bouma by coincidence – and then in 1997 on my honeymoon with Naoko, but in 1997 I didn’t go to the train station), I knew exactly what to do. It was like that scene in “Apt Pupil” when former SS officer Ian McKellan gets right back in jackstep after many years out of uniform. Maybe it’s not the right analogy, but it felt a bit like the old reflexes were being revived. At the river, I spotted an Asian guy looking at a map of Salzburg just like the one I had gotten from the train information kiosk, and we chatted a bit. He’s a radiologist from Korea who had also been in Austria for a conference. He told me where the youth hostel was and said he’d gotten a private room there. I thought I’d check that out, so I found the place and got myself a private room for one night (none were available for the following night). I went out for a stroll around the city, passing first through Mozartplatz, the American Express office, and on to Smoking Statue and the Cafe Paracelsus. It’s now an Irish bar called Dubliners (how original), and I thought about getting my dinner there, but one look at the menu turned me off. I went next to look for the Hotel Elephant that I remember from those days, but it was closed for renovation!! I walked along the Getreidegasse, soaking up the memories. There was a crowd gathered in front of the Mozarts Geburtshaus, but further on barely anyone. Near McDonald’s I met a funky German busker with his dog. I chatted with him for a while, gave him my change, and we sang Leonard Cohen’s “So Long, Marrianne” together, stopping only when he broke a string. He did cool jamming latin stuff on the guitar, we talked a while about life, and he introduced me to his dog Jimi. I walked around looking for food, found one place that would have been okay, but they were busy and I was looking at an hour wait for my food. Went to yet another place on one of the really narrow alleys Goldgasse, and had a great meal. After the meal there, went out into the big Residenzplatz square next to the Salzburg cathedral and admired the festival going on there. Had a long thin beer at an outdoor stall, marvelled at the happy Austrians enjoying life. Went back to the youth hostel, got another beer, took it back to the room, chilled out and slept.

Saturday, September 20 – What a great night’s sleep on a super-comfortable bed!! Ate breakfast by myself, checked out of my room, and got myself another one for the night – eight-bed dormitory room! Oh well, always something new. Went downtown again, did a bit of shopping before the stores closed, then got on the 22 bus to the Moosstrasse, happy as a clam. Got out at 106 Moosstrasse, went up to the old school. The door was locked, but a little boy let me in. Met one of the sups, she told me where the dean was. I talked to him for a while, with two seniors listening in, about how all the years have treated me, how the years have treated the school, and life in general. The kids don’t do trips as far afield as Moscow any more, so they were interested to hear that we used to go there. The school now has just over 100 students, down from 170 in the day, but all of them live on campus. There is a new building out back (although it’s not that new any more) and there are fewer trees out back and no smoking shed. They still have the old “drinking permission” thing, which is defined as “a beer with dinner,” and no smoking permission at all. Kids are not allowed desktops, and laptops have to be locked away by sups after study hour. I wonder what their cellphone policy is. I went for a walk out back into the Moos, perhaps thinking to walk to my old dorm Edelweiss from my sophomore year, but it was pretty far. I turned around and went down the Moosstrasse to get some food for lunch. I found a new mini-mart at 12:10, but the sign said “closed at 12:00.” D’oh again!! Walked up the Moosstrasse a bit to look for my old dorm from my junior year Kellner (was it called Kellner?), but couldn’t find it either. I guess those old reflexes aren’t as good as I thought. Headed downtown again, walking along the Moosstrasse and marveling at the fantastic greenery, the lovely houses, the fantastic views of the Untersberg, and the monstrous tractors going by all the time. Wow – Austria. Why do I live in chaotic Asia when there’s places like Austria around? I know – it’s the economy, stupid! I found a gas station where I bought a beer, then I found a supermarket where I bought a bun, a pretzel, and a beer. Got to the Riverside Guitars shop that I saw downtown from the bus, but it has also just closed. D’oh again!! Walked along the riverside to take in the craft fare. Bought a monster pretzel as big as my head and munched it as I walked along. Went along the Getreidegasse again and through the town and back to the youth hostel. Got into my room, found my bunk, and met another guy in the room, a backpacker from Australia. Rested up for 15 minutes, chatted a bit, then hit the road again. Went up to the castle. Got there just before 5:00, but it was open until 7:00, so I went there for a tour. In all those years in Salzburg I had never once been up to the castle, or even to walk around the Monchberg that the castle sits on. The castle was pretty funky, except for the modern Austrian military exhibit that showed uniforms and primitive weapons. That was a lot of walking and a lot of climbing, but quite good fun. Went out of the castle, walked along the length of the Monchberg, which was probably nice than the castle itself. Green parkland, with great views of the castle and both sides of Salzburg – downtown looking over the buildings and the river towards the Kapuzinerberg, and then the other way towards the Undersberg – it was just lovely. Unfortunately, the day was overcast and cold, and by 6:30 it was starting to get a bit gloomy. I made it all the way to the Augustiner brewery, so I went in there, had some Leberkas and a Maas of beer, ate and drank in the hall at a table with young Germans. I asked them to take my picture, and hoped we could strike up a conversation, but they were pretty cool. Oh well. Walked back into the city, took a stroll up the Linzergasse on the other side of the river. A lot wider than I remember, it was. Headed back to the Residenzplatz and the carnival there next to Salzburg cathedral. Walked past the cathedral to the otherside, the Domsplatz where they had more carnival attractions and a big beer tent with an oompah band. Cool! I went in just as the band was finishing up. Boo. I got a beer and wandered around looking for a place to sit or some cool people to talk to. I set my beer down at a spot once and took a picture. An old man told me in German that the place was taken, I said I only wanted to set the beer down while I took a picture. After that he seemed like he wanted to talk to me, but his Austrian accent was so difficult to understand I really had no idea what he was talking about. The party was good, except for the patch of scrawny young hooligans who were blocking people’s way and causing trouble, looking for a fight. There’s always one in every crowd. After 30 minutes the band started up again, they played one song, then did “ein prosit,” then took five minutes to figure out what they were going to do next. Good music, but a bit disorganised and not very charismatic. Finished up there, then went back to the youth hostel, had a beer, watched the end of “The Sound Of Music” (which they show there every night) falling asleep in my chair, then up to the dorm room to sleep. I woke up a few times in the night, but mainly slept through until morning.

The two days in Salzburg were amazing. I spent some money, had some food, had some beer, but mainly I walked the streets. I walked for 12 hours on the Saturday I reckon, taking in the sights, breathing the clean air, and munching and drinking. Great, great, great. The whole city is a near-pristine work of art, everything clean and immaculate, the crusty walls centuries-old, fresh paint on everything, and hardly a spot of construction anywhere at all. Walking along the tidy alleys, I just needed to look up to see something surprising, like the huge statue of an angel treading on a demon that was built into a street corner, or ornate street signs in businesses. The views of the rooftops from the hill were something you don’t really get in Vienna or many other cities, and it was a great journey for me.

Sunday, September 21 – Woke up early, went down to have a quick breakfast, got my bag together, and then left the youth hostel to hit the streets again looking for something to see and do. I walked downtown, got near Domplatz and the Salzburg Cathedral just before 8:30 and the bells started ringing – took a video and a picture with my camera, then the batteries breathed their last. I wouldn’t be able to take any more pictures until I could get close to my recharger, but whatever – I had taken over 100 pictures. Went into the Cathedral and there were a couple dozen people sitting waiting for the service to start. While I was there, a bell rang, the lights brightened, and the priest came out. The organ started, and it was the live service! I spent a few moments in there, then left it to the worshippers. Found the Franciscan Church, that is a bit smaller and quite gloomy. Walked across the river and wandered around the Steingasse that is between the row of houses that lines the river and the Kapuzinerberg itself. Climbed up the Kapuzinerberg and got a great great great view of the river, the city, and the Untersberg behind it. Went down, walked towards the train station, with a brief detour around the Mirabellgarden. Took a train just before noon, ate my bun and drank my beer on the train, got to Vienna around 3:00. Went to the Hotel Regina, chilled out a bit there with a great meal, then got my suitcase, got my iPod and camera battery charger out of my luggage, got those things charged up, then headed to the airport. Checked in, did some shopping in the so-so Vienna duty free area, then headed to the plane. After a short flight to Paris, I walked around the Charles de Gaul airport (nice hollow space) and got on my flight. Twelve hours to Singapore and I’m home! Not an eventful flight, not much sleep, not a very good in-flight movie experience (this generation of self-serve entertainment is sub-par, although at least they always seem to have good Simpsons episodes – I almost always manage to get ones I’ve never seen before), but at least lots of mini-Heinekens. Got home, saw my family, showered, distributed presents, unpacked, got started on the long trek back to sanity.

Mozart’s birth house on the Getreidegasse by day.

Moos crucifix just around the corner from the old SIPS building.

Salzburg International Preparatory School, now called American INternational School. Largely unchanged from the eighties, although they’ve cut down the big trees that used to shade one side of the building.

Salzburg castle.

With the smoking statue.

Grave in front of a chapel on the way up to the castle.

Having a beer at the Augustiner brewery.

Busker playing a grand piano in front of the Mozart birth house.

View of Salzburg from the other side of the river with the Untersberg in the distance.

Salzburg church bells

Night Panorama of Salzburg

Salzburg beer hall band

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