I expect there are probably as many different approaches to travel as there are people in this world, however, I think there are two basic mentalities people fall under. There are people that plan out their activities, creating an itinerary of how their time will be spent. Then there are people that just show up and wing it once they get there. I belong to the latter camp, preferring the excitement of discovery. I booked our Airbnb the day before we traveled to Salzburg, cutting it close even by my standards. It just felt like it came up so quickly, I didn’t even have time to do my usual “Quirky things to do in _____” or “_____ off the beaten path” searches.
So I arrived in Salzburg with little knowledge of what we were in for outside of vague images of the Sound of Music and Mozart playing in my head, and a recommendation from my father, as he’d gone there for some R&R when he’d been stationed in Germany. We hoofed it from the train station to our Airbnb cottage. We hopped on the bus, getting off one stop early at the recommendation of Daniel, our Airbnb host, to wander the Mirabella Gardens. The Gardens were indeed quite lovely and worthy of a stop, but somehow I had not expected it, or Salzburg really, to be full of tourists. Emerging from the gardens we came to a bridge over the most scenic river I think I’ve ever seen. I smiled to see the sides of the bridge positively covered in locks left behind by couples as proof of their devotion to each other. I watched quizzically as a river tour boat spun in continuous circles, doing the water equivalent of wheelies. I later learned that it was a drinking tour, which made the whole thing seem like a terrible idea.
We forged on across the bridge, dodging a gauntlet of protruding selfie sticks. Our reward on the other side of the river was a good meal and a great beer at Sternbräu. The shops were largely closed, but we made mental notes of places to come back to the next day. We did stumble across a lush courtyard that turned out to be catacombs. I’d never seen anything quite like it, but it reminded me a bit of Mexican ofrendas. These were the most well kept graves I’ve ever witnessed, carefully groomed with flowering plants and flickering candles and decorations for the Easter holiday.
After a good night’s rest, we came back the next day ready to conquer the city. First up was lunch at the Wilder Mann, where we had a quick beer the night before, and came back for the rustic ambiance and promises of a wild garlic soup on the menu. I am a true garlic fiend, and it did not disappoint, nor the garlic dumplings I ordered for my main. [This is where I should note that an oft overlooked relationship compatibility factor is where you both fall on the garlic loving spectrum. I am lucky to have found another 11]
We set off winding through the narrow alleyways, pausing before sculptures and fountains, drinking in all of the architectural details. We saw a handwritten sign that told me I had hit my own personal jackpot. I had found the oldest bakery in Salzburg. The Stiftsbackerei St. Peter has been around since the 12th century and they are still baking their loaves in the original wood fired oven. A line winds out the door and up the stone steps. The smell of their wares once you cross the threshold is intoxicating. A small loaf of a crusty rye Holzofenbrot left with us. Clutching my brown paper package, I could feel it was still warm.
With free time to spare before our train departed, we set about hiking up the very steep and winding paths to the fortress to burn off some of our ongoing carb fest. We didn’t mind the exertion of the incline, pausing a couple times to take in the scenery and catch our breath, but a lift is available for those who prefer the convenience.
In several courtyards below, a lively market had popped up with vendors selling anything you might need to celebrate Easter, from fresh flowers to lamb shaped cakes to cured meats and cheeses. Around the corner of each alley, it seemed there was another magnificent surprise in store. The night before we’d seen massive woven baskets that reminded me of the basket I once flew in on a hot air balloon ride, and nearly that size. They were now overflowing with all manner of freshly baked pretzels. Hot air balloon baskets full of pretzels?! Some people may dream of sugar plums, or cream colored ponies, but if we’re listing a few of my favorite things, this would go near the top.