This post is part 1 of a 3-post series on our recent trip to Salzburg. Gute reise!
We spent four days in late February this year in Salzburg, a trip that we planned without a detailed, minute-by-minute itinerary. We managed to have a relaxed getaway, taking in the sights and sounds of this fairy-tale city and its neighbouring attractions, without the stress of a packed schedule. One of the advantages of having a friend living in the place you are visiting is that it takes away the stress of planning all the details. We relied on our friend’s recommendations and thoroughly enjoyed eating at the local favourites and avoiding tourist traps. We discovered that there was much more to Salzburg than its much advertised ‘Sound of Music’ tour or its reputation as the birthplace of Mozart. We have the best memories of roaming the ramparts of the well-preserved Hohensalzburg Castle that towers over the city, eating at the local fish market, and drove south into Germany to see the Konigsee. The city is compact enough to be covered by foot, but we preferred to take a bus to move around.
Getting there: Salzburg is around 5.5 hours by train from Zurich HB. We travelled by Railjet, which has a non-stop train service from Zurich to Vienna (via Salzburg) 5 times a day.
Getting Around: Salzburg is a compact city, so we found it very easy to get around by bus, and we were never more than a 30 minute bus journey from any point in the city. 24-hour bus passes are available for 5.7 Euros if bought in the bus from the bus driver, or 4 Euros from a vending machine. These passes can be used to travel for unlimited bus trips over a 24-hour span. We used taxis on occasion, they are reasonably priced (we paid 8 Euros for a 2 kilometer trip) and easily available in the city.
On our first day in the city, we visited our friend who fed us a wonderful home cooked pork-curry and rice meal, that set the mood for the rest of our trip. We then set off for our apartment, rented via booking.com. Our apartment was in Gnigl, a former mill village district, around 20 minutes away from the city centre. The pictures on booking.com didn’t quite do justice to this beautiful cottage-style apartment.The well-travelled owner, Monica is a pleasant and helpful hostess, always quick to respond to enquiries. The apartment was, in reality, the upper floor of a house built in 1880, on a hillock overlooking grazing cattle, a barely used motorway and a view of the woods. I snuck in a little colouring session on the deck, with a cup of tea and the setting sun for company. We always stay in apartments, and avoid hotels as much as possible, mainly because of the advantage of cooking a meal when we feel like it, and the guarantee of a nice cup of freshly brewed tea in the morning.On our first day, we took the bus from the nearest bus stop to the city centre and walked the streets in the city centre, stopping to admire the many shops in the ‘Altstadt’, such as the utterly charming “Christmas in Salzburg” store, with its beautifully decorated Christmas and Easter windows.
The Altstadt or Old City is home to some of the city’s famous monuments such as the Mozart Geburtshaus (Mozart’s birthplace) museum. The museum stands shoulder-to-shoulder with high street brands, restaurants and shops that line the narrow street. Notice the intricate wrought iron signage that every shop in the street displays.
The Makarsteg pedestrian bridge that stradles the river Salzach is yet another one to join the legions of ‘love-locked’ bridges all over Europe.
We rented a car via Hertz and drove to Lake Konigsee, heading South of Salzburg, and crossed the border over to Germany. The drive was very scenic, with views of the majestic Bavarian Alps. A 40-minute drive later, we arrived at the Berchtesgaden area and found a parking spot with a little difficulty, the area is popular with skiers and a parking space was hard to find on the weekend. From there we walked to the lakeside. In the summer, one of the more popular things to do is to take an electric boat over the lake’s green waters. The Lake Konigsee, said to be the deepest lake in Germany, is also very enchanting, surrounded by cliffs on all sides. In the winter, taking the boat is not an option, as we discovered. The lake had frozen over, ducks waddled lazily over the iced-over lake. We were content taking in the view from the lakeside. We stopped for crepes and then walked around the lakefront, before having a late lunch. The International Bobsleigh federation was hosting the 2017 World Championships on the lakeside when we visited. Possibly another reason why the crowds were just a little more than we had anticipated. We then walked to the base of the Jenner peak where the Jennerbahn takes visitors up the peak. We took a couple of two-person gondolas that sailed over the Konigsee valley, all the way up to the 1,874 m high summit. We were probably the only non-skiing tourists on the summit that day.
The sights from the mountain were breathtaking. From the summit, you can see the Konigssee, the Berchtesgaden village and the Mount Wattzman among other sights spread over the German and Austrian Alps. My son particularly loved the ride in the gondola, and watching skiers zipping below. I imagine the peak would be a hiker’s paradise in the summer! A trip to the Berchtesgaden can also be clubbed together with a stop at the Eagle’s Nest (Hitler’s summer palace), which we skipped.
Part 2 – A visit to Hangar-7 and Hohensalzburg Castle
Part 3 – Eating our way through Salzburg