I had a vacation in Salzburg recently.
'Wait,' you say. 'Aren't you already on vacation?'
I know, you are thinking of your own last vacation, where you traveled to an all-inclusive resort, romantic B&B or a luxurious city hotel. Generally, a vacation is a short term break. A holiday. An escape from regular life, or at least, your boss. But long-term travel isn't a short break and it's a rare vagabond who refers to her travels as luxurious. It's physically and fiscally impossible to maintain a steady diet of hotel rooms and unlimited tourist activities.
I'll give you a rundown of what a typical day looks like in a future post, but it's hardly a vacation in the traditional sense. Instead of hotels, we stay in budget AirBnB apartments, where shower shoes are necessary at times. Rather than eat out every meal, we cook much of our food, where sometimes frozen veggies + jar of curry = dinner. And instead of seeing every attraction, we usually pick the 'best' ones (i.e. FREE). Much more reality than escapism.
'OK, I get it,' you say. 'So why did you have a vacation?'
Glad you asked!
While in Tallinn, I received a message that good friends from Minnesota were going to be in Salzburg, Austria the following week, and would we happen to be nearby to meet up? Perry and I laughed at our good fortune. After locking in transport and accommodation for the first month (and missing out on a potential house sitting opportunity in Oslo), this was the first time we decided to keep things open after our next stop- three days in Riga.
After booking a cheap flight (thanks, Air Baltic) and a nice hotel using points (thanks, US Bank), we high fived. We were about to have a few days that looked like a typical vacation. Upscale hotel, check. Beautiful location, check. Fun tourist activities, check. But the real bonus was having two great friends to share the experience and jazz things up. We love each other and all, but sometimes you need a fresh injection of conversation.
When we checked into the Crowne Plaza, you would think I hadn't stayed in a decent hotel before. I inhaled the delicious new carpet smell like it was the first campfire of the season. I stroked the smooth sheets lovingly. With a tear in my eye, I gazed upon the immaculately clean shower where flip flops would NOT be necessary.
Never have I been so grateful for a hotel room. I began to feel ashamed of the numerous business trips and national sales meetings with similar accommodation, and when asked how my room was, would casually reply 'OK' or, even worse, 'I've had better.' Honestly, what a brat.
Dinner with the Clarks that night was one of those surreal experiences when you are sitting with people you know well, but since it's a strange environment, you keep thinking 'Is this crazy or what?' We swapped travel stories over platters of schnitzel and steins of beer before setting our plan for the next two days. Day One: Tour Salzburg. Day Two: Bus to Eagle's Nest, just over the border in Germany.
Our day in Salzburg was a tour-de-force, courtesy of Jennie, who had been on a legit (guided) tour the day before. It felt great to follow someone else for a change, without thinking about where to turn AND having fun facts provided, free of charge! She showed us the Sound of Music sites (watch Do Re Mi here if you need a refresher), churches with secret entrances, and her favorite cute cafe before we stopped at the bottom of a hill with a path to the fortress on top.
You can choose the funicular (a tram on rails) to take you up to the top, or walk. We figured more walking = more beer earned, so we hoofed it. The rewarding views made a little extra sweat worth it.
After a nice lunch at the top, capped off by a Mozart coffee, (employs a dark chocolate liquor) we toured excavated Roman ruins and a marionette museum.
At the top of the fortress, we noticed a park nearby and headed towards it. This turned out to be good fortune as this was Monchsberg Park, a beautiful green space with quiet trails and outstanding views. If you need to escape the crowds in Old Town, pay a visit to this peaceful oasis and catch the church bells during twilight.
We worked our way back to town slowly, strolling through the cemetery at the bottom of the hill and once more through Mirabell Gardens to pat the head of the lucky dwarf and stand on the Do Re Mi steps. Yes, more Sound of Music sites- they are everywhere!
The next day we were up early to catch the 7:30 tour bus to Eagle's Nest, about 12 miles from Salzburg. Also known as Kehlsteinhaus, the structure sits on top of Obersalzburg above the town of Berchtesgaden, Germany. It was built in 1938 as a meeting place for Hitler and his high ranking officers.
The views on the ride up were jaw dropping and stomach turning as the bus chugged along the narrow switchbacks, inches from the edge of the cliff.
At the top, the scenery was even more majestic.
Eagle's Nest would never have happened without Jeremy's suggestion and we are lucky to have experienced it. During this 4.5 hour excursion, you get a comfortable coach ride to and from the site, entrance to the top and a stop for lunch (not included) in a cute village nearby. It was worth every penny of the 50 euro cost and was truly the highlight of our Salzburg trip. For an additional cost, you can add the Berchtesgaden Salt Mine Tour and make it a full days outing.
That evening over dinner, we did more catching up and reminisced about good times at Jeremy and Jennie's gym, Minnesota Top Team in Eagan, Minnesota.
Our vacation had come to an end. As we said our goodbyes, I felt a twinge of homesickness, but buoyed by a few days of good friends and easy living, was ready to get back on the road. Little did we know that Bratislava would serve up a harsh slap of reality, in contrast to the fairytale fantasy that was Salzburg.
Special thanks to Jeremy and Jennie Clark for making our time in Austria memorable and simply amazing!
If you are in the Twin Cities area, and are thinking about training in Jiu-Jitsu, Boxing, Cross-Fit, Boot Camp, Yoga or Personal Training, check out Minnesota Top Team!
Next time on Gobsmacked: Surviving Bratislava