19 July 2012: Day 1 – Salzburg

A day to acclimate before the riding begins!  Salzburg is a beautiful city – nestled in the mountains, home of Mozart, and home of the over-marketed and overdone Mozart brand (Mozartkugeln, Mozart aprons, Mozart pins, Mozart mugs, photos with Mozart, and on and on).

We’re staying at Johannes Schlossl Pallotinner Monastery – it’s a Catholic monastery perched on top of Salzburg’s central mountain.  It’s right in the city, an ideal location (if you don’t mind the 170-some steps to climb back UP after a day of sightseeing and beer tasting).  What a gem of a B&B!  I know it sounds crazy to stay in a monastery, but seriously, the price is right, the location is unbeatable, and the breakfast is divine.  Absolutely divine.  Fresh breads (not your basic white bread either), homemade jams, meats, cheeses, eggs, Austrian muesli…yum!  Kovas and I stocked up – we eat a lot, and especially at breakfast.  In fact, we always feel badly for the B&Bs that host us when we’re on one of our cycling tours (sheepish grin).

While we only gave ourselves one day to sightsee Salzburg, we made it a good one.  Starting with a hike across the mountain to Hohensalzburg Castle, the centuries-old monolith you can see from space, we explored the fortress, learned about the shaping of Salzburg’s history by the Catholic Church and its political influences, and checked out the Marionette Museum.  Salzburg has a love affair with marionettes – it’s a cultural tradition and the marionette theater regularly performs operas (usually Mozart operas).  It’s absolutely amazing what these puppeteers can do with their marionettes – the fluidity of the movements are almost lifelike and, well, kind of creepy.  We took bunches of photos of marionettes, but I only posted two so as not to overwhelm.  Sadly we couldn’t attend a performance this time around.  There always has to be a reason to come back, right?

Next stop: Getreidegasse and Mozart’s birthplace.  Getreidegasse is Salzburg’s bustling, tourist-central shopping street complete with everything Mozart (see above) as well as Swarovski, Bulgari, and lederhosen stores.  It’s the kind of street where kitsch meets class and the people-watching is stellar.  However, don’t expect to get the best deal on your Mozartkugeln or your dinner. Mozart’s birthplace is an unassuming yellow building in amongst the stores and restaurants right smack in the middle of Getreidegasse.  We walked right by it until one of us looked up and read the inscription on the wall.  Alrighty – in we go.  Time to be tourists!

The museum itself is pretty small since the flat itself is small.  Hard to believe the Mozart family stuffed 7 of themselves in this one bedroom home.  Explains why they later moved across the river to the other side of town.  We bought the ticket that includes Mozart’s family home as well so we could get the full Mozart treatment.  In truth, neither museum was that great in terms of recreating Mozart’s life.  We were hoping for a glimpse of how the homes were set up, traditional decor, etc.  However, we did get to see the clavichord Mozart learned on, and the museums were rife with interesting facts and history.  All in all, we walked away not only with a greater sense of awe of this truly remarkable man, but also greater respect for his equally amazing sister.

The rest of our day was spent wandering the city and absorbing its beauty.  Not only is it surrounded by natural wonders, but the city itself has traditional architecture and art that transports you back to the 18th century.  We somehow managed to skip lunch so we did our usual: check out the local grocery store.  Kovas and I love grocery shopping in other countries.  It’s such a cultural experience – you just never know what you’re going to find!  We settled on poppyseed bread (Kovas has an extreme addiction.  Apparently Germany and Austria are the next best countries to visit for poppyseed wonderfulness after Lithuania) and ‘Happy Day” juice.  How can you not want to drink something that’s called “happy day?”  Even the juices in Austria were more interesting and varied than at home.

By the end of the day, we got to experience why Salzburg is known as one of the rainiest cities in Europe.  It rained and it poured.  Luckily by then we were back at the monastery and psyching ourselves up for building up the bicycles.  I guess it’s not so much psyching up for Kovas, but it is for me because I get frustrated with all the little screws.  My hands are far too big for tiny bicycle screws and my skill set is better suited for big picture stuff, not worrying about little details like did I screw that piece in tight enough so that the brakes won’t fall off?  So while the heavens dumped down buckets of rain, we asked the monks in broken German where we could build the bikes, out of the way and out of the rain?  They pointed us to their garage.  Now here’s another cultural experience: what do people from other countries store in their garages?  Well, we couldn’t help but notice that the monastery stored everything from unused silverware (the butter knives came in handy for ripping through some of our packing tape) to pictures of Jesus.  Once we built the bikes up we decided to store them next to Jesus overnight for safekeeping and to absorb some blessings for a safe trip.  Every little bit helps, right?

We tried our best to memorize the packaging so that it would be easier to recreate in Rome, but after a while and a lot of ripped tape, foamboard, and cardboard later, we had made such a mess and were so hungry that we just tightened all the bits and pieces and figured it couldn’t be THAT hard to remember, and definitely wouldn’t be that hard to find packaging materials in Rome.  After all, cycling was practically invented in Italy wasn’t it?

At long last, it was time for dinner, and at this point I was starving, and as Kovas has learned, better never to let me reach that point, but if I do, better not to argue and just get food in my system.  We found Gasthof Wilder Mann on one of the free Austrian Touring apps I downloaded on my iPod (our one link to the outside world) and trekked down the mountain to this quaint little restaurant off the main drag, Getreidegasse.  Now, anyone who knows me knows that I haven’t eaten cow or pig for 15 or more years and that I am a health food junkie.  However, part of the cultural experience in any place we visit is the food.  I had decided long ago that in this I would be completely open-minded, and it’s a good thing because it meant I could eat all the goulash I wanted until deep into Italy!

Ah, goulash.  It is one of Hungary’s gifts to the world, and embraced wholeheartedly in Austria and Germany, for good reason.  It’s hearty, it’s heavy, it’s spicy, and it always includes God’s gift to carbs: knoedels!  My mouth is watering as I write.  Kovas and I decided that no Bavarian or Sudtirolean trip would be complete without goulash and knoedel-tasting at every stop.

I highly recommend the goulash and knoedels at Wilder Mann.  It was only our first taste of many, but delicious nonetheless.  Paired with the brew o’ the day and you have just had a taste of Heaven.

And certainly a good way to store calories for the following day’s ride…

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