09.06.2013 - 09.06.2013
I hope this pilot knows what he's doing!
Winning a trip to Salzburg
09.06.2013 - 09.06.2013
I hope this pilot knows what he's doing!
Day 7: Boat ride on the Salzach, Hellbrunn Castle and Salzburg Good Bye's
It's so hard waking up on your last day of a trip of a lifetime. The sun shone brightly. Salzburg city seemed to glow in it's splendor and we tried to enjoy every last minute of this gorgeous and bittersweet day.
We have an early morning airport shuttle arranged for our flight tomorrow so we had to pack today. We spend the morning trying to cram as much chocolate as possible into suitcases hoping they won't make our bags over the weight limit or be taken by customs. Cross your fingers (or hold your thumbs as they say in German) if you hope to get some!
At noon we headed down to the Salzach river to take the boat cruise that we had orginally planned on taking our first arrival day in Salzburg. What a contrast today was to last Sunday when the river was flooded, it was poring rain and 48 degrees Fahrenheit. Today was sunny and 78 degrees Fahrenheit and the river was almost back to it's regular size except for a very strong current and a few remnants of the flood in the form of branches, logs and even a tire floating by.
We got on the "Amadeus Salzburg" Shiffahrt River Boat Cruise for a 20 minute cruise up river to Hellbrunn Palace. The boat ride was nice, they even had an area up front for kids with little ship steering wheels so the kids could "steer" along with the captain up the river.
Once we arrived in Hellbrunn an old red double-decker bus took us on a 5 minute ride over to the palace. Naturally, the kids had to sit on the top. We arrived 20 minutes before the next tour of the trick water fountain gardens. In 1612, Archbishop Markus Sittikus commissioned a "pleasure palace" to be built at the sight of the well-watered Hellbrunn mountain. He must have been so wealthy he was either really bored and desperately needed entertainment or just a big kid who loved practical jokes because the palace garden is full of hidden water spouts and water figurines created for his amusement. He would seat his guests at a large stone outdoor table in the garden and then trick them by turning on water spouts full blast under their seats. Back in his day it was forbidden to stand up at a table before the archbishop did so they were forced to remain seated. The guy must have been a real hoot.
The kids sat at this same stone table today and shrieked with surprise when they turned the spouts on full blast.
The garden is full of areas that you can unexpectedly get wet. This was a pathway that everyone had to walk through so we all got a bit wet today, but it actually felt great on the first hot day we've had here during our entire two weeks.
The kids loved this tour so much they wanted to do it again when were done even though they got completely soaked. But we headed back to Salzburg on a city bus. Once in the old town, we took a horse and carriage ride which the kids enjoyed.
After that, the kids went over to a playground at Mirabell Gardens with my husband while I took one last good-bye walk though the old town.
What I love about Salzburg is that so much of it never changes. Some of the oldest buildings are over 1,000 years and even though "The Sound of Music" was filmed here almost 50 years ago, the locations they used then still look the same today. However, one thing was new to me this trip to Salzburg. In the early 2000's an extra foot/bike bridge was built across the Salzach river into the old town. At that same time a trend had started in Europe to put "love locks" on bridges. Apparently the idea originated in Italy with a best-selling book that was also made into a movie featuring lovers affixing padlocks to the bridge Ponte Milvio in Rome and throwing away the key in order to "lock" their love. Salzburg now has one foot bridge full of hundreds of these locks. I had heard of these love locks but had never seen so many on one bridge. I can understand why this location is so popular as it is one of the most romantic views in the world.
I could relate to those locks. Except in my case I wish I could have symbolically placed my own lock on that bridge and thrown away the key - because I will always love Salzburg and Austria.
Day 6: Exploring the Largest Ice Caves in the World
Our excursion today was literally and in every sense of the word, the "coolest" I have ever taken. After spending a few hours in the morning in Salzburg, we arranged for an excursion to the largest ice caves ("Eisriesenwelt") in the world in the town of Werfen about an hour drive from Salzburg at the start of the Austrian Alps.
When we booked the ice cave tour, I actually had no idea we would be also be climbing a mountain (insert Climb Every Mountain song here). Well, okay, not exactly climbing it but after driving half way up the mountain, we got out of the van and prepared ourselves to get into the 0 degree Celsius/32 degree Fahrenheit ice cave. We went into the gift shop area where a woman enthusiastically greeted us as the winners of the "Facebook" trip. She gave each of the kids an adorable polar bear hat to wear during the cave tour. I then started layering the kids with extra pants, two warm jackets and their new polar bear hats. My husband I bundled up too. We didn't know, however, that we would hiking 20 minutes in the sun up a steep incline to catch a cable car further up the mountain and then hike another 20 minutes to the cave entrance. I know that doesn't sound like much, but it was very steep and we were soon roasting with all the layers even though it was cool up there at elevations of over 5,000 feet up the mountain.
Here was the last part of the path to the cave entrance:
We had stripped everything off again by the time we reached the entrance, only to have to put in all on again before the tour started. We were then told we would be climbing 1400 stairs during the ice cave tour! 700 stairs up and 700 stairs down. We definitely earned our Austrian pastries today.
Some of us were given gas lamps to help light the way. Photography and filming during the tour was forbidden so the pictures below were taken off of their Facebook page. Our group was split into German and English speaking sections and we entered the ice palace paradise:
Yes, there really were 1400 stairs and it really was very cold and dark but SO awesomel! I thought the kids might have issues with the cold as the tour lasted over an hour, but besides having to help warm their hands they did great. I think they were just as enraptured as everyone else.
It was nice, however, to get back into the warmth and sun when were done. Here are the kids in their cute polar bear hats at the top:
The picture was taken right before my son announced he had to go to the "WC" really bad so then we literally raced down the mountain so he could get to an alm restaurant to find one. We made it just in time.
Back in Salzburg, we all decided to reward ourselves with some Austrian pastries for dessert after all.
Day 5: Salzkammergut Mountains and Lakes Region Day Excursion
There really are no words to express the beauty of the Salzkammergut mountains and lakes region of Austria.
We had an all day mini-bus tour today with a very friendly and knowledgeable guide named Marcus from Magic Salzburg Tours who took us to Lake Fuschl, St. Wolfgang for a boat ride across the lake, St. Gilgen and to Bad Ischl for some famous and fabulous Zauner pastries and a tour of the private summer residence of Emperor Franz Josef and Empress Elisabeth.
Hundreds of photos were taken, but the wireless at the hotel tonight isn't strong enough to upload them. I managed to get one image uploaded. This is St. Wolfgang Lake and the area where we spent most of our day. It was like a dream. No place could be more romantic (even with kids) to spend a 15th Wedding Anniversary than here. Feeling very fortunate today.
Day 4: Salzburg Mountains: Salt Mines Tour, Toboggan ride and a Waterfall
I knew this day would be fun when I planned it together with the Salzburg Tourism office months ago. I was even more excited when I woke up this morning because the sun was actually shining! Hallelujah!
We were picked up at 9 am from our hotel by a taxi driver who drove us to the Hallein Salt Mines for a tour. Salzburg achieved it's tremendous wealth in the Middle Ages by the discovery (actually re-discovery - the Celts found it first and then they forgot) of salt. Deep in the heart of some mountains located conveniently right up the Salzach river they mined this "white gold" and sent it to the ruling Arch-Bishop of Salzburg where he sold it around Europe and made a fortune.
On the tour everyone is given white coveralls to protect their clothes and then sent on a small train deep into the depths the mine shafts. Once inside, we were shown entertaining films with English subtitles that help teach the historical importance of the mines. Throughout the tour there are two wooden slides to go down by straddling some wooden rails and also a boat ride on an underground salt lake. Then we got to taste salt brine straight from the mine and see huge salt blocks. Trains, slides and underground boat rides - what's not to love? This 1 1/2 hour tour was simply "awesome" according to my son and I couldn't agree more. My daughter loved it too, although she was a bit scared to go down the first slide:
Next, we headed just 3 minutes away to the Duernberg/Hallein "Keltenblitz" - Salzburg's longest toboggan ride (over a mile) down a mountain side. We took a chair lift to the top. The views from the top were simply breathtaking:
At the top I found out that kids older than 6 years old had to ride down in by themselves in their own sleds. I dreaded having to break this news to my daughter (you see her face above on a small slide in the mine - this was down a mountain). But after we explained the breaking system to her she really surprised me by actually agreeing without much fuss. My son couldn't wait to get on:
I agreed to ride behind my daughter. She went so slow I was able to go down and snap photos of her ahead of me. The pink dot is her.
At the bottom we all agreed we wanted to do it again so this time we paid for it ourselves and went back up. We went down in the same order and this time I never even saw my daughter ahead of me - she raced down that mountain like an Austrian ski-racer.
We ended our excursion in the mountains with a visit to the beautiful Golling Falls. Because of all the rain this waterfall was a thunderous mass spilling over 500 feet of rock wall.
And it was gorgeous.