Austria 1979, Part 2

Tuesday, September 25

We get up early and have coffee with rolls, butter and jam at Frau Schrank’s, then take the bus to Mirabellplatz, where we board a bus for a tour of the Berchtes­gaden salt mines. We need to bring our passports, since we are crossing the border. On the way we pass through Aniis, a small village 9 km. from Salzburg, which has a tenth century Roman church, and the obligatory Castle-used-in-the-filming-of­ Sound-of-Music. It is also the home of Herbert von Karajan, who is conductor for the Salzburg festival. We next pass the Untersberg, a mountain about one mile high. The mountain is one-third Austrian, and two-thirds German. It is a chalk mountain, and is the site of a cement factory for that reason. This brings us to the border. We get our passports ready, but we are waved through and enter Bavaria. Bavaria was an independent kingdom until the twentieth century, and is now part of West Germany. We pass Obersalzberg, the settlement built by Hitler (or actually we pass the road leading up to it). 

Then we arrive at the salt mine. We put on coveralls like the miners use, then board a train (which you straddle like a horse) and enter the mountain. The mine has been in operation since about 1200. We go down a big wooden slide (good for warming the tush) and walk through the mine. There is a museum in the mine, where we see a film about the mining. The salt is mixed with gypsum, so a cavern is dug and water pumped in. The salt dissolves in the water and the gypsum settles on the bottom. The salt solution is pumped 12 km. to a factory where the water is evaporated and salt produced. We take a boat ride across one of these taverns filled with water, go down another wooden slide, and take the train out of the mountain. 

On the bus coming back we pass the house of the Freimann of Berchtesgaden, among whose duties was executioner for the town. We then pass the Heiltower. a toll stationalong the Konigsee river. The word “heil” is Celtic and means “salt”. Many of the towns in this area have some form of this word in their name (Hellbrunn, Hallstein, etc.) since most are involved in salt production. 

We then turn off the main road and pass the Alpine zoo at Hellbrunn, where we pass a vulture walking along the road. Then we go past the castle of Hellbrunn, where the lord of the Castle put trick fountains in the chairs and tables to drench unsuspecting guests. He apparently wanted to remind people that there was something they could drink other than wine or beer. 

Our guide points out the Fortress of Salzburg, which Cheryl and I saw on our first day, and the convent attached to it. The guide claims that the convent is the oldest in the world, having been founded by St. Rupert. This is the convent where Maria Trapp was a novice. As we enter the city, we pass the Mozarteum, the musical high school of Salzburg. After the tour, we change money and head for the Schloss Mirabell (Mirabell Palace). In 1606 Archbishop Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau built a summer palace for his mistress Salome Alt, traces of which are still visible in the south-west corner of the building. His successor, Marcus Sitticus, Prince-Archbishop from 1612-1619, renamed the Schloss “Mirabell” . The present structure was built in the late 1600’s, and was redesigned between 1722 and 1727. All the frescoes, murals, etc. were destroyed in the Great Fire of 1818, and in 1819 the palace was rebuilt in less elaborate form. The palace was the summer residence of the Prince-Archbishops of Salzburg, and houses the offices of the Mayor of Salzburg today. It can be rented, apparently, as we pass a wedding party while walking through the building. 

The rain has stopped, but the sun has not broken through a solid cloud cover. It has brightened enough, however,  that we can hope for our pictures to come out. We walk through the Mirabell Gardens, which are extensive, taking pictures and enjoying the formal flower beds. They are very beautiful now, and at the height of summer, when the flowers are at their best, the sight must be dazzling. 

After a quick lunch at the Heisse Wurstl stand, we board the bus for Obersalzberg, Konigsee, and Berchtesgaden. Obersalzberg means “upper salt mountain”, and salt has been mined here since 200 B.C. At the top of Obersalzberg is the village, where Hitler stayed and had a summer home built. Other high officials also had summer homes built there to be near Hitler, and on the peak above the village Bormann built the Eagle’s Nest. The village was bombed by Allied planes in March, 1945, and Hitler’s home was blown up in 1952 because the U.S. & German governments did not want it to become a shrine. The Eagle’s Nest was taken over by the Alpine Society and is now a teahouse. The remaining buildings form the General Walker Hotel, a rest and recreation area for U.S. Troops. 

We then take a very steep road down off the mountain and visit Konigsee. The village here has become the Compleat Tacky Tourist Trap. But the lake itself is pretty. Then we go to Berchtesgaden. Berchtesgaden is a small village located in Bavaria, but often fought over by Bavaria and Salzburg for the salt deposits. Henrik Ibsen came here to live. We have coffee and pastry, and then wander through the village taking pictures. 

We returned to Salzburg, and had dinner at the Michael Haydn Strube in Aicher Passage off Mirabellplatz. It is a delightful little shop, plain and clean in design (very modern, much like some of the little restaurants in Cambridge), with reasonable prices. We ordered dishes not knowing what they were, and I got pork, cold cuts and vegetables on a skewer, but Cheryl got franks and beans! Being a gentleman at heart, I proposed we switch halfway through the meal. It turned out that the beans were actually spicy lentils. 

After dinner we took a walk along the Salzach river, down to the end of Monchsberg, and climbed many steps to a church on top. We were looking for a horse fountain that we had seen in pictures, but it was nowhere to be found. Close consultation with a map showed that we had gone far beyond it. So we walked back to Altstadt and found the fountain. We then window-shopped through Salzburg, and eventually returned to Frau Schrank’s. 

Wednesday, September 26 

We got up around 7:30 for the usual breakfast, packed our bags, and headed for the Hauptbahnhof. Our train is not scheduled to leave until 10:40, but we thought we could put the time to good use, and besides, why cut it close on travel connections? We locate the track for our train, and I rest a minute with the bags while Cheryl goes off to look through telephone books for traces of her family. When Cheryl returns, I go to buy postcards and stamps. By the time the train comes we have mailed most of our postcards. The train arrives late, and there is a mad scramble for seats. Cheryl and I end up manhandling our bags through different cars of the train for 10-15 minutes until we find some empty seats. Later the conductor checks our tickets and informs us we have second-class tickets, but are in first-class seats. I immediately pay 236 AS. to upgrade our tickets. We may be poor, but we will not travel like cattle! We have a lunch of pork cutlets with rice and vegetables on the train, and spend the rest of the time looking out the windows at the Austrian countryside and taking some pictures. We finally arrive at the Westbahnhof in Vienna at 3:00. We are accosted as we leave the tracks by a woman who wants to know if we want a cheap room. Being suspicious, we go to the tourist office at the station, where we obtain a room and are told how to get there by bus. 

It isn’t easy, but we manage to carry our bags to the place where we are staying. We are starting to realize that Vienna is very expensive, and that we have very little money left. Our room is 250 AS a day, with breakfast another 75 AS and each shower 25 AS. Call it 350 AS a day, which is about one-third of our daily allowance. Our landlady, Frau Steinbock, is like a Jewish mother (and she may be for all we know). She is very meticulous about the rules of the house, warns us to keep handbags tightly under our arms, and reproaches us for not filling in the emergency notifi­cations in our passports (mea culpa). And the room is simply magnificent! An oriental rug hangs on the wall, and there is a chandelier over the bed. It is a better room than you could get in the best hotel in town, I’m sure! 

After settling in for a few minutes, we take off for the center of Vienna. The old city of Vienna is called the Inner Stadt. It was surrounded by walls, but in the 1800’s they decided the city was safe from attack from the Turks, and tore the walls down. In their place they erected the Ringstrasse, a broad avenue around the Inner Stadt on which many of the greatest buildings were erected. We walk about halfway along the Ringstrasse, and at the Opera House we turn into the Inner Stadt for dinner. We are looking for a restaurant that takes charge cards to preserve our dwindling cash supply. We find one at the Hotel Europa, and the food is excellent. We each have Pate of Veal en Croute, and a dessert. I have a parfait, and Cheryl has a sweet chestnut cake. 

After dinner, we continue our walk along the Ringstrasse until we reach the Donau canal. Along the way we see some people filming. Two motorcycles are going down the street and alongside is a truck with lights and cameras. We cross the canal and walk along the bank towards our starting point. We then strike off for the amusement park (the Prater), which has a huge, and very famous, ferris wheel. It was featured in a film starring Orson Welles and Joseph Cotton (The Third Man) which Cheryl recalls seeing. We wander through the amusement park, and take a ride through the House of Horrors. Finally, we walk back to our lodgings. calling it a day. 

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