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Kasteel Well Week 9: Germany (Part 2) – Munich & Salzburg

  • March 23, 2013
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Following my arrival in Munich, I began the usual hostel-hunting ritual. Luckily for me, this was a short hunt as my hostel was only about 2 blocks from the main train station. I arrived in mid-afternoon and set out to see some of the city before the sun went down. The hostel concierge pointed out a few plazas to check out so I started wandering in that general direction.

Some of the sights were familiar to me after visiting other European countries. The large rotary funneling traffic in many directions, the trams running on street-level tracks, and the random conglomeration of historic and modern buildings. After crossing too many lanes of traffic to cross the rotary (later on I would discover the underground concourse that would bypass such traffic), I was on a wide cobblestone avenue teeming with carts and buskers. People happily shuffled along the storefronts that lined the pedestrian area, many enjoying some of the sweets they rescued from one of the carts.

Marienplatz

Marienplatz

The avenue came to an end at Marienplatz – the city’s main square since 1158 – and arguably the most famous square in Munich. Home to the Rathaus-Glockenspiel, the New Town Hall draws a daily audience who gather to see the figurines move. I didn’t time it right to see the show, but I continued along to Viktualienmarkt – a daily farmers’ market and square. I began to wander north, and took a walk through the Hofgarten – the 17th century royal palace gardens. This park was situated between Odeonsplatz and the glass building of the Bavarian State Chancellary. I made my way out of the park and over to the Englisher Garten (English Garden) passing the American embassy along the way. It was a lovely sight for this lovely traveller to see the Stars and Stripes flying high.
Surfing the Eisbach

Surfing the Eisbach

Just on the edge of the Englisher Garten is a standing surfing wave. The water flow in this man-made river – the Eisbach – was designed to make a permanent wave for surfing. Despite the chill in the evening air, there was one man surfing, who I watched for a while as he struggled to surf similarly to how I struggled to capture a half-decent photo of him in the fading light.

As home to Oktoberfest, Munich is the cornerstone of Bavarian beer. Most people go to Hofbräuhaus biergarten – the most famous beer garden in the city – but my hostel instead recommended going to Augustiner Braü – the oldest brewery in Munich. My attempts at finding the beer garden failed but I found a small restaurant along the way and chose to give up on my search there. The waiter teased me for eating alone, but was very helpful in helping me pick out the evening’s meal.

My rail pass was also valid for travel to Salzburg, Austria, so I thought that would be an interesting tangent to my semi-planned itinerary. First thing in the morning I hopped on a train and we pulled into Salzburg in just under two hours. I am not normally one to buy tourist passes, but the Salzburg Card ended up working in my favor. With the pass, I could enter any museum, ride any bus, plus ride the funicular railway up to the castle. This fit in well with my hypothetical plans for the day, so off I went. Buses are faster but you don’t get the full experience, so I started walking towards Old Town as a few snowflakes started to fall.

Mirabell Garden with Hohensalzburg Castle in the distance

Mirabell Garden with Hohensalzburg Castle in the distance

A thin layer of snow was already starting to settle in the gardens of the Mirabell Palace as I wandered through. As I made my way out of the Mirabellgarten, I found myself at the residence of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The building was pretty small but still housed a sizeable collection. One of the most interesting things I learned was that most portraits of Mozart are actually not of him! They aren’t fakes per-say; rather they are misidentified as being of Mozart. There are certain ways to properly identify a legitimate portrait, but I found it difficult even viewing two paintings side-by-side.

I had to cross over the Salzach River via a bridge lined with an array of Austrian flags with a reflective metal column on either end. An inscription on the columns read: “In memory of the hundreds of prisoners and forced labourers, who were compelled to work on the construction of this bridge against their will from 1941 to 1945 and made great sacrifice. A small, yet effective tribute that made you reflect and respect the space. After crossing the bridge, I made my way to Mozart’s birthplace and childhood home.

The narrow building reminded me of Amsterdam, where they build narrow and tall as opposed to wider houses. The home consisted of multiple levels that you snaked your way through as you viewed artifacts and stories of the lives of the Mozart family. The history focused mainly on the family’s time in Salzburg, but did also explain how Wolfgang found success in Vienna and worldwide. Although known for his concertos, Mozart loved writing operas. He studied operas in France, yet would only write his operas in Italian, which he considered the purest language for the art.

Mozart marionettes at Marionette Museum

Mozart marionettes at Marionette Museum

My next stop (in true European fashion) was a castle atop a mountain via a funicular railway. Festung Hohensalzburg (Hohensalzburg Castle) began construction in 1077 by the Prince-Archbishops of Salzburg. I was able to tour through the fortifications including the lookout tower that provided a 360-degree view of Salzburg on one side and farmland flanked by the Austrian Alps on the other. Hohensalzburg is now home to the Marionette Museum, which showcases marionette puppets and sets from the world-famous Salzburg Marionette Theatre. I would have loved to take in a show but unfortunately none were playing during my twelve-hour stint in the city.

Salzburg Cathedral

Salzburg Cathedral

My next stop was at the Salzburg Cathedral. The dome’s construction reminded me of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City. I then walked through the nearby Mozartplatz that featured a large statue of the composer in the center of the square. I had asked someone for recommendations of where to eat my one meal and they pointed me to a small restaurant behind the Salzburg Museum. I happily enjoyed the wiener schnitzel and cold brew before heading to the Panorama Museum where they were hosting a Von Trapp family exhibition.

The exhibition was rather interesting because it focused more on the family than the Sound of Music. It chronicled all of the family’s adventures as the Trapp Family Singers as they travelled the world. Then it explained how Maria von Trapp wrote her memoir The Story of the Trapp Family Singers and then received next to nothing for royalties for their story. A story that was adapted into a musical both on Broadway and a Hollywood film. The exhibition encircled the Salzburg Panorama, which is a 360-degree panoramic painting of Salzburg. Completed in 1829 by Johann Michael Sattler, the 125-meter canvas shows what Salzburg looked like back in the day.

The panorama was my final stop in Salzburg. I meandered back to Salzburg HBF and boarded the next train back to Munich. I planned enough time to grab a quick bite to eat in Munich before getting on my overnight train to Berlin where I would be meeting up with a few of my fellow castle dwellers. It was crowded on the train for sure, but I found my bunk and called it a night.

Travel time so far: 55 hours, 2 nights = 4 cities.