Jon and I just returned from Salzburg and it has earned its place as my favorite city IN THE WORLD! There was nothing about it I didn´t like. First of all, I have to tell most of you how much I love the Austrian people! They are the nicest people and so helpful and they have a great sense of humor. So basically I feel like that gives Salzburg a leg up because it is filled with Austrians (and tourists).
Jon and I began our Salzburg tour with the requisite cathedral visit. If you haven´t figured it out by now, every city in Europe has an amazing cathedral that must be visited. So we did. Maybe I should begin by describing Salzburg a little because many of you have never seen it. It sits on either bank of the river Salzach and lies beside the Alps. In fact, Salzburg is surrounded by wooded hills and forests. Jon says it is greener than Ireland. Its a city in a stretch of the word because you honestly feel as though you are back in a medieval village as you walk on narrow cobblestone streets in the pedestrian only left side of the river. This is also where all the stores, cathedrals and the castle is. The city itself is dedicated to its favorite son, Mozart who was born here. Everything is Mozart crazy. Apparently he was big on the chocolate/t-shirt/alcohol bandwagon.
Okay back to our tour. So after the cathedral Jon and I went to St. Peter´s cemetary. (I know most of you think I am probably on a death tour of Europe, but its just not true! Europe just happens to be filled with dead people and its quite difficult to avoid them) This cemetary is the most beautiful I have ever seen and I definitely want to be buried here. Hopefully there will be a plot available by the time I die (I know for sure there is one that would fit me, but I don´t quite know how to reserve it.) Otherwise I´m trying to figure out how to get in good with the families who have family plots. Every grave is a garden with potted flowers growing out of it. Something about life growing out of death strikes me as incredibly symbolic and I can think of no better way to spend eternity. We then went into the catacombs (no dead bodies) which is a medieval church built into the side of a cliff. It´s all rock so it would be like attending services in a cave which is kinda spooky but probably did wonders for the superstitous peasants!
After the catacombs came my absolute favorite - Hohensalzburg fortress. The largest remaining castle in Central Europe. Parts of the castle date from the 800s and others were updated in the 1100s and 1600s. The castle itself was built on Roman ruins. It was incredible to wander through the rooms which protected the town and imagine the days when knights protected the city from invaders. It´s incredibly well preserved and many artifacts remain. Aside from the amazing fact that you are standing in a medieval castle, there are spectacular views because the fortress was built on a mountain overlooking the town. We stayed there for hours!! Then we ate dinner at a restaurant up there which had the most incredible views. The couple behind us got engaged (we think, there were flowers, champagne, and he pulled out a ring..but they spoke in German and we don´t know if they have the same traditions as us sooooo we are almost positive they got engaged.) We also had Salzburg Nockerl, their famed dessert of egg whites and sugar. It was large enough to feed 8! It was really goood though, even though there was no way we could finish it. It tasted like a combination of egg whites and pancake.
Today we went to the Berchesgaden Salt Mines. We took a tour there crossing through Austria into Bavaria in Germany. We drove along this beautiful aqua green river until we reached the mines. Then we put on miner´s clothes (I felt like one of the seven dwarfs and tried to get the group into a rousing rendition of "hi ho hi ho", unsuccessfully). We rode a "train" deep into the mountain. Basically you stradle this bench mounted on a platform with wheels connected in a train. It was dark, cold, spooky, and very very neat. When you´re deep in the mine they take you into caverns as you learn about the mining process. Jon discovered that the walls were salt (he´s a smart boy) and began to rub his fingers against them and then lick his fingers (okay so maybe not so smart). To get deeper into the mines you slide down these wooden slides which is really scary because they´re so fast and the tour guide tells you right before he pushes you down "the worst thing you can do is break". To get to the last portion of the mine, you go across an underground lake on a raft. It was such a neat experience, and the best part was at the end they give you salt!! From the mine!!! (okay maybe that wasn´t the best part, but it was pretty cool). After we had lunch in the little Bavarian town of Berchesgaden before heading back to Salzburg. The weekend was incredible and Jon and I are already planning on returning!