All hail the Salzburg Card and the organisers of the conference! Less hail for me not buying this yesterday. The Salzburg Card gives you free entry to just about all of the attractions in Salzburg, as well as discounts and unlimited free bus travel. Ravinder and Long have one and Ravinder said you could buy a discounted one from the conference that Glen’s going to. Seeing as I’d be all on my lonesome, I bought the card this morning.
Initially I thought it was €23 for 24 hours but the conference is selling them for €23 for 72 hours. What a bargain! So with Glen safely ensconced in all that extra conference learning, at a little after 10am I set off to explore.
Climb every mountain!
No, I didn’t go on another Sound of Music tour. I boarded the number 25 bus to go see the trick fountains at Hellbrunn Palace, but then realised that the bus goes to the cable car for Untersberg Mountain and thought, “Why not?”
About 15 minutes after arriving, I boarded the Untersbergbahn (cable car) for the ten minute journey up to the mountain. There weren’t too many people in the cable car and I was by the window so it was a pleasant and calm journey up. There’s a great part where you go over a cleft, thinking you’re going to stop soon, but really it just keeps going after doing this big lurch. Everyone gasped, then laughed. The view going up was spectacular. The view looking down was knee-shaking but stunning.
When everyone got out (lots of grey-haired people with Nordic walking poles – the Greywalkers, I called them), they immediately put on their jackets. The sign at the bottom said the summit would be 10°C but it felt warmer than that. I was a little worried I’d freeze but a bit of vigorous mountain climbing soon cured me of that.
There are a number of trails on the mountains, some harder than others, but there’s a relative easy one to what it probably the highest point on the mountain (at least in that area). I stopped to take a lot of photos of wildflowers that were in bloom. They’re all so tiny but oh so pretty. And I even got some photos of a butterfly that was hanging around. And the crows on the mountain have the strangest call (and orange beaks).
Made it to the top. Unfortunately it was cloudy so the view wasn’t clear but it was still a great view. I had someone take a photo of me, then sat and watched the clouds for a bit, before thinking of heading back down again. Nearby an older man looked like he was having trouble. He was being helped by two woman who then called out for someone’s mobile phone as the guy wasn’t looking too good.
A young American girl offered her phone but we couldn’t call through. It was generally very disorganised as all I was trying to find out was if someone had headed back to the main station to ask for assistance. Anyway, the guy sat up and was talking so he seemed to be a lot better. The poor American girl was very worried about him and said she really wanted to go over and pray with him. I think that’s the first time I’ve ever heard anyone offer prayer as a means of helping, and while it’s not something I really believe in, I found it touching that this stranger would want to offer solace to another stranger.
After all the kerfuffle it looked like about ten people were heading back to the station to get aid for the man (while some people stayed behind). I set off too and joined the queue to go back down the cable car. There were a lot more people (and one dog) in it this time, which just sent my mind spinning as to how many people it could actually hold before it plummeted down.
I’m really glad I made the (snap) decision to go to the mountain. Doing something a little bit strenuous was wonderful, as was the view and seeing a bit of Austrian nature.
Feeling homicidal at Salzburg Zoo
Free entry to Salzburg Zoo is included in the Salzburg Card. It’s part of the Hellbrunn area and only one stop away from the palace, so after the mountain I jumped back on the bus and went to the zoo.
It’s a small zoo, easily seen in an hour (if you’re not reading all the signs and spending long at each exhibit). One of the first exhibits I saw was the tropical house which is a walk-through exhibit with large iguanas (that sensibly stay out of the way) and Emperor Tamarins, who look like they’ve become very conditioned to humans. As soon as I stepped in, there was a girl touching the tamarin’s tail, this is despite the pictorial sign next to her head saying not to touch them.
I started to walk past, only to see her mother hold out a sweet to the tamarin. I leapt in, just barely stopping myself from shoving her out the way, and tried to communicate by pointing to the sign that she shouldn’t feed the animals. She said something back, I responded by telling (and miming) she would make the animal sick. She stopped, I walked away. She probably went right back to feeding the animal.
I don’t know how keepers aren’t homicidal when they see such things, because I sure as hell was.
I managed to calm down eventually after eating some lunch (I was hungry) and walking on to see more animals. The zoo is built into the side of a cliff so a lot of the exhibits have a natural barrier at the back of them. They had some great species including flamingoes, tapir, Przewalski’s horses, capybaras, ibex and a bunch of others (see the photos).
More than half of the exhibits were old-style with tall fences, while there were a large open exhibits without bars obstructing views. These were also mixed exhibits with not too many animals in them. The lemurs looked free roaming, like they lived on top of a mound. That was pretty cool.
I covered the whole place pretty quickly, going from one end to the other and then back again, before emerging into the Hellbrunn gardens and heading to the trick fountains.
‘Watch your cameras and handies’
The trick fountains at Hellbrunn Palace are something of a must-see in Salzburg. You have to see it as part of a guided tour because the guide operates all of the fountains as you go through. My tour started at 2:45 and I went in with about 30 or so other people.
First we went to the amphitheatre end where there’s a marble table and some seats. Dotted around the table (and in the bottom of eight of the nine seats) are fountains that when operated wet the guests sitting at the table. The only one to remain dry would have been the Archbishop who built the palace. At this part of the tour, the guide had volunteers sit in the seats. It was great fun watching these kids get wet as their reactions were excellent.
There were other stops along the way where we’d get wet by fountains the guide operated. Before them though, she’d say, ‘Watch your cameras and handies,’ which made me laugh. (Handy is the German/Austrian term for mobile/cell phones.)
After that we went into a grotto with a bunch of mechanised ‘tricks’ that were all powered by water. Out of here we then went to another grotto where a crown was raised into the air by a jet of water. Next was a large mechanised diorama-type display with over 200 figurines that moved – all powered by water. Considering most of it was built 400 years ago, it’s pretty impressive.
During the tour, a woman from Salzburg started talking to me. Her name was Luisa. She had a Canadian accent (even said ‘eh’) but had lived in Salzburg most of her life. She was chatty, out enjoying the sunshine and being a tourist in her hometown. I got a good portion of her life story (skin cancer 9 years ago, married twice, divorced once, about to be divorced a second time because her husband is an old stick in the mud) but she was friendly and had a good outlook on life so talking to her was a really pleasant part of the afternoon.
We said our goodbyes shortly after the conclusion of the tour, and I went into Hellbrunn Palace. I was given an audio guide as I went in, which was very handy. An interesting feature of some of the rooms was that they each had an animal theme, so there was a bird room, a fish room, and an exotics room. On each of the walls were paintings of different animals, supposedly the rarest or biggest or smallest of its kind. And the archbishop had to have the best.
By far the most impressive rooms were the Octagon Room and the Festivities Room. Stunning painting covered all of the walls and the ceilings and it was a real feast for the eyes. The Octagon Room was used as a music room and the acoustics are excellent.
After completing the audio guide, I handed it back, left the palace and caught the bus back into town. I stopped for lunch at a little place near the hotel, had some food and came back to the hotel to wait for Glen. Poor baby spent the whole day at the conference, despite being exceptionally tired.
Soon after he returned to the hotel, we went for dinner at the same place I’d just been. It’s a nice place, chilled without being too wanky. We then got an ice-cream (€1 per scoop!) and walked through the gardens. We also rolled down the steep hill, which was both fun and nauseated. A look at some more sculptures then back to the hotel. I’ve booked in to do a tour of the salt mines tomorrow. Should be good.