Austria Vacation Log: Day 10, The Fortess of Salzburg

Today was another marathon day. We started it by searching for the Laundromat (Wäscherei in German), so we could drop off our “well-used” clothing. We had a bit of a problem finding it, so I had to stop and ask for directions. Not only did I ask in German, but I actually understood the answer, which was pretty gratifying. The place had a laundry service, which we gladly paid for. Whenever possible, we did laundry in our hotel rooms, and only made this one Laundromat stop in our 17 day trip.

Before heading to the castle, we did a quick loop through town to see some sights we had missed on the previous day. We checked out the Universitätplatz market, before returning to the mysterious bronze door described in our guidebook. Following the directions in the book, we pushed a red button next to the unsigned door, and were buzzed inside by a very old nun. Inside was a carved crucifix from the Expressionism period. It was pretty wild looking, reminiscent of “The Scream.” Definitely worth the short stop.

And then… on to the castle. We took the funicular up to the Festung (fortress). What is a funicular? It’s sort of a cross between a railroad and a gondola- basically it’s a train that pulled up the track by a cable.

After reaching the top, we wandered around the outsides of the castle, snapping photos and trying to figure out where we were. We wandered eventually to the gift shop and bought a guidebook. We followed it for a little bit until we found the fortress tour. This was a semi-guided tour where a guide followed the group around while everyone listened to their audioguides. It was interesting history with good views of the town, good views, and a lot of fun. Afterwards we grabbed a pretzel and then found another audioguide place. This one, a private concern not covered by our Salzburg card, was an audioguide to the castle exteriors. It was also good, and really made sure we saw everything. Towards the end we started to get cranky, but a shady, breezy table on the edge of a bastion overlooking the city soon solved that. Beer, bratwurst, mashed potatoes, and a cool seat, really improved my mood. Afterwards we viewed 3 more sets of exhibits inside the fortress: the marionette museum (pretty wacky), a museum dedicated to an Austrian regiment (not particularly interesting to me), and the old state rooms from when the Prince-Archbishop lived in the fortress. These were cool, and included an elaborate stove from 1000 or 1100 or so.

My overall impression of the Festung is that I would not have wanted to attack this castle. First, a set of outer forts. After that, a steep climb up the mountain and three separate gates. While trying to dash between the gates, an invader would have been targeted by arrows from above the whole time. In between the final two gates was a tunnel. Looking up at the ceiling, you could see the holes where boiling oil would have been poured on invaders. After all that, an invader would find themselves in the outer courtyard, with yet another wall before reaching the fortified keep in the center. The fortress was formidable enough that its impregnability was never tested– Salzburg had high taxes, but the city enjoyed 1000 years of peace. Not even the Thirty Years War, which left much of Europe in ruins, threatened Salzburg.

After our visit to the fortress, we went for a walk on the adjacent Mönchsburg- a beautiful park on Salzburg’s mountain. This mountain is almost completely ringed by cliffs, with only a few staircases or steep switchbacked roads leading down. We walked to the Richterhöhe, one of the secondary forts that surrounded the main castle. The trails were a mix of open woods, and shady, atmospheric lanes between crumbling rock walls and stone bridges. We kept walking for a while until Dorinna announced that she wanted to go shopping. I agreed to go with her, but she convinced me that we should split up. She headed down a stairs back to the city, while I continued along the ridge. I came across the Museum of Modern Art, perched above the city atop an elevator- public transportation down to the city. I kept walking, checking out another excellent view (Humboldt Terrace), before venturing up to Mönchstein Schloss. This is a bed and breakfast extraordinaire. Very classy looking- I would like to spend a night there sometime.

I went a bit farther but as it got late, I retraced my steps and descended the same set of stairs that Dorinna had used earlier. I looked for her briefly on Getreidegasse, then raced back to the hotel to pick up our laundry. I managed to tell the innkeeper: “Meine Frau wird in ein Paar Minutten ankommen. Bitte, sagen Sie sie dass ihr Mann zur Wäscherei ging, und ich komme sofort zurück.” This is German for: “My wife will arrive in a few minutes. Please tell her that her husband went to the Laundromat, and will be right back.” Don’t get the wrong idea- the innkeeper spoke perfect English, and she knew I knew it, but it was fun anway.

With clean clothes and refreshing showers, we departed an evening on the town. We took a quick elevator ride to watch the sun set over the city, before descending again to visit a liquor store on the Getreidegasse. Calling it a liquor store is a little unfair, it was really a tiny smoke-filled bar packed with people. We tried a collection of strong and sweet variations of hazelnut and apricot of liquors. We collected a small bottle of the sweet apricot, and wandered the atmospheric streets until we found a nice-looking restaurant with an outdoor table. I had beef goulash with sour cream and knödel (dumplings). The farther east we traveled in Austria, the more Hungarian influences in the food. We had “new” wine and old wine to wash it down- a very nice dinner.

We ended the evening with one final adventure. We walked on a bike path along the Salzach River. It was nice at first, but then got spooky as we walked farther from the old town and the crowds of people dwindled and then disappeared. We walked beyond our destination, and had to backtrack through more empty streets before reaching the Augustiner Brauhaus. The Brauhaus is in fact run by Augustiner monks, but it seemed pretty empty. We walked inside through empty halls, past empty food stands, and empty cavernous halls. I was beginning to wonder if the place was a dud, when we came to a large biergarten filled with 200-300 people. We had arrived!