So where were we? Ah yes, crossing the border from Germany into Austria, on a quick afternoon train to Salzburg. Arriving in the early evening, we located YoHo International Youth Hostel, which had a friendly staff, many amenities and the slightly disconcerting motto, “Easy to Find, Hard to Leave!” It turned out to be a very nice stay.
In any case, we continued with the standard operating procedure upon arrival to new cities: 1.) Find bed. 2.) Find food. 3.) Explore the heck outta that town. Although there were several interesting monuments and a few magnificent-looking churches, we decided the monuments would be seen best in daylight and the churches would be seen best during opening hours, and called it an early night.
Several of us got up early in the morning to hike up the cliffs a couple blocks away from YoHo (it was not particularly hard to leave). The heights offered a stunning view of the city, its churches, the castle sitting atop a small earthy bump in the landscape, and the distant mountains.
From there, spent the day in the city center, visiting Mozart’s birthplace and some more magnificent churches. I was stuck by the huge variation among several churches near each other in Salzburg: the contemplative, stone Franciscan church (Franziskanerkirche), for example, and the jubilant Salzburg Cathedral with its white pillars and four massive pipe organs.
Somehow or another we found ourselves in Vienna that evening, a city of historical importance on a scope I had never realized – the last defense of Christendom against the Westward movement of the Turks, the seat of the Austro-Hungarian empire, an important victory for the Allies towards ending the second World War. We visited some monuments and places associated with these things, including the Hapsburg palace apartments, which began with one hour and 22 rooms on the history of the royal silverware before it decided to be interesting.
After this severe blow of lameness, things picked up. We visited several locations from my favorite movie, The Third Man (1949), including the world’s oldest and largest operating Ferris Wheel. We met up with another group from Bernardi for dinner. We oo-ed and ah-ed at splendid Gothic architecture. We fed pigeons and joked with street performers. We skipped rocks in the river. We attended an organ concert. We went to the wrong train station and had to run to the other side of town to reach our 15-hour overnight train back to Rome.
And then (15 upright hours later) that was it. We had had a wonderful Bavarian-Austrian trip, our stomachs were full of Wurstel and Schnitzel, and all was well. As they say in Germany, “Wirtschaft ist für die Menschen da, und nicht umgekehrt, und Demokratie gehört bei die Wirtschaft mit bei.”