Tuesday, February 22, 2011


The hills truly were alive with the sound of music.  Ok, I’m sorry, I couldn’t help myself.  But out of the four places we went on our whirlwind tour of southern/central/eastern Europe (take your pick because if you called Hungary eastern Europe they would get their what ever their traditional undergarments are in a bunch), Salzburg was my favorite place. 

I’m not quite sure why it was so awesome, but it really was.  We got in around 11AM and were leaving the next evening so we had a lot of time to go around the city.  Instead, we decided to take some excursion trips out into the Alps.  Our hotel was located more toward the side of the town (Dad and I never could quite get the hang of directions in that city) but the good news is that we took city-rama tours so we didn’t have to worry about any transportation.

A note about the hotel though.  All of the hotels we stayed at were very nice.  Dad did a great job getting them all.  This one was a little odd because our room was actually in a building that was across the street from the lobby.  And it had no elevator.  And we were on the fourth floor.  Needless to say our legs were a little sore.

Ok, so the first tour we booked was at my request.  I convinced Dad to go on the Salzburg Salt Mine tour.  It was exactly what you expected.  We were driven up into the Alps (about a thirty minute drive back into Germany).  In our car was another American and an older Australian couple.  Fun fact about the Australian couple, the man was a Justice on their version of the Australian Supreme court.  He didn’t really speak much though.

The tour was in two parts, because the actual driver from City-Rama just took us to the mine, where the mine personnel would go through it all with us.  While we were on that tour (which took about two hours) the Australians went to the lakes.  I’m not going to lie, the reason why I wanted to go on the tour was because you got to slide down a slide that the miners use.  Now this is no kiddy style playground slide.  This is a legit hundred and fifty yard long slide ad probably a sixty-five degree angle.  And there were TWO of them.  But I am getting a head of myself.

When we got to the mine, they made us put on a jumpsuit.  I had no idea why they made us do that but it made sense after the first slide.  After we got suited up, we got to go on a ten minute train ride about a mile straight into the heart of the alp.  Dad and I were on the tour with some other Germans, a girls school group, and the other American from our  city-rama tour.  This train was one of those little miniature ones that you would see around a city park, except it went straight into a mountain.  And there was not a whole lot of headroom.  If I were a few inches taller I would have had to duck.  Once we were in the mountain, they describe the process of mining the salt.  Something about soaking the brine solution and using huge vacuums to suck it up.  But the way to continue from the main cavern to the smaller tunnels was the slide.

We had to go on it about four at a time.  You got quite intimate with your fellow tourmates.  I was up front and Dad was right behind me.  On the way down I was a little worried but it was a lot of fun.  Then I felt a warm sensation in the seat of my pants.  Then I understood why they made us wear the jumpsuits.  They had extra padding on the butt because the friction made your seat so warm it could have destroyed the fabric.  And I don’t think anyone really wanted to see my boxers through my jeans. 

So that was the salt mine tour.  Oh, but on the way out (we had to take the train) they had a mock explosion.  Or at least I think it was mock.  The last thing the audioguide said before it turned off was to expect a simulated dynamite blast, but what actually happened freaked me out.  With no warming you get the wind sucked out of your chest for a millisecond.  The dust in the air was swaying and the signs hanging by chains were also swinging.  About two hundred yards from the exit, the train had to stop because there were miners on the track.  All of the conversation was held in German, but they made it clear we had to wait.  It seemed like our tunnel out was caved in.  Dad kind of got a little freaked.   I thought it was pretty neat but then again I was still assuming it was a simulation. 
Eventually we got out and went on our way to Berchtesgarten (I have no idea how to spell the name of that place).  It is the nearest town to Hitler’s “Eagle’s Nest” camp.  We actually saw the Eagle’s Nest from the city.  We walked around a bit, but we were pretty hungry, so most of the group went to a café and got some food.  I had amazing hot chocolate and pretzels, and dad had some Strudel.  Then we got back into the van, crossed back over into Austria and kind of just hung out for the rest of that night. 

It was about six when we got home so we went back to the room and the decided to try to go out and find some food.  We tried going out to find this one restaurant the guy behind the front desk told us about, but we made the mistake of having me get told the directions.  In case future A.J. somehow develops that sense, 2011 AJ has the sense of directions of a blind mentally challenged chimpanzee.  So needless to say after wandering, we just found any place that would serve us.

We were pretty dead after dinner so we just kind of sacked out back at the hotel.  Plus we had to get up early for our Sound of Music tour!
The Sound of Music tour was incredible.  I hadn’t realized that all of the exterior shots in the movie were filmed actually in Salzburg.  So in addition to going around and seeing all of the outdoor locations, our tour guide, who was a spritely cheery woman from England, gave us some history on the real Von Trap family.  I prefer the Holly wood story.  But the funniest part of the tour was that no one in Germany or Austria has heard of that movie.  Apparently in the fifties, some Austrian film company made their own non musical version, which is what all of the Austrian and German youths watch. 

The tour took us back into the Alps, but that was after we say the Abbey where Maria actually was sent.  Also, we saw the Gazebo where “I am Sixteen, Going on Seventeen” was sung.  Apparently when Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer were singing “Something Good” the lighting kept making strange noises, which gave the two actors a serious case of the giggles.  After trying to do the scene a ten times, the director just said to turn the lights off, so that way when they started to laugh or giggle, you couldn’t see. 

Once we were up in the mountains, we ended in the town where they filmed the wedding of Maria and Captain Von Trap.  That church’s altar was beautiful!  But the best part of that city was the strudel.  It was literally the best strudel I have ever had in my life.  I can understand why a person’s favorite things could be Crisp Apple Strudel. 

After the tour, Dad and I walked around Salzburg a bit.  We walked by Mozart’s house.  We got these amazingly good chocolates that share his name.  And then we were off to Viena! 

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