Day 8: Berchtesgaden and into Salzburg (or at least near Salzburg)
Because we’d arrived at Berchtesgaden too late in the evening to get up the mountain to Eagle’s Nest, we went up first thing the following morning. As most people probably know already, the “Eagle’s Nest” (or “Kehlsteinhaus”) was Hitler’s mountain-top getaway. He didn’t actually spend the night there, but would bring visiting dignitaries up just for fancy dinners. To build the place, the Germans had to first build a road, cut tunnels through the mountain, and eventually install a 124-meter (that’s over 400 feet!) tall private elevator that would take guests up to the house itself. You can no longer drive up the road – it’s just too steep and twisty. Even the buses that run tourists up and down the mountain have to be specially made with extra-strong brakes. The buses stop at the bottom of the elevator (which can take up 40 or 50 people at a time). The Eagle’s Nest itself is now pretty much just a cafe/restaurant – most of the artifacts from the 40s are long gone – but the view from the mountain is absolutely spectacular.
Just outside of Berchtesgaden is the famous Salzburgwerk Salt Mine (yes, that’s where Salzburg got its name!) We went on the official tour (and got official photos). Which was good, because it was cold and dark down there, and we didn’t get many good photos of our own. It was pretty cool stuff – the mine has been in continuous operation since 1517. They dig a hole into the salt deposit, spend a year filling it up with water to make a brine, then spend 28 more years getting the brine out and extracting the salt from that hole. They’ve got 28 holes going at a time! For the tour, they put us into matching jumpsuits, drove us deep into the earth, took us on a boat ride across the top of one of the brine-filled holes, and let us go down the wooden slides that the miners once used. We each got a tiny shaker of salt as a souvenir at the end.
From Berchtesgaden we drove to Salzburg where we planned to stay 2 nights in a row (yay!). Unfortunately, there was a Mozart festival in town, and pretty much all the hotels, pensions, garnis, and other accommodations were all booked up. We ended up staying just outside of Salzburg in a village called St. Leonhard. Right on the bus line, it was remote enough to be quiet (um, and available) but close enough to be an easy bus-ride into Salzburg center. We got passes that let us into all the museums and zoos and parks and let us ride the bus all we wanted for 48 hours for one low price. OK, it was kind of expensive (30 Euro or about $42.00 each) but we made sure to get as much value out of it as we could. Turns out, Salzburg has LOTS to see and do!
Days 9 and 10: Salzburg
Salzburg is at the base of a mountain, and the city at the top is called Oberberg. The gondola that takes you to Oberberg turns out to be in St. Leonhard (not downtown Salzburg), right next to our hotel! It was pretty easy for us to head out and up first thing in the morning. They packed the gondola pretty full of what seemed to be unwashed people who smelled like cigarettes. Despite the crowding and the smell, the ride up the mountain LOOKED spectacular, and we really appreciated the fresh mountain air at the top. And of course, the view from the top, and the hiking trails everywhere. The ride back down (mid-morning) was much nicer since we had the gondola almost to ourselves.
We took the bus from the base of the Gondola right into the heart of the city. One thing we’d heard about from family (for years!) is the Spielzeug Museum (Toy Museum). They had some fun exhibits, including toys that some of us remembered from years ago! It was pretty late when we decided to stop for lunch – even though it was an Irish pub, we ended up with pizza and beer yet again.
No trip to Salzburg would be complete without at least one Mozart-themed stop. We ended up at the house where Mozart lived (not where he was born, but where he lived later in life). I hadn’t realized that he had a sister who was considered quite brilliant at the piano herself. She was just overshadowed by his boy-genious attributes and the publicity machine that grew up around him. Hmmm… Here’s a portrait of the family (Amadeus, his sister Maria Anna, his dad Leopold, and the portrait of his dead mother Anna Maria) from 1781. They were so busy with touring and promotion and stuff that they ended up posing separately over the course of a year or so and the artist just made it look like they were all together.
That all seems like a lot for one day, but we weren’t done yet! The castle at Hellbrun was run by a real funny guy named Archbishop Markus Sittikus. He filled the grounds with trick fountains – when you think you’re walking down a lovely garden path, swoosh! the fountains spit water horizontally or diagonally or whichever way you least expect it. We took the night tour, so this photo is just a link to the official site. It shows the outdoor dining table where the Archbishop would serve his guests fine meals, and then for “dessert” he’d shoot water up through their chairs.
The next morning – our final day in Salzburg – we stopped in at the Salzburg Zoo on our way out of town. This totally put us over the top in terms of getting more value from those tourist passes than we paid for! It was a nice zoo, though the day was just a bit too sunny and hot. And yes, I realize that this picture is of a fake lion, not a real one! The real one had recently died and they were fundraising to get another one. We put a Euro into his mouth, just to be supportive.
Next stop: Munich!