So Salzburg, home of Mozart, sat in the mountains and decked with some damn fine buildings. Like Vienna, Salzburg’s architecture impresses on the large side. Huge, imposing edifices dominate the town centre. Narrow streets throng with American tourists in caps and sunglasses gawking or eat ice cream next to the fountains. The castle on the hill sits over the city rather like Potala Palace in Lhasa except slightly less mystically! It was commendable and hot. We ate ice cream.
That brings me to the better part of the day. In Salzburg, I met up with Jacqueline, a fellow student from Nottingham who not only gave me an awesome, whistle-stop guided tour of the city (I provided the ice cream as a thank you) but then we drove out to the lake district area 30 minutes outside the city and her favourite restaurant nearby called The Tube. Built like a wooden tube, we sat outside, drank some beers and ate a fantastic dinner in the sun facing the Alps . This town of Mondsee was where they filmed The Sound of Music, a fact given substance by the tour buses in the town car park. Weirdly Austrians are never really heard of the film.
The Austrians are a quirky bunch. More relaxed than their Germanic neighbours, they sit quietly in the middle of the continent, militarily neutral and therefore quaintly letting the world take care of itself as they drink their beers, play in the snow or hike round and over the Alps.
Apart from Vienna, Austria is rarely thought about. And Austrians are rarely met. There are only 8 million of them. I travelled with one in South America for a few months. We visited the Austrian embassy in Bolivia and found it, two rooms above a bank, one with the secretary and the other the ambassador. He welcomed us in like lost travellers but considering the long conversation, I think he was glad for the company.
The cost of travel in Austria is well-known and Vienna has a reputation for being dull at night but yet a country with lakes and rangy mountains, lederhosens and good beers simply added to my Germanic Alpine experience. It’s a gorgeous area. The landscape is littered with antiquated barns and unmarked grassy fields carpeted with daisies. Its culture is heart-warming and traditional, with all the modern world at hand and yet somewhat sleepy for a biggish city. Tucked up here in the mountains, it’s not for me but I’ll definitely be back for another summer beer.