Tuesday, July 6, 2004

Austria - Salzburg, Ice Caves and "The hills are alive..."

So we arrived in Salzbug and booked into another one of those massive hostels.Fortunately this one was in a nice place, in the old part of the town, rightin the shadows of the massive fortress the dominated the whole city. That afternoonwe went for a walk around the city, well, the old part of the city anyways. It'sreally a very pretty town, with small cobblestoned roads and plenty of old buildings.The new part of town looks just like any other city, as Paul Kelly said, "Every f'ncity looks the same." Our walk pretty much ended in Mirabelle Plaza, which is abig house with a fancy garden. :)

The next day we decided to take a tour of Salzburg castle.. which was supposed tobe the biggest working castle in Europe.. whatever a "working castle" is.. Insidewas pretty much standard fare (we had seen many castles by this stage), though it was definately the most richly decorated castle we had seen. The guide tookus through a number of rooms, explainging how something-burg of somethingelse-burgadded this wing and how they were married to Hasburg of Ausbenburg or whatever. Therewere lots of "burgs" in either case.

Following this was our much anticipated trip to the "Giant" Ice Caves. Not just regular,but GIANT! So we took a tour with a bunch of others from the Hostel (a Canadian dude, anAmerican girl and a Costa Rican dude) and drove about 1.5 hours there. Right near thecaves there was this fantastic castle, on top of a sheer hill maybe 100m up from the valley floor..

So anyways, we got to the car park, and after a short walk we got to a cable car, whichwas apparently the steepest cable car in Austria.. or Europe.. or something. It wassteep, by any measure.. A quick trip up about 400m and we were near the top of the mountain.In the freezing cold. With big fat flakes of snow blowing around. This was late springand I don't think I had seen the sun yet, in Austria. From the cable car we had another15 minutes or so to walk to the entrance, through the freezing cold, wet and snowy path.

There were actually peple climbing up the side of that mountian, in the parts wherethere is no footpath! There was even a dude taking a small kid (maybe 8-10 year old).That's how they breed em in Austria, I guess. Anyways, so we finally make it to the cave,which happened to be warmer than outside... few minutes after we got into the cave thesnow really started coming down.. you can't see it too well in the picture below, but thewhite "fog" is actually snow flakes...

Unfortunately we weren't allowed to take pictures inside the caves (not that it wouldbe any use, coz it's really dark).. There isn't much lighting inside, but the guideshave flares which they light up when you get to an intersting part.. I must say that it wasreally quite amazing in there, some of the formations are HUGE, like 50m high huge.. andsome of the caves are massive! You couldn't see the top of them even with a bunch offlares lit..

The next day we did what apparently everyone does in Salzburg - the Sound of Music Tour. Iwasn't too keen on this, but went along anyways. There were five people from the Hostelgoing, us three and two other Aussies who were down for the weekend from England (Hi Ali and Heather!).It was drizzly and cold yet again, and it even snowed while we were driving through the hills that were alive. This was in the last week of Spring! The tour itself was so-so.. me not being a big fan of the movie didn't help, I guess.. but the guide was pretty cool, with a repertoire of bad jokes being told in a German (well, Austrian) accent, complete with "ya? ya?"s.. We went to a whole bunch of places where the fim was made, and theguide filled us in on the REAL story of the von Trapps. I didn't even know it was a realstory! :)

So anyways, we wrapped up our Salzburg adventure, looking forward to what is going tobe the highlight of the trip - Berchtesgaden and of course Kehlsteinhaus - the Eagle's Nest!

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