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Rain, Cigarettes and Mountains
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Rain, Cigarettes and Mountains

06/21/10 | by Comp615 [mail] | Categories: The Life

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If you're on facebook, you already know that this is the title of my photo album from last weekend (Go ahead, you can click that link, I'll wait). Anyways, last weekend was a quick trip to Salzburg and Hallstatt. What follows is another one of those travelogue-type posts recanting my adventures.

Salzburg
I left directly from work after the Germany game and caught a train from the East Bahnhof which went directly to Salzburg. It's only a two hour ride, so that was nice. My first impression of Salzburg was a little underwhelming, the train tracks on the way in look like they have been bombed out, and the train station is literally made of plywood. They seem to be in the middle of a 5-year project to build a new train station, which should bring it more inline with German stations.

I stopped in at my Hostel quickly to drop off my stuff and then went out for a night on the town. At the dinner joint, I was amused to be sitting next to a group of Italians who spoke basically no English or German, so the waiter was having fun with them a bit as they tried to order. Eventually the group seemed to understand what one dish was and four fingers sealed the order. The waiter made a beer drinking motion, and another four fingers confirmed his guess. It was an amusing way of ordering, but effective.

The night was rainy, and I wandered through the streets taking pictures for awhile before stumbling upon a path up the hill which offered a nice view over the rooftops of Salzburg. The next morning, I set out early to visit the castle which rests high atop Salzburg, it has some interesting history behind it. In order to kill time, I wandered some more past various Mozart residences which were overpriced, and through a fun market in the old section of town near the Residence.

I ended my voyage through Salzburg in an absolutely beautiful garden (Which you can see in the photos). It was massive. There were literally a half-dozen or so wedding parties wandering around taking pictures, and I couldn't figure out why until I followed them back to the source. It was a city office. I think I remember this from some high-school German class, but in Germany people are married twice, once religiously and once civicly at a city office. This must have been that office (because it wasn't a church) because they were putting people through about one group every 15-20 minutes.

Hallstatt

The trip to Hallstatt was when the excitement really picked up though. After a little 50 minute ride to a transfer station, I boarded a regional train. As soon as we pulled out of the station, I knew this was going to be a treat because there was only one track. After about 5 minutes, our train lurched to a halt and I thought something was wrong until I realized that this was actually a "station". It was literally a farm which happened to have a train track running through it and some gravel.

Eventually we hit some more legitimate stations (I.E. They had huts). What was amazing was that there were actually conductors at all these stations. A couple stations along the way had multiple tracks. At these stations we usually had to wait 2-3 minutes for the train coming the opposite direction to get through. It was fun.

When I finally got to my stop, it was one of those gravel things in the middle of nowhere. I was very confused as to where the town was until I wandered far enough to find a small ferry which took you across the lake to the town. It was so quaint, but it also offered a fantastic view of the whole area. Definitely the best way to get to Hallstatt!

By the time I got there it was late, so I checked into my Gasthaus and had dinner. In the morning, it wasn't raining, so I made a trip to the nearby waterfall which was also very cool. So many of these towns are just wedged in-between two 6,000 foot sheers, it's very cool to see in person, I don't think my photos could do that aspect justice. After my hike to the waterfall, it started raining again. Nevertheless, I wandered the town and took some pics before heading to the next town over for a tour of the caves in the mountains.

Both of the caves rest in a mountain area about 5,000 feet ASL. The cable car ride up requires adamant ear popping as the ascent only takes about 5 minutes. Through a series of very unfortunate events, I was only able to tour the ice cave which was nevertheless awesome. One can easily (and should) spend a whole day on the mountain, but knowing that the last bus home leaves around 5PM. I only rode the car to the first station where the caves are, but there is actually a second segment that take you up another couple thousand feet to one of the peaks where you can find a small town, some fantastic hiking, and an incredible view of the entire region and lake (On a sunny day). A day like mine, and you can only see clouds.

After I got back I grabbed a quick dinner and joined a group of New Zealanders (Kiwis) for the World Cup game. I couldn't tell what language they were speaking for about 10 minutes. (Austrian German can be very hard to understand in the mountains). Turns out it was English. Very muttled English. But we had a great time anyways watching the game. It felt like something straight out of a press photo with the 10 of us at a very small little bar stand on the lake. After the game, I took the ferry back and embarked on my long trip back to Munich.

Debrief
As the title implies, it rained the entire time. Not heavily, just consistently. I'm sure it's even more beautiful when sunny, but it was nevertheless absolutely the most beautiful place ever. I found Hallstatt while randomly browsing the internet, but it was totally worth the time.

The one downside was, I went to a bar to try and watch a world cup game, only to discover that Austria apparently doesn't have a smoking ban indoors. In fact, literally every single person in Austria smokes. When getting off the train, teens would constantly put a cig in their mouth, grab their bag, and wait with almost comical reliability.

This trip only got me even more excited for other such mini-trips. I think two days is the perfect amount of time for me to explore a city. Unless there's something I'm really into, I usually get bored with cities in a couple days (as far as being a tourist goes...). Future destinations are still TBD, but look for more such trips soon!

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A collection of musings from my time at Yale along with some thoughts about my "Freshman year of life" in San Francisco.

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