Salzburg and Vienna; the #2MenEUTour goes to Austria

So far on Trip 4 of the #2MenEUTour, it’s been a rampage across central Europe as we’ve taken in Amsterdam, Brussels, Luxembourg and Stuttgart in a non-stop juggernaut of continental culture dunking. But we knew we couldn’t keep that up, we needed somewhere to slow things down for a few days and what better destination to do that than Austria?  Stunning countryside meets fascinating history in this wonderful land of all things Von Trapp.  Home to old skool Music moguls Mozart and Beethoven, the famous Spanish Riding School and of course some of the friendliest locals you could ever hope to meet, all made Austria one of our favourite destinations of the tour so far.

With the train running straight through the country we planned to stay at Salzburg before going on to Vienna to complete this section of the trip. Mrs P is a ‘slight’ Sound of Music fanatic fan and the opportunity to walk in the footsteps of Julie Andrews herself could not be ignored. There are so many things to see and experience in these two amazing cities that we could have filled 2 weeks with more and more but Italy was coming up next and so our time was precious.

The Salzach river. It’s even better when you get there.
The Austrians do like their garden fountains and this one in the Mirabellgarten is an absolute beaut.
Part of the Trick Fountains at Hellbrunn Palace, a ‘fun palace’ built for an obscene amount of money for a Prince who never stayed here. It’s a great day out for the kids though
Oh yes, Salzburg is a city full of culture and civilisa… what the..? GHERKIN STATUES??!

Salzburg is the birthplace of Mozart and as is the nature of todays Disney-fied world, almost everything is available with this fella’s face on it. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love a sandwich as much as the next man but when the house in which one of the single biggest musical influences the world has ever known was born has a Spar shoved inside it, you know we’re probably a little closer to the End of Days than we thought.

The house that Mozart was born in and a Spar. I mean seriously, who on earth said that was OK?
Mozart chocolate. Because nothing says musical virtuoso like marzipan
Mozart’s tomb. A wonderfully understated grave, unlike the way the rest of his legacy seems to prop up the tourist industry in Salzburg

In all fairness, I could never really do either Salzburg or Vienna justice in such a short blog – there is so much to see, do and explore.  Salzberg was one visual spectacle after another; Untersberg Cable-Car up into the Alps, the Salzburg Fortress, Helbrunn Palace and the Salzsach cruise all delivered in spades. Our highlights in Vienna included finding the amazing Cafe Central (a must visit for patisserie lovers such as Mrs P), tours up both spires at St Stephansdom, chilling out in any one of the beautiful platz around the city, Belevedere gardens and labyrinth, Schonbrunn Palace… it really was endless.  If you’re after a mega mix of culture, history and outdoor living, this really is the place for you.

The Spanish Riding School is the mecca for lovers of all things equine. The show we saw was 2 long soul destroying hours and the woman next to us was moved to tears throughout. I was not.
Eis gelato in Vienna. Some of the best gelato we’ve eaten outside of Italy
The Column of the Pest in Vienna. A beautiful statue dedicated to the victims of the plague. Well, poor buggers don’t get much anywhere else do they?
The Salzburg sunset just before a huge lightning storm hit.

Our trip to Austria was not completely filled with happiness and joy, however, as within hours of arriving we started to feel a dark shadow looming over us. After a week of almost constant travel, The Child was starting to flag and all the classic warning signs were there; the sullen shrugs, the constant grumbling and the total and utter inability to remember that Europe was the continent through which we were travelling which is NOT in Africa or indeed anywhere near Africa at all. Then it happened. The grade A, Defcon 1, category 5 melt down. The kind of fall-out that goes down in written history; it was nothing short of all-out war.

Words were said, intercontinental missiles were fired and the big red button wasn’t so much pushed as stamped on with a hell-bent and malicious glee. On the one hand we had The Child, a 3 foot 4 inch tall rocket propelled jet engine fuelled by pure pre-teen resentment and parental hatred. On the other I found myself legitimately asking Google just how much it would cost both morally and financially to put an 11 year old on the next plane home by herself. Thankfully, a shaky compromise was reached whereby I didn’t speak to The Child for the rest of the day and she didn’t do/say/think anything that would make me totally lose my shit.

This is Wilheim. Wilheim has The Most Amazing Job In The WorldTM. If you would like to know what The Most Amazing Job In The WorldTM actually is, then prepare to be astounded: he is a gilder and a gilder covers things in gold. Not in a James Bond-Goldfinger-murdering-young-girls kind of a way but in a make-everything-Moana-shiny kind of way. We met in the Karlzkirche at the Kalzplatz and he explained that he had single handedly covered over 1,000 square meters of the place in gold; statues, wall hangings, frescos and ceilings and candlesticks had all felt his metallic glittering touch. So we know he knows his stuff but what does he think about Brexit?

“Best thing to happen to Europe for years.” Ok Wilheim, go on tell me what you really think. “It’s not that the EU is bad, it was made to do a good thing but it’s not doing that any more. It’s broken. There are so many rules and everything is just too slow because we have to get agreement from so many countries. The UK are doing exactly the right thing, I wish we could do it. Once others see that it is possible, they will also ask and maybe the EU will fall apart but I don’t think so. But I do hope there will be some big changes because Austria is not working right now. I am lucky that the churches here still want my work but what happens when I finish? Will there be more work for me and my family? I don’t know but I think we should be able to decide what to do to solve the problems for people like me.” And that’s the crux of it I think, Wilheim doesn’t feel that his Government is in control of his country and it’s that frustration that is so evident in Brexit. Whether or not his fears are valid is immaterial it’s the fact that those in power have just not done enough to convince him that the path they are on is the right one.

More of Wilheim’s epic work in Karlskirche… It’s bloody brilliant isn’t it?
The view from the top of nearby Mount Untersberg. It’s the start of the Alps in all their glory.

So despite the previously mentioned snafu, the Family P actually waltzed through much of Austria with carefree abandon and apart from the distressing grave turning consumerism of Mozart’s legacy, there was very little we didn’t like about either city. Both the Salzburg and Vienna tourist offices were kind enough to supply some travel passes plus a few other things and I must say that the passes themselves both offer epic value for money.  You can get into EVERYTHING including travel and in particular the buses in Austria are an absolute delight. Maybe they don’t have the most comprehensive metro the world has ever seen but the public transport is regular, clean and generally thief free (which is more than can be said for Italy, but more on that in the next post). However, I do have one final word of warning for you all.  When traveling to, and promoting the virtues of, a fantastic location always make sure you pay attention. You really don’t want to be the guy who goes around tweeting, facebooking and generally drawing attention to themselves in a location and not spell correctly the very place in which you are standing. Classy as ever Mr Ribs, they were lucky to have you.

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