Our first full day in Salzburg started out as a bit of a debacle but we did make it up the Untersberg mountain for some spectacular scenery and lots of snow! The afternoon we explored the Salzburg fortress and the Mönchsberg mountain, before dinner at a very foxy restaurant.
The kids woke up a bit after 6.45am, which was way earlier than their poor tired parents wanted. We decided that if we weren’t going to get to sleep we’d better head down to breakfast for coffee to assist with our weary state. We quickly got dressed and headed down to the restaurant. This was our first morning in the hotel and we weren’t really sure where the restaurant was. We followed other people and thought the restaurant and buffet looked a bit small, it turns out it was a special tour group one set-up and we were quickly ushered to a bigger and nicer one across the hall.
The actual restaurant is very quiet but the buffet has a decent selection, so everyone eats. Unfortunately, the coffee machine is broken and when working the coffee pretty average. We made do though. All full of delicious German breakfast cake we head back upstairs and put snowsuits and warmer clothes on. The hotel is ridiculously warm, so you pretty much have to walk around in shorts and a t-shirt. We turned off the heating in our room and still cooked overnight from the hotels main heating system!
We headed out on foot to what we think is the nearest information point, to redeem our Salzburg cards that we had pre-purchased a voucher for. We wanted to start using them from that morning, but Anto was unable to redeem the cards on the way through the train station the previous night as it was already closed.
The walk to get the cards did let us establish that it was a beautiful clear day, and that already a fair bit of the snow had melted, due to it being above zero the previous day. It was still funny seeing garden beds under snow though.
We got to the tourist information area and they couldn’t redeem vouchers so sent us to the Salzburg information area in a building across the road. The building looks like an office building and seems deserted. After eventually finding a lift and getting to the correct floor, it still looks like a government office rather than a tourist information area. A friendly staff member laughs at us and tells us we have definitely been given the wrong information and sends us back to the train station, another 15 minute walk. At the train station we finally get the cards redeemed and head to the bus to take us up the Untersberg cable car.
In keeping with our stellar morning of nothing going to plan, we had just missed a bus so had a 15 minute wait. This seemed to be the theme for the day. Once we were on the bus and moving we went past all the areas we’d walked that morning, over an hour earlier. Luckily the scenery for the rest of the day made up for the debacle of a morning.
We then had a 30 minute ride out to Untersberg, a mountain that straddles Berechtesgaden, Germany and Salzburg, Austria. It is a 1973m peak that seems to rise from nowhere out of flat snow-covered fields. Heading out towards the mountain it was one of the prettiest bus rides I’ve had in a very long time! There were gorgeous flat fields of snow, with kids out sledding, the very Alpine chalets with snow-covered roofs and a huge mountain in the background. The distinctive ‘lopsided peak’ of Untersberg was made famous in the beginning and end scenes of ‘The Sound of Music.’ It is a popular tourist attraction for its connection to the movie and also because it offers spectacular views over Salzburg.
Once we arrive at the Untersbergbahn (Untersberg Cable Car) we lined up for the cable cars that go every 30 minutes. We of course had missed the last one by about 5 minutes so had at least a 20 minute wait. The kids were beside themselves with excitement about all the snow they could see and had fun looking at the cable car lines. I was feeling ill at the prospect of heading up in a cable car (they are not my favourite thing) and Astrid was getting a little nervous. From the bottom the first tower looks almost straight up. You can’t even see the second one! The car ascends from 469m to 1776m over a distance of 2819m at a speed of 7m/s. No, I don’t remember all of that a month down the track, I cheat and take a photo of the sign! It turns out this cable car was nothing compared to some we did later on the trip, but at the time it was a scary prospect.
At 11am we loaded onto the cabin of the cable car with about 40 other people and started our 9.5 minute ride to the top. The cable car had quite a steep ascent from the base station up the top of the mountain. The photos really don’t do it justice. You are flying upwards at quite a rate, quickly ascending above roofs and towards the rock face of the Untersberg mountain. It was quite scary watching the rock face coming directly at you.
The car was quite big so there wasn’t too much rocking other than when we went over the sections with support poles. We got a couple of good videos of this. The was the one cable car in the whole trip that you felt a quite definite fall as you went over each support poles (again my least favourite thing!). When the cable car heading in the opposite direction came rushing past it was clear how fast we were actually going.
We got to the top without me fainting or puking. The kids just thought it was marvelous and couldn’t understand why Mum was looking a little green. We got off the cable car and stopped in the restaurant and viewing area and mitten the kids up before heading outside into the snow.
The views were magnificent. You could see all of Salzburg laid out below. The city and surrounding areas were easy to see, especially the fortress and the airport (the runway was pretty easy to see from so high up).
The surrounding beautiful mountains, that are difficult to see while in Salzburg were enormous. It’s definitely a whole different world from up the mountain.
The snow was so soft and powdery that it was dry when you touched it, it was pretty much impossible to make snowballs, not that we didn’t give it a red-hot go!
There were huge piles of snow everywhere, the kids were having a wonderful time running, sliding and playing in it. If you walked off the groomed trails you sunk up to your knees. Not ideal for Mikl who still didn’t have waterproof shoes. Everyone else was relatively waterproof for the day and happily frolicking in the snow.
There quite a few marked trails that you could hike. We set out to do a little exploring but the kids were content to roll and jump in the snow. We had to keep them away from edges as there was no stopping them plummeting straight off the mountain if they veered off the narrow paths. It was slightly terrifying when they let go of our hands. As a result we decided not to do any walks that day and just enjoy playing in the snow. It was rather fresh up the mountain but the kids were fine in snowsuits and the rest of us were ok with our scarves and gloves on. We definitely got much colder mountain top temperatures later in the trip.
We did take it in turns for a little explore up to the cross above the cable car station but didn’t do too much walking off the trails as the snow was pretty deep. It was hard to miss that view though. The photos really don’t do it justice.
As much as we wanted to stay and play in the snow we also wanted to catch the 12pm cable car down so we could get some lunch. The restaurant at the top looked OK but we thought we should head into old town for lunch and do the fortress in the afternoon. If we had of had more time we would have done some hiking but the area at the top wasn’t suitable for the kids to play in for long periods due to the sheer drops. It turns out we had plenty of time to play in snow up mountains later in the trip, so this one was good for the views! The Untersberg cable car is covered on the Salzburg Card, so if you are planning to do the trip up, the card becomes good value.
We did have to drag the kids away from the snow, but the novelty of another cable car ride got them moving. The trip down was just as spectacular scenery wise, with nice views over valleys and of the other mountains. I again managed not to faint!
When we got back down the station, there was a bus waiting so we jumped on and had another scenic ride back into Salzburg. On the way back we did notice the bus went past the zoo, which looked interesting (and rather snowy) but we were unlikely to get there during this stay. We got off the bus not far from the fortress in order to find somewhere to eat. We happened upon a Japanese restaurant and thought it looked good for a change of cuisine.
My half English – half German was good enough for the mostly German-speaking Japanese waitress. We ordered the kids some spring rolls and tempura prawns and they shared those and a crispy chicken and noodle dish with teriayki sauce with Alan. I had wok-fried vegies and tofu with satay sauce (yay, vegies and tofu) which was really nice, even Soren stole a few vegies since we are obviously depriving him of them again. Mikl and Anto ordered Bento boxes – Mikl a Sashimi one and Anto a crispy chicken one. They looked pretty good. The boys had beer and I had the house white wine since I’ve gotten good at ordering that in German. The kids scored fortune cookies when we left for being cute!
All recharged and full of food we decided to head up to the Hohensalzburg fortress, which is pretty obvious sitting on top of the hill,you can see if from most places within Salzburg. It was built in 1077 by Archbishop Gebhard and is the largest fully preserved fortress in Central Europe. It is mighty impressive sitting up on the hill, and must have been hard to attack in ye olden days.
We had a walk around and up some stairs to the funicular start point or festungsbahn. We got a free ride on the funicular on the Salzburg card (along with entry to the fortress) so took advantage and headed into the funicular. It took off at great pace and we whizzed to the top in about 30 seconds.
We wandered around courtyards of the fortress and Soren was now well and truly asleep in the ergo on my back. It did mean he missed out on the views over the city, but the peace and quiet from the over-tired toddler was well worth it!
The fortress had various things to look at, and we did the walk through ‘A’ to start which also went up the tower and viewing area, through a torture chamber and several other rooms. The views from up the tower were amazing and almost worth the lots and lots of stairs to get up……. which wasn’t made easier with Soren on my back. Our trip through the torture chamber was fairly quick since we didn’t want too many questions from the 4 year-old, but it certainly didn’t look like a nice place to spend any time.
We then did walk through ‘B’ which had some armour, museums, models of the funicular, and state rooms. The models of how the fortress was built and expanded were very interesting. One of our favourite exhibits was the ‘flying arrows’ model. So impressive from every angle!
After an hour or so of wandering all through the fortress Astrid was getting understandably bored and weary so we headed out and tried to find our way to Monchsberg. After our visit to the fortress you can see why it remained unconquered by enemies during its long history. It was a very fortress like fortress!
We walked down from the fortress instead of taking funicular, as we thought it might be quicker to get to Mönchsberg, turns out this was not the case. It was steep and gravelly with partially covered snow. The path eventually dumped us down the bottom of the hill near the funicular entrance. We then walked out of fortress and along castle walls towards the Mönchsberg.
Mönchsberg is one of the 5 mountains within the city of Salzburg. It is named after the Benedictine Monks of St Peter’s Abbey which is at the foot of the mountain.
We finally got to Mönchsberg and wound our way around the paths and through the snow for more lovely views over the city and of the Berechtesgaden Alps, Salzkammergut Alps and Untersberg. It was a really scenic walk, with nice views over the valleys. Some lucky people had houses up there and there were a few touristy hotels etc, but it looked like there were some people actually living up inside the walls. There are several castles and fortifications dotted all over the mountain and it’s a recreation area for the city inhabitants.
Soren woke up and was recharged by gummi bears and lots of dogs out walking through the snow. We followed the paths around for the scenic walks but the sun was getting close to setting so we decided to head back towards the With their usual level of cute the kids conned some gummi bears out of some nice ladies they were batting their eyelids at.
As we got to the Mönchsberg lift we noticed there was a modern art museum in the building attached. We had free entry with our card and thought we might go in for some warm. It turned out not to be the best place to take the kids as they like to touch things and there was a no touching anything policy and lots of frantic staff running around looking panicked every time we entered a room. We were all a bit confused by a lot of the exhibits, and clearly weren’t as up on our modern art as other patrons who were carrying around their fold up chairs to sit and contemplate various works. We thought it best to flee before we got arrested for the kids touching something they shouldn’t, so headed out (still confused by lots of the exhibits) and down the lift, which was a very boring standard lift with no views. It was free with the card and saved some walking but don’t worry about doing it otherwise.
We headed out and ran past yet another Christmas market (almost the end of the first week of January and some were still going) but didn’t stick around for too long as we were all getting hungry and tired. It was a very pretty market though!
We planned to go to a biergarten for dinner so thought we’d walk the approx 1km there, which took us along the river which was pretty in the dark with lots of lights out. Soren thought he should walk, but we had visions of him throwing himself in the icy river accidentally, so had to restrain him in the ergo.
We eventually got the biergarten but it was very busy and huge and not that appealing to me, so we decided to go elsewhere. Tired, we tried catching a bus, and eventually found one to take us back to near the bridge over the river, and into old town. We walked back through where we had been the previous day, to try to find something to eat. Eventually we ended up in a pub that we’d spotted on the first day that seemed to like foxes. It was called ‘Alter Fuchs’ and had lots of foxes everywhere, much to Soren’s delight as he considers them to be dogs, his favourite thing. It was a cool restaurant and we were put in what we named the ‘fox room’ which had stuffed foxes in the window boxes, and some cool windows painted to look like the forest. Astrid is still taking about the fox room and kinder schnitzels so it made an impression.
Anto wasn’t well so didn’t eat but Mikl had schnitzel (again), Alan pork knuckle, which was enormous and he didn’t want bread dumplings so got some steamed vegies and radish salad instead (which I quite liked). The kids had a kinder schnitzel that was enormous and chips (since you need to have potatoes with every meal). I had a breaded crepe, fried vegie thing that was tasty with a creamy sauce. Soren stole quite a bit of my dinner and obviously improved.
All tired we headed back to the hotel after a big day of walking and sight-seeing. Astrid had walked all the day bar the last 750 or so metres, including about 50 flights of stairs! Very impressive effort for little legs.
Statistics for the 5th of January 2016, in Salzburg Austria, the minimum temperature for the day was 0 degrees, the maximum was 3 degrees with a mean of 2 degrees. The snow was definitely starting to melt! It was definitely below zero up Untersberg but I didn’t see the actual temperature, we think it was around minus 5 degrees, so quite pleasant really. The total walking for the day was 16.5km (at least 15.5km for Miss Astrid). A pretty big day all around.