Friday, September 25, 2015

Day 43: Salzburg

THE bread.
One thing I won't miss the second hand smoke.

Ok, so the bread we've been eating for breakfast, here in Munich, has been some of the BEST bread we've ever had. Everyone likes it. Seeds and all. OMG, it's so good. So, I may not say Germany has the best bread, but Munich definitely does.

During breakfast, we decided to try to see the Glockenspiel "show" one more time. Venice remembers hearing, when we just missed the top of the hour yesterday, a couple say, "We've been here for half an hour and still, nothing." I pull up the wikipedia for Glockenspiel and the information there says it only does a "show" at 11am! Doh! That's in half an hour! We can make it, we just have to race through the end of breakfast and get there.

Another panoramic (I can't help myself, it's so beautiful)
The square filled with people (bottom-left), Xander hiding in his coat (bottom-middle)
The Glockenspiel (bottom-middle), The kids (bottom-right)

This time we made it to the square with at least 7 minutes to spare. There was a big crowd gathering, so it's obvious we are in the right place at the right time. At a few minutes to 11am, the other three churches began to chime. Then, at 11, the Glockenspiel began. 32 bells, many moving parts. The best part, to me, were the two knights going around and around with their lances. At one point, one of them "went down" and there was a victor. Other than that, it was a bunch of twirling and dancing pieces. The show went on for over 10 minutes. It was pretty exciting, but around the 8 minute mark, people starting drifting away (you can only look up for so long). At one point, it seemed to end and we all clapped... and then it started up again. Silly.

Marienplatz station.
After the show, we returned to the hotel to finish packing and to check out. The hotel held our bags and we went back out to get one more look at the city. We did't have much time and we needed to cover lunch, so we went to a new open market. And to get there, we had to go... you guessed it.... through the same square as the Glockenspiel. I think we've gone there enough for 24 hours and we really know this route now.

As we walked by the square, we were able to see an artist, who started his art while we were there before, now with his completed "scene." It took us a second look, but he was IN the art himself (he looked like a piece of art, but we could see him blinking if we stared long enough). His message was peace. We also passed other "artists" and their shows, looking for donations. They were more touristy-gimmicky and we had fun figuring out their "trick".

"Peace" artist (left), Gimmick artists (right)

We found lunch (the kids ate soup) and coffee (Chris and I found espresso) near the Maypole in the new open market.

According to the sign, the kids at the best soup in town (left and middle). The kids and the Maypole (right).

We picked up our bags from our hotel. Chris said goodbye to Sebastian (he works at the hotel we stayed in and is HotelTonight's contact) and we headed to the main train station. Another trip by train.

Getting to the train station was easy. But once we were there, it was a little confusing to find our train. Our tickets said our train would be on track 12. The board said track 11. We arrived 25 minutes early, but it was already there, making us feel like hurrying. So we hustled to the train. There was no car "1" (first class) but a few cars had a "1" and a "2" on it, so we entered one of those. The first class seats were up a few steps, to be higher than those lowly second-classers. We settled into the near-empty car. After a few minutes, we (I mean me) started to wonder... are we really on the right train? How can it be so empty?

Chris and Xander went to check the route and came back saying that the stops listed didn't list Salzburg. They went all the way to the stop BEFORE Salzburg, but didn't include Salzburg. What? Chris went to ask. By the way, there are no people walking around checking your ticket as you get on the train. So, they only time they check your ticket is after the train is moving. Crazy.

Chris found someone and asked. He told Chris that we are, indeed, on the correct train. That it will stop in Freilassing (the last stop before Salzburg) and that we'll take the "AC5" bus into Salzburg. It will be clearly marked.

Xander waiting for the U-Bahn to stop (left). A lonely pigeon in the station (middle).
The many, many buttons on the train to lock the door, wash your hands, flush the toilet.... (right)

As the train pulled away, we began to wonder... is this due to the refugee immigrants? Freilassing is the last stop in Germany and Salzburg is the first stop in Austria. We asked the ticket-guy when he came by and he somewhat verified this (it was a stilted conversation).

On the SEV bus.
The train pulled into Freilassing and everyone got off. There weren't that many left on the train, as it was, but the few of us got off. We exited the station and somewhat followed those in front of us. As we left the platform, I saw people sorting bags and bags of food (bananas, bread, etc.) and racks of jackets and other clothes. I figured them to be donations that were being handed out to arriving immigrants.

We got onto the "SEV" train. And after thinking about it, "es-ay-fow" (in a German accent) could sound like "ay-cee-five" (to American ears) so we're pretty sure we're on the right bus. Just saying, there were really no directions for us. No one leading us, no one announcing anything, no signs, no one taking roll call. It just seemed like everyone knew where to go. And we're just hoping they don't ask for tickets as we don't have bus tickets.

First train station in Germany (top)
Looking in a van, (mid-left), long line of cars (middle)
BMW police (mid-right),
Group waiting on bridge (bottom)
I had looked on line (while still on the train) at the borders between Germany and Austria. The border follows the river (right down the middle of the river). I expected that we would cross a river and at that time, we'd be crossing into Austria. And so it was. Right in the middle of the bridge, you could see several police cars holding up traffic going the other direction (out of Austria and into Germany). Cars were lined up (and we'd see this for miles), waiting to cross the border. Right at the border, there were crowds of people on both sides of the bridge (on the pedestrian sidewalks), hanging out just waiting. I saw one van stopped, and the police were inspecting inside the back of the van. No commotions, just back-logged traffic moving very slowly.

This border-control and a few (I'm now profiling) immigrants at the very first train stop in Germany (going the other direction) are the only signs we've seen of anything, thus far, in terms of the refugees coming out of Syria. We would later hear more about the disruption of train schedules (one of Chris' coworkers decided to not return to Berlin via Salzburg, but instead, to do direct from Vienna, due to the disrupted train services). We are feeling lucky that we chose to fly out of Salzburg on our way back to Berlin, we should have no problems.

Going into Austria, there is no border control. You can just drive right in.

It definitely gave me pause to think about how we're staying in a high end hotel tonight, while those people we drove past are presumably sleeping on the bridge. Perhaps waiting to be let through. As the line to cross the border was miles long, we are passed by a Porsche. The border police are using regular (maybe old) police cars, while we arrive and see a BMW "unmarked" car. And as our visit in Salzburg will prove, Salzburg is a very opulent city (lots of high end shopping, very nice restaurants). HotelTonight has asked everyone to donate credits and/or money to help give hotel rooms to needy refugees. Chris does this, but it's hard to feel that it's enough. Definitely feeling the weight of the situation right now.

These are the thoughts in our minds as we reach the end of our bus ride. As we see a heavier police presence. As we watch a mother and two children escorted across the way (everyone seemed calm and everyone was "freely" walking, but they were definitely being escorted), wondering why. As we buy our tickets for our bus ride into town, after deciding to take the bus instead of a taxi.

We successfully take a bus to the stop near our hotel. Chris figures out the map and we head onto the main street and towards our final goal. Not only do our bags give us away, but I'm sure we look like "newbies" as we crane our necks soaking in our new home for the next few days. After Munich, which seemed to have a lot more modern buildings, Salzburg feels ancient. Back to the eroding building facades like Venice and Prague. Ancient street signs. I instantly like this city.

We check into our hotel. And let me say... holy crap! One of Chris' coworkers helped us get a room at this HotelTonight-partnered hotel. There is a fair going on this weekend (we'd later figure out it's a big deal with origins from the Church and St. Rupert... but it's just like of Oktoberfest with rides, food, and beer). Due to the Rupertkirtags fair, hotel rooms were limited, and we ended up in a very expensive suite for less than half the going price (which was still expensive by our standards).

Stairs up to our suite (left), At the door (middle-left), our loft (middle-right), the walkway IN our suite (right).

So, why do I say holy crap? Our suite is two floors, with a separate room for one kid, a loft for us upstairs, a large "living room" a sitting room and the bathroom separated into shower area, toilet area (with a sink), and another large sink area. We are on the top floor and have amazing views of the fortress and mountains. Holy crap. Of course, ironically, as much as we'd love to bathe in the luxuriousness of this room, we're hopefully not going to be in it much!

View from our room. Looking directly out the window (left) and looking a little left (right).

The lobby for the elevator.
After oogling just about everything in our suite, we got down to business of dinner. Everyone is very hungry as the kids' soup was eons ago and Chris and I mostly snacked. We decided to eat at M3, which is located at the top of the hill above our hotel. Lisa, at the checkin desk, couldn't get through to the restaurant, but is convinced they're open and we'd be fine to get a table. She directed us to the elevator to the top of the mountain (which smelled strongly of earth as you walk into the lobby). You can walk up to the top of the mountain, but it's dark and we all think it's best to take the elevator.

As we exit the elevator, we realise we have arrived at the top of the mountain at the most perfect time. Twilight. The sun has set, but it's not dark yet. There is a blue hue over the entire city. So beautiful. Hard to not fall in love with this city.

Panorama (distorted) of the city (top). The fortress atop an opposing hill (bottom-right).

Dinner was pretty good. We were too late to get a table right by the windows, but that's ok. Pretty soon it became dark and really, food was our main focus. After dinner, we were treated to another view of the city, this time with the sun completely set. Pretty awesome. FYI, if you ever do this, know that if you eat at the restaurant, you get tickets to take you back down the elevator. Dang it. We bought round trip tickets and could have just purchased single direction. Oops. 

Same photos as above, but hours later.

We are so ready for bed. It's been a full day.

I will leave you with the following photos (somewhat at Chris' expense)... as he did hit his head the next day (he ducked, but stood up too quickly) and after this, he stood to work on his computer (but this night, he looked silly on a short chair with a high counter).

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