The Hills Are Alive!

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Austria. Wow. The pic above is from Hallstatt, about 90 minutes south of Salzburg and quite possibly the most beautiful place I have ever visited. On a ferry in Venice, we struck up a conversation with some fellow tourists who had just come in from Austria. “Don’t miss Hallstatt” they told us,  so we didn’t. We were in Austria for just two nights, so we made the long trek from Munich to Hallstatt, coming back into Salzburg that evening. The drive was stunning, winding through the mountains with beautifully manicured German and Austrian farms on either side.

A quick dinghy ride on the lake, lunch and then a bike ride around the entire lake, across one short section of road before the hills and elevation almost killed us! And then back to Salzburg.

For Salzburg, we were excited to expose the kids to the Youth Hostel experience, having stayed so far in private AirBnB type accommodations. We thought they’d gain a lot from mingling with folks from all over the world. Our family had booked 5 single bunks in a 6 bunk room and on the drive into Salzburg the kids were very animated about who the potential 6th person might be. Would “Hans” as we named him, be ok taking turns in the bathroom? Would he enjoy our family humor and should we have some midnight snacks ready to share with him? It turned out moot as the hostel wisely decided not to inflict us on a single traveller and we had the bunk room to ourselves.

Check in provided an interesting teaching moment. The check in counter was right next to their bar and on the front of the bar was a sign, “Tonight’s Special: Sex on the Beach.” Bryson contemplated this for a few moments and then spoke up. “Wow. This place offers everything, doesn’t it?” We had to explain that “Sex on the Beach” is actually an alcoholic drink…

Salzburg is home to “Sound of Music” and Lisa and Kaylee thoroughly enjoyed Mirabelle Gardens, one of the film locations. Bryson enjoyed the new family tradition of photobombing…

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Salzburg is also home to Wolfie Mozart, so we dolled up for a night and enjoyed a meal in “the world’s oldest restaurant” which has supposedly been serving food since 800AD. The evening was a delight: a live string quartet with a soprano and baritone, all dressed in period costume performing Mozart’s more famous pieces. Music set, first course, musical set, second course etc etc. The Baritone had a wonderful sense of humor – when people were recording him on their cell phone, he’d grab it during the song and take a selfie and hand it back. A gentle reminder to enjoy the evening live, not through a 5″ screen.

The restaurant room was quite small – maybe 50 people total, so we shared tables. A young couple sat down next to the Cuss 5. Having glanced at us, the gentleman immediately got up. “He’s asking for another table without kids,” Andrew said. Yep. He came back and shook his head to his wife who then got up to speak to a manager. “Now she’s trying.” We were trying not to laugh as a family of 5 isn’t exactly a young couple’s idea of a romantic evening. No luck for them, they were stuck with us and we provided, if I may, fine company for them, teaching them stupid human tricks between courses and asking more questions of them than they preferred to answer….

It was occasion #247 where I looked at this family and wondered how I ever fell into such a blessing as to share life with these wonderful folks. The young couple could only hope to have kids one day as fine as ours.

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The next day a tour of Salzburg. I fear I am becoming monotonous: it is another stunning landmark European city. Wonderful vibe and architecture. Great chocolate. And, it turns out, a great car dealership. I have been a lifelong Alfa Romeo fan, and am anxiously awaiting Alfa’s return to US soil with the new Guilia:

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A pipe dream, of course. The twin turbo V6 starts at $70,000, so it won’t be in the cards outside of a test drive. Perhaps this Morgan would suffice?

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Of course, one of the great experiences of travel is accidental discoveries. We stumbled across a small short order kitchen inside the local supermarket and managed to beat a crowd of 50 danish teenagers also staying at the hostel. (The “Great Danes” as we dubbed them.) Huge portion of bacon, 3 eggs cooked to order, bread, jam, juice and cappuccino or hot chocolate for $5.

IMG_1578One of the finest breakfasts of the entire trip for a bargain price.As we left we made sure to let the cook know that he was to breakfast what Mozart was to opera – a Maestro. He didn’t get many complements inside that non descript supermarket and was quite moved by the feedback.

Germany and Austria were a sprint and I’m so very glad we “popped in” to these two enchanting countries. Hope to get back one day. Next stop: Croatia.

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