Saturday, June 2, 2007

Salzburg

After a plane/train/walking trek that started on Wednesday evening and ended in the wee hours of Friday morning, I finally made it to my bed in Salzburg.

The plane trips were largely unremarkable; thanks to some Sominex, I slept right through my LAX-Heathrow flight, and was served some yummy (and appropriate) Knodel on my Heathrow-Vienna flight on Austrian Airlines. On the train from Vienna to Salzburg, I kept stealing glances at a cute, young Austrian military man (I admit, I have a thing for men in uniform. Or a suit. Or, really, dressed up in any formal fashion.) as he ate canned peaches and shed pieces of his uniform. And I almost fooled him into thinking I was native by keeping my mouth shut until he asked me something I couldn't catch and, flustered, I blurted out that my native language was English. Smooth.

I've spent two days here with a college friend spending a semester abroad in Salzburg, and truthfully, much of the trip has been mundane: we went grocery shopping, and subsequently ate in most of the time. (Admittedly, this is much cheaper, so it looks like I'll be eating sandwiches for most meals until I meet up with the family.) We prepared Mint Juleps for a World of Drinks party at his dorm, which was no small feat, since Austrian shops do not sell bags of ice. (Most dorm-mates were having the same problem: when one asked a store owner where they might find bags of ice, he replied, "try Italy or Spain.") Eventually, a barista at a gas station coffee shop agreed to give us ice if we came back with bags; when we did, she didn't seem too pleased and we left with just one bag.

Today we walked around the Altstadt and "hiked" (steep grade, but ~5 minute walk) to the Festung ("fortress") at the top of the hill. From here, you can see in all directions, and as I remarked that Salzburg doesn't seem all that big, Justin replied that it's about 150,000 people -- "about 2 Palo Altos." Well, no wonder I'm underwhelmed. It's pretty, but it seems heavily divided between a nice center and very sleepy outlying residential areas. There seems to be very little to do after dark, especially in Justin's neck of the woods, except drink with the dorm mates. Hrm.

We also tried going to the major cathedral in town, but at noon on a Saturday, everyone else was trying to go, too -- for services. We got inside before we realized what was going on, and quickly made our way out again. There were also men and women dressed up in dirndls and lederhosen (which still seem rather unreal to me) and, as I looked back at the cathedral, I noticed large H&M advertisements draped on its walls. Odd.

Other noteables: when we stopped for a cup of coffee, I spotted a man calmly having a cuppa. He was wearing bland clothes and seemed in his mid-fifties, and would have been altogether unremarkable if his face hadn't been painted gold. I was too bashful to take a picture, but later we did see him doing his moving statue routine, complete with gold garb. I did snap a picture then -- brave me! Also, when we started our rounds this morning, there was a publicity stunt going for Magna ice cream bars. Women dressed up in skimpy tribal wear were dancing and bowing towards a large plastic Magna bar, and others were handing out fliers that said, "We worship it -- do you?"

I'm very anxious with my German. I'm trying to use it, but if I make one slip-up, it's very likely that the person I'm talking to switches to english in an attempt to make the transaction easier. Therefore, I've gotten very little practice in the very language I've spent X years trying to learn! Hmph.

Tomorrow I'm heading out to Berlin, a city that I think is much more exciting. Perhaps this is largely because it's a) bigger and b) more metropolitan. I'm meeting up with my housemate from college there, and we'll spend 4 days in Berlin before moving on to Amsterdam.

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