Monday, April 28, 2008

Austrian Adventure

The heavy rain with which I concluded my last blog was a portent of the week to come. At least I did not have any more heavy falls but the weather has been fairly damp all week.
Thankfully it was not actually raining as I made my way across Vienna by tram on Tuesday morning to the South Station. I was a little nervous before as it was 8am and peak time, not the best time with luggage, but I must have been travelling against the peak as the tram was almost empty.
I spent the day(over 7 hours) in two trains travelling south to Villach near the border with Slovenia then north -west to Salzburg. Fortunately there was some sun as we passed through a mountain range south of Vienna This is a world heritage area and was the first Mountain pass to be crossed by a mainline railway in 1854 with 15 tunnels and 16 high stone viaducts in 42 km.
However it was rather grey passing some lakes near Villach.
I then changed to a train coming from Slovenia to pass along the Tauernbahn with some spectacular valley views and the longest tunnel at the summit which is 8370 metres.
I arrived at Salzburg in rain so splurged on a taxi to my hotel in the Altstadt and did not appreciate the driver giving me a guided tour which often meant he had no hands on the wheel and was either looking at me or the feature he was describing rather than the traffic.
My full day in Salzburg was wet which meant more time spent in museums and less in parks which I prefer. The photo below shows the Fortress above the city seen from the Mirabell gardens. I left the fortress to the afternoon when the rain was lighter because there are good views from the top but the mountains, which I know were snow covered when I changed trains there the previous Sunday and again today, were hidden for my stay. I visited Mozart’s birthplace with some of his early instruments and details about the life in Salzburg at the time. The audio guide provided many samples of his music but I would rather sit and listen to such beautiful music rather than stand staring at a musical instrument with an audiophone to my ear. The Residenz was the home of the Archbishops who ruled Salzburg for many centuries but unfortunately the State rooms were closed for a special function and I had to be satisfied with the adjacent art gallery which had mainly Austrian artists, none of whom I recognised though I admit that does not mean much. There was an interesting display on the use of the colour red by artists through the centuries including how the colour was made at different times.
After visiting the Salzburg town museum which was very modern and having lunch, I went up the funicular railway to the Fortress and toured museums of marionettes, armoury and war as well as torture dungeons and the history of Salzburg and walking along the ramparts, climbing to the top tower before returning to the city and a visit to the cathedral.
It was great to see the sun return on Wednesday allowing me to take the trolley bus back to the station. I headed back by train towards the Austrian Alps and a region called Salzkammergut which I will cover in my next blog probably in a few hours.

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