We weren’t staying in Salzburg itself but about 20 minutes out in a village called Plainfeld. However, the last part of our journey took us straight through the city and was pretty hectic, especially during rush hour, so when we emerged out of the city back into countryside I think we were both relieved!
Johanna and Veronika live in a farmhouse at the top of the village. Out of their garden was another spectacular view of the Austrian countryside.
Our first evening was nice and relaxed, Johanna and Veronika had invited a couple of their friends over for dinner. The weather was perfect for sitting out of the veranda quite late into the evening, chatting and getting to know one another.
We woke up to a fantastic breakfast of delicious breads, meat, cheese, vegetables from their own garden and carrot cupcakes and whipped cream. One thing that was a bit different (and tickled Louise) was having cupcakes for breakfast. Back home in the U.K. neither Louise or I had ever had this as a breakfast option, but thought it was great.
That morning Johanna, Veronika and I decided to go for a hike. As Austria is full of mountains we had quite a choice but finally settled on a mountain called the Gaisberg. As it overlooks the city; on a good day the view from the top is fantastic – today wasn’t such a good day though but for us the view was still pretty spectacular. Another reason Louise and the girls chose this mountain was that the summit was accessible by bike meaning I could meet them later at the top for the view. I’m calling it a mountain but really, at 1288m, it was just a hill in Austrian terms.
Our path took us first to the Nockstein – a rocky outcrop with a cross on top at 1042m then on up to the Gaisberg. At the Nockstein we saw a mum and her daughter taking a break before climbing down. Although this doesn’t really seems to significant it made me realise just how much hiking and nature is part of the culture here in Austria. Johanna and Veronika told me that kids hike from a young age here and that it is a normal and regular pastime for people of all ages in Austria. The benefits of this culture are massive: giving an understanding of nature and the environment; developing confidence as well as many other skills; then there is the obvious benefit of fitness.
We arrived at the Gaisberg after a hour and a half which wasn’t bad considering I’ve not hiked a lot recently.
The ride for me was about 20 mins or so of really quiet twisty roads, a lot of fun on the bike on my own. At the top we saw another friend of Johanna and Veronika’s paragliding, he was really good too. As you can see it was quite a foggy day so the view was a bit hampered, but not bad eh.
One of the things I had to do whilst in Salzburg was change the back brake pads, here I found myself to be a very lucky guy. Johanna happened to have a friend (Chris) that fixed motorbikes for a living, he also happened to be going into the city that day, and also happened to offer to do the job for me, and finally his workshop was about a 45 second ride from the house. That afternoon Chris picked up my brake pads from the shop in the city and then I met him at his workshop, and about 10 minutes later I had a new set of brake pads..thanks man, its much better riding a bike with 2 sets of brakes!
We went into Salzburg that evening and for me the first thing that hit me was how different this city looks from others we’ve visited in Austria. Rather than narrow Medieval streets and wooden framed buildings, the centre is all built in the very grand Baroque style. Huge, powerful looking buildings line wide streets and open squares. All painted in pastel colours it’s very picturesque and looked to me to all have been built in this style around the same time. The Getreidegasse in contrast to this grandness is a narrow street of shops and over each of these shops hangs a hugely ornate wrought ironwork sign depicting what is sold below. Although beautiful, it was odd to see the MacDonald’s and H&M logo inside these signs today.
In the city also is the house where Motzart was born, at first I just walked past this house without even noticing it. Later though, as I passed back the same way, I wondered what a mass of tourists were looking at and realised that this must be it. Marked by only a small sign, the house blends in with those on the street and even has a shop below too – a Spar.
The next morning was a wet one, really wet, so Anna – from the first night – and Veronika offered to take us on a tour of the local lakes before finishing at the Red Bull Hanger 7. Here’s the view we had that morning, no breakfast on the veranda this time.
Despite the rain, having the opportunity to make this tour with people from this area was fantastic. First we visited the town of Fuschl on the banks of Fuschlsee – its lake.
Just outside Fuschl is the headquarters of Red Bull, and the offices are really quite amazing. Anna told us that people often mistake this place for a wellness centre thanks to it’s appearance. I can’t say I’m that surprised.
Next stop was St. Gilgen, a small town on Lake Wolfgangsee. Coming into the town we had a fantastic view over the whole lake.
One one side the mountains come straight up from the lake creating huge cliffs, more than 30m high.Here, Anna told us, was held the Red Bull cliff diving competition a few years ago. She said the lake was full of people on inflatables and small boats crowded around the cliff to watch the people jumping. Sadly though, Veronika was telling us, that often people jump from these cliffs and really hurt themselves trying to imitate the professionals. She works as a nurse on the emergency ward so often saw the injuries of people who’d jumped.
By the time we made it to our last stop, St. Wolfgang, the rain had cleared so we were able to take a walk around the town.
Being here with Anna and Veronika meant that we were able to ask about some of the things we’d been curious about… the dirndl for example is worn by women on any special occasions and most women will have at least one. At weddings, for example, it can be worn by the bride or guests. For men too, lederhosen are also worn on any special occasion.
Our final stop was the Red Bull Hanger 7, Louise had found this place whilst researching Salzburg and I was quite excited about it. Inside is an amazing collection of the toys of Red Bull, Helicopters, planes and racing cars from various Red Bull sporting companies.
What you find here shows Dietrich Mateschitz love for obtaining things nobody else has, he has almost countless ex-military aircraft. For example he was he first civilian owner of the Alpha Jet, but of course one isn’t enough, he has 3. How about a Bell AH-1 Cobra attack helicopter, again the only civilian example in existence and finally the BO105 Helicopter that can do a loop the loop.
This is just a few of his collection, there we dozens more in this hanger, but thats not all he has. Just across the way was an identical second hanger full of the rest of his collection. The second hanger isn’t open to the public though, it’s reserved for maintaining his fleet. Oh yeah, the last amazing thing about this fleet is that they are all operational!
Whilst we we enjoying our nice an dry tour, Johanna was out on a commemorative ride for the Puch Maxi. An Austrian 50cc moped, produced in the 1970’s and 1980’s, they are now some what of a collectors item. People are really passionate about their Puch’s and about 70 people came from far and wide to join the ride that day.
That night we joined Johanna for the after party, and had a really great time. With the entry ticket we were also give a raffle ticket, the star prize being a Puch Maxi itself. Louise and I joked about winning it and how we’d get it home, unfortunately though our number didn’t come up, however, one of Johanna’s best friend’s did.