I may be hanged, drawn, and quartered for this, but I do not eat, drink, or breathe The Sound of Music. Nor am I a faithful Mozart fan. I am full of disappointments.
My dad, to my knowledge, has the same trash opinions as me, but he considers Salzburg one of his favorite cities. Since my dad is (occasionally) right and because, frankly, I’ll go anywhere and everywhere, Salzburg was our next stop.
More Christmas markets, more Glühwein, and more cheap, delicious food (Hello, apple strudel!). In Salzburg, we fell in love with pesto crêpes in which the pesto consists of pumpkin seeds, rosemary, thyme and several other earthy herbs. I thought I was a loyal basil pesto lover, but Salzburg has me a converted woman.
On our first night of wandering, we found this cozy wine bar tucked into one of the narrow streets and knew we had to check it out. Di Renzi boasts a rotating nightly menu, a thoughtful wine list, and an inviting atmosphere. We shared a cheese plate (obviously) and butternut squash ravioli — and I’ve been dreaming of it ever since.
What kind of lunatic would go to Austria and eat pizza? Lifelong lunatics, Sarah and Megan, reporting for duty. After a long day trip, the only thing we wanted was to sit down and drink wine. L’Osteria serves pistachios at the table, which is not something I realized I needed restaurants to do, but we proceeded to eat them non-stop. To no one’s surprise, we still had room for several glasses of wine, two pizzas, and three desserts.
If you would have told me there was a place where schnapps wasn’t the overly-sweet bad decision of college girls, but rather alcoholic liquid gold, I would have called you a liar. Enter Sporer, a Salzburg staple since 1903. Turns out, real schnapps is light, mellow, and sometimes creamy. In a dream world, I would be baptized in hazelnut cream schnapps. While they have a large variety of fruit brandies, other liqueurs, wines, and punches, their schnapps is made in the basement of the 600-year-old building. Locals seem to flock here once the clock strikes 5, but we were able to squeeze into a tiny corner spot and sample to our heart’s content. Alas, this schnapps fairytale comes to a tragic end when I returned back home only to find it is near impossible to get Austrian schnapps in the US.
When you don’t want to waste your precious crêpe dollars on a pricey Sound of Music tour (see controversial opinion above), you are left to fend for yourself when it comes to touring Salzburg. This is when you download an offline map and get busy — and if your map happens to stop working, Salzburg is small enough where it really doesn’t matter! Salzburg is a charming, colorful city and we had a wonderful time weaving in and out of the narrow streets.
Following my second travel rule, we made the steep trek up to Hohensalzburg Fortress and were rewarded with stunning views of the city on one side and the Alps on the other. Entry to the fortress is a bit pricey at $20, and while we limited our wandering to the fortress grounds, there are plenty of exhibits inside included in the entrance fee. If you are committed to seriously working your Gluteus Maximus, another excellent panoramic spot is the Kapuzinerkloster Monastery in Kapuzinerberg park (good luck pronouncing either of those.) The park overlooks Salzburg on the opposite side of the river as the fortress and contains plenty of excellent hiking trails. Being winter, all the greenery was not-so-green and not ideal for hiking, but I can only imagine how beautiful the park is come spring! Alas, seasons.
DAY TRIP: HALLSTATT
When I inevitably return to Austria to stock up on schnapps, I will also be embarking on a lakeside town tour of this country. I spent the entirety of our bus ride to Hallstatt writing down the names of every town we stopped in, declaring each one the most magical lakeside town I had ever seen. I don’t play favorites.
Hallstatt is the town I imagine myself running off to for a few months to write a book. Or maybe, when I inevitably tire of people, I’ll retire there for good. This is definitely a summer destination for tourists, which means it is a perfect winter destination for someone who loves sleepy towns. Enter me! Melissa, our Australian friend, joined us for some goulash and wandering. We spent most of the day picking out houses we’d live in and wondering if we needed to whisper since the entire town was engulfed in silence.
There are a few different ways to get to Hallstatt from Salzburg — we opted for the bus because it was the cheapest, fastest, and most direct option. For $25, you can buy a 24-hour regional bus pass at a station or from the driver. From Salzburg take the 150 bus to Bad Ischl, about 90 minutes, and then transfer to the 542 Hallstatt Gosaumühle bus. I am not at all modest when I say I excel at navigation, but even if you don’t, you can manage this route. Or, if you happen to visit during summer, follow the crowds.
We stayed in Salzburg for 4 days, with one of those days spent in Hallstatt. If it was summer, I would have liked to stay longer for some lakeside/outdoor adventures, but this was the perfect amount of time in winter. Also, the Christmas markets in Salzburg were big on hot chocolate with rum so it was best for my liver – and quest not to start the morning drunk – that we didn’t stay longer.
Where we stayed: YOHO, which was cheap and close enough to both the train station and city center. It was no Wombats Munich, but we did meet Melissa, our wonderful adventure buddy who helped us consume all of the food at L’Osteria.
See you in Budapest!