Kat: With intrepid Monkey #2 down with the flu, this week’s blog is up to me! He’s been out for the count since Munich, snotting his way through public and international transport. I’ve been discovering the joys of Middle Europe, which unlike Middle Earth, has no volcanoes whatsoever. Although currywurst provides explosions of another kind… enough about that!
We spent four easy nights in Germany sleeping in dorm accommodation to make up for our excessive lifestyles on the French Riviera. Backpacker dorms have their joys and pitfalls, the most common being the Drunk English Backpacker, who perpetually speaks about their anatomy and how attractive they are to the opposite sex at 4am in the morning. The “Chav”, as they are commonly known, travels in packs and is known for its loud obnoxious call which sounds like this: “Oi I’m taking the top bunk cause you’re going to piss on me.”
After a room change we were met with pleasanter creatures, namely the Australian Backpacker, which compared to the Drunk English Backpacker, is practically the difference between an African and Indian Swallow. We met a cool chick, Claire from Melbourne, and took a free city tour with Curt, the best tour guide in Munich. No, seriously, he’s rated that on tripadvisor!
He regaled us with tales of Munich, from the rise of Hitler in the Hofbrauhaus to the Munich Pretzel riots (I tried a pretzel in Munich, they’re definitely worth fighting for). My favourite character from Bavarian history was Mad King Ludwig, who demanded his staff build a “Rainbow Machine”, a giant indoor garden on top of his castle and that the German government give him a baby elephant. Of course, the Germans drew the line at the elephant. With his Michael Jackson tendencies, we decided there needed to be a film about him starring Johnny Depp.
From Munich, we made our way to stunning Salzburg. The city is built right in the middle of the alps, and snow sat on everything in sight. Salzburg’s most famous citizen is Mozart, that capricious composer of concertos. In every window are the famous Mozart balls… they’re a type of chocolate with a green centre. Very tasty. We visited Mozart’s birthplace and wondered at the genius of his sister. Mozart’s sister “Nannerl” toured with him until she was married off to an older man, something that annoyed her no end. She was considered as capable a musician as Mozart himself, and I wondered what would have happened if she had been allowed to continue, given she was much more levelheaded than her brother.
Salzburg’s other most famous export is the Sound of Music. And puppets. And puppets in the Sound of Music. This just gives me an excuse to post a video of the Lonely Goatherd.
We did visit some of the locations in the film, such as Schloss Mirabell, the gardens where Julie Andrews sang “Do-Re-Mi”. Germans and Austrians have issues with the film; there are a lot of problems in the representation of Maria Von Trapp and the portrayal of NAZIs in cinema. This is an interesting article which brings to life some of the facts and fictions of the real Maria Von Trapp. But I love the film for what it is, and it’s fine as long as you don’t take it for truth!
I do enjoy a good castle and there are plenty in this part of the world. In Salzburg the fortress sits right above the city, making for great photo opportunities. We climbed the steep hill to the top and peeked around the rooms. The royal residence has an original “ensuite”, a secret toilet in the bedroom that dumped the waste out the window, but was considered very modern in the day.
Salzburg’s name translates as “Salt Mountain” and its wealth originates in the salt mines of the area. Believe it or not, salt was once worth more than gold! We visited the Salt Mine at Hallein, on an epic trip into the underground world, which involved two 70 metre slides and a disco boat ride. Not so much informative as camp, but very entertaining nevertheless. We’d never been inside a mine and it was fun wandering around the tunnels with our bilingual guide.
From Salzburg to the capital of Austria, Vienna. We hunkered down and didn’t visit much due to Justin’s cold, but I popped out to yet another castle. Schloss Schönbrunn sits only a metro ride away from the centre of town, and is a UNESCO listed palace. The castle was the heart of the Hapsburg Empire, home to war, scandal and a very glamourous queen. Empress Elizabeth, or Sisi as she was known, was married to Franz Joseph I. While he adored his queen, she couldn’t stand him and took many international holidays on her own to avoid the good hearted King. Sisi was regarded as one of the most beautiful women in Austria… and the most vain. She was known not to eat often to maintain her slim figure and had a strict beauty regime to maintain her ankle length hair.
Only 64kms away from Vienna is another capital city, Bratislava! As part of my campaign to visit every country in the world, we popped in for a brief visit to Slovakia. Bratislava is an up and coming tourist destination, having dropped the shackles of Communism like many of the Eastern European countries. The old city is beautiful and like Salzburg boasts a stunning castle on the hill overlooking the Danube. Bratislava also has a UFO… no seriously, the bridge is called the UFO bridge, after the enormous flying saucer above it.
There’s some great eating in town, ridiculously cheap too. I tried the national dish, bryndzové halušky, small gnocci with sheep’s cheese sauce and bacon bits. Speaking of food, here are some pictures of things I’ve eaten the past week… mmm wurst.
After a three hour train ride in -14C weather and limited heating, we have finally made it to Budapest, heart of Eastern Europe. And boy is it cold. Our cheeks are freezing, I’m thinking of investing in a balaclava and it’s meant to snow tomorrow. Time to visit the hot baths!