We continue our journey through the six countries in Europe I toured them this summer. Country #2…

Austria

shops in St. Wolfgang, Austria

shops in St. Wolfgang, Austria

Mirabell Gardens with fortress in distance, Salzburg, Austria

Mirabell Gardens with fortress in distance, Salzburg, Austria

Dürrnberg
After crossing the border from Germany, we arrived in the city of salt mines, Dürrnberg, where we toured a mine no longer in operation because it had become not economically worthwhile. Inside, we took a train ride to go deep into the mine, a boat ride to go even deeper, and a walking tour to see all the aspects of production. The highlight was sliding down two long, wooden slides the miners once used to get further underground.

Salzburg
Nearby, Salzburg (which means “salt castle”) was probably my favorite city on our European tour — so much beauty and historical significance. It’s a photographer’s dream — historic squares with architecturally beautiful buildings on all sides and small corridors that lead to adjacent squares. It’s an arrangement not found in modern cities with more open concepts. In one such medieval square with a cathedral and other structures, we saw quite a juxtaposition — modern art in the form of a giant golden globe and an unidentified man standing on top, as well as a chess board with human-sized pieces. Horse-drawn carriages were present there and in most of the other cities on this tour.  Salzburg is so lovely, it was used to film many scenes of the film The Sound of Music, some of which we toured, including Mirabell Palace and Gardens (where Maria and the Von Trapp children sang “Do Re Mi”), a concert hall where the Vienna Philharmonics play (and where the “Edelweiss” song was sung in the movie), and a large fountain (where Maria danced and sang “I Have Confidence”).

Mozart's birthplace, Salzburg, Austria

Mozart's birthplace, Salzburg, Austria

We also walked through the graveyard that was reconstructed in Hollywood for the scene where the Von Trapp family hid from the Nazi Germans near the end of the film. Not far away is the house where famous composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born (Gerburtshaus) and another house near the Salt River where he later lived. Haus für Mozart is the concert hall built about 400 years ago for performances of Mozart’s operas; the building used to house horse stables for the prince-archbishop. In the nearby promenade, we found most shops closed on that Sunday because many Roman Catholics observe the Sabbath. Along that path are original buildings and signs, including one building that displayed two  sets of numbers: 1286 (the year it was built) and 2009 (the year it was renovated). Towering over all this is the castle where controversial Archbishop St. Wolfgang lived. The gastronomical highlight of this city was Fürst, a historic coffee shop and bakery that makes handmade Mozart chocolates wrapped in silver foil. (The gold foil-wrapped ones are mass produced.) After a morning stop for cake and Mozart chocolate balls, we headed to Zum Eulenspiegel, a 680-year-old restaurant on the second floor of a business. We had beef stroganoff and spinach dumplings for lunch.

St. Gilgen to St. Wolfgang
After taking a boat ride along Lake Wolfgang from St. Gilgen to St. Wolfgang, we took a stroll through the winding streets and shops of the latter lovely small town. The views of the lake were serene and picturesque.

Lake Wolfgang, St. Wolfgang, Austria

Lake Wolfgang, St. Wolfgang, Austria

Julie at Mozart Concert, Golden Hall, Vienna, Austria

Julie Tam at Mozart Concert, Golden Hall, Vienna, Austria

Vienna
After traveling to three other countries, we returned to Austria and enjoyed dinner in Vienna and a Mozart concert at Golden Hall, aptly named because of its golden interior finishings. Unlike most theaters in the U.S., the house lights were kept on the entire time and there was no stage curtain. Orchestra members dressed like Mozart and opera singers just walked on and off stage in full view of the audience. The elegant concert hall touts having the best acoustics in Vienna, where opera and classical music are still popular, unlike in many parts of the world. The next day, we visited the Schönbrunn Palace (summer palace) and flower garden, plus the winter palace. Statues honoring the country’s most famous former residents, including composers Mozart and Johann Strauss. I found myself in heaven at Café Mozart, open since 1794. The pictures of dozens of cakes on a display poster outside drew me in, only to find a long list of soda drinks that I’d never heard of (for me) and coffee drinks (for my husband and mom). We had a small lunch with non-alcoholic drinks and two pastries (Mozart Tort and Trüffel Tort), and it cost us $90! (That’s U.S. dollars, not Euros.) But it was absolutely worth it because the food was exquisite, from the salad to the Viennese potato soup. The fried chicken was thinly breaded and low in fat, unlike the fatty, greasy, thick-battered fried chicken found in America. The steak sandwich was delicate and nicely presented. If I were to eat as much in the U.S. as I ate in Europe, I would surely gain weight, but to my pleasant surprise, I gained not a single pound from this 12-day trip. We finished off our day by wandering down the Pedestrian Walk. In contrast to the historic aspects of Vienna, you can see modern buildings across the Danube River.

Vienna Philharmonics concert hall where "Edelweiss" song was sung in "The Sound of Music", Austria

Vienna Philharmonics concert hall where "Edelweiss" song was sung in "The Sound of Music", Austria