Sunday, February 8, 2015

5 Reasons Going to Salzburg was the Perfect Spontaneous Decision (Salzburg, Austria)

It was a sporadic decision, which isn't exactly all that different from usual. Though, perhaps this was especially sporadic.

We had spent the afternoon in Lake Bled, Slovenia, which offered some very impressive views, especially from the hilltop castle. However, as night was setting, Bri and I felt like our energy was fading with the daylight. Slovenia in the tourist offseason is really the offseason, so there was not a lot going on, and many of the hostels and hotels were in fact closed.

We took out our map of Slovenia to do a little pondering, and noticed that in the north western portion of the map there was a little arrow that noted that Salzburg was two-hundred some odd kilometres from the border. We looked at each other, cancelled our hostel for the night, called the rental car company to get the okay, then hit the road. Night was just approaching, and we headed for the border, full speed ahead. The fog? treacherous. The map? non-existent. The car? petite. The decision? 100 percent worth it.

Here are five reasons that the spontaneous decision to go to Salzburg was right on the money. 

1) The Elevated Viewpoints

At a certain point, you just think to yourself, "alright, this is getting a bit ridiculous." The historic Central European beauty that I found in Salzburg is really only rivalled by a few cities for me, and easily in the same tier as Prague, Vienna, or Budapest. Yet, only Prague has the same sort of compact centre where you cannot help but come across important sight after important sight. When Bri and I started the engine on our VW Polo and headed towards Salzburg, I could not have imagined the viewpoints afforded by this city. 

We took the elevator in the Modern Museum (found in the Old Town, though the title of "Old Town" just may apply to the whole city) to the top and got out, where we walked along the hillside that looked over the city until we reached the castle on the other side. It took about 30 minutes, and I recall being struck again and again by the city's beauty. 

2) The Beer, The Food 

The order in the above title is quite intentional. The food is nice heavy fare that I happen to be fond of, but it is the beer that I truly adore. Turkey, in general, doesn't have the greatest beer on offer, so peering behind the bar to see the likes of Stiegl, Ottakringer, Egger and Murauer on tap was encouraging to say the least. True to the Central European standard, Austria brews some fine beers. We actually took a stop at the Stiegl brewhouse when we were in Salzburg, and it was a stop I would make again. A fresh Stiegl is something worth enjoying. 

I should add further that anyone who knows me understands my nearly unparalleled passion for schnitzel. Salzburg is a fine place to find yourself with a passion such as that. As you can imagine, I took full advantage. 

To use some adjectives that aren't often to applied to this city, Salzburg was both refreshing and scrumptious, as evidenced by the photos below.  

3) The Historic Charm 

In my opinion, Salzburg is really as charming as it gets, especially in the winter months. It's just such a pleasant, safe, comfortable place to be. Being such a small, compact city there aren't many places that aren't worth being in. Everywhere feels important. There are cities I can think of that desperately try to promote what little history may have occurred, and then there are cities like Salzburg which don't have to try at all, they just have to quietly preserve said history. 

The streets are enchanted with cobblestones and the like, the large striking castle (Fortress Hohensalzburg) sits on the imposing hilltop overlooking the city, there are innumerable palaces and imperial gardens, and the central pedestrian bridge (with innumerable "love locks") is the gateway to it all. People have been impressed with this city for a very long time, and that certainly won't change in the future - it's that palpable historic charm. 

4) The Walkability Factor 

I mentioned before that Salzburg is very compact - and this, no doubt, has a huge influence on how walkable it is. However, it's more than that. There are opportunities to walk above the city on its well marked paths, and further opportunity to get outside the city and go for long strolls. The thought of public transportation never even crossed my mind because I always felt that wherever I was walking was well within reasonable boundaries. 

On TripAdvisor, the number one activity should literally just say "walking." It's the best way to see the city whether you're in the heart of it, or well above it enjoying the breathtaking views. 

5) Christkindl Markt (The Christmas Market)

My affection for Salzburg's Christmas Market runs deep. The market has been a staple in Salzburg (and, I understand, the markets run Austria wide) since at least the 15th century. It's a whole city effort it seems, with central squares occupied with stalls that sell mulled wine,  Christmas ornaments, sugared pastries, and...well, everything that you could ever want as far as Christmas goes. 

Of course, there is a limited timespan on this. The market runs for about a month and a half, starting from the middle of November until, naturally, the end of December. We were lucky to be there while it was on, another validation of our spontaneous choice to head in this direction. 

I don't think I've ever regretted making a spontaneous decision when it comes to travel, even if things didn't work out perfectly. When I was first backpacking, I would plan things meticulously, scared I would miss something along the way. Ironically, by doing that, I was missing something - the element of chance and spontaneity. It's important to be able to wake up somewhere and say, "yeah, I want to spend another day here," or even "I love this place, I'm staying for the week." You can't do that if you've booked ahead at a hostel in a different city. Recently, I've been booking my accommodation a few hours before arrival on the day of, and it's worked out even better.

It's also a largely underrated feeling to not know where you'll be resting your head the following night. In this case, asleep in Ljubljana the night before, I had zero idea I would be sleeping in Salzburg the following night. All I knew was that Bri and I were going to drive to Lake Bled, Slovenia and go from there.

I like a bit of support when it comes to travel (downloading an Ulmer offline map on my iphone, having a guidebook in my pack somewhere), but I never want that structure to be debilitating. My passion for travel is intrinsically linked to my passion of the unknown, of curiosity itself - and it's excursions like this that kindly inform me that, for me, it's a path worth following.


  1. Wow, this post is really cool. Great pictures and it looks like you had an amazing cultural immersion experience.

  2. I did indeed, Brandon. Thanks for stopping by!