Last summer I did the young person’s equivalent of the 18th century Grand Tour; travelling from Austria to Amsterdam via Vienna, Budapest, Prague and Berlin. I had planned to write a diary about my travels at the time, however a combination of overnight coaches, illness and attempting to see as much of these amazing cities as I could in a short space of time effectively meant I never had the time.
With hindsight I have my doubts about the stereotypical inter-railing experience. Spending often around three days in these culturally diverse and artistically rich capitals often only ever whet my appetite for the place, in fact I’m travelling back to Amsterdam this Easter because I felt I saw so little of it. By the time I’d worked out how to use local transport and mastered a few polite phrases, it was off to another capital with another language and yet another web of bus routes to untangle.
So this is the diary I would have written about how to inter-rail and often how not to!
I started off by flying to Salzburg. In some ways this was a fitting place to start as it was the location of my last ever family holiday 7 years previously. I mainly wanted to visit the Halstatt area (you’ll soon see why) before meeting up with my family for a definitely long-awaited family holiday in Vienna, so only spent a few hours wandering around Salzburg before my train came in. I mainly strolled around the city centre, wilting in the 40°C heat and visiting a few places I never saw on my first visit.
My top recommendation if you only have a few hours in Salzburg is visiting graveyards. No I’m not morbid (although as an archaeology student I do end up talking a lot about the dead but that’s an occupational hazard I suppose). Here they are definitely unlike the traditional English cemetery with its often nondescript rows of grey slabs. Every grave is vibrantly colourful, individual and well-maintained.
My personal favourite is St Peter’s Abbey which not only has a beautiful cemetery but also catacombs hewn into the city’s eponymous berg. Instead of the usual idea of catacombs as damp underground places, whilst these have the level degree of claustrophobia, here you are rewarded with aerial views over the cemetery and city itself from some of the chambers.
Image number 2 is taken from the Nonnberg Convent which many will recognise upon visiting as the nunnery from the Sound of Music. Much of that film was shot in the city, however personally the trauma of the yodelling goat song and the film’s general syrupiness meant I tended to avoid all the overtly touristy SofM areas.
If on the trail of Salzburg’s other main name (Mozart), I’d recommend yet another cemetery. St Sebastian’s is where several members of his family are buried including his wife Constantia and father Leopold.
Obviously Salzburg is more than cemeteries but they are free and more shady than the city streets, which in that heat was a godsend. I’d definitely recommend IceZeit for their ice cream – I chose a stunning cherry flavour. I say stunning not delicious because it melted so quickly it just slid off the cone onto the pavement in a few seconds. Like a very sticky horror film. But I’m sure IceZeit’s ice cream’s are just as tasty as they look nonetheless!
Sitewise, I’d recommend climbing the massive Hohensalzburg fortress for amazing views over the city as well as being a fortified archbishop’s residence complete with endless bizarre turnip heraldry (a 15th century in-joke). Further out of town the Alpenzoo is one of the most spectacularly located zoos I’ve ever been to and although it doesn’t have the most exotic animals, even the smallest goats and monkeys are surprisingly majestic when backed by alpine scenery.
Another place worth visiting outside the city is Schloss Hellbrunn, an archbishop’s pleasure palace complete with trick fountains hidden in the gardens and bizarre paintings of 8 legged horses. The fact I have such vivid memories of these places 8 years on is definitely a testament to their enjoyability! It’s a pity I don’t have my own images from then but the volatile nature of computers means all my old images were lost. The hard copy of an image is still very necessary in the digital age.
Next time – Halstatt and heatstroke!