Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Austria Again (now with pictures!)

When you leave some time unscheduled, funny things can happen and you can end up doing things and meeting people you’d never expect. For instance, the Friday evening when I came back to my hotel after a day of wandering, instead of being greeted by the usual wall of smoke from the business men puffing away with their drinks in the lounge (part of the entrance and reception area), I was greeted by no less than 100 twelve to twenty-year-old girls. All of them were sporting pony-tails and the same blue track suits, while pulling along the same metallic silver suitcases. Chatting away in German, it was a refreshing scene that didn’t quite make sense compared to what I was used to seeing in the lobby. Turns out that there was an international competition for synchronized skating in town, and our hotel was one of the hosts. Ironically enough, Canada was participating as well, and as I’d find out a couple of hours later, they too were staying at the Hotel Castellini in Salzburg. The next few days you couldn’t throw a stick in the hotel without hitting a figure skater (not that we were doing that – that’s only legal in Vegas and some parts of south-west Texas). We made quick friends with some of the Skate Canada coaches and parents, and we even took in part of  the competition on the Sunday eve. Sadly we didn’t get to see the Canadians compete, but we did see teams from Australia, Austria, the United States. Watching them skate was absolutely memorizing. It was like watching fish swim all in unison in a small tank, but with lively music and much more glitter and spandex.

Here’s a shot of one of the synchronized skating teams competing at the Red Bull Arena.
After the competition, back at the hotel, hours before the Canadian team had to catch their bus to Munich, some Canadian pride celebrating with some pizza and drinks.
From the department of ‘Not on the Top 10 Things You're Most Likely to NOT Discover in Salzburg’: on the same day as when I met our new hotel guests, I had been wandering down a path along the Salzach River, just soaking in the sights as well as the sounds, when I heard this one particular noise. It was definitely the call of a bird, but after a few moments of stretching my brain to understand what exactly I was hearing, it unmistakably was the sound of one of the birds from the gaming phenomenon Angry Birds! I found the tree where the sound was coming from, camera ready and hoping to see a collection of rather large, round red birds, with big eyes and thick black eyebrows looking down at me (or maybe at some nuisance swine off in the distance), but was sadly disappointed to see just a regular looking song bird. It did make me wonder though, having never heard this bird before, if possibly the creator of the game came from Austria? After some research, sadly it turns out that he’s from Espoo, Findland. I’m sure though that he’s either visited Salzburg before and heard the exact same bird, or they possibly have them in Espoo (I’m making a mental note here to one day visit Espoo, just to see if somehow their name is reflective of their town). It’s funny to come across something that you just assumed was totally made up that you then see in real life.

The riverbank where I heard the unmistakable call of the Angry Birds.
What I had hoped to see up in the trees calling out. I'm scared to think of what the poop would look like.
Since I couldn’t post any images on my previous Austria blogs, here are some of my favourites from the trip. Sadly most are lacking people, but that’s what you get when you travel for a few days on your own.

Me, standing on one of the many bridges that cross the Salzach River.
My brother Brian - now a Californian who has trouble handling the cold and anyone who says 'eh' too much. eh.

Of course, one of the main reasons for tourism in Salzburg, the infamous and digitally talented, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Here's the house he grew up in (3rd floor) on the main tourist street. Sadly, there's a grocery in the space on the main floor, and I'm guessing that it's not quite authentic from the period. Especially since I could buy pre-mixed iced-mochas there.
Of course everyone tries to capitalize on his image to make some tourist bucks.
Being Canadian, I nearly said 'sorry, excuse me' as I nearly bumped into this cut out of Mozart on the sidewalk. The big ticket item with his name on it in nearly every tourist shop are 'Mozart Balls'. They even left them on the pillows in the hotel. I'm not sure if that's the most appropriate 'item' one would want to be famous for, but as far as I could see, and maybe sadly, no one was making fun of it. Or them.
A view of the old town of Salzburg from the fortress.
In the fortress museum, they had some interesting relics. This is a mask they used to make people wear when they were convicted of certain crimes. It was meant to bring shame and people were to mock them. It's today's equivalent of being caught with a 'Boys-2-Men' concert shirt on.
Never call Austrians inefficient. Not sure what to say about this one, other than who wouldn't take a picture of this if they walked by it?
I've never ever ever been in favour of graffiti, yet I find myself drawn to it in other countries. This one was actually quite brilliant, and it makes me wonder if it was based on a specific character.
There's a huge selection of rubber ducks you can buy in Salzburg. Some look like Mozart, some look like traditional Austrians (outside of the duck-like features). Others are just your regular rubber ducks.
Another shop sells decorated eggs, depending on what holiday is coming up. I guess I missed the Christmas display as they were already focusing on Easter. There had to have been at least 4 or 5 thousand eggs on display, all locally produced.
On one of my day tours, I came across a life-sized Nativity display in one of the small villages about 50 kms away from Salzburg. Although the characters were kind of cartoony, they still had an interesting presence that made you feel like you had just interrupted some kind of special moment. The 'snow hats' from a recent snow fall added to the charm.

And on an end note, when traveling in a country with a language foreign to you, I'd always suggest to learn as much as you can - and that means paying attention to and trying to read signs, directions, and even the occasional poster. It's always interesting to see how our language differs.
This one falls into the 'snicker' category for sure. Gotta love foreign languages.
Salzburg is a great place for any kind of visit, with so much to do from general tourist wandering to some of the best outdoor adventuring in the world. Now I understand what good ol' Arnie means - capped off with great culture and wonderful food, who, even as a local, wouldn't declare that they'll be back?