After staying in the heart of a big city like Vienna for the past week and a bit we opted to stay a little out of town in Salzburg and stumbled on a great hotel at the base of the Untersberg Mountain, near Gródig. It has a direct bus to the city centre but has the added benefit of this view from the bedroom window.
You might be able to see a structure at the very top of the Untersberg Mountain in the above photo, and right at the back of our hotel there was a cable car to take us there, so naturally that was our adventure already mapped out for the first day. The trip up the mountain was fantastic, we entered the clouds about a quarter of the way up and could see nothing but the cables ascending into the grey, it seemed endless, and magical if not a little eerie.
At the top, we obviously were not treated to distant views, but we could feel the kids excitement of being in the thick, cold, wet clouds with no idea what was around so we found a sign post and headed left (obviously).
As we walked, further and further, the clouds slowly cleared as the path slowly diminished from a graded stone road to steep log steps to steeper rocky terrain with painted markers and as we were slowly treated to the expanding view we could see the snow still sitting in the valleys. Tess was loving the cold, wet wind in her face and Ari was reveling in walking/climbing the whole track solo, only stopping for us to read the boards which had information ranging from the forming of the mountains, to the animals that occupy them including the hares that change from white in winter to brown in summer for camouflage, and legends about dwarfs that occupied the mountains hundreds of years ago
After our return walk to the cable car station, we were able to see a building not visible on our arrival that was a very steep walk down the other side of the mountain, which housed a restaurant, so we headed down to it for a very late lunch. The old lady who ran the restaurant spoke little English but made it clear that the Ragout was very special so I ordered that. It was fantastic and I had trouble keeping Ari’s fork out of it as he was loving it too, more than his own choice. At the end of the meal a younger lady explained that it was a wild deer meat and liver ragout and the owner had hunted the deer herself. Very impressive.
The cloud was mostly cleared by the time we took the return cable car so we were able to see what we had missed on the way up. This was a really great day out, we were so lucky to have it just a few metres from our hotel.
As to Salzburg City itself, it’s quite pretty and there are many historic things to see, such as Mozart’s Birthplace, but we didn’t expect that the kids would be greatly entertained by that. One place though that we all really thoroughly enjoyed was Hellbrunn Palace. This place, and its original owner, have a lot of interesting history which I won’t regurgitate, but if you think you might be interested it is worth Googling. The palace itself is impressive and it had audio guides to keep the kids interested.
But…the real highlight is the Wasserspiel, or the Trick Fountains. Built in the 17th century as a place of fun and enjoyment it is still just that, fantastic fun for all ages. The tours around the fountains are guided and start with the audience sitting in a little amphitheater around a large stone table with stools. The guide asked for some volunteers and Ari promptly jumped up. Us and some other unsuspecting volunteers were then sprayed with ice cold water from all angles and the fun began.
From there we were guided through gardens, water displays, more fountains and grotto’s as well as a 400 year old water powered model village. At each feature, the fantastically stone faced guide would discretely push a button or turn a tap and we’d all be sprayed from some obscure angle. We loved it as much as the kids did and we’d highly recommend a visit to this place, just be prepared to get a little wet.
The grounds of the palace also have a fantastic playground, gardens, fields, the Pavilion where part of the Sound of Music was filmed and a zoo. Unfortunately we had so much fun everywhere else in the grounds that the Zoo was closed by the time we got to it, but we were still able to get up close to the Ibex which was our main goal.
At the end of our time in Salzburg we were still absolutely loving Austria and very much looking forward to our next week in an apartmenthaus in an Alpine Region further south.