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This is the first ever guest post on my blog. In a 3-part travel series on Salzburg, Karan Bhasin writes about his one day hop over to this city in Austria, Europe that is known for its baroque architecture, Imperial history, and craggy Alpine terrain. Karan is an avid traveler with a passion for writing. His narrative style is au naturale and tone young.  
*Reader Discretion is Advised: A few expletives below*

“Yeah, I’ve heard it’s beautiful. You should go there if you have the time,” replied the Chilean girl.

Chapter I: Chilly in Vienna

My friends and I had decided to go out for a drink with some Chilean hostel mates in Vienna. DonauTechno had the privilege of our attendance that evening. The graphics on the walls of the club were ever-changing with whatever mood the projectors were in that day, and retired aerial cable cars
were modified to make private smoking rooms or, if you and your company needed them to be, kissing booths. With the DJ playing some good techno music and a lot of local brew in tow, all that was left was the conversation.

My first view of Mirabell Palace

She and I had been discussing our ‘where beens’ and ‘where tos’ as we were exploring Europe and had converged in the Austrian capital. To be honest, her trip did seem to be ‘greener on the other side’, even if I was the one going to Graz soon. My friends and I were on a three-legged journey through Prague-Vienna-Budapest. I had decided to bookend my holiday with some solo traveling. So I was all ears on any recommendations to make my European adventure even more exciting before heading back home.

The decor and music took a backseat as my brain now focussed on the next task at hand, Salzburg. Where is it? How much will it cost? Is it worth a day trip? ‘Trainline’ for the train tickets, ‘Visit a City’ for what to do there, and many chugs of beer for liquid courage, I now had a day trip planned to Salzburg a day before I had to catch my flight home.

Excited now for a 6th city I had managed to squeeze in after solo day trips to Munich (for Oktoberfest, beer dictates a lot of my travel plans it seems) and Graz, I was brought back to the music, projections of dinosaurs on the walls and further conversation. I took a huge gulp to finish my beer satisfied that no day, nay moment, on this trip would be wasted. That I would return home a seasoned traveler, having seen and experienced so much. Wanderlust quenched.

Looking on to the Pegasus Fountain from the Dwarf Garden

A week later

“Fuck. My. Wanderlust,” I thought as I crammed my phone, wallet, mini battery pack, earphones, and a pack of gum down the many pockets of my cargo pants. Still groggy from a measly 3 hours of sleep, I opened the room door and heard my American hostel mates shuffle in their beds, their sleep disturbed from the chaos that ensues when one wakes up very late for a very early morning train.

With infrequent public transport this early in the morning, very expensive cabs, and no time to wait for an Uber, I launched into a twenty-minute sprint to the Hauptbahnhof (literally translates to ‘central train station’). I don’t mean to brag, but I did beat the train to the station by ten minutes. Except now my body was full of adrenaline and completely awake, and my plan to catch a few winks on the train was in tatters. Followed by a couple hours of very frustrating and unsuccessful attempts at trying to sleep, I reached Salzburg, quite irritated and tired.

“Seriously, fuck my wanderlust.”


Chapter II: A Marbelous Plan

At Salzburg Hauptbahnof, I sat down at an outlet of Anker, a popular Austrian bakery chain, and got myself a cappuccino and Käsekrainer im Schlafrock (literally ‘cheese sausage in a dressing gown’). It was 8:50 am and I had around 11 hours to explore this city on just a few hours of sleep, some coffee and a fancy sausage roll. As I sat in my chair, taking the last few sips of my hot beverage, I started to fill with dread thinking of the long day ahead of me, regretting why I always go all ‘carpe diem’ on myself while I am on holiday. Dreaming of the warm bed and lazy day in Vienna I had just sacrificed, I was brought back to a bitter realisation. I had only spent 10 minutes in its train station, but I was already hating Salzburg.

One of the many brazen statues and manicured parterres at Mirabell Gardens

I mustered whatever brain power I had left, and decided to let my past self’s planning dictate my actions while I just followed along not unlike an android. I opened ‘Visit a City’ and the first stop was the famous Mirabell Palace.

As Google Maps held my hand and guided me to the Palace, I realized I really didn’t feel like being a tourist today. Before I started exploring any city, I usually read up on its history, understood the role of any famous place in the city’s life, and would make a set-in-stone checklist of things to see or eat. I usually took it upon myself to experience every nook and cranny of a city before heading home without any regrets. Rushing through museums, galleries, parks just so I can cross them off a list, even though after a while they start to look the same. Not today though, today I just wanted to be lazy and roam about at my own pace. Thanks to fatigue and an unjustified hatred for Salzburg, I decided to let go of my usual enthusiasm and curiosity. My past self expected me to run through Visit a City’s 2-day Salzburg itinerary in half a day. I now looked at my list with fresh, albeit tired, eyes. I wrote down the names of five places that looked worth my time and energy. I set some personal rules: explore every place at my own pace and whim, appreciate them without bias and distraction, and lastly no phone unless something warranted a photograph or google search to quench my curiosity. As these thoughts dissipated, I put my phone back in my pocket and looked up to see large packs of people spread around in a courtyard, I had reached my first destination.

The Pegasus Fountain

Mirabell Palace is located in the Altstadt (literally ‘old town’) district, or Historic Centre of Salzburg, the area in which I would be spending most of my day. As I entered the Palace grounds, I was immediately greeted by an immaculate parterre at the centre of which was an impressive fountain that featured a Pegasus statue. Beyond the parterre, I could see a hint of the rest of the palace gardens, the Historic Centre, and towering above them, the final destination of my day, the Hohensalzburg Fortress perched on top of Festungsberg.

The Pegasus Fountain

As I was exploring the parterre and the adjacent ‘Dwarf Garden’, I was distracted by a placard near the Pegasus fountain with the words ‘Marble Hall’ and an arrow pointing at a closed door. I used my first self imposed rule and opened the door leading to an empty hallway with more signs inside eventually guiding me to possibly one of the most beautiful staircases I had ever seen. I didn’t care if it was a journey to nowhere, I was going to venture regardless. These stairs deserved to be climbed. The balustrade had sculpted children, or putti, laying around in different poses while alcoves in the wall housed life-size mythical characters. As I made my way up the Donnerstiege (‘Donner Stairway,’ named after its sculptor), I finally found myself outside the fabled Marble Hall. A stanchion stopped me from entering the hall and admiring its opulence from closer, but even from the sidelines it was clear why this hall is a famous venue for concerts, Mozart used to performed here, and many, many weddings. The whole room, more ornate and regal than any I had seen so far in my travels, was lit bright by the sunlight coming in the windows giving it a golden-yellow hue. All alone, I took my moment, the warm sun, the beautiful art and architecture, the quiet, made for a relaxing moment. I felt my irritability ebb. Maybe Salzburg was growing on me.

The Donnersteige
The spectacular balustrade

Or maybe not. The Palace’s main gardens are arguably its most popular feature and even this early into the morning it showed. My peace and quiet was short lived, now replaced by the hullabaloo of hordes of tourists around me, as usual a lot of them Chinese. And I have to give it to them, they were impeccably dressed in their OOTDs, hair all done up, equipped with their tripods, selfie sticks, and Instagram spouses to get that perfect picture to inspire envy.

Does this place look familiar? It was seen in a famous movie.

I will admit, I was a bit underwhelmed by the gardens. Maybe it was all the tourists, or my weariness, or the fact it was the third palace whose gardens I found myself in. I didn’t feel the need to spend much time here. As I took my pictures before leaving, I overheard some tourists singing ‘Do Re Mi’ from the Sound of Music. Completely oblivious as I had never watched the movie, but found out later, the gardens are well featured in the song. This clip is a good foot tapping tour of the Palace gardens, including the Pegasus parterre and Dwarf Garden.

The gardens became popular after the movie “The Sound OF Music”

I wish I was aware of the relevance of the gardens so I could have bid the Palace adieu with a skip in my step while singing the song. Instead, I just exited looking down at my phone to see where I was headed to next. I felt a tinge of excitement as I entered my destination into Google Maps, it was a museum associated with inarguably Salzburg’s most historically and culturally significant character, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

This was Part I of the series, Solo in Salzburg. You can read Part II here.

Pin for future reference:

The post is a 3-part series of the things to see in Salzburg, Austria. In this post the emphasis is on Mirabell Gardens.

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