November 2, 2009

Salzburg, Austria: Hohensalzburg Fortress

There are a couple of ways to get up to the fortress from down in the old town: you can navigate a path up the side of the cliff or you can take the funicular. Want to guess which we chose to do? I mean, we've taken the stairs to climb the Eiffel Tower, so we aren't exactly adverse to some exercise. Here's a shot of the funicular tracks to give you an idea of how steep the cliff really is:

Granted, the path zig-zags (Is that a verb? Methinks not) back anf forth as opposed to going straight up, but still, it is a mighty good workout. Given that we were going to be out and about all day and that it was a bit chillier than any weather we'd seen in, oh, about 4 years, we decided to take the tram.

I would like to point out that although I am only just now getting around to writing about our trip to Salzburg, it was our second place to visit during our stay in Spain. We had visited London, but without the fancy new SLR. I even managed to bring both lenses with me to Salzburg and was brave enough to change them from time to time in the cold weather. I mention this only because it means that photos were a large part of our trip and it made me very happy.

Back to our first morning and a visit to the fortress:

Riding the funicular was interesting indeed. I am sure you can see in the above photo that there is only one track for most of the trip; it splits into two about halfway down and then comes right back together again. There are two trains, and they must travel at the same time, one from the top and one from the bottom. Timing is important because they must arrive at the split at the same time, occasionally braking to a crawl or stop to allow the other to make it, and then they pass each other and continue on their way. Efficient and interesting for those riding, to see another car coming straight for you from the top of the hill.

We disembarked and walked to a patio that was a short distance away, took a few steps towards the edge and were greeted by this:

Those are alps there, people. Super high, magnificent mountains the likes of which we'd never seen. We grew up with mountains, but really rounded short ones, and Houston has none to speak of. Granted, Spain had some mountains where we were living, but they look quite different from these.

To say that they are very, very, very, very tall is an understatement:

Breath-taking is accurate. I had only a few dozen photos similar to this on my card after our first ten minutes up there. We were very lucky in that we had a fabulously sunny and crisp morning in which to view the fortress and its fabulous views. The strategic location is evident when up there as to all sides there are cliffs and very clear views of anything and everything, including whomever might try to attack. In fact, it was never captured by enemy troops.

A short walk took us into the courtyard within the walls of the fortress. This might be my favorite photo from the morning.

Rocket Man had left all of the planning to me, and as usual I had searched for the most inclusive and inexpensive way to see the city and its environs. Most cities have a City Pass or Card that allows entry to certain homes, museums and exhibits for a fee. Some also include transportation costs. Usually one can purchase the pass to be good for one, three, five or seven days.

Occasionally these passes are not worth the cost. For example, in London we did purchase the passes, but I had to strategically plan every minute of our day to get our money's worth. Had the London Pass not included transportation, then it would not have been worth the money, especially since quite a few museums there are free and also because the main attractions, such as Westminster Abbey and Buckingham palace, both of which we visited, were not included at all.

Barcelona's city pass worked differently. Instead of gaining free entry to everything on the list like in London, users were given a reduced price with the card. At first I thought this would prove to save us nothing, but once I planned our trip and added up the costs with and without the card, it did indeed save us some money. Plus, if I recall correctly, travel was included once again.

I am explaining all of this to you in order to explain how very completely worth it the Salzburg Card truly is. It cost us thirty-six euros each, and included free entry to everything we had even a tiny desire to see. It included free audioguides to each building and also included free travel in Salzburg and out of the city a certain distance. I believe the only things we had to pay for aside from the card (and food and lodging of course) was a very reduced price to get out to a cable car up the Untersberg. Essentially, this was the cheapest trip we took in large part due to the exceptional value of the Salzburg Card. We paid for the card with the first day's activities.


Back to the fortress, yes?

So we took the tour, complete with free audio guide, and I got some more fabulous photos. On one of the watch towers, looking back towards the green space created for the Archbishop's use:

From the same tower, looking in the opposite direction, a great shot of the Franciscan church and University church:

Included in the tour is a visit to the state rooms. The large doorways into each room appear at first to be surrounded by carved and lacquered wood, but upon further inspection are found to be made of an Austrian marble that has this unique reddish-brown coloring. Perhaps it is the age of the building, but the marble blends in so well with the surrounding wooden walls that it took us a while to realize that they were different materials.

The fortress was first constructed and later enlarged by the Archbishops. It was first built during the middle ages to protect the interests of the Archbishop, since he served as both important political figure and as that of religious leader. During an expansion in 1502 an organ was added. The Archbishop at the time wanted a way to tell the townsfolk when it was time to get up and what time to go to bed. Here is The Bull, as the organ is named due to the roar heard when the automated instrument plays an F-Major chord:

Imagine being woken up by that thing every morning.


Along the corridor leading to the organ were small windows that provided nice frames for views of the city:

Although the audio tour was over after the viewing of the organ, there was much more to the fortress, including prison cells, a marionette display as well as a silly interpretation of the bull itself. We'll get to all of that tomorrow. Prepare to giggle!

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