Today we had our last full day in Germany and we were able to spend it however we chose. A few people went to Stuttgart to visit relatives and a few stayed in Augsburg, but fourteen of us made plans to go to Salzburg, a city in Austria, and spend the day there. To put it more accurately, two people planned it and the rest of us followed them. The first challenge of the day was buying the day passes for the regional train. We finally found the English button on the automatic ticket machine and after that, buying the tickets went much more smoothly. We took two trains to get to Salzburg, the first took us to Munich and the second from Munich to our final destination. The first train ride was short and a group of four of us found seats around a mini table and played cards. We were taught Euchre, and everyone picked it up relatively quickly. The second train was longer and I sat next to an American couple. I had a very long conversation with them despite the fact that I am an introvert.
I learned that they originally lived in the Soviet Union but then emigrated to Kansas and had been living there for twenty years. They were both professors, the wife was a music professor and the husband was a life sciences professor. I told them about our trip so far and about my first year of college, and we mused about the differences in education between the Soviet Union and the United States. I honestly surprised myself with how much I socialized. When we finally got to Salzburg, we arrived in the modern portion of the city and made plans of when and where to meet up. We had decided ahead of time that we were going to split up into smaller groups so we wouldn’t flood restaurants and small shops.
My group immediately headed to the old section of the town in search of a special pretzel shop that sold pizza pretzels. It was our El Dorado. Along the way of our quest, we passed through a labyrinth of narrow streets lined with shops, a Mozart statue, and the house where Mozart was born. Finally, when we were about to give up hope and succumb to our hunger, we found the “holy grail” in an outdoor marketplace. I ate a cinnamon sugar pretzel and half of a chocolate-covered one while sitting under a giant gold earth sculpture. It was quite the ambiance.
After sating our hunger, we decided to walk up to a fortress on the top of a hill We stopped halfway up, however, because we would have had to pay 9.5 euros to continue up and go inside the fortress itself. We window shopped afterwards for a while and went inside the Dom of the city, which I think may have been my favorite church of the trip. The inside of the church was white but accented with black, which gave it such a unique appearance. A festival was happening later in the day in the church, so we were not able to see the whole thing but what we saw was more than enough.
Later, we took a walk down the river, which took us to a new part of the city. One thing that I noticed throughout the day was just how similar Austria was to Germany. If I was randomly placed in one of the two countries, I would certainly not be able to tell where I was without some investigating. Another remarkable (or should I say unremarkable) event from the day was our border crossing into Austria. There was no distinguishable border between the two countries and no customs or passport control or anything. We had learned in class about the Schengen Zone and free European travel, but it was still a foreign concept to me while experiencing it. Especially in contrast to the crazy security of leaving Germany the following day, the freedom was amazing.
We walked up a hill and found a playground with a rope sculpture that one could climb, and I climbed up to the very top. It took me back to my childhood when I used to climb trees almost daily. Continuing up the hill, we found an incredible overlook of the city and I marveled at the beauty of the city sprawled out in front of me. Once again, it was apparent how European cities lack skyscrapers and tall buildings in comparison to the US.
When we got back to Augsburg, we got “spaghetti ice cream” which was regular ice cream that was pulled into long spaghetti-like strands. It was a great purchase and a great way to end an exciting day.