The final day of our grand adventure has arrived and I’m intending to savor every minute. My head spins thinking about how fast our time in Germany has gone! With earlier encouragement from Marius, a group of us decided to go to Salzburg, Austria for the day – Marius’ home town! With some help from our German friends, we obtained a great group rate on train tickets. We were each able to ride from Augsburg to Munich and then to Salzburg and back, for only 10 Euro! The logistics of the journey sounded easy enough. We felt accomplished making our connecting train with no issue. The countryside we viewed out the train windows was particularly beautiful as we neared the Bavarian Alps. I’m mesmerized by it so the two hour train ride from Munich to Salzburg flies. Marius recommended a number of sights to see, including several where ‘The Sound of Music’ filming took place. Stephen, a big fan of ‘The Sound of Music’ took charge and led the way. We arrived in the city a bit after noon making lunch our logical first stop. Our group split up to grab a bite to eat. Alan, Jeremy, Arman and I all chose to eat at a place near the train station that had Döners. These delicious sandwiches, or in my case more of a wrap, have shaved lamb (akin to a Gyro), cabbage, pickled cucumber and a creamy sauce similar to tzatziki sauce. We were fueled-up and ready to meet back up with others from the group for a day of adventure!
With no specific plan but the whole city in reach, we began by heading in the general direction of the city’s fortress. Walking along a main road, a small garden was spotted through a gated wall. In no real rush, we decided to investigate. The reward for embracing the unexpected (harkening back to Day Seven’s lesson learned) included the opportunity to enjoy a massive and beautifully landscaped garden complete with a fountain and a stunning view of the fortress in the distance. The landscaping was meticulous with flowers, bushes and stones forming ornate patterns around statues and a beautiful central fountain. We explored the garden, snapped a few pictures and managed to get a group picture before continuing our adventure. We crossed one of the bridges that spans the Danube as we headed to what is known as the historic part of the city. Wandering the streets, some paved and some cobblestone lined, we stopped in a number of little shops and stumbled upon a beautiful old fountain which we stopped to admire. Walking a bit further we came across a narrow stairwell that headed up a hill, and decided to embrace the unexpected and climb it. The reward was a beautiful lookout at the base of the fortress we originally began the day heading towards. We caught a glimpse of the breathtaking view of the city and the surrounding mountains. The area wrapped around the hill allowed us to see nearly all of the city from a bird’s eye view as well as for miles around. This was not only a great photo opportunity but also the perfect place to admire the beauty all around us. I stood in awe of this historic city with a river running through its center and gorgeous mountainous countryside all around. No snapshot would capture its beauty quite like this quiet moment looking out over the city, together.
We continued up the hill before finally reaching the fortress at the top. It was quite the incline getting up the hill, made worse by the fact that we were all sweating profusely from the heat (having dressed for what we thought would be a cooler day). There was an element of competition as we rounded the last bend with a few of us speeding our way up to see who’d make it to the top first. The joy was definitely in the journey on this one as we soon realized we didn’t want to fork over a bunch of Euro to tour the fortress. Happy with our decision, we made our way down the hill. Along the way another beautiful lookout appeared which gave us a chance to relax for a bit. Upon reaching the base, we continued to explore the city, admiring a beautiful old church at its center, locations from ‘The Sound of Music’, and my favorite, Mozart’s place of birth! Having played viola since the fourth grade, countless sections of Mozart’s masterpieces have graced my music stand. It was truly inspiring to see the place where he was born hundreds of years before and to think that I might be standing on a piece of ground where he once stood.
Continuing on our adventure, we stopped for ice cream and then headed back across the river on one of the city’s walking bridges, stopping to gaze down at the river and the amazing scenery all around. After crossing the river, we lounged on its banks reflecting on the beauty of this place and all we’d seen. My mind drifted to centuries past and all of the people who have lived and walked in the same places we did today. Perhaps Mozart himself lounged on this same river bank! So much has changed culturally and technologically since the establishment of these cities, yet, I like to think that we share a similar sense of wonder at the beauty and the majesty. Time keeps marching forward but I’m humbled and honored to have stood where the likes of Mozart and his descendants might have stood. Sharing this world is a joy.
As our departure time closes in, we head back towards the train station. Because it was so good and so convenient, the group stopped for dinner at the same place Alan, Jeremy, Arman and I had lunch. Thereafter we boarded the train and said Auf Wiedersehen to Austria, though in my heart of hearts I hope it’s only farewell ‘till then. After a full day and many miles on foot, we enjoyed just sitting on the train and playing cards, stopping now and again to take in the fleeting scenery. Augsburg was soon in view and we headed to the hotel reveling in our grand adventure in Salzburg.
I’m now back in the room packing my suitcase, tucking small souvenirs and gifts between layers of (dirty) clothes for protection. I experience a wave of mixed emotions – sadness that our time in Germany is coming to a close layered with happiness and gratitude for the sweet memories and sweeter friendships forged. I guess the next big adventure will be tomorrow’s 5:30 AM wake-up call and trip to the airport! While I may not feel ready to leave Germany, I am excited to be returning home to my family and am truly thankful to Pitt’s Plus3 program for providing this little taste of what other countries have to offer. I’m now am hungry for more!