Today has been a day most of us have been really looking forward to: our free day! With company visits, cultural visits, and presentations being over, today was our day to spend however we’d like before returning to the US tomorrow. Since beginning of the program, many of us casually talked about spending the day in Salzburg, Austria, since it’s the closest big city in another country. As we got closer and closer to today, we still had no solidified plan for our free day. There was also the question of when we would get Covid tested, unique to this year since we must present a negative test to fly back to the US. A few days ago, instead of catching up on my blogs, I searched and found tickets for everyone to buy ASAP so we could confirm our plans for our free day.
After getting Covid tested, we headed to the train station to catch our 10:41 train to Munich, where we would catch another train to Salzburg. This was the start of our incredibly messy experience with the trains today. As soon as we reached the station, a few of the guys and I noticed on the timetables that a message appeared next to our train. After a quick Google Translate searched, we realized our train was delayed SIXTY MINUTES! Most of the group walked ahead to the platform, so we had to go tell them the situation. Then, Liam and I ran to the information desk to ask for help. The lady there told us to catch the 10:39 train to Munich, which was leaving in just 7 minutes! We then sprinted back to the platform to yell to everyone that we had just 2 minutes to go to a different platform (I lied to make everyone rush). We all ran like a herd of bulls and made it onto the train. This was a learning experience for me, as I didn’t know you could just hop on any other train if your original train gets delayed or canceled. Once in Munich, we made our way to our next train, got seated, and expected a smooth ride from here on out. Nope. Apparently, there was some issue with the train that would cause a significant delay, and there was another train going to Salzburg, so we all got off and walked towards the other train. However, within 30 seconds of us disembarking, we were told the issue was fixed and could get back on.
On this much longer train ride to Salzburg, I decided to research some activities and sites we could see during our 7 hours in the city. Once we arrived in Austria, we were all extremely hungry, and the first stop was going to be lunch. We decided it was best to just walk towards the first site of the day, Mirabell Palace, and see what restaurants are on the way that we like. Luckily, we found a restaurant pretty quick. It was much fancier than we wanted, but the menu items sounded fine and the prices were decent. Here, I ordered a burger, which wasn’t the best burger I’ve had during this trip but definitely not a bad one. After spending way too much of our limited time in the city at this restaurant, we quickly made our way to the Mirabell Palace and Gardens. Immediately from the first entryway into the gardens, I was struck in awe by the beauty of the entire area. From the numerous fountains and sculptures to the perfectly trimmed grass and bushes, the palace and gardens were stunning.
We then walked towards the star of today’s show: Fortress Hohensalzburg. On the way, we saw Mozart’s birthplace, which was underwhelming but historic nonetheless. I assume the inside and the museum are much more interesting. I really fell in love with Salzburg as we were walking to the other end of the city to the fortress. We went through narrow streets filled with shops and restaurants, crossed the bridge over the Salzach river, and saw new impressive sculpture at every corner. We eventually made it to the funicular that would take us to top of the hill that the fortress sits on. Unlike the Duquesne Incline in Pittsburgh, this car was much faster and more modern. The views of the city as we ascended were amazing.
Once we reached the top, we were blown away by the immense view we had. Pictures cannot do it justice and words cannot describe how insane the view was. With the sun reflecting off the river and the white buildings with their green domes, it was absolutely stunning. We then went to the second level where there were museums, shops, and access to the panorama view. The panorama view was my favorite, as it was the highest point in the fort. We could see behind the fortress as well which was a breathtaking view of the suburbs sitting beneath the Alps. We spent the rest of our time exploring the fortress because there was just so much to see and so much space to walk around in.
Our walk back to the train station was nearly 30 minutes long, which wasn’t easy in the 80 degree weather. However, we made it, and many of us split up to find places to eat. A goal of mine is to try McDonald’s in every country, so Liam, Anna, Daniel, and I got nuggets there. They weren’t much different than the German and American nuggets, but I also got the potato stripes which were seasoned and shaped differently than normal fries. Our first train to Munich had no delays, except they stopped after 15 minutes for police to get on board to check people’s passports. Luckily, we brought them, but many of us weren’t going to since we’re traveling within the EU and Schengen Zone. This delay had us miss our connecting train in Munich, but fortunately, a train going in a different direction added a stop to Augsburg for people like us. All of this happened so fast, and I was still half asleep from the first train; so I was just following where people were walking and learned about all this later!
We finally made it to Augsburg, extremely exhausted. I’m glad we were able to go to Austria today and plan and navigate everything ourselves. Dealing with the train situations is something you can only learn by experiencing it, and I’m sure we all learned a lot from this one day! Salzburg was also incredible. It’s a smaller city than Augsburg, but felt big in its size and things to do. However, it definitely did not have that overly touristy vibe that Munich had. This concludes my longest blog post yet (I didn’t mean to) and my last blog post documenting a whole day. If you got this far, I hope you enjoyed following along. I will be writing my final thoughts and reflection in the next post, so stay tuned for that!