Published: April 28th 2008April 28th 2008
So now we’re in Munich, having been to Cesky Krumlov (Czech Republic), Passau (Germany) and Salzburg (Austria).
Cesky Krumlov is a world heritage listed medieval town, nestled in a bend of the Vltava River (the same one that goes through Prague). It’s an oasis of quaint buildings, narrow cobbled streets and mostly pedestrians only, and is a huge tourist attraction. In summer it would be very crowded - at this time of the year there aren’t a lot of people around so for us it was a charming place to wander, drink coffee/beer overlooking the river and explore the castle, which is notable for its bears in the moat (yuk!!), and for the fact that many of the walls are actually flat but painted to look as if they are 3D. Dave and Phyllis went for a ride in the countryside - just gorgeous. The castle gardens are formal and very extensive, including a lake and enormous oak trees that must be hundreds of years old. Under the castle is a labyrinth that is used as an exhibition area - currently housing an exhibition of quite odd sculpture including, for example, large handbasins made to look like lower jaws with some
teeth missing, metre long clothes pegs made from very large fingers, and arrangements of human bodies with crocodile heads. There was also a display of very large Alice in Wonderland/Dali teapots, goblets, platters etc - all skewed but rather attractive (and expensive!!). We climbed the tower which gave a great view of CK - including the non-heritage listed sector. The modern buildings provided great contrast and some realism after the medieval portion of the town - a kind of time warp effect.
We caught a mini bus to Linz (in Austria) from CK and then a train to Passau. We met some wonderful German women on the train - a German version of the “Two Fat Ladies”. Trains in this part of the world are clean and seem really well organised. The purpose of going to Passau was to collect our hire car (a Merc with 4,000 km on the dial!) - very comfortable although a bit more squashy than the Vauxhall we had in Ireland and England. We had only one night there. Our accommodation was in the Grunhaus - a three storied anorexic building facing the Danube. The Grunhaus had been retrofitted as a B&B and had most
unusually placed facilities (toilets in cupboards etc). The walls featured some unusual local artwork that was for sale - we didn’t purchase!!
Passau is at the confluence of the Danube, the Ilz and the Inn Rivers - and one place where the enormous river boats depart for the Black Sea and Vienna. The boats are huge - a future holiday??? We had a relaxed afternoon walking around the river banks, a very attractive promenade alongside beautiful old buildings which looked great reflected in the Danube’s evening light. Here we started to have problems walking past shops displaying a variety of yummy German breads and pastries - they’re on every corner!!
The drive between Passau and Salzburg was stunning - enormous rolling green meadows dotted with postcard picture stone, stucco and wooden houses with barns for cows on the ground floor and farm implement sheds attached. Many have fire wood stacked neatly against the houses for convenience and additional insulation - it’s also very attractive. The roads are all sealed, and have no verges or trees lining them, so give the impression that you’re driving through a park or someone’s private land. Many of the small villages we passed through were
built around beautiful church buildings with spires that could be seen at a distance. Even very small clusters of farm buildings often have their own churches/chapels.
As we neared Salzburg we started to see snow-capped mountains and large lakes and we thought wow - snow!! - little knowing how much we were to experience over the next few days. After finding our digs in Salzburg (the local priests’s seminary - see pic) we drove up into the Austrian Alps, alongside glassy lakes and huge outcrops of snow-covered rocks. There were swathes of pine/fir trees up sides of the mountains, dusted with snow. We tried to find Hitler’s Eagles Nest - but were unsuccessful and found out afterwards that it’s been dismantled. When driving in the Alps we crossed from Germany to Austria and back quite frequently - must be very confusing for residents!
We also went up to the Salzburg Castle on a cable car - great views over the city - and did a walking tour with a guide around the old city, viewing Mozart’s birthplace, church in which he played the organ, font at which he was baptised etc. Salzburg is known for Mozart and the Sound of
Music - we did not get too involved in the latter, but it is a key reason why many tourists go to Salzburg, much to the amusement of the locals. We did see the cemetery that the one in the S of M was modelled on. We stumbled across an archaeological dig in an old town square - the area is being resurfaced and so being checked for artefacts before the new surface is laid. It’s bordered on one side by a medieval church, and the archaeologists have found a number of skeletons that would have been in the associated graveyard. It’s painstaking work, trying to get as much as they could out as the bulldozers and earthmovers approached. The skeletons and the artefacts found will be displayed in an exhibition nearby next year.
Salzburg is a lovely city and worth a lot more exploration (Salz meaning salt - it has a long history of salt trade). It’s built on either side of the Salzach River and has lots of smart and quaint shopping areas that have a fairyland ambience. A local specialty is painted eggs for Easter and Christmas decorations among other things - they are exquisite. The gardens
are also terrific, with lots of beds stacked with colour (pansies, tulips, polyanthus and daffodils) and also some unusual swirly designs in the garden beds. There’s a lot of history too - until around the 1800’s Salzburg was a separate church-state so there are stacks of both religious and government buildings and museums to explore. A place to return to!
There are more photos below