The Emperor's Crumbs

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September 11th 2012
Published: June 8th 2017
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LAST NIGHT: The concert was very nice and about a dozen of us went. We were seated toward the rear of the room, but I guess that doesn't matter when you're really there to listen. The room itself used to be part of the prince-archbishop's palace, so it's rather grand and pleasingly baroque. There were five or six musicians dressed in 18th century costume, and two singers, a tenor and a soprano. Personally, I thought the tenor was good but the soprano got a little breathy in her mid-range.

First, we were given a selection from Don Giovanni and then were served (this is verbatim from the menu, which I didn't take with me because there was a very stern notice stating that the menu was not free but could be purchased for two euros) a white lemon soup with curd cheese-rosemary dumpling and cream topping. It sounds weird but it was very good. Then we heard Le Nozze di Figaro, followed up with breast of capon on a glaze of red wine and herbs with pumpkin dumplings, semolina strudel, and vegetables from Padre Prior's garden. My capon was a little dry, but otherwise it was all good (though I didn't eat the nasty little bits of zucchini). To finish, we had a little bit of The Magic Flute (I've forgotten the German title … Die Zauberfloete or something like that) and had a dessert of semi-frozen parfait of forest honey on two different sauces. I don't know what the sauces were but the whole thing was sehr gut. Half of our group found our way back to the hotel; lights out around 11:00. I'm not sure that I'd do this again (it cost 42 euros apiece), but it was a nice experience.

TODAY: Happy birthday, Herr Kaiser! 😊

We are in Hallstatt today. It's only an hour or so from Salzburg, but we couldn't arrive too early because our rooms wouldn't be ready. We drove through the Salzkammergut, the salt-mining area of Austria, and also where several of the outdoor scenes in "The Sound of Music" were filmed. I swear I could see Julie Andrews's mountain meadow!

So we went to the small town of St. Gilgen to take a boat ride. It was a ten-minute walk through town to the lake, and what a cute place! Mozart's mother was from St. Gilgen, so Nannerl, his sister, often took holidays in
town. There's a charming little statue-fountain of a child Mozart playing the violin. Several of the buildings have paintings under the eaves, and there are plenty of flower boxes.

Daniela stopped at the small and well-kept war memorial and told us that until she started traveling, she didn't realize that Germany doesn't really have memorials to any of their World War II dead. Austria, however, does. She also mentioned that Europe also still remembers September 11; she said the papers she saw today all had front-page articles dedicated to the date.

We continued on (past some sidewalk foot-massage machines; why don't we have these all over every city?), and Daniela paused in front of a restaurant whose sandwich board read “Kaiser Schmarrn” (roll that R!). It basically means “Emperor's crumbs,” but “schmarrn” is also the word for nonsense or when someone is talking crap. In the 19th century, Kaiser Franz Josef (can't remember if he was I or II) really enjoyed his pancakes. German pancakes are somewhere between a crepe and an American-style pancake. His chef couldn't seem to get his batter right, and the resulting cakes kept falling apart. Thinking he was going to have one angry emperor on his hands, he served them up anyway with a dusting of powdered sugar. The Kaiser liked them so much that they became a “thing.” We actually saw Kaiser Schmarrn on a few boards today.

Daniela helpfully told us that we should get in line at the dock well before we had our tickets. We did, and it's a good thing because it's a popular boat and there were several other large groups on board, including a large Japanese contingent. But because we were up front, we all got seats outside on the top deck. We chugged across the Wolfgangsee, stopping occasionally at picturesque little villages. It was particularly lovely since we got to sit and the Japanese all had to stand. What better place to indulge in a little Schadenfreude than Austria? One of our group, Terry, got to talking with one of the Japanese men, and they ended up exchanging baseball caps (but only after several photos were taken); this seemed to please the Japanese guy to no end. It was actually pretty cute to watch the whole scene. (One note about the Japanese women, of whom we've seen plenty these past ten days: It's been very warm – hot, as far as I'm concerned – but these women are completely covered up with long-sleeved shirts, big-brimmed hats, huge sunglasses, vests or jackets, and gloves. I know they're trying to keep their skin pale, but I can't help wondering how they keep from sweating to death. I can only conclude that Japanese women have no pores.)

We arrived in St. Wolfgang, another impossibly picture-postcard-perfect little town on the edge of the lake, where Rene met us with the bus. Daniela said the Kaisers used to holiday in St. Wolfgang, and ex-Chancellor Helmut Kohl also likes to spend time there.

We arrived in Hallstatt around 11:30 and walked for ten minutes through the town to our hotel, the Gruener Baum. John and I are in room 202, and we look out over the alpine lake. We even have a terrace! The room is quite large; I think our Salzburg room could fit inside this room twice over. There are small boats skimming the lake, and ducks and swans hang out near the waterside cafés hoping for crumbs.

We sat on our terrace for a few minutes and then ventured out for lunch. We ended up at an open-air bar, where we sat at a picnic table across from three older Germans. We didn't talk at all, but they were very polite when they sat down and when they left. John and I each had grilled sausage with pommes frites and mustard. And then I had an Eisschokolade (iced coffee with ice cream, whipped cream, and chocolate sauce) and John had Stracciatellabecher (stracciatella ice cream, bananas, whipped cream, banana liqueur, and something green and unidentifiable on top). All this and a beautiful view!

We checked out a few shops, several of which have different kinds of local salt. Then we walked up to the Catholic church that dominates the town. It's small but interesting in that it's got a double apse (i.e., two altars). There's a bone chapel behind the church that we also had a look at. Kind of creepy, but not gory. The skulls are all painted with flowers or crosses and have the deceased's name and date of death in Gothic script. The most recent skull was placed in 1995, though the woman died in 1983. You can see her gold tooth.

Came back to the hotel and are now sitting on the terrace enjoying the view and watching bumblebees romancing the flowers.

LATER: We had dinner in the hotel. Some sort of soup, which everyone at my table thought was cream of celery but which had a distinct broccoli flavor to me. I only had a little bit. Then I had turkey in a creamy sauce, and John had trout. A whole trout. Daniela gave a little lesson in how to deal with a whole fish; John seemed to manage pretty well. Dessert was our first apple strudel (warm!) with whipped cream. A nice way to end the day.

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11th September 2012

What a gorgeous place!! How funny about the Emperor's crumbs! Better than a beheading!! Teresa, are you missing your kitty? Hope John had a good birthday!
12th September 2012

The oh-so-cute Saint Bernard post card arrived today. Thank you!
12th September 2012

Oh, I'm jealous and not just about the apple strudel.

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