31 March 2015 – 3 April 2015
Graz – Salzburg – Munich
I’ve decided to split up the tale of what I’ve been up to over spring break into a few different parts, mostly because it would be incredibly long, but also because I’ve done so much I’m beginning to forget details about the beginning of the trip, so I at least need to write about some of it before too long. This part is going to cover the first few days, and hopefully I’ll be able to add the next few parts on a regular basis. The beginning of my break isn’t anything to go into detail about, I pretty much hung out at my apartment, making the plans for the trip and making sure to eat all of the leftover food before I left. I then overestimated my eating habits, and had to go shopping before I left, and then had to eat all of that too.
I’ve mentioned in a few of the past blogs that my main plan for spring break was to have Carlo, one of my friends from Nebraska Wesleyan, come up here and together we’d make a loop through a few major cities before he catches a plane back to South Africa where he is currently doing study abroad. The plan was for him to arrive sometime in the early afternoon on the 31st so that we would have the whole afternoon and evening to run around town. However, things didn’t quite go according to plan, and one of his flights was rescheduled, which caused him to miss the next one, and the final flight was delayed a few hours. It was a mess. In the end, he did manage to arrive on the 31st, but at about 7 PM, so there wasn’t much else to do besides find some quick dinner and catch up before bed.
All was not lost, however, as we still had an extra day before we were to leave Graz for our trip. We didn’t get around to leaving my place until around noon, but we still had plenty of time to stop by the big attractions. We were able to compress many of the interesting sights I’ve done over the past two months into one day, so it was quite busy. Among other things, we went up Schloßberg and took in the view (I learned Schloßberg translates to Castle Mountain, so there’s that), walked around city center, and visited the Styrian Armory, which I actually hadn’t gotten around to doing yet. The armory claims to have one of the largest collections of weaponry in Europe, and I believe it. It was four floors completely filled ceiling to floor with suits of armor, swords, guns, and everything else. It was really cool, and definitely worth the trip. I also introduced him to the cheap and delicious kebab, and that wouldn’t be the last time we would have them on our trip.
Finally on the 2nd, we finally left for our exciting European adventure! For this first leg, we caught a train from Graz to Salzburg, which took us across the Alps to the Northern part of Austria. In hindsight, I made a very bad mistake when leaving Graz which I’ve regretted for nearly the entire trip. Graz has some lovely Mediterranean air coming up from the south, which keeps in relatively nice and warm. Salzburg is on the other side of the Alps, and gets a lot colder than it does in the south. Of course, I didn’t think of this, and didn’t bring nearly enough warm clothing for the trip, which would come back to haunt me. Despite it being officially spring, it snowed on the train ride to Salzburg which foreshadowed the poor weather to come. However, by the time we got to Salzburg, it was merely raining, and had warmed up somewhat. We arrived at around 4 PM, and walked a few blocks from the train station to our nearby hostel. I’ve never been to a hostel before, and I was expecting to arrive at some rundown place crammed with college students. Instead, the hostel was actually quite nice, and the people running it were really inviting. We did have to share a room with 6 other people, but we weren’t there for very long, so it wasn’t much of a nuisance. While I had seen the Sound of Music, I had no idea that it was filmed in Salzburg or how huge that movie is in the city. Many of the tours and attractions that were advertised centered around the Sound of Music or going to places that were shown in the film. We arrived too late to go on the Sound of Music tour or any of the more in-depth tours, so we settled for a simple hour-long tour. The tour was just us and a British couple in the back of a van that drove around to a few sights around town. We drove by the castle and stopped for a bit at one of the really scenic bridges to take pictures. We also saw the place where Mozart lived, as well as a plaza dedicated to him, as well as the house and bridge shown in the Sound of Music. Honestly, I really enjoyed Salzburg. It’s much more mountainous than Graz, and to me is a lot more picturesque. After the tour was over, we thought we would walk around the town for a bit before dinner, but it began hailing on us, so we ran back to the hostel and abandoned that plan. The hostel offered dinner there, so we dined on Wiener Schnitzel before going to spend the evening in the lounge, where the Sound of Music was playing on projector. Of course. However, the lounge was rather crowded, so we had to sit in an adjacent room and were only able to hear the film, so I have yet to see if I could recognize any of the places that appear in the movie. We stayed in the common room for a little bit longer after the film ended, but turned in before midnight, where we found all 6 of our roommates were already asleep. Because of this, we never got to actually meet most of them, but definitely got enough of them from the snoring competition that was going on that night.
The next day, we checked out of our hostel, and made our way to the bus stop, which wasn’t at the train station as we had assumed, but instead at the airport on the opposite side of town. Despite going the wrong direction for one stop, we eventually caught a bus to the airport, where we waited in a completely empty parking lot for the better part of an hour before other people showed up to wait with us, making us feel more relieved that we were in fact in the right place. The bus ride from Salzburg to Munich was incredibly scenic, traveling just below mountains that we couldn’t even see the tops of. Sadly, I didn’t have a window seat on the bus, so I wasn’t able to get any picture of the ride. Sorry. We arrived in Munich in the mid-afternoon, and we were very excited to look around the city. We had an entire day with no plans, and the weather was really nice that day, so everything seemed to be going perfectly. We quickly grew suspicious, however, as everywhere we walked to was completely empty, even major 6-lane streets had no cars driving on them. Eventually, we realized that it was Good Friday, and in Bavaria (the German state that Munich is located in), Good Friday is a state holiday, so none of the shops were open. Bizarrely, we came to a major stretch of stores that was crammed with people, despite none of the stores being open. Most of the people were walking deeper down the street, so we followed them, trying to figure out what so many people were doing in a place that was completely closed. Eventually, we arrived at a large gothic building that everyone was taking picture of and gawking at. Turns out, we were in an area of town called Marienplatz, and the thing that everyone was looking at was the world famous Glockenspiel. For those who don’t know, the Glockenspiel is the clock with the figures that dance around it once a day. While it was cool and a bit of a surprise to see, it was weird seeing all those people there, since it was 5 o’clock sharp, but the figures only dance at noon. Everyone stood and watched as nothing happened, then everyone left. It was very bizarre. We left feeling rather confused back to our hostel, where we hung out in the lobby for a bit. Carlo went up to the room to take a shower, and never returned, so I went up to find out where he had gone, only to discover that four of our six roommates were crazy Swiss partygoers, blaring music and in town just to party over break. I also discovered Carlo and our two other roommates completely annoyed by the loud music and Swiss partygoers, so the four of us went back down to the lobby and spent the night playing pool and meeting our new roommates, who went to school together in Britain, but were from Hong Kong and America themselves. Eventually the Swiss vanished to parts unknown, so we went to bed fairly early, as we had a train to catch the next day.
Okay, you’re going to hate me, but I’m ending the blog here. I originally planned on breaking the trip into 3 different parts, and this first part would continue on to cover the next two days we spent in Munich. I actually just finished writing the whole thing, and the description for those two days is longer than the entirety of this post. The whole trip through Munich would come to over 3500 words, which is nearly twice as long as the next longest post, so I’m going to split it up here. However, I (probably) will post that already written part sometime in the next few days, so I won’t make you wait a week. “Wait!” You’re saying to yourself, “I thought you were on vacation for 3 weeks! What happened to your last week of traveling?” Well, you’re not wrong, I’m still on my travels! In fact, I’m currently sitting in my hostel room in Vienna as I write this. In about 24 hours from now, I will catch an overnight bus to Berlin to do the final stretch of the trip. With any luck, the internet will be good enough in Berlin for me to post it, and I’ll have enough time to do so. You’ll just have to wait a while to hear why I have enough time to sit down and write this. Sneak preview: It’s because I had an extra day and was tired of walking around. I’m also going to include the pictures taken in Graz, Salzburg, and the first day of Munich below, and on the gallery. I also really want to include a map that shows the route that I’ve taken so far, but after playing around with it for a while, it was more work than I thought, so I may come back and edit that in later. Come back soon to hear about how I freeze in a castle and go to a concentration camp on Easter. Until then!