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View from the Feldstrasse

Here is an excerpt from a message I sent my friends while in Salzburg:

Ich bin aus Salzberg! Ich bin aus Salzberg!! ICH BIN AUS SALZBERG!! I am in Salzburg!

Can you imagine the bewilderment when the locals see a young (or kind of young, I guess) man, dressed in his distinctly American fleece, but otherwise appears to be quite German, exclaiming "Ich bin aus Salzberg!!!" as he is running down the medieval streets?!

Wow, I am in heaven. I can't tell you how much I am enjoying this trip so far. The alps simply are incredible. I bypassed Munich completely and moved on to rural Bavaria. I've spent the last few days in Berchtesgaden. 

For instance, today I awoke in my small Gasthof and headed towards the hills I could see outside my balcony. I took a toll road called Feldstrasse that was mostly covered in snow. Everything is pretty abandoned - November is the month everything shuts down because all of the tourists have disappeared. I have seen only a few Americans (thank god) this whole trip, all of them except one has been at the most touristy of locations. When one American couple stopped to ask me a question today in English (my backpack seems to be the giveaway that I am an American - when I wear it, people think I am non Deutsch, but without it, I seem to fool everyone - and yes, even after I say Gross Gut/Gruss Got, they still seem to continue talking to me in a full stream of German schlosses, oonigs, and Gesprechens, to which I simply respond "Ich verstehe nict...", to which they respond "Ah..." and quickly walk away.) 

One of the few guardrails...
Looking back at the peak

Anyway, when the people asked me questions today in English, I really had to struggle with the words, speaking English now seems so strange to me - even after just two days of immersion here. But that doesn't mean that speaking German has been a breeze for me - working on Czech for the past year has screwed me up royally. Imagine a conversation in which all I have to say is "yes". First, I nod my head, and then say "Ano" (Czech for yes). This seems completely backwards and conveys the opposite meaning, and I quickly try to correct myself with "Si" (left over from the trip to La Paz). I stumble again, muttering a quick "yes", on my way to an eventual German "ja". By then the person I was talking to has long since walked away after seeing the initial nod of my head. This sequence has unfortunately repeated itself so many times in the past few first days. 

So, here I was driving around the empty Feldstrasse, trying to keep my Ford focus wagon from slipping off the road with few guardrails to do any guarding, while staring out the windows at 3000 meter peaks all around. I love the Alps - I mean I WORSHIP the Alps here. Incredible! Unlike the Colorado Rockis (but more like Banff and Glacier NP), these huge mountains have incredible, deep valleys underneath them. These really emphasize the height and make them exceedingly inspiring. 

Tig and the Feldstrasse

I walked up one of the ridges, ignoring all sorts of signs that I had absolute no idea what they meant. Perhaps, "Private Property" or "Avalanche Danger", or "Dangerous Slick Cliffsides", or "Coke tastes good", or "Enjoy this wonderful view". I, of course, opted for one of the later interpretations. The snow was most peculiar - it felt like I was walking in Styrofoam balls. The snow was small little balls that felt like cardboard - they kept their consistency when they were kicked around or even picked up. 

Styrofoam Snow
View overlooking Salzburg

From the Feldstrasse, I drove to Salzburg. I parked across the street from Mozart's house (incredible, eh?). Just as I was passing his house, the clocks of the town all struck twelve and the entire town was alive with a massive cacophony of bells chiming in all sorts of chords and separate melodies. What else would you expect from a medieval town that is the home of Mozart?!

I do believe that Salzburg is the most beautiful city I have ever seen. I've spent the day trying to think of a place that could top it. It was the perfect combination of location, scenery, old world charm and big-yet-small size. 

I walked along the shops, and then took a lift up the Monchsberg, a tall natural palisade that protects the inner city. I walked along this in awe, looking down onto the town. I continued eventually to Festung Hohensalzberg, the massive fortress overlooking the town.

Did I mention I started the day with the strangest collections of meats, cheeses, yoghurts, and personally (my) hand grinded oats? I had a variety of Nutella like chocolate spreads with honey and some kind of dark concoction that's half honey, half maple syrup, half tar for paving roads. I had a nutty bread in the shape of a pretzel for lunch.

Back in Salzburg, I hiked back down to the human-sized chessboard, and then spent a little while searching for the very best Mozartkugeln to bring back to the States, and found the very shop that originally created the Mozartkugeln two hundred years ago, in a back street (thanks to Lonely Planet).

Can you believe I still do not know who the president is? On the news, I hear lots of "Bush" and "Gore" and "Florida", surrounded by lots of German words and a few German numbers spoken to fast for me to decipher. I know something is up, but I can't seem to catch who the winner is.

Did I mention that the street musicians here in Salzburg are higher quality than anything short of a full fledge symphony back in the states?


Beneath the castle, move the pawns
View from the base of Feldstrasse

Ironically, vacation like this gets me more down to survival living. With everything closed, it has been hard to find a bed and a warm dinner some nights. I am not a seasoned traveler enough just to walk up to anyone and ask questions. That has left little time for intense depth and thought - perhaps I need a break from that too, even though its been a while since I have felt depth in between my hands. 

I now am treating myself to a fairly fancy dinner at a place named Sternbrau, and just ordered "Wildschweinkotelette". I think its some part of a wild pig, a board perhaps? The waiter, gruff that he was, smiled at me after ordering it, seemingly gaining respect for me after stumbling though my first encounter. Should I be pleased or afraid, or both? I always hate it when they resort to English.

The last two days have been wonderful. The biggest downer has been learning of the fact that the ice caves (Eisenhole) in the Dachsein are closed for the season (the beauty of the Internet).

Wow! It was an incredible dinner! The Germans/Austrians sure know their gravies! And the mushrooms were most curious! And I liked the capers, heaven forbid!

(c) Geoffrey Peters,, 2002. For more information regarding this web page, please contact
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