On Saturday morning I woke up and immediately noticed that the sun was shining brilliantly through my window and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. I had zero plans for the day until that evening and immediately started pondering how I could take advantage of this weather. A side note- it was still pretty chilly- the high was in the upper 30s. This week we had more snow unfortunately, which of course included cloudy, gray weather every day. So when I woke up and saw this sunshine- I didn’t care what the high was, I just knew I wanted to be out in it!
So as I racked my brain for things I could do, I realized I still hadn’t ventured into Salzburg yet. I first visited Salzburg about 10 years ago with my high school German class. It was a great trip, but to be honest I really don’t remember it all that well. I was 15 and I remember much more of the silly moments I had with my friends in our hotel rooms and on the bus rides between cities than I do the actual cities themselves. I checked the train schedule and sure enough, a train was leaving from my town in an hours time, so I quickly got ready and headed out.
The train ride is only about an hour and is beautiful- you have a view of the Alps the whole time. I had my trusty Kindle Fire with me so time flew by as I read and enjoyed the ride. Not long before our arrival, I got a text: “Willkommen in österreich!…” (Welcome to Austria!…) the dreaded text signaling to me that I now need to put my phone in airplane mode so I don’t receive roaming charges. As I made the switch, I realized “crap.. I’m not going to be able to use my google maps!” I literally rely on google maps for everything and had not preplanned out where I needed to go. I reluctantly decided I would just have to look a little more touristy and use an actual paper map of the city.
I walked around the train station looking for a map and couldn’t find anything! The actual “info booth” had a sign that said “No Tourist Info”. So weird, right? So I walked out and decided to try my second go-to for help: a hostel. You can always trust a good ol’ hostel to give you a free map of the city and some tips on what to do and see, whether you are staying there or not. I walked out of the train station and decided left was a good way to go and just started walking. What I quickly realized was the Salzburg Hauptbahnhof (main train station) was NOT in the middle of town. In fact, it was basically in a neighborhood. So after a few minutes of walking and seeing no hostels, a new plan formed in my mind.
*prideful moment: I am really good with directions. I can always find my way around. My mom’s nickname for me is “GPS”. I love maps and could spend hours staring at them. In fact, I do.
So I decided- hey, I’m good at navigating, it’s a beautiful day, I’m alone and I have no agenda so I can do whatever I want… even if I get lost, who cares! So I decided to screw the map idea and headed off to see where my feet would lead me. I popped my headphones in and chose a soundtrack for my solo day- Mumford and Sons (when is Mumford NOT a good soundtrack for a day?)
They first lead me directly to Mirabell Schloss and the Mirabell Gardens. I saw a few signs and kind of went a round-a-bout way, but I made it to my first touristy attraction and enjoyed walking around the gardens, although there weren’t any flowers yet because it’s still so cold. As I exited the gardens, I immediately saw the footbridge that takes you across the river and directly into Altstadt (old city), where all of the famous churches, the monastery, Schloss Hohensalzburg, and Mozart’s birth house all are, in addition to the famous shopping street where quaint little shops filled with handmade items sit tucked between big-name stores.
I spent the next few hours exploring these places and just simply walking around Salzburg, taking pictures and taking my time. I spent 30 minutes it one shop trying on Dirndls (the traditional dress of the Germans/Austrians) and talking with the sweet shop owner. I sat in a pew for a while in St.Peter’s Abbey, taking it all in and enjoying every little detail in the ornate ceilings and carvings. I found a precious cafe and enjoyed a cappuccino and Sacher torte (which I learned came from Austria originally!)
Once I felt I had seen all I wanted to see and had done plenty of walking, I headed to the river to enjoy one of my favorite past times: laying in the sunshine. Because the day was so beautiful (I would say it actually got up into the 40s!), there were lots of people laying along side the river and I settled in to relax my feetsies. My cousin Margo and I did this in every city we visited while traveling Europe together. When we found a cozy park or big lawn with beautiful scenery (under the Eiffel Tower, in front of the Berliner Dom, in Amsterdam’s Vondel Park, etc) we allowed ourselves some down time to chill. I enjoy keeping up this tradition now that I’m living in Europe.
I maybe enjoyed this a little too much, because after awhile I looked down and realized I had 15 minutes until my train departed and I had no idea how far away I was. Power walking through the streets of Salzburg (with a couple of running spurts), my feet led me directly back to the Hauptbahnhof and I stepped onto the train with 1 minute to spare.
Solo days like this one are so good for the soul. I love people, and I love traveling with friends/family, but the days when it’s you, your ipod, your book, a beautiful historic city, sunshine, and no agenda- they should be mandatory for everyone.
and who doesn’t love a good adrenaline-rushing crap-i’m-gunna-miss-my-train scare?