And on to Austria…

On Saturday morning we bid farewell to Venice, and as we made our way north on a bus, followed by a train, the “Italian” look gave way to more of an Alpine/Austrian look, even before crossing the border.  We passed town after town that looked just like this:

From the train, just one of many Austrian towns we passed on a beautiful, sunny Saturday

Now we are staying for one week in a small town in Austria called Sankt Johann im Pongau (or St. Johann).  It’s just beautiful here!  The sky is SO blue, and there are bright green fields on the sides of the Alps, with cows grazing, although you wonder how they keep from falling down the mountains, they look so steep.  I think we appreciate the beauty even more, after being in such large cities as London and Paris, and OLD cities like Venice.  This feels more like home, and the air is so clean – a refreshing change!

Here is the view from our room.  The mountains surround the town, so this is just the view from our room, but behind us are more.  We walked to the base of a ski lift – it’s that high up – but the ski season hasn’t opened so lifts weren’t running.

View from our room, the Alps surrounding the small town of St. Johann

Saturday night’s dinner was at an outdoor café (Austrian food, of course!) that adjoined a park where a music performance was happening.  The people in the audience all had candles (it was dark outside by then) and our waiter told us it was a youth demonstration for world peace.

Sunday was a day of relaxing and just staying in St. Johann.  We’ve been doing so much sightseeing and were ready for a day of no plans.  We explored the town some, but almost all businesses were closed.

Monday morning we took the train to Salzburg, to go on the long-awaited (for me, anyway) Sound of Music tour.  We loaded into a big bus, which was completely full, but luckily we got great seats in the second row.  (Would have been first row, but I got distracted talking to a lady from Connecticut – we seem to strike up conversations with other Americans.)  Here are some of the sights we saw on the tour, with descriptions under each photo:

Our tour bus. Kind of hokey, but I loved it!
The steps in Mirabell Gardens, where Maria taught the children to sing Do-Re-Mi
Pegasus fountain in Mirabell Gardens, also used for filming Do-Re-Mi. I’m hitting the “high note” like Julie Andrews at the end of the song
The palace used as the back of the Von Trapp house in the movie. A different house was used for the front scenes. This lake is where the children and Maria fell out of the rowboat
Lake and village out in the countryside near Salzburg, used in some parts of the film.
The gazebo where “16 Going on 17” was filmed.
Church where the wedding scene was filmed. It was really beautiful inside!

After the tour we walked to the Salzach River, which runs through Salzburg, and also runs through St. Johann.  The sun sets very quickly here, since we are surrounded by mountains, but this shot of the river, and the fortress which looks over Salzburg, was taken right before the daylight was gone:

Fortress Hohensalzburg overlooking the Salzach River

When we got back to St. Johann we took a taxi for a quick 5-Euro ride uphill from the train station to our hotel.  It was a 10-minute walk downhill in the morning, but a taxi is the way to go for the return!  While the morning had started out rather briskly cold, by the time we arrived in Salzburg it was nice and warm and sunny, and the evening was comfortable to sit outside to eat without jackets.

The table next to ours at the outdoor restaurant had a group of eight young men in olive-green combat clothes with scarlet berets.  We learned that all boys in Austria are compelled to join the army at age 18, and there is a base here in St. Johann.

These soldiers were very lively (read: drunk) and started singing robustly in German.  Sometimes they had some nice harmony going, but other times they got way off key.  Still, we had some live music to accompany our dinner.  When we were almost done, one friendly soldier started talking to me, asking what month I was born in.  I told him July, and he asked Dave, who is also July, and he said he also was a July (Juli in German).  Their drinking song went something like “Aufstehen, aufstehen…” (stand up, stand up) then they worked through the months, and when your birth month was sang, you had to stand up and take a drink, so following his instructions (and watching for when he stood up) we joined in and stood for July.  After that his group departed, and he lingered talking to us, but as they beckoned him to come along, he stumbled up the steps to join them (most likely on their way to another bar).

Tuesday we had another very relaxed day, with no plans.  I browsed in shops around St. Johann in the morning, but mid-day I found that almost all shops close from 12:00 to 2:00 pm.  They take their lunch breaks seriously!  I passed by a beauty salon, and stepped in to ask if anyone spoke English.  A nice girl was available and spoke pretty well, so I got a haircut and now I feel a lot less scruffy.

Dave and I walked through more of the town (which is larger than we realized, but still pretty small), did an easy hike around the promenade and spotted the army base with soldiers out in the sunshine exercising, then we browsed in more shops, after which we had a great lunch in a tiny Greek restaurant/bar.  The waiter had just moved within the last year from Greece to St. Johann and we had a friendly conversation with him.  We’re really enjoying talking with some servers in various eating and drinking establishments.

A few photos from our hike today:

Escargot — It’s what’s for dinner (just kidding, we left them in the woods)
Yet another green field on the side of a mountain

We have had such great weather for all of our trip so far (with the exception of just a few rain showers a couple times) but the forecast for this area is for possible snow tomorrow, at least at the higher elevations.  We’ll see…  It’s been so beautiful and warm today that it’s hard to imagine that winter weather may be here so soon.

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