Today we spent the day walking around Bad Hofgastein. It was a small village lined with shops and restaurants. Last night we had driven through it but everything was closed…today most things were open.
We did some shopping and walking all throughout the town until we worked up an appetite.. We found, Weinstube Cafe. They specialized in local cuisine, beer and pizza. We ordered a local dish made of stewed beef bites in a dark gravy centered around a ball of what seemed like sticky rice. We also ordered a Carbonara Pizza…is it wrong for one to eat so much pizza?
After spending the day out and about, we headed back to our place. We needed to get everything re-packed and ready for check out. Tomorrow we are off to Germany!
It was snowing pretty heavily today, so we slept in and then Giff made a huge breakfast. We spent most of our day watching the snowfall, eating and relaxing.
It was getting to be the evening and we decided to go our for a bite or pint. It seemed like many places were closed in our little town so we drove down the mountain to see what the next major village had to offer. Bad Hofgastein was the name of it and we saw what looked like a cute pub right before the main area.
The bar was located downstairs and they asked us to pay a cover charge because there was live music playing soon. Well, it turns out…this place was not exactly what I would call cool. We found two bar stools and attempted to order a couple drinks from the bartender who spoke very little English.
That was when we really investigated the small dance floor with the colored disco ball lights disbursed all over the ceiling. Below the 80’s lights was the “live band” setting up. They consisted of a keyboard player and a singer. As for the music…it wasn’t exactly pop music they were playing. Then we started to people watch…Giff pointed out our immediate surroundings. The couple across from us were two men and the couple on the left side were two women but there were some couples in between. Surprisingly, many people were out twirling around on the dance floor. We ordered one more beer and then left all the fun to the others.
We drove through the little town of Bad Hofgastein which was marked by the large church steeple. It was after hours so all was closed but it could be a cute little village to explore during the day.
We drove through tunnels, beside fortresses and between snowy mountains before we arrived in Salzburg.
It was freezing today. Between snowfall was rain, not exactly the best weather to explore a new city. The first thing we noticed was the huge Salzburg fortress that sat on top of the hill. As we walked into the old town area we saw numerous large statues and fountains of horses and historical figures like Mozart. Mozart is from Salzburg and it appears the entire town is built around tourism with a focus on the famous musician.
We hadn’t been walking more than 20 minutes when a cute coffee shop down an alley was calling our names. We ordered a tea and coffee and split an apple strudel which was delivered piping hot and drenched in a vanilla bean sauce…Giff just about licked the plate.
Setting back out into the cold, we went on our way to find a few things we had researched from a “must do” list of Salzburg. 1) We wanted to find and taste a Mozartkugel (what the heck is it?) 2) Drink a beer in the famous Mullner Brau which is a beer hall where traditional beer made by monks is served. 3) Attend a classical concert (where better than where Mozart lived) and 4) We wanted to find a market in one of the main squares.
As we continued walking, we came across a market. There were several vendors set up selling pretzels, meats, cheeses, fruits/veggies and souvenirs. We grabbed a pretzel and a chunk of meat. Leaving the market area we wondered through the many little shops noting that almost every other one was selling some type of touristy souvenir. There were things like the sound of music tours and mozart gadgets of all sorts. We did find the Mozartkugel (something that is basically in every storefront). We walked into a tiny chocolatier shop and asked for two of the individually wrapped silver balls. Giff popped the whole thing in his mouth at once and I bit into it to see what was at the center. It had a pistachio, marzipan and nougat at the core and was surrounded by milk chocolate. The consistency was similar to fudge…very rich. We both decided we were not marzipan fans.
We found the tourist office and inside was also the ticket booth. We asked about the possibility of seeing a classical concert in the evening but unfortunately none were being offered. I do have to comment on the women at the ticket booth who was extremely unfriendly. Who gets a job in a tourist office to sell tickets to tourists in a town filled with tourists but doesn’t like tourists?
We left the office and headed towards the beer hall, taking pictures in the rain as we looked for our next stop. We finally approached a huge building labeled, Augustiner Bier (after stopping to ask directions 50 feet from the place).The outside had a huge courtyard with tons of tables/chairs and trees with an outside bar area. Although it was vacant because of the weather, we could imagine in the summer sitting with friends and drinking a cold pint.
We walked in and first saw a bookshelf filled with ceramic beer mugs of all sizes instead of books. Then to our left was a cashier. We saw people grab the empty mugs, pay at the cash register and then they continued over to a counter where a man checked their receipts and filled their mugs with beer. We of course followed suit and grabbed a couple mugs. We paid our three Euro cents for a liter and had our mugs filled. With beers in hand we walked into the next room not sure what we would find. The room was a huge banquet type hall with large ceilings and thick wooden tables where people of all sorts were gathered. Both locals and tourists were inter mixed, some were eating off trays with mainly meat…huge turkey or chicken legs and potatoes. others were eating food clearly brought from home. We found a couple seats and sat to take it all in. Leaving that room we poked around to see what else this place had in it and found a couple other rooms also with huge wooden tables and people drinking. The food area was cafeteria style.
Walking back out into the rain, we headed back to town where our car was parked. Unfortunately we found our car with a parking ticket on it. We figured it may happen…it turns out, they are very strict on the parking. There is one machine in the area of all the parking, you place your money in it and it spits out a ticket with a time on it. You place the ticket on your dashboard and need to be back to your car before the time specified…if not, you will be ticketed.
Homebound, we decided to cook food back at our place and watch a movie after being out in the cold most of the day.
We had a totally lazy day today! We sleepily walked out the door to find the nearest place for breakfast. We tried a couple different things at the bakery…none of which were very good so we decided to go straight to the grocery.
Yes, we definitely went overboard at the grocery. After having to pay 1 euro to detach the grocery cart from the others, we started filling it up. We got all kinds of fruits/veggies then cheeses, meats, chips, wine, and a big bag of spatzle which is a noodle made of egg and flour. It is a local specialty and we decided we would try to cook with it at the timeshare. We had enough groceries for the week. Lesson learned…when we returned the cart and re-attached it to the other carts, we received our 1 euro back!
Once we were back at our place, we made breakfast, toast on a thick dark brown bread with cherry jelly. We basically sat around the entire day in our “comfies”. We worked on the computer, watched TV and read our books.
Our first day in Austria was spent exploring our surroundings. Now that it was daylight, we saw that our place was tucked in a small village in the mountains. We also noted there were pubs on virtually every corner. We drove through some of the other miniature towns nearby and noted the herds of sheep munching on grass. We found a little bakery on the corner open and walked in to see what an Austrian pastry would look like. We had the owner pick out two of her favorites as well as a couple coffees and sat down to taste. Both were yummy. The first was an apple strudel warmed which appears to be a specialty of the area. The other was a thick pastry with vanilla cream in the middle and sprinkled with toasted almonds.
Back in the car we decided to follow the signs we were seeing for thermal spas. We pulled up to a huge building. Inside we saw a front desk and a few people walking around…the brochures read “healing tunnel”. I am not allowed to soak my incisions yet since they are still healing so we didn’t participate, but we did ask some questions to find out the scoop. We found out thousands of people come to this area not only to ski but specifically for this radon therapy which naturally occurs inside this mountain. They built a train which takes you in your robe to four different areas inside the mountain, each of which gets warmer in temperature and humidity as you go from area one to four. The Gasteiner Heilstollen even has doctors on staff whom consult with you first to suggest which natural treatment is needed and for how long. Health insurance in this country even recognizes this health resort as a means for various treatments. The concept is that it aims to activate your body’s own natural ability to heal itself. It looked like an average of 8-12 sessions were needed. The site is http://www.gasteiner-heilstollen.com.
We left feeling a little down that we couldn’t participate in something so unique, but quickly told ourselves we were getting to experience Austria and can always return some other time! After a little more exploring we parked back at our hotel and walked over to a bar with a patio and ordered a beer and bowl of goulash. It was the consistency of soup but tasted like chili. As we paid our bill we heard live music coming from down the street and walked over to check it out. There was a live band singing in English playing pop songs. We joined the crowd finding the last table and drank another beer while watching people climbing the mountain in the background.
Next we found a classic Austrian restaurant and sat for dinner. This is the part you need to brace yourself for…now, remember we like to experience the local cuisine and culture. The waiter spoke some English and translated the daily specials to us. One of which was lamb lung, heart and tongue! No, we didn’t order it but because I opened my big mouth and made a comment about it…he brought out a small plate for us to try compliments of the kitchen (gee, thanks!). The organs were served cut up into small pieces of what looked like dark brown meat. They were sauteed with garlic and spices. The consistency was a little different, but the taste was actually not bad! For our meals, Giff ordered two sausages (black and regular) and I ordered a pasta with chicken and local garlic, a special of the night. Both were very good and we left feeling we had a classic Austrian experience.
Back at our place we settled in for a movie and bed.