Realizing that Teil Ein (Part One) of The Rambling Texan’s Austria-Bavaria Travel Guide was entirely too much reading for the RT’s ADHD readers to endure in one sitting, future sections of this ever-expanding document will be much briefer.
Here are some more tips for traveling in the AusBav region of the planet:
AusBav is known for its great music, like Falco’s “Rock Me Amadeus”. Nothing says classy music like an ‘80s Austrian singer rapping about an 18th century musician. Throughout history, AusBav men in powdered wigs wearing funky knee socks and women’s shoes have penned lofty musical pieces such as “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik” and “Der Kommisar”.
Be sure to listen for great music in the air as you stroll around. Things like: Cuban salsa music during Cuban Music, Dancing and Crowding the Streets Weekend (which appears to be part of the Annual Asphalt, Dump Truck and Jackhammer Festival) and bad German rap music blaring from beat-up cars at stop lights (much like that heard in any Amerikan city: thumping bass, indeterminable lyrics, shady character at the wheel).
Which brings us to the most famous of AusBav musicians: Wolfie (pronounced “vool-fee”)
OK, if you didn’t see the 1985 move “Amadeus”, then you don’t know that in the movie Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s wife called him “Wolfie”, or that Wolfie often giggled like a horse, or that Antonio Salieri was a sinister, evil, second-rate musician that taunted Wolfie to his death.
Anyway, you’ll see Wolfie’s image everywhere in AusBav. You find it at his Geburtshaus (birth house), his family residence, in every gift shop, and in every confectionery (we’ll get to that in a minute). You can even buy a powdered wig for yourself and pretend that you, too, can whinny like a horse.
When Wolfie wasn’t composing funny-sounding music to be sung in Italian by large women wearing horns, he was apparently making confections. His favorite was a chocolate-covered ball of tasteless green paste, called a Mozartkugeln. That green substance inside is known as marzipan, which sounds remarkably similar to a fungicide the RT uses on his yard when the brown rust sets in.
The RT recommends that you purchase several dozen Mozartkugeln while in AusBav. Don’t worry, you can’t miss them. Just look for the large cardboard cutouts of Wolfie with a snarky look on his face. He’ll be holding a decorative box of twenty or so of these lovely treats. By buying a hundred or so, you’ll not only support the local economy, you’ll also have something to treat your yard with after the spring rains are finished.
This may stun some of you, but Salzburg means “salt town” (those silly Austrians; they really do have a different word for everything). Which means that you can buy salt in the local stores. That’s good because you certainly can’t get salt in Amerika. Oh wait, you can buy salt back home, but don’t let that stop you from buying salt in AusBav. It’s much different that our salt. It’s white and comes in a box. It also tastes salty.
But in AusBav you can also buy salt in colors like pink and brown. Only the stuff that makes it pink or brown isn’t salt. The distinct coloration is from other minerals (aka “dirt”) that are dissolved/suspended in the salt during the process of converting ancient oceans into salt with dirt in it.
You can even tour a working salt mine in AusBav. Walter, your tour guide, will take you right over there in a big bus. He’ll lead you in the back door, avoiding all of those other second-rate tourists. Once inside, the folks at the salt mine will give you funny-looking overalls before seating you on a small train that moves at light speed into a very dark mountain.
They’ll then send you down long wooden slides into the bowels of the earth. Once you reach the anteroom of Hell, the tour guide (not Walter; he dropped you off and went to get his lederhosen cleaned – this one is dressed similar to a railroad conductor) will mumble some words in German while the unwashed masses receive their narrative from an electronic gadget held to their ears.
The talking box describes how they leach the salt out if the mountain with spring water (I, for one, love to hear the word “leach” in conjunction with something I put on my food; at least it wasn’t “leech”, but then, leeches wouldn’t last long in a salt mine would they?). The resulting brine is pumped 29km (approximately 370 furlongs) to a processing facility where the water and impurities are removed. When they open the processing vat, all that’s left are tidy little boxes of pure white salt floating in a pool of pinkish-brown water.
The boxes are removed and shipped to the gift shop, where tourists buy them to ensure that their checked luggage is overweight on the trip home. The pinkish-brown water is mixed with Stevia (a “natural” substance that AusBav folks use as a sweetener because they haven’t yet located the mountain filled with pink and brown sugar), frozen and sold as sorbet.
The Sound Of Music
Now, we’ve already touched on this in Teil Ein (Part One) of this travel guide, but AusBav is where a great deal of the 1960s hit movie The Sound Of Music was filmed, except for the parts where they built sets in Hollywood to look like places in AusBav.
You’ll find SoM tours everywhere, so be sure to take all of them, especially the ones that have eighty or so geriatrics packed into a Greyhound bus. By taking all of the variations of tours, you’ll be sure to hear ALL of the SoM anecdotes the different tour guides tell and realize that about half of that stuff is made up.
In all seriousness, the RT recommends Bob’s Special Tours in Salzburg. They operate eight-passenger vans, so it’s much easier to get in and out of the tour sites. And maybe you’ll get Reinhart as your driver/guide and maybe he’ll demonstrate his unique driving skills, such as “chicken” on one-lane roads, “let’s go this way”, “I don’t care what that sign says”, and others.
You’ll be disappointed, however, because you probably won’t be able to twirl in the meadow where Julie Andrews made her big-screen debut. That’s because she’s still up there, twirling. In 50 years they haven’t been able to get her to stop. So for safety reasons, the tour operators are required to keep you away from the rotating machinery.
The Eagles Nest
The Eagles Nest is a mountain-top retreat in Bavaria that Martin Borman built for Adolph Hitler as a 50th birthday present. Only one problem: Hitler was terrified of heights. And to get to the tea house at the top (that’s what the Nazis did when they got together to plot the destruction of the non-Germanic world: they drank tea), you had to drive straight up the side of a mountain. It’s rumored that Old Adolph wet his poofy pants at least once on his way up there.
Once at the top, Adolf’s staff car would drive through a tunnel deep into the mountain to get to the elevator. Now the Führer wouldn’t allow his driver to go in reverse with him in the car, so once the nutcase Boss was dropped off at the elevator, the driver had to back down the tunnel by himself, then turn the car around and back in all the way in so the car would be facing outward when Corporal Nutjob came back down.
The elevator ride to the top took only 45 seconds, but since Adolph was claustrophobic, it was almost unbearable for him. He had the walls of the elevator lined with highly polished brass so the car would appear bigger. It also gave him an opportunity to check his look: greasy hair, CHECK; funky mustache, CHECK; big poofy pants, CHECK.
And though it held a good number of people, Hitler would ride in the elevator car with no more than five other people because the emergency elevator, used in the event of failure of the primary, only held six people. I guess he didn’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings if the primary elevator got stuck. He could have just had the extra people shot.
As a result of all of his phobias, Hitler only visited the Eagles Nest fourteen times. He did entertain some big names there, however: Italian Dictator Benito “I Lost My Head” Mussolini, British Prime Minister Neville “I Gave Away Czechoslovakia” Chamberlain, Jimmy Stewart and Frank Sinatra (OK, you caught me. I made those last two up. Jimmy was otherwise engaged flying a B-24 Liberator, trying to bomb Hitler’s butt into oblivion, and Frankie was too busy with his mob interests – he did send regrets, however).
After the war was over, the Eagles Nest was visited by other notables, such as General Dwight Eisenhower and his staff. Hitler wasn’t there to entertain them however. He was lying dead in a ditch outside the FührerBunker in Berlin.
Today, the Eagles Nest is home to a lovely restaurant, called the Kleinhaus. It is a very historic and scenic place to get your schweinefleisch and kaffee.
Again, in all seriousness, the RT took a tour from Panorama Tours to go to the Eagles Nest. Panorama operates large comfortable buses, and Walter (he’s the Autrian tour guide in lederhosen that spoke perfect English with an Australian accent, remember?) knows the ropes and can get you in ahead of all of the folks who chose the other tour options or did it DIY. It was a great experience.
While you are in AusBav, you might consider picking up some souvenirs. Heck, you might even consider paying for them … with Euros, remember? How else will you ensure that your luggage is overweight? (Ever think about the word “luggage”? It wouldn’t be nearly as desirable if it were called “draggage”.)
You might pick up some salt – pink, brown or otherwise. Or maybe several hundred Mozartkugeln. Or maybe just a bucket of manure-laden AusBav soil. Let’s see you get through US Customs with that.
You could spring for an expensive watch or a cheap t-shirt (my personal favorite was the one with a Disney-Pixar Minion dressed up as Mozart). Or take home a McDonald’s Happy Meal, complete with Swarovski crystal kiddie toy (not really). At any rate, you’ll be able to find something at the numerous gift shops that line the streets of the Old City and serve as the exit to every point of interest.
As previously mentioned, the RT arrived in AusBav at the height of the Asphalt, Dump Truck and Jackhammer Festival and enjoyed Cuban Music, Dancing and Crowding the Streets Weekend. We also were treated to Weird Synchro-Dancing In AlterMarkt Evening. This was where two Hungarian guys danced and clapped in sync, something mere human beings are apparently incapable of doing.
The crowd was awed by this unbelievable demonstration of dancing and clapping prowess. And almost as soon as it had begun, twenty minutes later it was over. The Hungarian Synchro-Dancers packed up their stuff and vanished into the night. The RT was moved … all the way to dinner.
That’s All For Now
Sadly, this brings us to the end of Teil Zwei of The Rambling Texan’s Austria-Bavaria Travel Guide. OK, so it wasn’t as brief as I promised at the outset. However, I hope that you are finding the guide valuable as you plan your next visit to AusBav.