Austria

October 10. I awoke at Marek and Zuzana’s flat in Bratislava, feeling grateful for having a place to stay.  I took the chance to thank Zuzana for letting me stay various times over the summer.  I’d become very attached to her family, and appreciated the alternative lifestyle they pursued, with her studying to teach yoga and Marek drumming in a band.  They split care of their little girl, and Marek often ended up cleaning their air bnb rental. I had found Bar Zuz, a lovely cafe with really good, inexpensive lattes, and reveled in one of the last lattes of the trip before heading to Vienna.  I arrived around 12:30pm and walked around the old town in and around Stephansplatz, till dark.  From there I made my way toward Hallein. I stopped at a McDonalds to use the wifi and camped in the rain in nearby Bad Wimsbach-Neydharting.  I’d been lucky enough to find a nature reserve for my camping spot, and found out the next day that the area had been set aside to protect the native Lady Slipper orchid.

October 11. After walking through the preserve, I decided to head for Hallstatt, a small village in the district of Gmunden on Hallstätter See which I had previously visited and fallen in love with.  The town was once known for its production of salt, dating back to prehistoric times, and gave its name to the Hallstatt culture, a culture often linked to Celtic and Proto-Celtic people of the Early Iron Age Europe, c.800–450 BC. Some of the earliest archaeological evidence for the Celts was found in Hallstatt.  On the way, I stopped at some villages along Traunsee and took some photos.  I love exploring side roads and followed one to Oxsee where I discovered an artist colony that had included the likes of Mahler and Klimt.  I walked along a path which wound around some of the homes, then made my way back along the lovely Weißenbach river valley. By the time I’d reached Hallstatt, it was cold and rainy.

I had no time to visit the local museum, which is full of information about the Celtic people who lived their and their ingenuous methods of extracting salt from the mountain. I walked the length of the village, admiring the interior of both churches as well as the charnel house, which contained neatly arranged, brightly-colored painted skulls.  The town hangs on the edge of a pretty lake, and was getting very cold by 6:30pm.  As the last rays of sun glowed against the Alps, I walked to Gouansee before heading to Golling. Here I found a nice restaurant where I could use wifi and listened to several podcasts on intimacy and relationships.  There I met Markus, here on business, and Maria, a friend and professional opera singer.  Apparently she had lost her voice several years prior and had sung with the likes of Renée Fleming and Pavarotti.  Tears slid into her beer mug as she told me about her loss, and I reassured her that she might be able to regain her voice. I told her about Richard Goldberg helping other professional singers (like Linda Ronstadt) and gave them his contact information. We bid one another farewell, and I searched for the park I’d slept in last time I was there, but couldn’t find it.  After an exhausting hour and a half, I gave up and drove up the valley, where I camped next to a fishing pond.

October 12. I awoke and scrambled out of the back seat, where I’d been sleeping for the last few weeks since the onset of cold wet weather.  I hate damp camping gear, and sleeping in the car afforded me a chance to stay a bit dryer and warmer. A man congratulated me on my nice camp spot.  I smiled.  People were already lining the banks of the pond, lines cast in the water.  Austrians like to get an early start.  I headed back to Golling for coffee and cake.  Yum!  I had found this bakery last summer when I’d first discovered Golling. After a relaxing morning read, I took a stunning walk through the countryside, strolling past a dairy farm whose milk had won so many awards the barn door was obscured by them.  The air was clean, not too cold, and apples were ripening on the trees.  Back home, fires were raging in Santa Rosa and the air was barely breathable in and around the entire Bay Area. Yuck.  I didn’t relish the thought of going home, despite being tired of travel. I go through waves, sometimes missing home more than anything, then finding something that would make me happy I was still on the road.

After basking in the fall sun, I made my way to the Celtic Museum in Hallein, one of the biggest museums for Celtic history in all of Europe. Important objects include grave finds from areas of settlement and salt mining on the Dürrnberg, a 2500 year-old beaked jug, three princes’ grave chambers (1756), the salt trade that was dominated by the archbishops of Salzburg, and numerous objects relating to the history of Hallein. The museum building dates back to the 17th century when it housed the salt administration offices. One statistic that stood out was the fact that one-half to three-quarters of the revenue that flowed to the archbishop of Salzburg came from the Hallein salt mines.  In addition, copper and gold were discovered in the process.  So the area was a king-maker, literally, allowing the area of Saltzburg to remain an independent state for many centuries until the early 1800s, when a tug of war between Bavaria, France, Austria, and Tuscany resulted in the looting of this heretofore independent country.

I love Hallein.  After thoroughly enjoying the museum, I walked its narrow streets and appreciated its lovely architecture. I headed to Salzburg where I arrived around 6pm.  I crossed the walking bridge and headed to St. Peter’s Church.  The church cemetery was closed, so I walked along the road toward the princely palace and discovered an indy movie on surfing and skateboarding in Africa, which I stayed to watch.  I then headed to McDonald’s to write for a couple of hours and then found a place to sleep in the mountains above Salzburg.

October 13. I headed back to Salzburg after hiking near my camp sight.  I had sticker shock after ordering a tiny cappuccino for 6 Euro, then headed to the museum where I spent the next 5 hours.  I’d been told that it was the best history museum in the auspicious city, and I was as curious as ever to learn the stories that had shaped this beautiful part of the world.  I found out that when Tuscany won Salzburg as its prize in 1810, the Tuscan prince electorate took almost all the paintings gathered by the archbishops of Salzburg to the Pitti Palace and never returned them.  From there I returned to St Peter’s Church to see Haydn’s grave, then wandered through the church cemetery,  and the old town, passing Mozart’s house.  I reflected on the fact that Mozart was not revered or appreciated after his death, that when Schubert came through Salzburg years later, he was all aflutter about Haydn, not Mozart.  Mozart had in fact moved there in part to get instruction from Haydn. Reluctantly, I left for Munich at 6pm, where I arrived at 8:30.  I was to stay with Jennifer and Ralph, who’d I’d become close with after visiting them last summer and this.  Jennifer moved to Munich for a 4 year position, and they are considering staying on permanently.  Jennifer told me about her father’s childhood on Kauai and Oahu, and how his mother decided to move the family off the island because she didn’t want her sons to marry native Hawaiians.

 

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