Some Mountains, Some Beer

August 6th.

Our drive to Salzburg is filled with the sounds of music. Literally.

Trip leader Carla throws in a few songs from The Sound of Music soundtrack to get us in the right frame of mind for our short stop in Salzburg (which is about an hour and 40 minutes long).

(As I learn later, some of the movie isn’t really filmed in Salzburg, but in nearby Salzkammergut, which is supposed to be very pretty. Ah well – perhaps next trip.)

Living back home in Canada, I’ve never been out west to see the Rockies. So it’s simultaneously breaktaking and disconcerting to see an enormous mountain range (albeit in the distance) for the first time with one’s own eyes, but on another continent. I try to snap as many photos as possible, because I think this will be my only chance. Unfortunately I get a lot of blurry shots with highway guardrails.

Off the bus in Salzburg, we stop off at Mirabell Gardens – which are lovely, but hard to truly love when compared to Schönbrunn. We then take a walk along the river, making sure not to drift over into the bike lane. Ever since hitting Hungary and Austria, I’ve had a hard time trying to keep to a part of the sidewalk that won’t piss off cyclists, but won’t put me in harm’s way. I’m still trying …

We then make our way through the narrow streets, past the Mozarthaus, and over to Stiftkirche St. Peter (or St. Peter’s Abbey Church, pictured at left). We stop briefly inside to take a look and take a couple photos. Then it’s out and around to the enormous cemetery, complete with fancy headstones and a waterwheel in the corner of the cemetery grounds.

There’s enough time for a group of us to grab lunch before getting on the bus. I have some pasta in a delicious cream sauce, and some kaiserschmarm for dessert.

Then, back on the road. We reach Munich sometime around 4 p.m. and check into our hotel. It certainly isn’t anything like our last hotel, but considering almost everyone’s leaving the next day, it’ll have to do.

As it happens, I’ve run out of toothpaste. I read the sign sitting on our table of what our hotel provides. Despite stating that the hotel could provide whatever “hygenic needs” we needed, it’s false advertising. I go down to the front desk to try out this “service”; I get a “Nein” from the Santa Claus lookalike in the loud Hawaiian shirt manning the desk when I gesticulate to ask whether or not they sell toothpaste. Lauren is kind enough to let me borrow some of hers, at least until she leaves. 

(Note to self: always carry a full-sized tube of toothpaste with you, unless you plan on using pea-sized portions. I had packed one, only to have my mom offer me a travel-sized tube. It’s never a good feeling to know you’re going to have to chew gum every day for two days before you leave.)

It’s back onto the bus for our last ride into town, our last orientation of a new place – and our last dinner together as a group.

We start off the mini-walking tour in Marienplatz – the centre of town and site of the famous Glockenspiel. We also briefly stop by the Frauenkirche (Church of our Lady) and hear the legend about the church’s architect and the devil and the footprint one can find upon entering the church.

Following orientation, we all elect to stop walking around and hit one of the most well-known beer halls, the Hofbräuhaus.

It’s loud and packed, and the oompah band is in full swing. We manage to find a table (translation: two long-ass benches) for 14 of us. And then the real fun begins.

We all order drinks. In my mind, I’m figuring it’s going to be the average beer-mugs-with-handles I’m so used to seeing back in Canada. Nope. Try one litre of Bavarian beer madness – at least that’s what I discover when I crack open the menu to select my drink. I take the plunge and order a Hofbräuhaus Original beer. I’m a little afraid because of (a) what it might taste like and (b) the prospect of downing an entire litre of beer and trying not to get sick.

The waitress comes back with most of our drink orders, somehow managing to fit as many as four or five steins in each hand. The fact she does this without spilling it amazes me (and definitely makes me respect her much more).

As I slowly start trying to drink my beer, the waiter comes round and takes our orders. I settle on some Bavarian white sausage (which may look disgusting and possibly uncooked, but is actually quite nice) and a pretzel.

And herein lies the trick to drinking two beers at a time: eat the saltiest pretzel known to mankind. The salt makes your mouth dry, or at least coats your tongue with so much sodium that you have no choice BUT to drink more beer.

This isn’t so bad. The beer tastes way less bitter than I imagine, and I successfully drain my glass. My mistake may be in ordering a second litre. I’m nowhere near sick, but it’s only a matter of time before I’m peeing like a racehorse.

The meal over, we walk (or stumble a little bit) out of the hall and wander around, taking in some classical buskers, and finding a statue of Juliet. (We’re told, if you rub her breast – I think it’s her right one – you’ll be lucky in love. I’m waiting to see if this theory actually works.)

Once back at the hotel, it starts sinking in: it’s the end of the tour. My roommate Lauren heads for Rome the following morning. Others are heading back to London, the U.S., or Toronto. To my knowledge only I and possibly two other tour-mates – Randy and Surabh from the States – will remain a day or so longer.

But it will be the strangest feeling, after being surrounded by a couple dozen people for a week and a half, to be virtually alone for the next two days.

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