At the end of July, Eileen and I took a week to visit the Salzkammergut region of Austria to celebrate our 25th wedding Anniversary.
We’d been to Austria before, on our honeymoon. And Salzburg was a brief stop on our hurried itinerary. So, now 25 years later, we went back to spend more time enjoying this beautiful city and its environs.
We established our base in the pretty lakeside resort town of St. Gilgen. We stayed at the Hotel Kendler, right in the middle of town. The hotel has been there for a good while, referenced in local documents as far back as 1420. Here’s what we did:
Day 1, July 26th:
We landed in Munich early in the day, but not so early that we didn’t get to miss the experience of heavy congestion on the Autobahn to Austria. It was typical Autobahn driving. One minute, you’re going 160 kmph, the next you’re stopped. So, all in all, the average speed was maybe 45 mph. We arrived in St. Gilgen around noon, checked in to our hotel and sat down for lunch and a cold beer. The weather forecast for the week ahead was mixed with rain throughout, on and off, as is common in the mountains. But it was clear this afternoon, so after lunch, we headed up the cable car from town up Zwölferhorn Mountain. The views from the top were stunning, panoramic vistas of mountains and the turquoise mountain lakes of the region. Plus, Austria always has the civilizing benefit of the Alpine huts, which offer food and beer to further enhance the experience.
Day 2, July 27th:
Our second day had us driving a portion of the Austrian Romantic Road (our route, shown in Google maps). We began our day driving east, along the Wolfgangsee towards Strobl. From Strobl, we turned south and drove up to the Postalm via the Postalmstraße (a toll road). The Postalmstraße winds its way through a beautiful, high-mountain pasture alive with cows, wildflowers, alms, huts and other Austrian essentials. Be careful of those cows, though: they can kill.
From the Postalm, we continued south and east to Gosau, which lies below the majestic Dachstein. In Gosau, we visited the Vorderer Gosausee and hiked around a bit until a sudden downpour abbreviated our tour. The weather only dampened our clothes, not our spirits. we sought refuge, lunch and beer at Gasthof Gosausee, located directly on the lake shore. I enjoyed the fresh trout; Eileen had the goulash.
Day 3, July 28th:
The next day, we visited the 7,000 year-old town of Hallstatt, with lunch in Obertraun. After lunch, we rode the Dachsteinbahn Cable Car up Krippenstein (2,100 m) to enjoy the alpine landscape and views down to Hallstatt.
Day 4, July 29th:
For our Anniversary, we enjoyed the romantic city of Salzburg. We had dinner back in St. Gilgen at the Hotel Gasthof zur Post.
Day 5, July 30th:
On our final full day the weather forecast called for rain. I had hoped to take Eileen for the scenic drive up the Grossglockner High Alpine Road, but the week’s weather had terrible conditions in that high mountain region. So, instead, we–like thousands of others–opted to visit Eisriesenwelt.
Eisriesenwelt, dubbed as the world’s largest ice cave, is situated high in the cliffs of the Hochkogel mountain overlooking the town of Werfen. To access the cave, you must drive up a long, narrow winding road, wherapon you are greeted by an ultra-modern visitor center built of steel and glass. At the visitor center, you purchase your ticket for the 3 minute cable car ride (the steepest cable car incline in Austria) high up the mountain. Next you exit the cable car and hike up and additional 20-30 minutes to reach the maul of the huge cave. Once in the cave entrance, while queuing up for the tour, the visitor learns that the tour is a 1.5 km, 700 step stair climb up and then back down and out of the cave. It’s an impressive lattice of steel built in that cave so hoi polli can view what was once only available to ice climbers with the technical capability to explore this unlit space with only an ice axe and alpine climbing gear. It’s a wonderful tour of a world alien to most life experience and I recommend it.
But something has been bothering me ever since that experience and I just have to get it off my chest.
While in the visitor center, purchasing our tickets, we needed to visit the restroom facilities. And it was there, in those quarters, that a vexing issue confronted me head-on.
For it was there, in those modern, clean restroom facilities that we encountered the so-called Italian toilet. I’ve linked to a photo of an Italian toilet in the event that you, gentle reader, have not had the opportunity to experience this expression of cultural diversity.
This Italian toilet struck me as incongruous with the surrounding state-of the art facilities, the roads blasted out of the mountain, the forged steel of the cable cars and those steps in the cave. All bending nature to man’s will solely for the pursuit of happiness. Yet, here in the restroom, I was staring in the face of medieval toilet technology.
Now before you all knee-jerk and call me intolerant of other people’s opinions about the best way to relieve oneself, I would suggest to you all that 95% of US Citizens lack the physical prowess to achieve the necessary, unassisted squat position to effect the desired outcome without falling into a pool of one’s own waste.
What’s been bothering me, in particular, is the underlying philosophy that led to the result of that toilet juxtaposed with all that technology. What, exactly, is the nature of the flaw in the thought process that brought that toilet there? And what is the statement that is being made?
Anyway, back to the pictures.
On exiting the cave tour, we were pleasantly surprised by the unexpected sunshine.
We arrived back to St. Gilgen just as the sun was setting. It was our final night in Austria.
One final note. I purchased some excellent Williams pear schnaps at this fine establishment in St. Gilgen. I think it’s fair to say that this is probably the only store in the entire world that sells both schnaps and shoes. Thus, it merits a picture:
Day 6, July 31st:
Not really a vacation day per se. It involved the foggy early morning drive out of the Salzburg Lake District to the autobahn and on to the Munich airport. All in all, a wonderful trip full of beautiful sights, great food and beer and lasting memories.
Looking forward to these next 25 years together!
Here’s a video of the trip:
(along with some wonderful, regional volksmusik beginning at 3:20)