We got to wake up later today, since it was a short walk to the Salzburg fortress, and it didn't open until 9:30. Our room had an absolutely massive showerhead, the biggest we've ever seen. It was so big that it was hard to find room to lather up, as the showerhead covered roughly half of the square footage, and was in the middle, so you had to go to the corner to soap and shampoo. [We're not complaining, by the way.] For breakfast/coffee we went upstairs to the hotel lounge (they had mentioned the night before we had access) on the 7th floor. There were nice views to the south of Mirabell Gardens and the Salzburg fortress in the distance. Crystal got coffee at the automatic machine, but had inadvertently grabbed the wrong glass, so the last little bit overflowed; thankfully there was a drain right there. We did our best to avoid watching the news on the TV.

We took a leisurely walk to the base of the fortress. The roads are "straighter" than in Prague, but that's not saying much. There's also less roads in Salzburg too, as the sites are more concentrated in a couple places. We noticed that several of the statues in the squares were covered - we didn't know if this was to protect them from the weather, or from people imbibing too much at the Christmas markets.  In one of the big squares there was this giant gold ball with a person (not a real person) standing on top.  We never did figure out what that was all about.

We took a funicular up to the fortress.  There may be stairs somewhere, but we didn’t see them, and not sure we would’ve taken the stairs anyway.  Up on top we had good views down to the city, and there was a lot more snow than we thought.  It was on most of the rooftops around town.  We also had good views of the surrounding mountains, particularly those to the south, and they had a decent amount of snow as well.  There were not too many tourists, either compared to Prague or compared to what we thought we might see. Near the ticket location, there were some views to the north as well, and it also had some snowy mountains off in the distance.  We didn’t realize it at the time, but much of what we were looking at was in Germany.  The German border is only 4 miles to the west, 8 miles the south, and 35 miles to the north.  At the ticket desk we got an “ABC” ticket that allowed us to visit the  state rooms, the museum, and an audio tour.  Before visiting any of those, however, we inquired as to the availability of any tickets for the dinner and concert that Crystal had seen on the web. 

Salzburg has a really well done website for things to see and do in the city, and Crystal had seen that in the evenings they have dinners in a restaurant in the fortress (with views over the city) followed by a Mozart concert in one of the music halls, also up in the fortress.  We hadn’t scheduled anything in advance, as we were also interested in perhaps seeing a Mozart concert in Mirabell Gardens, and hadn’t decided which we were more interested in.  After being up at the fortress now, however, we hoped we could come back up later tonight.  The guy at the ticket booth called someone and checked availability, and then told us they did have availability, and went over the various price points.  We got a VIP ticket, as it didn’t cost that much more and it included some champagne during the intermission of the show.

The first thing we saw inside the grounds was actually a room with a bunch of marionettes acting out different movies and famous scenes.  Crystal is not a fan of puppets and marionettes.  The state rooms were somewhat interesting, but definitely a step down from what we’d seen in Prague, and what we expected to see in Vienna.  Frankly, the most impressive thing about the Salzburg Fortress is the fortress itself.  It was built in stages, over multiple centuries, mostly at the behest of a long line of Archbishops.  Construction started in the 11th century, as over the years it got bigger and bigger and bigger.  It was so large and imposing that no one ever attacked.  So we suppose it did its job.

The military museum within the fortress had a lot of stuff about World War I.  It was Interesting to see how history was spun by a party that lost a war, as often times you see information about victories, declarations of independence, and so on.  There was a good amount of information about what happened close to Salzburg, which involved a front we’d never heard about in history class, one between Italy (who joined the war late) and Austria, fighting in the mountains to the south of Salzburg.  As with everything else from World War I, it sounded awful.  The last part of our ticket was on an audio tour.  Unlike the stuff we’d seen in Prague, for this we were in a group of 30-40 people, all starting at the same time, which was logistically dumb, especially for the first room, as there was a bunch of stuff in glass cases in a room, and everyone kept trying to huddle around the same glass cases.  The audio tour was okay, but not great, except for when we all went out on the roof for 10-15 minutes.  The view from the roof, as one can imagine, was great.

Before heading back down, there was a market up top in one of the courtyards, but for some reason it was not open.  But back down the funicular, we walked around the various markets (3 very close nearby) in old town, near the Mozart statue and the cathedral.  We took our sweet time since – compared to everywhere else – we didn't have much planned for Salzburg.  Crystal got her mug at the Starbucks, adding to her collection.  She’s gone out of her way to get mugs at as many of the places we’ve visited as possible, and while some aren’t available (e.g., Turkmenistan) she’s got some pretty far flung mugs now, around 20.  We took a quick walk back to the room to drop the mug, and then headed out for lunch.

We headed out a slightly different direction this time, going west from our hotel, across a pedestrian bridge, and then down the riverbank towards Old Town.  Just as we were getting to all the stores and shops, we saw a beer hall called Sternbrau that looked pretty busy, so we decided to eat there.  Inside, most of the patrons were older, and very few tourists seemed to be there, so we took this as a good sign.  Unbeknownst to us, the restaurant had been around for quite a long time.  The next stop was Mozart’s birthplace, which is right in the middle of Old Town.  Since it’s an actual house, the place is not that big.  It was packed, mostly with a big Chinese tour.  We’d seen a ton of Chinese tourists in Prague as well.  This was unexpected to us.  We’ve obviously seen a bunch of Chinese tourists over the years, but the relative numbers here much higher than expected.  Unfortunately, no photos were allowed in the museum.  [Several of the places we visited this trip did not allow photos – our best guess is that they don’t want the flash, but don’t trust people to know how to turn off their flashes.]

From Mozart’s birthplace we walked a few minutes east, over to the Salzburg museum.  We arrived around 4, even though it was closing at 5.  Since we didn’t know too much about the museum, we figured that would be fine.  Museums are not really our thing, unless its natural history or something similar.  This museum didn’t have a whole lot that caught our attention aside from some of the ceilings, which were nicely decorated.  One interesting thing was an exhibit regarding the Christmas carol “Silent Night.”  We read that it was written in a town not too far away, Oberndorf, just 10 miles away, just east of the German border.  Another interesting thing is that it was written in 1816, which was the “year without summer” that caused great famine in Europe.  Mount Tambora in Indonesia had erupted and there was so much ash in the air, it reflected a lot of the sunlight and dropped temperatures across the globe, particularly in Europe.

Our dinner reservations were at 6, so we went to the Salzburg Cathedral before heading over to the funicular.  The cathedral was mostly dark since it was after dark.  It was a little different than the cathedrals we’d seen so far because the walls were generally white, with splashes of color (a lot of orange) sprinkled throughout.  We walked around the market just outside for a bit – and got a drink to warm up – and then headed up the funicular to the Fortress. 

Dinner was nice, but in hindsight we’re not sure it was worth it.  During the summer, when the sun would be going down around dinner time, it might be a different story.  But as it was, since it was completely dark outside, the lights inside the restaurant basically turned all of the windows into mirrors.  We lucked into a seat right by a window, and even we had a hard time seeing out.  So without the view, it was just dinner, which wasn’t any better (and frankly a little worse) than the other restaurants we’d been to.  Crystal had a good local red wine, and that was the highlight.  The best part about dinner was that it thankfully wasn’t too heavy, since we had a late lunch.  We don’t regret going, but for anyone reading this, we wouldn’t recommend it unless the sun was still out.  As we were getting ready to leave, a single guy came in – we think they seated us in his table, but since he was late they seated us.  He looked like a doppelganger for the guy who played Azamat in the movie Borat.

There was a fairly short walk from the restaurant to the concert hall, and on the walk a couple asked us if we could take their photo.  It turns out they were from Trinidad, so they must have found the weather even colder than we did.  We stopped for a bit to enjoy the view from the southern terrace – the moon was out, so you could see all of the clouds and the snow, which was pretty. The concert hall was in a tiny room.  The seats were in a U or C shape, surrounding the stage on three sides.  We were in the middle section, in row 2.  There was only one row behind us.  The two side sections had maybe 6-8 rows.  If we had to guess, there were probably less than 100 people in attendance.  The room probably wasn’t even twice as big as the living room at our old place in Vista.  It was quite warm in the room, and we could tell right away it was going to be tough to stay awake.  We managed to stay awake, but 10-20% of the people did not.  It was the perfect recipe for sleeping – everyone had just eaten, we were in a warm room, it was dark outside, and we were listening to classical music.

The concert started with 6 musicians.  Two of them were standing up, playing larger string instruments (cello and/or bass, probably), and 4 were playing what we think was violin or some other smaller string instrument.  Of those 4, two were playing the exact same notes, and the other two were playing different parts.  Over the concert they added a classical guitarist before intermission, and a harp player after.  At intermission, we got some bubbles.  Waiting for the ladies room, Crystal met one person from Sacramento and another from Stockton – small world.

Overall, we thought it was a good performance.  We never really go out to concerts, musicals, operas, ballets, etc., but we figured Salzburg is famous for this sort of thing, so why not?  Also, how often do you have the opportunity to listen to Mozart in a giant fortress that is almost 1000 years old?  After the concert we walked around for a bit before heading to the funicular.  Crystal was worried about being the last ones down and perhaps missing the funicular, but just as we started to head back we ran into 2 people who were lost, and so we helped them find the way down – sort of.  The markets at the bottom were closed already (it was 10), but one punch place by the ice rink was open.  We got last call there, then walked back to the hotel.  We went up to the lounge on 7, and saw it closed at 10:30 – we looked at our watches, it was 10:35.  We took that as a sign to "not chase the night" (credit: Worldwide Wes).

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