Austria is in many ways a close kin of Germany, emulating its language as well as rudeness. But it still has its own distinct character. And continuing with my previous articles, if Netherlands is trippy, Austria is musical. And a lot of the accolade goes to arguably the greatest composer of all time, Mozart. There is also this Sound of Music connection with Salzburg, as the entire classic was shot there. Again, musical!
Salzburg breathes Mozart, visibly and otherwise. There is the Mozart birth-house, Mozart living-house, umpteen Mozart cafes and hotels. Even while the extent of commercialization is pitiful, it pains me when an entity tries to owe its entire identity to a single person. As Saral da says, “A system is greater than the sum of its parts” and so is a city. And the soul of an entire city/town is ruined in one shot if a single person is the only towering influence. This over-exploitation of Mozart ultimately led to Salzburg being just another nudnik town, quite different from what I had expected.
There are two good destinations quite near Salzburg — Werfen Ice caves and Hallstat Salt mines. Mountains give me immense joy (and that in a way signifies the quantum of pain as I am not doing Iceland this year). And the Austrian Alps were no exception to that, as we had a brush with them during the Werfen trip. It was quite early and foggy (and even snowed a bit) when we had started and the fog hid the alluring snow-clad Alps, just as a veil hides a beautiful bride. It’s not really cold until a strong gush of wind greets you at the entrance of the caves. After that, you enter a 42 km (read that again) ice cave, the largest in the world. There are steep glaciers, long icicles, natural sculptures created by the wind and limestone ceilings. It doesn’t actually feel like 0 degrees in there, may be because the limestone absorbs all the cold in the winter season. Nevertheless, only the 1st km of this cave is open to the tourists. And truth be told, it was not that great. The icicles should have been longer and denser, the wind stronger and the cave colder.
Nonetheless, when we exited the cave, we were greeted with a view spectacular as any, as the bride had lifted its veil by then. The curvy waist of that bride, the Salzach river, in its pale blue water flowed in between the cave mountain and the majestic Hohenwerfen castle, overlooking the snowy mountains, created the picture that any second-grader draws when asked to describe scenery.
The next day we hopped on a train to Vienna and went to Vienna’s most famous destination — The Schonbrunn Palace. I particularly liked this one because of its bright colors and mammoth size. Palaces are usually dull from the outside, with greyish tones and reddish bricks. But this one isn’t. The Palace and its gardens, spread over 435 acres, make you forget the city buildings, as you walk calmly alternating between arrays of lush green trees, orange autumn leaves and creepers.
Vienna turned out to be truly musical, for we managed to attend our first Opera ever. To add to the experience, the show scheduled was a ballet. The show started off with an orchestra of cellos and violins, as they played what I presume was classical Austrian music.
As the curtains rose, a beautiful girl dressed in Tide White came tip-toeing on to the center-stage. And for the next few minutes, I was left enchanted, by her perfect saut de basque and her deft devants. Then a few other ballerinos and ballerinas joined her to create a pirate- romantic saga. And all through this time, I was wondering how she could balance so well on her toes and also how dance is one of the truest manifestations of culture. It was then I realized how much I loved dialogues too, for I felt sleepy half an hour into the instrumental opera. It was a short but great experience, as the frames of that ballet and orchestra will always be entrenched in my mind.
The trip, although a bit drab on the touristy side, fulfilled the purpose for which it had been planned.
Have I been too cynical in this one? That’s probably because Europe is losing its sheen on me already. Or at least I thought so until I went to my next destination.
To be continued…
Nishad likes to combine two things that he loves most – travel and writing. He is currently on an exchange in Europe and will keep updating this blog with more awesome stories!