When I first arrived in Salzburg, I adored the city for its snowcapped mountains and sparkling wintery streets. As springtime crept in, the Mirabell Gardens bloomed and the icy scenery melted away to reveal rolling green hills worthy of a fairytale. However, with the inviting spring weather came the Sound of Tourists. My leisurely stroll across the Love Lock Bridge became more akin to a crawling morning commute to reach the other side of the Salzach river, with tourists taking snapshots of what seemed like every single lock on the bridge. While swarming tourist groups are to be expected near Big Ben or the Colosseum, having your home away from home become a daily tourist attraction can be challenging. Here are five tips for beating the tourist tango and still savoring every moment in your study abroad city!
I chose to study abroad in Salzburg, Austria — a city known perhaps most famously among Americans for providing the scenic and historic backdrop to the “Sound of Music” film. While the movie is little embraced by local Austrians, tourists flood the city just to stand where Maria stood in Mirabell Gardens. When the hustle bustle of tourists becomes too overwhelming, choose to explore new parts of the city. Taking a different walking route home or opting for a more local coffee shop are small changes you can make in your daily routine to sidestep the tourist rush.
Hopefully midway through your semester abroad, you were fortunate enough to tick a few things off your bucket list. Time to revisit! With the snow melted and sun shining, brainstorm new activities to fill your last weeks abroad. From hiking to riding bikes around the city, revise your bucket list to beat the crowds and enjoy the weather. My friends and I chose to venture out to Lake Wolfgang for a day of hiking and cliff jumping near the beautiful town of St. Gilgen in Austria. An exhilarating and adventure-filled day, I was able to check off one more of my bucket list items and admire Austria’s beauty from a secluded spot away from the crowds.
I have found a common mid-semester symptom to be feeling stuck in one place, a symptom that can be amplified by the weight of packs of tourists. Break up the number of weekends spent in your city by taking day trips around your host country. A day trip will allow you to fall even more in love with the country, and return home appreciative of all the reasons tourists flock to it. In Austria, day trips from Salzburg to Hallstatt or Innsbruck are more than feasible and bursting with local culture.
From my study abroad experience, springtime means local fairs and festivals by the dozen. Local farmer’s markets and public holidays fill spring with numerous opportunities to absorb the local culture without walking a step behind tour guide after tour guide. The Salzach Galleries, an open-air arts and food market, line the Salzach river in Salzburg from May 19th to 21st. The market allows locals and tourists to mix while parading past the vibrant vendors.
My home university, the College of William and Mary, is planted right across the street from Colonial Williamsburg where hundreds of tourists wander up and down the Duke of Gloucester street. I’ve come to appreciate their presence as a reminder of the history and value of Williamsburg – much as I’ve come to appreciate Salzburg for all the reasons it draws so many wonderstruck tourists. The city’s history, beauty and culture draw travelers from all over the world. Personally, I’ve come to appreciate dancing the tourist tango each day as it reminds me to slow down and appreciate each moment I’m fortunate to spend in Salzburg. Slowing my walk across the Love Lock Bridge lets me look up to admire the Hohensalzburg Fortress and rolling fields where Maria sang “do-re-mi”, to read the heartfelt inscriptions on each love lock and listen a little longer to the soulful street musicians by the river.