It has been just about a full week of my Salzburg adventure; one week down and about 11 to go. It has been exhilarating, as well as stressful and energy-sucking. But it is that first word, exhilarating, that best encapsulates this past week (as well as other words such as awesome, joy-filled, and so on). Getting to learn this ancient city full of beauty and wonders has been an experience like no other; and for sure it will continue to be so.
Since our arrival, plenty of time has been spent discovering our new home. Salzburg (“Salt Fortress”) is a city bordering and circling mountains and is split through by the Salzach river. This realizes the two halves of the city center, the Altstadt (“Old Town”) and Neustadt (“New Town”). The Altstadt, which in truth takes up most of the area that can be considered being city center, is full of wonderful old churches and Baroque architecture (something that Salzburg especially is well-known for). It’s also the seat of the dominating Hohensalzburg Fortress on the Festungsberg. Neustadt comprises of buildings mostly built in the 19th century and is very charming in its own way, as well. The marvelous Schloss Mirabell gardens should not be forgotten by anybody.
As is the case with college students all over, food has been one of upmost importance, and Salzburg does not disappoint. Whether one seeks comfort food familiar at home (try Spaghetti & Co. on Getreidgasse… yes, Italian), or some more traditional Austrian cuisine (Gasthof Alter Fuchs on Linzer Gasse is perfect) there is something for all. Local beerhalls (Bierhalle) should be on everybody’s list, for they are an effective way of experiencing true Austrian beer and food culture in a setting most suited for it. Large, countless halls and outside gardens filled with people enjoying their day with friends make one feel as if they have been part of this city for years already. Kebab stands and stalls can be found at various points throughout the city and are wonderful places to get some delicious Turkish döner kebab at a cheap price.
It has taken some getting used to many of the smaller (and some larger) differences between Austria and the United States. For example, as is in most of continental Europe, water is not readily made available in restaurants, and in many cases, one must pay extra. The distinction between mineral and still water is also required, if the difference is important to you. Cash is in many ways the de facto form of payment. As a good yardstick, the smaller the place and the farther from a big city, the less likely credit cards will be taken. Maybe the biggest ‘getting used to’ aspect has been the times by which the public transport and businesses go by. Things close earlier on many days of the week, and on Sunday especially one will be hard-pressed to find much of anything really open (such as markets and specialized stores). Austria is a Catholic country in many ways.
As for academics, we are some weeks away from them as of right now and, besides an orientation German course at Universität Salzburg’s Unipark, we have been able to devote time to getting ourselves fully immersed in to the local culture and city life. Occasional excursions to the areas around the city, such as this past weekend trip to Hohenwerfen Castle and the Postalm grasslands, have been welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of this small, yet lively, city. Overall, it has been truly wonderful time here, and more is sure to be on the horizon.