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Effervescent storyteller.

Welcome to My Modern Diary, an electronic journal filled with tales of nostalgic cuisine, wistful wanderings & personal recollections by Sarah Orman.

Austria - Salzburg

Austria - Salzburg

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And so our vacation continued : )

After four wonderful nights in Vienna, we were bound for Salzburg by train. No more than three hours from East to West through the Austrian countryside and we had arrived in Austria's 4th largest city just before sunset.

A short walk took us to our hotel; Hotel Auersperg, which was to be our home for just two nights. And what a fabulous home it was! Having worked in the hotel industry for several years, one often craves with excited anticipation the unfamiliar territory of a boutique hotel vs. a global chain. Equally, choosing a family-run operation over the household names of Marriott, Hilton and Starwood can be a little unnerving, especially if it doesn't quite live up to the professional images on its website...

Thankfully, however, we picked an absolute gem of a hotel and I couldn't have been more excited as we were shown to our room. After pushing open the door to room 306, we were greeted with a chilled bottle of fizz, some whole walnuts, a lovely birthday card and underfloor heating; jackpot! : )

After freshening-up in our gorgeous hotel room, we wrapped-up warm and made our way towards the pedestrianized streets of the city center. Darkness had descended, however, the night was crisp and clear.

 A short 15-minute walk down a beautifully quaint street lined with clothing stores and eateries and we arrived at the river, which runs through the very heart of the picture-perfect city. Clutching the hotel's street map and occasionally stopping to shriek at something cute or iconic {a tiny, outdoor Champagne bar, the fortress perched atop the cliff ahead of us and the thousands of "love locks" secured tightly to the Makartsteg bridge} we slowly and distractedly made our way towards the cathedral.

And it was at the cathedral Salzburg first stole my heart.

If you are a follower of my blog and you were kind enough to read all of my previous post {Austria - Vienna} you will hopefully have a pretty good idea of what to expect from an Austrian Christmas market, or Christkindlmarkt. Now, take what you learned from my previous post, multiply it by 100 and you're halfway there when it comes to imagining how absolutely amazing Salzburg is during Advent.

The first discernible difference between Vienna and Salzburg was the feeling that there was no obvious beginning and end to the street festivities. Despite following the map, it was difficult to determine where one Christkindlmarkt ended and another one started! The unmistakable buzz of both locals and tourists enjoying the seasonal cheer was infectious and although it wasn't too difficult to spot the excited visitors from overseas, I was pleasantly surprised to see the Salzburgers out in full force. Many of the "glühwein" stands were five to eight people deep enjoying what looked to be post-work beverages; suit and tie underneath a snug winter coat, the occasional distracted phone call, raucous laughter and the glow of cigarettes.

As we made our way through the small crowds towards the cathedral, I was like a 4-year-old child on Christmas morning. I felt as though we had literally stepped inside an Austrian postcard or snow globe; everything was just so unbelievably idyllic!

And just when it couldn't have been more perfect, the carol singers began! Yes! Real, live, heart-full-of-love-for-the-nativity carol singers, folks! Cue the tears! No, seriously, I cried. My husband thought I was bonkers but everything was just so beautiful beyond words : )

After sniffing back the tears and enjoying a few carols, we decided to have a bite to eat. Following our amazing experience dining at the Christkindlmarkt in Vienna, we opted for another traditional "street-food" treat in the form of "kartoffel and käse fondue" {baked potatoes with an Austrian cheese sauce and sweet corn kernels}. One word; YUM!

We continued to explore the Christmas markets, which led us down tiny streets and lanes, past glowing shop windows and more wooden stalls. There were decorated Christmas trees and festive lights as far as the eye could see. The scent of frankincense drifted all around us and the occasional aroma of roasted chestnuts was irresistible.

One large paper bag full of those irresistible, hot, roasted chestnuts, two freshly-cooked Nutella crepes and several mug-fulls of "glühwein" later, we were feeling a little merry : )

Needless to say, I went to bed very happy at Hotel Auersperg on our first night in Salzburg {but not before another mug-full of "glühwein" in the bar and a little relaxation in the hotel's rooftop steam room}.

Our second day in Salzburg began with bright blue skies and glorious sunshine. After a delicious breakfast at our hotel, which included a wonderful selection of organic and locally sourced produce {loved the freshly squeezed beet, celery and apple juice} we headed towards the Mirabell Gardens. Famous for being the location at which "Doe-Ray-Me" from The Sound of Music was filmed, I was super excited to step on such sacred ground, because isn't Julie Andrews an actual angel? I must add here that The Sound of Music was, and probably still is, one of my all time favorite movies. Growing-up, I literally wore-out the VHS tape I watched it so many times?!

After spending a little time exploring the gardens we hopped aboard a bus to Hellbrunn Palace to see yet more movie paraphernalia. Set against a backdrop of snow-capped peaks and surrounded by alpine greenery and nature, the palace was a short 15-minute journey from the city center.

The palace gardens were extensive and beautiful, even for winter, but perhaps more importantly, played home to the gazebo where Liesl sang "16 going on 17" from yes, you guessed it; The Sound of Music! Sadly, you can't actually go inside the gazebo, however, it was fun just to see it and to imagine such a memorable scene from the legendary 1965 movie happening before our very eyes {well, my eyes actually, hubby couldn't have cared less?!}

After a short time exploring Hellbrunn, we boarded a bus back to the city center where we filled our final afternoon in Salzburg with coffee, cake, "glühwein" and Christmas markets.

For our second and last evening in Salzburg we spent a little time studying the hotel's list of recommended restaurants, pinpointing three contenders we were keen to try. The search for the first restaurant led us down a tiny dark alley that we would never have happened upon if it weren't for surveying the map; narrow houses with dark cliff walls towering above them, unique wooden doorways on either side of the cobbled lane and tiny windows cracked to reveal Friday evening laughter. A group of locals gathered outside an intimate art gallery, beer in hand enjoying a lighthearted conversation, all while being entertained by a middle-aged gentleman playing the alphorn!

Every so often we came upon a wine bar or restaurant. Peeking in at the tiny candlelit tables through the condensation-covered windows, it wasn't long before we discovered we were in a local hot spot. Sure enough, the first of our three dinner "contenders" was fully-booked and so we wandered back along the teeny tiny street to hunt down number two.

Arm-in-arm and smiling at how quaint the experience was, we were on our way to "Triangel" where despite being packed to the rafters, we were greeted with a warm smile and a nod towards a tiny wooden table that was just opening-up.

We sat down and waited for our server, eagerly chattering with the excitement of being surrounded by locals. Behind us, the chalk-filled blackboard was a list of "Chef's specials" which the server enthusiastically translated for us. Everything sounded so wonderful, however, I couldn't pass-up the chestnut soup and the pan-fried river trout served with black truffle potato puree and shaved black truffles. Soon after ordering, the trout was gone; a thick white line of chalk through each letter.

As we waited for our food we drank our wine, watching the folks around us intently. The four friendly servers circled the small, cozy room with speed and ease; huge glasses of beer clutched in their fists, handing them out every so often to the jubilant crowd. Plates came continuously from the kitchen, groups of families and friends calling to the servers to express their delight as their dinner was placed before them. The ceiling was low and the laughter was loud. The door swung open regularly as more people huddled inside to escape the cold. Hanging their coats, hats and scarfs on the hooks bulging with belongings, the new arrivals scanned the room for a table as they were welcomed inside by the friendly staff.

Our food arrived, first the chestnut soup and a small Austrian cheese tasting with fresh bread for hubby; both of which were delicious. Soon after clearing our empty appetizer plates, our entree dishes were placed before us. I knew as soon as I took one look at the trout I wasn't going to regret it. Oh. My. Word. Two whole fillets of freshly caught and lightly seasoned river trout, gently pan-fried and served atop a rich, creamy, perfectly smooth potato puree flavored generously with black truffle. And the cherry on top? Or should I say the truffle on top; a plentiful helping of delicate, fragrant and utterly sublime black truffle shavings : ) It was honestly the most delicious dish I'd eaten so far on vacation. I was in heaven... and so was hubby after his fair share of leaning over and "tasting" the potato puree?!

We drank, we ate, we laughed and we smiled. It was the most wonderful evening and the perfect end to the first leg of our vacation.

As we departed for the airport the following morning, we had nothing but a handful of photos to take with us {oh, and a hand-carved wooden owl ornament for my Uncle!} but it was all we needed; Austria will forever be ingrained in my memory as the beginning of our trip of a lifetime : )

 

England - home!

England - home!

Austria - Vienna

Austria - Vienna