Traveling Salzburg Again – A Case Study

Posted on by Noah Lederman in Europe, Somewhere | Leave a comment

Traveling Salzburg

To return to a beloved city can be disappointing. Prague’s crowds have grown so large that even pickpockets have trouble making a clean break. Melbourne feels like it’s trying to become a second Sydney, instead of that grittier grid dotted with delicious eats. And Salzburg, the city that my wife and I had romanticized after our visit seven years earlier, seems to have promoted Mozart to such an extent that the whole place feels as charmless as Graceland.


The first time we had visited, Marissa and I biked along the river Salzach, an activity I typically despise because of car traffic. But Salzburg’s river paths are designed so that a cyclist never has to cross paths with an automobile. Afterward, we drank beers in the Augustiner beer gardens, and then strolled the city aimlessly, perfectly, stumbling upon gorgeous gardens, listening to some of the world’s best musicians giving free concerts in the street, and enjoying the fact that we were missing nothing, even as we skipped nearly everything. (In fact, the only awful experience in this city back in 2010 was Marissa’s insistence on taking the Sound of Music Tour. The hills were alive with my rancor. She claims that she loved it.)


Of course there are too many variables to fully understand why traveling Salzburg was less enjoyable this time around. Perhaps I was missing my companion. Possibly it was because of the rain that kept me from the beer gardens. (I did have a beer and pork knuckle inside Augustiner’s beer hall though; so perhaps it was tied to the indigestion that I suffered from eating that salty and fatty comestible–a lump of meat that looks like a termite’s hive–on my own.) Likely it was because I was visiting at the start of a festival, and the town was loaded with visitors. Maybe this and maybe that. But I think the real reason that I enjoyed traveling Salzburg less was because of the Salzburg Card.


When you possess a city card, you suddenly feel forced to visit all of the attractions; the ones that bustle with the chaos of tourism. There’s nothing wrong with being a tourist. I often am. But the madness that the card delivered me to would destroy the quiet image of a place that I had once been nostalgic for. The card brought me to places I would never have gone. The card made me feel like a boor for not wanting to see where Mozart’s mommy washed his heinie and powdered his wig. The card was my master. The card was my critic. The card forced me into uncomfortable situations.


Worst–somewhere between stepping in dog shit and going on the Sound of Music tour–was how the card made me take the river boat tour. The journey down my beloved Salzach sounded pleasant, refreshing even. But the boat was a hotbox. It journeyed slower than the walkers on the river trail, and it reminded me that I wasn’t cycling in the one city that I actually enjoyed cycling. And the audio tour offered facts about the surroundings that were either so stupid or culturally insensitive that if the heat didn’t make me want to puke, the information did.


And in the hotel on the left, celebrities like Mel Gibson have stayed. Really Salzburg boat tours, you went with Mel Gibson in a country still with an anti-Semitic image problem? And in the clock tower on the right, a man would shout down to remind people to be careful with fire. Okay. Fair enough. But did anything else historically important happen in that tower that might be worth sharing? Or maybe you could have better researched the city to add other, more pertinent facts into the silence that preceded and followed the story about the tower shouter. Did you know that if the river floods it could shut down our river cruises? Hooray, one positive effect of climate change.


To make things more unbearable, a video played without sound and the actors, all dressed like Mozarts, frolicked in gardens and threw rocks in the river. For the boat’s grand finale, which the captain introduced with brilliant monotone, we rotated in circles, nauseatingly, while some bad musician sang, “Amadeus. Amadeus. Amadeus.” The people on the riverbank shook their heads.


One of the three Americans sitting next to me, without irony, said, “That was awesome.” His friends confirmed. I guess some people should purchase the Salzburg Card, but I, for my big capper, aimed to throw mine into the the river.


Then I realized that it was my bus pass to the airport the next morning. So I just shoved it in my pocket and got off the boat.



The Wineries of Vienna and Drinking at the Heuriger

Posted on by Noah Lederman in Europe, I Ate What?, Somewhere | Leave a comment

Wineries of Vienna and Dining at the HeurigerThe first time that I had traveled to Austria was 2010 and my plan was to visit the wineries of Vienna. My then-girlfriend, now-wife, and I took the subway to the end of the U4 line, Heligenstadt, hopped on the 38A bus that journeyed uphill, and then disembarked at Armbrustergasse, where the road split. For the vineyards, we were told that we had to continue from there on foot. Read more

Hiking the Wilder Kaiser or Westeros

Posted on by Noah Lederman in Europe, Somewhere | 2 Comments

Hiking the Wilder Kaiser

When the Mad King was slain by Jaime Lannister, he fell upon his death bed of pine forest. His face and body formed the peaks of the Wilder Kaiser mountain range in Tirol, Austria. This is not the true story of the formation of the Wilder Kaiser, which means Mad King in German, but when my guide pointed up at the gray stone-peaked mountains with the beautiful death bed of pine forest below, I stopped listening to the legend and made up my own Game of Thrones-inspired tale.

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The Edinburgh Fringe Festival with Kids

Posted on by Noah Lederman in Baby Voyage | 2 Comments

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival with Kids

Most people head to Edinburgh in August for the Fringe Festival: a few weeks when comedians and thespians and every sort of artist take over bars and performance spaces, nooks and crannies. There are vans parked around the city that double as comedy clubs for a crammed half-dozen audience members and huge trucks are stationed on pedestrian thoroughfares to serve as temporary film houses. It’s a joyous, if not overwhelming time to be in Edinburgh. There’s so much to do on any given day, from free shows to street festivals to ticketed events, that you’re faced with the realization that you’re going to miss most of everything. And then you head to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival with kids and you really feel like you’re going to miss everything.

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Where Stars are Born

Posted on by Noah Lederman in I Ate What? | Leave a comment

Best Michelin Star Restaurants in Scotland
When considering what makes a restaurant great, it comes down to more than quality food. But at the best restaurants, there is often a narrative threaded through the courses, and certain intangibilities that stay with a person even after the meal is done. Two of the best Michelin star restaurants in Scotland, in a country that has only thirteen establishments with this distinction, have that story and stay power. And while the chefs are culinary raconteurs, that latent magic is produced by having these dining rooms housed in five-star boutique hotels. Read more

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