Day 8 (part 2) – Castles, Oberammergau and Salzburg

Part 2 of Day 8:

Linderhof palace and gardens

We really enjoyed Schloss Linderhof, but finally tore ourselves away and back to the car.

We next headed for Oberammergau, which was about 6 km. away. Oberammergau, for those who don’t know, is the site of the famous Passion Play.  The Passion Play has been held every ten years in this town since the early 1600’s, when the townspeople made an oath to God asking to be spared from the plague.  Unfortunately, all single tickets for the 2010 Passion Play were sold out since 2008 (tour packages were available if you wanted to fork over $400-500—I did not).

Oberammergau

Besides, I’m not sure if I could have sat through it.  History or no, the play lasts around 6-7 hours, with a three hour break for dinner.  It’s a big time commitment.  But I wanted to see the town anyway, which is known for its painted houses and wood carvings.  When we drove in, we were lucky enough to find a parking place near the center (zentrum) of town.  This small lot was free but had a mandatory two hour limit.  The cars leave tickets on their dash that show the time they arrived.  Luckily, our rental car had such a ticket, so we placed it accordingly and headed into the town.

Oberammergau painted house

It was fairly quiet, as a performance was going on then. By law, only residents of the town can perform or work on the Passion Play.  We walked through the main part of town, goggling at the houses and some of the shops with wood carvings.  We also stopped by the theatre housing the performance, but the doors were locked (understandably) so we couldn’t see inside.  Since we were ready for a break, we stopped in a cafe for coffee and dessert.

Dessert and coffee at the Oberammergau cafe

Have I mentioned the desserts?  It’s a good thing we’re walking so much because I’d have gained 20 pounds already from the sweets we’ve eaten.  They are wonderful – cream-filled cakes, apple strudel and sugar-topped pastries.  Now I know why Cincinnati, with its German heritage, has such a sweet tooth.

Back on the road again, we wound our way towards Salzburg, our destination for the night.  It was about two and a half hours from Oberammergau, so we still had a distance to travel.  Shortly after we left the town (which took us extra time, as we couldn’t figure out the road signs and kept getting twisted around), we came upon the Autobahn again.  The A8 would take us right to Salzburg, so we hopped on.  The Autobahn, unlike what many people think, does have a speed limit of 120 km., but it does not seem to be enforced.  Everyone drives in the right-hand land, as the left-hand lane is for passing only, and woe betide any slow-moving driver who parks himself there.  He’s liable to get run over by one of the cars zipping along at 150+ km. per hour (and there were plenty of them).

Scenic countryside

I stuck with the relatively safe speed of 120-140 km., which got us into Salzburg, Austria around 7 pm.  We had to make a quick stop at the Austrian border to buy a sticker for the car, which is mandatory if you drive in Austria.  It cost 7.50 Euros and was good for 14 days (the minimum).  The agent also asked me if I had an orange safety vest.  When I looked at her blankly, she told me that Austrian law requires that all cars must carry one.  I explained that we had a rental, and she said that was fine.  Sure enough, when I got back to the car, there was an orange vest wrapped in plastic and stored in the glove compartment.

Finally – Salzburg! Home of Mozart, Maria von Trapp, raindrops on roses and other schmaltzy stuff.  At first, I planned on bypassing Salzburg as overly-touristy places make me crazy.  But everyone I talked to online (I’m a big travel message board forum buff) assured me that Salzburg was too charming to be missed.  So here we were for two nights.

Haus Ballwein on Moosstrasse in Salzburg

We had some trouble finding our pension – the Haus Ballwein – which is located on the outskirts of town, but just when Pat and I were about ready to kill the map or kill each other, I happened to look up and spot the sign for “Moosstrasse” (Moos Street), which was where we wanted to be. I told Pat that this was another sign from God (like her taxi in Cesky Krumlov), but she insisted that her taxi was more of a miracle. Either way, we were happy to see it. We found our pension a few kilometers down the road and pulled in, happy to be there.  As we were trying to figure out how to get in, Frau Ballwein came out of her house (she lives behind the pension) and showed us up to our room.

Room at the Haus Ballwein

It was quite charming with lots of kitschy touches that seemed very Austrian, and the beds had very fluffy comforters and pillows.  But the best was the view. French doors opened onto a balcony, which gave way to an incredible vista of the Alps.  It was so beautiful that I could hardly stand it.

We got settled in, then asked Frau Ballwein if there was a restaurant within walking distance, as neither one of us wanted to get back into the car.  She told us of one that she said was another 2 kilometers up the road.  The name she gave us was unpronounceable but we made out the first letter, which was an “S,” so we figured we could find it okay.

We started walking — and walking — and walking.  We seemed to be walking for a long time, and still no restaurant.  It was a beautiful evening out, and we could see the mountains all around us, but we were both hungry.  At one point, a girl on a bicycle came by and responded to my halting German by pointing down the road, saying something about “50 minutes.”  We almost turned around at the point, but we were committed to finding this place so we trudged on.

About two minutes further, we found it.  It did begin with an S, but I can’t remember the name of it, other than that it had about 4-5 syllables.  It was a little neighborhood cafe filled with locals (and cigarette smoke) and we plopped ourselves down and ordered.  I had a delicious beef goulash with spaetzle and a salad, and enjoyed a glass of a fresh and light white wine that is only in season here for about one month out of the year.

After we finished, we headed back.  The walk went a lot quicker now that we knew where we were going, and we were soon tucked in our respective beds at the Haus Ballwein.

Tomorrow – sightseeing in Salzburg!

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