Pretzel Barrels and Beer Gardens: Salzburg, Austria

The visit started off on the drearier side with dark clouds and spitting rain. Our Airbnb was located about 2.5 miles outside the city. This meant a typical choice we are faced with: to figure out the public transport system or just walk. On this occasion, we actually did decide to take the bus, thankfully. As the bus wound its way through the city, it remained parallel to the Salzach River. Eventually, it dropped us off in the suburbs. Thankfully, the rest of the evening allowed the sun to make an appearance.

View from the trail near our Airbnb
The start of the trail beside the Airbnb

I initially thought each day would be inconvenient due to the distance we were staying from the city center, but I was glad of it for one reason. The view was incredible. Our home for that 4 days was surrounded by beautiful gray and blue white-capped mountains. A trail from our place took us to green fields with the same views, and eventually to wooded trails that went for miles. We walked for a while, watching paragliders sashay in deep cuts across the sky before gently landing in the grassy field 50 yards from us. It was mesmerizing.

The next day we undertook the long walk to town, with a goal in mind. Hannah visited Salzburg when she was a little girl with her family. She had a distinct memory of barrels with a selection of different flavored pretzels. She was determined to find it again. To her satisfaction, and mine, they were easy to locate near the center of the city. The charismatic man working the small tent told us he has been selling pretzels there since the 1970s. He showed us on the left were savory pretzels assorting from cheese, olive, salt, red peppers, and black pepper. On the right, he pointed out the sweet, ranging from chocolate donut-like cakes to chocolate covered pretzels, apple glaze, and cherry strudel (all in pretzel form). Hannah and I had our pretzel fix and went on our way.

On our final day, we went to St. Peter’s Cemetery and Monastery. The sound of rushing water provided the background music to the rotating mill. Inside the adjacent building, the monastery bakery cranks out dark rye bread loaves for a fee. With the smell of warm fresh bread filling out heads, we walked into the cemetery. The cemetery was the inspiration for the cemetery scene in the Sound of Music. The grave markers were adorned by detailed metal crosses and winding vines. It was a very packed and historic graveyard, but it bore dates as recent as 2017. Hannah and I felt compelled to do further research on this. In this cemetery, you rent the graves for 10 years at a time. Your relatives keep up the plot, and if the lease is not renewed at the end of the contract, they dispose of your remains and rent out the space to a new “resident”. However odd this was, there were even older traditions within the monastery.

Along the steep cliff walls, an irregularity stood out. Part of the cliff was displaced by organized stone carving, with a small black window. Hannah and I agreed that it was quite high and wondered how we could get there. Further along in the cemetery, we found our answer. A small alcove held a staircase hewn from the rock of the hill. The staircase ran steeply up to a small cave-like landing. Inside, lay a small chapel dating back to the 800’s AD. Faded paint from centuries past could be seen on the soot covered walls. Outside the small chapel stood an aged wooden bell tower. Another staircase climbed further up into a final similar chapel. Descending the narrow, sheer stairs, I wondered if monks from 1200 years past tasted the same dampness emanating from the cramped quarters.

At the bottom, we heard a couple speaking English with another couple. I asked them where they were from and started a conversation. They were three couples traveling from Vancouver, Canada for about 6 weeks. Some split off from the group at various points to side journeys, but they had plans to reconvene. The couples were Jehovah’s Witnesses and were headed to a 60,000 person conference in Berlin, Germany. During the conversation, we shared some travel tips on where to eat in Berlin and Munich as well as questions about our journey so far. They were incredibly friendly and even invited us to stop in the conference if we happened back upon Berlin in that time. The way they invited was offhand, very friendly, and not typical of the usual depictions made of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Hannah and I both agreed that they were 6 people we would be happy to share a beer with if our paths crossed again.

We moved on to our final stop: AugustinerBrau. Simply put, it is a beer garden. It is also filled with Augustiner beer, which is a local beer in Germany that cannot be purchased elsewhere. We both loved it and this was actually our second trip back to the biergarten in four days. While each sipping on a liter of beer, Hannah finally beat me in chess. We play often when we travel. I taught her how to play roughly 3 years ago and she had not beaten me a single time, but not for lack of effort. (There was one particular match on our honeymoon that she came close. Dazed by the glowing Mexican sun and endless alcoholic drinks, I was able to pull off a stalemate rather than a loss.) With a big smile, she giggled and prodded the entire 3 mile walk home to our Airbnb. It was a great visit, for both of us.


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