Salzburg, Austria

September 6-8, 2000

My Austrian family had business to do in Salzburg and I was invited along. Upon arrival, I was given the key to my own apartment (they're too nice!) and taken to the largest local eating establishment in the city. Liver sausage and giant pretzels are sold in the hallways, but you have the option of bringing your own food as well, as long as you buy a drink. Tea, water, wine and a few other alternatives are avail, but the most popular is the "naturally carbonated" which might as well mean uncarbonated, Goliath-sized beers. Drink 'em warm... they go down in smooth gulps.

"We put all our food together in the center and share it like a family." I was too busy scanning the hall to notice this. My scooping eyes got me labeled as the visitor and the other half of the table talked with our group for most of the meal. "Notice that no one sits at an empty table... we go to the tables where someone is already sitting to start our conversation."

This is the city where Mozart was born and lived for sometime and is also famed for the filming of the Sound of Music. There really was a von Trapp family whose house turned into a Nazi telephone office after they fled for the hills.

The film's Castle is practically a medieval a city in itself that was well worth the tour. The name Salzburg has to do with salt and it's one of the ways this castle resisted being taken by force... they had enough water and preserved food to last them for a year.

Modern Austrian feats of stone are the tunnels through mountain. Austria touts its tunnel builders as the best in the world and I believe it! Razor sharp mountains rise from the ground like a skyscraper, serving as the back wall for one entire street, with carved out roads, including bicycle and walking lanes. It's fun to observe, but going through them is rather uneventful.

During our last hours in Salzburg, my Austrian family took me to a special place for them: Maria Plain, a church far opposite the castle on a hill with a picturesque approach by car. It was a busy day here with a ceremony later in the day, but we were able to catch the choir's practice run. From the 2nd level balcony where Mozart played his mass he composed at 19, the notes where crisp and unique. They did not reverberate with echo, but suspended themselves in front of the organ for a moment vanishing just before for the next.

My new visa for re-entry to the United Kingdom as an employee should have arrived back at the home in Brixlegg by now. We're heading back now via the scenic route.

countries list