And I promise, that's the last Sound of Music reference I make in reference to Salzburg. Seriously, there are other reasons to visit this place other than that lame movie. All the tourists here are obsessed with it. I passed a flock of old Japanese people in the main square singing "Crimb ebery mounutain." That and Mozart seem to be Salzburg's main claims to fame, which is a pity since this place has so much natural and architectural beauty.
Ive felt like such a little kid in this city. Every corner seems to offer a new opportunity for exploration. I see an alley or a staircase: hmm, wonder where this leads? Most seem to end up at a gorgeous panorama revealing the baroque grandeur of this mountain city spread out before you like a picnic blanket. I've had a very good time here. I find that I tend to enjoy myself more in smaller non-capital cities. The atmosphere here in Salzburg reminds me of Cork and the great times I had there.
Salzburg was originally the seat of archbishop-princes who got filthy rich on the salt trade, giving the city its name and its reputation for opulence. There was no "wall of separation" in medieval Salzburg, with the princes having final authority on matters temporal and spiritual. For all their awe-inspiring power, they were fearful people, constantly adding on the the bastion on the Mönchsberg hill abou the city in preparation for invasions by the Turks or by some rogue German prince. The fears proved ill-founded, since the castle was never taken (although it was surrendered to Napoleon in the 19th century), but it still stands today as a testament to the might, wealth, and fear of these enigmatic priest-kings.
The hostel I stayed in here had it's own bar, which was nice since the beer there was way cheaper than going out (Austria gives Ireland a run for its money) but it made me realize that most of my travel buddies end up being from other English-speaking countries. I've met tons of Americans, Canadians, Aussies, Kiwis, Brits and Irish, but comparitively few Czechs and Austrians. I feel like I've wasted something here in Austria where the people are pretty approachable and tend to speak excellent English. I think that English might be a comfort, a fortress as it were, that I use to bolster my own insecurity at approaching people. Like the archbishops of Salzburg, I build up walls against imagined threats since when I actually do swallow my fear and strike up a conversation with a native, I tend to have a great time. Steph, the Austrian hostel keeper here, was great fun and really easy to talk to (even if we did end up at an Irish bar).
I've also found that I kind of miss Ireland. I met Aoibhinn, Kristin, and Marie at the hostel and talked with them for about three hours. I feel like the country where I stayed in the longest became my home away from home. Still, I should really branch out a little more. It's a big continent, right?