SALZBURG, Austria – October 11, 2015
Ok, quick, name five famous Austrians. That’s what I thought. Like me you probably only know two, Hitler and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Yes, Hitler was from Austria. Welcome to the land of the Sound of Music. The hills are alive with the sound of…..three beer guzzling Americans in search of a castle. Julie Andrews must have taken the week off. We didn’t see her.
Despite the current lack of Von Trapps, Salzburg is beautiful. A pristine Salzach River (rhymes with ball sack) runs through the town with a castle fortress atop a hill. Evidence of Mozart is everywhere. This is his birthplace and there are signs everywhere saying Mozart slept here. He got around.
As with most European cities, walking here is the main mode of transportation. Second would be the bicycle. In fact, throughout the town there are two congruent paths, one for bikes and one for pedestrians. It’s also well marked. For peds you’ll see what looks like a chalk outline of a child in a crime scene. For bikes you’ll see bikes painted on the path every 30 meters or so. The bikers don’t seem to slow down so keep an eye out.
Skirting the town is a walled fortress with paths leading through a forest, Kodak picture spots, a Kloister and a small castle.
My two mountain goat-like friends opted for the furthest hike through the forest leading to a castle. Only 800 more meters was mentioned to me at least four times. Those meters add up. All of this wouldn’t have been so bad had it not been for the previous night’s beer consumption and the resulting severe dehydrating hangover.
Based on a recommendation we visited the Augustiner Braustubl beer hall the night before. It reminded me of a food court, with lots of beer. Here’s how it works. You enter the brewery/beer hall. You grab a stein from a wall of steins. The sizes vary but, like us, you’ll probably opt for the big one. A running water fountain is there for you to rinse your mug if you choose to. You pay the man. You hand the other man your ticket and he fills your mug. You choose from three huge halls to sit and enjoy your beer.
After a bit you can peruse the food stalls. There’s a meat stall offering wursts, meatloaf, and other mechanically separated pork-like goodies. There’s a lady who only sells radishes. There’s a bakery stall. A cheese stall. A schnapps stall. A fish stall. The fish stall has weird seafood like pickled herring, eel, sea slugs, sea snails, etc.
After another bit you go back to your seat and enjoy your beer and pile of radishes. You’ll notice that on the walls behind the tables are small license plate-sized signs with the word Stammtisch. A typical Stammtisch sign might read, Stammtisch jeden 2,4 Dienstag ab 1700. What this means is that that particular table is reserved for a group of people every 2nd and 4th Tuesday of the month at 5 p.m. What group? Well you have to understand what Stammtisch means.
Stammtisch is a German, Austrian tradition. Literally translated the word means trunk table, trunk like tree trunk. A group of friends, co-workers, colleagues, teammates or whatever make a plan to meet at a certain time at regular intervals in the same restaurant or pub and enjoy a few drinks and conversation. There are some Stammtisch groups that stay together for years, life. My grandmother belonged to one she started with a few of her grade-school classmates. They met weekly their entire lives. There really are no rules about joining or starting one. And, the Augustiner Braustubl is full of Stammtisches.
And, like all cool movies that suddenly end in the middle of a sce……