Camp Martin Travels

These entries will be a combination of historical day trips, graduate level travel courses, and just little stops along the way. I have been teaching 8th grade American History for over 25 years. I am also a Civil War Reenactor and have traveled to Germany and Austria with several groups of exchange students and written about our adventures. Please check all my posts by using the monthly Blog Archive tabs shown below. I have posted over 150 Blog Episodes since 2009... Please explore them all!

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Sunday, March 31, 2013

An American in Germany / Part # 27 / Salzburg - 2

GAPP Exchange Journal 2012
Hohensalzburg Castle / Salzburg

Hohensalzburg Castle / Salzburg, Austria
We were in the middle of our class trip to the historic city of Salzburg, Austria and had just completed touring the Mirabell Gardens where scenes of the epic film, The Sound of Music were filmed.  Next we had made our way through the Salzburg Cathedral and were now about to scale the ancient cobblestone pathway up to the imposing hilltop castle fortress known as Hohensalzburg.  Our group, consisting of students from both Warwick and their corresponding German student hosts from KKG, began the hike up the walled footpath alongside the perpendicular rock face looming overhead.  The castle seemed so high above us, miles above our current position, lost somewhere within the clouds.  I will admit I wasn't looking forward to another test of endurance, especially since I had just recovered from a nasty virus that had defeated all the residents of the Galneder household and beyond.  And yes, I am going to blame my slow progress up the path on my recent illness, thank you very much!  Otherwise, I'm sure I would have easily beaten all those teenagers up to the hilltop gate!  I told the kids that my nickname back home was Mountain Goat because I love walking uphill, the steeper the better.  Bring it!  However, within a few minutes most of the kids were out of sight rounding the corner of the switchback up ahead.  It was like walking up an incredibly steep ramp leaning forward as you slowly plodded ahead.  It was awesome... I was lovin it!  

I Think I Can... I Think I Can...
As I continued my climb ever higher toward the yet to be visible castle gate, I wondered how anyone could ever attack this castle because you would be so worn out by the time you got within striking distance... forget about it!  After what seemed like several days and nights, I turned the corner to see one final vertical stretch up to the castle gate.  As I got closer to the end goal, there were suddenly three blurred gates instead of one, which all appeared to be slightly moving.  I tried to aim for the center one and soon recognized several familiar faces, a few who were jokingly cheering me on toward the summit!  Upon crossing the threshold of the gateway to a small round of applause, I realized I was now protected by the outer defenses of the fortress walls.  With the threat of pending invasion from barbarians to the east, I now felt much safer within the confines of the castle.  Most of the kids had plenty of time to recover from their hike up to the gate while waiting for me and a few other stragglers to arrive. Within a few minutes, most of the students had proceeded onward and once again, disappeared from view around the next turn.  I had already been fortunate to visit several amazing castles and palaces but this was the first true medieval castle I had ever been inside.  It was amazing to examine the physical structure of the interior fortress walls with a narrow ledge protruding where archers once stood and fired arrows at approaching invaders.  The wall was high and a steep interior ravine was located just below the archer's ledge.  One misstep would have meant certain death from the 100 foot fall to the sharp rocks below.  No way to put if off any longer, it was time to move on and catch up with the rest of our group!

Looking Back Just Inside the Castle Gate
Although I had made it inside the gate, one look up and I could see the castle itself was still far above me and I had quite a walk ahead to reach the upper structure.  As I walked through an arched opening within the inside wall, I turned the corner and was once again faced with an uphill climb on a steep walkway shrouded by high stone ancient walls.  I was thinking it was a shame that older folks and people who were not as physically fit as myself (AKA: Mountain Goat) could never endure the climb to experience all this amazing history.  One steep 45 degree grade pathway, led to another, and still another, eventually arriving at an arched doorway, where the trek continued upward inside through an enclosed tunnel, illuminated by lamps.  Finally, I exited the tunnel into the open sunlight, where the scene resembled a small town with townhouse style stone and stucco buildings that ran the length of what appeared to be an interior street.  There was even a small cafe with umbrella covered tables and window boxes filled with flowers that added a touch of vibrant color to the bland neutral grey stone atmosphere.  Our tour leader Herman "The German" Schneider gathered the troops around a pyramid shaped monument made from stacked large cannonballs cemented together.  Herman gave the kids instructions, including the location of the designated meeting point in Old City below and then they were turned loose, free to explore the expansive castle and accompanying museum on their own.  Herman, Wendy, and I traveled as a trio with the experience of Herman leading us to key points of interest.  We headed for a small insignificant looking doorway off to one side that happened to lead to a wrought iron staircase that descended down to a large balcony with an incredible view of the city below.

Hohensalzburg Castle Lookout Balcony
The cloudy day had brought intermittent showers earlier but had mostly given way to clear sunny skies that gave an unobstructed view of Salzburg and beyond.  At first, I hesitated to descend the stairs, mesmerized by the fantastic view from my perch at the top of the stairwell.  The large size of St. Rupert's Cathedral, crowned by green domes dominated the city, which was surrounded by accompanying religious support buildings.  People appeared behind me and I was forced down the iron stairs to the large balcony below.  The view from the castle balcony was truly stunning with new angles to absorb every time you shifted your line of sight slightly to the right or left.  Off in the far distance I could barely make out the outline of Mirabell Gardens where we first began our walk to the castle.  I was truly mountains away from Everest but couldn't help but feel a small sense of accomplishment of making it to the apex of Mount Hohensalzburg as I gazed out over the long route I had traveled to get to my current position atop the summit.  Unfortunately, I didn't have a flag to plant at my feet to make it official.  Several our our students had also discovered the small portal down to the corner watchtower and balcony and had joined us at the wall's edge.  Solo portraits and group pictures were taken with the scenic backdrop before it was time to break apart and move on to seek new discoveries.  Herman led Wendy and I around the perimeter of the balcony from one view to another.  There was even a quaint cafe restaurant located off to one side where the view from your table nestled alongside the castle wall was incredible.  It was one of those spots where you could just pull up a chair, nurse a refreshing drink all day, and just enjoy the view of the world far below.  However, not today, as we were on a tight schedule and there was much more to see.

 A Great Spot to Drink a Coca-Cola Light
We toured through the interior streets of the massive castle, which appeared more like an ancient town than a fortress.  There were buildings that resembled residential homes, some of which were decorated with plantings and flower filled window boxes.  Mature shade trees that seemed to be growing straight up through the rock foundation added to the town-like feel.  There was even a church known as St. George's Chapel, multiple military structures, and two more large observation decks that provided additional incredible views of the Austrian countryside.  The castle was positioned perfectly to observe an approaching threat from every direction providing ample time for defense preparations.  The first military structure was built on the high ground above Salzburg in 1077 and was expanded over time until it spanned a length of 820 feet and a width of almost 500 feet making it one of the largest medieval castles ever built.  However, it was only attacked twice over its long history.  Once by local common folk in revolt who unsuccessfully attempted to remove the prince archbishop in 1525 during the German Peasants' War.  Despite the constant building projects to strengthen the castle's defenses, it was surrendered to the French without a fight during the Napoleonic Wars in 1800.  After defeat, the castle never really served as a military post again and was for the most part abandoned by the year 1861.  Soon afterward the site was targeted for restoration and preservation efforts were underway with tourism in mind.  They even added a cable car incline railway in 1892 to make the castle more accessible for visitors.  What... a cable car?  Easy access?  Are you serious?

Wendy and Herman / Alps View
We could see the Alps Mountains off to the east and the gray rain clouds spilling over the peaks.  We wanted to get something to eat before it was time to meet up with the kids down below so it was time to leave the beautiful views behind, preserved in memory and photographs.  I was told we had tickets to use the incline railway for our descent from the castle to street level.  Why is it we always have the benefit of a ride down and never up with every castle we had visited so far?   Come on, man!   The ride down was effortless on the incline railway which was standing room only.  It was like a large elevator car that descended at a 45 degree angle and came to a soft landing where we exited back out into the historic streets of Old Town Salzburg.  Herman had a favorite dining spot with an excellent view from an outdoor patio seating area where he wanted to take Wendy and I for lunch.  It was located within an old brewery that we had passed earlier as we were starting the steep incline toward the castle gate.  The brewery known as Steigel Keller appeared to be built into the side of the rocky hillside.  We entered into the cavernous foyer and scaled several flights of wide marble steps.  The surrounding walls of the marble staircase were decorated with the heads of mounted stags, the symbol of the historic brewery.  We walked through a largely empty indoor seating area toward the stone patio deck with a beautiful view of the Salzburg Cathedral located just below.  Trees grew up through the space providing shade from the intermittent rays of the sun through grey clouds.  I was more than ready to take a seat and relax for a while.

 Lamb Strew with Sliced Dumplings
As always, seating was a priority to make our dining atmosphere an experience and not just a place to eat.  Herman carefully staked out the seating area for the perfect setting for lunch with a view and found it at a table occupied by an elderly gentleman sitting alone along the balcony wall.  Herman asked the friendly man if we could share his table and he welcomed us to join him.  We took the three remaining seats at the table, which had a great view of the city below.  We were about eye level with the rooftop domes of the Salzburg Cathedral.  It was an interesting but foreign custom for me to impose upon and then join a complete stranger for lunch.  He sat quietly and kept to himself as we exchanged conversation about our day and ordered our meal.  In a way it was a little awkward but at the same time, I'm sure the man was happy to have some company and he toasted us all with his drink as we were served our meal.  Later the conversation switched from English over to German and soon the man became engaged within our conversation, which evolved into smiles and hearty laughs.  I didn't get the joke but had learned to read nonverbal cues during my stay and felt involved in the pleasant exchange, despite my German language deficiencies.  I was served some type of rich stew with what appeared to contain chunks of lamb meat and vegetables served with a bread dumpling, similar to the style Andy's mother had prepared for me once.  The stew was delicious but the dumplings couldn't compare to the homemade variety prepared by Andy's mother.  We said goodbye to our new friend and left the Steigel Keller biergarten to begin our final descent to the street level of Old City Salzburg. 

  Monastery / Salzburg Catacombs
After entering Old City, we diverted off the main walkway to explore the famous church yards and plaza that contained beautifully adorned grave plots similar to the ones I had seen at the small chapel of the abbey on Lady's Island within Lake Chiemsee.  The plots were overflowing with colorful flowers and plantings, evidence they were meticulously cared for and maintained by friends and family members of the deceased.  High above us appeared to be some form of residence carved within the sheer rock walls of the mountain cliff, suggesting a monastery.  A large arched opening into the mountain itself resembling the entrance to a cave but actually marked the access point of the expansive Salzburg catacombs.  Many people were entering and exiting the entrance and time permitting it would have been interesting to venture inside but we had a schedule to keep and a looming deadline with our students.  Too much to see and not enough time or energy to visit everything.  A light rain began to fall once again and our umbrellas were soon out as we navigated our way with Herman the German leading us back to the predetermined meeting location.  Even in the rain, the historic city seemed to emit an aura of old world charm and a pleasant mystique.  True to their perfect record to date, all the students from both schools were within the meeting area on time.  We made our way back through the city streets toward Mirabell Gardens to board our bus to travel to one more scheduled stop before we departed Austria.  Our trusty bus driver Fitztum rolled out of the parking lot toward our next adventure, another palace with connections to the film, The Sound of Music.

A Light Rain Falls in Old City
Please stayed tuned for the next installment of our adventure!


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