Salzburg is the fourth largest city in Austria and the birthplace of Mozart. The old town area was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997. And lest we forget, the setting for parts of The Sound of Music.
This is in fact a wonderful city and probably my favorite city visited in Austria. Endless opportunities for wandering and photography abound. It seems certain famous travel writers agree with me – I coincidentally stopped at a traffic light to find Rick Steves standing next to me busily jotting notes and snapping photos for his forthcoming guidebook. A bit surreal.
After my weeks spent in Italy, crossing the Northern border into Austria was a bit of culture shock. The clean, modern trains with electronic displays that actually tell you what the next stop is were a pleasant surprise. Innsbruck is a comfortable city in a gorgeous mountain setting.
Innsbruck is the capital city of the Tyrol region. This area has supposedly been populated continuously since the early stone age. Throughout history, it has been an important crossing point over the river Inn. The “Golden Roof” pictured is an Innsbruck landmark decorated with 2657 fire-gilded copper tiles for Maximilian I (of Habsburg fame), Holy Roman Emperor in 1500. The university here was founded in 1669.
Today, Innsbruck is an ideal place for skiing in the winter and mountaineering in the Summer. As such, it is full of very active, fit people. I was fortunate to be able to join a “canyoning” (known as canyoneering in the U.S.) trip professionally guided by my good friend and local resident, Gunther. The trip basically consisted of donning a wetsuit and helmet, hiking to the top of a canyon (with flowing water), and navigating down the river and its waterfalls by whatever means necessary – scrambling, swimming, abseiling (rappelling in the U.S.), or simply jumping off ledges to the pool below. That was an altogether new experience for me and very enjoyable.