Memorial Day weekend, we went to Austria. The big kids all attended a retreat at Franciscan University’s campus in Gaming. I can think of no prettier location to spend a semester abroad. My photos can’t do it justice.
There’s not much to do in Gaming, other than take walks and drink the Kartause Bier, dunkel or helles; I recommend them both.
The kids had a good time at the retreat, and we had a good time on our little hikes. One walk circled the campus. There was a lot of, “The hills are alive…” singing.
The kids could not resist rolling down the “hill.” When I was a kid, I really loved rolling down hills. In my backyard. I never rolled down an Alp.
Another hike took us across town to a different mountain. At one overlook, there is an iron cross and a nice view of the city.
After mass and then lunch on Sunday, we headed to Salzburg. My teens had stayed up late and gotten up early for two days, and were now resistant to the idea of sight-seeing; yet when offered the opportunity to stay behind at the hotel with their little siblings while Mom and Dad went out on their own? Oh, no, they were afraid they would miss something. We kept to a fairly light itinerary.
Monday morning, we “dragged” them to Fortress Hohensalzburg which is THE landmark of Salzburg, dominating the landscape. The camera had been inadvertently switched to black and white photos…
The fortress was its own little town with buildings incorporated in the walls and lots of room for all the things one might need to withstand a siege. We thought this video about how they fooled some angry townsfolk who had nearly managed to starve them out was pretty amusing. We watched all the videos available at this website, actually.
Bill discovered the color issue with the camera just in time to get these lovely flowers growing in crevices of the fortress walls.
After this castle, we decided to tour the house (now museum) where Mozart was born and lived until he was 16 or 17. It is a nice museum, self-guided (which is great for people with kids), and has some interactive areas (of which we did not avail). My only complaint was that there was only one room that actually played his music. Wouldn’t you think having his music in the background would be nice?
We tried to convince our kids that hanging out at the hotel without parents would be fun, but instead, after a brief rest, we went to the gardens at Mirabell Palace. Yes, this is where much of the Do-Re-Mi song was filmed. The gardens are free to enter, and are very beautiful. We wanted to line the kids up on the steps where they finished out the song, but George refused to play along. Always somebody.
On Tuesday, we headed for home but with one castle-stop along the way. I highly recommend Mauterndorf Castle if you have kids and are looking to break up a longer trip. Mauterndorf is about 90 minutes from Salzburg and about 4 hours from my house (Salzburg is about 5 hours from my house, so it really only adds about 30 minutes to the drive).
This is a medieval castle, originally used as a toll/customs stop. The original road went right through the castle, and one had to pay to go through. This castle is off the beaten path. I’m sure some days it is quite busy, but I suspect that the primary clients are school children dragged here on what they think will be a hellishly boring field trip.
Why I liked this castle:
- It’s quiet. No throngs of tourists. My patience with tourists gets thinner every week. Yes, I know, I’m one too.
- The woman at the ticket counter allowed me to use German. Actually, much of Austria allows me to use German, unlike Germany where anybody younger than I am knows English better than I know German, so they just talk to me in English. But not only did this woman let me talk in German, she acted surprised that I wanted the little hand-held audioguides to be in English. Even after hearing me turn to the kids and talk to them in English, she still wanted to confirm that I wanted my guide to be in English and not German. Yes, I am a sucker for flattery.
- It is self-guided with handheld audioguides as well as printed signs in German and English. Some kids like to go fast, some kids like to go slow. Some kids don’t like the audioguide at all (Peter), but some kids listen to every single word (Mary and George). Self-guided tours mean everybody moves at their own pace. Audioguides mean the tour is in English and parents don’t have to read every sign to kids who can’t read yet. Also, some places, like this place, have a kid-version for the audioguide which makes it a bit more interesting for them.
- There were several hand-on areas, including an extensive selection of dress-up clothes.
- At the end of the tour, there is a fabulous playground area. This accommodates all ages from 4 to adult. I wish it wasn’t lunchtime, because my kids would have stayed much longer at this playground. We had to drag them away. Our favorite part was the dragon slide which was so fast that we had to catch George when he came down and the rest of us had to fight to stay on our feet.
- It was very inexpensive. George was free. I think the other kids were included in the family price, except for Fritz. Overall, I think we paid just over 30 euros for 9 of us.
After this, we found a place to eat and headed for home. Good times for everybody.