Monday, March 25, 2013

Chess, a Church, and a Man with a Golden Ball.

Today was our first day to start using the train.  It was a chilly morning while we were waiting outside the hotel to catch the local train to the main station, Zurich HB.
Amazingly I had to fight with Fin in the hotel room to put on more layers.  He was cold....
Zurich HB is home to our priciest treat of the trip.  Yesterday, after we validated our Eurorail pass and were on our way to catch the local train to the hotel, the kids wanted a warm pretzel and a Fanta.  I'm guessing in Calgary it would cost $2 per drink, and let's say a generous $3 per pretzel for a whopping $10.  You know you are in Zurich HB main rail station when that tasty little treat costs you, wait for it....$25.  Gulp.  Oh, we went to the Coop when we got back to the hotel....same Fanta  $1.25.  So it was about this time we had a talk with the kids around timing of their treat requests....

Speaking of treats, Eurorail had a special on this spring for families up to 5 traveling together. You could get a 17 day totally flexible 1st class rail pass for, well not a real discount, but you could get it!  We were are all pumped up when we made it on to our first train that was actually going to the city we intended to go to.  Look how happy we were.

Then the conductor came by and asked for our tickets.  Turns out we were sitting in Business First, which is apparently much nicer then first.....
Pod boy's sister reacts to the news from the conductor.
After the walk of shame back to the regular old First Class car, we settled in for our 5hr journey to Salzburg, Austria.   Despite the whining, the dreaded First Class car was very comfortable and spacious (mind you, we have some big journeys ahead, so we may have to dig deep to find some sheckles to pay for the upgrade.  I will just think of it as buying pretzel's and Fanta's everyday for the next 10 days...).  

We were very excited to learn that there was free WiFi service on the train.  I can tell  you this, we enjoyed it much more during the 20 minutes that it actually worked.

Salzburg.  How many of our millions of followers have been to Salzburg?  I was here as an 18 year kid with my two friends Brian and Niels as part of our 1987 European domination tour.  Even back then, this little town captured my heart and imagination.   

The "Old Town", which UNESECO listed as a world heritage site in 1997, sits below the stunning 11th century Fortress Hohensalzburg.

One of Europe's largest 11th century fortresses.

The architecture of the city is incredible.  You will find Romanesque and Gothic churches, as well as Renaissance and Baroque inspired structures.
I'm not sure who this fella is, but he's got a helluva beard and colourful sword.
After we passed this fellow, we walked through an archway into a massive courtyard and this was directly in front of us.
Bronwyn and Fintan were captivated by the massive cathedral.
There has been a cathedral of sorts here since 774, but over the years there have been builds, rebuilds, fires etc.  The current Baroque styled cathedral was completed in 1628.  World War II wasn't kind to the cathedral. A single bomb crashed through the central dome and restoration work wasn't completed until 1959. 

So ya, not bad....

Just outside the cathedral, on the right hand side, is another large square.  In the square, is a large street chess game.  The crazy thing is, I remember this street chess game from when I visited here 26 years ago!

The kids and I watched on as the duo battled for Austrian chess supremacy.

The man with the Golden Ball watches out over the match.
Salzburg Cathedral with Golden Ball just outside the entrance.

I'm not sure what the motivation was for Golden Ball, but I'm sure he caused a ruckus with some of the old folks.

Probably the most famous thing about Salzburg is that it's the birth place of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, you may have heard of him?  Well, if you haven't, you clearly didn't have kids that you bought the Baby Mozart DVD's for.

So, a funny thing about this sculpture.  It was unveiled in 1842 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his death (1842 was 51 years after his death), the sculpture shows Wolfie holding a pencil.  Well apparently, according to the Berlitz guide, the pencil wasn't invented until 20 or 30 years after his death.  What's next?  A sculpture of Jesus with an iPhone?  

All things Wolfie!
The old town is loaded with streets just like this.  Stunning.
All things Easter!

Well that's it for tonight, we will explore the rest of the town in the morning.

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