January 10, 2017

Away we go: Salzburg

On Day 6 of our trip to Germany, we took an hour and a half morning train ride over to Salzburg, Austria. 

When we were planning out the each of the days for our trip we were planning to start them early - 6 or 7 am - so that we can get as many hours in to sightsee as we can since we weren't planning on staying overnight. I already mentioned how in the past this worked perfectly well for us, but this trip made us realize that we no longer have the stamina to go long hours without feeling terribly tired. 

And so instead of buying expensive train tickets, we switched our plans last minute and bought the Bayern ticket, which are affordable ticket prices to travel around Bavaria and nearby areas, including Salzburg, which is considered a border town. The only catch with the Bayern ticket is that during the weekday you can only use it after 9 am (you can use it before 9 am during the weekend).

Choosing the affordable ticket had its cons -- starting late cut into our sightseeing time and we didn't get to see everything we had wanted in each of the places we went to, but seeing as though how easily tired we got, and sleep really helped us recuperate, starting slightly later in the day and going with the Bayern ticket probably worked out for the best.

Salzburg was one of the places I looked forward to the most. I know this sounds silly but growing up as a child trained in classical music, you kind of grow up with all things Mozart. You don't know how many times my days were filled with listening to Mozart and watching Amadeus (I still watch it like it is my first time watching). And so a big part of me was looking forward to the birthplace of Mozart. 

Salzburg is also a place where The Sound of Music was partially filmed. For friends who have followed our story for a while, you know how much The Sound of Music means to me. I grew up watching it (my mom loved musicals and The Sound of Music was one of those movies that she introduced me and brother to as kids and it often played in our home) and Yangkyu and I watch it every Thanksgiving evening. It's our little tradition. I know the words to all the songs and even to this day, I don't get sick of watching it.

There is a Sound of Music tour offered by a few touring companies in Salzburg, and as much as I love The Sound of Music, Yangkyu and I opted not to do it. We were already short on time and I didn't want to spend too much time doing one tour. I thought maybe we would try to at least go and see some shooting locations on our own, but this did not happen either. But that's ok. 

Backtracking a little -- as soon as we arrived in Salzburg, we purchased the Salzburg Card. It was one of the best things we purchased as it gave us free passes to museums, the fortress funicular and public transportation. I think it also gives you extended discounts on concerts, performances and other excursions, and while we didn't make use of that, purchasing the Salzburg Card still worked towards our advantage greatly. We purchased the Salzburg Card in the TI booth located inside the train station at the Salzburg Hauptbahnhof. 

The first place we visited while we were in Salzburg was the Residenz (free entrance with the Salzburg Card). But we didn't end up spending much time here as we did with the Munich Residenz. I think part of me felt a bit pressed for time. 

But one of my favorite places to visit in Salzburg (and where we did spend a good amount of time, although not enough) was the Hohensalzburg Fortress. It was huge and enormous and it was a little town all on its own. I only wish we had more time to stay there and enjoy the Christmas market and the eateries. We did get to enjoy the museum and Marionette Exhibit and walk around a bit. I was looking forward to the funicular ride up (where we didn't have to get on the long, hectic lines to purchase a ticket because of our Salzburg Card) but honestly, the ride wasn't all that great. We were all packed in like sardines and it was so crowded that it was hard to breathe and enjoy the scenery going up and down the fortress. I believe you also have the option of walking up the Fortress. Steep but doable walk.

My second most favorite thing to do in Salzburg was visiting Mozart's Birthplace (Geburtshaus), the house which he was born. I was looking forward to this museum but didn't expect too much because I read that it was pretty small. And while it wasn't sprawling, to me, it was intriguing, captivating and, quite frankly, amazing.

We unfortunately went at the same time a bunch of students were on a school trip and they were loud and boisterous and didn't care too much to be there, but we made do by staying behind in the first room and trying to take in all the information as slowly as possible to let the crowds of students through first. 

Because of time constraints, we didn't get a chance to go visit Mozart's Residence. Some of the museums closed around 5 or 6 pm and so that left us little room to go make rounds to all the places we wanted to see. This would happen at other cities we visited including Nuremburg, which had so many sights we wanted to see but missed out on. 

While Salzburg was beautiful and breathtaking, there were some things that happened here, which got me feeling a little puzzled. Some incidents required a bit of understanding on my part to not feel offended, while other incidents still feels like a bad experience (small but bad).

You know, when we were researching everything about Munich, one of the things that kept coming up was encouraging tourists to learn a little German and speak it while visiting. Something as basic as saying hello, good bye, good day, asking for simple directions and ordering something to eat or drink. It shows appreciation and also respect in a sense where you don't go to another country and expect everyone there to speak English. At first, this was a concept that was so hard for me to understand. 

Growing up, I hated it when people spoke to me in Korean (or whatever they thought was Korean) because for me, my experience with people speaking to me in my native language wasn't out of respect and appreciation, but to make fun and humiliate. It was to say that I was different. And inferior. I'm sure every Asian American kid has grown up with a classmate who came up to them with slanty eyes, making ching chong sounds and asking if we spoke English. Nevermind that we're American as well (either born in the US or naturalized, like myself) and that some of us don't even speak our heritage language. So this gesture, speaking in "your language" has always been a negative experience. And so I never really tried to speak to anyone in their language, afraid that maybe I would offend them too. 

In Salzburg, Yangkyu and I were in a chocolate shop and after we had paid, the elderly lady at the cash register said "xie xie", which is thank you in Mandarin. Leading up to this point, we had a couple of experiences - inside a restaurant and on the train - of people saying "konichiwa" or "sayonara" to us (which means good afternoon and good bye in Japanese - a language we don't speak because we are not Japanese nor are we Mandarin speaking Chinese). It felt as though it was mocking (a rowdy group of guys at a restaurant who had several rounds of drinks who said "konichiwa" as they passed by our table on their way out and a drunken couple who said "sayonora" behind us in the train - I guess you can blame alcohol, or not). 

Anyway, Yangkyu just smiled and I just ignored the "xie xie". But the elderly lady thought that we didn't hear her and said "xie xie" again, but louder. I (reluctantly) smiled, because I didn't want to come off rude, and said "Oh, we are not Chinese. We're Korean American." She paused and looked up thinking something and then said with a big smile, "Gam sa ham ni da!" That means thank you in Korean. I smiled, this time genuine, and said, "Yep. You got it. That means thank you in Korean." I realized then that for this woman, speaking in someone's native tongue was meant as a sign of appreciation. She took the time to memorize a word and use it at an appropriate time and thought I would be happy that someone did that. 

To be honest, any other time I would have gotten nit picky because for me while I was born in Korea, I am more comfortable with English. Although my second language, it has been my primary language for 31 years of my life (I am 38 years old). And so when someone who says "thank you" to me in English, it is speaking my language.

But to most, because I look different, because I look Asian, "thank you" or any other word in English would never really be thought to be my primary language. It's a sad fact that I live with every day. And while I don't want to diminish this lady's efforts and kindness in trying to extend a warm hand, my experience with language and how I have come to perceive language being used toward me should also not be invalidated. Some people say, "why do you always make things about race. She didn't mean it." I'm sure she didn't, but that doesn't mean she shouldn't know what she is doing can really imply. And because my whole life has been cast in the light of race, to me, a lot of my experiences and perspectives is about race. 

The other incidents were more off putting - maybe petty to even mention. 

Inside the gift shop, there was a person in front of me paying, and I was the only other customer in line. The man in front of me and the person behind the cash register were carrying on a conversation that felt so long that it made me feel a little awkward and uncomfortable to be just standing there. A few words to exchange is fine but there comes a point when you're standing there, with items in your hand, and you think, "um.. do you not want me to buy these?" It was awkward to me but I was trying to not let it get to me because we had a similar incident when we were visiting the King's Castles.

We were inside a small gift shop and after a number of customers paid and left, I was the only one left in the store. Just as I was done looking and I had walked up to the cash register with a number of items, when he received a phone call. The conversation carried for what I felt like was forever. To the point where standing there felt really uncomfortable. I almost left because it really felt like she was ignoring me on purpose. When she got off, she didn't apologize and said, "Oh that was my boss and I couldn't tell him to hang up or hold on." My initial reaction was, I didn't want to buy anything from that store, but I didn't want to be rude and walk off. But after encountering the similar incident at the Salzburg Residenz, I thought maybe perhaps that's just the way the culture is. No one really rushes, and people take time to talk to one another. I am not sure if this is true, but perhaps it is another way of looking at it. 

Which brings me to another cash register incident inside the Hohensalzburg Castle. I am not sure if this person is just really unhappy with her job, and while I don't expect people to smile at me, everything about her gesture was just really unwelcoming. When this happens, I immediately regret getting in line to buy. Why spend money at a place that treated me badly?

But what do I do? I get afraid that I might come off rude as well so I just suck it up and just go through with the unpleasant experience. But she took the cake though when she haphazardly passed Yangkyu's credit card back to him and dropped it and fell off to the wayside and she didn't even bother picking it back up to give it back to him. I was so appalled that I literally stuck around after paying to see if she was like this to other customers. She wasn't as rude, but she seemed really unhappy working there while attending to other customers. But other people also didn't mind the rudeness and I thought perhaps I am more sensitive to these experiences than most people. {shrug}

The final scratch my head moment came inside the Residenz again. There weren't a lot of people viewing the Residenz and in one of the rooms, we had the security people follow us around to make sure we wouldn't touch anything. They were following us, peeking over at us and just watching us like a hawk. This was partly the reason why we didn't stick around much and left quickly. Perhaps they experience inappropriate behaviors from tourists all the time, like touching when they are not supposed to, but being rounded up and generalized as tourist who would do such things just didn't make me feel very good. These kinds of things really put a damper in my day. 

But there is bound to be unpleasant experiences where travel is concerned and while I write about these experiences, there were more pleasant, kind and wonderful people than not. We had strangers looking out for us, online friends who drove out to meet us in person and gift us with good company, conversation and food, random people who gave us directions and help whenever we were lost and friendly vendors who gave us extra chestnuts and the ripest of apples. 

We ended our time in Salzburg at the Christmas market and spent time listening to carolers. It reminded me of home. It reminded me of Piri. It made me think of Bartles and all the untold stories yet to be told when we go back home.

On our way back to the train station, we came across a bridge with all these locks. I wished I knew about this beforehand because I would've brought one with our names -- Piri, Yangkyu, Jane and Bartles. I regretted missing out on the chance. (One of the reasons we had wanted to go to Paris was to put a lock on the bridge there, but then a friend told us it was taken down because of weight issues. I had no idea!)

The train ride back to Munich was a peaceful one. But it made me think a lot of Piri. The long train rides did that often in Germany. It made me cry a lot but laugh as well. 

We missed a lot of sightseeing places in Salzburg, but walking around at the fortress, Mozart's birthplace, the Salzburg Christmas market, St. Peter's Cemetary and Alter Markt was enough to make our trip well worth it. 

The following day, Yangkyu and I made an early trip out to Rothenberg ob der Tauber, truly a storybook town. There we had our long time Instagram friend and her family meet us and it was a such joyous meeting that went by too fast. 

Hope you'll come back for that story. 


  1. Salzburg is such a pretty city. You got some beautiful shots of it!
    I know what you mean by being uncomfortable about people trying to use random Asian languages on you, even while travelling. Your feelnigs are valid and I don't think other people should try and minimise them.

  2. Oh wow, such a beautiful beautiful place! Sorry about your unpleasant encounters, I'd like to put it down to people just not thinking how things may effect others, which is a terrible excuse - people should just be kind! Lovely to see you had lots of good encounters too :) Also the things you missed out on just means you have reason to visit again :) :)

  3. I have had bad experiences in every Asian country I've been to-- people blatantly making fun of me for my weight has been the worst, but most common thing. It happened so much in Vietnam that I spent a lot of time in Hanoi in my hotel or just sitting in coffee shops reading. While these bad experiences are hard to deal with in the moment, I try to not let it overshadow the good parts of my trips (which are more significant than the bad). When I get some distance (in time) from the incident, it's not as bad. I look back on my trip to Cambodia and Myanmar with really fond memories and try to chalk up the negatives as cultural differences (because lord knows I've had some terrible experience in Korea haha).

    I hope the good of your trip outweighs the bad you encountered.

  4. Beautiful place!! Manners are so different in each place, but rudeness always bothers me. I like that the lady took the time to learn another language, but it would have been polite to ask if you needed it or not.Or really just spoke english or her native language back. But, I'm glad there were happier moments. These photos are incredible x

  5. Jane, I would've thought the same things. How you felt doesn't go unwarranted. There seems to be rude behavior worldwide. HaHaHa I have been so impressed with your trip! I read about Mozart's birthplace and the fact that you saw it is so awesome. I love the holiday shops over there. Thank you for bringing these amazing places to us. I hope you travel even more in 2017.


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