Day 36: Zurich’s Riches

Every city on arrival has inspired me. Everything is so fresh, new, and exciting. I feel like I am abandoning the children I left behind: the cities that were so sweet, quaint, and lovely. Each one had their unique qualities, but I can’t help but look forward to the adventures in the near and present future.

Attached are some photos of a do-it-yourself city tour I took on Saturday morning. It was unbearably hot by time 2pm struck–it was well over 90 degrees. The street parade was taking place, and by time I got to the train station there were floods of celebrators, mostly young and in costumes and wigs, ready to tackle hundreds of music venues spread throughout the city. Many of the party-goers appeared to be from within Europe–Italians, Dutch, Eastern Europeans, and the like. They were ready to PAR-TEE!!

A curious contingent of Asians were in one of the small squares with yellow T-shirts promoting democracy. I thought that was a bit strange but learned afterwards that students and residents of Malaysia were protesting against their prime minister and were demanding for his resignation. He apparently was dictatorial and had mis-managed funds. Another group in yellow T-shirts were just getting out early ahead of the parade and entertaining tourists on the street.

Switzerland is frightfully expensive, so I am staying on the outskirts of town. The location feels South Peninsula-like, with many new internet and bio-tech firms concentrated in the area among spanking new housing. I noticed on my run this morning that new housing includes heavy metal louvers over each window as a standard. (even on my hotel window). It definitely helps provide shading and environmental advantages from the strong sun and temperatures here.

There was also a playroom in this new housing development. American architects have studied ideal housing in Europe consistently, yet I still do not see this level of integration for children in public or private housing in the U.S. At the same time, it would be perfect if housing can incorporate activities for seniors such as a support system for day care within the same development. Time to consider this approach and how we can get it to happen.

As a contrast, as there always are, I had to beat it to the supermarket before 9pm last night. They are closed on Sundays. I guess Americans just look like a bunch of workaholics who can’t get their lives together to avoid the food shopping on Sundays. Or else we just eat so much we run out of food every day, and need access to the Sabbath for that last beer. Maybe we should establish a one-day-a-week food-buying moratorium to curb the urge??

Day 35: Yummy Tummy Summary

Here’s a special summary of what specialties and dishes I have encountered of late. Nothing from 5-star or destination restaurants, just high quality, places with proud owners who turn out good food at reasonable prices for its customers. The featured image above came as a simple bed of three bread choices as a starter, with chilled rolls of butter wrapped in foil. I thought it was an elegant presentation of Austria’s finest.

Some of these dishes along the way were left out of earlier posts for one reason or another. My focus in this post is about how I have drastically modified my food choices. Despite all the temptations and delicious food, restaurant food on an on-going basis is not sustainable. I’d be the last person to admit that, but even I have hit my limit…at least, for today.

The first few meals were hard to pass up:

1. A tasty salad of shaved mushrooms from the Vienna Kunsthistorishes Museum Cafe.

2. Another museum special in Salzburg, of roasted chicken on a bed of hominy and salad. It was delicately flavored and delicious. Museum cafes are convenient and seem to have good environments with great views and pretty reliable food, even if they are a bit slow or lack business. It’s also easy for a singleton like me to slide in and enjoy a nice glass of wine with my meal without feeling like I’m unpaired.

3. Wiener Schnitzel at the cafe across from the Freud Museum had a coating that was unbelievable. Better than any tempura or batter fried fish you ever had–crisp, hot, not oily and melted-in-your-mouth scrumptious. The problem was that the portion was enough for three big men, but I ate it anyway. (This was my predicament for the past few weeks, whether it was a salad, fish, or ANYTHING on a plate! What happened to those tiny meals in Russia??)

By the end of the week, however, I was yearning for the plain and simple. I arrived in Zurich making a dash for the nearby supermarket, conveniently across the street from the hotel. I was able to conjure up a delicious summer salad with Scottish lox, raspberries, tomatoes, yellow pepper, and finger cucumbers, with a seeded roll and split of Italian red on the side. I was proud of how I could prepare an entire meal with ad-hoc implements and bath towels from the hotel. I’ve been trending toward this healthier, less expensive approach to food on the road.


Before leaving Linz and Austria, the famous Linzer Torte had to be tackled and deconstructed. I tasted it and wasn’t too impressed, but I am including several versions of recipes for those who are interested. Hopefully you can enlarge the print to read it. I tried holding my breath every time I take these photos with text so they don’t turn out fuzzy, but alas, I sometimes giggle uncontrollably.

The upshot of the torte is that, from what I saw, you make a sort of almond paste/marzipan type of glue that you fence onto the top of the cake smeared with jam. Pardon my description. It sounds gross but I am actually interested in trying to make a tasty version of it when I get home.
(from the Schloss Museum, Linz)
And of course everyone wants to have fame in the food world. The Linzer Torte can’t escape the temptation.

Day 34: St. Florian, A Closer Look

Time to reflect on St. Florian, the Augustinian monastery outside Linz, Austria, where I spent my last three days. At first it seemed very grim and austere, but by the time I left I felt the urge to return. It has its undeniable charm, and the offerings in the area were far beyond my expectations. The biggest draw, although I did not do it, was the Bruckner Weg, or Symphonie Weg. I described it earlier, but it’s hard to describe how excited I was by it. It combines my love of walking and music!

It’s a great way to learn about the music of a composer who was so dedicated to organ music, he wanted to be buried under the church of St. Florian. And indeed, here’s a picture of his crypt in the basement!image

I was able to discover this grand old monastery and its historical treasures that are now under appreciated and forgotten. The library holds over 140,000 volumes and about 4,000 are original books before the printing press was invented.


Other treasures were the performances in the cathedral itself. I took many videos of the two daily performances and the mass at six jsut to record the music. I guess it wasn’t really a mass because the monks all came out and chanted for about 20 minutes and there was very little audience participation. I got really curious about the Augustinians. Here’s a description if what I read in Wikipedia:

The interesting part was about their psyche. It indicated that monks were high on the masculine scale but also had a very high preponderance towards female qualities of neuroticism and detail. Wow. What a combination. I wondered if I was material for monkhood??

In any event, that minor piece of information got me to thinking what could have motivated these men to join the order. I was surprised to learn that Martin Luther was an Augustinian before he protested against the Catholic order and the papal Bulls. Eventually, he got married.☺️
Others like him must have suffered some hardship or divine inspiration. The Augustinians also have hermits too, so their monastery is a perfect place to try out the lifestyle. I wondered how Herman’s Hermits picked their name.

As the monks left the cathedral, I couldn’t help but study each face. Hmm, older, tall, and pretty handsome for their age. Is that where all the men have gone? I’m searching for my single lady friends.

It all starts to come together. All the glorious trimmings at the expense of the people. But it was interesting to see the development of the environment and understand the conflicts that were subsequently caused by it.

Here are some more views:

I mentioned some of the wonderful paths and “wanderings” available throughout Austria and Germany earlier. Switzerland probably has an awesome offering, but I haven’t heard about them yet. Although I was unable to do Jacob’s Way to Santiago de Compostela (my 19 days were already numbered), the Bruckner Way or the Symphonie Way (the museum at the far end was closed for the month of August), I took a short walk a mile away to the Hohenbrunn Schloss. It was blazing saddles, so I had to shade-spot along the path. Before arriving, I stopped to enjoy looking back at St. Florian in the distance beyond the road (pictured in the header).

Hohenbrunn, shown below, is some version of a hunting lodge built between 1722 and 1732. No one was there except me, and for a few quid I could see the entire place to myself, unaccompanied. At first it seemed a little creepy, as it felt like someone had just occupied it and left the water running somewhere. And all those guns. The one I took the picture of was one-of-a-kind. It actually is used for shooting ducks on a boat, so the boat supports the long barrel. I’ve captioned a few of the other photos that struck my fancy as I pranced through.

Front of House
Front of House

The up close and personal with the animals got a little weird. They all seemed to be having Gary Larson conversations with each other, wondering where all the human pets had disappeared to. I felt like Ben Stiller in “A Night at the Museum.”

Despite my digs at the culture in and around St. Florian, it was really pretty sweet. It took a bit of courage and good faith to come here on my own, but I stayed in contact with my support staff. I am nearly half way through my journey, and as many of you know it is not about the destinations but the process of getting there.

At times I wondered what I was doing. When I finally played my on-line music appreciation class that I brought along with me, I realized that this is real-time learning. I can hear and relate to music that is being performed. I ironically was at the point of learning about “Baroque” as in Bach vs. “Classical” music by Beethoven. That was awesome!

I hope I can convince any of you to come back with me to St. Florian. The surrounding area is luscious and vibrant, and you feel the freedom to explore at your own pace. It’s heavenly to hear the organ and Bruckner here. And yes, I am a little sad to leave.

Featured photo at top: Hoenbrunn Schloss, in St. Florian near Linz, Austria

Day 31-33: St. Florian

As a contrast to my onslaught of cultural cities, I decided to take a different path and stay at a monastery in Linz, Austria.

My first glimpse of the monastery was breathtaking, after a short but determined path uphill through a winding path. The landscape in the area is exquisite, with rolling hills and tenderly groomed patches of yellow and green plots. You would never leave here if you were from this area, I thought.

The monastery has rooms for visitors at a reasonable price, and has daily performances of one of the most magnificent organs in Europe. The highlight will be another (gulp) mass in the evening with an organ performance.

Anton Bruckner, who was an organist and composer, is a native son of the area. There is now a connection between Ansfelden, where Bruckner was born, and the Augustinian cathedral at St. Florian, where he was a choir boy. You can read about him:

A billboard advertising the Bruckner Way is located on a path outside the monastery. It lights up each path you select among several different paths. You can view the Google image below. “Wanderers” can choose from the more mild “running shoes” paths and those for more advanced “hikers”. Trips run any where from 5-20 km.

The walk even has an MP3 player for hire that has all 12 Bruckner symphonies on it, so you can listen to it while you are on the trail. You can also arrange for a taxi to take you back if you only want to do a one-way trip. I thought that this was an excellent idea and wished this system that is available throughout Europe were established in the U.S.

This path forms part of the “Jacob’s Way” and leads a pedestrian all the way to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. I googled it and you can do it in a mere 19 days from here. If you “boots are made for walking” here’s a place to use them.
This walk was one I had always contemplated, until I realized why they advised carrying a poncho.

Day 30b: Viennese Sights

1. In and around Vienna: St. Stephen’s Cathedral and Plaza area (also featured image), and a street scene near Mozart’s House in Vienna. Notice the wide contrast in architectural styles, right in the cultural center of the city.

2. The Albertina and a collection of Modern Art from Carl Djerassi

These are only a few of the works I liked in particular, from his extensive collection that include Lichtenstein, Warhol, Gerhard Richter, and Klee.

Read about Carl Djerassi’s possible connection to San Francisco:, or better yet read this fascinating obituary in the Telegraph: The Klees on display are part of the Djerassi Trust and has been promised to the Albertina. I wonder if there is a tug of war going on between the SF MOMA and the Albertina. It might be interesting to follow it as part of the art world’s pursuit of wealthy collectors and their endowments.

Gerhard Richter is one of Melissa’s favorite artists. The black and white portrait of a woman smoking was not obvious until I took a picture of it!

By the way, I discovered that Adolf Loos was Austrian (and Czech). Here’s some interesting information about him:

3. The Vienna Opera House: from an evening of Mozart music.

Now, after three “variety shows” of operatic music and concert pieces featuring Mozart and Strauss, I can hear the difference. Strauss added alot of drums and brass but also contrasted these boomers with sweet melodies. They are a crowd pleaser and I admit I became mesmerized by the rhythm and tunes. Unfortunately, the opera is closed in August so there are no regular performances. If you come in August you are stuck with the tourist track.

Updated 8/23 11:10pm

Day 30a: St. Augustine

Greed and curiosity are a dangerous combination. After careful consideration and planning, I decided to attend an organ concert at St. Augustine Church in the heart of Vienna’s tourist center, near the Hapsburg Palace. The palace is a messy complex of buildings that have been extended over 300 years. Spaces between buildings have been filled in, and arcades and passageways were added for protection from inclement weather.

After locating the church yesterday and inquiring again today to make sure that there was a concert, I felt pretty confident I was at the right place at the right time. The priest at the door advised me that I should make a donation at the end as there is no charge for the concert, and I thought that was pretty fair. As I entered just a few minutes before 11am, I was surprised to find that the church was full. I quickly found a single spot in a section full of visitors.

The organ music started promptly and the priest and his entourage entered. Hmm, I thought. Pretty big regalia for a concert. Only then did it enter my mind that this might be a “Mass”, and not just an organ concert. It was, after all, Sunday, wasn’t it?? Shortly after the introductory music stopped abruptly, the priest began reciting a lot of words very slowly in German. Initially I revelled in the high German spoken so eloquently and the few words I could recognize, “Heiligen Geist” and “Jesus Christo”. It was a Mass!, and not just an organ performance! Uh Oh.

A few hymns and stand ups-and-downs later (I even hummed along), I realized that those around me weren’t the expected tour groups or even individual tourists that I had been accustomed to tolerating at performances. They weren’t even the smattering of Italian or Spanish couples and their families I had seen gesturing and heard rolling their R’s on the U-Bahn. I was in the midst of German-speaking devotees, who could recite the verses on cue and sing all the hymns unprompted.

As I started to sweat uncontrollably, I decided that I should just tough it out. Make myself obscure. The sermon wasn’t any different from listening in English, only better. The music was lovely. It was a complete Sensurround experience, with the best operatic voices I have ever heard in a church. The high ceilings and refined arches were a cross between a Lutheran Church and Cologne Cathedral. All the senses were covered. The incense swung at the beginning, creating a waft of mystic trance. The music, which was my purpose in attending, was truly heavenly to your ears. Everyone there touched the sacred ground the church was built upon. And, if you are baptized, you get a little wafer at the end.

Unfortunately, my only exposure to Catholic mass in the past has been very limited, so my apologies to those believers reading this. The last time and only time I went to a mass was at Mission Delores with Gee Kin’s niece from New Zealand maybe ten years ago. That was in English and it was still intimidating, so I don’t think it’s the language issue. It’s when everyone gets up, kneels, and goes for the wafer. So you stay seated, admitting guilt for your sins? Or do you go get one and fake your devotion? Obviously I opted for the former, feeling that I should get mileage points for honesty and bravery.

I had been to plenty of musical performances in churches in Leipzig, Paris and elsewhere. Boys’ choirs and concerts were normally held in the afternoons or evenings. I had failed to take notice the “messe” word in the German program. And despite Gee Kin’s niece prompting me at the mass I attended with her, it was a long time ago and I was a bit rusty on the protocols.

Maybe all the Germans there were only mimicking each other for the same reason I was there? It really wasn’t that bad. I wasn’t made to feel uncomfortable in any way. You just want to know what’s going on and what you are supposed to do. How did I manage myself into a situation like this? Was it greed, curiosity, ignorance, or all of the above? I muttered my regrets between my breath. This was an experience equivalent to a Vegan showing up at a Chinese wedding banquet and not knowing that meat is on the menu.

In the end, it was quite a respectable ceremony. The music was beautiful, and obviously why so much classical music was created for and from the Church. (Haydn, Mozart, and Bach were on the program). The size, shape and proportions of the cathedral were perfect acoustically and better than any symphony hall. The operatic singers could project their voices and make the music more godly and beautiful for everyone. Despite my mishap, I came out glad to have been there. But I have to remember what happens sometimes on a Sunday morning.

Day 29: Sugar Pie Honey Bun…

…Can’t help myself! Everywhere you go this is where you’d died and gone to heaven. Sacher Torte, my death potion this time, was a tough choice against apfel strudel with custard, vs. traditional. I have to try them all, so this is my pick.

Ed. Note: this is a real time post from the cafe of the Kunsthistorishes Museum in Vienna, at approx. 2pm Saturday, August 22.

Day 28: Schonbrunn to Apfel Strudels

Today’s adventure was to Schonbrunn Palace, the summer residence of the Hapsburgs. The featured image above is the SIDE of the palace, not the main elevation. That’s about 5 times the width of this view. As mentioned earlier, this tops Versailles in my mind. The Austrians, in the tour guide’s words: are “crazy”. The palace tour provided proof of the royalty’s propensity towards personality disorders. There were numerous amusing stories and morbid details. The guide repeated several times “don’t believe what you see in the palace—it’s all an illusion”, referring to the wooden chandeliers painted to look like solid gold, pictures of important dignitaries who were not present at an event, and elaborate settings that even the royalty couldn’t hack.

Among the many amusing stories were those about hygiene and infestation. Thanks to the Catholic Church, the priests promoted the idea that bad men smaller than the eye could see existed in the water. They could get into your pores through water and make you die. For thats reason alone and for 400 years no one wanted to wash. They only took baths once or twice a year. Slowly through a catholic edit they were able to wash once a month.

For that reason, so much death and dying occurred. Infant mortality was very high; the queen and women spent many years bearing children, many of whom died in infancy. Out of 15-20 children, only 2-4 would survive. During this time, someone you knew either died of smallpox, influenza, or the plague before 35. The fact that some people, let alone royalty, lived to 50 years old would be considered our present-day octogenarians or older.

The concept of the “flea Market” comes from one of the few activities that both rich and poor engaged in. During that time, monkeys were used to deflea and delouse inhabitants. All people were living and breathing biosystems infested with organisms that bred on the human body. The average person’s idea of a spa day was going to the market where they could get deloused or be rid of fleas in public. The monkeys ate the lice and fleas, and everyone was entertained in the process. The royalty didn’t do it in public venues, but had their own monkeys trained to do the same for them. It made me itching to watch someone I know partaking in this purging and richly satisfying event.

The pompadours and hair styles of the royalty often weighed more than several pounds, as they were from many years of growth from their own hair. In order to wash their hair, it took a lot of planning, help from others and a full day’s activity. Like washing, this was another once-to-twice a year event, because of the difficulty in organizing the cleaning (there were plenty of other distractions and more interesting things to do than this). They also had to wait an entire day for the hair to dry—sorry, no Vidal Sassoon dryers were on hand.

Obviously, I was inspired and paid more attention to this tour than others in the past. I guess this one of gore and filth really appealed to me and reminded me that I didn’t want to be one of the royalty anyway. I gave the tour guide 5 stars, though.

I’m attaching a few off-the beaten track photos I took while cruising the grounds.
I indulged in apple strudel at lunchtime and had that AHA moment. The dough is stretched like pizza to make it chewy, and they add breadcrumbs to the apples to soak up the liquid. I was reading the recipe from a cookbook I bought for that purpose and realized that I was eating what I was reading. So here it is to share with you. I am also attaching a recipe for Salzburger Nockerl for those of you who were wondering what I was talking about.

A few of VV’s Random, Spur-of-the-Moment World-Wise Travel Tips:

1. The supermarket is your friend. Find the nearest one as soon as you can, and buy fruits and vegetables for salads to maintain your diet. It can at least balance the rich foods you will be pigging out on in the restaurants. Eating out is often cheaper than eating healthy, so you have to swim upstream on this.
2. Do your own laundry. After not having any options in Russia, I finally started washing my own laundry. I managed to avoid this for a long time, even on all my travels. But now I am borrowing Gee Kin’s tips to use bath gel or shampoo to wash my underwear and even my designer jeans. I finally resolved that it takes less time to do this on Day 1 of a five-day hotel stay and have plenty of time for the items to dry out, than searching for and going to a laundry. You will find creative ways to hang garments on clothes hangers, such as any door knobs or projections in the hotel room—even on lamp shades!
3. Take public transit. Forget taxis, unless you are in a jam. I love cracking the entire bus and mass transit system if there is one.
4. Stay cool. Stay in the shade whenever you are at those palace grounds, walking 3 miles to the gazebo. Wear a wide brimmed hat and check your path before you move. Don’t follow tourists who are notoriously stupid about these types of things.
5. Save a screen shot of your arrival point to the hotel. Its often easy to forget. If you are taking public transit your phone is not often connected to wifi at the train station or airport. You can also show these at tourist information counters where you want to go, and point to it if you don’t speak the language.
6. Get a phrase guide for the country you are visiting off-line on your phone. Use it to practice while you are on the road.
7. Use wi-fi only in the hotels and turn off your cellular phone coverage. Check your provider in advance for options to cellular access but only if needed.
8. Bring bandaids for sore feet.
9. Find the biggest, flattest royal grounds to walk or run 3 miles every chance you can get.
10. Can’t make it to 10, so it’s the Top Nine.

Some are obvious, some are not. The ones at the top are from the fact that I have battled with these for years as a world traveler, tried to avoid them, and then finally resigned myself to facing the music. No magic bullets. Some learn faster than others.

Day 27: Vienna

My arrival in Vienna was punctuated by a performance at the Hofburg Palace, the winter residence of the Hapsburgs, to hear Viennese waltzes and Mozart arias. This was not before I made a deviation to a nearby exhibition in the adjacent building entitled: “Vienna: the World City”, that happened to be located in the Austrian National Library, one of the treasures of the world.

When Vienna was about to host a world exhibition in Vienna, Franz Josef decided in 1857 that it was time to demolish some of the old parts of the city center for a Ringstrasse, or Ring Road. As part of this development, he implemented a number of improvements for the city. Among them were the water distribution system and the Vienna Opera House. He set up a competition for the water system that was won by Suess, an Austrian geologist. Unfortunately, the architects who designed the Vienna opera house never saw its completion as one committed suicide after harsh criticism, and another died before the opera house was finished. It’s worth reading the text attached if you are interested.

You can also read a synopsis of Viennese and Austrian history that helped me get a better understanding here:

The Hapsburg Empire lasted over six centuries, one of the longest reigns in European history. As a result, the grandeur of the royalty remains among the most opulent and excessive of any city I have seen. While it has been nearly 50 years since I was first in Vienna, I do not recall any other city with such a display of pomp and wealth as this one.

Ironically, back to my undeniable and insatiable consumption of culture generated by wealth and greed. That will take more than another long essay to reconcile. Maybe these travels will finally kick me of this addiction.

The performance was the perfect end to a long travel day: Viennese favorites Johann Strauss Walzes and Mozart operatic arias led a debonaire Andre Rieu-like conductor with a humorous flair.


Days 24-26: Salzburger Knockouts

I’ve been trying to get my dose of Salzburger Nockerl, a famous local dish made from pure egg white meringue. Unfortunately, it has eluded me so far. I either wasn’t in the right cafe that serves it, or didn’t have the 20 minutes it takes to prepare it.

Despite this oversight, I finally struck gold in many other ways on my last couple of days here. I got it all and what I love about traveling: quality architecture, quality museums, quality music, quality food, and of course, quality people! The tag posts seem to tell it all.

I’m trying to reduce and concentrate the number of posts to only a few a week (Wednesdays and weekends) so I don’t flood your email boxes. Unfortunately, it makes the posts longer.

Here’s a spread of what this richly, well-endowed, and now much appreciated little city of Salzburg has to offer. To make it a little easier, I’m including a summary so you can skip to the parts that interest you:

1. Salzburg Fortress (Festung)
2. Mozart Houses (Birthplace and Living Quarters)
3. Performances (my raison d’etre for being here, but not necessarily the most exciting)
4. Food and People

1. The Salzburg Festung, or fortress, was very informative and an excellent excursion today. Gee Kin would be proud of me-I trooped up the hill and partook of the view from the top. Because Salzburg is so overrun with tourists, the city has managed to take tourists’ needs to heart. They provide excellent displays and explanations in English (for those of us brain-dead in German). They even had a electronic kiosk soliciting feedback at the end of the tour.

There were many architectural or design features I had not seen before. Those listed are not in any particular fashion. Follow the captions for specific items. You can hover over the photos now to see the captions.

1. Stone columns honed in a fashion the way wood is turned on a stile;
2. Matching metalwork
3. Torture elements–aha! can anyone venture a guess what this contraption is?? (see below)
4. A wooden threshold that was so old and worn that it exposed the “knuckles” of the knots from the tree, like aged knuckles on a centogenarian
5. A section of real arches that shows how they were constructed.
6. A display of how they created cranes to haul stonework up the mountain.
7. A latrine that was one of the first of its kind
8. Romanesque arch construction displayed

And a few morbid items from the torture storeroom to remind us of our mortality.

Since the fortress was built in the 11th century and over a period of hundreds of years, the museum was able to trace its construction history. It was an exciting architectural exhibition of walls, innovations and construction methodology. While most of the fortress was reinforced and expanded in the 15th century, it captures the various early periods from Romanesque beginnings to High Renaissance.
2. Mozart’s Birthplace and House:

3. Performances:

The star quality of these performances have been a bit mind-boggling. The interesting point is that my favorite opera star, Jonas Kaufmann, was not at the top of his game in Fidelio. The music was deep and entrancing, but his performance was weak. The opera performances shown here were much better. These performers can really deliver full-bodied voices and their skill and dedication really shows. Audiences were very responsive and clapped heartily.

4. Food and People: On my last day here, I decided to go for the two-hour lunch instead of the evening dinner option. My lunch was celebrated at the Heimer Specery. I took my time, had a small antipasti plate of eggplant, sun dried tomato and roasted red pepper with Prosecco, followed by the house specialty, a succulent full bodied pork chop that comes from the establishment’s own piggery. Along with a glass of rose, this was the chef’s recommendation so it had better be good. And it schmecked, or tasted delicious! I had just told Gee Kin that I thought pork was often disappointing as a dinner entree. I often found it dry and uninspiring. After your third bite you wish you had ordered the branzino. Well, I wasn’t disappointed this time. This little restaurant around the corner from the Festival Hall delivered to demanding regulars and I was a beneficiary.

The night before, I took my place at another restaurant (the one I went to for lunch today was fully booked 2 nights in a row, thus the lunch decision). As I was about to hog a table for four all by my lonesome, another gentleman was looking for a single at the same time. He asked if he could join me, the very exact same time another woman came along and did the same! I was very flattered, and didn’t mind the company at all. I was even more delighted when I learned that neither of them spoke English!

The three of us ended up with a very friendly conversation, and I had a chance to practice my elementary German. It was frustrating as I could ask basic questions but never “got” the answers. They drifted to fairly complex conversations about what the two dinner partners thought of the Greek Crisis, Angela Merkel, and the operas they were seeing. The gentleman’s nephew was performing in the opera we were about to see (Angela Georghiou in Werther). He was a baritone and did very well.

What I like about traveling is connecting the dots. I was flashing on how non-English speakers must feel when they are asked questions. After a few pleasantries, a zero-tolerance policy toward any non-English speakers seems to drift into the picture. Native English speakers tend to expect everyone to speak English, even in non-English speaking countries!

Well, the tables were definitely turned here. I felt stupid, unable to respond to simple political and economic questions. While it made me more determined to learn German, it made me reflect on how hard it is for many people in many countries to master English. I certainly came to that conclusion as I realized I could only sit and muse as the two native German speakers became very engaged and animated in their conversation. Sadly, I could only plaster a smile on my face and pretend that I understood everything.

German women seem to like short spiky hair, blow-dried behind the ears. Subtle platinum highlights, or jet red. Less Gothic these days. The woman who joined me was of the subtler version, and very svelt. She worked for a pharma company in Regensburg, and drove two hours each way to come to the performances this week. The gentleman from Innsbruck was a retired German teacher. It was, despite my misgivings, really fun trying out my German with no English back-talk.

Here are a few random street shots. The urban planning and insight for local Salzburgers and tourists alike are appreciated and well used in high density pedestrianized areas borne out of necessity. Delivery trucks and taxis drive right over the fountains and gutters, and everyone shares the paths in a symbiotic way.