Freezing, slipping, and now raining, oh well

Trip Start Dec 09, 2012
Trip End Dec 20, 2012

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Amacerto river boat

Flag of Austria  ,
Sunday, December 16, 2012

Today was a busy day first we made port in the town of Passau, Austria. Passau is known as "The Town of the Three River" because it lays at the junction of the Inn, the Danube, and the Ilz rivers. High up on a bluff sits the Oberhaus fortress.  The fortress was important in the protection of the old town against enemy attacks.  The city has a 2000 yr old history with the city walls standing as proof of the presence of Roman armies, troops led by Charlemagne, crusaders' campaigns, Turkish battles, and Napoleon's soldiers.  Ok just to give credit where credit is due, most of the information on Passau I just copied from The Daily Cruiser, the ships daily information sheets.

Anyhow, Ron and I didn’t stay and tour Passau instead we took a side excursion to Salzburg, Austria, yes for all of you Sound of Music fans, THE Salzburg.  The drive from Passau to Salzburg took about two hours but it was through the German/Austrian countryside and it was beautiful.  Of course the weather could have been better but beauty is still beauty even when it rains.  Yes that’s right we have went from freezing in Prague,  to slipping in Regensburg, to rain in Salzburg but what you going to do you can’t change the weather.   Anyhow I don’t have a lot of info about Salzburg so the blog won’t be very long but I’ll give you what I’ve go.  Two side notes, one in Austria cars must have snow tires from November 1 thru April 15 and if your car doesn’t you can get a ticket.  Two, there is some thought by some countries to reinstate border controls within the European Union, why because once someone comes into the European Union he/she can move about freely and there is no way to track them and some believe crime is increasing because of this.  Also during our drive to Salzburg we passed near Oberndorf which is where the song Silent Night was written in 1818.  The story goes on Christmas Eve the priest went to the church and found that the organ was not working so Christmas Eve mass was going to be ruined so the priest showed the organist, Franz Bauer, a new hymn he had written, Franz quickly composed a tune for it and played it on his guitar, and that’s how Silent Night came to be.

Now let’s talk "The Sound of Music".  The movie did not make it big in Europe only in the United States.  Why well two reasons, one it was made in English and back in the 1960’s few Europeans spoke English.  Two it brought up WWII and most of Europe just wanted to forget about WWII.  However, our guide did have a few interesting little tidbits about the “real” von Trapp drama.  Now if you are a big Sound of Music fan you may want to skip this paragraph because I have to say I was somewhat traumatized by what I learned, just saying.  Ok, well the first thing I learned was Maria was not hired as a governess for all of the children really she was hired as a tutor for the oldest daughter.  The second thing I learned was that Capitan Georg Ritter von Trapp married Maria in 1927 and she was his junior by twenty-five years.  They did not leave Austria until 1938, eleven years and three children later when Capitan von Trapp declined the Nazi Party’s invitation to be recommissioned.   Finally, the last thing I learned was they did not climb over the mountains to make their escape, instead they left Austria by, can you believe this, by TRAIN.  Yes I said train, they traveled under the pretense of going to visit a grandparent/mother and took the train first to Italy, then France and finally arrived in the United States coming through Ellis Island.  Ok I still love the movie but I am just startled to learn Hollywood didn’t get it completely right.  We did visit the Mirabel Gardens where the scenes of Maria and the children singing “Doe, Ray, Me” were shot.  There is also a museum in Salzburg just for The Sound of Music.  We did not visit it but I might have to come back someday just to see it.

Ok now other things Salzburg.  Mozart was born and lived his childhood in Salzburg.  He was five when he gave his first concert and played the organ at St. Peter Cathedral in Salzburg.   He left Salzburg because he felt too constrained by the music he was writing/playing, church music, so by moving to Vienna it enabled him to write freely.  Mozart and his wife were not very good with money, in fact, sometimes when people would pay  Mozart to write music for them they ended up worrying whether or not the music would get written down on paper.  Mozart, when asked, always said he had it done it was just in his head not written down yet.  In the end Mozart died at the age of 35 and is buried in an unknown, unmarked grave somewhere around Vienna.

 Salzburg is also known for its salt or “white gold” (salz means salt).  Salt was very important during the medieval periods to preserve meat.   The salt was mined in Salzburg and shipped all over Europe making Salzburg a very wealthy city indeed.  Today there still are some active salt mines but not very many. 

A few other miscellaneous facts for you, children in Austria go to school for nine years from the age of six to fifteen.  Kindergarten is mandatory and most students complete their education around the age of fifteen.   At the end of their schooling all students take a written exam and if the exam it passed they can go onto university which if it is public is free to them.  If a student does not pass the exam they usually go on to learn a trade, apprenticing for three years and then around eighteen or so they are ready to move on and get a job.

Austria is not part of NATO; however, they do have compulsory military service for young men.  They are one of the last European countries to make this mandatory.  The young men have a choice about their service six months in the military or nine months in the civil service working at an old folk’s home.  Once they have completed their service boom their done and out no strings attached.

Austrian citizens, on average, make about 1400 Euro after taxes a month but they get paid for fourteen months.  They receive an additional payment in July for summer holiday and an additional payment in November for Christmas.  Salzburg and Innsbruck are the two most expensive places to live in Austria with one sq meter selling for 3500-5000 Euros or a 100sq meter apartment selling for 350,000 to 500,000 Euros. 

Retirement age is currently set at age 60 for women and 65 for men.  If an Austrian citizen works forty-five or more years they can earn a pension up to 80% of their average lifetime yearly pay.

In the early days Salzburg was a principality ruled by archbishops answering directly to the Emperor.  Salzburg is located on the site of a Roman Juvavum or a settlement which grew up on one of the major military roads of the ancient world.  The Old City is dominated by baroque style buildings dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries.  Even today there are over 100 hundred churches, palaces and castles in and around the Salzburg area.  In 1816 Salzburg became part of the Habsburg Empire and in the years after WWII it developed into one of Austria’s leading trade centers.

After a full day in Salzburg we headed back to our river boat, however, while we were visiting Salzburg the cruise continued without us.  So from Salzburg we headed to the city of Linz.  Linz is the third largest city in Austria and is a major industrial area; in fact there are more available jobs than there are people to fill them.  After WWII Linz was the border town between the Soviet Union and the Allies with the main bridge crossing the Danube known as no man’s land.  Today Linz is home to Austria’s biggest steel company, Voestalpine and is the destination of many barges arriving filled with ore.  Chemie Linz, a chemical manufacture, also makes Linz its home.   Linz is 30 km from the Czech border and it is on the way to Vienna and east to Switzerland or Munich and Bavaria.

Linz is where we got back on the boat and then spent the night cruising to Melk, Austria but more on that tomorrow, so for now,

Luv to all,

Ron and Ann
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Balzer on

Good to hear from you. love you!!!

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