Salzburg City Break: Salzburg Zoo and Hohensalzburg Fortress

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After four days of pushing my body to its limits on the Tyrolean mountains, it was time to focus more on the mind. The last two days of my trip were dedicated to soul food in the shape of sights and culture. I hopped on a train to Salzburg. The reasonably priced Salzburg Card allows free admission to all the essential tourist destinations within the city, and it also includes free public transport. I bought the card for 48 hours and, once again, wanted to get all my money’s worth out of it.

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My first stop was the Salzburg Zoo. I have conflicted feelings about visiting zoos in general, but at least to the untrained eye, the arrangements in Salzburg are definitely not the worst. Compared to many other zoos, the furry residents have a lot of space and activities.

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The highlight of my tour was spotting the lemurs roaming free (!) around the park. A few of them climbed down their enormous tree and stopped to pose for pictures. In the picture above, a lemur mother with a mini-lemur on her back. I could have stretched out my arm and scratched the handsome couple, had I wanted to! I like to move it, move it.

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To finish off the day, I also took a quick tour of the Hohensalzburg Fortress. The panorama view from the top of the hill was amazing, you could see the whole city. The fortress itself was no match to my beloved Turku castle, but I have to admit the state halls with their ornate decorations were quite impressive.

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The most curious part of the tour: a display of old torture instruments. The picture below shows a few of the imaginative torture masks tailored to specific crimes. Dem peasants better learn how to behave demselves, eh?

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Kaupunkiloma Salzburgissa: eläintarha ja Hohensalzburgin linnoitus

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Neljä päivää Tirolin vuoristossa oli tehnyt kropalleni tehtävänsä, joten reissuni kaksi viimeistä päivää varasin sielunravinnolle. Hyppäsin junaan kohti Salzburgia. Varsin kohtuullisesti hinnoiteltu, turisteille suunnattu Salzburg Card avaa ovet kaikkiin kaupungin nähtävyyksiin ja julkiseen liikenteeseen. Ostin kortin 48 tunniksi ja lähdin jälleen liikkeelle “koko rahan edestä” -asenteella.

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Ensimmäisenä kävin ihmettelemässä Salzburgin eläintarhan sympaattisia asukkaita. Eläintarhoissa käyminen saa itselleni aikaan ristiriitaisia fiiliksiä, mutta näin maallikon silmään Salzburgissa järjestelyt eivät ole ainakaan huonoimmasta päästä: aitaukset ovat moneen muuhun näkemääni tarhaan verrattuna tilavia ja monipuolisia.

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Koko tarhakierroksen kohokohta oli, kun vapaana (!) ympäriinsä hyppivät lemurit laskeutuivat jättimäisestä kiipeilypuustaan alas poseeraamaan. Kuvassa lemuräiti poikanen selässään. Olisin halutessani ylettänyt vaikka rapsuttamaan tätä komeaa kaksikkoa! I like to move it, move it.

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Päivän lopuksi pyörähdin vielä Hohensalzburgin linnoituksessa. Ylhäältä kukkulalta oli hieno panoraamanäkymä koko Salzburgin yli. Itse linnoitus ei kyllä vetänyt vertoja ikisuosikilleni Turun linnalle, mutta täytyy myöntää, että salit linnoituksen sisällä olivat varsin vakuuttavasti koristeltuja.

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Kierroksen erikoisuutena toimi esittely vanhoista kidutusvälineistä. Allaolevan kuvan vitriinistä löytyi mm. mitä mielikuvituksellisimpia  häpeänaamareja, eri rikkeille oli räätälöity omansa. Oppivatpahan kurittomat kansalaiset kerrasta käyttäytymään.

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Hiking in Tirol, Day 4: Foggy as F

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On Sunday morning I felt re-energized enough to go back to the mountains. The lift up to Mount Ahorn was like diving into the fog: up in two kilometres, the visibility was only a few dozens of metres. My plan was to take a quick tour of the nature park before returning down to the valley.

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It hardly comes as a surprise that while strutting along the path in the fog, I somehow managed to miss a sign and took a wrong turn somewhere. When I realised I was on a longer route than originally intended, I though I might as well keep going. At least the route markers were pretty visible.

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My shoes were put to the test when I had to cross a river blocking the path. Balancing on the stones, I delved ankle-deep in the water, but my socks stayed 100% dry! Impressed and delighted by that, I was almost ready to forgive the sneaky bastards for their murder attempt on Friday.

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I passed by a mountain restaurant, but didn’t even stop for hot chocolate. For once, I was up early, so I wanted to see how close to the Ahornspitze summit (2970 m) I could get. (Spoiler: not very close)

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Skeletons laying by the side of the path started casting shadows on my carefree hike. Eventually, a huge chunk of snow blocked my way. I could no longer see any route markers, and I wasn’t quite stupid enough to follow in the footsteps of a mystery dumbass ahead of me. At the same time, freezing rain started to fall and made the decision to quit a little bit easier.

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Oh, the frustration of having to turn back! An old friend once told me about “the bucket theory”, though. “You are born with a full bucket of luck and an empty bucket of experience. You’d better fill up your bucket of experience before your bucket of luck runs out.” The original context of the theory had something to do with skydiving, but why wouldn’t it apply to mountaineering, too. I didn’t test the depth of my luck bucket that day.

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Slogging back down, my shoes tried to assassinate me again: tilted, wet stones proved extremely slippery. I still didn’t get hurt, though, so the second murder attempt was as unsuccessful as the first.

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The ticket I had bought also included a lift to Mount Penken, so I obviously had to get all my money’s worth and went up there, too. The views of the valley from the top of Penken are supposed to be the best of them all, but visibility hadn’t gotten any better by Sunday afternoon.

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After my Ahorn defeat, I was already tired. When I started feeling cold, too, I returned to the valley quite soon.Although many might skip a trip to the top entirely in foggy weather, I found the eery atmosphere well worth the effort. I had already had a nice dose of the scenery on the previous days, anyway.

Vaellusloma Tirolissa, 4. päivä: sumuinen sunnuntai

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Sunnuntaina olin reipastunut riittävästi lähteäkseni takaisin rinteille. Hissimatkasta Ahorn-vuorelle tuli sukellus sumuun: kahden kilometrin korkeudessa näkyvyys oli enää joitakin kymmeniä metrejä. Suunnitelmanani oli kevyt puolentoista tunnin pyörähdys luonnonpuistossa ennen paluuta alas laaksoon.

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Tuskin tulee yllätyksenä, etten sumussa tarpoessani huomannut alkuperäisen lenkkini käännöstä osoittavaa kylttiä, vaan lähdin tyytyväisenä pidemmälle reitille. Reittimerkit kuitenkin erottuivat polun varrelta kohtalaisen hyvin, joten virheen huomattuani päätin samalla vaivalla jatkaa eteenpäin.

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Kenkäni pääsivät tositestiin, kun reitin varrella piti ylittää polun katkaissut joki. Tasapainoilin kivien yli, mulahdin nilkkaa myöten veteen, mutta sukat säilyivät täysin kuivina! Tästä riemastuneena olin jo melkein valmis antamaan anteeksi niiden pirulaisten perjantaisen murhayrityksen.

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Ohitin taukopaikan, mutten malttanut pysähtyä edes kaakaolle. Olin kerrankin hyvissä ajoin liikkeellä, joten lähdin kokeilemaan kuinka lähelle Ahornspitzen huippua (2970 m) pääsisin. (Spoiler: en kovin lähelle)

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Huoletonta taivallustani varjostivat polun varrella lojuneet luurangot. Matka katkesi lopulta valtavaan lumikenttään: reittimerkkejä ei näkynyt enää missään, enkä uskaltanut jatkaa eteenpäin vain jonkun toisen urpon jalanjälkiin luottaen. Jäinen sade alkoi sopivasti vihmoa niskaan ja teki luovuttamisesta hieman helpompaa.

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Sitä turhautumisen määrää, kun jouduin kääntymään takaisin! Eräs vanha ystäväni kuitenkin kertoi minulle vuosia sitten “ämpäriteoriasta”, joka on pysynyt mielessäni siitä asti. “You are born with a full bucket of luck and an empty bucket of experience. You’d better fill up your bucket of experience before your bucket of luck runs out.”  Alun perin teoriaa oli tarkoitus soveltaa laskuvarjohyppyyn, mutta mikseipä se pätisi myös vuorilla seikkailuun. En siis tässä vaiheessa lähtenyt kokeilemaan onniämpärini vetoisuutta.

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Laahustaessani takaisin hissille kenkäni hyökkäsivät jälleen: vinot, sateen kastelemat kivet osoittautuivat todella liukkaiksi. En kuitenkaan vieläkään loukannut itseäni, joten toinenkin murhayritys epäonnistui.

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Ostamaani hissilippuun sisältyi edestakainen matka myös Ahornin vieressä kohoavalle Penken-vuorelle, joten kävinpä lopuksi vielä sielläkin. Koko rahalla nääs. Penkenin huipulta olisi ilmeisesti parhaat mahdolliset näkymät koko Zillertalin laakson yli, mutta näkyvyys ei sunnuntai-iltapäivään mennessä ollut ainakaan parantunut.

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Ahornin tappion jälkeen olin jo valmiiksi väsynyt, joten palasin pian takaisin, kun myös vilu päätti liittyä seuraan. Vaikka moni varmasti jättäisi sumusäällä retken huipulle kokonaan tekemättä, aavemainen tunnelma oli silti mielestäni vaivan arvoista. Maisemia olin onneksi ehtinyt ihailla jo edeltävinä päivinä.

Hiking in Tirol, Day 3: Resting and Loafing About

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On Saturday, the view from my balcony had changed radically from sunshine to rain and thunder. A perfect day to recover! After pushing myself over the limit the previous day, my legs felt like jelly and my brain had turned to mush. I got up in the morning just for breakfast, and went back to sleep soon after.

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Late in the afternoon, I tore myself up again and headed straight for dinner at the popular Hotel Ländenhof. I opted to sit outside on the terrace, while everyone else stayed indoors. I stuffed myself with enough warm food to last for days, admired the view over the village, and listened to the sound of raindrops against the tarp above my table. The waiter looked and acted like Elvis – when I didn’t feel like having a schnapps after dinner, he gave me a lollipop, instead. Loved it!

After rolling out of the restaurant, I took a little walk around the village just to feel like I had done something that day. Then I returned to my room to rest, hoping to feel more energetic the next morning.

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Vaellusloma Tirolissa, 3. päivä: lepoa ja laiskistelua

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Lauantaina parvekenäkymäni olivat muuttuneet radikaalisti. Ulkona satoi ja ukkosti. Täydellinen palautumispäivä! Edellisen päivän repimisen tuloksena jalkani olivat hyytelöä ja aivoni puuroa. Heräsin aamulla vain raahautuakseni alakertaan aamiaiselle, minkä jälkeen palasin takaisin huoneeseeni nukkumaan.

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Myöhään iltapäivällä kampesin itseni uudelleen ylös ja suunnistin suoraan päivälliselle kehuttuun hotelli Ländenhofin ravintolaan. Valitsin pöydän ulkoterassilta, kun muut asiakkaat viihtyivät visusti sisätiloissa. Kuuntelin sateen ropinaa pressua vasten, ihailin maisemia ja ahmin lämmintä ruokaa kolmen päivän edestä. Tarjoilijalla oli Elviksen tukka ja elkeet, ja kun snapsi ei enää aterian päätteeksi maistunut minulle, sain sen tilalle tikkarin! Parasta. Ikinä.

Ravintolasta poistuttuani tein vielä pienen kävelyn tihkusateessa kylän ympäri. Sen jälkeen pystyinkin hyvillä mielin palaamaan peittojen alle odottamaan seuraavaa aamua ja voimieni palautumista.

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Hiking in Tirol, Day 2: Reaching the Summit

Inspired by a hiking map and the successful warmup walk on Thursday, I decided to raise the stakes for Friday. The day did not turn out quite as I had planned.

In the morning,  my only shorts were still dripping wet from last night’s wash, and I had completely forgotten to pack a hat. To protect myself from sun- and heatstroke, I started the day by shopping in some of the numerous sports stores in Mayrhofen. Deciding between different options took me a couple minutes too long, and as a result, I had to wait for a later train to the town of Zell am Ziller.

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Once I got to the Zell railway station, I still had to find the Rosenalmbahn cable car station. The walk took longer than expected, especially because the infamous “shortcuts” I followed just took me to a bunch of cul-de-sacs. I conveniently got to the lower station five minutes after the employees had left for their lunch break, so I had to wait for an extra half hour before the cable car took me to the heights of 1744 metres.

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At the upper station of Rosenalm, the first thing I noticed was the delightful sound of cowbells echoing between the hills. The air up there was still warm, but it felt fresher than the heat down in the valley. I started making my way up the well-marked trail. The plan was to hike for a few hours and return to the cable car before it closed down for the day.

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I had bought my first pair of real hiking boots only a week before the trip, so I hadn’t had a chance to break them in properly. Fortunately, I got to cool down my feet in tiny streams along the way. That still didn’t stop the blisters from beginning to form.

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Every small delay I had accumulated before noon meant that while I was still making my way up in the afternoon, the smart locals were already coming back down. I couldn’t bear to stick to my original plan of just a couple hours of walking, though. When I saw the small patches of snow and the trail that kept getting steeper and narrower, I knew I just had to reach the summit!

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The good thing about my own stupidity and all the delays was that after the first hour, I didn’t see a soul anymore, if you don’t count the random goats along the way. I don’t know if there is anything better than enjoying mountain views in the best possible company: all by yourself! I just kept walking, thinking about everything or nothing, I cannot even remember anymore. It was the closest I have ever come to a zen state of mind.

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The trail kept getting steeper. I passed by a pile of broken walking sticks, and occasionally sunk ankle deep into snow. Finally, the Kreuzjoch summit was looming ahead of me at 2558 metres.

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I had a short lunch break and pondered which way down I would pick. Every single one of the cable cars surrounding the mountains would be closing within an hour, so there was no need to rush anymore; I would have to walk all the way down to the valley in any case. My knees were cracking at the mere thought of that.

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I glanced at the map and randomly chose another way down, which turned out slightly more challenging than I had hoped. Huge masses of snow covered parts of the marked trail running along a steep edge. I wasn’t always sure how deep the snow was, if I would sink in there, or if a misstep would send the whole thing crumbling down. However, I had already walked down for a relatively long way, and the thought of returning back up to Kreuzjoch seemed impossible. I had to find a way around the most suspicious spots, which required some actual hands-on climbing.

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After the small scares, the route I chose was quite rewarding. The trail became easier to walk, meandering down flower-covered hills. Then, my shoes made their first murder attempt when I stumbled on the laces that had come undone by themselves. Fortunately for me, unfortunately for the sneaky shoes, the timing was off and I didn’t go tumbling down the edge.

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I had another scare when I ran into two dogs roaming freely around the hills. At first they barked at me from a distance, no big deal. All of a sudden, they were right next to me, growling with their teeth exposed. I closed my eyes, tried to talk to them in a soothing voice, and prepared to feel them dig deep into my calves. As suddenly as they had appeared, the vengeful beasts turned into happy tail-waggers and disappeared. Either they decided a lone sloth was not a huge threat to anyone, or then my sun-marinated stench ruined their appetite.

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The last stage of the route trailed through a peaceful forest. Down in the village of Gmünd, I was surprised again: the village seemed practically abandoned, and the last bus to civilization had already left 1.5 hours ago. I was left stranded, 25 kilometres from my hotel. I started walking along the narrow mountain road, trying not to get run over by the speeding cars. There didn’t seem to be a decent hitch-hiking spot anywhere in sight, the sun was slowly setting, and I hadn’t even packed a reflector.

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I was already silently panicking inside, when a German knight in a shining BMW mercifully picked me up and gave me a ride back to the Zell am Ziller train station. It was half past nine in the evening. I had checked the timetable, and the last train to Mayrhofen was supposed to leave in thirty minutes. Too bad I had looked at the wrong schedule – it wasn’t the last train, it was the last bus! While I was waiting on the railroad side of the station, I saw a bus pass me by on the other side and disappear into the darkness.

At that point, I was so fed up I didn’t even consider hunting down a taxi anymore. F it, might as well walk the last 10 kilometres while at it! There were no lights for most of the way, but the sound of the Ziller river kept me on the right track. I eventually made it back to the hotel well past midnight. To sum up the day: 13 hours of walking, a total of over 2 kilometres of altitude differences, and completely destroyed knees and feet. But hey, at least I saw some fireflies in the darkness.