Summer in SBG: hiking, bonfires, and street parties

Salzburg’s summer started to make itself known back in June, kicking off what was a series of blissful weekends, which I spent in the company of my favourites.

The beauty of Alpine city life, it has become clear, though should perhaps have been obvious to me the whole time, is the distinct Summer/Winter seasons, and the way that the city and its residents celebrate these in turn. As the summer comes around, I have learnt, Christmas market stalls are replaced by pop-up bars, the snow-sports kids (easily identified by dodgy goggle tan lines) become skaters, and the tourists only multiply.

Summer in Salzburg means street parties, picnics by the river, exploring mountains and lakes, and cycling just for the hell of it. The weather hasn’t been as consistently hot or sunny as I would’ve expected (it’s coming, I’m sure of it), but the World Cup has kept me busy, and my summer bucket list is only getting longer.

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NB: from hereon in, the terms ‘we’ and ‘us’ refer to myself, Paige from Chicago, and Meg from Melbourne, unless otherwise stated. My little international Dream Team.

Sonnwend Feuerbrennen at the Leoganger Steinberge

We’d caught wind of this event through the local expat community and thought it sounded like the perfect way to celebrate the Summer Solstice. Essentially, you hike (ahem, take the Asitzbahn cable car, €12 return) up a mountain, light bonfires after dark and observe the surrounding mountains, alight. It’s hard to explain, and was also hard to photograph iPhone-ly, but I hope the below stolen image goes some way to painting the scene.

Despite a few more clouds than would have been ideal, sitting on the side of a mountain, with a beer, with my friends, and taking in the spectacle was a truly special moment. And a truly Austrian one too.

Double thanks to the Salzburg MeetUp group actually, as we were able to get a lift there and back with some chatty musicians – great to meet new people, and the evening would no way have been possible with public transport.

Hiking the Gaisberg

Salzburg’s home mountain, the Gaisberg, stands at over 1200m and is easily identified by a huge radio transmitter, with paragliders dancing from the summit to the city.

I’d climbed it once before, last September, but we took a slightly tougher route this time. My friend Hanna, the one I was in Munich with, was also on board, and the hike took two and a half hours or so. Having reached the summit, and Hanna having a plane to catch, we decided to hitchhike back down, as I did last time. It’s pretty straightforward, given that there’s a road from the top, and everyone’s heading in the direction of the city. Splitting off into two twos, Hanna and I were picked up by a local couple within 20 minutes, though the others had less luck, and ended up taking the bus back down.

This hike gets pretty steep, and I sure found it tough in parts, but it’s great for beginners; we had no problem wearing just sports kit and running trainers. There is even a restaurant at the top, and a view which really puts the city’s size into perspective. This is definitely a must for anyone who’s planning on spending an extended period of time in Salzburg.

Pimms with a Summer evening view.

Pimms with a Summer evening view.

Summer concert at the Festung

Somehow I’ve been here for 10 months, without having ever gone up to the Festung Hohensalzburg, the fortress on the hill that is a focal point on every postcard, and has got to be the most popular selfie backdrop in the city. It’s famed for being one of the largest and best preserved medieval castles in Europe, with access on foot or by a funicular railway, and everyday at work I’m pointing tourists in that direction. So it was about time I made a trip to the top myself.

As it turns out, on a beautiful day, the Festung really does provide the best view of the city, one I could stare at endlessly; mapping routes I take daily, pinpointing places I’ve lived, getting all jealous of Altstadt roof gardens I’d never seen from the road. There’s a lot to explore up there on top of that hill, it really is a village in itself, with cafes and ice cream stands too! We were also lucky enough to witness local choirs in traditional dress singing Austrian songs, which seemed to somewhat both puzzle and amaze the tourist groups.

As for the interior of the castle, such as the Golden Hall or the bed chambers, I didn’t take a look; the weather was just too beautiful and the view all too impressive to be wandering through dark stone stairways. Maybe another time!

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The city of Salzburg from the Festung Hohensalzburg.

Linzer Gasse’s Altstadtfest

To top off a couple of really fantastic weekends, the Linzer Gasse, one of the main shopping streets in the city, held its annual festival at the end of June, titled ‘Hereinspaziert’, meaning ‘Wander around’! Bearing in mind I still lived on that side of the river at this point, right in the center of the action, I really made the most of it and got involved where possible.

The festival was also celebrating the new opening of Cornelius-Reitsamer Platz, where I used to live, which had been completely renovated over the last few months. By this I mean, I had been woken up at 7am every morning and been unable to get a moment’s peace in my own room during the daytime, thanks to early-rising construction workers. So I was all in favour of celebrating too!

The festival covered the entire Linzer Gasse and surrounding streets, squares and alleys, with stages squeezed in wherever possible. Among my favourite performances were the Polkaholix ska/rock back from Berlin who played on the Bruderhof stage and the lounge/chill/(then later on) techno stage on Wolf-Dietrich Strasse. Both provided us with the opportunity to drink and dance, and left us wondering why this kind of thing doesn’t happen more often!

The view of the Linzergassenfest from my old bedroom window!

The view of the Linzergassenfest from my old bedroom window.

Welcome to summer. And this is only the start!

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