If you have a few days to spare and you are looking for a reasonably priced break in Europe with some variety to it, you can do worse than a two city tour to Salzburg in Austria and Munich in southern Germany. Both cities have a Germanic feel though Salzburg is more baroque, whereas Munich’s architecture is more eclectic.
The two cities are around 2 hours apart by regular train or slightly less by car or high speed train. Salzburg is very close to the border of Germany and Austria so most of the journey is in southern Germany in the Upper Bavaria region. The train skirts the lakes of Chiemsee and Simssee and there are views of the alps to the south. Bavaria itself is quite picturesque though part of the journey will be through urban parts of Munich and Salzburg.
We decided to start our trip in Salzburg, flying into the airport which is 3 km from the city, and caught the train to Munich rather than the other way. We managed to get a pretty cheap deal on the flight which is why we did it this way. Our guest house was quite a way from the center so we traveled in during the day.
Salzburg’s historic center is one of the best preserved examples of Baroque architecture and is a world heritage site. Mozart was born here and you will find references to him throughout the city. The Salzach river runs through the center of the town. There are beautiful views of Saltzburg’s castle from the river with the domes of the old town’s historic buildings and churches laid out below. We enjoyed sitting on the banks of the river on the other side with this panorama across from us. The city is set in the foothills of the alps, and you can see mountains as you walk around the city. If you like walking, it is easy to get into the hills to spend some time in nature. The nearest mountain is only 10 km from the city and you can get up above 1500 meters without too much trouble.
There are examples of Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and modernist architecture as well as the Baroque architecture the city is known for.
While you might expect beer drinking in Munich, we found our favourite beer hall in Salzburg. It may not have been as large or rowdy as some of the German beer kellers but it had everything we were looking for, and soon our idea of only having a couple of steins went a bit awry.
The city is well connected to other cities in the region and you can easily get further into Austria, to Switzerland and other parts of Germany as well as Munich if you have more time.
After a few days in Salzburg we decided to move onto Munich. Remembered fondly (by me) from an earlier rail trip round Europe in summer, the weather was less good this time, and the city didn’t wow to quite the same extent. The city has a rich cultural history, with music, festivals, architecture and the arts being strongly represented. While you may think of the city mainly for classical music, it has also contributed to more modern styles of music such as Krautrock, electronic music and even some disco.
The squares of the city center are flanked by impressive buildings such as Marienplatz which has the old and new town hall, and you can climb the tower for a birds eye view of the square. The oldest church in the city is Frauenkirche and there is nearby renaissance Michaelskirche. Munich as well as Salzburg has examples of baroque churches. There are castles, museums and mansions to explore depending on your interests.
By the time we had spent a couple of rainy days in Munich after our time in Salzburg in similar weather we were ready for some time in the outdoors.
We decided to get out into Bavaria and visit one of the lakes. We chose Königssee near Berchtesgaden.
The weather was still not great, but we walked to the lake and around around its shore in the woods and after a while found a beautiful panorama of the lake set in the surrounding rock walls of the mountains around. There is a chairlift up to a small ski run but it looked like it was closed so we didn’t get the view from higher up which would have been nice.
We would definitely have had a better time on this trip with better weather but the region generally has lots of things to do and you can tailor it to your tastes, just find at least one small beer keller for a couple of steins.
Image (cc) Flickr : Alessandro Caproni