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Wild and without a tent: Salzburg

It’s sunny in Wolfgangsee today. The first sun we’ve seen in days! Slightly frustrating because we’re leaving and the temptation to stay is strong – but we must press on, we’re couchsurfing tonight in Salzburg. We’re a bit nervous, it’s our first time couchsurfing together and the first time either of us is doing so in a few years.

The tent is soaking wet so when Aydin returns from his mini-adventure shooting cute Wes Anderson style cable cars we take everything down and hang it up to dry. Then we write our destination on the hitchhiking board – which is an amazing contraption if we didn’t already mention it: cardboard with coloured paper glued on, covered with book wrap and taped together with galaxy duck tape! It would have lasted us the whole 3 months if Aydin hadn’t of left it on the bus in Interlaken! Anyway…

Caroline posing with camping gear which has been hung out to dry at the Wolfgangsee campsite

The journey to Salzburg is not far and it’s only one road. There is also a bus if we can’t get a ride so we’re not worried at all. In fact, we’re pretty confident we’ll get a ride easily – and we do. We pack our stuff, walk the 500 meters to the main road and wait approximately 10 minutes and Patrick from Germany stops for us. He’s a younger guy who is playing handball professionally; also he’s super nice and drives us all the way to Salzburg dropping us off in the outskirts of the city.

Exploring the home of Mozart

We walk for about half an hour to the train station so we can drop off our rucksacks while we explore. Our couchsurfing host is not around until the evening so we have quite a few hours to kill and we don’t fancy carrying our rucksacks everywhere with us!

Salzburg is a beautiful city, so much different to Vienna. It has a much more medieval vibe, it feels a lot older. The buildings are tall and wonky, the streets are cobbled and narrow, the tiny inner city surrounds the castle on the hill. It’s a charming example of a middle European city. An expensive one.

Apparently the Americans love to visit Salzburg because of The Sound of Music – a movie which Caroline informs me no Austrian has ever watched and therefore does not understand the fuss. I call bullshit – I’m pretty sure all the Austrians grow up having Sound of Music sleepovers.

Everywhere else we’ve been since Vienna has been devoid of life, so after strolling around enjoying the bustling atmosphere, we decide to grab a vegetarian burger and some sweet potato fries from BioBurgerMeister – surprisingly delicious, check them out if you are around!

The sun is setting and our couchsurfing host has still not finished work . We take a walk down the river back to the train station anyway, hoping she will finish soon so we can settle in and see where we are sleeping. After frolicking around on the riverbanks we grab our rucksacks from the station and walk towards Lea’s house where she meets us.

Meeting the family

Lea is an incredibly interesting woman originally from Spain but living and working in Salzburg. She’s travelled the world and has had adventures like no other with stories to boot. She lives in a flat share and there are loads of people around. We’re not quite sure who actually lives there but they’re all super nice and friendly – some are students and some are working. What we do find out is that Lea didn’t mention to her flatmates that we were staying for two nights. For a moment everything goes silent but then everyone bursts out with laughter – I guess we’re good to stay despite being unheralded.

A few of us sit around the table and share some drinks until the early hours of the morning. Lea has so many stories to tell and she dominates much of the conversation, but it’s not awkward because everything she says is genuine and interesting; we all want to hear from her. She occasionally stops to ask if she should continue or let someone else speak but nobody really wants to hear from anyone else and we all encourage her to go on.

One particularly crazy story starts with her attempting a long distance trek in Spain on her own with not much research or experience. She gets somewhat lost and pitches her tent on a trail half poking over the edge of a cliff, trying to ignore the danger by sleeping it off but somebody else comes along and refuses to leave her in the predicament she is in. They end up deconstructing her tent and moving her to a safer location.

Another story she tells us involves a bunch of work mates in Salzburg taking a trip up a mountain to sleep there for the night but with no tents. Naturally it rains and there is a storm and they all end up running back down the mountain in the dark getting completely soaked in the process. Yeah we know – don’t ask!

Forced exploration

The next day we sheepishly lie on our mattress in the kitchen/living room pretending to still sleep while all the real people get up and hurry around making lunches and coffees, eating breakfast, washing and ironing before leaving for work and university. We stay in bed like the lazy bastards we are.

At some point we decide we should go and see a few sites, Mirabell Palace and gardens, castle Hohensalzburg on the hill and so on. First we grab a börek from a Balkan pastry shop we spotted around the corner – oh hello homely delights. The weather is shit and it doesn’t stop raining all day so we don’t take many photos of Salzburg. It is beautiful though!

There is however lots of conker trees around so at least that is good. We pass through a nice market in a town square along with some funfair rides, buy some delicious sweets from a famous traditional sweet maker, go in Mozart’s old house which is now a supermarket and buy some hummus (Surely Mozart would have liked hummus) and somehow end up in an Irish bar getting drunk and having an argument with some dickhead who has a mardy on because Aydin is wearing a hat from Iceland without having been to Iceland.

Lea is supposed to meet us but again has to work late – so we stay in the pub by ourselves getting drunk and at some time when we decide it’s too rude to stay out later we stumble back to the apartment and sneak in to bed. Everyone else is asleep.

One more night of warmth

When we wake up, Lea invites us to stay another night. We had originally only booked 2 nights butquickly agree because the weather is so bad – but only on the condition that we cook dinner for a few of the residents. Not all, there’s too many of them! We’re secretly happy to prolong sleeping in a real bed (sort of) instead of the tent for another night. WE LOVE CAMPING – HONEST!

It’s pissing it down so we stay in all day long and do absolutely nothing, only leaving the house to reluctantly do the food shopping for dinner.

We make a delicious (if I am allowed to say so myself) creamy roasted red pepper and tomato pasta sauce – so delicious that the housemates were swapping and rationing their own dinners so everybody could get a bit of pasta. The rest of the evening consists of drinking and stories of adventure and wanderlust. We’ve got a list of places from Anna to check out when we get to Portugal, can’t wait!

The road from Salzburg to Kaprun

Morning comes and it’s time to leave. We’ve got quite a long journey to make, around 110KM if we make it directly. Kaprun is a popular destination along with Zell am See just around the corner. There are lakes, glaciers, skiing facilities and huge mountains everywhere. It’s beautiful. We are visiting to see the high mountain reservoirs at over 2000M, surrounded by snow capped mountains and incredible turquoise waters . The engineering and nature compliment each other in a strange, almost incomprehensible way.

We get up early with the rest of the working people in the apartment and get ready to leave with them. Lea again offers for us to stay longer but it’s time to leave now. Salzburg is still miserable in any case so moving on is the best choice.

According to Hitchwiki we need to get out of the centre and head towards one of the motorway ramps. The motorway circles the suburbs of Salzburg so it’s quite a distance from the center. There is a bus (170) that we take and get off at the stop before the motorway ramp in the center of Anif but it’s still quite a long walk to the hitch point. There’s actually no path to walk on and the road is busy so we end up taking a detour through some small villages which takes a lot longer than we expected. We struggle with the rucksacks quite a bit but we finally get to the hitch point on the outskirts of Salzburg and get settled in.

Too many cooks

About five minutes in another hitchhiker turns up. He’s the first hitchhiker we’ve seen on our travels! He’s heading to Innsbruck which is a lot further than we are going, around 250KM, roughly a 3 1/2 hour journey based on the route he is taking. He agrees to wait for us to get a ride since we were here first and we’re all heading in the same direction and politely waits behind us both facing oncoming traffic. Now we wait. And wait. And wait a bit longer. No one is stopping but we are not fussed, we have loads of time. It’s still early.

Benjamin picks us up around 12:30PM. He says he felt sorry for us because he saw us while driving into Salzburg in the morning and now that we’re still there on his way home he decided to help. Ben isn’t going all the way but still a decent chunk. He’s driving back home to St. Johann im Pongau which is about 60KM away, just over half our journey which is pretty sweet. It takes around an hour and he drops us off outside a McDonald’s on the main road where he reckons we will catch a ride in no time. We share some chips and a coffee (McDonald’s is not cheap in Austria!) and sit on a bench to rewrite our hitchhiking sign.

Before we can even stand up a nice woman stops. She could see that we were writing on our sign and winds her window down to ask if we needed a ride. She’s a care helper working with disabled people in Bruck an der Großglocknerstraße, not too far from our destination. She drops us off at a bus stop near the main road, adamant that it would be better to catch the bus. We agree with her to save discussion and walk back to the main road after waving her off.

After a 5 minute walk we are back at the main road. It will be hard to get a ride here as the road is very fast and there is not really anywhere for cars to stop. Suddenly a traffic jam sort of forms so we use it to our advantage and practise some aggressive hitchhiking tactics: standing right next to the cars with ear to ear smiles and looking directly in to the drivers eyes 😀 Don’t judge us, it works!

Our ride is a modern mini covered in union jack flags, obviously. It is tiny and already filled to the brim, our driver has absolutely no room in the car and we have to jam in with the rucksacks piled on top of us. She is a lovely eccentric woman, a scientist. In a rush she drops us off on the main road near the airport which is perfect for us. From here there is one small road to Kaprun. We cross the road and walk around the corner to a nice looking location. Plenty of space for cars to stop but no so much traffic. We settle in, again not worried, because it’s only 5KM now to Kaprun.

Another minute goes by, another car rolls past, we’re thinking these teenage looking girls listening to techno and wearing tracksuits will never stop. We couldn’t be more wrong. They slow to a halt and put the car in reverse, stopping directly in front of us. We smile at each other and hop in – hitchhiking is truly incredible. The girls tell us they are always doing crazy things and picking up hitchhikers was no exception to that rule – although we are their first! We nervously laugh with them and they go out of their way to drop us off directly in front of our campsite – great success!

Campsite negotiations

Sooo the campsite is closed and no one is around apart from the cleaner. We are not quite sure what language she is speaking – some form of Austrian dialect, barely comprehensible. Eventually we get to speak to someone who has some authority but the situation is very strange; we’re in a back room stinking of cigarettes with a computer from the 90s. It’s like something from a Twin Peaks episode. Of course they won’t accept our camping card even though it’s listed on the site as accepted. They also won’t knock any money off, half the facilities are closed after all…

The camp ground is pretty though. A raging river flows on one side of the pitch, huge pine tress line the perimeter and imposing mountains tower above us. We set our tent up near the river and the toilet block – it’s always a good decision to stay close to the toilet block, not so close that you can smell it, just so you don’t have to walk 1KM in the cold in the middle of the night.

And cold the evening is, very cold. We opt to spend it on the sofa in the toilet block planning our trip up to the high mountain dams tomorrow.


How to get there

Getting to Salzburg is fairly simple. There are direct trains from most of the large cities in Austria and surrounding international cities, Munich, Budapest, Ljubljana etc. There is also a local airport for international connections.


Salzburg is expensive. If you want to try something new, try couchsurfing like us. It is truly an exciting experience and you will save money, although that shouldn’t be your primary motivation. Meeting and hanging out with locals was a priority for us, saving money was a bonus.

In case that is not your thing maybe a hostel or a cheaper hotel would be a good choice. Check out some of the deals below.

Pro Tip

Couchsurf with Lea because she is great! Also Salzburg castle is free to visit after 5PM although be aware that most of it will be closed. You can still visit the courtyards and walls though – The views over Salzburg are worth it.

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