One highlight of Salzburg was the food and drink I tried. I’m not a big fan of this type of food – I often find it very heavy, like the German restaurant my dad likes – but I will say that what I had was very good. I just don’t see myself craving it in the future.
I had asked the girl working at the hostel what she recommended for local restaurants, ideally within close walking distance of the hostel as there was a chance I could be going by myself. She drew on my map, pointing to a local restaurant and beer garden that was only two blocks away. Called Die Weisse, they made their own beer and had a solid menu with fair prices. I had a €2 happy hour Stiegl in the hostel bar, talked to a number of people staying there and ended up recruiting two guys, one an American and one an Aussie, to join me for dinner.
The beer translations weren’t perfect – I wasn’t quite sure what I would end up with – but this beer called Max was pretty delicious. It was supposed to be unfiltered but it came out really clear to me, so it could just be a case of mistaken translation.
As for food, I went for the wiener schnitzel which came with a cranberry sauce and some buttery potatoes. I easily could have eaten twice the amount of sauce they gave us – it was delicious, with big chunks of cranberry and a nice balance of sweet and tart. The schnitzel itself was well done with a crispy, not soggy, crust and an even portion of meat. As for the potatoes? Well…. I’m not a potato person, but I ate them all.
Good work so far, Salzburg!
I started off with the hostel breakfast in the morning, chowing down on as much food as possible so that I could stretch my budget. It was €3.50 and consisted of a buffet that had cereal (corn flakes and some sort of chocolate flakes), granola, yogurt, fruit cocktail, breads, meats and cheese. The people working the breakfast watched the food like a hawk, desperate to ensure that no one made off with more than they could eat. Signs expressly prohibited taking anything from the buffet area, “in order to keep prices low!” The price of a hostel breakfast where I stay in Munich is €4.90 (yes, I agree that’s a random number) and what they offer is pretty similar even though Munich has fresh fruit. Not canned.
Following the suggested walking tour, I ended up wandering through St. Peter’s, one of the oldest monasteries in Europe and likely the oldest in the German speaking world. St. Peter’s had several chapels, a restaurant, a beautiful graveyard (see my last post)… and the smell of freshly baked bread wafting through the air. People were congregating around this water wheel, delicious looking breads and rolls in hand.
Much like Pavlov’s dog, I started to salivate. I wanted in. I wanted to be eating bread snacks! A sign proudly proclaimed that this was the site of the oldest bakery in Salzburg with the earliest mention of it, in written records, dating back to the 1200s. The water wheel was used to mill their own flour, a method that has been successfully used for centuries… kind of. The wheel was taken out for a while, and the establishment wanted to modernize, but the Master Baker fought to have it replaced.
I followed a small staircase into a building, coming into a large empty room with a few benches. The smell of bread was even stronger, drawing me forward with its siren call. Two videos, in different languages, were projected onto wall in order to show visitors the entire bread making process.
There were racks of freshly baked bread, all begging to be consumed. Some of the recipes apparently dated back a few hundred years or so, including their famous sourdough breads that are rumoured to go well with anything. I decided to be responsible and get only a small roll – it was a cold and rainy day and I fear the temptation of a whole loaf of sourdough would have proven to be too much.
This is my bread snack. €1, still warm and insanely fresh. I hadn’t been planning to stop for a snack quite so early during my explorations, but how could I turn it down?
After a few more hours of following the walking tour, I found myself at the Augustiner Bräustubl… and when I say I found myself, I mean that it was part of the walking tour and I had planned to have something to eat and try one of their brews. The brewery has been open since 1621 and is 50% owned by the Michaelbeuern Benedictine Monastery. They produce over 9,500 hectolitres of beer annually… or about 950,000 litres. At a fair estimate of €7 euros per litre, we can then surmise that these are rich monks.
Also – this is a tourist destination, it’s on Trip Advisor… and it doesn’t open until 3pm. I had a solid hour to kill in a really quiet part of Salzburg, so I climbed up the hill a bit, walked around and then finally settled onto a bench by the riverfront where I could people watch, write in my journal and try to determine why the monks hated day drinkers.
The building itself was impressive, with high ceilings and an imposing entry way. There is a parking lot – designated drivers strongly recommended – with a more generic entry, but I came in from a small cobblestone alleyway, through several imposing doors and then down the staircase above.
There is a large beer garden outside which can seat up to 1500 people. I saw several families out for the afternoon – there is a kid’s play area, as in many beer gardens – and it seems as though stopping by a 400 year old brewery is a normal part of the routine for quite a few Salzburg residents.
The beer acquisition procedure is strictly self serve. I watched for a couple of seconds to make sure I had it right, but you pick up one of the traditional clay porcelain mugs – available in the ubiquitous 1 litre size, and a much more reasonable half litre – and then stand in line.
As you get close to the cash, either before or after you pay, you stick your mug under one of these taps. The water pours out automatically and you fill your mug, swishing the water around, before pouring it down the drain. Serious beer drinkers seemed to also give their mugs a good shake, determined not to allow boring water to pollute their beer vessels.
Each time you wanted a refill you would take your mug, stand in the cash line and then rinse your mug. I didn’t see anyone leave a mug and get a new one – everyone seemed to understand that they used the same mug for the duration of their visit.
Once you had paid for your mug – which is really the beer, you don’t get to keep the mug (sorry mom) – you bring it to the smiling fellow above. He is a professional beer pourer, quickly and efficiently pouring with one hand and grabbing empties with the other. Every now and then he has to break his concentration, usually to sell a 6 pack of beer which is a transaction done solely in cash.
So, you have your beer and you are enjoying it on the patio or in one of the beer gardens. What next? What if you want food?
There is only one place to go, if you need to buy some snacks the Augustiner Bräu – the food hall. On the same level as the indoor beer halls, this is another entirely self serve endeavour. Options ranged from traditional Austrian schnitzels to pretzels, breads and rolls (carbs with more carbs – maybe this is why they bike so much) to brightly packaged candies. There was a fish stand outside serving calamari, herring or even full fish for the extra hungry.
The prices for everything were really reasonable, especially for Salzburg. The number of locals who seemed to be enjoying the food was an indication that they approved and this wasn’t just a tourist attraction.
The beer was also reasonably priced, especially after visiting the beer gardens of Munich. I had yet to visit the famous Hofbräuhaus, but I’m sure that it would also include a little bit of a tourist surcharge. The self service probably also helps the brewery to keep costs down.
I ended up at the mystery meat stand. It seemed to be one of the most popular, with patrons eagerly biting into sausages on a bun, sliced sausages (as below) or sandwiches full of sliced mystery meat. I do not remember any of my German animal words… I don’t even think we covered it during first year German.
I took my sausage and my beer, slid it onto a thoughtfully provided tray and then chose a beer hall in which to sit. One seemed to be completely empty, save for a bunch of tables with reserved signs on them. Another beer hall allowed smoking inside, the haze being enough to discourage me from even stepping in to take a picture. The third beer hall was the busiest, with families, tourists and locals eagerly drinking beer, swapping stories and enjoying the local food.
You can bring your own food into the beer hall – the establishment seems to be primarily concerned that you buy your drinks there. I saw three generations of a family noisily celebrating a kid’s birthday, digging into their carefully packaged Tupperware containers of home cooking. The birthday boy seemed to have no qualms about the fact his birthday was being celebrated in a beer hall. Some North Americans, thanks to our Prohibition era alcohol laws and attitudes, would likely have problems with this, or at least crinkle their nose in disapproval. I, personally, thought it was awesome – a cheap way for the family to have fun, a kid’s play area for later, huge tables ready for their plates of food… watch out, future Young children!