Round Salzburg with the Salzburg Card

At €30 for one day, €39 for two and €45 for three, the Salzburg card gives access to public transport (not including the S-bahn) and (one entrance only for each) attractions across Salzburg. Even in one day, it can save a small fortune, but over three you can avoid a lot of expense, and head into attractions purely on a whim. I was in the city for a week, so a three day card made sense, though I waited till after two very hot days had passed. I bought the card online, and saved a screenshot of the QR code to my phone for use, though there are plenty of places to buy a real one, and everyone else I saw had an actual card in hand.

I am not much of a one for heights, so the cable car at Untersbergbahn (South of the city – get the bus) was a challenge as well as a quick way up the mountain. Full price – €28 both ways, €18 one. Some people walk up and get the cable car down, though there are also long walks signposted on the mountain if you want to spend time up there. I had a short walk and took a ride down through clouds. It is quite a dramatic ride up, heading towards a cliff face before rising steeply to crest it, then jolting over the edge to hang over a valley, moving on and up towards the next peak where it stops. Most of the car I was in audibly “oohed” at that first jolt – the sense of space opening out under your feet is quite something.

View of the Untersberg mountain from below, With cables disappearing toward the mountain, appearing to not rise toward the peak.
Cables from ground level

Having bottled even the shortish walk up the next peak – it apparently takes an hour or so, and much older people and small children took it on quite happily – I was soon on my way North to the Hellbrunn Palace. I hopped off the bus at the zoo, a stop before the Schloss, just because some other people did, and ended up popping into the zoo (normal price: €12.50). Several people commented later that it seemed an odd place to have a zoo, several km South of the city, but it grew out of the wildlife collection/facilities built for same by Markus Sittikus, one of the city’s archbishops. It’s dramatically situated, built right up against the rocky hill in the middle of the park, and with the Untersberg mountain visible as you look away from the rocks. Plenty of animals, and it made me smile. On a day with temperatures 30+, it didn’t seem quite so cruel to have some of them there.

A large outside space with lots of birds in the water or nearby. There were also antelopes and ibexes in this enclosure, not shown.
Pelicans and others

After the zoo, I exited at the South side which took me into the park. I walked through, heading up the hill for the added difficulty, which brought me to the “Little-month Palace”. Set on a hill, this now holds the Folklore Museum (Full price €3.50. Entry included with entry to the Hellbrunn Palace, but you can go straight in with the Salzburg card). It’s worth a look, and they do a good job of providing a variety of exhibits, with folklore on the ground floor, art on the second and an example of a Great Giant Samson on the top. It’s a lovely building with great views over the estate from the top floor. It gets its name from the story that it was built in a month, though that is referred to as a legend.

Finally, I went down the hill to the main palace and the highly recommended Trick Fountains. At one time, all the posh houses had or wanted trick fountains, but when they fell out of fashion they were mostly removed, making these a stand-out feature. With a Salzburg card, you still need to head to the ticket office to get a timed slot for the fountains and you then use that ticket to enter the palace whenever you want to. I wasn’t initially keen – you’re given an audio guide, but then held in the first area. There is a reason for that, though; for one, they want to take your group’s picture and sell it to you later, but they also want to keep everyone together at a table surrounded by seats. And a lot of very wet concrete. The bravest, or most game, sat obediently at the table while the rest of us watched from the side, as a member of staff showed us what the hand-operated controls do.

Once through the first 3 items on the audioguide, you are free to walk at your own pace, with the audioguide talking you through each item and guiding you to the next. The whole thing won me over – the mechanisms are ingenious and very clever given their age, but also very naff (reminiscent of those jerking Santas in Christmas dioramas). It certainly invited opinion, I can’t imagine anyone thought “oh, let’s just leave it, it’s harmless”; nope, once this was out of fashion, it would have looked like the crappest thing in the world.

But for all that, when someone is squirted by a nozzle they didn’t spot, a deer’s head catches you on the way out with water coming from its mouth and antlers, covering a large area, or people run toward a grotto as the whole pathway is given a ceremonial squirting, it is tremendous fun and funny. Some of the nozzles are under control of the staff, who will give you time to avoid the water if you want – or indulge the kids who very definitely want to get wet.

I moved on to the palace, which has a very interesting exhibition about the life of Markus Sittikus, who built or inaugurated the Palace, Salzburg Cathedral and so on, despite not living to a grand old age.

The next day I used my card in the city, using the lift (MönchsbergAufzug) to get up the mountain to the Modern Art Museum, walking back down and going to the Natural History and Toy museums

I took the funicular up to the fortress. Having seen a queue outside the day before, I was going to wait till later, given the fortress is open till the evening, but there was no queue at 4. Once inside I realised that even a long-looking queue is only in place while the gates are closed and should clear fairly quickly – the Salzburg card lets you jump the queue in any case, but I preferred not to. The fortress is large, with several museums inside; the state rooms are not included with the card unless you go up before 11, but there’s plenty to see. I picked an entrance via some steps, which took me straight into the fortress but I felt a little as though I was being shuffled through a tourist experience for a while. I’d recommend walking round the outside first and enjoying the views, before going into the museums – they start with the regimental history, while I was still wondering what each room was.

A view of Salzburg from the fortress showing the river and several green-copper domes, including the cathedral.
Panoramic view of Salzburg from above

On my final day I used the bus to get to parkrun and back, all included with the card (though no one asked to see it), took a river cruise – I booked ahead as I was passing the ticket office, asked for 5, he checked whether I’d said 3 or 5, and then I got a ticket for 4. I realised in time to make it back from the Salzburg museum, which is about 1km away. All these things were good, and I was happy with them all, but they also seemed a smidge overpriced without the card – a fantastic bargain with one. I highly recommend you get the card if you plan on doing more than one thing.

The Salzburg Card – info on benefits and how to buy.

Hellbrunn parkrun, Salzburg

Map of Hellbrunn parkrun route, a loop round the grounds of the castle
Hellbrunn parkrun route. Not quite three laps, starting at top right and ending at top left

Salzburg is hilly. Hellbrunn palace looks onto hills and a mountain. The parkrun course avoids all of that and has Dutch levels of elevation – 1m in total (there’s always a margin of error, but still).

The palace and gardens are 7km or so from the centre of Salzburg, which meant a bus ride was the best way for me to get there – the no.25 which starts at the main station (and elsewhere) leaves every 30 minutes, so I hopped on the 7.35 to be sure. As a result I was very early, and rode an extra stop to the zoo so I could wander back to the palace grounds.

View of the mountain looking away from the zoo.

I’d visited the zoo a few days before. I wouldn’t normally, but Salzburg’s attractions are all (I thought) slightly overpriced individually, but then a total bargain with a Salzburg card, which covers all public transport and entrance to everything I wanted to do, plus queue skipping for the funicular if needed. 30€ for the day seems steep, though you can easily save with that, but €39 for 2 days, and €45 for 3 becomes more and more of a bargain. I was never actually asked to show the card (digital, on my phone, for me, but real ones are easily available – e.g. at the souvenir shop in the main station) on the bus, but scanned in to other locations willy nilly.

As a result of that prior visit to the zoo and palace, I knew my way around, and strolled through the grounds – essentially, from the zoo bus stop, head left at the zoo and keep following that path. It’s even easier from the palace stop. There are plenty of toilets at the palace, all open around 8am (or earlier, I can only go by when I got there). I used the ones I knew, next to the Trick Fountains, but there are some on the main drive to the palace, and more even closer to the parkrun start, almost directly North of the meeting point, next to the Fürstenweg.

The meeting point is by the small dipping pond – a neat circle on the map, East of the Palace – and that’s where the finish is. The start is further along the path from the palace and the route is nearly three laps. All the way round twice, then the third time, finish at four-way ‘crossroads’ of paths, on the grass. Signs wherever needed, a couple of marshals, and even I couldn’t get lost.

People gathered at the finish line, on the grass where several gravelled paths meet. Trees and grass are on each side.
The finish line

We had a very international crowd. I even knew a couple of them – one I had met at Linz last weekend, and was expecting to see. And tail walking today was “the fast bloke” from Roma Pineto – when I saw his parkrun shirt with the name of the run on it, I recognised him. I ran Roma a few years ago, fresh from finishing first at Roma Caffarella the week before. I hoped for a repeat, but was rapidly disabused by the event director when Luigi turned up and, sure enough, he had a jog and beat me by two minutes. Today, with a sore foot, he walked at the back but I can’t exactly claim revenge – he’d still have beaten me at a jog. We had a photo together for the memories.

There were also runners from Germany (Westpark – another fond memory, as I bumped into a Ware Jogger I knew, and had been racing her son in law (he beat me, too), New Zealand, England and South Africa. The event director was Irish and one of the volunteers from the US, for good measure. To be expected, in such a tourist-heavy place, but still impressive in a field of 31.

Looking away from the finish line – the route comes up the path to the right, then make a sharp right to head along the path on the left. The start is at the end of the left-most path. This is the sharpest turn of the course.

I struggled a little on this very flat course. Partly a week of good food and drink in Salzburg, but also I think that despite the very flat course with only one sharp turn, the ground is gravelly throughout, which takes some of the thrust out of each leg strike. I certainly wouldn’t claim it’s a hard course, but it’s surprisingly un-quick for such a flat one.

There are views on the course, though I’d recommend a good walk around the grounds afterwards to see things properly. If you have a card, or are happy to pay, the Trick Fountains are both tremendously naff and equally good fun and the palace is interesting with a well-curated exhibition on the archbishop Markus Sittikus (show your card at the ticket office to swap for a timed-slot for the fountains; that ticket then gets you into the palace). Most of the participants headed off to the cafe nearby and ended up nattering till midday before hopping on the bus back home. It’s a lovely run/walk, but with the attractions of the palace and grounds on top, you can upgrade it to stunning.

Results from Hellbrunn parkrun event 45, 23/7/22; 31 finishers.

A four-way path crossing, surrounded by high trees
View of the finish area (taken on a non-parkrun day)
Looking down an avenue of tall trees back through a hedge and to the grounds of Hellbrunn Palace, very small in the distance
View from the finish area towards the Palace Grounds

Lentos Kunstmuseum (Art Museum), Linz

The Lentos Kunstmuseum is right next to the river Danube and just a short walk from the centre of town. Entrance is €10 and the wifi is excellent – that wouldn’t normally be the first thing I noticed, but I had stayed in two places without wifi and had notifications to update.

The museum is in a distinctive glass building. The galleries are all upstairs on one long floor, with a couple of exhibition spaces in the basement, which also has cloakrooms and lockers (€1, refundable). That long exhibition space is supported by two feet – one has the ticket office and shop, the other the cafe. It’s described as a contemporary art museum, pointing to the majority of the main exhibition being modern art, but there are some older, more classical, pieces early on, too. Reviews vary in the amount of time recommended – I was there for an hour and a half, and that was a fairly leisurely pace.

Soap blocks make a large installation, with three videos projected onto the surrounding walls detailing the soap-making process
Sapun Ghar, Iris Andraschek. About soap-making in Aleppo, and the main installation is soap blocks.

The special exhibition at the moment contains work by Iris Andraschek, in a variety of different media. I’d highly recommend finding the exhibition guide by the entrance, though there was only one copy in English when I went. It gave good descriptions and context for the whole thing.

A series of aquariums, with found objects blown by pumps in the water, forming interesting shapes or making continual noise in the case of the balls in one aquarium
Aquariums, Iris Andraschek 1992-2022

There is a Picasso and a Warhol, though in general the museum focuses on art from artists from the area, or with some link to it. That doesn’t seem to limit them too much in where people are from, or in the breadth of exhibits, and I enjoyed my stroll through despite knowing very little about what I was seeing.

Donauradweg parkrun, Linz

Donauradweg parkrun route on this day only – head NE, back to the first (North) bridge and over, down to the South, back to the Southernmost bridge and finish in the same place, but on the grass.

The meeting point for the Donauradweg parkrun is on the North side of the Danube, just next to (under if wet) the Neue Eisenbahnbrücke (New Railway Bridge). Don’t be put off by the name – it’s a pedestrian bridge, so it can be your route across if necessary. Indeed, it was part of the event route this time, though not currently marked as such on the official course page, which shows the out and back route, staying North of the river. The route I ran, as you’ll see in the comments below, turned out to be too tricky to marshal, so you now run an out and back along the North side of the river. Nothing to stop you having a run or walk across the bridges, though, and exploring the South Side.

Unfortunately for us, the usual course setter-up wasn’t there this Saturday, and we completed the first turn-around too soon. I figured it was early; we’d been told the turn was after a km or so, and I was initially impressed by how quickly the first runners were coming back at us. Then I made the turn after 100m or so more myself, was only about 600m in and thought it must be too early. Sure enough, we all got very quick times, though they might later get adjusted to fit!

The course has been changed to make it more interesting than the old out and back, and to let participants see a bit more of the river (and enjoy the climb up to the apex of the bridges) as they go. Other than the turnaround snafu, it’s certainly successful, and worth the work involved in getting permission from two different authorities. It sounded as though they were keen enough, guiding organisers through the nomenclature – parkrun is ‘official’ to us, but with no numbers etc., not so for the authorities, which makes getting permission easier. The parkrun guidelines required written permission, which was harder to get since the authorities deemed that unnecessary, but eventually they managed to make all the edges fit.

There are a couple of little climbs, including one early on – always keep to the higher path is the motto of the route. There are some tight turns, including the two 180s for the out-and-back sections, but otherwise this is a fast and flat route, if you’re not totally distracted by the river to the side.

Linz itself seemed, as I arrived by train, a very relaxed place. The railway station is a little way from the centre, which probably adds to that feeling, but despite being Austria’s third-largest city it isn’t such an obvious tourist destination as some of the others (Hitler spent his youth there and considered it his hometown, but that’s not something they make anything of) so I felt relaxed even in the city centre itself. I stayed up on one of the hills to the South of town, and walked (just under 4km) to the parkrun start though there are buses and trams nearby. There are portaloos and a drinking fountain just to the SW of the start if you need them.

Results from Donauradweg parkrun event 14, 16/7/22; 28 finishers.

Donaupark parkrun, Vienna

Donaupark parkrun route, three laps of the park by the Danube.
Donaupark parkrun route. 3 laps, anticlockwise.

Austria started parkrun in Salzburg in August 2021 and now has three events, in Salzburg, Linz and Vienna. Vienna started in October 2021, and was today on its 33rd event. It’s very easy to get to, albeit I broke with my tendency to walk to the start (it being 9+ km away from Westbahn) and hopped on the metro. From Alte Donau (‘Old Danube’) metro, on the U1 line, it’s a 400m walk and you can’t really miss it – take the Arbeiterstrandbadstraße exit, turn right and walk along the road, then cross over once you’re past the Sportcenter and you’re there.

Skyscrapers look over the park, while a hi-viz wearing volunteer gives the German-language briefing. An English one followed.
Introductory briefing from the concrete

By now I am used to hearing briefings in languages I really don’t speak, and enjoy picking out the bits that I can – three laps, clap for volunteers, qr code here if you’d like to help out in the future. But it was a somewhat wasted effort, in that the German-language briefing was immediately followed by a fulsome one in English, from a different volunteer. A nice touch, and helpful given the number of tourists.

The tall Donauturm, or Danube tower, rises in the park and the path and runners head towards it.
After the first turn, you run toward the tower. Even I couldn’t miss it.

I chatted to a couple of English people before the start, and we later found that we covered more-or-less exactly 20 years, with 10 years between each of us. They then took the Mickey out of me for not being significantly faster than them, which was fair enough. Both I and the 59 year old sandbagged; me suggesting I’d run a minute quicker than him, which made for a surprise when he came past me in the last 500m or so. There was little I could do about it, other than congratulate him.

A wide path, with trees and mowed grass on either side
Wide paths

No one really bit on my jokes about no-one knowing the name of the park (“What’s this park?” “Donau”), and how the situation only gets worse if you ask, well, okay then, what’s the river called? but I enjoyed them immensely. It’s good, I think, to have a nice time in your own head. I also had a perfectly decent time running round the park. It’s yet another parkrun with a mini-railway track running near it, and you cross that en-route.

Concrete blocks showing the park name
The briefing area, finish and start just behind here

The run is a fast and flat route, with a slight headwind today down the first/finishing straight to keep us occupied. It finishes in almost exactly the same place as it starts, so couldn’t be simpler, other than remembering to run round the edge of the area marked by the cones, rather than taking a shortcut across the tarmacced area from which the event briefing is given. The course was mostly unmarshalled, but just needed the few arrows it had to keep us heading the right way. Towards the end of the loop you take a smaller path to the right, to loop slightly away from the start/finish, but other than that I reckon I could run it again without markers, which is rare.

Post event we went to the Café Oide Donau (no, oi don’t know either) which is close, though not the cafe that is in the park so don’t head off for a post run cooldown and miss out. I sat chatting with a couple of Brits, enjoying the warm (but not too warm) weather before hopping on the metro with a new friend. Polish parkruns are great, but they do slightly miss out for not so often having a post-event cafe visit, and my three weeks there made this cafe visit all the sweeter. And this is a lovely event, which is never going to be a slow course unless there’s ice on the course. First place today celebrated that by setting a new course record – it’s not out of reach, but a good marker for decent runners to hit in the future. Whether you come for that or just to take in an Austrian parkrun, this is a easy to get to, straightforward to navigate and recommended event.

Results from Donapark parkrun event 33, 9/7/22; 58 finishers.

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