Italy and Austria 2017: Day 12 — Saalfelden am Steinernen Meer

This morning we had to wake up early — again. It had rained overnight, and it had just stopped raining again as we set out. The train taking us to Saalfelden was due to leave at 7:05 a.m. Because the trains here run on time to a fault, we knew we couldn’t be late. We took a taxi from the hotel to the Hauptbahnhof, and then we were on our way.

The train trip was going to take almost two hours. It was not a high speed train like our trip from Rome to Florence. It had to slowly make its way up in elevation and wind through mountain passes, so we were moving pretty slowly. Not many traveled this route, so our train car was roomy and quiet. Thing 2 slept while I alternately read and watched the scenery pass me by. It seems that dog agility training parks are common. Most houses had firewood chopped up neatly at the side or backs of the gardens. It rained a bit as we traveled.

Luckily, it had stopped raining by the time we actually pulled into the station. It was threatening to start any moment, though. That meant that our summer tobogganing excursion (sommerrodelbahn) was not going to be able to take place. ☹️ Undeterred, we moved on to the next item on our itinerary: visit Saalfelden’s graveyard to find the Bischetsrieder family tomb. (Bischetsrieder was my family name before I married.) We stopped in at the town’s tourist info center. The town population is about 16,000, and people come to visit as they are passing through on bikes or hiking excursions. We got a map of the town and the attendant was able to point us in the direction of the friedhof (cemetery). The town was so small that we were able to walk there in a matter of minutes. There is a small chapel in the center of the cemetery; I remembered seeing that from family pictures. So, I snapped new photos of it for my dad. I went in to the chapel and photographed both the altar piece and the ceiling. Then I set to work trying to find our family’s marker. I had no idea where to start, but luckily it was a rather small cemetery (compared to Fullerton’s TTT), and it was the only one in town. So we had that going for us, which was nice.

Thing 2 and I divided up the cemetery into quadrants and set out walking through the rows of graves and crypts little by little. As we worked, various local citizens came to the cemetery to tend their loved ones’ graves. They take REALLY good care of the graves. Nearly all of them had one or two candles present, some of them even lit. All had lovely flowers or small shrubs planted and dark, rich planting soil for the plants. Many also had small garden ornaments or decorated stones placed attractively among the flowers. Several of the graves had small watering cans behind the headstones, although the cemetery had some on hand for people to borrow if they were working there and didn’t have their own. About half-way through our search, it started raining again — pouring this time. So, we took shelter under the overhang of another chapel at the back of the friedhof; we waited about twenty-five minutes until the rain passed, and then we set out looking again. It became clear, though, that we were looking at graves of people who had deceased more recently. We needed the oldest part of the graveyard, but we just weren’t having any luck. While we were waiting for the rain to pass, I tried everything I could to find information that would help me find my family’s marker. I tried various Google search terms; no luck. I wanted to text my dad for information, but it was only 2:30 a.m. in Los Angeles, and I didn’t want to wake him up. Instead, I posted a message on my aunt’s and my uncle’s Facebook walls, respectively, asking them for help if they saw my message. They were on Eastern time, so they may have seen my message sooner to help.

In the meantime, Thing 2 and I resolved to have some lunch. After lunch, we were going to check the grounds of the church to see if there were any older graves there. We went to Saalfelden’s Stadtcafe. It was basically a burger place, and they were so good. I got the “Westernburger” and Thing 2 got the “Route 66” burger. We each got fries and pretty much gobbled it all up. (As we’ve been traveling, we’ve really only been eating about one meal a day – either lunch or dinner – and getting a snack at some point during the day to tide us over. So, when we eat, we eat it all.) The church also did not contain my family’s graves, so we then turned to shopping. Saalfelden is so cute! I don’t know why my people left — except by doing so, they avoided World War I and World War II, so that’s a good thing. It is just such a beautiful and tranquil world here.

Any time we saw a store that sold trachtenmode (what Austrians call traditional dress of lederhosen [for men] and dirndls [for women]) I wanted to stop to look, at least in the windows. Some of the women’s dirndls are so expensive. One of the finest quality dirndls can sell for up to 800 € (about $895). A mid-range, but still quality, dirndl sells for about 250 € to 400 €. And that’s just for the dirndl. After that, a woman still needs to buy a dirndl blusen, which is about 29 to 49 €, to as much as 79 €. In addition to that, they also sell trachtenblusen, which is similar to the collared shirt a male might wear with his lederhosen, only cut for a woman to look more feminine. They’re really nice shirts, and I wanted a few because I could also wear them to work or to dress up a pair of jeans. I also wanted to get a little prize or treat to bring home for Mr. T. He was the only one of my family for whom I hadn’t yet bought a souvenir.

Meanwhile, I had continued to check my Facebook notifications on my phone to see if anyone had responded back to my plea for help to find our family’s grave. One of our cousins who lives here in Austria, Peter, gave me a bit more direction. Getting short on time, though, Thing 2 and I made our way back to the cemetery, looking again at graves and crypts based on his reply to my post. We still couldn’t find what we were looking for. To say that it was a huge disappointment is putting it lightly. I had come. all. this. way. and came so close, and yet I didn’t find that for which I was looking. I wanted to cry. Thing 2 reminded me, though, that I had found our family’s chapel in the cemetery, and that was better than nothing. This was true.

Since we cut it too close on time searching through the graveyard one last time to make it back to the Hauptbahnhof on foot, we called a taxi to take us there. Literally, as I was sitting on the platform with five minutes before the train was due to pull into the station to go back to Salzburg, my dad texted me back with old photos of the family crypt marker. Nothing we saw in the cemetery looked like our marker. From the old photos, I knew I was in the correct cemetery. And, as I mentioned, there was only one. However, the height of our crypt marker rose above the height of the walls of the friedhof, and there were no current markers in the cemetery that rose above the height of the walls. That I knew for sure without a doubt from looking at everyone one. Now I didn’t feel so bad that I didn’t find it. There was nothing there that looked like the photo in the marker. 5So, what happened to our family’s marker? I am not sure. I wasn’t able to figure that out. Since the crypt probably hadn’t been used for more than 100 years, did the move the remains and marker to another location to make space for new citizens’ burials? I know the Pére Lachaise cemetery in Paris is like that. I am not sure what Saalfelden’s policy is. The other Bischetsrieder family members have been buried in Vienna, not necessarily Saalfelden.

Once again, our train trip back was quiet and beautiful. Thing 2 feel asleep, and I went back to alternately reading and viewing the countryside. When we arrived at Salzburg’s Hauptbahnhof, we caught the bus back to our hotel.

We had about two hours to rest before the last item on our agenda for the day: a performance of The Sound of Music by the Salzburger Marionette Theater. The theater was right across the street from our hotel. When it was time, we dressed and started to walk over. There was also a regular theater performance of The Sound of Music going to start with regular human actors, so there were a lot of people out on the street in the early evening moving in the same direction. The Austrian’s (and Sound of Music fans) take it very seriously. Men and women were dressed up in trachtenmode to attend the theater performances. Thing 2 and I could have worn our dirndls and no one would have looked at us strangely by any means.

The performance was great, and I am not a big fan of that musical. The marionettes themselves were quite tall, about 30 to 36 inches, and each had their own operator. Different actors provided the vocal performance. Unfortunately, we were sat in front of a group of school kids, some of whom were obnoxious. Of course, the obnoxious one was sitting right behind us. Even though they understood German (because a teacher spoke to them in German and they all understood her), to each other they spoke Spanish. The obnoxious one chatted the entire performance. Intermission came, and I told Thing 2 that if he continued to talk, I would give him my best Teacher Stare, and tell him in Spanish that I needed him to be quieter. “That will probably blow his mind that I can speak Spanish,” I told Thing 2. Anyway, Thing 2 got some water during the Intermission, and I got a Stiegl beer (traditional Austrian brand) and a pretzel. Thing 2 asked me as the lights were going down, “Are you really going to say something if he starts talking again?” I told her that, now that I had had the beer, I was feeling relaxed so the talking might not have bothered me as much.

But, yes, he started talking again. So, yes, I turned around and told him in Spanish to be more quiet. He didn’t say a peep for the rest of the performance and, as we were leaving the theater, his friends turned around and looked as us and razzed him for getting talked to by me. Don’t mess with a teacher on vacation!

Before going into our hotel for the night, Thing 2 and I stood on the bridge across the Salzach river outside our hotel and snapped some night shots of the fortress that overlooks the city. As both she and I could not stand climbing one more hill or steep steps, we did not visit the fortress. That will have to come on a later visit — because I will be back! We also walked through the streets of the older part of the city. The shops were all closed, but restaurants were still open for a Friday night, and the air was nice and cool. We snapped a few more shots and then called it a nice. Both of us slept like rocks until it was time to get up for our tour of Berchtesgaden and the Eagle’s Nest. More on that in the next post.

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