Saturday, April 1, 2023

[WERFEN] The Hills Are Alive

Dachstein getting canceled meant having to find a replacement fast. This is probably the good thing about traveling with friends who are there for vacation. They will really find a destination that is worth it. Otherwise, I would’ve just stayed next to the train tracks of the HBF. Anyway, they decided that we were going to a castle in Werfen instead which is still within the region of Salzburg about half an hour drive away from the city. And so we went. I’m glad I did, because the imagery is now living in my mind rent free.

The entrance to the castle which includes a guided tour costs EUR 12.90 (~PHP750). You can also buy a one-way or roundtrip ticket on the cable car. I forgot how much it costs but since we wanted to hike the hills, it was no longer an option for us. The hike takes just around 25 minutes before you reach the castle gates. The views going up are already picturesque. Imagine what it looks like up there from a higher vantage point! Those snow capped mountain peaks will be stalking you everywhere you go.

Waiting for the 12:30 tour gave us enough time to explore the castle grounds. There was a bird show when we arrived with falcons and eagles flying back and forth at the behest of their trainers. Seeing them fly with the mountains in the background makes for good photos and videos! That part of the castle facing the mountain range has enough real estate for large groups. The layers of hills on which it stands are green with grass, which complements the brown and white of the mountains.

The view of the mountains can be as clear as day or shrouded in fog depending on how bad the weather is. The sun came out for short appearances when we went, punctuated with drizzles here and there. Once done, you can enter the castle grounds and explore a bit. There are plenty to see inside. Climbing several flights of stairs leads you to a sizable courtyard where more stunning views of the castle itself with the mountains in the background await.

Construction of the castle started in 1075 and was ordered by the archbishops of Salzburg. The Habsburgs also owned it at one point. The castle’s biggest claim to fame, though, is being the setting for an old Hollywood movie starring Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood called Where Eagles Dare, which I've never heard of before. If you want something more familiar, then we just have to use The Sound of Music as reference. Some of the hilltop scenes were filmed nearby and you can actually see this castle in the background in one of the songs.

Consulting Google Maps later on, there was a specially marked attraction nearby called The Sound of Music trail. I wasn’t sure at first whether that was legit. Then again, we had an obligatory screening of the film when we got home which confirmed that the trail is, indeed, legit. If you are a fan, it might be worth an extended hour or two for you to check it out. Who knows, you might even get to channel your inner Julie Andrews exclaiming how alive those hills are with the sound of music.

The guided tour lasted for an hour and it just felt rushed. The highlights were more focused on the castle’s dark history as a prison as well as the torture methods involved in making the prisoners suffer. You also get to climb all the way up to the belltower to see the surroundings from an even higher vantage point. Time spent up there is rather limited, though, depending on how many people are there with you on the tour. You also get a peek of how the rather medieval clockwork functions.

Overall I loved the views and I’d say that this trip has been worth it. Medieval castles do not fascinate me that much because I can only imagine how inconvenient life must have been back in those days, not to mention how creepy the ambiance feels like. Or maybe that’s just what happens when you let your imagination fly. These medieval castles only seem to be apt as settings for medieval whodunnit storylines. Otherwise, a day trip is still worth it, just to immerse yourself in history for a few hours while enjoying those views.

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