Day 7 – Heading into the Austrian mountains

Vienna – Bruck an der Mur – Leoben – Stainach Irdning – Attnang Puchheim – Salzburg

When I started to plan this adventure I spent ages reading “top railway journey” articles online, and plotting my findings onto Google Earth. The intention was that this was going to be all about the journey and not necessarily the destination. There were of course a number of destinations built in, I was going to concerts in Antwerp and Berlin, and will be in Madrid, in the third trip. I also specifically wanted to travel to the Arctic Circle, and from that came the idea of going as far south and west as I could. Other than that it was a matter of joining as many of the dots on the map as I could.

All of which brings us to today. One of the truly iconic bits of railway building, the Semmering line was used as a model for lines through mountainous country for many years. As I visited, work was under way for a new tunnel which will take it all away in a little under a decade. The map below shows the old and new routes. (Click link to explore in detail.)

Extract from Open Railway Map
From Open Railway Map

Frustratingly, the train I had boarded in Vienna had come from Prague, so was already well into a long journey on a March morning and the windows were filthy. Eyes do a much better job than a camera does in this situation, so I’ll spare you my photos of this section. This Wikipedia link gives a good idea of it though.

I dropped off the train in Bruck an der Mur and took the short hop to Leoben. A pause there over lunch and I was on a local service to Stainach Irdning. Here I hopped platforms (the connection waited for us) and headed for the second marker on my Google Earth map – and thankfully clean windows!

The scenery was immediately spectacular. The line weaves its way between the mountains through small and distinctively Austrian villages. This route in the summer would have had a stop at Hallstatt, reputedly the prettiest village in Austria and reachable by boat from the station, but this early in the year it doesn’t run so I was left with views across the lake to make up for it.

The line continued past more spectacular scenery, opening out as we approached Gmunden. Here it skirts the lake and stops some distance from the towns (there is a line into the centre) but that’s one for another day – and I’m very there will be another visit to this area.

View across the Traunsee near to Gmunden

After this, another change of trains and I’m on my way to Salzburg. I’d made this a shorter day, partly because all this travelling is tiring and partly because I’d not been to Salzburg before. My first impressions were a little disappointing. Notwithstanding a really super hotel, the area around the station was fairly dull, but as I walked towards the river it got better. I quickly spotted the trolleybuses everywhere. A rare sight, barring museums I’ve only ever seen them in Gdynia, but here they go everywhere. Another oddity was that I found three statues in the town that have been covered over.

The castle was clearly the focal point of this place. I spotted a funicular railway, but it had just closed for the day so I decided there was nothing for it but to walk up the hill. It was a serious climb, but the views were fabulous.

As I was standing taking photos of the city, a door opened above me and organ music started to play. it lasted only a few seconds then the doors closed again.

I then dropped back down to the town, which by now was in night. It is an absolutely charming place. It is a lot smaller, but I prefer it to Vienna and with all the scenery around it would be a great base for a longer visit.

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1 Comment

  1. Celia Lyon

    I am a Sound of Music fan and did the tour. Really loved it. And Salzburg is such a gorgeous city

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