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Paul Almeida: My European Favourites in 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1!

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Salzburg, Austria by Paul Almeida

Salzburg is one of my favourite mid-sized cities in Europe and Austria’s fourth largest city, with only about 150,000 residents. Geographically, it lies at the foot of the Eastern Alps, close to the German border and is bisected by the Salzach River. The compact old town, with medieval and baroque architecture is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is easy to explore on foot. Salzburg is visited annually by millions of tourists from around the world and our Azorcan tour groups often list it as a favourite stop.

Salzburg, Austria

5 FUN FACTS

Salzburg literally means “Salt Fortress.” The reigning Prince-Archbishops, the city and the region became wealthy mainly from the salt mines in the area, trade and some gold mining. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit a salt mine in the area to learn more about the extraction of the “white gold.”

The 11th century Hohensalzburg is one of the largest and best preserved medieval fortresses in Europe. You can walk up the path to the fortress or you can take the Festungsbahn funicular railway located just off the Kapitelplatz. From the fortress, you can enjoy some of the best views of the city and the surrounding area.

Composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born on January 27, 1756 in Salzburg, and you can visit his birthplace which is also a museum. You can’t miss the bright yellow building at No. 9 Getreidegasse with “Mozart’s Gebursthaus” in gold letters on the façade. The Getreidegasse is a pedestrian street with shops and restaurants. The ornamental wrought iron signs on the building facades harken back to medieval times. The Schlosserei Wieber shop on the Getreidegasse is a traditional metalworking shop that also continues to make these signs. The city celebrates Mozart Week festival in January around his birthday. A friend once joked that “Mozart was my favourite composer, now he’s my favourite decomposer.”

Hohensalzburg Fortress, Mozart’s Gebursthaus and the metal signs on the Getreidegasse

The famous Salzburg Festival, established in 1920 and which features some of Mozart’s works, is held each summer for five weeks starting in late July. With approximately two hundred drama, concert, and opera events and a quarter of a million visitors, it is a huge undertaking and an important driver of the local economy. The festival celebrated its 200th anniversary in 2020 but unfortunately plans had to be scaled back due to the corona virus pandemic.

The Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, “The Sound of Music,” about the Von Trapp family was set in Salzburg and movie fans love to search out film locations in the city.

Some of the most popular places to seek out are St. Peter’s cemetery, the Mirabell Palace and gardens with the Pegasus fountain, the Horse Pond, the Residence Square with it’s baroque fountain, Schloss Leopoldskron and the Nonnberg Abbey. The Rock Riding School, which was initially built to be a cathedral but was changed to a riding school by the Prince-Archbishop, later became Salzburg’s favourite concert venue. This is where the real Von Trapp family won the 1936 Salzburg Music Festival. There are other film locations located in the surrounding areas and there are tours that focus on the Von Trapp’s and the movie.

Mirabell Gardens, Makartsteg Bridge and the view of the old town from the Mochsberg

4 POINTS OF INTEREST

A walking tour of Salzburg usually starts at the Mirabell Palace gardens. The Palace was built by a Prince-Archbishop in 1606 and has a grand marble hall that is popular for weddings. The view from the palace’s gardens to the Hohensalzburg fortress in the summer when the geometrically laid flowers are in bloom is amazing. The Grand Fountain in the centre of the garden with four mythological statues representing the elements (Fire, Air, Earth, Water), the Dwarf Garden, and the Pegasus Fountain are popular photo stops. The best way to cross the Salzach river to the old town from the Mirabell gardens is the pedestrian Makartsteg Bridge which is usually adorned with numerous “love locks.” The locks are inscribed with the lovers initials, attached to the fencing and the key thrown into the Salzach.

As you cross the river to the old town (Altstadt), go to the right and you will find the Monchsberg lift which takes you up to the Museum of Modern Art (Museum der Moderne). The café at the museum is a great place to have a cappuccino and cheese strudel as you admire the view of the old town. The Monchsberg, which was named after the Benedictine monks, is one of five mountains or hills in Salzburg. The Monchsberg plateau has a hiking path through the forest that you can take and enjoy scenic views all the way to the Hohensalzburg fortress. The city has a mountain inspector’s office (Bergputzer) to check the mountain for possible falling rocks. In 1669, an avalanche of rock landed on the city below and killed over 200 people.

On the University Square (Universitatplatz), you will find the Grünmarkt or green

Market that goes back to the 18th century. The farmers market still has vendors selling fruit, vegetables, cheeses, meats, breads and pastries. It’s a great place to sample local products, or grab a quick lunch or a pretzel. The Kollegienkirche or University church dominates the square, and there are several historic buildings surrounding the lively square.

Pretzel kiosk on University Square, Residence Square and the Salzburg Cathedral>

A short walk from the University Square will take you past the Alter Markt square with the St. Florian Fountain and into the expansive Residence Square (Residenzplatz). The square has a magnificent baroque fountain decorated with four horses snorting water, giants, dolphins and a triton. Here is where you can find horse drawn carriages to enjoy the city centre at a leisurely pace. The Residence museum on the square is a testament to the immense wealth and political power of the Prince-Archbishop’s of Salzburg. The lavish state rooms and painting collection make it a top attraction. The 17th century baroque Salzburg Cathedral or Dom on the square is connected to the Residence. The Cathedral has religious relics of St. Rupert, an impressive pipe organ, plus an ornate ceiling and dome. The baptismal font is the same one used to baptize Mozart.

3 INTERESTING ACTIVITIES

To fully understand the significance of salt to the fortunes of Salzburg take a short trip to the Salzbergwerk Dürrnberg, which is located on the Dürrnberg above the town of Hallein. After supplying you with miner’s overalls, you will go by rail deep into the mountain where you will walk through the tunnels, go down two long slides and take a raft trip across an underground salt lake. The very informative tour explains the history of the mine from the age of the Celts to modern mining methods. After the tour be sure to visit the SALINA Celtic village to see how life was 2,600 years ago.

The Red Bull Hanger 7 at the Salzburg Airport is an impressive glass structure that houses the Flying Bulls historical airplane and helicopter fleet plus a collection of Formula 1 race cars. Austrian Red Bull founder and billionaire Dietrich Mateschitz is the owner of the hanger and the collection. If you like cars or planes, this is a must stop when you visit Salzburg or have a layover at the airport.

Going into the Salt Mine, a Red Bull concept race car and inside the Hanger 7

The imposing 900 year old medieval Hohenwerfen Castle, surrounded by the Berchtesgaden Alps, is located about 40 km south of Salzburg and overlooks the town of Werfen. A funicular takes you from the parking area up to the castle’s interior  courtyard. The castle has an extensive weapons exhibit. The main event is a birds of prey demonstration from the Salzburg Falconry Center in the exterior courtyard with falcons, kites, vultures, and eagles. Some of these birds are huge and have no problem walking amongst the spectators. Be sure to check the daily times of the demonstrations in advance.

The impressive Hohenwerfen Castle, the courtyard and a large eagle

2 LOCAL DISHES TO ORDER

Tafelspitz is a popular Austrian dish of veal and vegetables that is simmered slowly. The broth is served separately as a first course then the veal and root vegetables are accompanied by apple-horsradish and chives.

Salzburger Nockerl was invented in Salzburg in the 17th century. Nockerl are vanilla flavoured dumplings dusted with powdered sugar and served with fruit jams or sauces. The warm dumplings arrive in three mounds to represent the three hills that surround Salzburg.

A Salzburger Nockerl, the Augustiner Brewery and their beer gardens

1 BEVERAGE TO ENJOY

There are eleven breweries in Salzburg, and the city is known as Austria’s beer capital. The Stiegl brewery has been privately owned since 1492. The Stieglkeller, located below the Hohensalzburg fortress, is a restaurant and beer garden that offers great views of the old town.

Established in 1621, the Augustiner Brau brewery and tavern is the biggest in Austria with indoor seating and a beer garden. In addition to great beer, you can purchase traditional dishes from food stands located inside the hall or the brewery.

Salzburg is a university town and has a lively café, beer garden and nightlife scene.

In addition to Mozart Week and the Salzburg Music Festival locals celebrate Fasching, Easter and harvest festivals. Salzburg’s Christmas markets are very popular and some shops in the old town specialize in Christmas.

Paul Almeida is the President of Azorcan Global Sport, School and Sightseeing tours and his company has taken thousands of people to Europe on custom group tours since 1994.

Visit azorcan.net to see all our custom group tour possibilities and to see our signature sport, sightseeing and sport fan tours individuals can now join.

Check out our newsletters, and listen to our podcasts at azorcan.net/media

Images compliments of Paul Almeida and Azorcan Tours.

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My European Favourites – One Day In The Bavarian Alps

I have been in sports management and the sports tour business since 1994 when I created my company, Azorcan Global Sport, School and Sightseeing tours. Please visit our website at azorcan.net for more information on our company, our tours and our destinations. We are European group tour experts specializing in custom sightseeing tours, sport tours (hockey, soccer, ringette, school academies) and fan tours (World Juniors). Check out our newsletters, and listen to our podcasts at azorcan.net/media.

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My European Favourites – Day Trip From Amsterdam

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The Netherlands is a great place to visit either as a main destination or as a stopover for a couple of days. I have always enjoyed flying KLM and use them often for our many groups travelling throughout Europe. Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport is an east hub to fly into from North America, and I like the airport layout over other big and busy European airports.

Amsterdam itself has many interesting places to visit and explore. The city is full of history, great architecture, canals, bridges, museums, great shopping, cyclists, interesting cafes, the Anne Frank House, the Heineken Brewery, and yes, the notorious red light district. Not many people venture outside the city during a stopover, but one of our favourite day trips is from Amsterdam. We always try to do it on a Wednesday, so we catch the Edam cheese market show.

De Huisman Windmill exterior and interior grinding spices. Clog machine at work and the final products.

Zaanse Schans

Our twenty minute early morning trip to Zaandam starts after a good breakfast at our centrally located hotel in Amsterdam. On the way, you can enjoy the beautiful Dutch countryside including dikes and plots of land reclaimed from the water, called polders. Starting in the late 16th century, the Zaandam and the Zaan river area were important wood milling regions during the “Dutch Golden Age” with thousands of saw windmills. In the 19th century, the area became a leader of the “Industrial Age” in the Netherlands.

Starting in 1961, the Zaanse Schans was turned into an open air museum with windmills and buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries. Various wooden houses, barns, shops, warehouses and windmills were transported here starting in 1961. The buildings along with traditional farmsteads, paths, ditches and fields depict how village life was like during that prosperous time.

When we arrive at the Zaanse Schans parking lot, you will undoubtably smell chocolate from the nearby cacao processing factories. Entrance to the Zaansee Schans is free, but some of the workshops and windmills located throughout the grounds are museums and require an entrance fee. You can purchase a ticket to have access to all the museums.

One of the first buildings you will see on arrival is the Kooijman Souvenirs & Clogs Wooden Shoe Workshop. Here you can see a wooden clog machine demonstration. Afterwards, wander throughout the site checking out the bakery, fisherman’s house, weavers house, clock house, merchant house, cheese house, pewter house, pancake house and see how vats and barrels are made at the cooperage. With a little breeze, you can see the sails of the windmills slowly turning while the inner workings churn away. The windmills saw wood or mill oil, flower, spices or pigments to dye cloth. Some windmills allow visitors to climb up to the deck via narrow stairs for a nice view of the river and the area.

The Zaans Museum, located by the parking area, opened in 1998, and contains clothing and artifacts from the area. At its Verkade Experience you can see original chocolate and biscuit factory machines from the early 20th century at work. The museum also has a café and shop.

Traditional houses that are now workshops and museums. Like the Catharina Hoeve Cheese House.

Edam

Another short 20 minute drive, and we reach Edam, which is famous for its cheese market that started in1520. Edam cheese is round with a flattened top and bottom and is coated with a red paraffin wax which allowed it to age well and not spoil on long voyages. Its unique taste plus the lack of spoilage made it extremely attractive for exporting throughout the world. The market was closed in 1922 when cheese began to be made in factories rather than by local farms.

At the original market, farmers would bring their cheese using horse drawn cart or by boat. Once they arrived, the cheese carriers, who wore different colored hats depending on which cheese guild they belonged to, would load the product onto wooden barrows. Once the barrow was loaded, the carriers placed carry straps over their shoulders and walked the precious cargo to the cheese tasters. The tasters would drill a core sample from the cheese and based on the exterior wax, smell, taste and other factors began to bargain the price with the seller using a series of shouts and hand claps. When the price was settled the cheese was taken to the weighing house to determine the final amount to be paid.

Every Wednesday in the summer from 10:30 to 12:30, the town re-enacts the hustle, and bustle of the market at the Jan van Nieuwenhuizen Square. The colorful market includes many family members, including children, wearing traditional costumes, dresses and clogs plus kiosks selling cheese. Throughout the performance, horse carts and boats arrive, cheese carriers scurry at a comical pace and bargain shouts and hand slaps can be heard. So visitors understand everything that is happening, there is a person on a microphone explaining the entire process. It’s quite interesting and fun to witness.

The Edam cheese market square, unloading the boats, cheese carriers and girls in traditional costumes.

Smoked Eels

Next, we will travel from Edam to the seaside fishing village of Volendam to visit a local smokehouse that was founded in 1856.  Smoked eels at one time were an important staple food in the Netherlands but recently a drop in the eel population and the resulting price increase has made it a delicacy. Today, the 5th and 6th generations of the Smits’ family keep their family’s secret fish smoking process and traditions alive. The smoked eel is their specialty and during the eel fishing season the entire family is involved in the cutting, gouging, skinning, digging and filleting of the eels. The Paviljoen Smit-Bokkum offers private tours of the smokehouse to introduce people to the traditional eel fishing, processing and smoking activities. In addition to eel, they smoke salmon, dorado and sea bass using pine wood. The eel is delicious and at their restaurant you can try various local dishes. The location also has a shop and a small Palingsound (eel sound) Museum dedicated to Volendam’s unique and famous pop music.

The Paviljoen Smit-Bokkum, our guide with smoked eels, smoked fish and a fish display in Volendam.

Volendam

Volendam, once a simple catholic fishing village, is now Holland’s best-known seaside town and is visited by millions annually. The Volendam Catholic fishermen had their own typical costumes and dialect. The town’s boardwalk, once home to fishermen’s wooden shacks, is now adorned with colorful wooden houses, tourist shops, cafes and restaurants. As you walk through the town and its shops, you will see locals wearing the traditional clothing. If you explore the village’s narrow lanes in the old neighborhoods, you can still see some of the old fishermens’ houses.

There used to be hundreds of vessels at one time when Volendam’s fishing fleet had access to the North Sea, but after closing its access, the harbour contains only a few fishing vessels doing fresh water fishing on Markermeer lake. Nowadays, leisure boats and the ferries that go to the nearby island of Marken occupy the majority of the harbour space.

Some restaurants offer tasty local seafood dishes and cool drinks on patios overlooking the harbour. For a quick lunch, food stands and take away restaurants sell kibbeling (battered and fried fish nuggets), herring, shrimp and of course smoked eel.

A visit to the Volendams Museum provides an interesting look into the town’s history, costumes, traditions and art. If you have time, you may consider taking the Volendam Marken Express boat to Marken.

Volendam’s boardwalk with shops and restaurants. The harbour area with leisure and ferry boats.

Cheese Farm

On the way back to Amsterdam, and a short distance from Volendam, we will stop at the Henri Willig Jacob’s Hoeve cheese farm. The staff wear traditional clothing, and they give a short introduction and demonstration of the cheese making process. The number of cow goat and sheep cheese varieties is quite overwhelming but very interesting to sample. Some flavours you might encounter include truffle, cumin, pesto, red chili pepper, coconut, pepper, rosemary and garlic. They are all for sale in various sizes along with other Dutch souvenirs and foods. You can also see the cows in their new stable especially designed for the organic farm’s herd of Jerseys.

Henri Willig Jacob’s Hoeve entrance, the cheese making demonstration and the many cheeses for sale.

It is only twenty minutes back to Amsterdam and as you enjoy the countryside you can decide on what great restaurant you will go to tonight. I think an authentic Indonesian “rijsttafel” or rice table would be a great way to end the day. The rice table was brought back to the Netherlands from the Dutch East Indies where it was created by the Dutch as a festive way to showcase their colony’s diverse and multi-ethnic Indonesian cuisine. The rice is accompanied by a multitude of small meat, vegetarian and condiment dishes that may include spring rolls, satay meat skewers, curries, fish, boiled eggs, spicy sauces, peanut sauces, vegetables, and fried bananas. It is great for sampling different tastes and for sharing. You can find Indonesian fast food and restaurants throughout Amsterdam, but a place like Tujuh Maret or Ron Gastrobar Indonesia offering a rice table is definitely something you should experience.

Explore Europe With Us

Azorcan Global Sport, School and Sightseeing Tours have taken thousands to Europe on their custom group tours since 1994. Visit azorcan.net to see all our custom tour possibilities for your group of 26 or more. Individuals can join our “open” signature sport, sightseeing and sport fan tours including our popular Canada hockey fan tours to the World Juniors. At azorcan.net/media you can read our newsletters and listen to our podcasts.

Images compliments of Paul Almeida and Azorcan Tours.

My European Favourites – One Day In The Bavarian Alps

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Canadian firm Just Energy warns of huge losses due to extreme Texas winter weather

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CALGARY — Shares in Canadian energy retailer Just Energy Group Inc. are falling after it warned it may not be able to continue operating due to hundreds of millions of dollars in losses because of extreme winter weather in Texas over the past week.

In a news release, the company says it is facing a loss of US$250 million (about C$315 million) due to high electricity prices during the unusually cold weather from Feb. 13 to 19.

It says its price of power in Texas was artificially set at US$9,000 per megawatt-hour for much of the week, resulting in a “substantial negative financial impact” unless there is corrective action by the government.

Just Energy shares were halted on Monday morning in Toronto. They quickly lost almost a third of their value after trading was opened again, falling as much as $2.42 to $4.86.

The company says it has delayed financial reports expected last week for the periods ending Dec. 31 until late this week, so it can better review and understand the impact of the Texas event.

Just Energy markets natural gas and electricity at a retail level under several brand names in jurisdictions in Canada and the United States, including Texas, Ontario and B.C.

“The financial impact of the weather event on the company, once known, could be materially adverse to the company’s liquidity and its ability to continue as a going concern,” Just Energy warned.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 22, 2021.

Companies in this story: (TSX:JE)

The Canadian Press

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