Pink Trash Travels

Look, it's Jesse McCartney!

Last Thursday I finally broke down and cut my hair - in Paris. It was time. After seeing my hair in a passport size photo I needed for my daily French lessons beginning February 2, I no longer could wait to return to America. My hair was too long, drab, flat and down right frightful.

With passport photos in hand, I headed straight for Toni and Guy across the street. Apparently, it's known around Paris for impressive haircuts. Fortunately, there was a cancellation so I squeezed in to see Ben. He spoke a bit of English. I spoke a bit of French. So I got the point across that I needed a change - a subtle change. He gave it to me all right. I left looking like Jesse McCartney from the WB's Summerland.

Not that the haircut isn't good. It's just different. More than that, it was an experience all together. They put shampoo on your head as you sit and wait at your station. They brush it on like color. As the music pounds in the background, they wheel you over to the water basin to rinse it out.

From a cutting standpoint, it was fairly standard until Ben started "hacking" away at my hair once I thought he had finished. Unlike in America where they thin your hair by using shears, Ben took chunks out as though he was working his way through the jungle.

Four days later, I'm still trying to determine the best way to style my new cut (hence why no photos are included in this entry). It's still somewhat long, but with layers now it's challenging to set. Hopefully by the time I arrive in Miami in March, I will have overcome my hair troubles. Then again, highlights are on the horizon so I can only wonder how I'll manage that outcome.

Christmas in Salzburg - The Final Chapter

Two hours later, I found myself sitting in contemporary restaurant as smoke began swirling around me. Just like in France and other European countries, the government has yet to ban this nasty habit. It wasn’t overly obnoxious, but anything more than a wisp irritates my senses.

I wasn’t happy to be there. I was hungry for a wholesome meal rather than an experimental one. But Chris wanted to try it. And sometimes, you have to compromise. So there I was, trying roasted turbot with green peas – artichoke stew and seaweed in a corn meal cone served in a bud vase. Nine servings later, I was surprisingly full. There was no need to revert to plan B – finding the German Beer hall for more Goulash. Instead, we returned to the hotel for a good night’s rest.

On Sunday, having felt as though we’d seen enough, there truly was no need to revisit the market our last day in Salzburg. But since our flight wasn’t until 4, we felt obligated to return once more to our favorite Baumkuchen stand. Nagy gave us a free “Tree Cake” for the road as to thank us for visiting her booth numerous times as well as the inclusion in any writings on Salzburg (Feel free to contact Nagy at to let her know you’ve heard about her tasty treat and look forward to visiting her at 5020 Salzburg, Austria when you arrive). And since our bellies weren’t loaded with German sausages, we finally had the opportunity to eat a chocolate covered pretzel I had been eyeing for two days. The delicious baked good was the size of my head and tasted like a Dolly Madison Chocolate Covered Gem. The plastic textured chocolate treat was the perfect ending to our two glutonous days in Salzburg.

With so many activities and picturesque views from hilltop vantage points, there are unlimited incentives to visit Salzburg’s Christmarkekindl. But for us, it came down to food. Forget the crafts, the Sound of Music tour and Mozart’s home. Rather, head straight for the sausages, pretzels and Baumkuchen. After all, who needs an imported snowflake when you can load your luggage with “Tree Cakes.”

Christmas in Salzburg - Part 4 of 5 (Yes, there's more)

Not having paid much attention to the actual contents of the holiday booths the day before, we now had the time to explore each booth individually. What we found was, in short, reminiscent of country “crap” you’d find at Salina’s Central Mall or any other Midwestern traveling craft show. And, we began to see the same items over and over and over again. It was as if they bought in bulk from the Orient. There were a few booths, however, that featured items that seemed to be made locally. Those, along with individual stores tucked down small passageways between main shopping thoroughfares, are what truly represented the trinkets we expected to find in Salzburg.

But the essence of Christkindlmrkt had to be the food and drink booths scattered about – including their patrons. On numerous occasions we’d hear from a far the sound of drunken German men crooning a song or two. With mugs in hand, they’d be tightly gathered, swaying together, with smiles on their faces. For them, it was liquor. For us, it was the Baum Kuchen booth we found after eating our sausages – and the booth we visited most over the next two days.

Baumkuchen (as properly identified on numerous German websites) is presented as the “King of Cakes” due to its intensive labor process. For more than 200 years, German bakers have been making this treat by placing a thin spit over a heat source, usually a wood fire, then evenly brushing batter over it many times to create a layered cake with rings that resemble those inside a tree – hence the common name “Tree Cake.” However, Nagy Maria and her husband, booth operators, presented a simplified take for quicker preparation. Consider it the “fast food” version.

This “Tree Cake” is available in multiple flavors including almond, chocolate and coconut – though we focused purely on the cinnamon and sugar variety. It’s crunchy on the outside yet soft on the inside.

After spending most of the day wandering around the market, we returned to our hotel for a bit of rest before venturing back to town for dinner at Carpe Diem – an experimental restaurant where the tapa-like items are served in cones. But before I could eat again, I visited the gym again to make room for dinner. I always find I feel better once I work out – especially when we’ve been eating Baumkuchen and other treats all day long.

Christmas in Salzburg - Part 3 of 4

The next day, we woke early to the winter wonderland we were hoping to find upon our arrival. Pure white snow covered the holly bushes outside our window. A small child in a red coat was pushing a snowball up a hill in the park across the way. But before we could enjoy the sights, we both felt we should work out. We knew what the day would bring so a good sweat in the hotel fitness center took priority. Besides, it gave us the opportunity to watch Saturday morning television in Austria – filled with grown-ups parading around in colorful animal outfits that were borderline scary. After expending about 500 calories, we quickly showered and headed downtown to the market.

Forgetting what we saw the rainy day before, the market was just as I imagined. Small snow covered huts lined the square around mostly two areas: Dom –platz and Residenz-platz. Dom-platz, the first truly Italian style cathedral built north of the Alps was constructed between 1614 and 1628 but renovated in 1959 due to extensive damage in WW II. The Residenz-platz, a complex cluster of buildings, is the prince archbishop’s residence with open access to state rooms and galleries. Though we were there to mainly see the market, we felt obligated to step inside both attractions due to their proximity. We were in both less than five minutes.

The church was a church. There wasn’t anything particularly unique compared to what seems to be hundreds of other churches I’ve seen over the past few months. And of course, the Residenz-plats was closed – which I truly didn’t mind. After seeing the archbishops freakish self -portraits in the salt room at Hohensalzburg Fortress, more information wasn’t needed. So with both attractions out of the way, we began scoping “weiner” stands for the best German sausages.

I don’t recall ever eating a German sausage. And I know I’ve never had one standing outside in a plastic tent – dipping it in what appeared to be a combination of mustard and shredded cheese. I’m apple-gouda-chicken-sausage-from-Costco-kind-of-guy. But I was willing to give the German version a try. If Chris has taught me anything, it’s that you should sample everything once. If you don’t’ like it, you can honestly say you don’t rather than making a general assumption based on the item’s appearance.

I chose a Krainer with shredded cheese, ketchup and a Coca Cola light. When I ordered, the locals standing next to us giggled in amusement. Apparently, that wasn’t cheese I saw on other plates. It was horseradish. So needless to say, my sausage arrived with only mustard. But it didn’t matter. It was delicious. Accompanied by my choice of bread from a communal basket on the counter, my meal from the nameless sausage stand was perfect. It satisfied my hunger and left room for a delicious sweet treat that was soon to follow.

Christmas in Salzburg - Part 2 of 4

I’m not a fan of museums. Most concerts bore me. Blame it on my short attention span. So the highlighted tourist destinations included in the “wall of pamphlets” at our hotel were unappealing. Which, considering we were in Salzburg specifically for the Christmas markets, didn’t agitate my gay sensibilities to be more culturally diverse. However, there were two attractions that did capture my attention: the Hohensalzburg Fortress and the Salzburger Marionetten Theater.

The Hohensalzburg Fortress is the largest, fully preserved fortress in Central Europe. Built in 1077 and slightly modified with subsequent years, the impressive castle shouldn’t be missed. Though, I was slightly disappointed by our guided tour, which, as described by my partner, “Was the most pathetic tour we’ve ever had.” He was right. Most of thee fortress was closed due to the monsoon like blizzard that was fast approaching. We saw a room where salt was stored, another with torture devices that had never been used and many long white hallways with no significant story to tell. We did, however, have the opportunity to snap a few aerial shots of Salzburg and one too many of Chris and I with the wind catching my hair and preparing me for liftoff.

As the storm intensified we made our way back to town. With snow pellets pounding our face, we weaved through the markets with the understanding the following day would be devoted to exploring them fully. So with little time to spare, we headed directly to the Salzburger Marionetten Theater for a 7:00 showing.

The Salzburger Marionetten Theater, founded in 1913, presents operas from the repertoire of major opera houses performed to famous recordings. But once we found out the show was more than two hours long, I surmised the novelty would quickly fade after 20 minutes and I’d be begging to leave. Besides that, the 7:00 show was cancelled. “What now?” we thought.

With the weather worsening with every step, we decided to see a movie. As we hopped in the cab, we thought the situation was quite humorous. For most, traveling to a foreign country and seeing a movie would be unthinkable. But for us, it was quite the contrary. King Kong had just opened. It was in version original. We had movie candy. What could be better? Three hours and forty minutes later, including a 15-minute intermission where we met a nanny from a small town outside of Salzburg, we made our way back to the hotel through the 3 inches of snow/slush now on the ground. It was beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Christmas in Salzburg - Part 1 of 4

In Chicago, we’d take short weekend trips to Columbus or Kansas City. Now that we’re in Paris, our weekend excursions involve crossing cultural boundaries to explore the sights and sounds of Europe. So for our first long weekend trip, Chris and I decided to escape Paris’s couture Christmas and run for the hills to Salzburg, Austria to visit one of Europe’s many renowned Christmas markets.

It’s not that I knew much about Salzburg before our trip (in our relationship, I’m not the one that makes travel arrangements - I’m the one that complains once things go wrong). But I assumed it would be a winter wonderland complete with snow-covered cathedrals and cobbled alleys, chiming church bells and hot cider. A bit of advice: never assume.

As our plane ride from hell bounced it’s way into the Salzburg airport, and with barf bag in hand, I asked myself, “Where’s the snow?” It was gray, slightly green and wet. The record setting temperatures in Europe obviously had made an impact on the winter wonderland I had expected to see upon our arrival. Even Chris was somewhat disappointed – and he’s never negative. So with scowls on our face, we collected our luggage and headed to our hotel.

While unpacking our bags in our four-star rated hotel room that should have been classified as three, it began to rain. What soon followed was a freakish storm complete with thunder, lightning and hints of the snow to come. However, understanding our time in Salzburg was limited, we ventured out with umbrellas in hand to do a bit of sightseeing.

But first it was time to eat. We knew the following two days our mouths would be stuffed with traditional baked goods and sausages, so we opted to dine in a traditional German beer hall. Chris had been to one before, so he wanted me to experience it for myself. We opted to dine at the first hall we crossed in town. Sternbrau, located at 23 Griesgasse, looked appealing. According to Chris, it was a standard beer hall décor and ambience you’d find in Germany. With vaulted ceilings, wooden furniture, paneled walls and unflattering fluorescent lighting, it was as if I’d stepped into the American Legion in Lindsborg Kansas for Friday night Bingo. The only thing missing was my grandma’s famous Bingo cake – yellow cake mix, creamy vanilla frosting and sprinkles.

Being a big fan of stews in Europe, I ordered a venison version with large potato dumplings on the side. Chris opted for pork and cabbage goulash with a side of whipped potatoes. As usual, I should always avoid my first instinct and revert to a secondary option. My stew was quite gamey with an unappealing aftertaste. At first, I found it intriguing. But following my third or fourth bite, it became revolting. Fortunately, Chris enjoyed both so halfway through the meal, we switched. Not only was he being sweet and looking out for my interests, he knew if I didn’t eat I’d turn into the bitch from hell. Once full, I snapped a shot of the establishment for prosperity sakes and we continued on with our sightseeing.