Below you’ll find some guidelines I’ve thrown together for the classic poor student trying to negotiate the few drawbacks in this truly beautiful city of Salzburg:
1. Expense- For those expecting to find a similar price-range to Germany, guess again. Eating out and drinking coffees left, right and centre just isn’t an option for most students BUT it is possible to eat quite cheaply if you shop around, your best bets being Hofer (AKA Aldi, dunno why it has a different name here) and EuroSpar. So get cooking.
-The city centre doesn’t offer much in the way of student-friendly clothes shopping as it for the most part targets an older/ professional market, so I’ve personally found flea markets to be the way to go. If second-hand clothing isn’t for you (oh you’re missing out), or you’re after some socks and underwear (even I draw the line at that) then Europark or the Shopping Arena could be marginally cheaper options that appeal to a younger demographic.
– If you arrive into your student accommodation and find, as I did, that your kitchen is barren (not a plate let alone a fork to be had) then IKEA in the Europark is an advisable first stop for the basics. OR if you happen to spy a flea-market/ jumble-sale taking place you could deck your kitchen like it’s your Austrian grandmother’s house. Why? Because you can. A word of warning, while toasters, grills, kettles etc may seem like super bargains in such places, make sure you ascertain that they are in working order before you bother lugging them home.
– Sick of watching your bank account circle the drain? Having a flexible part-time job can be a life-saver if you’d like to put an end to your cash flow depletion woes. Give the student union website (link below) a look for opportunities ranging from promotional work to babysitting to teaching other students in a subject of your choice- this option is especially ideal for an Erasmus student as you can set the rate/time to meet your own schedule. Native English speakers are particularly in demand, I managed to get two jobs out of the site and met some wonderful people in the process. http://www.oeh-salzburg.at/service-das-hilft/boersen
2. Socialising- The night-life is something that students have taken into their own hands and there is generally a party taking place in one of the many student houses scattered about the city. Although these tend to be more makeshift, casual events, ranging on a scale from fun to completely bizarre, they are usually a pleasant and relaxed way of meeting fellow students from around the globe. The odd delightful free (yes, FREE) brunch or monthly Überraschungskino are examples of some of the many entertaining (and cheap) events to keep your eyes peeled for on Facebook or advertised in the Uni. After that, sure there’s always one of the (five?) Irish pubs…Thursday night karaoke in O’Malley’s is a firm favourite among many (almost worryingly so) while Murphy’s Law (well-named and genuinely Irish), boasts the only completely smoke-free drinking environment in the city. (Note: There are many other pubs to choose from but that would require far too much effort on my part).
3. Authenticity- what I’ve found is that your hopes of spending much time with actual Austrians are quite minimal as an Erasmus student. Another factor in Salzburg’s less than student-friendly makeup most likely has to do with the fact that so many Austrian students commute from home, Paris Lodron being one of the only places they can train to become a teacher. The Austrians who do live in student accommodation during the week generally have families and jobs to go home to on the weekend- a shame on the cultural-front but it’s difficult to befriend those constantly on the road. However, it is not an impossible feat and if you persevere you will be rewarded with an insider’s perspective on some of the many quirks (why knock on the table instead of applauding?) embedded into daily life here.
-Another thing that irked me when I arrived here was the conspicuous absence of actual locals at any of the cafés and restaurants that I was frequenting. Once I got my Meldezettel, I felt I was an official resident and wanted to go beyond the average tourist experience. However, those Salzburgians are elusive folk and asides from the times where I actually entered into their homes and ate dinner with them (upon invitation, I hasten to add) I’m not actually sure that I’ve been all that successful.
-Whatever you do food-wise though, go to My Indigo. It’s super cheap even before the student discount, delicious and healthy. Bio-brownies? I’m practically losing weight just eating those bad boys. (Disclaimer: no, no I am not).
-If you want a guaranteed authentic experience of Salzburg then it looks like taking to the hills (Kapuzinerberg, Gaisberg and Mönchsberg are the most manageable) is your best and, of course, cheapest bet. Hiking/ picnicking there during the day will mean a definite encounter with some locals (probably picking Bärlauch and putting you to shame with their fitness levels…or amusing you with their unnecessary penchant for hiking poles) while going up at night offers the breathtaking vista of the city at sundown/under lights (just try to avoid the rain).
4. Transportation- Do yourself a favour and buy a bike. Honestly, I couldn’t recommend cycling enough. There is an abundance of second hand bikes to be bought/rented for roughly €30-60 and you’ll see them advertised online or on flyers about the place. OR you can do as I did and pay only a tenner, provided you don’t mind a slightly more……temperamental steed. Even if the last bike in your ownership featured Barbie paraphernalia (guilty), you’d be amazed at how much easier your life will be with one of those two-wheeled contraptions. Not only are you saving money on public transport but you are at complete liberty to attend/leave events as your leisure and convenience dictates. The cycle lanes are in such an abundance that you rarely have to tackle any traffic and it’s mostly very safe, even if you’re unaccustomed to urban cycling. It’s like riding a bicycle. Literally though.