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Salzburg: A Fairy Tale City

As we approach the castle by the town funicular, I speculate how difficult it must have been for Medieval knights, attacking in heavy armor, to climb the hill from the city below. The tramway, built over 100 years ago makes our journey easy. We are on our way to the largest, fully preserved castle in central Europe, the Hohensalzburg Fortress. Dominating Salzburg’s skyline, the 900-year-old citadel sits on a 1600-foot-high hill and gives the city a fairy tale feeling. We have come to admire the views and shoot pictures before the curtain call for a 4-piece chamber music ensemble of Mozart’s best pieces. Below, the glaciated waters of the River Salzach divides the "old" and the "new" city. Baroque churches, spires, and fountains line the streets of old Salzburg and the Alps rise beyond the city.

We are lucky to have arrived in Salzburg during the "Salzburger Festungstkonzerte," and get tickets to the Mozart concert in the castle. Just after dusk we are ushered into the "Fürstenzimmer," one of the state rooms built in the castle in the late 15th century. The setting is magical with richly carved portals, four columns made of red marble, and the ceiling embossed with gilded studs. As I sit entranced by the strains of violin music I notice my husband nodding off. I suppose jet lag and slumber have a stronger hold on him than Mozart’s genius!

After the concert, we wander the streets and find a small cafe that serves a delicate apple strudel with cream. A warm cappuccino goes down smoothly. Since we begin our sightseeing tomorrow, we need to fortify ourselves with local treats.

Salzburg’s Splendid Sites

Born on June 27, 1756, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is Salzburg’s favorite son. He is the youngest person ever to compose music, writing his first minuet at a ripe age of six, and his first opera when he was only 13. Mozart’s birthplace and family home at Number 9 Getreidegasse is in the center of Austria’s most famous shopping center. Mozart’s home is one of the best Mozart sights in town. For a music fan, its historical instruments like Mozart’s concert piano, his childhood violin, and manuscripts are fascinating.

The Getreidegasse is one of the most charming shopping districts in all of Europe. High narrow houses tucked together with elaborate wrought iron and guilded signs are picturesque, and as they appeared in the 17th and 18th centuries. Narrow passageways and colorful courtyards with arcades and flower baskets add to the ambiance and we find many elegant shops selling jewelry, leather goods, perfumes, food, and fashions along the district.

Long before Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music and Mozart made Salzburg famous, the city was renowned and prosperous for its valuable salt mined during the Middle Ages. The Archbishops of Salzburg became rich and powerful, building the beautiful edifices that stand today. Seventeenth century’s Archbishop Wolf Dietrich left his mark in the Baroque splendor of Salzburg’s Cathedral (modeled after Rome’s Saint Peters), which is one of the most impressive buildings we view. It was the first of many sacred structures that dominate Salzburg’s ornate skyline. If you are a Baroque buff, other churches worth exploring would be St. Peter’s Abbey, the Church of the Holy Trinity and the University.

The highlight of today’s city touring is the beautiful Mirabell Gardens adjoining the lavish Mirabell Palace. Red begonias planted in decorative patterns create a vibrant contrast to the lush green lawns. What a spot for our picnic lunch -- a setting ablaze with color! Beautiful sculpted figures, representing the four elements, are placed around the central fountain. In one area, a bizarre sculpture garden of grotesque dwarfs adds a strange aura to the peaceful setting. This garden, always open, is free for visitors.
"Do, a Deer..."

Our landlady for our Salzburg stay recommends we take the tour that hits all the hot Sound of Music spots. We are reluctant participants, since we think this may be too touristy and commercial, but it is our chance to see the environs of the city and the countryside beyond. Our guide reminds us of Arnold Schwarzenegger and we soon discover his wit which will make this tour enjoyable. He relates the Sound of Music lore and the story of the Trapp family, beginning with sites from the movie: the opening Castle scene (the Schloss Ainiff Castle) with its moat, and nearby, the famous Gazebo.

We are soon in the outskirts of Salzburg, heading toward the Alps which soar from the earth to touch the sky. Crosses on top of each peak are left there as a blessing for climbers and skiers. Soon, we arrive in the Lake District, a beautiful countryside of four lakes that are surrounded by lush dairy farms and rolling green hills. The Alps ring the lakes and enhance their beauty. We get to stop for a thrilling alpine slide ride and a cool ice cream near Lake Fulschel.
Our tour stops for 45 minutes in a town called Mondsee. The neighboring lake is alive with sailboats and May Poles line its bank. Here we tour the church in which Julie Andrews (as Maria Von Trapp) was married in the movie, a beautiful Neo-Gothic church with Rococo statuary. It is Sunday and the local children, dressed in native costume, play in the town square; an "oom-pah-pah" band whips out a local tune and a nearby beer garden has suds for everyone’s enjoyment. This is a treasure for our memory books -- a glimpse of life in a small Austrian village that had its beginnings in the 8th century.
Our ride back to Salzburg is via the autobahn. We bid good-bye to the tour and take a stroll through the Linzergasse, Salzburg’s "new town" on the north side of the Salzach River. We find a spot for dinner in its main commercial/retail district. This is our last night in Salzburg and we opt for local fare, a meal of Wiener schnitzel and chocolate crepes. Contented, we arrive at our lodgings, pack our bags, and bid "Auf Wiedersehen" to our host. Tomorrow, Salzburg will be a fond memory.

Click here for details to plan your own adventure to romantic Salzburg, Austria

                      Rita Furnanz

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