I hate the Sound of Music. I despise it almost as much as Grease. It’s not that the movie didn’t have a great story – it did. I just hate musical movies. They make no sense. Random song and dance as the Nazis are coming is absurd. I don’t despise classical music, but I am no afficianado. I couldn’t tell you the difference between Mozart, Bach, or Beethoven. They all make great music for laying on a blanket, staring up at the stars, and sipping wine to a symphony in the background playing live at an outdoor amphitheater. I certainly would not find myself making a pilgrimage to the birthplace of a dead composer however great he was. I also don’t like sweets and Salzburg boasts many coffee shops and cafes baking deserts of all makes and models, including the original Sachertorte. So why then did I like Salzburg – home to Mozart, the Sound of Music, desert, and Christmas? I do like Christmas, a lot. But that wasn’t it. We visited in March long after Santa had packed up and left the elves to run the village, or at least the many Christmas stores throughout Salzburg. I’m kind of fond of Red Bull, but not enough to visit their “hangar” outside of town or even buy anything from their fashion boutique on the main drag in the historic center.
Maybe it was the quaint center city; the winding, medieval narrow lanes; the gleaming river that dissected the town; the endless pedestrian streets that created a maze of sorts in the historic district; the surrounding alps; the hustle and bustle of the hearty residents of Salzburg; the friendly smiles shot from locals and tourists. Salzburg had an attitude about it that is just hard to pinpoint. All of Bavaria is friendly, but Salzburg took it to the nth degree. Perhaps the crisp mountain air cleansed the bitterness away. Or maybe the altitude just made everyone delusional. Whatever it was, it affected locals and tourists alike. It was a very pleasant town to be in; one that I could picture myself in on an extend stay.
We were greeted at the train station by that fresh mountain air wafting down from the Alps. It seemed to sweep away the pollution found in most cities providing a literal breath of fresh of air. I never breathed anything like it. The air was just better in Salzburg. It was hard not to smile, or run down the platform belting “The hills are alive with the Sound of Music!” I suddenly realized where Mozart’s brilliance came from and why the city has a history of intellectuals and creatives. I was ready to sit down to some composing myself. We walked from the train station to the Sheraton where we were staying. Our room had a breathtaking view of the Alps and the infamous Rose Garden. I am told that this is the garden where the Van Trapp children hopped down the stairs singing “Doe, Rae, Me”. I will have to take our guides word for it though as I don’t recall. But the Japanese tourists who reenacted the scene almost sparked my memory. They at least gave me a good laugh.
We started our stop-off in Salzburg with a one hour bus tour of the city. The tour was okay. It served its purpose of orientating us with the city and driving us to some of the sites on the outskirts like the Von Trapp mansion (which is actually right in town and the lake isn’t deep enough for a boat for you Sound of Music fans). We could have opted for a more indepth Sound of Music or Mozart tour, but we prefer to get acclimated and explore on our own. The next day was more churches. By this time I was starting to get a little churched out. I wanted to see more castles and palaces. In Salzburg, most of the palaces are closed to the public as they are working government buildings or they house museums which we weren’t interested in. We rather see how people lived than artifacts about how they lived.
Dom Salzburg was interesting in it’s history. Originally built in 774 the church had been subject to various fires, WWII bombings, and rebuilds. Inside is a stunning Romanesque sanctuary, including the fount where Mozart was baptized. Saint Peter’s was the other church we visited. It is in the style of Baroque. To be honest, all these classical styles were looking the same to my uneducated eye. Our main reason for visiting Saint Peter’s Church was the graveyard and catacombs behind it. The catacombs, which are open to the public, are built into and under the mountain. However, they were closed for repairs while we were there. I know it sounds morbid, but I was a little disappointed as they sounded interesting.
One of the highlights for me was Festung Hohensalzburg. This dominating fortress has ruled over the city for 900 years. Visitors can either hike to the top or take the tram. We opted for the tram since our legs were screaming after 6 days of walking. I don’t think Mrs. Gourmand was as enchanted as I was with the fortress. My inner boyish imagination leaped forward with images of medival battles, knights, kings, and dukes. My head filled with these images as we toured the inside and the surrounding ground.
What really made Salzburg a place of memory for me though were the mazes of walking streets throughout the old city. They were lined with charming coffee shops, restaurants, stores, and cafes. We managed to spend a good bit of time just getting lost and seeing what we could stumble upon. If I had more time, I could easily find myself spending hours at a cafe working on my novel and people watching as I brainstormed the next chapter.
- Perfect for – Fans of Mozart, the Sound of Music, Red Bull, and Christmas; skiers looking for stopover before heading into the Alps; or anyone looking for an intellectual place to escape and just be.
- When to go – The winter during skiing season or the Christmas Market, or the summer when the sidewalk cafes are in full force and the sites are all open.
- How much time is need – We saw a good bit in two days and felt accomplished. However, I could have lingered for days or weeks.