Salzburg, Austria. The Land of Mozart and the Sound of Music
Seven countries. Sixteen days. By air, road, train, boat and on foot. I zip-lined, skydived, indulged shamelessly in gastronomic chefs-d’oeuvre, made friends with random people, watched classical music concerts, saw Swan Lake in ballet, cruised along the mighty Danube, visited museums, cathedrals and castles, and had an epic time. My journey took me through Austria, Slovenia, Italy, Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic, and Germany.
My first stop was Munich, Germany. But unfortunately, due to a flight delay on Qatar Airways, I missed my connection out of Doha, was rerouted via Dubai and ended up in Munich almost eight hours later. As a result, I could only check in at night and it was too dark to wander out and hence missed seeing anything here. The next morning, I made it to the München Hauptbahnhof and was soon on my way by train to Salzburg, Austria that took 2 hr 10 mins.
It’s a beautiful sunny day in Salzburg with the temperature hovering at 13C. The walk to the Hotel Adlerhof is about five minutes from the train station. I cross a huge market square, through cobblestone streets to the hotel. Built in the 1900s, I find this typical turn-of-the-century ‘pension’ (the term used for B&Bs) conveniently located within walking distance to all the city’s sights.
For centuries, Salzburg, meaning Salt Fortress, was ruled by Archbishops who lavished great wealth on stunning Baroque, Gothic and Renaissance architecture comprising churches and cathedrals on this city known as the ‘Rome of the North’. It is also called the ‘City of Music’ because of its famous son, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
I walk down the street to the famous Mirabell Gardens, which I recognize from the Sound of Music movie where the song “Do-Re-Mi” was filmed. Nothing has changed since then! The Pegasus Fountain and the famous steps Do-Re-Mi steps remain just the same. The Gardens boasts of perfectly manicured boxwood layouts dotted with vibrant-coloured tulips that announce the beginnings of spring. The imposing Mirabell Palace is the perfect setting for this backdrop.
From here, I cross the Makartsteg Bridge, a testament to love, both lost and found! Named after the 19th century painter Hans Makart, it has become the setting where lovers declare their eternal love by attaching a lock to its mesh. The railings are covered with locks, of all sizes, shapes, colours: engraved with messages of love, hope and happiness, initialled for proof of endearment and locked tightly with eternal hope as the owners toss the keys into the river. Like me, 20,000 pedestrians cross this bridge every day!
I enter Salzburg’s ‘Old Town’ one of Europe’s best-preserved city centers and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The entire city is framed in Baroque architecture. I stroll through narrow cobblestone street with cafes, souvenir shops, artistes showcasing their exhibits, painted straight-faced mime artistes, flower sellers, delicatessens, coffee shops, and much, much more. The whole city is colourful, buzzing and vibrant. Like me, other tourists seem to be enjoying this utterly charming city.
I hop on the funicular that whisks me up to the entrance of the 900-year old Hohensalzburg Fortress , the largest intact fortress in Europe. Positioned at the very top of the hill, the panoramic view of the city of Salzburg from here is just stunning. The meandering Salzach River below, coloured rooftops, church spires, snowcapped mountains, the city square below, together make a picture perfect photograph.
I stroll through the courtyard and peek into the Golden Hall and the Golden Chamber. Rich with history and décor, I am transported back to medieval times when a former archbishop ruled the land.
Austria’s famous son has to be Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Salzburg was his birthplace. Needless to say, this 18th century composer is revered and his aura can be felt in every nook and corner. I take a peek inside the house at Getreidegasse no. 9, where the Leopold Mozart family lived from 1747 to 1773. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born here on January 27, 1756. The house is now a museum for his letters, music notes and documents, his childhood violin, clavichord, and other memorabilia.
I cannot leave Salzburg without taking the Sound of Music tour and join a busload of excited tourists from all over the world. I am surprised to see many young visitors, many having watched this movie that is based on the true-life story of the Trapp Family Singers, over a dozen times! Just goes to show that this movie that won five Oscars has reached cult status across the world.
I am taken on a nostalgic journey to the famous film locations.
We start off at the Leopoldskron Palace at Lake Leopoldskron where the famous boating scene was filmed. From here we see the Captain´s backyard and private palace gardens. The original gazebo where the catchy song “16 going on 17” scene as well as the kissing scene of Maria and Baron von Trapp has been moved to the Hellbrunn Palace and still stands in perfect condition.
We then drive past the Nonnberg Abbey, still an active women’s convent nowadays. This is the convent where the “real” Maria was a novice and also got married to Baron von Trapp. We could not go inside as the Abbey does not allow visits within its walls.
The bus is full of happy tourists and we are heartily singing songs from the movie! We drive past the Lake District, passing Lake Fuschl and Lake Wolfgang, where panorama shots and scenes of the picnic were filmed.
After about an hour of driving we arrive at the Mondsee Chapel where the wedding of Maria and Baron von Trapp was filmed in the movie. This little picturesque town seems to be quite used to hordes of tourists and are welcoming and happy to see us. The Chapel is beautiful and has a special aura about it. We are invited to take bottles of Holy Water to share with friends and family, which I think is a beautiful gesture.
Then it is time to sit down at the town’s favourite coffee shop and savour delicious apple strudel in vanilla sauce.
We end our tour at the Mirabell Gardens, which I had already visited the day before.
The weather, the food, the people and places in Salzburg have been wonderful. It’s time to leave to my next destination… Slovenia.