Salzburg wasn’t on my original itinerary. We were supposed to go to Berlin from Munich. Somewhere during the planning stages, my brother-in-law waxed eloquent about Salzburg, Yogesh pointed out that Salzburg was much closer, and hubby loved the idea of nature over history. That’s how we ended up spending 3 nights in Salzburg.
We stayed at a hotel right at the river Salzach 20 minutes from the old town, yet spent only one day and evening seeing the town itself, the other 2 days were busy on day trips to Hallstatt and Berchtesgaden. Whilst this wasn’t a good move, Salzburg didn’t enthrall us enough to need longer. Was I wrong about that? Maybe.
The day we toured Salzburg was the day of the Salzburg marathon. A lot of streets were cordoned off, police and volunteers lined the roads, and locals were out in full form to support the runners. We’d seen a few runners in the morning from our bedroom window but it was much more exciting to be down on the road amidst the fun. A band was playing on the porch of our hotel and mothers with children were lined up. The kids were super enthusiastic and hopping up and down, cheering and clapping as the runners passed by. They held out their arms to high-five the runners too.
We walked along the Salzach river towards the old town, with the towering Festung Hohensalzburg (Salzburg Fortress) as our guide. The roads were filled with supporters and the atmosphere was electric. The kid and I danced along as we took in the sight of the pretty pastel houses lining the riverfront.
Many bridges crossed over the river that was once an important trade route for salt, mined in the many mines around Salzburg. In fact that’s what the town was named after, the fortress of salt. To reach there, we crossed over the padlocked Makartsteg bridge that seemed to sparkle under the bright sunlight.
I love bridges with locks, j’adore. So it’s natural that I spent maximum time on the bridge where locking your lock and throwing away the key ensures a lifetime of happiness together. I thought that walking over this bridge was truly a romantic start to touring a romantic town.
On the new town side of Salzburg stood the famous hotel Sacher, inventor of the Sacher torte. Unfortunately, the iconic hotel was under renovation, but it sure summed up my ideology in life.
We crossed the bridge and passed through an archway between the pastel buildings to come upon the iconic Mozarts Geburtshaus, the birthplace of the legendary Wolfgang Mozart.
We chose not to tour the inside (much to the hubby’s relief) and turned our attention to the narrow and crowded main alley of Salzburg, the Getreidegasse.
The most famous shopping lane of Salzburg, the Getreidegasse houses international fashion chains, coffee shops, traditional stores and even bakeries. However, it wasn’t this high-end street in the olden days. It was initially a Trabe-gasse (for trotting along).
Typically, these buildings had narrow houses with windows that became smaller as the floors got higher. Arched pathways connected the front and back of the houses to different buildings and courtyards. These archways and courtyards are the main charm of old town Salzburg, as are the wrought iron signs of the stores.
Not to forget to mention the shoes. The poor husband had to tear the two women away from this store. Only to see them get stuck at a charming stall and drool over every cute thing present.
The buildings were ornately decorated in very pleasing colors. I loved this part of Salzburg. Once again, I was impressed by the good-looking pharmacies.
All lanes lead into one another, and while it’s easy to walk about in circles, getting a little lost is always part of the fun. Though we had the downloaded Rick Steves Salzburg audio tour (since I had so intelligently lost my guide-book on the second day of our trip), Salzburg was just as enjoyable to walk about, come out onto a square and then wonder, “Where are we?”
And to gawk at gorgeous souvenir shops.
We walked straight to the main square, the Residenzplatz, that was sadly under restoration. A huge open space, lined by long elaborate buildings, lost a lot of its beauty by cranes and construction material, not to mention the swirls of dust rising up. Despite that, the grandeur of the buildings was not diminished. This main square was once the seat of all power in Salzburg, surrounded by the old and the huge new Residenz and Salzburg cathedral, with the beautiful Horse fountain in the center.
The square was commissioned by the Archbishop of Salzburg in the 16th century, who had a huge Italian hangover. The fountain has four horses snorting out water, giants and dolphins and is topped by a Triton spewing out water. It was very hot and sunny now, so we rested in a patch of shade while I read aloud from the tour to a disinterested audience. Frustrated by the inattention, I strode off to the next square, Mozartplatz.
The birthplace of a man who achieved as much as Mozart, for the world and for Salzburg, must have an outstanding monument to commemorate the great man, and we were lucky to see him without the crowds.
Sadly, in this square of reverence, my pop-addled brain could only sing, “Amadeus, Amadeus, Come and rock me Amadeus” by Falco. Poor Mozart must be turning in his grave. This was pure blasphemy. Then I looked about at the square lined by souvenir shops and Mozart chocolates and thought that there was enough blasphemy around anyways.
I saw a building with a large mural that resembled the sign of a pharmacy and thought it was yet another decorated pharmacy. However, it was a huge sundial on the first drinker’s room in the city.
The spires of the Salzburg cathedral beckoned and I was keen on seeing the mightiest Romanesque cathedral north of the Alps. The Archbishops of Salzburg wanted to make it Rome of the North, which explains 27 churches in just old town and more than 35 in Salzburg. The Salzburg Dom was the grandest of them all, sitting pretty in a corner of Domplatz lined by elegant buildings and filled with horse carriages.
The Virgin Mary statue seemed to face away from the cathedral. It was only when I read the guidebook that I went to the far end of the square and stood facing the statue in front of the cathedral and saw the brilliant placement of the statue. The angels seem to be placing the crown on her head. What precise engineering!
Virgin Mary is surrounded by allegoric figures representing angels, the devil, wisdom, and the Church.
We entered the church in silence, in reverence for the greatness of the builders, who rebuilt it twice, once after a fire, and again after bombing in World War II, and yet constructed such a masterpiece.
The service was on and beautiful music filled the church and our hearts and drove Amadeus and Falco out.
Taking photographs and wandering about the church seemed inappropriate, so we sat there quietly, away from the madding crowds outside and simply enjoyed ourselves. Sadly, I never got to go back to this church and I begged my brother-in-law to take lots of pictures for me on his trip, which he certainly did.
Lovely candles, my favorite part of churches.
Music was ringing in our ears as we stepped out and admired the square when a commotion disturbed us. A huge group of Veena world was trying to negotiate past a huge group of Kesari tours without ending up in the rival group. I sighed a sigh of relief in not being with them, the hubby sighed a sigh of longing.
We hurriedly rushed into the next square, the Kapitelplatz, with a giant chessboard and a huge golden globe with a man on it. Modern art smack in the center of Baroque Salzburg!
At the other end of the square was a beautiful fountain with Poseidon, the Greek God of the sea, with the fortress towering over it. Such a contrasting view this was!
We turned into yet another narrow alley past some souvenir stalls to reach St Peter’s cemetery to see graves studded with beautiful flowers.
Instead, we found ourselves climbing up a steep slope. Without intending to, we were climbing up to the Salzburg fortress, that wasn’t part of the plan. The views as we climbed were certainly worth the tachycardia and the dyspnea.
We weren’t planning to go to the fortress so we walked down from it on the Monschberg ridge to reach the viewing platform over the city near the Monschberg elevator.
It was so steep that I had to hold the railing on the way down. We walked along the top of the mountain which was a lovely green path with tall trees on both sides. There were very few people on this path but I wanted to reach the famous terrace so I dragged the hubby and the kid along. Enroute, I found many other viewing points with beautiful views over Salzburg.
This was from a small garden looking onto the other side of Salzburg. For miles ahead stretched green meadows with small pretty houses and the grand Untersberg mountain in the distance.
People were sitting on benches and the grass, with books or their dogs and just relaxing, sunning themselves. However, we walked on and on, hunting for the terrace. Though there was a lot of tree cover, it was still very hot and sunny. We were hungry and pressed for time as we had to reach the sound of music tour by 2pm (and it was 1pm and we were miles away). The stress was mounting and we were panting while walking at a great speed. The kid was terribly unhappy because she wanted lunch before the tour but now I was worried that we’d miss the tour itself. Suddenly, we came upon a terrace with a beautiful view over Salzburg.
This still wasn’t the terrace I was looking for and there were no signboards or people to help. The hubby used Google and found a
walking running route to the other side of the Monschberg mountain and through the tunnel to re-enter the old town, cross the bridge and race down to Mirabell gardens to catch our Sound of Music tour.
Thus ended our entertaining morning of sightseeing in Salzburg, in a mad dash. I’m sure we’d have liked it a lot more if it hadn’t been so hot and we hadn’t had to rush through. I did come back later in the evening to see the lit up town but that needs another post as does the sound of music tour, so stay tuned.