I spent only a couple of days in Salzburg, but it was long enough to realize that Salzburg is a most extraordinary city. It’s a fantastic mix of ancient architecture and modern-day cosmopolitan conveniences. The food is delicious and the people extremely friendly. Honestly, there is nothing I didn’t like about the city, except for the fact that I had to leave.
The Sound of Music Tour
I just couldn’t visit Salzburg without going on The Sound of Music Tour. It was my mom’s favorite movie so I wanted to honor her memory by seeing the sites where the famous movie was filmed. My bus was late so arrived five minutes late and the tour had already left! Fortunately, they asked Ralph (roll your RRRs when you say that) to whisk me away and meet the bus. Sure enough, half an hour later I was joining the group at the first stop, the place where they shot the beautiful Van Trop palace scene.
The tour was about four hours long and we visited a number of filming sites for the movie, from the gazebo where the song “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” was shot to the beautiful Mondsee lake where they filmed the marriage scenes. Along the way we all sang along to the famous tunes, drank bier and sparkling wine and chatted with one another in a comfortable luxury coach. Coincidentally, I sat next to a large family from Delhi who was entertained by my weak attempts to practice my Hindi.
The next day I awoke early so I could go explore the city and beat the lines at the Funicular, the little tram that takes tourists up to one of the most famous landmarks of the city, Festung Hohensalzburg, an ancient castle often called the fortress or castle. It was completed during the sixth century but is still rock solid and an imposing display of the accomplishments of mankind so long ago. It sits high on a hill overlooking the city, and I’m not sure what is more impressive, the view from the top, or the castle itself. My only disappointment was that there was no dungeon to see. Maybe I’m twisted that way, but I think it would have been cool!
In the middle of the city are the gorgeous Mirabell Gardens. The gardens also served as a location for the filming of the Sound of Music. Perfectly trimmed hedges lined the grounds that were covered with a wide array of colorful flowers, very similar to the varieties we have at home. Large fountains with the typical European style naked statues in the center were carefully placed around the gardens. Excited families posed for pictures and lovers of all ages were walking hand in hand.
Next, I wandered through the streets enjoying the various talents of the many street vendors, eventually arriving at the famous Salzburg Cathedral. It was free to get in but they do ask for a donation. After viewing the cathedral ceiling covered in perfectly painted murals and the numerous elaborate alters, I headed downstairs to check out the crypt area where they buried many beloved archbishops. Outside it was unseasonably warm, well over 80 degrees, but down there it was cool, dark, and quiet. I found a nice little area to mediate for a while and felt grateful for religious freedom, or the right to practice no religion at all.
I used my free map of the city to navigate my way to the home of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who is revered in that area and perhaps one of the most celebrated Austrian residents of all time. The family lived in the spacious 8 room apartment from 1773 to 1787. As I stared at Mozart’s beautiful old piano where he may have written any number of his famous concertos, I imagined him sitting there focused on his music and sipping a cup of tea.
By this time, I was feeling a little tired after walking nearly eight miles that day, so I took some time to rest in a café beside the Salzach river as I ate the most delicious schnitzel, followed by a perfectly prepared vanilla strudel with whip cream. I enjoyed a strong cappuccino, charged my phone, and just reveled in the pleasant late day atmosphere.
I finished off my day by shopping for Swarovski crystals from the many street vendors. I was enticed by the way the light dances off the stones in the most magical way. Swarovski Crystals are headquartered in Wattens, Austria and are a popular Austrian souvenir of women from around from the world. I was astonished with the reasonable prices! I bought an entire set, including, a ring, necklace, bracelet and earrings for under $50.
Salzburg was a such a delight, in every possible way. The food was delicious, the historic sites memorable, and the people were incredibly friendly and helpful. Add to that the fact that it is nestled in the valley between a meandering river and the towering Alps, and well, no wonder it’s a famous destination for tourists around the world.