A Sense of Place
Salzburg takes you by surprise.
Even though you hear so much about it, the fact that you are making your way through the streets of this romantic city has a surreal effect on you.
Having been to Innsbruck and the high mountains in the west of Austria many years ago, fellow travellers talked of Salzburg as being in rolling country rather than the rugged appeal of the Alps.
Yet here we were on board a coach squeezing through the historic streets.
Faces press up against coach windows as the spires and domes of cathedrals, palaces and museums drift past.
It is late September 2016 and we are on a performance tour of Central Europe by the Sunshine Coast Oriana Choir from Queensland, Australia.
The Salzburg Dom will be the site of a performance by the choir yet there will also be time to see the sights of this beautiful region.
Walking seems the best way to get a taste of what this picture-book city holds in store.
The Salzach River cuts through the heart of Salzburg, which is at the foot of the mountains dividing Austria from Bavaria.
It’s fascinating to walk through the square beside the Dom, along the narrow, ancient streets of the old town. It’s just on dusk and the lights start to twinkle.
You wander down arcades, peer down laneways and alleys. Mementos of Mozart are everywhere … chocolate boxes full of moments.
Teapot and saucer sets reflecting the artistic works of Gustav Klimt.
Outdoor stalls in cobble-stone squares have all sorts of meats, breads and cheeses displayed.
You realise there is so much more to this place than the setting for The Sound of Music. So much history and culture. Look and you will see remnants of the old walls of the city.
The Dom is the main cathedral in this historic and picturesque city at the foot of the European Alps.
Saint Rupert founded the church in 774 on the remnants of a Roman town, the cathedral being rebuilt in 1181 after a fire.
The German bishop came the area to bring Christianity. He made his base on the Roman city of Juvavum, and renamed it Salzburg (Latin: Salisburgum).
He founded the Benedictine nunnery of Nonnberg beneath the Festungsberg Hill and the Hohensalzburg Fortress, again featured in the movie.
It has a zig-zag path leading up to it or take the cable railway for great views.
Travellers from all parts of the world lead the way with cameras and guide books, and you realise they are seeking out where scenes from Sound of Music were shot.
There are bits and pieces all around Salzburg and the lakes district that have been used in one way or other.
The nunnery of Stift Nonnberg, for instance, is where Fräulein Maria was portrayed in The Sound of Music as having been a novice yet this is disputed in real life.
Step inside the walled grounds and sense the for a moment the lives, the trials and tribulations that have played out over time.
The nunnery sits just below the fortress that is regarded as the mightiest of central Europe, a powerful castle sitting in a prominent position.
Founded in 696 by Saint Rupert, St Peter’s Abbey (Stift Sankt Peter) is considered one of the oldest monasteries with a continuous history since its foundation.
The cemetery grounds are known for its catacombs carved out of rock.
Across the other side of the river the 640-metre high Kapuzinerberg, a mountain with town drinking water stored inside it as well as being used for car parking.
Prince arch-Bishop, Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau was Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg from 1587 to 1612.
He wanted Salzburg to be the Rome of the north and had a castle built for his mistress, Salome Alt. The castle later was converted into Mirabell Palace that is now the town hall.
Walking back to the hotel as night descends, I’m intrigued by a coffee shop with what seems to be a sign for fried potatoes and a photo of physicist Albert Einstein in the window.
The owner beckons me in but time is not on my side. Tomorrow, I promise.
In the light of morning we do make the time then go on to explore the Mirabell Gardens, made famous in the Sound of Music movie.
And we soon discover that not only does Salzburg lay claim to the house where Mozart was born, on the next corner is that of physicist Christian Doppler.
The Doppler effect is the change in frequency or wavelength of a wave for an observer moving relative to its source.
It’s used for determining the distance of stars, and without him, there would be no spacecraft.
Salzburg’s picturesque old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Walk past the Mozart Square and take a look at the statue, erected in 1844 as the first monument dedicated to the composer.
On this day, there is a group of five teenage boys busking, dressed in traditional tyrol dress and with the statue reflected in the brass instruments.
Around the corner there is a mini-bus and a team of footballers with Bayern Munich on their shirts. Not “the” Bayern Munich they admit.
“But we could be.”
They just need some extra money to help with the cost of fuel to get themselves back across the mountains and into Bavaria.
Wander through Alter Markt over to the Getreidegasse and visit Mozart’s birthplace at Number 9, now one of two museums dedicated to Mozart in the city.
The Stiftskeller St. Peter is considered the oldest restaurant in Europe, with first historical mention dating back to 803.
At Konditorei Fürst (Brodgasse 13) you can indulge in a box of Mozartkugeln (Mozart chocolates) and a coffee while reading the morning newspaper.
Though you can find many variations of this local delicacy around town, this is the place where patissier Paul Fürst invented this world famous creation – a pistachio marzipan centre hand-dipped into dark chocolate nougat.
It is still individually produced at Konditorei Fürst, together with Doppler Kon(Ef)fekt and a Wolf Dietrich Block, a cube or “building block” made in honour of Salzburg’s greatest baroque builder.
Sit out front of Konditorei and enjoy the day over coffee. Perhaps indulge in a chocolate … or two.
Across the way is what is regarded as possibly the smallest house in Austria., certainly in Salzburg.
With a width of 1.42 metres, it is located next to the Tomaselli coffeehouse. and was built to close a narrow alley between 1830 and 1860.
In the background buskers play the zither or the guitar, and there is the rhythmic clip-clop of horse and carriage rides.
There’s so much to see in Salzburg, from the bakeries and coffee shops to Hotel Sacher … yes, famous for its torte.
Stop at one of the local bakeries for pastries, perhaps topped with plums. Then there are the coffee shops – the classical Viennese style or a myriad of pop-ups where you just grab a box or crate to sit on.
Then there’s sunsets to enjoy walking across the “lock’’ bridge, where thousands of padlocks tell of the lovers who have also walked this way.
As well as exploring the city on foot, the cycling paths in Salzburg are exceptionally well-developed.
Bikes are everywhere. Hire one and take a picnic lunch to enjoy in the parks along the river … or at the summer house, the one used in that movie. Yet it has been relocated to a park instead the grounds of the house by the lake.
The buses are clean and efficient, running about every 10 minutes in the more central areas.
It’s cheaper to buy tickets in advance or at the machines rather than on board the bus. There are 24-hour tickets available, if you need a bus for at least three rides; if you are staying in Salzburg for longer than three days, a one-week ticket will be better.
The Salzburg Card includes public transport, free admission to museums, as well as use of the Fortress funicular and the Untersberg cableway.
Salzburg … it’s the type of place where you can walk and walk and lose yourself. Yet at the same time find yourself in a beautiful sense of place.