The Salt Castle

Trip Start Apr 12, 2012
Trip End Apr 30, 2012

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Where I stayed
Hotel Mozart Salzburg
Read my review - 4/5 stars
What I did
Mirabell Palace and Gardens Salzburg
Read my review - 5/5 stars
Salzburg Fortress (Festung Hohensalzburg)
Read my review - 5/5 stars

Flag of Austria  , Austrian Alps,
Friday, April 27, 2012

One of my favorite movies of all times is The Sound of Music. I can remember watching Maria sing and spin on that hilltop and dream of living in a place like that - I grew up in West Texas - pretty much the exact opposite of Austria. It was time to visit the site of this wonderful musical and birthplace of Mozart - Salzburg, which translates literally to Salt Castle.

Again we took advantage of the wonderful rail system in Bavaria, and in about an hour and a half we went from Munich to Salzburg. What a picturesque city, with the Bavarian Alps all around and the Salzach River running through it.  We probably spent about 20 minutes getting our bearings coming out of the train station, but receiving the free Mozartball put a positive spin on it. We finally navigated to our hotel, got all checked in and headed out to see the sights. It was a weekend and there were quite a lot of people around, but definitely not a problem. A lot were young people sitting on the banks of the river enjoying the sun - the temperature got up to 88F which is pretty unusual, especially for that time of year. 

We crossed over the river and entered Old Town, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Salzburg's "Old Town" (Altstadt) has internationally renowned baroque architecture and is one of the best-preserved city centres north of the Alps. It's a very quaint and charming area with cobblestone streets that wind around in a tangle of streets, with lots of shopping options. Of course I had to go into the Christmas Store, where I was somewhat disappointed as it was all eggs!  Now these are beautifully decorated eggs, but I was looking for an ornament of Salzburg and these just didn't meet my criteria. Still it was amazing to see all the different colors and decorations they had used to adorn said eggs, so I did end up buying one but then gave it to Julie for their tree in Munich. Probably the most unusual site in Old Town was a 30 foot tall golden ball with a man on top called Sphaera. Sphaera is a sculpture made in 2007 by artist Stephan Balkenhol and is locally called Mann auf Mozartkugel. There is a life sized chess set right next to it.

Not far from Old Town was Mirabell Palace and Gardens. Such a beautiful palace deserves a romantic story, and it has one. Prince-Archbishop Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau had Altenau (it's original name) Palace built in1606 as a token of his love for Salome Alt. The palace fulfilled its
purpose: fifteen children were born of their union, ten of whom survived. After his death the palace was renamed "Mirabell" by his successor. Today Mirabell Palace houses the offices of Salzburg's mayor and the municipal council. The Marble Hall, formerly the prince-archbishops'
ballroom and concert venue for Leopold Mozart and his children Wolfgang and Nannerl, is considered to be one of the "most beautiful wedding halls in the world." The gardens we see today were added in 1730. These are exquisite sculpted gardens which make for a beautiful photograph - one of my favorites from this trip was taken here. We were a little early to see the wysteria in full bloom, but what we did see was gorgeous

Saturday morning we went to the Hohensalzburg Fortress. Built in 1077 it is the largest, fully preserved fortress in central Europe. We took the funicular railway to get there because a) we've never ridden in a funicular and b) the walk looked steeper than what my knee was prepared to handle. Once there we were treated to a spectacular view of Salzburg and the Alps. The fortress itself is huge - you feel more like you are in a small city than in a castle. In the early 1500's the fortress was enlarged and its exterior has remained substantially unaltered since then. The fortress' interior was richly decorated with intricate Gothic wood-carvings and ornamental paintings.

For the afternoon we had booked a tour with Bob's Tours as recommended by Rick Steves. I hate to say it but it was rather disappointing. Our tour guide, Beatrice, was extremely nice and knew a lot about Salzburg, but unlike Pat with the Stonehenge tour, she didn't have a continuous monologue of information going. We did get to go on a tour of a salt mine, which was very cool, literally. And what fun getting to slide down the wooden slides to the next level - much better than an elevator. We also got to drive through the Bavarian Alps and visit Konigssee (King's Lake), a beautiful crystal clear lake that we would have loved to go out on. We wouldn't have been able to do any of this had we not had her to drive us there, so for that purpose it was fine. Just not as educational as I was hoping for. She did talk a bit about the war and Hitler and the effect it had on her family, and that was very interesting.

One of the best meals we had on our entire trip was in Salzburg at Alter Fuchs (Old Fox, and yes, there is a Young Fox there too). Being typical Americans we were always ready to eat by 7 or earlier, so we didn't run into the crowds that would be there after 8. We were able to sit in the garden and enjoy not only some fabulous wiener-schnitzel but also pork ribs. Now being from Texas I know ribs, and these were probably some of the best I have ever eaten. The portions were huge so sadly we ended up leaving some food, which you hate to do when it's so dang good.

No trip to Salzburg would be complete without partaking of the Salzburg Mozartkugeln, or Mozart Ball. This delectable treat was first produced in 1890 as a tribute to Mozart. The original recipe goes like this: First, a ball of green pistachio marzipan covered in a layer of nougat is produced. This ball is then placed on a small wooden stick and dunked in a dark chocolate coating. Next, the stick is placed vertically, with the ball at the top, on a platform to allow the chocolate to cool off and harden. Finally, the stick is removed; the hole that it leaves behind is filled with chocolate coating, and the ball is wrapped in blue-silver tin foil by hand.

Sunday brought an end to our trip. We headed back to Munich to pack up for our flight home the next day. We did go out to a wonderful Greek restaurant that was about a 15 minute walk from Julie & Noah's apartment. The staff was so friendly, even the owner came by to speak to us, although I didn't understand any of it - don't know German, don't know Greek. We hope to go back there next time we're in town.
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