Our hotel was only a few blocks from the Salzach and the next day we walked along a pleasant pedestrian path most of the way to the heart of the old city that sits at the bottom of a monstrous fortress called Festung Hohensalzburg (it’s one of the largest in Europe). It really dominates the city skyline from most directions.
Before going up we had lunch at great little restaurant (Zum Eulenspiegel
, Hagenauer Pl. 2, 5020 Salzburg) that was only 25 yards from the tourist hustle, but allowed for good people watching without being annoyed by them. The servers were in traditional garb: women in dirndl dresses (Google it) and the men in lederhosen. But they all seemed so comfortable in them that it really didn’t come off as shtick or tacky tourist appeasement. In fact, we saw an awful lot of local women later that night wearing traditional dirndls as their going-out-for-a-nice-dinner-wear. (In Munich we saw spunky modern versions for sale, too, but nobody was wearing them on the streets.) The service was excellent (fairly American in their attentiveness) and Marisa got a great breaded chicken dish and I had a high brow, inventive (and delicious) version of stroganoff. But the star was a potato soup we still yearn for. Really - potato soup. It was that good. All downed with local beer, of course. I wanted to take a quick picture of Marisa at our table and realized only then that the background building was Mozart’s birthplace.
I swear, randomly throw a rock around here and history will be hit. Yes, this was Mozart’s home town and they make sure you never forget it. I’m fairly sure though, he would approve of the Mozart toilet paper, tea cozies and baseball caps. Super classy. This photo of the Mozart statue in the square named after him, though, says it all.
When I think of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, I think of beanbag chairs (really, though, who doesn’t?) What better way to sit in opulent luxury and consider his genius? Actually, I liked the whimsy as a balance to taking Mozart too seriously. THAT he probably would appreciate.
I read a local stat that said Salzburg had more tourists per capita than Venice or other major European heavy weights. I believe it. This place sort of pushed us over the edge in dealing with the great heard of cattle with cameras. We stopped taking pictures lest we be lumped in with them. Frankly, it turned us off of documenting so much and only now weeks after the visit can I write about it without fantasizing about herding them all back into their buses and driving them into a moat. They’d followed us most everywhere on our trip, but they all apparently meet here at some point. And you can probably blame the Sound of Music. If you aren’t already aware, the movie was filmed in and around Salzburg enough that it is synonymous with the city for many people who don’t live here. And the draw for both the movie and the city is really the mountains and meadows that circle the city. They really are as beautiful as in the movie. The best view from the city is from the Festung.
You can walk up the hill for free, but that takes too long at it was too hot. And the funicular (like a gondola on rails that rides up to the castle at a 45 degree angle) is more fun and quick.
A short walk later we were at the main viewing area on the castle and the views were outstanding. There is a lot of history and info one can absorb inside the fortress, but just standing at the edge of the walls and viewing the city and too numerous to count adorable mountain meadows is really the draw and what we spent most of our time doing. We wandered around the inside of the fortress - basically a whole village was set up inside its walls – but ended up in the end once again just staring out over the wall at the vast mountain views, this time at an outdoor bistro with more world class views. Our pictures just can’t do justice.
What’s more amazing is that we were almost alone at the bistro. Why anyone wouldn’t stop for a drink (or the ubiquitous "Vienna Coffee" – ice cream/whipped cream in cold coffee in a tall glass) and stare in awe is beyond us. Furthermore, there are two other restaurants in the fortress – one with inside seating, one outside – that appeared to have reasonable prices (cheaper than most of the tourist traps down in the old town) and good looking food. If we’d stayed another day we would have surely stopped in for sunset. Most places with such views cost a lot more and give you less. As we were leaving pretty early for Venice the next day we hoofed it back to the hotel after some side street window shopping
and milling about with some well dressed upper crust going out to important looking dinners.
But first we had to stop and play a little von Trapp family at the city garden made famous in the movie. The gazebo the kids run around, by the way, is totally bogus. Clearly it was a film set and no amount of running around the garden like overly caffeinated children was going to make it appear, so we had a picture taken and bussed it back to the Marriot.
We snacked for dinner at the bar and were able to have a couple local mystery items. Marisa found out that Austrian dumplings are more like sweet pastries rather than a dinner item even if they are on the dinner menu. I had a schnitzel sampler and found them all delicious. She went back to the room to soak in the tub while I attempted to pay the bill and ended up watching and talking football (soccer) with a Brit and the Austrian bar manager for a bit. I probably learned more about Austrian football that night than I had about Austrian military history at the fortress. And I loved it.
Because we left Munich late and for Venice early, Salzburg got crammed into a single day, so there isn’t a lot to cover. The train trip from Munich to Salzburg was beautiful. Lots of small Bavarian towns (flower box explosions everywhere) and the countryside got greener and greener as we gained elevation and it appeared we we’re following behind a good rainstorm. Arriving in the town by train provides an amazing view- we crossed over the Salzach River and the Bavarian mountain ridges encircled the city. A fortress and castle come into view above the city and – I kid you not – a rainbow stretched from the fortress, over the nearby hills and off into the distance on the other side of the train. Cut, that’s a wrap, thanks film crew – those were some great special effects. It was that other worldly.