Adventures in... Salzburg

Adventures in Salzburg

While we were in Austria I was able to take few hours off from childcare and spend the day wandering around Salzburg.  The cold, blustery wind stung my cheeks, but nothing would dampen my enthusiasm for this small, picturesque little city. 

I wandered the streets, got lost, found myself again, and admired the sorbet-coloured baroque buildings: pistachio, strawberry, raspberry, vanilla. Distances aren't large in the old part of the city, but the streets are arranged like a labyrinth, so getting anywhere takes time and a keen sense of direction. 

The sun shone brilliantly, making the gorgeous city sparkle. And, in sheltered corners, it was just warm enough to loosen my scarf and open my jacket while sitting on a park bench.  At noon I pulled out the lunch I had packed from the hotel's breakfast buffet: a small brown roll filled with holey swiss cheese, and ate while basking in a warm sunbeam. 

The old part of the city is called the cathedral district because there is a huge church on practically every street corner.  On the hour, every hour, the various church bells chimed in unison, creating a reverberation of sound across the city.  


Salzburg is famous for being the birthplace of Mozart. He was born in a narrow yellow house, on a narrow little street, in the old part of the city, and he was baptized the day after his birth in the cathedral.  

I decided not to go into the house, which has been turned into a museum, but rather honoured my love of Mozart by humming my favourite parts of his compositions while I wended my way up and down the cobbled the streets of the city. 

As I walked past the concert hall, near the castle, I saw a glint of gold flashing from a high window. When I looked more closely I saw that it was someone practicing the French horn; he was aiming the flared bell of the instrument at the window so that all the passing traffic could hear the jaunty rising phrases of a Mozart horn concerto. The theme floated into the cold spring air and echoed between the ancient buildings. 

Salzburg makes the most of their "Mozart" connection, and have even invented a chocolate truffle named after him. It is a sphere made of concentric layers of pistachio marzipan, nougat and chocolate.  Both delicious and addictive. 

Salzburg Mozart Balls


The castle

Salzburg actually means "Salt Fortress" in German.  Salt was mined in the mountains nearby and, in the middle ages, barges carrying salt up the Salzach river had to pay a toll in Salzburg.  The castle, perched high on the hill above the old town, called the Festung Hohensalzburg, was started in 1077, and it was hugely expanded in the following centuries. 

I decided to walk the narrow, precipitous path to the toll gate rather than take the funicular, because I wanted to tread those same stones that medieval travellers might have trodden on. The climb was hot and exhausting work, and I couldn't help myself from breathlessly singing the German hymn. "Eine feste Burg ist unser Gott." (A mighty fortress is our God).   

The medieval genius of the castle was astounding. For, had any invader successfully breached the steep castle walls (or made the climb without keeling over from exhaustion), they would have found themselves getting deeply lost in the spiral-shaped labyrinth of paths and ramparts that guarded the archbishops fortress in the centre. Even I, with my tourist map, got completely confused, and failed to find the same footpath that had led me in. I ended up taking the funicular down to save energy and time. 

The views from the top of the castle walls was astounding.  I could see the entire town of Salzburg laid out below me like a miniature city, and the ring of snowy peaked Alps in the distance. 

Festung HohenSalzburg Castle Salzburg

{The Castle}

Salzburg Cathedral Reflection

{The Cathedral reflected in the castle windows}

Gulls over the Salzach river in Salzburg

{A seagull flying above the Salzach river}

View of Salzburg from the Castle
Salzburg Rooftops

The Language

Just for the fun of it, I challenged myself to only speak German for the day. 

It's easy to get the feeling that you know a language when you can order a cup of coffee, and they don't look at you askance, or ask for basic directions, and not make a fool of yourself. So, I considered my foray into the resurrection my German to be a success. At least I could understand and communicate. (the former far better than the latter).

Sometimes I find it astonishing that anyone can understand my German at all!  However, when it comes to holding more involved conversions, my language skills are sorely lacking. 

(Having said that, Austrians are wonderfully polite and friendly people, and most know English very well.)

Because I'm a nerd...

... I passed the long train journey reading Helen McInnes's book "The Salzburg Connection," which is a cold war spy novel set in Salzburg and Zurich.  

It is a fast paced, if slightly dated novel, filled with stereotypical intrigues.  The amateur sleuth gets caught up in a mystery that's over his head, he meets CIA agents, an impossibly beautiful and seemingly-vulnerable femme-fatal, and acquires a smart, sassy (and also beautiful) sidekick.  Of course, good prevails and the guy gets the gal.  Woven through the plot are McInnes's atmospheric descriptions of Salzburg and the Austrian mountains and lakes nearby. 

Salzburg Connection Helen MacInnes

Do you want more armchair adventures?

A weekend in Windhoek, Namibia

Sketching in Berlin

Adventures in Rome and Tuscany 

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