The train drew to a stop. The doors opened and I was assaulted by the ear-splitting noise of sledgehammers. Grrrr, grrrr, they went. Dust clouds wafted to the ceiling, rubble littered the platform: Welcome to Salzburg.
[pullquote]I stood in front of Mozart’s birth house. I don’t need to tell you what you hear when you enter the foyer, do I?[/pullquote]But in between the blasts of terrible noise, Mozart piped in. Only in Salzburg can whatever authority is responsible for the extensive construction work, try to mask the building noise with melodies from the Zauberflöte. I smiled and all was forgiven.
You can ‘do’ Salzburg either the hard way or the soft way. The hard way means climbing up to the majestic Festung Hohensalzburg, Europe’s biggest and probably most beautiful fortification. Granted, you can cheat by taking the funicular from the downtown area, but that’s only half the fun. Or you can enjoy the Mozartstadt the soft way, by making your way from the station towards the Salzach River at a leisurely pace on foot, enjoying lovely spots, scenes, and buildings along the way. When I visited last summer, an exceptionally beautiful day with picture book blue sky and sunshine, presented itself, which put me in the mood for ‘soft.’
My first stop was the Mirabell Gardens, one of Europe’s most famous Baroque gardens with footpaths, statues, fountains, benches, flowers and, of course, music. As I walked through the Grand Parterre towards a delicious hedge maze, called Heckentheater, rehearsals were underway for a concert that very evening.
The Salzach River flows through the city and vaguely separates the newer part from the old town proper. Many bridges, most of them footbridges cross over the Salzach; leaving the Mirabelle Gardens on the other end, I stood in front of Mozart’s birth house. I don’t need to tell you what you hear when you enter the foyer, do I?
The cream-colored building in Getreidegasse 9, which saw the birth of the musical genius in 1756, is a delightful museum, as is the nearby house where he lived during his years in Salzburg. Furniture, memorabilia, paintings and his piano are on display, always with his music in the background.
Coming out of the museum and heading towards the promenade along the Salzach, I found that I needed a rest and what better place than the Hotel Sacher and its legendary café. I did have a short debate with myself whether or not I could allow myself an attack on my waistline by indulging in a serious case of sugar, chocolate and calorie overdose, but it was short-lived and the menu won hands down.
Who can resist Kaiserschmarrn , Topfen, Palatschinken and, above all, the famous Sachertorte? You can either sit inside in the Kaffeehaus proper or outside on the terrace. Despite the fine weather I opted for inside. I like the old fashioned atmosphere which evokes memories of the times when everyone who was anyone came here on a daily basis, to converse, read the paper, discuss the latest news, scandals or gossip, to see and be seen, and have one or more of the endless variety in which coffee is prepared and enjoyed in Austria. The waitresses still dress in black dresses, with white aprons and little white headdresses.
I spent some time looking at the wall of fame with signed photographs of all the celebrities who have frequented the Café Sacher since it opened in 1866. The Sacher is Salzburg’s only 5-star hotel and a popular place of accommodation during the Salzburg Festival, which this year will take place from July 27th to August 30th.
I enjoyed a slice of Sachertorte with ‘schlag’ (cream) and an Einspänner, which is a coffee with milk. Even if I had wanted to, I couldn’t have eaten another piece of pastry or cake, so Kaiserschmarrn will have to wait for another day. It’s actually one of my favorite desserts in Austria, a caramelized pancake made from sweet batter and fried in butter. During preparation the pancake is shredded, then sprinkled with powdered sugar and served hot with any amount of jams and confitures, almonds, nuts, pieces of apple or other fruit. With a gleefully full stomach, I resumed my walk across the bridge and into the old town of Salzburg.
Admiring beautiful flower shops and displays of dirndls, I went to the Marktplatz and then on to the Domplatz, which is the scene and stage for the Festspiele’ s annual highlight: the open-air performance of Jedermann. Every actress worth her salt aspires to get the role of the Bulschaft, a huge feather in any acting career. I love the Goldgasse with antique shops and jewelers which sell incredibly beautiful, elaborate (and expensive) art deco pieces.
Palaces, churches, and gardens; wherever you turn in Salzburg there is always a venue where concerts are performed at any given time of the year. It is no exaggeration to say that in Salzburg there is always music in the air.
It just so happened that when I came back to the station to return to Munich, the sledgehammers were silent. I said goodbye to Salzburg listening to the flute of Papageno.
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