Some of us have to work even while travelling. Lucky for us not Ann nor I. So we left Pierre to his business meeting and set out to find the Radius Tour office at the station. Our group was large so we were divided between 2 tour guides; an Aussie, with a loud voice and a dog called Bernie and a lovely Spanish lass called Lucia. I was hoping we would be in Bernies group. Ann, having just realised that Salzburg was in another country (Austria,…but you knew that of course), was hoping that the fact she had left her passport back at the apartment wasn’t going to be a problem. It wasn’t. And, while we ended up in Lucia’s group, she turned out to be warm, funny and very well informed. ..plus Bernie travelled on the same train so I got to scratch him behind his silky little ears anyway.
The 2 hour trip to Salzburg passed quickly as Lucia gave us a broad view of the history of Salzburg and the beautiful countryside slid by our train windows. Upon arrival a short bus trip took us into the old city. A sweet old duck asked me to “drucken” the button for her and when I did so stood there gently patting my hand and chatting away till her stop. No idea what she was saying but I enjoyed the chat regardless.
Salzburg has a long history and there have been traces of human habitation as far back as the Neolithic age. Around 15 BC the Roman Empire merged the various Celtic clans. I won’t go into too much detail about the history other than to say at one point Salzburg was part of German territory and that it is easy, particularly in the old city to see the Baroque and Medieval influences in the architecture and art. This despite the fact that during the Second World War 15 airstrikes destroyed 46% of Salzburg. While much of it has been rebuilt there are still areas for instance around the station where the scars remain.
In fact as an aside, while I had known theoretically that there is a great deal of fierce nationalism within Europe I could truly see it with this visit to Germany and then Austria. For instance on the trip to Nuremberg one of the fellow tourists was a woman who is Franco, and apparently albeit they live within Bavaria they would dearly like to be recognised as separate from them. Likewise I believe the way to annoy someone from Salzburg is to say “remind me…when we’re you part of Germany again?”
You know the phrase “as pretty as a picture”? Well Salzburg IS the picture! Rolling planes to the north, Alpine mountains with the towering fortress above to the south and the Salzach river running through the middle it is breathtakingly beautiful. No wonder Hollywood couldn’t help itself and in the 1960’s The Sound of Music was shot in and around Salzburg. At every practically every turn I saw scenes easily recognisable from the movie which is based on a true story. Considering I must have watched The Sound of Music at least a dozen times as a child this was a fantastic experience and I had the soundtrack playing in my head pretty much the entire time. A more modern day, but far less memorable movie shot in Salzburg was the 2010 movie Knight and Day with Tom Cruise.
However, serving as an incredible backdrop to Hollywood’s offerings is not its only claim to fame, and it is also the birthplace to some famous names in history, most notably Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart born there in 1756. The house he was born in still stands as does the music school. The school was in fact right across the courtyard from his home, no excuse for being late for young Wolfgang. His entire family it seems was very gifted his father Leopold was a music teacher and his sister Maria Anna was his tutor at one point. In fact Maria Anna often received top billing but her parents view (prevalent in the times) was that this was that as a girl it was pointless for her to continue. If it had been different times we may have been praising the talent of Maria Mozart.
Here is also the birth place of Christian Doppler of the Doppler effect and the writer Thomas Bernhard was also raised and spent part of his life in Salzburg. Today, I suspect as we wanders the old Street lined with gold…I mean exclusive brand name stores ( and oddly, and incongruously, a Spar though in subtle signage rather than its usual red and green logo) that the Salzburg is a city of uber-wealthy citizens.
After wandering through the quaint streets, buying a delicious pretzel to nibble on Ann and I took the elevator at the MDM -Museum der Moderne, their museum of modern art to the top to capture the awesome view of Salzburg below. We spent some time before wandering around the forest like park above before going back down where we enjoyed a coffee and cake at the Sacher Salzburg famous for their Sacher chocolate cake. It is important to note, as our tour guide warned us, their is no cheap or fast in Salzburg. In the end, needing to get back to our group and having twice asked for our bill we left more than enough to cover our bill on the table and left….no one even noticed.
Back on the train,yet again I managed to miss the iconic shot of the lake with Salzburg in the background so busy was I talking to some of our fellow travellers. In fact we had a bunch of interesting folk on the tour, in particular a couple from Montreal and another from Pasidena.
Later that evening, we in fact bumped into and shared a table with the couple from Pasidena -Ben and Cecil. Cecil, a recently retired radiographer who is ticking off his travel bucket list. We ate at the Augistiner Keller -the food is very ordinary according to my companions, what do I know, my veggie meal was also well edible but nothing to write home about (cost was about 50 euro a head which included a couple of beers) but the atmosphere was great and it’s an interesting experience. The place dates from around 1812 when it was a beer depository and of real interest is the cellar where we ate. After going round and round and round (and round) a narrow spiral staircase barely wide enough for two people to squeeze past on we found ourselves in the keller which reminded Pierre of an old bunker. Worth the visit just for the experience. Appetites sated we exchanged details with our new acquaintances and strolled back to our apartment.