Travel Notes: Salzburg

In May and June of 2011, I spent 5 weeks traveling around Europe. This post is one of a series chronicling the different places I visited on that trip.

After Munich, we headed to Salzburg. We arrived in the late afternoon and decided to walk around town to get our bearings. We followed one of the walking tours in our Rick Steves guidebook, winding in and out of the many little squares that fill the town.

One thing about Salzburg is that Mozart is absolutely everywhere – he’s definitely the city’s favorite son. One regret I have about our time in Salzburg is that we didn’t go to any sort of concert – if I ever go back, I’d love to see some type of performance, classical or otherwise.

Salzburg seems like a city primarily comprised of interlocking squares – you leave one plaz only to walk a few feet and enter a new one. We saw lots of lovely sites on our walk through these squares – from fountains to churches to the loveliest little cemetery, St. Peter’s. It’s odd to think of a cemetery as beautiful, but this one definitely was, with interesting headstones and perfectly tended plots.

After walking around for a few hours, we grabbed dinner at a little Italian restaurant and then headed back to our hotel. The next day, we took a Sound of Music tour. Yes, it is a cheesy experience (one man in our group sang along to SOM songs as we were driving), but it was also a really worthwhile one. We learned a ton about the making of the movie and saw some of the film’s principle sites.

Our first stop was to view a house that was used for the back exterior scenes of the movie. We saw it from across the lake; it was quite beautiful.

The next stop was the most famous – the SOM gazebo. To be honest, this one was a bit disappointing. I had visions of us jumping from bench to bench, just like Liesel does in the movie. Unfortunately, other tourists of yore shared this vision, and when one too many of them fell while attempting the feat, the gazebo was locked. All we could do was take pictures in front of it:

As we drove to our next destination, we wound our way through some truly gorgeous bits of the Austrian countryside:

We stopped somewhere up in the mountains for a fun activity – luging. I didn’t take my camera with me because I was afraid I’d break it (I shouldn’t have worried), so unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of the experience. Nonetheless, it was a very cool adventure. I was a little afraid of my luge flying off the track, so I used my break more frequently than I should have. Still, it was an exhilarating ride.

From the luge track, we headed onto an even more beautiful stretch of countryside – the Salzkammergut lake district. Thinking back on it, I’d have to say that Salzkammergut had the most beautiful landscapes I have seen. Ever. It was perfect. And so green. And blue:

We spent an hour or so at a restaurant situated above one of the district’s lakes. I had an apple strudel and now, as our tour guide Rosie told us, I can say that I had apple strudel in the place where the opening scenes of the Sound of Music were filmed (when Maria is wandering through the hills and singing “The Hills are Alive”). Pretty cool, huh?

From there, we headed to the town of Mondsee, which has the cathedral where the wedding of Captain Von Trapp and Maria was filmed. The cathedral was lovely, and the interior is shockingly pink, which didn’t seem very reverent to me.

Mondsee itself was a very charming town, with rows of colorful buildings that reminded me a bit of Colmar.

We also spent some time hanging out in a Mondsee giftshop, where I took the opportunity to expand my ever-growing snow globe collection (I try to buy one from every place I visit). Just outside the giftshop, we met up yet again with one of Austria’s favorite denizens, good old Wolfgang (or Wolfie, as we lovingly called him):

After Mondsee, we headed back to Salzburg and to our last stop, the Mirabel Gardens. Many of the movie’s key outdoor scenes, like the children singing Do Re Mi, were filmed here. Being a sucker for beautiful flowers, I loved the gardens.

From there, our tour was over, and we had the rest of the afternoon free to explore Salzburg more. After grabbing lunch, we headed up to the Hohensalzburg Castle, the fortress that overlooks Salzburg. There wasn’t much to see at the fortress, but the most interesting part was probably the tiny puppet museum, which conveniently also provided many silly photo ops:

The real draw of the Hohensalzburg fortress wasn’t the site itself, but rather the views it provided of Salzburg. We could see the entire city from up above, and it was stunning:

After visiting the fortress, we grabbed dinner from a chicken kebab stand (which we chose because we were on a budget, but which was actually a delicious meal regardless).

And with that, we wrapped up our time in Salzburg – we would head onto Vienna the next day. Overall, I found the city quite lovely, although I was surprised by how small it was; I had expected something larger. But its size was definitely to its advantage, as it allowed us to walk pretty much anywhere we needed to go and it gave the city a feeling of cozy charm.  And that’s ultimately the word I would use to describe Salzburg – charming. From its tiny squares to its lovely gardens to its delicious apple strudel to its rich musical history, Salzburg most definitely charmed me.

3 thoughts on “Travel Notes: Salzburg

  1. The Sound of Music triggered my interest in all-out moviegoing. I found out for the first time, that some locations used for the movie still remain even though it was filmed more than forty years ago. It’s interesting.

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