Off to Europe again and this time away from sand, sun and surf and into the mountains of Austria.
An early flight with a ridiculously early starts like 3am but it does means we’re there nice and early and hit the ground running. But Salzburg didn’t include any running, it just isn’t that kind of city. It's the fourth largest in Austria with a population of only 150,000 so its small and easy to enjoy. But contains some magnifecent examples of Baroque architecture within the old town, of church's, parks, fountains and other facades.
Influenced by what was being built in Rome, Salzburg had some of the best architects of that era summoned here to create what is now described as 'Rome of the North’.
Best described as magical and almost a fairytale like city, the small amount I did know about the city was that it was the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and home of the real Von Trapp familly. Their real life story became a much loved family musical, 'The Sound of Music’, made fifty years ago right here and loved and renown worldwide or so we thought. But were surprised to discover that the locals don’t see it the same way, in fact the majority of them have never seen the film and have no interest in it. But it has cornered the tourist market and we soon found ourselves, thanks to Judes enthusiasm, reliving our childhood movie memories.
The Festung Hohensalzburg, one of the oldest and largest castles in Europe, sits proudly atop the old city giving you a wonderful view of the city and surrounding area. Both a point worth walking to and certainly part of every picture postcard you've ever seen of this fair city.
Our first stop was the wonderful Gardens of the Mirabell Palace where we strolled amongst glorious formal gardens and fountains. From the steps of the palace you could almost hear Julie Andrews and her charges belting out ‘Do Ri Me”!!!
Then we wandered over the Salzach River towards the Old town, another Unesco World Heritage site. The river is huge and prone to flooding, even today the water level was very high and looked discoloured and angry. Alongside the edge of the river is a wonderful market, with a totally different feel to it than any others I've seen. Locally sourced and made artworks in ceramics, metals, and glass wear, paintings, shoes, hats, clothing etc with a distinctly Austrian feel but so low key. But from here you start to get a feel of what makes this city so attractive. The mountains, the greenery, the cleanliness, the old Baroque Town with its glorious spires and wonderful architecture and this huge river flowing through the city.
It may be almost two hundred and fifty years since Mozart was born but he is very much the beloved son of Salzburg. Born here and residing for twenty five colourful years he produced some of his greatest works in this romantic city, before moving to Vienna.
Amittedly we arrived Sunday and Monday was a public holiday so our overall view was not totally accurate, in contrast to the quietness of the rest of the city we found the magnificent Salzburg Cathedral in the middle of the old Town full of young students from all over Europe celebrating a three day Catholic Youth Camp. Inside it was bursting at the seams with life and rocking with energy and enthusiasm and even the Cathedral Square adjacent was covered with a large canvas type marque with huge sceens projecting to the rest of the students the celebrations with in the cathedral. This romantic elegant city was was being given a makeover by the modern youth of today.
The street food was delicious, and as you can imagine the bakeries produced an assortment of yummy strudels and other delicacies which we worked out way through each day. Plus others which produced smokey meats, variety of sausages, cheeses and rich heavy fruit and nut breads and cakes that got David salivating, spicey goulash and cabbage and dumpling soups that warmed the tummies.
The Pferdeschwemme (horse wash or horse bath) is at the base of the Monschsberg cliffs. It was built 320years ago as a place for travellers to wash and water their horses before they entered the city.
These colourful pastel shaded houses are hollowed into the sheer cliff face of Monchsberg..
Getreidegasse the main shopping street, has a very different feel than most high end pedistrian shopping lanes, with tall narrow buildings nestled closely together and some delightful passageways and courtyards leading off it. The traditional wrought iron signage above each shop, displaying the icon of the trade of craft below as in the Middle Ages so few could read.
We hired a car to drive south to Vienna and saw some magnificent country en route. Even the just a few minutes out of the city gave us spectacular views of the Salzburg cityscape. And further on we could enjoy the real Austrian countryside and its colourful houses.
But Melk Abbey on the banks of the Danube was a magnificent find. Established as a fortified Benedictine abbey in the 11th century it was destroyed by fire in the mid 18th century then later rebuilt in this magnificent Baroque glory that we get to see today. Napoleon also used the abbey as his Head Quarters when campaigning in Austria and the monastery somehow survived WW11. After 1,000 years it is still functioning as an abby and school with over 900 pupils of both sexes attending today.
Schallaburg Castle is known as one of the finest Renaissance Castles north of the alps but it was the gardens that delighted us.