Just say Salzburg to anyone and it prompts a song; well ‘the hills were alive’ when we went to visit this intriguing, exciting city. Our journey from Amsterdam to Budapest on the wonderful Emerald Waterways ship the Emerald Sky made a stop at Passau for us to disembark and join our optional coach trip to Salzburg.
We set off for Salzburg, with our cheerful guide Eva dressed in the traditional costume the dirndl dress – ‘cheerful’, I hear you say at 8.30 am!! – just what I thought, but she was a gem, and her knowledge of facts and trivia was excellent. Our first stop was the Church of the Silent Night in a little town of Orberndorf in Austria where Josef Mohr and Franz Gruber composed the text of the carol Silent Night in 1818. The chapel is beautiful, with lovely stained glass windows and art. There is a museum and shop in this pretty village 11 miles from Salzburg and tours from Salzburg can be arranged if you are staying in the area. Our next stop was just outside the city, the Schloss Helbrunn Gardens and Palace which now houses the world famous gazebo where the scene from the Sound of Music: “I am sixteen going on seventeen” was performed – needless to say our party were encouraged to sing the song whilst we stood at the side of the gazebo with our guide bringing in the music – what a performance we gave!
Salzburg stands on the River Salzach. This fast flowing river that has many bridges that link this beautiful city together. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart brought the first wave of fame to this city, and there are many buildings that celebrate the life of Mozart, from musical instruments to chocolate. The house that Mozart lived in is now a museum, ask anyone where the bright yellow painted house is, and you will find it. But then came the Sound of Music – well the Austrian people have their own version of the Von Trapp family and it doesn’t have the fantasy that the film makers portray in the screen version. I won’t spoil the story but if the Von Trapp family had ‘climbed every mountain’ they would have ended up in Germany, and that would have been a different story! There are lots of tours if you are staying for a little while in the city, and the most popular is the Sound of Music tour which not only helps you get a feel of the city, but also enables you to relive this iconic film.
Emerald Waterways had organised a comprehensive and flexible tour of Salzburg and included in the tour was lunch which was provided at the oldest restaurant in the world. Opened in 803 St Peter Stiftskeller is a must on anyone’s visit to Salzburg. It has style, lots of style and booking is advised. The food was excellent and the service very good, but the building is what everyone goes to see – it is stunning. Our visit coincided with the Christmas theme and they had really gone to town to make every room a feast of the eyes not just the stomach!
The town has many interesting features from the amazing Prince Bishops Palace, at Schlossmirabell with its beautiful gardens. The Festung Hohensalzbug, which is the most visible icon, is a 900 year old cliff top fortress that can be reached by cable car for 11 Euros. An area not to miss is the main street in the centre of the old town called Getreidegasse, and at Number 9 you will find the three storey house that was the home of Mozart and is now a museum. The cost is 10 euros, but it isn’t wheelchair accessible. The Getreidegasse is a narrow, busy street, look up and see the wrought iron guild signs of the shops depicted in figures and shapes. The Mozart shop has a violin outside – try if you can to find Macdonald’s – yes it is there in the shape of a small M – which does make a change from all the large Macdonald signs we usually see. Today the street is filled with modern shops that attract people from all over the world. If you go to the end of the street toward the cathedral, turn right and go into the square to see the smallest house in Salzburg, continue to the Cathedral it is a magnificent building, and one of the main attractions is the font that Mozart was baptised in.
Our visit to Salzburg was too short and this city deserves much more time. The Christmas Markets are excellent with an amazing ambience and if you dare have a go on the ice skating rink, which is under the watchful eye of Mozart – well his statue. Our tour was over but more fun on the way home thanks to our lovely guide, and then it was time to return to our lovely Emerald Sky cabin where our superb host welcomed us with hot gluhwein to round off our Austrian Winter Wonderland experience.
Glynis Sullivan travelled with Emerald Waterways. Read more information
• Read Emerald Sky – Part 1: What’s On Board
• Read Emerald Sky – Part 2: Cologne
• Read Emerald Sky – Part 4: Vienna
• Read Emerald Sky – Part 5: Budapest
• Read Emerald Sky – Part 6: The perfect Christmas River Cruise