Forget about Julie & Wolfgang, remember Christian
As we pulled into Salzburg we couldn’t miss the coaches and mini buses dramatically branded with Julie Andrews’s picture, bouncing along with a beaming smile, advertising The Sound of Music Tour. It’s somewhat of an irony that the film which has brought tourists flooding in by the coach load and a real boost to Salzburg’s economy, has hardly been seen by any of the locals. Inevitably though our first stop is in the footsteps of the Von Trapps, in the Mirabell Gardens. Laid out in the 18th century it is a beautiful collection of flowers, fountains and statues overlooked by the majestic Hohensalzburg Fortress, which gazes down from one of the two hills (Monchsberg) which dominate the landscape. As we gathered round the statue of Pegasus, our guide’s sweet tales of Maria and the children dancing around it singing Do-Re-Mi were somewhat undermined by the drunk passed out in the carefully sculpted flowerbeds.
27th January 1756 was the birth date of Salzburg’s most famous son (no not Christopher Plummer) Wolfgang Amedeus Mozart. Standing outside the bright yellow townhouse that was his Geburtshaus (birthplace), we learn that the boy genius was appointed master of the archbishop’s court orchestra at just 16. Unfortunately a falling out with his patron over the opera Idomeneo led to Mozart leaving for Vienna, where most of his best known works were composed. There is a museum to visit inside the Geburtshaus.
Then came a bit of a “Whoa” moment for me as we gave little more than a passing comment and glance to a plaque that says on 29 November 1803 Christian Doppler was born in Salzburg. Now forgive me Julie and Wolfgang but his discovery of The Doppler Effect in 1842 regarding velocity measurements are so important e.g. in Radar. He’s getting a little short changed in the fame department, so please remember Christian if you’re in the city.
Not being one for shopping, a visit to the best known shopping lane didn’t fill me with glee. The Gertreidegasse is quite charming though, with tightly packed narrow houses on each side hung with wrought iron guild signs that add more character to the area than a neon golden arches sign. There are a myriad of passageways and courtyards to explore, so as brief shopping trips go, not bad!
A city overflowing with spires, domes, squares and statues makes me choose just a couple to mention. Residenzplatz, bordered by the Cathedral, is home to arguably the most beautiful fountain in the city. The Residence Fountain has four snorting horses erupting from its base, giants and dolphins to carry the basins and a jet of water at the top shoots from Triton’s conch-shell trumpet. Move into the nearby Kapitelplatz (Chapter Square) and you’ll find a giant golden ball with a guy standing on the top. Called Sphere, it’s a work of art by Stephan Belkenhol and your guess is as good as anyone’s as to what it means.
The Festungsbahn funicular railway beside St Peter’s Cemetery (quite interesting), took us up to my favourite visit of the day The Hohensalzburg Fortress. Started in 1077 it took until early in the 16th century to take its final form, it’s the largest preserved fortress in central Europe. From the Kuenburg Bastion we enjoyed outstanding views of the city nestling beside the Salzach river. The Fortress has a free WiFi and you can use an app for your smart phone to give you endless background and detail on the chapel, museum and Golden Hall. Of course you can buy a guide book if smart phones aren’t for you. Look out for the symbol of the fortress, a lion holding a beetroot in its paws!
All too soon it was time to take the coach back to rendezvous with Avalon Impression, giving any fellow passenger the evil eye if they looked about to burst into a rendition of “the hills are alive”. Our journey back, however, was via Mondsee used as the location for Maria and the Baron’s wedding. The contributions of the river cruise companies keeps the Basilica St. Michael in pristine condition and it gleams with interesting features and sculptures. The centre of town is picture postcard cute but probably aimed more at the tourists than the locals, so we walked down to the lake (Mondsee). Here the locals were enjoying cooling off and playing in the most idilic surroundings, the vast lake framed by impressive mountains and a dazzling blue sky.
This is a great full day excursion, highly recommended, Sound of Music fan or not.