We travelled to Salzburg in November 2013. The last time we were there was in November 1973 when we spent our honeymoon at the Hotel Pitter, so we were eager to see if and how it had changed.
The hotel is 150 years old and one change is that it is now a Crowne Plaza. We were not really surprised to find the lobby was much the same, marble pillars do stand the test of time and it was pleasing to see them again looking exactly the same. As expected, the bedroom was very different. For a start all bedrooms are now en-suite, which was not the case on our first visit but our room then did have a huge washbasin if I remember correctly.
The dining facilities on the ground floor were different but the PitterKeller in the basement of the hotel was as we remembered it. It dates back to 1911 and is Salzburg’s oldest beer cellar. The décor had obviously changed but the atmosphere was the same and very pleasant. It has a particular Austrian charm which is enhanced by the friendly staff.
We decided to book a trip around Salzburg as soon as we arrived in order to familiarise ourselves once again with the city. We thought the best option was “The Sound of Music” tour operated by Panorama Tours, based just around the corner from the hotel. They actually collected us from the hotel and off we went on a tour which took us around the city and also to Mondsee which is in the Salzburg lake district. I think even if not a fan of the film the tour is good as an orientation aid to the city.
It had started to snow as we came off the plane in Salzburg but in the lake district it had been snowing overnight so the closer we got to the lakes the more stunning it looked.
We had been to Mondsee on our previous visit to see the church where the wedding was filmed in “The Sound of Music”, so again we were keen to see if it was how we remembered it. It was much brighter this time as it has been refurbished over the years and improvements made to the internal lighting. It also seemed bigger than last time. We were told that to create the impression of a long aisle for Julie Andrews to walk up, the scene was filmed over and over again and then joined up. The town of Mondsee is very pretty and we enjoyed coffee and cake in an Austrian coffee shop where the lady owner went out of her way to make us welcome. She spoke excellent English which is something we found throughout our stay in Salzburg.
On the tour we were also told about the various locations of the house shown in the film. The front of the house is not the same house as the back and the gazebo has moved all over the place. We saw it in quite a different place on our first visit.
Anyone who has seen The Sound of Music will recognise places from the film even if they are not looking for them. This had happened to us on our first visit when we walked through an arbour in the Mirabell Gardens and remembered it from the “Do Re Mi” scene. This time we knew it straight away and the Mirabell Gardens, just across the street from the hotel, were just as we remembered them, the only difference was that this time there was snow; on our last visit it rained.
There are other world famous places to see of course as Salzburg’s old town is a Unesco World Heritage site. Michael Haydn lived in Salzburg for forty years and died there. Conductor Herbert Von Karajan was born and studied in Salzburg. It is also the birthplace of Mozart and references to him dominate the city. The house where he was born and lived for seventeen years is in the old town and is now one of the most frequently visited museums. There is also the Mozart residence where he lived for about fifteen years, which is in the new town.
Given the classical history there are obviously many concerts in the city so it is a haven for classical music fans.
Mozart chocolates are abundant and displayed in most shops. If you want to buy them, check out the prices in a few shops beforehand as they can vary. Anyone who likes chocolate and cakes will enjoy a visit to Café Sacher which serves the original Sacher torte. There is also a shop where you can make purchases to take home. It is a splendid shop where the assistants are very attentive and elegant; my change was placed on a silver plate!
Christmas Markets were all over the city, especially in the area around the Cathedral and at each market Gluhwein and delicious food tempting us to try. The markets were very festive with Christmas trees, lights and snow. The atmosphere was wonderful with lots of families with small children completely enchanted by the scene.
We took the funicular to the Salzburg Fortress where there are spectacular views of the city, so we spent some time up there enjoying the view. In addition to the castle and museum there is a marionette exhibition, a shop, a cafe, restaurant and an inn.
Another place to get panoramic views of Salzburg is Nonnberg Nunnery which is also high above the city. We went inside the church and took the opportunity to enjoy the tranquillity of this building.
The bells ring out at regular intervals in Salzburg and this is something we enjoyed hearing on both our visits. They certainly had not changed, especially the Salzburg Glockenspiel dating from the seventeenth century plays various melodies three times a day.
Our hotel was on the north side of the Salzach river, in the new town, the old town being on the southern side. Salzburg is fairly small so we walked everywhere but it is possible to use public transport; there is a constant flow of buses.
Our second visit to Salzburg was very special. We were not quite sure what we would remember about it from our first visit. We did not own a camera in 1973 so all we had to look back on was a leaflet we had picked up at the hotel and a few postcards we had purchased at the time. The internet has made it possible to see places before you visit but generally the information does not go back forty years. I am pleased to say time has not changed Salzburg a great deal. There is now a Starbucks and a MacDonalds but the logos are discreet and try to blend in with the Austrian architecture.
I understand it can be very crowded in the Summer and I personally think that if that is the case, it would lose some of its appeal. If you are looking for a pre-Christmas festive experience and you like to wrap up warm, Salzburg would be an ideal destination.
Details of trip
We flew British Airways, Gatwick to Salzburg. Our flight was at 08:35 so we stayed at the Gatwick Sofitel, North Terminal which is in the airport so we walked to the departure desk. On arrival in Salzburg we took a taxi to the hotel which cost 13 Euros. There is also a bus service into the city with frequent buses. It is possible to purchase the Salzburg Card which would cover the cost of the bus into the city, transport within the city and entry into the museums.
More about Diane
Diane's first trip overseas was in the early seventies when she went on a coach trip from Belgium to Italy, travelling through Germany and Austria. Whilst sleeping on a coach was not terribly comfortable, the sights she saw did inspire her to explore more of Europe and over the years she, with her husband, have visited many European countries. In the early eighties, they travelled to Australia via Amsterdam, Canada, Hawaii and Fiji. Later there were trips to the USA and the Barbados. When they had young children they explored as much of the United Kingdom as possible. Now they are both retired they want to visit parts of the UK they may have missed, possibly try a cruise and also experience turning left when boarding a plane!