The city of music
Located just an hour from Munich at the foot of the picturesque Austrian Alps, Salzburg seems like a perfect getaway. Thanks to its splendid Baroque churches, charming palaces, well-preserved old town, the only intact medieval fortress in Europe, and of course its association with the Sound of Music, Salzburg is also a top tourist destination. And very touristy it is. But if one looks beyond the crowds and the lines, one will find a very charming little town indeed.
The garden of Mirabell Palace, built by Prince-archbishop Wolf Dietrich for his mistress. The delightful garden has manicured lawns and hedges, water fountains and statues, and a wonderful view of the fortress on the hill.
Picturesque Getreidegasse is Salzburg’s main tourist drag. Splendid cast-iron signs adorn many of the shopfronts and are what the street is known for. Here one can also find Salzburg’s most famous address, Getreidegasse 9, Mozart’s birthhouse.
St. Peter’s cemetery
To the right of the street leading to the Festung Hohensalzburg funicular there is a path leading to St. Peter’s cemetery. The graves are carefully tended by relatives and often covered with vines and flowers. Up on the cliffs you can see some structure, which claimed to be “catacombs”. We didn’t see them as they were closed; however according to our tourbook the “catacombs” are nothing more than a few shrines and shallow caves.
If this looks like the cemetery scene in the Sound of Music, you’re right! However the movie was filmed not here but on a set in Hollywood, which was inspired by the actual cemetery.
This 17th-century palace of the archbishop is rather unremarkable. What it’s most known for are the multitude of trick fountains located throughout its grounds. The tourguide gets a sadistic pleasure out of spraying unsuspecting visitors. Kids love it, but getting your camera wet may be more than you care for. Watch for wet spots on the ground and walk wide of them if you don’t want to get wet.
The gazebo where Lisl sings “I’m 16 going 17” is reputed to be here, though we searched in vain for it.
Schloss Mirabell garden
Mirabelli Palace was built by Prince-Archbishop Wolf Dietrich von Altenau for his mistress Salome Alt in 1606. He was both a prince and an archbishop, a peculiar Salzburg institution. What’s even more peculiar, while Dietrich was an Archbishop, Salome was the daughter of a Jewish merchant. They had 15 children, 10 of whom survived. Dietrich denied reports of his affair to the pope in Rome, ascribing them to rumors spread by his enemies. Whatever the story, we now have a nice baroque palace to enjoy in the middle of the city. The garden was laid out in 1730.
Fans of the Sound of Music may recognize the statues where the children frolick and the arbor they come out of.
St. Sebastian church
Up Linzergasse, another good shopping street, you’ll find the baroque St. Sebastian church. On one side is the picturesque cemetery. Mozart’s family is buried here.
I’m a sucker for cast-iron signs, and there are lots of them along Getreidegasse, mostly concentrated between one end at the St. Blasius church and Mozart Geburtshaus. McDonald’s is here in glorious cast-iron, and so is the Nordsee restaurant, whose coming caused even more uproar than McDonald’s.
City view from the fortress
The Festung Hohensalzburg dominates over the town. As you can imagine, it also offers the best vantage point for seeing the city from above. You can ride the funicular up, then enjoy a leisurely stroll down. At many points along the path, a nice vista of the city below will open up before you..
Each morning I wake up to this view. Unfortunately it’s in Maria Alm, in the Alpine wonderland about 80km south of Salzburg. The commute to and from Salzburg is extremely picturesque, though I wish we could have an extra 3 hours in Salzburg each day.
Mirabelli Garden walk
Remember the arbor from the Sound of Music?
It may appear that I’m a fan of the musical, but I categorically deny all such allegation. I only saw the movie six or seven times. Wait, I said too much.
Pros: Charming sights and sounds, good museums and concerts, the fortress Cons: Tourists everywhere In a nutshell: Come here at least once