The serene journey deposited us, unprepared, at the chaotic Hauptbahnof where massive construction works created overwhelming noise and choking dust for us and newly arrived passengers from Prague, Paris, Vienna and Budapest express trains.
The narrow winding streets leading to the old town felt claustrophobic with the grand heights of the towering patrician houses lining them and the busy roadworks taking place on them. It was clear that the break in the weather had put the city into a fevered ‘spring clean’ and where we had expected the gentle strains of Mozart our constant accompaniment was the grind of cement mixers and the grating of heavy trucks’ gears.
Expensive boutiques opened up around us and a crowd of people vied for pavement space outside a tall yellow house – that of Mozart’s birth in his father’s home. All along the street the red and white flags and awnings of the souvenir shops offered Mozart chocolates, calendars, diaries, music stands, jigsaws, tea cosies and aprons – we wondered what the eventually bankrupt composer buried in a pauper’s grave would really make of it.
A succession of dark-eyed and weathered beggars held out paper cups and pleaded for a few small pennies of change. Some played fiddles and the music the wild and mournful songs of east Europe and its tragedies. It was surprising, and striking.
11am and the famous Salzburg glockenspiel rang out the hours… and the hours. Of the twenty or so people and the gorgeous line up of ponies and carts in the stately Residenz Platz only us and Von Trapp, a caped and feather and felt-hatted old boy, seemed to pay them much attention.
We headed off to scale the route up to the walls of the 900 year-old fortress and get a better view of the centre.
Not sure that our translation was by any means reliable we headed down to the baroque and beautiful St Peter’s Kirche. An alabaster columned interior was topped with gold and bronze rococo figures and vivid ceiling frescoes from the Old Testament. It was sumptuous and overwhelming so a quiet meander through its gated cemetery was welcome and enjoyable. Crypts, catacombs and mausoleums dating back to the 1500’s are still kept fresh with lighted candles and flowers.
Turning the corner we found ourselves facing the steep climb up onto the city walls and a short while later we were above the river and the old town able to see fully the city’s splendid setting along the river and in the lee of the mountains. Thank you old timer!
We ventured into the interior courtyard and saw the passageways to the living rooms heading off under stone archways. It was impossible to photograph as the traffic whizzed by so we headed on regretfully.