Musical Salzburg

On the train at 9am to take advantage of the Bayern ticket – just 26 euros for the return trip on a clean spacious ultra-modern train – the route hugged the gentle green foothills and showed off the glistening snow-covered mountain tops.

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 local Linie Salzburg train

Into the historic Alstadt, along the river Salzach, we had a tantalising first glimpse of the originally Roman but now mostly 18th century skyline of churches, towers and steeples set under the imposing watch of the Fortress Festung Hohensalzburg. Later we would explore its massive city walls.

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.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born here in 1756

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.

Admiring the ‘onion’ domes of the city’s many churches and the alabaster towers glowing white against the skyline of green forested Alpine mountains we were advised by an effusive elderly Austrian gentleman to ‘go through and through the churches to the steps’.

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.

Heading through to the courtyards of the ecclesiastical buildings behind the Domplatz we scaled an innocuous stone staircase carved into the wall of a restaurant.

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!

A splendid view from Museum der Moderne

Wild flowers were coming out under the forest canopy and back at street level teams of smiling gardeners were planting out spring bedding plants and daffodils in the town’s avenues. We headed to the Mirabell Garten and walked the stately gardens admiring the statues and gentle fountains which queues of people waited patiently to photograph before we realised it was part of the ‘Sound of Music tour’ and had featured in the legendary film.

We turned the corner onto a busy roundabout and encountered Mozart’s house. Painted a warm pink with a huge granite arch entrance it was simple and enchanting to see.

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.

A reviving late afternoon beer beckoned in a quintessentially art deco bar on historic Franz Joseph Strasse before we queued for the commuter train home. A tremendous day in a mesmerising city!

Back on the farm in Germany after an excellent day out in Austria