As we drove along the Autobahn rolling hills of green unfolded before us. Glimpses of castles appeared here and there on top of green mountains. Our mood changed for the better. We were full of good humour more than excited as we whizzed by road advertising with comments like “Gute Fahrt!” Austrian for “Have a good trip” but in the English language this was cause for bursting fits of laughter from the back seat. The kids couldn’t help themselves, spending a good portion of our drive asking each other in they had “a good fart”! The joy children get from discussing their bodily functions seizes to amaze me!
We arrived into Salzburg and were ushered into the beautiful and quaint Hotel Goldener Hirsch. Located across from the Festival Hall and down the street from Mozart’s house. The perfect spot for a quick overnight glimpse of Salzburg old town. We were lucky enough to be given interconnecting rooms with a view over the Getreidegasse. The hotel was most accommodating even though we had booked less than 24 hours ago. We unpacked a few items and settled into our eclectically decorated room and the rain set in.
A quick schnitzel to replenish our energy and a family discussion on what was to be the course of our day as the clock was ticking and our day would soon be over.
Top choice was Mozart’s house, and we all decided with the bad weather persisting we would just stick to the Old town and stroll the streets.
Wolfgang Mozart was born in 1756 and just a short walk from our hotel was his home and birthplace. The house was built in the 12th century and the Mozart’s rented the apartment on the third floor. Nowadays the whole building is dedicated to Mozart, giving a great insight not only to Wolfgang but his whole musical family. It was interesting to discover that his sister Maria Anna was also extremely talented and was a child prodigy herself, but as she was a female her talent was not to be encouraged or exploited as Wolfgang’s was. After an extended grand family tour to display the children’s talents Anna Maria was to stay at home with her mother while Wolfgang further traveled with his father to extend his career.
After a very interesting tour of the austere family home and museum we stepped out onto the Getreidegasse and made our way down the narrow streets dipping into charming old-world shops selling christmas decorations, hand-made leather goods and traditional costumes. The baroque architecture is purely magical and we couldn’t help but linger and admire this decorative and colourful construction that we don’t often get to enjoy in our part of the world.
In the span of an afternoon we managed to fit a visit to Mozart’s monument in the main square, the stunning Salzburg Cathedral, and the Hohensalzburg fortress which rewarded us with stunning views over the town. Hohensalzburg Fortress, built in 1077 by Archbishop Gebhard is the largest, fully preserved fortress in central Europe. Since 1892 the fortress can be reached by funicular railway. The walk up would be steep indeed if that was the only option. The fortress looms over the town and is definitely imposing and well worth the visit, but the most interesting sight and the one that has embedded in my mind is the The Petersfriedhof or St. Peter’s Cemetery.
Not having done any home work on Salzburg we were lucky enough to stumble upon one of the most beautiful and peaceful cemetaries I have ever seen. it is not often you can marry the word beautiful with cemetery but that is the best word to describe how we felt when we came upon this place. The tombstones are made of intricate iron-scrollwork crosses, impeccably maintained with colourful flowers in bloom. The catacombs loom overhead almost, but the feeling is peaceful and calming walking through the old graves.
It is the oldest cemetery in Salzburg, located at the foot of the Festungsberg with Hohensalzburg Castle. We did not realise at the time but it is one of the most popular attractions of Salzburg. Its origins date back to about 700. The abbey’s cemetery, probably at the site of an even earlier burial place, was first mentioned in an 1139 deed, the oldest tombstone dates to 1288. Closed in 1878, the site decayed until in 1930 the monks of St. Peter’s successfully urged for the admission of new burials.
Our day in Salzburg was a memorable one and our first taste of Austria. Thomas was quietly excited as he sampled a taste of what was to come as he is to return the following year with his school Musical tour.
We casually meandered through the streets sampling a pretzel here and a donut there, Austrian street food was Lucas’ highlight! We managed not to even cross the left bank of Salzach river as time was not on our side. A tiny taste of Austria was enough for us to know we had to come back in the future. The 19th-century Neustadt (New City) and the rolling hills depicted in the musical “The Sound of Music” will have to be explored .Thomas is the lucky one, he’ll be back very soon.