What We Talk About When We Talk About Salzburg

After two weeks in the mountains Molly, Tom, Barb and I went to Salzburg for a few days to see the castle and walk through the old town. We all quickly fell in love with Salzburg, not just its old town but its outskirts, as well, where we spent time every day walking along the river.

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Beyond being one of the more pleasant places in Europe, Salzburg had a few distinct characteristics we noticed.

There is Music Everywhere

The thing about Salzburg was everywhere we looked there were musicians playing music. With the Salzburg Music Festival just starting it seemed like everyone had taken to the streets to play Beethoven Quartets, especially its many gifted music conservatory students. Meanwhile, the churches and concert halls were filled with orchestras and opera companies performing world class music.

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Of course for Americans, Salzburg is best known for Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Sound of Music and signs of Maria von Trapp and family were everywhere we turned. Rain and heat prevented us from taking the Sound of Music bicycling tour (I’m not ashamed to say that I was the only one to appear disappointed) but familiar parks and squares all over town led Barb to start singing “Do-Re-Mi”.

Even when when you can’t hear it, the city of Salzburg is ensconced in music. At one point I saw an entire square filled with people taking pictures of the house Mozart was born in and it seemed everywhere we looked there was a plaque or statue about Mozart or Herbert von Karajan, their other hometown hero. Nowhere have I seen music be such an essential part of a city.

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The Salzburg Fortress is the Best Fortress

Unlike Molly, I haven’t formally declared my favorite fortresses, but Salzburg will certainly be at the top of the list. Its position overlooking the town is stunning and its aging white walls kept me staring upwards throughout our trip. The self-guided tour of the fortress was also fantastic. With access to free wifi we used our cell phones to follow along to a script detailing a dozen points of interest which Molly read aloud while we explored the fortress grounds and the rooms inside.

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But the fortress is also a reminder of the profound influence of the Catholic church over Austria. As the leading power of German speaking Catholics, the Archbishop of Salzburg ruled over this fortress and this city for more than 500 years, maintaining a very powerful theocratic city-state.

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Tracht is Back!

In the rest of Austria lederhosen and dirndl seem reserved for waiters and waitresses but not in Salzburg. We saw women attending operas wearing beautiful traditional dresses with modern black heels, often arm in arm with their date wearing black-tie. Groups of young men would stumble out of bars in lederhosen and button-up shirts and young women everywhere donned brightly colored dirndl as they walked through the streets. Even in the stores tracht costume would be displayed side-by-side with the newest fashions (and priced as high too!).

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Salzburg is Easy on the Wallet

No question about it, Salzburg was one of the more reasonably priced cities in Western Europe. The food and drinks were delicious and well-priced and the street fairs full of freshly prepared schnitzel and knodel made picnicking quite easy. Salzburg is worth visiting no matter what the cost, but it’s certainly worth noting that this a place we could see spending quite a bit of time in.

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Here are a few more favorite pics from Salzburg –

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