Sunday, May 27, 2012

The hills are alive with the sound of Mozart

It must be all the oxygen-rich Alpine mountain air that made us do it. 

My colleague Gina and I made the crazy call to hike up the Salzburg city cliffs after a busy morning discovering some Baroque churches. Our Wiener schnitzel lunch bite, which was meant to be sustenance for the journey, simply seemed to add an extra body drag.

Yet we were determined to see the view from the top and to the other side of the cliffs. Our destination was the Festung Hohensalzberg (below), a medieval fort that dates from 1077 and overlooks all of the pretty cathedrals and castles which we visited in the morning. The path was a really steep one interspersed with steps. For me it was interesting to note that although it was a really hot summers day, the air was still fresh-fresh and while we were out in the sun exerting ourselves for around 20 minutes, I never found myself sweating.

Finally, there it was: a picture postcard view of the city’s cathedral and castle towers framed by the Salzach River. The city cliffs also mark the northern edge of the Alps. From high up on the fort’s look-out point, we had an extended view towards the opposite side where cloister gardens and parks lead up to the snow-covered Unterberg peak (in the picture). Salzburg is in fact named after the Alpine salt that was carried on barges all the way from the Hallein mines near the city, via the Salzach River.

On the way down we quickly realized that the sandy path is certainly not meant for princesses. While we were both wearing flat shoes it was still a bit slippery. So we made our way around to a place that is actually meant for princesses, the Mirabell Palace. Here a classy interior with very shiny chandeliers made me feel like wearing Baroque gowns and hats and white lace gloves. There are many photo booth areas around the old city where you can dress up in these outfits and get photographed in the glamorous old-style.

Next to the Mirabell Palace is a romantic Baroque garden. Salzburg was the setting for the Oscar winning film, The Sound of Music – and the mythical Pegasus fountain and unicorn steps in the palace garden is where Maria and the children performed the famous 'Do-Re-Mi'. The Hollywood film was banned in both Austria and Germany because of the war reference. The film has been such an integral part of my childhood, yet my German and Austrian friends have no frame of reference for the songs and the context. At the end of last year, a play based on the movie was staged in Austria for the first time though apparently it is mostly booked by tourists.

We saw no less than three weddings throughout the day and I would imagine that the garden gazebo, which was reconstructed in a studio for the filming of ’16 going on 17’, makes a popular wedding photo setting.The garden also has a lovely pergola and hedge theatre, which makes an intimate setting for stage shows.

Salzburg is also the birth place of Mozart. Besides a monument dedicated to this maestro, there are classical music concerts happening all over the city, including the Mirabell Palace. Street musicians randomly perform impressive classical concertos and music generally resonates from all over the old city, creating a classical soundtrack wherever you go.

Horse carriages, which can be rented for special occasions or tours, add to the old-world feeling of Salzburg. It really is one of the prettiest cities I've seen and while I feel I've ticked all of the tourist boxes, I would love to go back just to step into that fairy tale world again and listen to Mozart. 

No comments: