Austria Vacation Log: Day 9, The City of Salzburg

(Note: As I stated previously, I didn’t own a digital camera when we made our trip to Austria. Unless otherwise credited, the photos in these entries were taken by other people. Right-click on the image to find the web site where I found them.)

We slept in, and barely made it to breakfast in time. That was the only slow part of the day, however. We started by taking a round-about way to the Old City via the medieval Steingasse street- very atmospheric and medieval. We walked back along the river on a bike path and then over to Mozartplatz to buy our Salzburg cards. The Salzburg card is a fairly pricy (€29/each) tourist pass that gives you free admission to basically everything, including public transportation. We priced it out after our trip and we barely broke even. More importantly, we didn’t hesitate to step into any attraction that looked interesting- since it was already paid for. There were a couple of times when we ignored the guidebook’s advice, which really paid off.

The first example of this was the Residenz– the palace of the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg. It was filled with very beautiful rooms and furniture. At one point during the audioguide, the narrator explained “Mozart gave us his first public concert in this room.” I instantly got goosebumps all over my arms. I went to show Dorinna and she had the same. The Residenz turned out to be our favorite attraction in the Old City.

Leaving the Residenz, we started to follow the walking tour in the Rick Steve’s guidebook. The Dom (cathedral) was pretty interesting. Two angels holding a crown helped make up the façade.

In the square in front of the cathedral is a statue of the Virgin Mary. When viewed at the correct angle, the angels appear to be crowning Mary.

The Dom was still busy with mass, so we walked past it and out into a big square with a giant chessboard.

I thought to watch for a few minutes, and ended up staying over an hour, while Dorinna patiently shopped for souvenirs. It was hot in the sun, but street musicians were playing classical Mozart behind me, and the ebb and flow of the game was fascinating. I thought black had a much better board position, but white rallied, and soon black was playing for a stalemate. Dorinna returned with a chocolate-covered doughnut-shaped pastry, as white finally won the game.

Continuing the walking tour, we entered the very peaceful and tranquil St. Peter’s Cemetery. The cemetery abuts the cliffs of the Mönchsberg, the giant mountain that fills the center of the city. Hidden in the cliffs are a series of “catacombs”- small caves were hermits would go to pray and escape the bustle of the city. Old stone stairways ascended to the chambers and chapels built into the rock.

We broke for lunch at a small bakery. We sampled a series of Austrian sweets- a lemon crem brulee pie, a chocolate tube-shaped pastry filled with cream, and a cream puff. It still amazes me that we didn’t gain weight in Austria, but the constant all-day walking apparently made up for the four major food groups that I consumed- pork, cake, cheese, and alcohol.

After lunch we visited the interior of the Dom, and two other churches, before making a walk down the crowded the hectic Getreidegasse. This is a narrow street filled with small shops, each identified by a wrought iron sign hanging overhead. Even the McDonald’s has a wrought iron sign. Also on the street was the Mozart Gerburtshaus- the house where he was born. The small museum inside was very under whelming. Even for a Mozart fanatic such as myself, the only thing that interested me was Mozart’s first violin. We had heard that the Mozart Wohnhaus across the river, where he lived as an older child, was more interesting, but that wasn’t very interesting either. It was quite a relief to get home and showered.

We ate dinner at a local café. I filled up with pork and mushrooms with gravy in a bread bowl, along with a salad and beer. After dinner, we ambled over to the Mirabell Palace and Gardens.

We wandered around looking at the flower beds, hedges, and fountains. There is even a dwarf garden- filled with life-size statues of dwarves who worked for the Prince-Archbishop. As the sun set, we went into the palace to catch a concert. We heard three Mozart pieces- a string quartet, a piano sonata, and a violin concerto. The concert concluded with a Haydn encore. A wonderful and memorable way to end a very long day.