Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Salzburg: Sound of Mozart

The next pit stop in our great East European Trip was in Salzburg, Austria. The birth place of Mozart and famous for "Sound of Music". A very touristy place but at the same time it has a traditional outlook When I say touristy, I am not talking about high school/college kids taking a summer break, partying, its a more reserved bunch. So we found it quite refreshing after all the hyper-activeness in Prague.

Getting to Salzburg from Prague:
There are a number of trains which takes us to Salzburg but most (i think almost all) would change in Linz, Austria. Over all journey takes about 5.5 - 6 hours. The landscape is beautiful, all green country side with sprinkle of houses here and there. It all looked as if it had fallen out of a Children's book.

Taken from the train - On our way to Linz from Prague

From Linz, we took another train to Salzburg. From here the running begins! We reached Linz around 14:20 hours and our next train is at 14:32 hours. We have 12 mins and we had to get something to eat. So dashed into McDonalds, got a veg wrap and a burger, and then started running towards the platform. Found our coach and settled in - 14:31 hrs and just as we were breathing a sigh of relief the train started. Saved by 1 minute! This trend continues till the end of our trip... more about it later.

The usual routine of finding the Tourist Information and getting the maps and finding our Hotel and checking in. Once all this was done, we set out exploring.

Travel Tip:
Generally we prefer to stay close to the old town or the city center, this way even if it gets late, getting back to the hotel won't  be a problem. 

Our Salzburg experience started at a very low point, at Mozart's Residence. Rather than talking about Mozart's childhood, works and compositions, the Museum was just a collection of Mozart's portraits and the history behind them and information about the painter. It was a big let down for us, since we were looking forward to know more about Mozart as a kid, musician and a person.

After feeling pretty disappointed, we hoped our next stop would lift our spirits. It did just that, Mirabell Palace, Mirabellplatz  raised our spirits not only visually but also auditorily. We got tickets to the Concert for that night! How many of us would get a chance to sit in a real Palace Hall, in Salzburg, and listen to a live concert, and to add to it, compositions of Mozart and Bach. At least that is what we told ourselves, when we spent EUR 36 on tickets. We have this habit of splurging during our trips and we generally label that expense "lets-do-it-anyways-since-its-once-in-a-lifetime-chance". After a great evening, we decided to call it a night.

The next day, turned out to be even better. After breakfast, we planned to finish off the self-guided city walk (thanks to Rick Steve's Salzburg, Vienna and Tirol) and the fortress before going on our Sound Of Music tour. With the plan in place, we headed towards the old town. We were staying in the other side of Old Town, so crossed across the river and entered the typical tourist crowding old-town.

Travel Tip:
The Salzburg Card gives you access to all museums, palaces, fortresses, public transport, funicular as well as a river cruise. Its worth it even if you use it just for the funicular and the river cruise. So you can totally for it, if you are into museums and like river cruises. 

Another tip is that the River cruise tickets get sold out pretty fast mainly during the summers and your Salzburg Card might get expired before you get to go on your cruise. A good idea would be to use your card and get the Cruise tickets for a later time, which is convenient for you. 

Hohensalzburg Palace
This fortress was built by the Prince Archbishop of Salzburg and it is one of the largest medieval castles of Europe. Atop the Festungsberg mountain, this castle is like the identity of Salzburg.
The Salzburg card covers this too as well as the funicular ride up and down the mountain. The fortress has a lot of interesting things; the canon pointing to the the main city, torture chambers, a room with attached bathroom and of course excellent views.

View of the Castle from Mirabell Gardens

Canon pointing straight at the city

After a quick lunch in the Old Town, we decided to go on the Sound of Music tour organized by Bob's Tours (recommended by Rick Steves and now recommended by us too). Bob's tours is a good option if you are looking for a small group tour. Ours consisted of 6 people including us and our guide Beatrice, who was a native of Salzburg was extremely resourceful. The tour is timed in such a manner that you visit the places without the hindrance of other tour groups and that is a real blessing! She started the tour, showing us the Abbey where Maria had stayed before she became the Governess of the Von Trapp family.

From here, she took us to the Schloss Leopoldsckron Mansion which was portrayed as the Von Trapp's family home in the movie. We could not go inside since the Mansion belongs to the Harvard University.
 From here, we went to the Hellbrunn Palace where the infamous Gazebo is located. The gardens of Hellbrunn Palace is a must see! The Gazebo as such was locked, apparently many Sound Of Music fans did the I am sixteen going on seventeen number inside the Gazebo and some of them slipped and had to be taken to the hospital.

And then things got more exciting!

Travel Tip:
The charm of Salzburg is not in the main city but in the suburban regions of Austria. If you are planning on a trip to Salzburg, I would suggest just a day in Salzburg and the rest exploring the near by regions of Austria. The Eagle's nest and the Salt mines are the top must-see places. But there are many many more, do go off-track and be ready to get surprised by the beauty of these places.

We could not stop in a lot of places but I tried my level best to capture the beauty from our moving car. Just to give you a taste of what it is in the country side of Salzburg, check out the following photographs:

Red bulls Head quarters - taken from a moving car :)

The tour also includes an optional ride down a Toboggan Chute - which is awesome!! So don't miss it!
After the Toboggan Ride, the next stop was the Church where Maria and George Von Trapp got married. But on our way, we crossed a crater lake and stopped for some tea and home-made cakes. The home made cakes came with some splendid views of the mountains and a Lake.

The Sound of Music tour got wrapped up with the tour of the Church that Maria got married and peek at the Moon lake near the church.

Moon Lake
Once we got back to the City, we wrapped up our tour of Salzburg with a leisurely river cruise and a nice dinner at a small Greek restaurant.
Love locks on the bridge - found a couple of number locks too... guess those are for re-use; once you break up with one person, go change the number in the number lock for the next person ;)

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