When you embark on an Avalon Waterways cruise, there are optional excursions for guests, for an additional fee. When the list of optional cruises was given out, my eye was on Salzburg.
As someone who had to sit through more than 20 viewings of The Sound Of Music because my then young nephew, whom I baby-sat, was obsessed with it (he cringes now at the mention of it), the movie and its songs are seared in my memory. This year is the 50th anniversary of the movie.
So a visit to the fourth-largest city in Austria seemed almost mandatory. It’s also the birthplace of one of the greatest composers ever, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Finally, it’s a beautiful city full of baroque masterpieces and listed as a Unesco Heritage site.
How could one not go there?
So let’s start at the very beginning. On the coach from Munich, and through some scenic locations, our guide played a documentary about The Sound Of Music. I knew that Hollywood normally uses creative licence (Malaysians, remember Entrapment) but never realised how much the Julie Andrews movie about the Von Trapp family was distorted.
The family never hiked through the mountains on that arduous journey out of Austria to Switzerland to escape the Nazis. They had instead taken the train to Italy, before going to the United States. The children were not as young as depicted in the film; and there were 11 of them, not seven. Captain Georg von Trapp was not a hard, cold man but a very gentle and warmhearted person. Maria and the Captain did not get married just before they left Salzburg; in real life, they had already been married for 11 years!
We saw many of the locations where the movie was filmed. Like the famous Mirabell Gardens where the song Do Re Mi in the film was performed around the horse fountain and the steps. If you remember, the song started from the mountains and, in a minute or so, Maria and the children were in the gardens. Well, in reality, those mountains (the very same they supposedly fled to) are quite a distance away.
In fact, the mountains can be seen when you head over to the Benedictine Abbey of Nonnberg where Maria had been a novice nun. There are excellent views from there of the city and the region and well worth the short uphill climb. The chapel in the Abbey was where Maria and the Captain actually got married.
The church where they were married, in the movie, is actually a church in another town – the Basilika St Michael in Mondsee. We popped in for a visit, as did Andrews recently as part of the anniversary celebrations (they were even peddling items related to that visit in the cathedral souvenir shop).
Mondsee is a pretty town by a lake and a nice stopover, not just to see where a movie wedding happened. And they have great ice cream.
Enough of the Von Trapps. Let’s talk about the legendary Mozart. His birthplace has been converted into a museum. Visiting it filled my time quite well. I discovered that he was not the only musical genius in the family; his elder sister Maria Anna was, too. Unfortunately, she wasn’t given the same shot at fame because she had to sacrifice her time to take care of their father and, later, her husband.
The house where Mozart grew up is also another attraction on the Getreidegasse, the main shopping street.
As is the shop where the original Mozart chocolates (named after him, as a tribute) are made. Unfortunately, the “inventor” never patented his creation, so you can see many variations of the chocolate everywhere.
Nearby is also the oldest café in Salzburg, Café Tomaselli, opened since 1705. You can also find the oldest restaurant in Europe, Stiftskeller St Peter, which was first mentioned in 803 AE!
There’s so much to take in, in this city: Hohensalzburg Castle, Salzburger Dom, Salzburg Residenz, and St Peter’s Abbey, to name a few.
I left this city wishing I had time to take in more of it. Will I come back again 20 times?