The hills are alive – with the sound of Mozart

May 4-6 – Salzburg, Austria

Gruess Gott Nate! (That’s the way they say hello in Austria and Bavaria).

We got up, packed up, had breakfast, checked out and headed to the train station to catch our train to Salzburg. Like many large cities in Europe, Vienna has more than one train station. We had arrived from Krakow in the South train station, we left for Salzburg from the West train station. Here’s a picture of Linda and me in the train station, and a picture of the train car we road in. This time we were back a first class car. It was very nice. We saw a lot of beautiful countryside; Don took a lot of pictures too.

Vienna Westbahnhof Inside of OBB first class car Austrian field of yellow Austrian country church Austrian countryside

Salzburg is a beautiful little city on the Salzach river. It lies in western Austria, not far from the German border. Sitting on a hill above the city is Hohensalzburg, a fortress built hundreds of years ago (click on the picture for a larger image).

Panorama of Salzburg

Even though Salzburg is Austria’s fourth largest city, it only has a little over 150,000 people living in it. It was part of the Roman empire for a time, then went into decline. It was revived around 700 by St. Rupert, who refounded the town and established a monastery. When we were there they were digging up a courtyard next to the cathedral, looking for evidence of the original buildings built a thousand years ago.

Salzburg archeological dig

Salzburg was ruled for hundreds of years by rulers called “Prince-Archbishops”. They built Hohensalzburg, and lots and lots of churches, monasteries, and convents.

Hohensalzburg from graveyard Salzburg Dom bei Nacht

If you ever saw the movie “Sound of Music”, you should know that that story is based on real people who lived in Salzburg. The movie itself was shot in Salzburg. Maria was a real person who was learning to be a nun in Nonnberg abbey, a convent below Hohensalzburg. We went to an evening religious service there, and heard the nuns sing (we didn’t see them, they were in the choir loft which is hidden). Don took this picture of the altar before the service began. The other pictures are the view from outside Nonnberg abbey, and the abbey church.

Nonnberg altar (Salzburg) View from Nonnberg Damenstift Nonnberg

One of the first places we visited was the Cathedral (or “Dom” in German). This wasn’t the biggest or most magnificent church we’d seen, but it was still pretty cool.  The first two pictures are the front of the church.  There is a statue of Mary in the courtyard.  If you stand in the right spot, it looks like two angels on the face of the building are placing a crown on Mary’s head (second picture).

Salzburger Dom Salzburg cathedral detail Salzburg cathedral Ceiling detail, Salzburg cathedral Mozart baptismal font (Salzburg)

That last picture is where they baptize babies. It’s where Wolgang Amadeus Mozart was baptized. Mozart was a famous composer who was born in Salzburg and moved to Vienna. You may remember we went to one of his operas in Prague. Mozart is a bigger deal in Salzburg than he is in either Vienna or Prague, and he’s a pretty big deal in both those places. Mozart was an organist at this church, but he never really made it big in his home town when he was alive. Now; he’s everywhere. They’ve named a piece of candy for him (“Mozart balls”), they give concerts of his music at two or three places every night, they’ve even named a plaza after him (complete with his statue). We went to one of the concerts, where they serve you dinner and the orchestra and singers perform between courses.

Mozartplatz (Salzburg)

One day we went up the hill to Hohensalzburg fortress. That’s the white thing on top of the hill, looming over the town below.

Hohensalzburg looming over Salzburg Hohensalzburg (Salzburg)

In German, Salzburg means “salt fortress”. Rothenburg-ob-der-Tauber means “Red Castle on the Tauber (river)”. The “burg” part of each name means fortress or castle. Sometimes you see place names in German with “berg” at the end. “Berg” means mountain. In German these are pronounced differently: “burg” sounds like “boorg”, and “berg” sounds like “bairg”. “Hohensalzburg” means “High Salzburg”, or “High Salt Fortress”. The salt part comes from salt mines in the area. In the middle ages, salt was very important, as it was used to preserve meat. It was very expensive. Since the Salzach river was used to transport salt from the salt mines, and since Hohensalzburg was able to control traffic on the river (with its big guns), the Prince-Archbishops were able to charge a toll on the salt trade. It made them very rich.

Guns over the Salzach (Salzburg)

The fortress consists of a series of walls and buildings. There is a central courtyard. We took a tour that let us into several rooms and up to the top of one of the towers. The views were spectacular!

Inside Hohensalzburg Hohensalzburg from the tower Hohensalzburg interior Untersberg from Hohensalzburg Room in Hohensalzburg (Salzburg) Wood panel, Hohensalzburg (Salzburg) Ceramic stove, Hohensalzburg (Salzburg)

After the tour, we had a light lunch at a cafe on a fortress courtyard overlooking Salzburg.

Lunch at Hohensalzburg (Salzburg) Salzburg from Hohensalzburg Untersberg panorama from Hohensalzburt (Salzburg)

Back down in town, we went shopping on Getreidegasse, a main shopping street. It’s really narrow, and every shop has a fancy wrought-iron sign hanging over the street. Even McDonalds has one!

Getreidegasse (Salzburg) MacDonalds sign on Getreidegasse (Salzburg) Getreidegasse sign (Salzburg)

Salzburg is a city of squares (called “platz’s” in German). Domplatz, Mozartplatz, Residenzplatz, Alte Markt, Universitaetplatz, Kapitalplatz are some of the major squares, there are also numerous smaller squares. Many have cafe’s, some have open air markets selling food or gifts.

Some platz in Salzburg Open air market in Salzburg

Overlooking Mozartplatz is Demel’s, a cafe and chocolate shop headquartered in Vienna. Even though the Vienna Demel’s was less than a block away from our Vienna hotel, and we wanted to go there, somehow we never made it (mainly due to large crowds and short hours). We DID stop at the Salzburg Demel’s, and had the most wonderful soup! Cream of zucchini and smoked salmon. Linda liked it so much we went back there every day; three times. We also had their desserts. Yum. Linda had fun talking with the waitress; she served us all three days.

Demel\'s (Salzburg) Demel goodies (Salzburg) Katherine at Demel\' (Salzburg)

We spent most of our time on the Hohensalzburg side of the river. On the other side is Mirabell Palace. This was built in 1606 by Prince-Archbishop Wolf Dietrich for a girlfriend. Later rulers used it as a place to rest (hide out) away from the “downtown” palace (The Residenz) across the river near the cathedral. We didn’t go inside, but the gardens are beautiful.

Mirabell/View of Hohensalzburg (Salzburg) Mirabell gardens (Salzburg) Mirabell Palace (Salzburg)

Linda let Don out one last time to take pictures at night.

Hohensalzburg by night (Salzburg) Hohensalzburg from Salzach right bank Salzach left bank (Salzburg) Mozartplatz bei Nacht (Salzburg) Salzach left bank from bridge (Salzburg)

We had a great time in Salzburg! It was really pretty, the people were nice, we had a lot of good food, and Linda says she’s ready to come back to Austria anytime. Don says we need to see some of the countryside next time. The mountains are really beautiful and we never got into them, we only saw them from a distance.

We’re all a little sad that we’re going to have to go home soon. Tomorrow we check out and take a train back to Munich for one last night. I’ll write you one more time to tell you about our trip home.

Auf Wiedersehen!

Flach Stanley.

6 comments so far

  1. Ann and Simon Starkie December 23, 2008 7:42 pm

    Will you take us on your next vacation,
    Huh, Huh, Huh?
    Simon won’t start any arguments, we promise!

    Thanks for the car, the holiday letter, the blog and being such gracious hosts last fortnight.


  2. Ann and Simon Starkie December 23, 2008 7:43 pm

    CARD not CAR…. 😉

  3. Tina April 30, 2009 9:49 pm

    Hi! I found your site when I was looking up Salzburg. Thanks for your delightfully informative travelogue!! I wish I could go there sometime, too!

  4. Kathleen Storrer October 25, 2013 10:25 am

    Hello, we have been residing in Salzburg for almost 2 years. If you ever come back to Salzburg, there are wonderful little towns like St. Wolfgang on the St. Wolfgang See about 5o km. You can go to St. Gilgen catch the boat and go to St. Wolfgang. It is a quaint little village that almost has stood still in time. You can also take the train up into the back country. It is so well worth it.
    Because of health I cannot go to the Ice Caves, but we have driven friends up and they really loved it. Also seeing Hohen Werfen. It is in the Pongau area. It is also a fortress castle, with a very interesting story or two. During the summer months they also have a falcon show in the courtyard. It is really a photo opportunity. And then in Hallein is the Salt Mines well worth it.
    You also are not that far from HerrenChiemsee, one of King Ludwig’s castles. It is his rendition of Versailles. It is on Lake Chiemsee in Southern Germany can be taken by the train from Salzburg. And driving toward Lofer and Zell am See, the mountains are spectacular.
    And if you make it in the winter before Christmas there are the Christkindlemarkts. Hellbrunn, is great in the summer, but their Christkindlemarkt is one of the best.
    Hope you do return. You saw a lot. And by the way, the restaurant you at in and watched the Mozart concert isn “St. Peter’s StiftKeller.” It is also the longest consistantly running restaurant in Europe and probably the world. They know it dates back to 803 when Charlemagne ate there (or Karl de Gross.)

  5. DQC October 25, 2013 7:06 pm


    Thank you for your ideas; we loved our time in Austria, and hope to return someday. We will be sure to consider your suggestions!

    Vielen Dank!

  6. Silvanio October 10, 2015 12:44 am

    If you are driving, it would be best to go to Innsbruck first as it is on the way to Salzburg. Zurich to Innsbruck is about a 3/3.5 hour drive, and from there it’s about anheotr 1.5/2 hours to Salzburg, directly en route to Vienna, via car or train. I’m a bit partial to Salzburg since that is where I am from, but Innsbruck is a beautiful town. If you want to stick with the touristy thing to do, I would go with Salzburg. I heard that the Sound of Music tour is fantastic, and there is a lot to do the Getreidegasse is a bustling street lined with shops, and you can also see Mozart’s birthplace there. The Burg on top of the hill has spectacular views of the city and the river. Not to mention the mountains that you can take the cable-cars up to the top. Untersberg is the largest mountain there, and you can hike once up top, or go to the cafe and enjoy the view. You can’t go wrong!

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