More picturesque areas in Salzburg you need to see!

Walking treasures of Salzburg, Austria…

The historic town of Salzburg, Austria, bore the brunt of a massive plague epidemic and two world wars. Nearly half of its magnificent buildings were destroyed, but miraculously, much of the famous Baroque architecture remained unscathed. The town of today, as we see it, is its second avatar….almost rebuilt from scratch. More picturesque areas in Salzburg you need to see include the Dom Quartier and the Hohensalzburg fortress. (Read the first part of this story here). 

Dazzle your eyes at the DomQuartier

If the tightly-woven streets were a hide-and-seek delight, the expansive DomQuartier is a luxurious feast. The town’s former power centre is the epitome of scale and baroque grandeur. Take in the magnificence of Residenzplatz, where a splendid forecourt showcases the Salzburg Cathedral, St. Peter’s Abbey and residences of the prince-archbishops, who ruled the city until the 1800s. The monumental central baroque fountain, Residenzbrunnen flaunts fine details…four sea horses at the base surround a central rock, over which four men held up a bowl on top of which stood three dolphins carrying another bowl, where Triton was holding the shell of a snail at the top. Fine veils of water spew from the top and the mouth of the sea horses, make calming, splashing sounds.

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Venture through one of the arcade arches leading into Kapitelplatz (Chapter Square) to find a surprising show-stopper…Sphaera, a 2007 sculpture by German artist Stephan Balkenhol. The gleaming nine-metre-high gold orb is crowned by the statue of an ordinary man in a white shirt and black trousers…completely expressionless, staring into the distance. At its base, is a giant chessboard painted onto the ground. Go on, challenge yourself to a game of strategy with the knee-high pawns.

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Head to the huge 17th-century church with its twin green domes and delicate carved pristine exterior. Does it look like it was completed in just 14 years? Entering the three bronze entrance portals representing faith, love and hope, stand inside the magnificent edifice with a capacity of over 10,000. Washed in glorious white and sepia tones, vertical whites accented with darker lines…like a period movie. Stucco-rich marble columns, ornate frescoes and elaborate murals, baroque scrolls, dancing cupids and gold leaf…the opulence and harmony of the 330-feet long and 230-feet tall cathedral can be deeply moving. Sitting in the pews, study the five organs, including one with 4000 pipes…possibly the greatest organ-power of any church in Europe. The mighty frescoed dome designed by Florentine Mascagni is overhead, Mozart is playing the organ, and the glorious surround-sound is reverberating through your ears. Wake up, its only a daydream!

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Hide, huddle, hang out in Hohensalzburg

Salzburg’s acropolis, the Hohensalzburg fortress-castle towering grimly from 400 feet on the Festungsberg cliff top is visible from almost everywhere. Since it was opened to the public in the 1860s by Emperor Franz Josef, one of Europe’s mightiest castles continues to be the star attraction of Salzburg. Riding up in the 110-year old funicular, you realise how steep the incline is. No wonder the largest preserved medieval fortress in Central Europe founded way back in 1077, has always stayed a siege-proof haven. No one even attempted an attack on the town for a thousand years, until Napoleon stopped by…that’s when Salzburg wisely surrendered without a fight. Inside the protective plain white Romanesque walls, its like an authentic medieval village. Blacksmiths and breweries, knights and tradesmen occupied this stony area once…they’re long gone, but the ancient lime trees still rustle in the peaceful silence.

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Negotiate the dark staircases and dank hallways where fire-torches would have guided the way. The rugged, brooding exterior gives no clue to the unexpected lavishness inside. Gothic-style rooms with intricate wood paneling and elaborate door frames. A glittering Golden Room with its wooden beams and gold star-studded deep blue ceiling. A smaller Golden Chamber, even more richly decorated with carved benches depicting vines, grapes, and animal figures. And the Marionette Museum, with exquisite crafted displays and stage settings of traditional puppets with tiny movable hands and detailed costumes. Some dangle from strings, others are stuck on walls…all stared blankly into space…solemn, grim, fearful, ominous. Fit your face into the life-size cutouts, attempt some amateur puppetry.

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Climb 100 tiny steps to a gorgeous lookout post and lap up commanding views of the town dominated by the Salzburg Dom with its green dome and green capped towers, the curving Salzach river, the Northern Alps beyond and vast unending plains in the south. Archers would have stood at these ledges and fired arrows at approaching invaders. Turret shadows, canyon outlines and slivers of light stream through criss-cross iron bars of a formidable medieval window. There’s a strange sense of security within the sturdy confines of the mighty castle. Do you feel it?

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A population of 1,50,000 and over eight million sightseers prowl these cobbled lanes each year…touristy as it gets, yet utterly enjoyable. Enjoying the new and old of this musical mecca with its magnificent scenery, and rich history, Salzburg is a symphony and you will hum its music fondly forever!

 

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This is one of the oldest towns on the Adriatic

Retreat to Budva in Montenegro…

Your brain is still woozy from absorbing the red-gold autumn flamboyance of the Lovcen National Park and the raw wilderness of the rocky Dinara Alps, as you drive down towards Budva. Thank the rocky limestone mountain screen that paints Montenegro’s highway. Its a breather from the final spectacle that awaits. Ready or not, here it comes. Right after the final bend.

Continue reading “This is one of the oldest towns on the Adriatic”

Why you need to stop at these seven sweetest spots in Dubrovnik

Insta-worthy Dubrovnik beyond the wall walk

Entering the walled city of Dubrovnik through the impressive 13th century Pile Gate, four doors, two walkway bridges and a wooden drawbridge, remind yourself that Napoleon’s French army once stomped through this path with destructive, harmful intent. Shivers up your spine?

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Why is Split the most enticing Mediterranean destination?

You can live in a Roman Emperor’s palace…

Work-life balance is not a new concept. Even rulers yearned for ‘me-time’. For proof, look no further than Croatia. 1700 years ago Roman emperor Diocletian pre-planned his retirement and invested 10 years in creating a humungous 7-acre villa in Split (the Latin word spalatum means palace). Prime real estate by all standards…warm glow of the Mediterranean sun, Adriatic waves lapping at the backdoor, open terraces and ornate balconies to take in the fresh sea air. It is said that there used to be a three-week quarantine for anyone who entered Split…there was no place for disease or infection in this idyllic abode. Respect!

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Do you know why Antwerp is timeless like its diamonds?

Sparkling like a diamond, forever…

Two hours by bus from Brussels will land you in Antwerp, Europe’s second largest port. Fascinating records of legacy. 12th-century centre for tapestry wool import-export. Napoleon’s favoured base for easy access to attack England. Commercial capital of the world with a humungous population of 100,000. And home to the world’s first stock market. Beat those!

Continue reading “Do you know why Antwerp is timeless like its diamonds?”

This is the most underrated capital city in Europe

Croatia’s capital, Zagreb deserves more limelight…

Elegant stone-tiled mansions and newer apartments stand shoulder-to-shoulder in harmony along broad tree-lined avenues and inviting green spaces. Its understated elegance, relaxed pace and easy cafe culture grows on you unobtrusively. This is a lovely city recreating itself, carving out a new identity, while preserving the richness of its past. Zagreb may be underrated, but you will regret skipping it. Here are my firm recommendations on the two atmospheric neighbourhoods to concentrate your energies on, while visiting Croatia’s capital.

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Why Rothenburg is the epitome of German romanticism?

Dollhouse town in Germany…

Factoid: Germany’s second largest city in the middle ages, with 6,000 residents (mammoth for those times) was reduced to poverty during the 30 years war, and virtually faded into oblivion. But life comes full circle. Today it has regained its glory as Germany’s best preserved medieval walled town. Rothenburg ob der Tauber seems like the perfect name for this fairytale place until you translate it into English…red fort on the River Tauber). Mmmm…something less practical, maybe?

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