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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The most picturesque areas in Salzburg you need to see!

Walking treasures in Salzburg, Austria…

The 3-hour train ride from Vienna may prep you with enough eye-candy, but  that first view of Salzburg, Austria’s fourth-largest city…still a killer. Beyond a meditative river straddled by several bridges, lies a charming old town filled with splendid Baroque spires and domes, under the shadow of one of Europe’s largest medieval fortresses looming large on a gentle hill. Centuries ago, when the Salzach river was an important salt transportation route, butchers and other food processors would unceremoniously dump wastes into it flowing waters. And look now…the entire city is precious UNESCO heritage. River shaming to Love Lock Bridge…that’s some serious headway! Navigating the compact 65-square kilometre town could take you a few hours to a few days, depending on how deep your heart wills you to dig. So, here’s my choice of the most picturesque areas you need to see in this delightful destination synonymous with that evergreen musical from the yesteryears, ‘Sound of Music’. (Read my post on the ‘Sound of Music’ tour experience).

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Go gaga over guild signs at Getreidegasse

Getreidegasse, Salzburg’s most famous shopping lane evolved from a major Roman road, to a main road leading to Bavaria to a magnet for rich merchants, doctors, and craftsmen. And now? A prestigious address for jewellery stores, traditional costume shops, high street brands, antiques, leather goods, perfumes and delicatessen. Charming narrow, high houses adorned with pretty portals and decorative windows stand tightly nestled together on both sides. Countless romantic courtyards, covered galleries and vaulted passages link adjoining buildings. Stucco ornaments, medieval murals, pebbled street borders, hanging lamps, elegant columns, moulded cornices, marble balustrades and pretty pergolas make every inch a photographer’s delight.

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Intricate ornate wrought guild signs from the 1400s, jut out from doorways of restaurants, shops and workshops. More than anything else, the street is a artistic, colourful medley of dainty patterns, flowers, curving tendrils, animals, stars, birds and much more. Even high-street fashion brands fall in line with carved, elaborate ironwork signs advertising their wares. Potter around the open stalls and booths under large umbrellas. Pick up a some local bric-a-brac, a cheerful-looking puppet or some dried flower ornaments to brighten your kitchen shelf. Lunch at atmospheric trattoria in a hidden courtyard…inevitable, utterly romantic and unforgettable.

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Melt into musical memories at Mozart’s House

In the footsteps of millions of other die-hard classical music fans, visit the cramped Geburtshaus apartment, Mozart’s Birthplace in the Old Town, where he learned to play piano and violin and composed his first boy-genius works. House No. 9, now Mozart Museum is distinctive…a canary yellow facade and glass windows with broad white borders reflecting the clear blue sky. Exhibits include historic instruments like his childhood violin, clavichord and harpsichord, documents and letters from the family, memorabilia and many portraits. Contemplate the legend of the musical prodigy, an incredibly skilled pianist at age three, who was dragged across Europe by his father to perform for empresses and kings for 10 long years…(a third of his entire life, since he died at 35). How ironic that the musician who made hearts pound, turned cheeks pink, and inspired people to life large, himself had such a melancholic life!

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Outside, in a corner of the sun-washed Mozartplatz, an elderly man works his hands melodiously on a much-loved old accordion. Posters announce church concerts at store windows. You can feel that classical music is everywhere…it flows like blood in the veins of this town, much like art on the streets of Florence. The first Salzburg Festival of 1920 that made the Salzburg a fashionable place continues to make waves worldwide. But it all started with the genius of artists like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. His wigged face and red costume are stamped all over town…on ‘Mozartkugeln’ chocolates, ‘Mostly Mozart’ festival posters and hundreds of souvenirs including CDs, books, T-shirts, stationery, pads, posters, coins and postcards. Can you resist taking a playful memory back with you?

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Allow yourself sinful temptations at AlterMarkt

AlterMarkt (old market) square appears cordoned off by the row of stately burgher houses in pink, peach, soft green and mocha cream. The central St. Florian fountain is enclosed behind a fence of decorative metalwork depicting horseback riders, animals, plants and coats of arms. The large marble basin around the fountain has a statue of patron saint St Florian atop a pillar. In older days, residents actually believed he would save them from fire! Fire to fountain…makes sense. The ancient dairy, herb and vegetables market is long gone, but up ahead, at the lovely open-air flower stalls, people still get attracted to other kinds of colours and fragrances instead. 

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When it comes to picturesque areas in Salzburg, temptations are never far away. You’re drawn towards the beautiful Rococo façade of the  ‘Fürsterzbischöfliche Apotheke’, the former court pharmacy, now the main outlet of chocolatier ‘Fürst’, the inventor of the famed Mozartkugel. Austria’s iconic chocolate treat is still hand-made, hand-wrapped and hand-sold at this store. 31 euro for 25 pieces is certainly not affordable, but which indulgence is? Browsing through the luscious assorted chocolates and truffle specialities will stoke your hunger and tingle your sweet tooth. An inspired stop at the legendary Cafe Tomaselli is  predestined, (read another of my posts here), so save yourself the trouble of indecision. Just give in!

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Sink into the past at Sigmund Haffner Gasse

Trace your steps along the enchanting Sigmund Haffner Gasse, one of Salzburg’s oldest streets dating back to 1140. Gaze at the black painted water pipes dropping vertically from all the way from the roofs of the six-storied apartment buildings lining both sides. Cleverly and unobtrusively, their thick bold lines demarcate the subtle colours of the buildings. Between the snazzy boutiques and elegant restaurants on their ground floors, spot the 700-year old Elefant Hotel. Its beautiful black-and-gold wrought floral design iron signboard with the elephant illustration makes an arresting statement. And when you turn back to survey the length of the street behind, the rococo facade of the Old Town Hall’s clock tower gleams in pristine-white with its yellow-orange dial and green topped bell tower, watching you silently, until you disappear from its gaze at the next corner. At Buchhandlung Hollrigl, the oldest bookshop in Austria dating back to 1492, bury yourself in the treasure trove of rare books, maps, music sheets, paper napkins, stationery. If nothing else, pick up some very interesting postcards.

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When the day ends and you’re savouring a meal of delectable salmon trout at a cozy outdoor table of a small Salzburg tavern, digest this. You’re occupying two square feet of space in a city discovered by Romans way back in 15 BC! Salzburg’s modesty belies its stature as the oldest and most significant spiritual and cultural centre of Austria. Would you disagree?

(To be continued in Part 2 next week)

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Walking treasures in the town of Salzburg, Austria

Soak in the most stunning Austrian countryside ever

And also relive your ‘Sound of Music’ memories…

Your inspiration for visiting Salzburg may not be ‘Sound of Music’ (one of the world’s best-loved movies shot in and around here). But you can’t resist total recall, because all over this picturesque Austrian town, there are posters of ‘Sound of Music’ excursions that will appeal to the ‘classic movie’ lover in you. All this hype is more than justified…after all, the blockbuster grossed more money than any musical in history and even bagged five Oscars! Not only is it a fun opportunity to relive scenes and locations of the song-and-dance sequences starring Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer and seven chirpy children…but a fabulous way to soak in the stunning Austrian countryside. So, are you in?

Continue reading “Soak in the most stunning Austrian countryside ever”