“Of all the lovely regions I have seen, none can compare to Salzburg’s striking natural beauty,” said Salzburg city’s most famous son, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and how very apt his observation was, which I was to discover for myself when I went on a trip to this mesmerising Austrian city last December.
There is a maxim that a Bengali and his music are inseparable and being a Bengali from the land of Nobel Laureate Tagore, music does come first to me. Having been born into a Bengali family, naturally, Rabindra Sangeet and Nazrul Geet are a part of the growing up process which I like all other Bengali folks are exposed to right from childhood. However, I must admit, my acquaintance with Western Classical music isn’t all that expanded, limited to attending the occasional Western concerts that are held in Kolkata.
So finally, once I received my Visa, got my hotel booking done and with the Air India ticket delivered to my doorstep, I flew out of the Land of Tagore to catch my flight to Vienna from Lutyen’s Delhi - a journey of eight & half hours. And thanks to my Travel Agent, I was in Salzburg within 2 hours of landing in Vienna - the capital city of Austria, which was bedecked in snow and may I add - “the splendour of Alps” took on a new meaning.
An interesting bit of statistics was provided to me by my guide Jozeph that Salzburg’s Per-Capita-Ratio of tourists is higher than that of Venice and that this city of Mozart is among the busiest in the whole of Europe. Salzburg is every bit a rococo city and the denizens take immense pride for the fact that Mozart was born in this city. Elegant churches, graceful castles and regal palaces dot the city landscape. No wonder that Salzburg and more significantly the “Old City” precinct is a UNESCO designated World Heritage Site. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is undoubtedly one of the greatest music composers and the ecstasies that he composed will resonate and reverberate for all times to come. Such a genius is born once in a millennium and almost all visitors to this Austrian city love to embark on a voyage of discovery on the footsteps of this noble son of Salzburg.
Day 1 of my Visit Salzburg agenda began with a sumptuous breakfast at the iconic Café Tomaselli and legend has it that the great musician himself used to frequent this outlet and that he had a particular liking for the speciality Almond Milk. For several years, Mozart’s widow had lived on the upper floor of this Cafe, which today has become a trademark feature of Salzburg Tourism.
Not far from the Cafe, a leisurely walk through the Old Town is just what the doctor ordered and the magnificent statue of Mozart, which was built way back in the year 1844 at Mozart Square is your first point of contact with the great musical genius. Local folks are of the opinion that the Old Town hasn’t seen any extravagant changes since Mozart’s time and that kind of ignites many visitors to prolong their exploration of this famed neighbourhood in search of more nostalgia associated with the famous son of Salzburg.
In close proximity to the Mozart Square is the magnificent Salzburg Cathedral, where Mozart was baptised and this classic baroque edifice is easily one of the city’s most noteworthy cathedrals. Kudos to the Cathedral management for he impeccable manner in which the old Baptismal Arena has been preserved. Needless to say, this area is the Holiest of Holy shrine for musicians and Mozart had composed some of his most melodious music at this hallowed arena.
From the sanctified ambience of the Salzburg Cathedral to the birthplace of Mozart, which is located in close proximity to the Alter Markt, Getreidegasse to be precise, is ultimate pilgrimage that any musician can aspire for. While walking across the road to Mozart’s birthplace, I fondly remembered Santiniketan - the abode of Tagore and what great musical contributions they both have left for humanity.
Mozart’s birthplace is open to visitoirs from 9 am -5.30 pm and from July to August till 7 pm. My guide Jozeph suggested that we have lunch at the Stiftskulinarium restaurant , which happens to be Europe’s oldest restaurant and dates back to 803. Here the cuisine is truly local and you can bask on the uninterrupted sights of old historical remnants that offer a peek into Salzburg’s rich virile past.
From Mozart’s birthplace, a short walk along the Staatsbrucke that leads to Makartplatz - 8 will take you to the Mozart Residence. The Mozart family lived here from 1773 and now this residence has been impeccably renovated and converted into a museum. After spending quality time at Mozart’s residence, make it a point to visit the Bibliotheca Mozartiana, undoubtedly must be the most well stocked library dedicated to Mozart, with as many as 35,000 titles. How can an evening at the hometown of Mozart be without a concert? Well, make no mistake, Austrian Tourism authorities have rather innovatively packaged concert shows at the impressive Salzburg Marionette Theater for exclusive Mozart Opera.
I was informed that The Trapp family of Salzburg are an integral part of the city’s cultural folklore and one great way to explore the many fascinating city vistas and the adjoining rural areas of Salzburg is by embarking on an exclusive bus tour operated by Panorama tours.
I was pretty impressed by the ingenuity of the Austrian cultural mandarins who have come up with a one-of-its-kind Festival District, at the scenic Mönchsberg neighbourhood. Apart from the festival halls, the Felsenreitschule in particular is sheer class and Fischer von Erlach, the world renowned designer had designed this masterpiece way back in1693. No matter what time of the year you travel to Salzburg, there will always be cultural events galore to choose from and did you know that close to 4,000 plus cultural events take place every year in Salzburg, thereby conferring this outstanding city the priceless tag of Europe’s most important cultural hub.
No visit to Salzburg is ever complete without a visit to the regal opulent Hellbrunn Palace. The speciality of the palace are the “Trick Fountains”, which were a legacy of the aristocratic Italian noblemen and this is perhaps the only place in the world where you will find these Trick Fountains The Archbishop of Salzburg, Marcus Sittikus took enormous pride in entertaining his honoured guests with surprises by way of these fountains.
Since I was travelling to Salzburg in the month of December, I was witness to the rather gorgeous Christmas Market, held inside the premises of Hellbrunn Palace Bengalis’ love affair with sweets is by now well known and the Christmas pastries on offer at the Christmas market was just irresistible for me. After a long time, I also had the privilege to listen to Christmas songs sung by some of Austria’s most legendary folk musicians. And what a way to welcome Christmas as you hang on over the finest mulled Austrian wine and partake in the festive spirit with the local denizens. Imagine the sight of 400 Christmas trees shimmer with 10,000 plus lights. Truly wizardry at work!
For a slice of Baroque architectural splendour, the Dom Quartier is the place to go. Here, the Princely Archbishops who ruled Austria for centuries together, called it there home. This power centre is quintessentially Salzborgian and is characterised by unique Alpine architecture and hallowed magnificence. The entire royal complex consisting of Residence, Cathedral, and the In-house Benedictine Monastery under the tutelage of St. Peter, is now open to the public.
Embarking on a tour of the Dom Quartier is simply an awe-inspiring experience and offers significant insight to the life and times of Austria’s former Princely rulers. Fifteen impeccably appointed ornate rooms bedecked in the finest Classical Baroque architecture leaves you mystified. The Gallery is conspicuous by a rich collection of paintings dating back to the 16th century. As you wend your way across to the Cathedral Terrace, the surreal sight of the Old Town takes your breath away. Try to reach up to the Organ Gallery, from where the entire Dom Quartier complex and much of the Old Town’s historical remnants can be savoured.
The tour also takes visitors along the sanctified Long Corridor, which features sacred paintings from the erstwhile Archdiocese of St. Peter, with brief halts at the museum of St. Peter, you just can’t help marvelling at the ethereal sight of the Franciscan Church and as the tour culminates at the glorious Carabinieri Hall, you are left absolutely stupefied.
I noticed a lot of school children being offered guided tours to the Dom Quartier and on deep introspection, came to the conclusion that a historical tour of this magnitude does have the potential to widen the mental horizons of the future world citizens.
Make it a point to venture along to the rather idyllic surroundings of Salzburg’s Lake District Area - St Gilgen. Here as you drive past the shimmering Lake Fuschl and Lake Wolfgang, the mesmerising natural panorama and majestic views from St. Gilgen has beckoned many a naturalists to spend quality time and introspect on the finer things of life.
The little town of Mondsee too is worth a visit and is most renowned for its signature Wedding Chapel, where the wedding of Maria and Baron von Trapp was shot in the movie -The Sound of Music. While in Salzburg, discerning visitors make it a point to dine at the legendary St.Peter Restaurant, which has a history of over 1200 years of genuine Austrian hospitality, culture, the good old past and of course the contemporary. Hosts Veronika Kirchmair and Claus Haslauer offer guests the finest Austrian dining experience one can think of amidst “Old Stone” interiors and elegant ambience.
Mozart Dinner Concerts too are an integral part of the culinary tradition of St Peter Stiftskulinarium's Baroque Hall that transports you back to the time of Mozart. Imagine the ambience of a candlelight dinner dating back to the 1790s with a historical menu age old costumes and Mozart’s harmonious music. Cheers to Alpine Coziness!
Traveller’s Fact File
By Air. Vienna is an aviation hub offering convenient connections across the whole world covering 186 destinations and well served by 74 airlines. If you are travelling from India, Air India is offering a day flight flight from Delhi to Vienna which departs from Delhi at 14.00 pm and arrives in Vienna at 18.45 pm. Journey time is - Delhi to Vienna - 8 hrs. 20 minutes. With convenient connecting flights from Vienna to Salzburg, you can rest assured of being in the midst of snow and mountains in real quick time.
Off the Beaten Track Destinations Worth Exploring. Hohenwerfen Castle (1 hour, south of Salzburg), World of Ice Giants (10 min drive from Hohenwerfen Castle): Großglockner High Alpine Road (1 hour 40 min south of Salzburg), Krimml Waterfalls (2 hours south west of Salzburg).
Salzburg Card. The Salzburg Card is readily available at all of the city's Information & PR offices, and at the Tourist Information Kiosk at Salzburg Airport with duration ranging from 24 / 48 / 72 hours.
Classy Hotels of Salzburg. The city of Salzburg offers a range of luxury hotels to choose from. Some of the city’s outstanding hotels are: Romantik Hotel Im Weissen Rössl, Hotel Sacher Salzburg, Hotel Schloss Mönchstein, Arthotel Blaue Gans.