#13 Salzburg in Autumn

According to the Salzburg Tourist Bureau, “In October, autumn finally arrives in Salzburg…” Visitors to Salzburg are advised to bring normal clothing and dress in layers, and prepare for the worst (rain and temperatures under 10 degrees Celsius) and hope for the best (sunshine and temperatures over 20 degrees Celsius) for both levels are possible in October. Fortunately, we were greeted with the latter upon our arrival. In addition, we had the best hotel in Salzburg during this whole trip and surprisingly good dinner, and a glass of very good wine for less than 2 euros. A precursor to what’s in-store for us the next day.

   
Salzburg is small cosmopolitan city. It is a very picturesque city with fascinating architecture, and rich cultural heritage. As the birthplace of Mozart, Salzburg prides itself on being a destination for music. Every year the Salzburg Festival draws Mozart fans and music lovers in droves. ‘The Sound of Music” also put Salzburg on the map. Although it’s a common knowledge that Salzburg has more tourists than residents, it did not seem that way this early October. While travelling from our hotel to the old town center, our tour bus was caught in a traffic jam this beautiful, sunny morning. We might have been in Berkeley, Northern California Highway 13, it seemed, as I watched the men worked on the road and the traffic lights. It seemed like a normal workday for Salzburg residents.

Hellbrunn Castle Garden
 
Discovering Salzburg through the Sound of Music Tour
The Sound of Music tour seems to be the most popular activity for tourists, now that the Salzburg Music Festival is over. At first, I was skeptical about taking the Sound of Music Tour because I thought it was cheesy. This tour turned out to be an excellent way for exploring the region. The first part of our tour was a drive to Untersberg where the first scenes of the film took place. The palaces and charming little village homes set against the looming Austrian Alps, provided a very picturesque setting throughout this whole drive. The hills are alive indeed! Our coach drove past Leopoldskron Palace (which is the first view we have of the Von Trapp family in the film). We did not stop at Leopoldskron Palace as it is now a private residence, not open to the public. We just saw the façade.


Hellbrunn Alley
Then our coach drove to the direction of Anif for us to see the second house of the Von Trapps – Hellbrunn Palace. We stopped at Hellbrunn Alley first. Then we walked to the Hellbrunn Palace ground where we found the iconic gazebo or glass pavillion. According to our tour guide, the gazebo, which was moved from Leopoldskron Palace to Hellbrunn Palace, was reconstructed for tourists. We visited the church where the movie wedding of Maria and the Baron was filmed. This part of the tour was a great way to take in the breathtaking views of the countryside and the Austrian Alps.


Nonnberg Abbey
 
We continued the Sound of Music Tour on foot and hiked uphill to the Fortress and the Nonnberg Abbey where the real Maria was a novice. The Nonnberg Abbey is supposed to be the oldest convent in Austria, if not in the German-speaking part of Europe. The scene when Maria coming late to mass was filmed here. The views from the abbey are spectacular that I stopped paying attention to the Sound of Music narrative. I thought this was the best place to look out over the roof of Salzburg where you would be able to see the church domes and spires with some architectural details. While the fortress is visible from all over the city, the views from the top are spectacular – the Austrian Alps, the hills and the city with the church domes and spires.

A view from Nonnberg Abbey
From the Nonnberg Abbey, we walked downhill past the Augustiner Bräu Monastery. It was funny how some of our tour mates left the tour for the brewery. The old town is so compact and manageable that you would not be afraid to venture on your own or leave your tour group. Needless to say, the tour participants dwindled by the time we got to the next few highlights – St. Peter cemetery, the gardens and the Festival Hall (used in the film as the entrance to the auditorium). So our tour guide gave us additional talk about the movie and the story of the real music coach while waiting for those who veered off the tour path. The tour concluded at the Old Town Mozart Square, a few steps away from the most famous landmark - #9 Getreidegasse (Mozart's birthplace).

Hohensalzburg Fortress
Getreidegasse Street (with many shops and coffee houses), the Cathedral and many buildings that surrounded it, the museum, the festival theater, the Hohensalzburg fortress, Nonnberg Abbey, the Mirabel Palace accross the river, and other monuments are within a mile or less around Mozart Square. The whole city, by the way, has been designated a World Heritage Site.

After the exhilarating hike, I thought I would reward myself with apple strudel and coffee, but decided against it and had some 'serious' lunch instead. Our local tour-guide recommended the 'Getreidegasse Restaurant' for its atmosphere and price, but we explored and found a tiny restaurant inside a very quiant plaza (more like the pathway from Getreidegasse St to the open market plaza). I ordered Wienerschnitzel and salad. I thought it was rather interesting to see the waiter slipped through the open market and came back with a bag of greens. Yes, my salad was that fresh. Salzburg or the whole country of Austria is environmentally friendly. You will notice this from small things such as the absence of choice for printing ATM receipts.

Of course, I could not leave Austria without sampling the apple strudel and coffee. So we went to the Café Tomaselli. Founded in 1703, Café Tomaselli is the oldest coffee house in Austria. It has been said that the man himself, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and other famous artists frequented this coffee shop. The café interior was impressive. I felt transported to a different time and place. I thought it was rather interesting that I had to pay for coffee and pastry separately. The waiter explained that the coffee was a bar item that it had to be served by a man (waiter) and the pastry served by a woman. Perhaps it was part of the tradition that made this establishment unique. I found myself comparing the apple strudel to the one I had from a small coffee house I stumbled upon between Innsbruck and Brenner Pass some 12 years ago. Here's the thing: I will continue to hold that apple strudel I had some 12 years ago as the standard for comparing apple strudel.

Nevertheless, the coffee experience at Cafe Tomaselli was a nice way to end our visit to Salzburg. Salzburg is all about the view! And the exceptional weather, made our visit to Salzburg unforgettable.

S P E C T A C U L A R!



TRAVEL TIPS:

• Most of the places we visited outside the old town are accessible by public transport. The view from the fortress is worth the trip uphill. The stroll up and down is not that exerting if you take your time. Those who have walking difficulties can go to the fortress by ‘funicular’.


• Austria is a great place for wine enthusiasts. The wine is cheaper than soda, beer or bottled water. So order wine with your meal.

Comments

  1. Hello there fellow traveler;) Beatiful pictures and the descriptions are right on. I am so glad you posted this I e-mailed you but my e-mails bounced back.

    Anabel

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  2. Great to hear from you Anabel. I have pictures of everybody from the Grand Hotel in Prague. But I don't want to post them in my blog for privacy reason. I also have a picture of you. I'll email you to give you my email address. Thanks for the comment.

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