Nestled in the Alps on the border of Germany and Austria, Salzburg was a quick stop for the Vades who were passing through from Munich, Germany on their way to Prague, Czech Republic. With less than 24 hours in this picturesque town, we needed to make our time count.
Salzburg is probably best known as the birthplace of the 18th Century composer, Mozart. But in more modern times it has become a pop icon as the setting for the 1960s film, The Sound Of Music.
The city is divided into the Old City (Altstadt) and the New City (Neustadt) divided by the Salzach River. In 1997, the Old City became a UNESCO World Heritage Site and for good reason.
Salzburg: Day 1
We began our day in Munich, picking up our rental car and began heading East towards the German/Austria border. We chose a sporty German car, because when driving on the Autobahn it is nice to be able to let loose with the throttle. We thought we were driving at high speed, but then the occasional sports car would pass us at breakneck speed. They were certainly braver than us.
The roads are very well maintained thanks to a national toll in Austria. You need to buy a pass at a local Gas station and have it visible if stopped by police. The great roads made for a quick and easy drive taking approx. 2 hours. We turned off the highway and made our way to Berchtesgaden for a lunch stop. This little town was originally on our list of places to visit. We had planned to visit the Eagles Nest, home to Hitler’s mountaintop retreat, which is south of the town. Unfortunately, the tourist stop was shut for the weekend so we enjoyed the village of Berchtesgaden with a leisurely coffee, pastry and chat. After filling our bellies with delicious German pastries we headed North to Salzburg.
As we were getting near, the white walls of the Hohensalzburg Fortress sitting atop Festungsberg mountain rose to meet us. They are in stark contrast from the surroundings of the green alps. We had never seen such an amazing castle in our lives, the excitement started to build.
We were staying in the New Town but the entire city is very walkable. After settling in we ventured out towards the Salzach River and the Old City. We were eager to catch the last few hours of daylight and to enjoy some traditional food and beer! We stumbled upon a grand palace with breathtaking grounds. We had found Mirabell Palace and the Mirabell Gardens. The palace was built in 1606 and it’s Marble Hall is considered one of the world’s most beautiful wedding halls. You could imagine Mozart walking the halls and entertaining the residents and visitors. Like in Mozarts time you can still visit and listen to classical music at Mirabell. The Palace and the surrounding gardens are very elegant and fit the classical energy. The distant sound of a violin concerto feels so appropriate and heightens the experience.
We wandered through the dwarf garden which features 15 marble dwarfs. Each dwarf has its own characteristics and even though they are over 300 years old, the attention to detail on the carvings is exquisite. We even noticed some similarities to Anthony’s Schnizel and Pastry expanded belly.
There is a very famous fountain set in the gardens that many people will recognise. The Pegasus Fountain which was erected in 1913 is a very famous location from The Sound of Music, Maria and the Von Trapp family dacne around and sing the song “Do Re Mi”. We did our own interpretation of the song and dance and moved on.
We crossed the river over the Makartsteg Bridge which is full of love locks. Nearly all of the tourist gift shops we visited sell red locks encouraging tourists to attach the lock to the bridge. As we discovered in Paris, not only do the lock cause significant damage to the bridge, but the rusting keys and locks that are thrown into the river can harm the environment. We do not encourage people to follow this act, rather tell your partner or loved ones that you love them every day.
By this stage, the sun had nearly set so we spent the last hour of the sun setting strolling the old city streets. The architecture is from the Medieval and Baroque eras, the cobblestone street and limewashed walls ooze history. Walking through the Old City really feels like you are stepping back in time. The streets are filled with colourful buildings, each with unique doorways and some are adorned with important dates in history and the names of former owners. With beautiful laneways feeding off the main little street, you find yourself weaving in and out of buildings into beautiful little courtyards that are full of shopping and cafes. With a mix of traditional and modern stores, the old city has the perfect mix to keep everyone happy. Every corner you turn you find something new. We caught ourselves exclaim… “No wait, look at this building!”
All the walking stirred up a huge appetite. With no set plans, we threw caution to the wind and let the streets and night lead our choice. We wandered back across the river to the new city and headed down a beautiful little laneway filled with traditional pastry shops, music stores and restaurants. A quaint little restaurant named Gasthof Alter Fuchs beckoned us in. There were many people spilling out onto the street so we knew that we had found something good. Meaning The Old Fox, this cosy tavern is full of taxidermied foxes and wine bottles. We settled in with some local beers, enjoyed some great conversation with our close friends. The food was delicious (especially the spaetzle) hearty and perfect for the alpine experience. Good food, wine and friendship made this one of our best nights in Europe.
Salzburg Day 2
The alarm clock chimed early, we stirred and crawled out of bed, there was no time to waste. The next 4hrs were cram packed with sightseeing, all before we had to say goodbye to our friends and drive north to Prague.
There was one attraction that had been watching over us during our time in Salzburg. Atop the old city, the Hohensalzburg Fortress stood like a sentinel, watching and daring us to climb the cliffs towards it. No matter where you are in Salzburg, you see this beautiful structure. We needed to get a closer look, dive into its history and experience Salzburg’s medieval side. We made our way through the old town passing more 16th Century squares and churches towards the Fortress.
Construction of the fortress began in 1077 and was completed in 1500. Its original purpose was to protect the principality and the archbishops from hostile attacks. During World War I, it was used as a prison, holding Italian prisoners of war and Nazi activists. To this day, the fortress has never been captured by foreign troops. Hohensalzburg Fortress is considered one of the best-preserved Medieval castles in Europe. There are 2 ways to get to the Fortress, walk or ride on the fortress funicular (“Festungsbahn”). The funicular was built in 1892, don’t worry the track and car have been updated since then!. The original line was used to bring goods to the castle dates back to 1495 which is said to be one of the oldest cable cars and tracks in existence. We chose the faster option to maximise our time in the Fortress. When we got up there we explored the many rooms and outlooks. the expansive vistas take in all sides of the mountain. It is obvious why this was such a power fortress during the many conflicts it saw over the centuries. We felt blessed to be visiting in a time of peace, we are not very skilled with a cannon and would most likely end up in the dungeon rather than provide heroic acts of valour. We enjoyed a coffee and took many photos before our time started to tick and we had to make our way back down. We took one last stroll through the old city to get our car and hit the road.
It was time to say our goodbyes to our friends and Salzburg. We started up the car and hit the road to Prague.
Salzburg is a truly beautiful and historic city. 24hr is not enough time to see all its sights and we wish that we had more time to explore and experience all it has to offer.
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