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Travel Guide to Salzburg, Austria

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Salzburg - A Handful Of History, Mixed Up With Music And A Pinch Of Salt   by Markusde Nooier

Salzburg Hotels

You are probably aware that Salzburg was the birthplace of Mozart. You may also know that it was the location for many of the scenes of the film, The Sound of Music. You may not know that its existence as a wealthy Austrian city is based on the rich deposits of salt that have been mined nearby over countless centuries, and transported away on the Salzach River that cuts the city in half.
As a visitor to Salzburg, you will find it hard to ignore these facts if you want to see what this beautiful city has to offer. Most of its tourist attractions have links to the composer or the film, and a visit to the Bad Dürrnberg Salt Mines is billed as unmissable.


The composer is honored in his home town with a monument in the square that bears his name, in various festivals and in a number of museums. He also has one of the city's many bridges named after him.

In 1756, he was born in an apartment on the third floor of the museum now aptly named Mozart's Geburthaus in Getreidegasse, now a well-to-do shopping area. His mother gave birth to her seven children there. 

River Salzach with Hohensalzburg Fortress, Salzburg, Austria
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Sadly only two made it past their early years - Wolfgang Amadeus and his sister, Maria Anna. Mozart' residence in Makartplatz 8, was his home from 1773 to 1787. Damage from bombing in 1944 has been repaired, and this forms another museum where you can learn more about the composer's family life.

In the time of Mozart, as the capital of the principality of the same name, Salzburg had its own Prince-Archbishop, Hieronymus Colloredo. He was, of course, the natural first patron for the city's remarkable young composer, no matter how reluctant his protégé felt. The Residenz Palace at Residenzplatz 1 is therefore another connection to Mozart. Built to display the wealth and power of the Prince Archbishops, visitors still find it dazzling today. Try to time your visit so that you can also hear its Glockenspiel playing while you stand in the square - at 11 am or 6 pm. The instrument dates back to 1704. It has 35 bells and plays 40 different tunes.

The Zauberflötenhäuschen can now be found in the gardens of the Mozarteum Foundation, the Bastionsgarten, in Schwarzstrasse 26. This little house was brought here from Vienna, and is said to be where Mozart composed and rehearsed parts of The Magic Flute

The original concept of Salzburg's Annual Festival was about the music of Mozart, but by the time it came to fruition this focus had changed and broadened. Yet Mozart's music forms part of most of the frequent concerts in the city. A small concert hall is called the Mozarteum, and the city has a Mozarteum Orchestra. And why not take in one of the candle-lit Mozart Dinner Concerts at Stiftskeller St. Peter? They take place every night at 8 pm.
City with Fortress and Castle at Dusk, Salzburg, Austria
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The Sound of Music

To visit the locations for the movie, you can take one of the numerous tours on offer. If you decide to go it alone, these are the venues that shouldn't be missed.

The Nonnberg Nunnery where Maria was a novice is one of the oldest in the world. Perched on a hillside, it can be seen from all over the town as you look up towards the fortress. Its buildings include the convent, its kitchens and refectory, a grand hall, the church of Maria Himmelfahrt, cloisters which the site dictated must be to the west, older abbey buildings, the St John's Chapel and a Pieta Chapel.

The Trapp family home in the film was made up of several locations, only some of which are now open to the public. 

The palace of Wasserschloss Anif is actually outside the city and not accessible, while at Schloss Leopoldskron Palace, where some lakeside scenes were shot, you can walk the waterside paths and try to recognize the actual spots. Schloss Frohnburg provided the Trapp residence's front exterior. It is now a rehearsal site and concert venue for Salzburg's Mozarteum University, with some rooms used for student halls.

But you can see the real Trapp family home, which is now a hotel in the Georg von Trapp Strasse. This, of course, was not used in the film. You can also see the Mirabell Palace and Mirabell Gardens where the film showed Maria and the children singing "Do-Re-Mi". Here you should also find time to see Salzburg's gnome garden, with its many grotesque statues.

At the Felsenreitschule and the festival halls you can see the stage where the Trapp family performed at the Salzburg Festival before their dramatic flight.

Locals refute the claims that St. Peter's Cemetery was where the family hid from the Nazis before reaching their getaway car, but it's worth a look all the same. It does have the shadowy cloisters and dramatic gravestones that the tour guides say were used. Look out for the grave with seven crosses, last resting place of a man and the six wives he is said to have murdered by tickling them to death.

Finally, the Sound of Music Pavilion can be found at Hellbrunn Palace. It was the scene of two of the most romantic sequences in the movie, "I am 16, Going on 17" and "Something Good". The Pavilion has been moved here from the grounds of Leopoldskron Palace, it's original location during the filming.

Bad Dürrnberg Salt Mines

Without these salt mines, situated not far from the city to the south, the old town of Salzburg is not likely to have reached its present state of being a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Salt has been worth its weight in gold through the centuries, hence its nickname, "white gold". It has been the bedrock of the city's economy and the wealth of its rulers.

When you arrive at the mines, be ready for a number of different ways to travel into the bowels of the earth. Once you have donned the obligatory white overall, a miner's trolley, part of a little train, gets you going. Don't worry if you hear some screams echoing around. You might let one go yourself as you push off on one of the steep, polished slides that get you down really quickly. Eventually, you'll reach the salt lake and take a seat on the balustraded raft to be ferried across it. You'll have a truly memorable experience as you learn about the salt and about life and work of the miners.
Other attractions

Of course, Salzburg isn't just about its most famous inhabitants or its salt mines. While you are there, you'll probably want to try out the Salzburg version of the Austrian Beer Garden. Tours of the city can be made on land and water, even in the air, as riverboat and helicopter trips are available.

The old town is full of the most wonderful examples of Baroque religious architecture. For example, no visit is complete without seeing the cathedral. To get to the main entrance you pass four massive statues, of St Rupert, St Virgil, St Peter and St Paul. It shouldn't surprise you to note that St Rupert is portrayed with a barrel of salt, while Virgil has a church, Peter has keys and Paul, a sword. Check out the cathedral's interior for a wealth of frescoes and baroque finery to rival the decoration outside.

Domes of the Cathedral and Kollegienkirche and the Salzach River, Salzburg, Austria
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The cathedral square is where they hold the Everyman performance each year during the Salzburg Festival. Imagine the dramatic effect of the cathedral façade as a background to this morality play. Again, every year the Christmas Market takes place there and the Domplatz is regularly thronged with people.

Towering over the city is another unmissable, the fortress of Hohensalzburg. If you are intimidated by the climb up to it, you can take the funicular railway from the Festungsgasse. It's well worth the effort of getting there to see this fine example of a castle that has remained unvanquished since it was built in the 11th century.

The Hellbrunn Palace gets a mention above as a corner of its gardens is the current location of the Sound of Music Pavilion. This palace, together with its pleasure garden, is fascinating for both its elegance and amazing quirkiness. Beware - it is the site of the trick fountains where guests have received unexpected soakings at the whim of their all-powerful host. These, plus garden walks past lesser palaces, the various grottoes and five unique water-automated tableaux, and a mechanical theater with around 200 water-driven figures and a water-powered organ, all add up to a major visitor attraction.

If you prefer walking in more natural surroundings, you should head for the hills. Situated on the edge of the Alps, Salzburg offers plenty to choose from. You can reach the Gaisberg Circular Walk by bus from the Mirabellplatz. The forests of the Kapuzinerberg are criss-crossed with walking and jogging routes. Strolling there, you might come across yet another memorial to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The Mönchsberg, home of the Hohensalzburg Fortress, also has wooded pathways in which to find some quiet relaxation. You don't have to go far to get away from it all.

Whether you are keen on nature, history, architecture, music, or just the Sound of Music musical, you'll have a wonderful time in Salzburg.

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About the Author - Salzburg Guided Tours, Salzburg City Tours is an incoming tour operator offering excursions and accommodation in Salzburg. Book all your tours in Salzburg online http://www.salzburgcitytours.com/
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Latest update: September 7, 2016