Salzburg The Austrian city where Mozart magic and “The Sound of Music” linger
From the Monk Hill, Andrea pointed at the red onion-shaped dome that crowned the white tower, and said, “That is Nonnberg Abbey. That is where Maria was trained, albeit unsuccessfully, to become a nun.”
“Maria who?” asked a French tourist. “Oh that,” tweaked Andrea, while eyeing me, “is for the interest of the English-speaking tourists.” To them, one need not introduce the playful Maria singing Doe a deer, a female deer…
Suddenly, fact and fiction fused in the surreal canvas of Salzburg. Here the real and the celluloid life of Maria von Trapp, immortalised in “The Sound of Music”, vie for attention with the city's most celebrated offspring, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Did I hear Rodgers-Hammerstein in my head while I strained to adjust to Eine Kleine Nachtmusik? After all, this Austrian city has all the trappings of not being real.
The imposing Hohensalzburg Fortress at the top of Festungsberg Hill oversees the city of Salzburg in the valley below. From the fortress, the Salzach River is like a shimmering blue ribbon carelessly laid through the middle of the city.
Salzburg is a feast of baroque architecture, with curved domes and ornate designs. Here, the baroque style was introduced in the early 17th Century by the Italian artists and designers such as Santino Solari and Giovanni Antonio Dario. Later, Austrian architects trained in Italy, like Fischer von Erlach, added to the baroque gems.
I walked around the Collegiate Church, the Holy Trinity Church and the Cajetan Church. While driving past the Kessheim Palace, Andrea quipped, “Though a palace, this one houses a Casino.”
We drove across an ornate bridge to the northern bank of the river, flanked by the edifice in Rococo style. The visual feast continued to the most beautiful baroque garden of the world — Mirabell.
Mozart Square, Mozart House, Mozart chocolates, Mozart memorabilia… it's Mozart everywhere in Salzburg. His genius makes the city glow with pride and Salzburg has earned for itself the sobriquet, Festival City.
It all started with the Mozart Festival way back in 1842, and there has been no let-up since then. Today, Salzburg boasts a whole Festival District, where festivities even spill to the streets during the summer months. I booked my seat at the Hofstallgasse (the Large Festival Hall) where that evening the philharmonic would be conducting Tchaikovsky's “Nutcracker”. The Jedermann and the Felsenreitschule (Rock Riding School Theatre) are the other popular opera houses. I also bought my ticket for the next day's Chamber Concert at the Golden Room of the Hohensalzburg Fortress.
It was time to say auf wiedersehen (goodbye, see you). My train snaked through the hills and I looked back, one more time, at Salzburg. The massive fortress on the hill and the hundred domes in the valley created a fresco against the evening sky. Somewhere in the labyrinth of the city, a cellist must be tuning up for the evening's concert of “Don Giovanni”.
* Though Salzburg is in Austria, it is just a two-hour ride from Munich (Germany) by the slowest train.
* Visa: Austria is covered under the Schengen Visa. So, travelling from adjacent Germany or Italy (or any other ‘Schengen' country) does not require a separate visa.
* The best months are in summer, from June through September, when the streets come alive with music.
* Accommodation becomes difficult and pricey during the month-long Summer International Festival starting July end. The festival covers classical to contemporary music.
* Concerts and tours can be booked from hotels, the railway station, the airport and the Tourist Information Office at Mozart Square. The popular tours are the City Tour, the Mozart Tour and “The Sound of Music” Tour.