See one of Europe’s most beautiful cities for a song, says Sailendra Bhaskar
On a recent business trip to Europe, my colleague and I got an unexpected bonus — an extended weekend. So we decided on an impromptu trip from Frankfurt to Salzburg and immediately phoned the Youth Hostel at Salzburg for accommodation. These Youth Hostels are perfect for short trips because they are mostly very centrally located and the charge per bed (there are normally four beds per room) works out to just €10 per night. You can book up the two extra beds as well, so then you have very decent, well-located accommodation for €40 per night on a twin-sharing basis, with breakfast thrown in for good measure!
We took a Eurocity high-speed train from Frankfurt to Salzburg, about a 1000 kilometres covered in just five hours. Gerti, my Austrian teacher friend picked us up from the station and dropped us off at the hostel, inviting us to breakfast at her pad next morning, where we stuffed ourselves on strudel and schnitzel — good, authentic Austrian food. After breakfast, we headed into Salzburg city on foot, the best way to experience it. This is the city where the movie Sound of Music was mostly shot, and you can take a movie tour if you want. Of course, we were not going to do any of that touristy stuff. We did, however, pop into Nunnberg Abbey where Maria (played by Julie Andrews in the movie) was a nun and saw Leopoldskroner Weiher, the artificial lake into which the Von Trapp children fall from their boat. A Telugu movie was being shot in the city centre when we got there.
Salzburg was ruled by archbishops for most of its history, who made their money from mining rock salt from the nearby hills — Salz in German means salt and that’s how the city got its name. Situated on Salzach River, this is one of the most visited cities of Europe. Salzburg is also the birthplace of the composer Mozart and Christian Doppler, the physicist who gave his name to the Doppler Effect.
The Salzburger Dom or Cathedral in the centre of Salzburg was first built in 774 AD, rebuilt in 1628 and again in 1959, an imposing structure. The Catholic nature of the city is never lost on the visitor, no matter where you go. Interestingly, in medieval times Salzburg even had a special street where the Catholic priests could indulge themselves in the carnal pleasures that they were technically denied. Why, there’s even a castle built for one of the archbishop's mistresses at Mirabelle! One can't help but be impressed by the practical Austrian Catholics of yore.
Fed up of being asked by American tourists where the kangaroos are, there are signboards everywhere saying 'No Kangaroos in Austria'. We made sure we didn't mention the K word. We took in more abbeys, the cobble-stoned Mozart square, and finally a huge panorama of the city painted by Johann Michael Sattler in 1829. It’s an amazing work of art, almost like a photograph and almost to scale. There overlays on the original panorama to show how the city looks today versus what it looked like back when Sattler painstakingly drew the visage.
Short, sweet, on a song — our Salzburg trip was memorable in more ways than one.