The hills may well be alive with the sound of tourists stomping around, but this does little to diminish the charms of Salzburg – a feast for the eyes as well as the ears. Initially put on the map by musical maestro Mozart, Salzburg was subsequently immortalized as the backdrop for the The Sound of Music, the third biggest box office hit in history.
Hence most roads lead to the von Trapp trail; the Hollywood producers who used this picturesque town as the backdrop for their saccharine saga behaved not unlike the Plains Indians who used each part of the buffalo – squeezing every drop of charm they could from the enchanting scenery it has to offer.
Julie Andrews enthusiasts will no doubt opt for one of several The Sound of Music tours on offer, most of which include the must-see sights. But the more intrepid tourists will benefit from taking their time and soaking up the best of the town at their own pace.
Built by Archbishop Wolf Dietrich Raitenau in 1606, this elegant Baroque structure, now used to house government offices, is the most visited place in Salzburg. The big drawcard is its magical gardens, replete with topiary and mythological statues. Some of the more famous scenes from The Sound of Music were filmed here, including Andrews’ character Maria and the von Trapp kiddies dancing around the magnificent central horse statue singing ‘Do-Re-Mi’, and using the palace steps as a musical scale.
The gazebo of this schloss is renowned as the spot Liesl, the eldest von Trapp daughter, first meets up with Franz the butler in The Sound of Music – apparently making it enough to draw over a quarter of a million fans of the flick each year.
But Hellbrun, every bit as Baroque as Mirabell, has much more to offer.
Built in 1619 by the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg it was meant for use as only a day residence, presumably explaining why it features no bedrooms. Its grounds are renowned for their jeux d’eau (water games), which include stone seats surrounding a stone dining table which sprays water on unsuspecting guests, and a grotto featuring a crown pushed up and down by jets of water, meant to symbolize the rise and fall of power. Each of these attractions features a spot which is never wet, where once the Archbishop and now the tour guides stand.
Often erroneously referred to as the Nonnberg Abbey, this imposing Benedictine convent is also featured in The Sound of Music, and with good reason. This is where Maria Augusta Kutschera, whose story inspired the movie, worked as a teacher after World War I. Founded in 715, largely destroyed by fire in 1423, and reconstructed in 1509, its immense Romanesque expanse is visible from almost every point in Salzburg. Still in operation, only the church and cemetery are open to the public. But it does provide some excellent photo opportunities.
The sound of classical music is what put Salzburg on the map. Particularly the sounds which first emanated from the house at Getreidegasse 9, where Wolfgang Amadaeus Mozart was born in 1756. The musical wunderkind spent the first 20 years of his life here, showing prodigious talent at a young age.
Young Mozart mastered the clavier at age four and began playing violin and composing musical pieces at five. He commenced a four-year musical tour of Europe at six, writing his first opera in his early teens. The rest is musical history, with Mozart relocating to Vienna at the age of 25.
Some important items from this history are on display at Salzburg’s Mozart Geburtshaus (birthplace) museum, including the master’s first violin, his concert violin, his clavichord and his hammer-piano. A must for all aficionados of classical music.
One should not visit Salzburg without listening to some actual music. There are many venues to choose from around the town, most with historically atmospheric backdrops, and tickets are available from ticket offices at any of Salzburg’s several town squares. Although a touch touristy, performances at Mirabell Palace are recommended. For the economy traveller, try the Mozarteum (music university), where inexpensive tickets can be purchased for in-house recitals.
Whatever one is doing in Salzburg, they should make sure they take time out to snack on a Mozartkugel. This enticing confection, invented by local chocolatier Paul Fürst, and named after the town’s favourite son, comprises a pistachio, marzipan and nougat core coated in chocolate. As sugary a delight as The Sound of Music itself.