Salzburg, Austria, a city with a rich history and an enchanting atmosphere, was the destination for my mini-break. Accompanied by my parents, I embarked on a journey to explore this cultural haven known for its musical legacy and captivating landscapes. As the plane touched down at Salzburg airport, I felt an overwhelming sense of excitement and anticipation for the adventures that lay ahead.
After a smooth two-hour flight from London Gatwick, we landed in Salzburg. The beautiful alpine views from the aeroplane window were an early glimpse of this city’s beauty. The first task was to hop into an airport taxi for a 20-minute transfer to The Old Town, Salzburg.
Our first stop was the Salzburg Tourist Information Centre in the heart of Salzburg, where the iconic statue of Mozart stands tall, honouring the musical genius. Our guide, Christina Muhler, welcomed us and shared intriguing facts about Mozart’s life. It was fascinating to learn that although relatively short, 152cm, Mozart was immortalised with a towering monument of 7.5m featuring Mozart’s statue of 300cm in front of his former home. Christina’s guidance proved invaluable, especially for a short break, as it eliminated any time wasted deciding where to go and what to do.
Salzburg was abuzz with excitement as the renowned Salzburg Festival was about to commence. The streets were filled with tourists, and we could see the excitement on their faces as they explored the fountain and arches featured in the classic movie, “The Sound of Music.” While special tours focused on the film’s locations were available, my interest as a musician inclined me towards Mozart-related experiences.
Christina took us to Dom Zu Salzburg, the city’s grand cathedral where Mozart was baptised. Stepping inside, we were awe-struck by the cathedral’s stunning architecture and rich history. The bronze baptismal font, dating back to 1311, captured our attention with its intricate lion designs at the base from 1200, which were surprisingly adorned with human faces, a detail that amused me. Learning about Mozart’s early life and the challenges he faced as the youngest of seven children, with five siblings succumbing to infancy, made us reflect on the fragility of life in the 18th century. Christina informed us that the cathedral boasts five organs, making it a haven for organ music enthusiasts. Those lucky enough to visit at noon can enjoy daily organ concerts for €9.00, immersing themselves in the captivating melodies played on these impressive instruments. Dom Zu Salzburg was not only a place of worship but also a living testament to the city’s vibrant musical heritage, further enriching our Salzburg adventure.
After exploring the grandeur of Dom Zu Salzburg, Christina led us through the charming streets surrounding the cathedral. Expertly choosing a route, she guided us to the very spot where the iconic “Jedermann” performances take place during the Salzburg Festival. This play, written by Hugo von Hofmannsthal, has become a staple of the festival since its inception in 1920. “Jedermann” translates to “Everyman,” and the play is a morality drama that explores the themes of life, death, and redemption. The performances are held in the impressive courtyard of the Salzburg Cathedral, adding to the dramatic ambience and making it an unforgettable theatrical experience.
As we continued our walk, Christina shared insights into the café culture of Austria, an essential part of the country’s social fabric. She emphasised that visiting a café in Austria is not merely about grabbing a quick coffee-to-go but rather an opportunity to leisurely enjoy a coffee and a delicious cake while savouring the moment with a newspaper or a good book. This laid-back atmosphere is precisely what we experienced when passing by Café Tomaselli, a delightful café in the old marketplace with a history spanning over 160 years. Learning that Mozart himself used to frequent the café to enjoy almond milk added a touch of historical charm to the place.
Not far from Café Tomaselli, we discovered Café Fürst, renowned for its delectable Mozartkugel, a sweet treat with a marzipan and pistachio core wrapped in nougat and dipped in dark chocolate. It was fascinating to learn that these delightful confections were first created in 1890, almost a century after Mozart’s death. The credit for their invention goes to Paul Fürst, a master confectioner who dedicated the sweet treat to honour the musical genius of Mozart. As we indulged in the scrumptious Mozartkugel, Christina shared a quirky historical detail – the workers at the konditorei used to whistle while they worked. This peculiar practice wasn’t for entertainment or to coordinate working together; rather, it was to ensure that the workers didn’t sneak pieces of the treat home to their families by hiding them in their mouths while working.
To be continued in Part 2…