Good morning Salzburg! I almost expected to wake to the sounds of the Von Trapp family or melodies from the Magic Flute 🙂 Quick check of Viber to find Dave & Steph made their 2 am bus from Ljubljana and would be arriving Salzburg around 11 am. A few hours for me to explore the city on my own on a fantastic beautiful sunny morning.
My hotel was (25 mins walk/3km) on the south side of the city centre. As I said in my last post I was surprised by how small and flat the city was. I must modify that statement by adding there is a bloody great rock in the middle which splits the city in two and I of course was on the wrong side of the Festungsberg (the rock) from the city. Fortunately, there was a tunnel through it which meant I avoided having to climb up and over it. The plan for the day was to walk into the city and tour the sights. Chance to stretch the legs after 1200 km sitting in the car for the last 2 days. Just have to mention my hotel, the Snooze Hotel Salzburg. It is a little something special design wise both inside an out. Amazing what you can create furniture-wise with sheets of MDF. If anyone else was in the room and you were using the toilet or shower, you would be in full view due to glass doors and walls. 😀 Anyway off to the city. By the way, today is also Sweden’s National Day, the 6th of June, and low and behold as I was walking into the city I came across Schwedenstrasse. How fortuitous!
After my walk down to the city, I emerged through the tunnel, to exactly what I had imagined it to be like. For once my preconceived notions of how a city I had heard so much about was so like how I imagined it. I was greeted by views of fantastic Baroque architecture, gardens, alps and the skyline dominated by the Hohensalzburg Fortress. As I wandered through the Alstadt (old city) I could only marvel that I was here in the city of my long time favourite composer – Mozart, and with that I found myself standing outside the house he was born in. As I crossed the river to the other half of the old city the tourist app on my phone informed me that: Salzburg literally means “salt castle.” The name coming from the barges carrying salt on the River Salzach, which I was now crossing, on their journey down to the Danube and onto foreign destinations. The area in the alps surrounding Salzburg are filled with old salt mines (more of that in a future post) and from it the city derived its wealth by strictly controlling the industry. My continued meanderings lead me to Makartplatz (named after Hans Makart the Austrian painter which I like) where I found myself now in front of Mozart’s home where he wrote most of his music and raised his family.
On Makartplatz I found these small brass plaques mounted on street stones. As I was examining them someone noticed and explained them. He informed me that these small brass plaques were called stumbling stones (Stolpersteine) and were mounted in the pavement in front of houses of residents (mostly Jewish) who were persecuted or murdered by the Nazis. The plaques mention their name, date of birth and the place of their death (mostly a concentration camp) and the date of their death. The stumbling stone project was initiated by the German artist Gunter Demnig in 1992 and aims to commemorate individuals at exactly the last place of their residency or work before they fell victim to the Nazi terror. The stones protrude slightly leading to the chance you might stumble. By stumbling over it you learn of what happened to those who lived here. The English adage, “to stumble onto something.”
From Makartplatz you can enter directly into the gardens of the Mirabell Palace. The palace was built about 1606 by the Prince-Archbishop Wolf Dietrich Raitenau. The Archbishop suffered from gout and had a stroke previously, so to avoid the narrow streets and steep inclines to the Hohensalzburg, he decided to erect a pleasure palace for himself and his mistress Salome Alt. As I entered the beautiful gardens, I was entreated to the lyrical strains of Mozart coming from one of the windows in the buildings surrounding the gardens. Ideal spot to sit and rest and check on the Coubroughs’ progress, who by now had arrived on the outskirts of the city. Time to make my way to their hostel and meet up. The last time was 3 years earlier in Earls Court, London, so it was with eager anticipation I made my way to their hostel. As I left the gardens I was treated to a wonderful view of the Hohensalzburg.
Reunions made, it was time for lunch, a stein and a bloody good catch up. Well feed and lubricated, Dave & I decided to hit some more sites, however Steph decided to catch up on some sorely lost sleep. Our main goal was to make it up to the Hohensalzburg fortress. But before that a little history. Salzburg was the seat of the Prince Bishops (Rulers) of Salzburg as part of the Holy Roman Empire. Ownership of the city has swung back and forth between independence, Bavaria & Austria, and eventually after WWI becoming part of German Austria. Following the the Anschluss (the occupation and annexation of Austria) on the 12th March 1938, Salzburg became part of the Third Reich. Due to its proximity to Hilter’s Berchtesgaden, it became a major transport hub to Hilter and his Obersalzburg and a centre for POWs and slave labour. Mid‑20th century, the city was the setting for the musical play and film The Sound of Music based on the von Trapp family’s escape from the Nazis. Their family villa can be found on the south eastern outskirts of the city. However, most confuse the Schloss Leopoldskron (to the right) for the actual house (to the left).
Anyway, back across the river again, through the Domplatz, arriving at the base of the Festungsberg and the funicular railway up to Hohensalzburg Fortress (Salzburg Castle) built in 1077. It is one of the largest medieval castles in Europe and it remains pretty much intact as it has been built over the centuries. It has never been invaded or destroyed and you can understand why when you look over the precipices. Who would have the strength to climb the cliff faces then fight? In 1515 a primitive funicular railway was built to get easier access and provisions up. The line still exists, albeit in updated form, and is probably the oldest operational railway in the world. The only time that the fortress actually came under siege was during the German Peasants’ War in 1525. During the early 20th century it was used as a prison, holding Italian prisoners of war during World War I and Nazi activists before Germany’s annexation of Austria in March 1938. The fortress consists of various wings and courtyard arranged in a spiral form and as you follow the spiral up you arrive in the Prince-Bishop’s apartments located in the so-called “Hoher Stock” (highest floor). The views were magnificent! Stretching both to the north and to the south (where we would be heading tomorrow to Berchtesgaden and Hilter’s Obersalzburg). Castle done, it was time to head down and meet up with Steph & have a beer in the shade of the Dom (Cathedral). Thirst quenched we found somewhere to eat (Indian in Salzburg 🙂 ) before they headed back to the hostel to catch up on the sleep they lost during the night on their trip from Ljubljana. I made my trek back through the rock to the hotel and prepared for our trip tomorrow back in time to one of the most sacred sanctums of Third Reich history.