When a young person goes on their European odyssey, there are always a few likely candidates for the preferred destination, depending on where their interrail or ridiculously cheap Ryanair/EasyJet ticket will take them. There’s the option of spending a few days enjoying the giddy hedonism of Berlin (with a few more days tacked on the end to cope with the inevitable hangover); and there’s also the option of Barcelona, to sit at an outside café in a sun drenched street, scoffing tapas and quaffing red wine, while a beautiful Spaniard hangs on your every word. As we get a bit further along in life, our interests change, and so do our preferred holiday destinations. We’re not saying that Salzburg has nothing to offer a younger visitor, but with its refined manner, it tends to attract tourists who truly appreciate its beauty, history, and quieter pace.
Tucked away in the far northern Alps, this Austrian city of less than 150,000 people has a rich musical history, with two notable examples. One of the bafflingly popular tourist activities in the city is to take a tour of the various locations around Salzburg where The Sound of Music was filmed. Although based on the true story of Maria Von Trapp, the nanny for a gaggle of plucky young children who eventually fell in love with and married their stern father, the reality was less full of people bursting into song. As in the movie, the Von Trapp family eventually fled the encroaching Nazi’s, although the movie shows them climbing over the mountains to escape – a move that would actually take them into neighbouring Germany. Oh, that Maria… She’s great at getting children to break into spontaneous perfectly choreographed song and dance numbers, but not so good with geography.
The other key musical figure in Salzburg’s history that will stand the test of time (although The Sound of Music is still beloved, all these years later) is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who was born in Salzburg while it was still part of the Holy Roman Empire in 1756, although he began to tour extensively around Europe when he was just six years old. With his musician sister Nannerl, the young Mozart embarked on a career that would give the world more than six hundred different compositions, and would lead to him being remembered as one of the greatest composers the world has ever known.
Mozart’s influence on the city can still be felt, and the house where he was born and other houses where he lived as a child are exceptionally popular with visitors. A whole Mozart themed sub industry has sprung up around his memory, with many different Mozart monuments to be seen, and Mozart souvenirs to be bought. Make sure to try some of the delicious Mozart chocolate balls, which is one of the less kitschy Mozart items available.
Salzburg is a real treat for visitors, and a fascinating day can be spent simply wandering around the UNESCO World Heritage listed Old Town (or Altstadt), admiring the breathtaking examples of perfectly preserved Baroque architecture.