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Saturday, 31 August 2019

Austria: A Land of Scenic Beauty and Historic, Medieval Towns - Page 3

Written by Roger Marks
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The next morning we did a mountain hike, driving thirty minutes out to Untersberg. We then took a cable car up the mountain to a station at 5,500 feet with breathtaking views of many white-capped mountains in the distance. We did an hour-plus hike each way to a cross built on a higher hill. Some of the trail was steep and all of it was very rocky. Fortunately it was not particularly cold and in fact the weather was quite mild at this altitude even though we hiked along patches of snow and ice. In the Sound of Music, the Untersberg is the mountain that Captain von Trapp and Maria climbed as they escaped the Nazis. In the film they were supposed to be fleeing to Switzerland but in reality the climb up the Untersberg would have brought them almost to the door step of Hitler’s retreat at the Eagle’s Nest above Berchtesgarden, Germany.


We then visited the Hellbrunn, a beautiful palace with many fountains and gardens. This was the prince-archbishop’s pleasure palace built around 1613. The castle has some fascinating rooms including an octagonal music room and magnificent banquet hall. We did two different forty minutes tours of the palace—the first being the tour of the trick fountains. In the formal gardens, the archbishop added exotic and humorous fountains spurting water from strange places at unexpected times. For example, the tour guide induced some younger, unsuspecting high school students on the tour to sit on the stone seats surrounding a stone dining room table. There is a water conduit spraying water into the seats when a mechanism is activated. Everyone, including the students, got quite a laugh when the water was turned on and they immediately jumped from their seats but not in time to avoid getting wet. Another hidden water spray came out of the antlers of a deer’s head attached to one of the small buildings on the grounds and again, several people in our tour group got soaked as we walked past this building. The trick fountains function exactly the way they did 400 years ago. We also did a separate tour of the palace itself.

We then drove to the nearby Frohnburg Palace which was used as exterior shots of the Trapp villa in The Sound of Music. It is not open to the public and today it is a dormitory and concert venue for Salzburg University. We had dinner at Herzl Tavern, a restaurant in the style of a country inn from the 15th century. We had delicious beef stroganoff and roast pork.


We spent a full day touring Salzburg itself starting with a walk through the Mirabell gardens (another site where Julie Andrews and her seven charges showed off their singing ability in The Sound of Music. Mirabell Palace itself was built in 1606 and Marble Hall is open to the public and is used today for civil wedding ceremonies. We then visited Mozart’s Residence. In 1773, his family moved into this spacious eight-room apartment on the first floor. Mozart lived in this house until 1780 and his sister lived there until she married in 1784 and their father lived here until his death in 1787. Among the special attractions are Mozart’s original fortepiano and a well-known family portrait.

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It is definitely worth taking the Monchsberg Elevator which carries one up through solid rock to the Museum of Modern Art. There are spectacular vistas of Salzburg from the platform in front of the museum and it is here where Maria and the children in The Sound of Music put the words to the song “Do-re-mi”. There are numerous sites to visit in the old city. The Alter Market is a square lined with 17th century middle-class houses. The Royal pharmacy, built in 1760, is still operating today and across from the pharmacy is a famous café, Café Tomaselli. The Cathedral dates from the 17th century and the crypt is where the archbishops from 1600 on are buried. Mozart’s parents were married here and he was christened here and served as an organist from 1779 to 1781. The Cathedral is world renowned for its 4,000-pipe organ. We then took a self-guided tour of the Residenz, a palace built in 1600, and the seat of the Salzburg prince-bishops. The most sumptuous church in Salzburg is Stiftkirche St. Peter. Nearby is St. Peter’s Cemetery, the oldest Christian graveyard in Austria dating back to 1627. From the cemetery, we climbed stairs to view the catacombs that are cut in the rock, originating from 215AD. Only priests and monks were buried here up to the year 1454.


The Fortress Hohensalzburg, founded in 1077, is the largest preserved medieval fortress in Central Europe. From the Fortress one has a sweeping view of Salzburg and the surrounding mountains, but here are a limited number of rooms that one can visit. We took the funicular up to the fortress and then walked to the nearby Nonnberg Convent, founded around 712AD. Nonnberg Abbey is featured in movies depicting the life of Maria Augusta Kutschera, later Maria Augusta von Trapp, whose life was the basis for the Broadway musical and film The Sound of Music. The church is the only part of the convent accessible to the public.


In the evening we attended a concert and dinner near St. Peter’s Church. St. Peter Stifskulinarium is a restaurant within the walls of St. Peter’s Abbey and is considered the oldest restaurant in Europe and perhaps the oldest existing restaurant in the world. Mozart in fact dined here. The concert is located in a baroque hall which is part of St. Peter’s Monastery. Two singers (who are professors from the local university) sang operas from Mozart between courses and were dressed in period costumes as were the five instrumentalists. While the set menu for dinner was average, the performance itself was very well done. We had purchased tickets to the performance on-line three months in advance of the trip.

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Last modified on Wednesday, 02 October 2019

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