The Music is still playing
It was more than 25 years ago when features editor, John Newton, last visited Mozart’s city. And he was relieved to find during a recent visit to Salzburg that very little had changed – even the Sound of Music is still going strong.
The one distinct change is the size of the crowds that pack into this Austrian beauty spot.
There are cities that never sleep but, more importantly, Salzburg is one that never loses its rich historical and picture postcard lure.
Mozart may have left his mark on Salzburg forever, but Austria’s fourth largest city has other claims to fame – from mind-boggling palaces and opulent baroque buildings to chocolates and sachertorte.
Without doubt, the stand-out monument is the baroque masterpiece – Hohensalzburg Fortress – which towers high above the city with 360-degree panoramic views over the city rooftops, surrounding mountains and Salzach River, which splits the old and new town landmarks.
Dating back to the 11th century, the fortress is one of Europe’s largest fortifications and overlooks Mozart’s birthplace in the old historic city centre, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Thr Hohensalzurg and many other famous landmarks in and around Salzburg, such as the immaculate Mirabell Gardens in which 100,000 flowers – including 10,000 roses) a year are planted, was prominent in the movie - ‘The Sound of Music’. The story of Baron Georg von Trapp’s aristocratic Austrian family, the film alone represents a major reason for 40 per cent of tourists visiting Salzburg.
And ‘The Sound of Music’ is still evergreen today. The musical version, a German-language production, has become the longest running in the history of the Salzburger Landestheatre.
The film has been one of the main tourist magnets for the city, with 300,000 fans making the pilgrimage to Salzburg every year to visit the shooting locations and important milestones of the von Trapp family.
Between 70 to 80 per cent of visitors to Salzburg cite “an interest in culture and music” as the main focus of their stay. In Getreidegasse, you’ll find the ‘Sound of Music World Exhibition’, which features the true story of the Trapp family. And if you’ve bought a Salzburg Card loaded with city discounts, the exhibition is free.
Salzburg’s amalgamated DomQuartier, opened to visitors in 2014, is a unique cultural highlight in the heart of the city, with 2000 exhibits covering 1300 years of political domination, art, music and architecture. And to see the magnificent state rooms in all their historical glory, you’ll need to set aside plenty of time to do an in-depth round tour.
One entrance ticket allows you to marvel at five different museums.
Among other things, the DomQuartier tour takes you through the state rooms of the Residenz , the former official residence and centre of power of the Salzburg prince-archbishops who, more than 400 years ago, began to transform the old town centre into an Italian-style baroque gem.
In the Residenzgalerie, there’s a collection of 16th-19th century European paintings, including Rembrandt (Old Woman Praying) and Rubens.
Another big crowd-puller is the cultural marathon - Salzburg Festival - which celebrates its centenary in summer 2020, marking its 100th birthday with an extensive array of opera, music, theatre and other festivities.
But the festival doesn’t only celebrate the fine arts in summertime: From January to December, around 4500 different events are listed on the programme.
Without doubt, the busiest shops in Salzburg are arguably the most famous. At the four Furst shops you’ll find the world famous Salzburger Mozartkugel – the original hand-made chocolate created in 1890 by local confectioner, Paul Furst, whose great, great, grandson, Martin, now runs the business with his wife, Doris.
There are 13 types of Mozart balls in Salzburg, “but ours is the original,” said Doris Furst. “We make 10,000 a day and three-and-a-half million a year, according to the old recipe and method handed down to us. That remains a secret, but the main ingredients are marzipan and pistachio. We only use fresh product with no preservatives”.
She said other companies had tried to copy the original Salzburger Mozartkugel and had ended up in court. The Furst company had won on each occasion.
A stone’s throw away is the ancient mouth-watering coffee house where Mozart spent some of his spare time away from his music desk to enjoy his almond milk - the specialty of the house at Café Tomaselli, while sachertorte is the classic cake of the 300-year-old business.
In Residenzplatz, just around the corner from the main Furst outlet, is a business selling the most expensive lederhosen pants in Salzburg. At Jahn-Markl, prices for hand-made deerskin pants start at 890 euros – and that’s just for starters.
Founded more than 600 years ago (circa 1408), the company also makes ladies and men’s leather jackets, vests, bags, shoes and belts and over the years has attracted custom from royalty and Hollywood stars, such as Princess Caroline of Monaco and Marlene Dietrich, who bought a leather jacket and gloves.
Initially, the company – Salzburg’s oldest tanning operation – produced uniforms and items for military use and later hunting apparel and English leather sporting items. Today, its workshop produces, among other things, game and goat leather clothing, local costume, gloves, belts, house slippers and shammy (chamois) leather underwear.
Gabriele Jenner, who has run Jahn-Markl for the past 20 years, keeps an autograph book signed by her famous clients, including Marlene Dietrich and Karl Lagerfeld, who said this of Salzburg:
“I love Salzburg. I have always loved Salzburg. The area is one of the most beautiful corners of Europe”
The Makartsteg Bridge over Salzburg’s Salzach River in the city centre is one full of love-love locks to be precise. Thousands of them. Salzburg joined the increasing number of locations worldwide, where love locks have been installed on bridges by sweethearts to symbolise their love.
The legendary Hotel Stein is arguably the best located property in Salzburg.
Overlooking the Salzach River and the Hohensalzburg Fortress, it was formerly an inn in the Middle Ages.
After two years of extensive renovations, the four-star hotel – on Giselakai in the heart of the city - re-opened in 2018. It boasts an impressive rooftop restaurant with panoramic views towards the old town of Salzburg and the magnificent fortress.
Last April, the authorities in Salzburg ordered the love locks to be removed. They weighed in at around 1000 kilograms. The ban was later lifted and the bridge is once again full of love locks.
There’s much more to see and do in Salzburg than seek out anything Mozart, the city’s museums and galleries or its music, theatre and dance venues.
You can take in: Salzburg’s churches, go on a ‘Creative Walk’, a ‘City hiking’ tour - or for thirsty tourists, a tour of the city’s breweries and beer taverns.
For more on Salzburg, go to www.salzburg.info
Words and images: John Newton
1. Hohensalzburg Fortress
2. Mirabell Gardens
3. City street stall
4. Stunning view from fortress
5. Original Mozart balls
6. Unoriginal Salzburger Mozartrkugel
7. Fortress from Mirabell
8. Bridge locks galore.
9. Chocolate boss, Doris Furst
10. Hotel Stein (supplied)