The Alps are like a fur collar on the top of the knee-high Italian boot.
Like fringe, the crescent shaped mountain range wraps from southern France to Switzerland through Germany and into Austria and Slovenia. Dotted with beautiful towns and cities, filled with gorgeous sky-tipping peaks, the penetrable Alps have pass-through routes that have been traversed for thousands of years in the name of war, commerce and exploration. The range is simply synonymous with natural beauty.
Just over the range, heading north-east out of Italy, a traveller can emerge into the historic city of Salzburg, Austria, home to humans since at least the Celts, more than three-thousand years ago.
Like much of Europe, Salzburg, with a civilization that has built upon itself for much of our understood history, is nestled in a manner both respectful and dictated by the geography of location. The city is split in two, divided but very much economically united by the Salzach River. For years and years, the vital commodity salt was mined in the area and shipped out along this river, hence the city's namesake "Fortress or Castle of Salt."
Today the architecturally Baroque gem is known less for one of the two shakers on your table and more for the music that sings Salzburg. She was the city of birth in 1756 to a musical genius, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. He had a temperamental love-hate relationship with the city, but there is not doubt that the city claims him. Gold-wrapped round chocolate balls can be found everywhere with the white-haired music extraordinaire, and his name graces cafes, restaurants, statues and all-things-tourist.
Residence (left) and birth-home of Mozart
Visitors can shadow his life starting at his birthplace house moving to the well-designed and presented museum at the "Mozart Wohnwaus" or family residence. Across the river in "new town" and after a quick stroll down the pedestrian-zoned Linzergasse, warm wood doors topped by golden-halo and arrow-pierced St. Sebastian mark the church housing the Mozart family tombs. If one is lucky, you can catch a candle-lit service during the holidays when the almost haunted voices of residents echo in the tiny but enchanting 16th century church.
St. Sebastian Church
Tourists can catch countless opportunities to hear his music performed in period dress, in old churches or as background music while eating fancy meals. The summer Salzburg Festival is the peak of all-things-Mozart and has a world-wide draw.
Though the Festival is a summer sensation, there is nothing more magical than strolling the traditional Christmas market held in the Altstedt (Old Market) at sunset after a fresh dusting of snow. Well-stocked and decorated wooden booths sell every imaginable holiday adornment from snow globes to traditional nutcrackers to jewelry and leather gloves; this is the place to find unique Christmas presents.
The food and drink alone are worth a visit. Partaking of the hot, sweetly spiced "gluhwein" or a personal favorite, the hot "orange punch" is practically mandatory, not only to warm your bones but also your spirits. Curry sausages on buns are heavenly, and chocolate can be found in any shape or form, best consumed when draped around fresh strawberries. Just dreamy, Christmas is in Salzburg.
A well-tested truth is that old cities are best explored on foot. A walk along the busy lane with Roman roots know as the "Getreidegasse," is a wonderful way to while away a few hours or deplete your funds: shopping is at a premium. Moments just studying the architecture, wishful window-shopping and dreaming one is a local can foster a genuine connection with a city, Salzuburg in particular.
If children are part of a visitor's entourage, there is plenty to please. Mozart's Residence has free audio-guides, which they gladly hand-out to children of all ages. For some reason, having their own headphones, finding markers next to exhibits and punching in the coordinating numbers will keep them happily busy for about the 1-2 hours needed for the adults to satisfyingly complete the museum.
Pay-backs for patient children can be a promised visit to the impressive multi-level Haus der Natur - Natural History Museum. Also, kids of all ages will love the quick funicular ride up to the Festung Hohensalzburg castle. The 360-degree views from this 11th century hill-top castle are absolutely breathtaking and worth the slightly pricey ticket ride. After returning home, and missing the city, one can vicariously "live" the city again through the city's Livecams.
If the weather permits, "old" children can introduce new ones to a childhood classic, The Sound of Music, with many scenes filmed here and in the surrounding countryside. The hip antique-modern mix found at the Hotel Auersperg is super kid friendly, and the "family suites" are sleek and exceptionally spacious (and reasonable during the off-season). Stocked with DVD players, flat-screen TVs and a free selection of kids movies, it's a winner. Also, the "adult" bonuses: a mini-fridge stocked with hip local beers, mini-prosecco bottles and a personal Nespresso maker!
Hotel room and view from window at sunrise
The sound of Salzburg, no matter what century of music, is melodious. The compact, friendly city, teaming with intelligent trendy university youths is attractive and appealing. Well-preserved architecture and stunning scenery, good food and drink, and just the right amount of museums and things to do, make it a perfect get-away. Kid-friendly on one hand, but highly romantic on the other, she'll sing sweet ballads pleasing to the ears and soul. Salzburg is one classy small Alpine gem.
More pictures here (on sidebar).
More pictures here (on sidebar).