It was still early when we arrived in Salzburg and the thin cloud was still clearing but by the time we were through arrivals and passport control and waiting for a trolley bus into the city the sun was beginning to burn through.
The bus arrived and the journey took about twenty minutes but this was not my best day with transport and I made a mistake and made us all get off of the bus about five stops too soon and that meant a walk of about a kilometre to find the Hotel Mozart. It turned out that the people of Salzburg are not too imaginative and almost everything is named after the famous composer.
Mozart was born in 1756 and was baptised with an excessive and unnecessary collection of names, Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart! No surprise then that as he became famous he shortened that to Wolfgang Amadeus, which was a much better name and what great foresight he had because that way it fits so much easier on the album covers.
Wolfgang was an interesting man, probably the eighteenth century equivalent of a modern rock star; he earned a huge amount of money, spent it all and died a very poor man. He started composing at five and died young only thirty years later but during his life he managed to compose over six hundred major pieces of music and I calculate that as nearly one every two weeks. That was impressive productivity!
The friendly man at the hotel reception desk provided us with a map and a brief guide with some restaurant recommendations and then we were away. We walked straight to the old town crossing the River Salzach on the way, negotiating some busy main roads and then through an archway into the world of Mozart and Julie Andrews.
The sun was shining in a watery sort of way and the pastel coloured facades of the riverside buildings looked cheerful set against a backdrop of pale blue sky, jagged mountain peaks and adjacent hillsides radiant in autumnal yellow, russet and bronze. We walked through the main town squares, the Alter Makt and Residenzplatz, and around the streets underneath Hohensalzburg fortress that rises high above the city on an impregnable rocky bastion.
It was lunchtime by now so we found a pavement café with tables in the sun in a square with an inevitable statue of Mozart and we had bread and soup and apple strudel and a first glass of Austrian beer and when that was gone we walked a little more.
We walked along the main shopping street ‘Getreidegrasse’ which has a noble air and outwardly appears classy and exclusive but behind the expensive looking façades there are shops with dirndls and lederhosen, beer mugs with pewter lids, peaked caps with feathers in the hat band, long stemmed pipes, more Mozart than you can possibly imagine and a McDonalds restaurant half disguised by a medieval looking sign that was fooling no one, in fact all of the sort of crap that you expect to find in any tourist city anywhere in Europe. Sad really.
Just around the corner was a travel agency selling Sound of Music tours and I thought that this might appeal to the girls. The film is one of the most successful ever and is based on the story of the Von Trapp family. The Captain was a very successful Austrian naval captain during the First World War but found himself promptly unemployed after 1918. Now this won’t come as a surprise to anyone who examines a map of post Great War Europe because Austria was stripped of its extensive empire and reduced to a land locked central European state with no access to the sea and presumably therefore without a requirement for naval commanders, however successful they might have been.
The Captain had to find an alternative career and discovering that his children possessed a talent for music exploited this to create the Von Trapp singers. When one of the children fell ill with scarlet fever he employed the novice nun Maria to care for her and the rest is history.
I have grown to like the film but it takes a few historical liberties; for example the family actually didn’t hike from Salzburg to Switzerland to escape the Nazi’s but in reality simply took the train to Italy and then to Switzerland. Now, that must have been a whole lot easier and besides, if they had climbed all of the mountains between Salzburg and Switzerland they would have had to go through Nazi Germany and would have been extremely lucky to arrive, not to say completely knackered by the time they got there!
The film is shown every night at eight o’clock on Austrian TV and the British Government has a copy ready to broadcast in the event of a really bad national emergency.
By now there was a wonderful blue sky streaked with white clouds and the views across the river Salzach towards the fortress were magnificent. We walked along the river and then down the main shopping street before buying tickets for a lift to the top of the cliffs up to the museum, which, on account of this being Monday, was closed. It seems we always visit museums on Monday!
At the top of the gorge there were spectacular views over the city and a wonderful woodland walk. The trees were adorned with golden leaves and there was a thick carpet of those that had fallen already and providing a definitively pungent Autumnal smell of decaying foliage . The woodland walk took us along the ridge of the gorge through piles of leaves and fallen horse chestnuts and then diverted into the hillside along some lonely tracks. The path meandered towards the fortress and soon we were walking again under the shadows of the fortress battlements.
The hotel was in the New Town and that evening we didn’t plan to walk too far so we wandered down Linzer Gasse and choose an Austrian gastro pub called the Alter Fuchs for our evening meal. Kim and I had been there before but we had learnt nothing from our negative recommendation experiences in Galicia and we didn’t hesitate to go inside and take the others with us. Fortunately on this occasion the place didn’t let us down and we had five plates of substantial food, lots of beer and wine and a thoroughly enjoyable evening.