On the road again! We had a long weekend at the end of May and thought we should take advantage of it. We tossed around a few different ideas for places to visit (Baden-Baden, Paris, Freiburg) but in the end we packed our bags and headed for Salzburg, Austria. Salzburg, which means ‘Salt Fortress’ in German, is the 4th largest city in Austria and only about a 4 hour drive from Stuttgart, Germany.
I have always wanted to see more of Austria, especially since it is so close to Germany. I’ve heard so many great things about Vienna, but we thought Salzburg would be a good way to dip our toes into getting to know Austria a little better.
We hit the Autobahn on Thursday afternoon and drove straight through to Salzburg. We had to stop once at a gas station in Bavaria to pick up a Maut (toll) sticker to drive on the Autobahn in Austria. Apparently the fines are quite steep for those who don’t pay the Maut, so be forewarned!
Our first view into Salzburg was the Hohensalzburg Castle perched atop the city – what a great view! Salzburg reminds me a lot of Heidelberg with the castle on the hilltop overlooking the Old Town and sitting next to a river (the Salzach River in Salzburg, the River Neckar in Heidelberg).
We stayed at a nice pension just outside the Old Town at a place called Haus Arenberg. The reviews we read online said that the pension offered great views of the Alps from the rooms with a balcony. Unfortunately we ended up in a basement room directly under the dining room so we got a view of the trees outside the room and the local cat instead. Lesson learned – book early!
We went for dinner at an Indian restaurant called Taj Mahal. The food was great and very welcome after a long day of driving.
The next day we strolled into the Old Town of Salzburg which is a pedestrian zone. I love this about the Altstadt of most cities – you can walk around without worry of navigating the traffic. We stopped by the Tourist Information office and asked for a recommendation of a place to grab breakfast. The staff member recommended a cafe called 220 Grad which she said is popular with the locals. It was a bit tough to find as it was tucked away down a little alley but we’re so happy we found it. The place was buzzing and we were lucky to get a table inside. We ordered the May breakfast (a special French toast with cinnamon sugar and strawberries) and house-made croissants with house-made jams. The May breakfast came with a choice of coffee so I got a latte and S got a hot chocolate. Little known fact – you are automatically served with a glass of water at cafes in Austria along with your coffee. Yes! I miss having a free glass of water at restaurants; in Germany, you always have to order all of your (expensive, non-refillable) beverages off the menu.
We did a little sightseeing in town after breakfast and went to Mozart’s birthhouse in the Old Town. The museum was a great intro into Mozart’s family life and showcased old family letters, portraits, his first violin, a lock of his hair (!) and his life in Salzburg and later in Vienna. Well worth a visit for 10 Euros. We didn’t have a chance to check out the Mozart-Wohnhaus (the place where Mozart lived after his childhood) but we also heard that it is an excellent museum.
In the evening, we attended a Mozart Dinner Concert at the Stiftskeller St. Peter, the oldest restaurant in Europe dating back to 803! Rumour has it that Mozart’s family also dined there. We read online that if you quote the Rick Steves guidebook you can receive a 9 Euro discount on each ticket. When we called to order tickets, it worked like a charm! Thanks Rick!
The concert featured some of Mozart’s most famous pieces from The Magic Flute, Don Giovanni, and A Little Night Music. I found a YouTube video that someone posted of the concert – it turns out this person was sitting in the exact same spot in the room where we were! This video is a year old but the singers are the same (although the musicians we heard are different).
On Saturday, we took part in the original Sound of Music movie tour. I had wanted to go on this tour ever since my friend Lisa recommended it and my brother went on it in his early 20s during his backpacking trip around Europe. (An aside – I’ll never forget him telling me that he signed up for this tour on a whim in Salzburg only to be stuck with a busload of mothers and daughters who knew the words to every song by heart! He who had maybe only seen the movie once and wasn’t a particularly big fan….ha ha!)
We had a little extra time in the morning before the tour so we walked through the Mirabell Gardens, which is also one of the locations used in the filming of the South of Music, notably the “Do Re Mi” song.
And that was the end of our trip! So long, farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, goodbye Salzburg!