Salzburg – City Of Music
Fans of “The Sound Of Music” may think they are familiar with this Austrian city. Dianne Boardman finds out how much more it has to offer . . .
Dianne Boardman travels to this marvellous Austrian city
TH ERE have been over six hundred films made in this city,” Anastasia, our guide to the delightful city of Salzburg, declared. “But ‘The Sound Of Music’ is still the most popular despite being made fifty years ago. We Austrians were never that keen on it, really, as it didn’t show us in a very good light. In fact, it wasn’t even shown on Austrian television until January 2001.”
Keen or not, the city of Salzburg is giving visitors what they want with a new “Sound Of Music” tour to celebrate the golden anniversary of the release of the film in 1965, and back home a new version of the stage play is sweeping the UK and embracing a younger generation with its magic.
The film and, of course, the earlier play, were actually based on a real-life family and their story. Maria von Trapp was a governess who married her employer. They did escape the Nazis by fleeing to Italy (although by train rather than walking over the Alps) and although condensed into one summer rather than several years, the story is based on Maria’s own account published in 1949.
Maria even spent a few days on the film set and actually appears in the background as Julie Andrews sings her way through the cathedral arches.
Julie herself has been quoted as saying she thinks the enduring popularity of the film is because it is about faith and family values, but also because of the wonderful scenery that brought her so much pleasure.
Indeed, the city’s surrounding steep hills and craggy mountains, with their streams of moving green marble, frame it spectacularly, and the evermoving clouds gave the filmmakers interesting skies.
To me, though, the real star was the city itself, which is why my husband and I decided to take a wider city tour because it has so much more to offer than a film location. In fact, it is perfect for a city break, and now that a new airport tower allows bigger planes from all over the world to land here it is becoming more popular.
SALZBURG is a quaint and pret ty city dominated by a grand for tress and sporting an impressively frescoed cathedral, but we began our tour at Mozart’s Square, where his statue surveys his domain as the city’s most famous and most adver tised son.
Mozart was born here in 1756 and lived in the city into adulthood. Here he composed some of his most famous works, including his first piano sonatas and all five of his violin concertos, whilst working as Kapellmeister to the Archbishop’s Court Orchestra.
Both his birth-house and the house he lived in with his wife have been turned into museums documenting his short but gifted life.
There is also a Mozar t Café with a
plush art deco interior that has become famous for its coffee and cakes, and sampling them gave our legs a rest after all the winding cobbles.
The café sits on Getreidegasse, the main shopping street with all the international brands and some quirky ones of its own, like a year-round Christmas shop.
But its fame comes from the street signs, all in wrought iron and each with a picture representing the wares or trade of the establishment.
My husband noted the fact that I walked down a whole street of brightly lit shops with my eyes above the windows, for once!
Our tour with Anastasia took us past the pink-tinged tower housing the Glockenspiel, a 17th-century musical clock with beautiful crowd-attracting chimes, and a story of two brothers who competed to build the tallest structure.
Moving on through the arches where the two Marias appeared on screen together, Anastasia explained that the arches were really a connection between the archbishops’ living quarters and the cathedral so that they didn’t have to walk outside.
On a rainy day an afternoon viewing the opulent State Rooms makes an interesting diversion, as do the many museums in impressive buildings around this square.
There were, of course, many archbishops, made wealthy with revenues from the salt that arrived here from nearby mines and gave the city its name.
Their money transformed the city, beginning in the 16th century when the fortress was restored to the impressive structure it is today and continuing with the creation of the baroque city on into the 17th century with the cathedral and palaces.
These archbishops lived lavishly with mistresses or wives and many children, and somehow managed to keep Salzburg out of conflicts and wars until the 18th century.
It began to decline in the 19th century until the founding of the Mozarteum in 1870 put it back on the map, with an archive of Mozar t’s work and a famous music school which also introduced the Salzburg festivals.
The cathedral where Mozart was christened, with its pale marble faÇade and three huge bronze entrance doors, plays its par t in the festivals, too.
The square outside is used for open-air plays with its imposing presence as the backdrop. Behind the cathedral is a magnificent fountain comprising a horse trough and a trident-wielding statue of Neptune and behind that is the funicular railway up to the for tress.
For “Sound Of Music” fans, too, there is a path that leads to the Nonnberg Convent where Maria lived as a novice nun.
Back down the cliff face we see
the cave entrance where the von Trapps disappeared in the film and the theatre where they sang both on Celluloid and for real.
The benefit of a guided tour is that you often discover things you might otherwise have missed. Anastasia walked us through the gates to St Peter’s church cemetery and monastery. A cemetery isn’t the first place I’d usually head to but this one was something different.
In “The Sound Of Music” it was where the von Trapps hid from the Nazis, but I hadn’t realised how beautiful it was, nor how many of the tombs were cut into the rock wall, catacomb-like.
There is also a beautiful little chapel that was once a place of pilgrimage for Christians.
Mozart’s family is buried here, as were all the noble Salzburg families, including many real von Trapps, although Mozart himself is buried in Vienna.
BY now food was beginning to cross our minds and after a look at the elaborate St Peter’s church and starker monastery, we headed back through the old market where stalls were piled high with fruit, vegetables and flowers. In the old town we peeped inside the ancient yet modern apothecary shop, still dispensing medicines and vitamins, and into the extremely elegant Café Tomasselli which Mozart used to frequent.
Finally we settled opposite at the Café Konditorei Furst, where the gooey Mozart Balls were invented and are still made to the original recipe.
Suitably refreshed, we were ready to face the walk across the Salzach River that cuts the city in half. Once over one of the iron bridges it was uphill all the way to the Mirabell Palace and Gardens, again familiar from the film. I immediately spotted the stunning Pegasus Fountain which they all danced around singing “Do-Re-Mi”.
We’d done enough sightseeing for one day and it was time to find one of those very old coffee houses dotted around the city.
There, your frothy coffee or hot chocolate will often be accompanied by an impromptu concert or – as we could hear now in the distance – the strains of an accordion playing anything ranging from Mozart to “Edelweiss” . . .
Café Mozart interior.
Wrought-iron shop signs up high.
Inside the old apothecary.
The “Do-Re-Mi” fountain.