Friday, December 14, 2012

Austria Take Two: Salzburg

Today was our Salzburg day. Our town is about an hour from Salzburg on the train, so we dragged ourselves away from our books and down to the train station in the freezing air. The sky was an incredible blue, the sun touching the mountains as we caught a nice regional train and began to wend our way out of the mountains.

This is an impressive journey, and worth doing by train I think. The road weaves back and forth and goes through tunnels, but the train spends most of the time right by the river with mountains towering on both sides, white peaks with slashes of black cliff face and dark snow-dusted forests hugging the slopes. We went past a castle on an outcropping of rock, and lots of little villages with colourful wooden houses covered in snow. Everything looks so clean and bright and untouched, with white expanses that I guess are fields in summer.

Salzburg itself is still pretty much surrounded by mountains, though there's more valley space. We took a tour of the old town with a nice guide who showed us the squares and the statues and took us inside the Dom cathedral, through a graveyard with beautiful wrought iron grave markers and past a very old bakery that is still baking bread.

He explained that one side of town is known as the Old Town, and the other the New Town because it was only settled in 15 AD. That's not a typo. The Dom has five organs (Salzburg has a proud history of music, of course), but before there were organs, singers and instrumentalists performed from balconies near the ceiling. The sound would have floated down from above and all around, which would have been an amazing experience.

The buildings are tall and close together, because there isn't much room to build, the streets narrow, and wherever you are in the city you can look up to the castle on the rock with the town surrounding it. We ended at Mozart's birthplace, then decided it was time for lunch and made for NordSee, which you see everywhere in Austria and apparently Germany. I had a very nice meal of fish, potatoes and buttered vegetables and, suitably warmed, we ventured back out to inspect the chocolate shops and the Christmas market.

Mozart ducks. Obviously.
This was my first proper Christmas market this year - in Vienna there were too many people to really see much of it. I got a glüwein (I think that's how you spell it - mulled wine) and wandered around warming my hands and looking at the stalls of decorations and jewellery and food. The market spills over into multiple squares and around the boarded-up fountains (protected from frost) beside the Dom.

Many of the buildings are inspired by Italian architecture, because Salzburg was a main trading point for people from Italy and Germany, especially when the salt mine was still open (Salzburg = Salt Mountain).

By four o'clock we were getting tired and cold, so we caught a train back to St Johann im Pongau and curled up with our books.


1 comment:

what do you think?