This post a continuation of my series documenting our travels to a tiny part of Central Europe. We had spent the last 2 days in the heights of the Austrian Alps in Kaprun. It had been a great experience the Kitzsteinhorn glacier and riding the Grossglockner High Alpine Road. (Zell am See & Kaprun Part 2 – Riding the Grossglockner High Alpine Road) now it was time to move on to Salzburg.
Salzburg was not in my initial plans as it is always packed with tourists and I was not a big ” Sound of Music” fan & we had decided to make this trip as museum free as possible. Nor did I want to visit the Castle in Salzburg as there were enough castles that we were visiting in the Czech Republic in the coming days & there are only so many castles you can see before everything starts looking the same! But the better half was impressed by photos of the city and asked if we could stay there for a day. Now don’t get me wrong, Salzburg is a beautiful town but when you have limited vacation days you have to prioritise!
I’m not a fan of one night stands at places on vacations but I didn’t want to Salzburg for more than a day as I didn’t want to compromise on the days to be spent in the Czech Republic. But since we were going to be in Salzburg and there is no better place in the world to listen to the heavenly music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart than his home town, I booked 2 tickets to one of the better concerts to be played in the Mirabell Palace as soon as Salzburg crept into my itinerary.
On our last morning in Kaprun we woke up to a fogged out and over cast morning. After the previous evenings heavy showers, I was just thankful that it wasn’t pouring! I’m usually on an adrenaline rush for the entire duration of any vacation and wake up very early.
On that day too I woke up early and there was still time for breakfast service to start I decided to go on an early morning walk to the Kaprun Church. No time wasted on vacation!
It was a cold and dreary morning and I seemed to be the only person crazy enough to be out. As I climbed up the steps to the church the entire wall was covered in vines laden with berries.
Even though I couldn’t see any other person in the vicinity the birds were chirping and a great tit kept flitting ahead of me on the stairs. It finally sat still for a moment to allow me to take a photo.
The Church itself was closed but the pretty cemetery around it was open. In this part of the world they cultivate gardens on top of the grave which makes the cemetery look the exact opposite of what you would imagine!
I also had to take a photo of the fogged out valley. If someone arrived on such a day they would have no idea that magnificent snow covered peaks were hiding just behind that screen of fog.
I had built up enough appetite & it was breakfast time so I returned to the hotel and we both had breakfast before checking out and taking the bus to Zell am See and then our scheduled train to Salzburg.
We reached Salzburg Hauptbahnhof after enjoying an hour and half of wonderful Alpine vistas from the comfortable train seats. We had booked a chain hotel called “Motel One Mirabel” half way between the station and the old town. We walked to the hotel and dumped our luggage in the luggage store as our rooms were not ready, and set off to see the Old town.
Salzburg or the Salt Fortress is a very old city existing since Roman times where its purpose was to guard the precious salt that was being transported from the mines farther upstream on the Salzach river to the rest of the civilised world. We walked along the river towards the fortress which dominates the skyline in Salzburg. There was no need to ask for directions, just walk in the direction of the fortress!
Along the river there were mallards and a solitary Mandarin duck – A beautifully coloured bird. I had not not carried the 300mm for now! Having just broken the jinx of the Crested Grebe I didn’t want to start a new one. So I hoped and prayed that the Mandarin Duck would be there and about when I returned with the 300mm later.
We crossed a crowded bridge across the river and went into the old town. Armed with a map from the Rick Steves we manoeuvred through the crowds towards the Salzburg Cathedral.
The Salzburg Cathedral is a famed church with amazing baroque architecture. We gave the requested donation at the entrance and entered the beautiful space. I’m the least religious person you may meet but I and my Tokina ultra wide lens are like a kid in a candy store in such beautiful churches, clicking away to glory.
Mozart himself played the organ at this church for a period of time. But the special thing is that where every church has one organ this one has 5! the original 5:1 speaker system.
The dome of the Salzburg Cathedral suffered damage from a WW 2 bomb that crashed down through it. Today it has been impeccably restored and you can’t tell the newer parts from the old.
After we had done our church routine we left suitably impressed by the beauty and symmetry of the cathedral. Since we didn’t plan to go up to the fortress we visited the square below called the Kapitelplatz which has a beautiful but oddly coloured pond and a huge golden sphere with a man on top – a modern art installation by Stephen Balkenhol. Not a big fan of modern art in classical spaces myself, but here we had some fun taking photos supporting the sphere.
Taking a last look at the fortress we were passing on and went to the St Peter’s Abbey and its attached cemetery. I had just seen a beautiful cemetery garden in Kaprun in the morning but this was so much bigger in scale. Each grave covered by multicoloured flowering plants. My mind told me that a cemetery is supposed to be grey and dull, this had more colours than the rainbow!
The better half likes photographing flowers, so after she was satisfied with her photos of the varied flowers there we moved into the church of the Abbey. Though much smaller in scale than the Cathedral this Romanesque church was beautiful in its own right.
As I have noticed in every European city I have visited, the square outside was full of people but the church was empty. Thats what makes me seek these churches out, you get away from the crowd & get beautiful photos too!
After a few minutes of peace and quiet inside the Abbey we went outside to join the crowds and went to the heavily dug up Residenzplatz. This main square of Salzburg was under restoration and super dusty. So I quickly took photos of the amazing fountain in the centre before moving away from the billowing dust.
We then moved on to Mozartplatz which was so crowded that we quickly took photos of the statue of the great man in the centre of the square before moving on.
It was lunch time so we searched for a place to eat in the old town. The popular places that I had researched about were packed to the gills. So we took a punt on a restaurant called “Zum Mohren” down in a basement in old town which incidentally owned by an Indian expat. Again it gave us respite from the crowds above as it was relatively empty.
Usually empty restaurants mean bad food, but thankfully that wasn’t true for this restaurant. We didn’t order from the Indian section as we had no desire of eating overpriced watered down Indian cuisine. I stuck to my staple on this tour the goulash with dumplings and the better half ordered a spaghetti with tomato and cheese sauce. As had become the norm on this tour I ordered a local dark beer for myself and a lemonade for the better half.
With our tummies full and thirst satiated we moved on from old town via the crowded main shopping street, the Getreidegasse towards the Monchsberg elevator which takes tourists to the Monchsberg ridge above giving a great view of the Old town.
We had chosen the elevator over the fortress for the old town views because it was cheaper and you can see the impressive fortress looming over the old town from the Monchsberg ridge which you obviously can’t see from the fortress!
We also knew that there would be no crowds here and there weren’t. We had the great views almost to ourselves and met only a handful of people on the entire walk. After the crowded lanes of Old town this was Manna from the heavens!
Also we chose to take a one way ride up then walk the ridge away from old town high above the river and descend as close to our hotel as possible by the stairs at the end of the walk.
We reached the hotel for a well deserved rest to our feet. We had some time to put our feet up before leaving again for the concert at Mirabel Palace. But that is topic for another post, another time as I have rambled on for too long on this one.