Charmed by Salzburg, July 8th
Though many European cities are well-traveled and quite enjoyable, Salzburg has more than its fair share of charm. On this my first visit here, I thought it surely couldn’t be as captivating as the guidebooks and reviews recite. But it is, and more so than I could even imagine.
Driving out of Munich, Phillip and I were unprepared for the stunning natural beauty to be met just a few kilometers outside of town. Unlike our native north Georgia, there are no “foothills” in Germany. Rather, the flat and fertile farmlands run right up against the base of the first steep jagged peaks. And not only does the elevation change quite suddenly, but the vegetation as well – fields of wheat change quite abruptly to firs and cedars, all crowding the steep slopes rising from the shoulder of the road.
Upon arriving downtown in the busy Hanuschplatz, we were immediately struck by the features the town is most well-known for – the Hohensalzburg Fortress glowering down upon old town from its perch on the cliff, the many church spires crammed among the narrow streets, and the beautiful Salzach River, winding its course through the middle of town. Salzburg was built around the salt trade, which was mined out of the surrounding mountains and shipped downriver to sell, and the town is accordingly named. Today the salt mining continues, but is no longer the predominant industry.
Today, the city’s heartbeat is its legacy in the music world. As the home of Mozart and the film location of the much-loved Sound of Music, tourists flock here in droves. In the same day you can tour the boyhood home of Mozart and view his pianos and hand-written sheet music, and then spend the afternoon frolicking around Salzburg and the surrounding areas visiting film locations of the Sound of Music, all while singing “Doe, a Deer” at the top of your lungs with a bus full of other tourists.
Must-see tourist attractions aside, this town still maintains the charm of its origins. The narrow cobbled streets of old town are overhung by wrought-iron signs that historically hung on the buildings displaying pictorials of the goods sold inside. When these signs originated, many of the local residents couldn’t read, so the pictures relayed the message instead. Today, the signs represent the current stores in residence, but harken to tradition.
Though this town is intensely popular with tourists, it manages to retain its historical authenticity and culture, and seems to adamantly refuse to give up being a small town. This kind of informality and charm is irresistible, and we were quite taken with it.
Walking the crowded streets, we couldn’t resist stopping to gaze into windows displaying lovely dirndl dresses with aprons and embroidered lederhosen, admire the brilliantly colored flowers pouring out of every available crevice, and eat sausages wrapped in pretzel from a street vendor. We shopped in the pouring rain, which is very common here, rode the local buses to get around, and shared a table with strangers as we ate the local goulash for dinner. Though many popular tourist towns are out to steal your money, this one stole my heart. And I can’t wait until next time….