20 July 2019

Salzburg, Seeboden and Scenery Part 1

It is Scenery with a capital S in this part of Austria. My geography has always been poor until I've actually been somewhere, and only now am I getting a grip on Austria. It's long east-west. I was confused as to whether Salzburg was close to Germany, or midway east-west. The answer is both because the border with Germany runs north-south here, before turning west and running along the north of the western half of Austria.
Millstättersee, mountains hiding in the rainclouds
My other discovery was the sheer quantity of lake and mountain landscape. My German is good enough to know that friend R's hometown Seeboden would be at the bottom end of a lake, and she has often described the view of the mountains across the lake, but I didn't realise that there would be mountains all around, nor that Millstättersee, the lake Seeboden is on, is only one of many similarly surrounded. Now we have been to Königssee (over the border in Germany), Attersee, Mondsee, Hallstättersee, Wörthersee as well as Millstättersee, and I know better. And they are all large - you need elevation to see from one end to the other. Not that elevation is an issue with mountains all around.
Rainbow in Salzburg

The Augustiner Brewery, interior.
Salzburg itself is stunningly scenic. The old city is cradled between the river Salzach and a curve of rock that rises sheer from the streets, with houses built into parts of it. One of the Prince-Archbishops who used to rule Salzburg had a tunnel punched through the rock in the 1760s. Our apartment is on the suburban side of the tunnel so we pass through the rock daily.  The Hohensalzburg fortress is perched on the summit of the rock, about 120m above the town. We take the funicular up to the castle for the view and also walk up Mönchsberg after a beer in the Augustiner brewery and a visit to the little church across the road. The two are linked by a bridge built by another Prince-Archbishop. It's not clear to me whether it was to enable the monks to come there to pray before brewing, or the faithful to go and have a beer after mass.

Back on ground level, we take our usual walks along the river, where there is a market and across the pedestrian bridge that has hundreds of "love-lock" padlocks attached. There seems to be only one tourist boat cruise on the Salzach, and we decide against it. We visit the Domquartier Museum, where you really get the low-down on the Prince Archbishops who had absolute power, both religious and governing, for about 1100 years, until the Austro-Hungarian Empire got control in 1833. (For a light-hearted look at the Prince-Archbishops, click here).

We find the Salzburg Museum a little disappointing. We go because they have a Schiele exhibition, but most of his works are on loan from the Belvedere in Vienna, where we've already seen them. However the Museum has a wonderful display of ancient instruments with videos of people playing them, that more than makes up for any other deficiencies.

It's the beginning of the Salzburg Festival so there are even more tourists than usual. We decide not to fight our way into Mozart's house, and at Schloss Mirabell we just stroll through the gardens. We do visit the cemetery where Paracelsus and Constanze Mozart are buried, not to mention Wolf-Dietrich, one of the more notable Prince-Archbishops, who has a large mausoleum all to himself in the middle of the cemetery. To our surprise and pleasure, a group of half a dozen young people looking into the Mausoleum break into very good a capella singing. Later we hear them again - they are part of a group of British schoolkids on tour, whom we hear singing a number of pieces in the Altermarkt later that day. That isn't the only musical experience - see the separate blog on the Salzburg Festival concert.

One thing that surprises us about Salzburg is how much it closes down on Sundays. No supermarkets open, and many cafes closed, at least at lunchtime. Fortunately the local bakery is open so we have croissants and apfelstrudel for breakfast on our first (Sunday) morning, but we have to settle for pizza for lunch. Pizza seems to have become the universal fast food, there are pizza restaurants everywhere in every city. At least it's preferable to McDonalds. On other days we have an excellent breakfast at Tomaselli's (very stylish) and an enjoyable dinner at Goldene Kugel, very good food and not yet rated highly on TripAdvisor, so not too full of other tourists.

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