The hills of Salzburg truly alive with the sound of music

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September 3rd 2016
Published: January 20th 2017
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As we were slowly making our way towards Salzburg, I already had a feeling I was going to like this place. The closer to our destination we were getting, the more picturesque the scenery was becoming – slightly hilly green meadows with beautiful little houses scattered all around... Even without the sound of music, the hills simply felt alive! Yes, as corny as it sounds... we were approaching ‘The Sound of Music’ land after all and from what I have googled about Salzburg already, the town was thriving from that movie... At that stage we weren’t sure if we were going to take ‘The Sound of Music’ tour but were slowly swaying into that direction...

One thing we’ve noticed about Salzburg straight away was that accommodation was definitely more pricey... and it actually took us a while to find something affordable, or simply within our budget – a bit out of town but with a very convenient bus connection and breakfast included (yay!), we were ready to take on Salzburg. Grant got the bus tickets from some guy on a bus stop (working for the bus company obviously) and since they ended up in Grant’s pocket a second after, we didn’t even realise that we needed to validate them in the bus... We didn’t realise it until we were catching another bus back to Salzburg that is – when I got hold of them to be exact... Sweet! We didn’t need to buy another pair of tickets then... Could we play silly tourists and use the same trick on this and further journeys as well? Maybe not exactly honest but very tempting indeed...

As we got to the centre of Salzburg, we fell in love with this town straight away. Beautifully set around the River Salzach with narrow streets and interesting old buildings proudly displaying the date they were built. And that lovely atmosphere of a small town again... Since we had only a few nights here – as not exactly the cheapest place to stay at – we had to make some plans straight away if we wanted to see a thing or two... We made our way to the tourist information first to ask about some tours – Grant really wanted to go to the Eagle’s Nest while the idea of joining ‘The Sound of Music’ tour was growing on me with each minute so... In the end we ended up booking both – basically blowing our budget almost the moment we arrived in town... Ah well... Some things just have to be seen and experienced...

After walking around the streets of Salzburg for a while, we decided to find some nice place to sit and relax for a moment. We found a lovely spot straight away – a nice big square with a big fountain and a few benches around, an aspiring musician playing some nice tunes, add to it a beautiful weather with blue skies and sun slowly setting down – just perfect! It was hard to find some seats but in the end we got a bench all to ourselves... As we were sitting there and enjoying this blissful moment I’ve noticed an older couple with a younger woman (assuming their daughter) looking around, trying to find a place to sit. Grandpa sat on the bench next to us, but the ladies didn’t have a place to sit, so we decided to squeeze in and offered them half of our bench. They were very grateful, thanked us and sat with us for a few moments enjoying the surroundings and observing Millie of course. We exchanged a few sentences and found out they had a reservation in the nearby restaurant but were a bit early so were simply killing time in between... and soon after they were gone... We were laughing that the least they could do for us for being so kind and letting them sit with us was taking us out for dinner as well! Ah well... A hot dog would have to do... and a pretty good hot dog it was! Some local speciality – hot dog with curry spices, not bad at all!

The following morning, after a very mediocre breakfast, we made our way to the centre to join a tour to Eagle’s Nest. The weather wasn’t exactly too promising... Very overcast, not great seeing that we were going to climb up a few metres... The guide assured us it will get better though, fingers crossed then! It was a relatively short drive up to the car park at Eagle’s Nest. We crossed into Bavaria and soon after our guide was telling us we were to quickly leave the bus and make our way to another bus – with haste of course as well. The last part of the journey has been closed for normal traffic, the only way to get to the top is to take one of the special reserved buses. As it turned out later on, there is actually another way of making it to the top and it’s on foot of course! There are two trekking routes – a shorter one taking you straight up and a longer one with some gorgeous views... I guess it could’ve been interesting to hike up there, but since we were a bit short on time in Salzburg, a short visit with a big group would just have to do.

We quickly boarded one of the buses and soon after were climbing 800metres up to the Eagle’s Nest. It was definitely a steep climb! The road was also very narrow, so no wonder they decided to shut the road off the normal traffic. Not only there would’ve been a one big traffic jam otherwise but it would’ve been very dangerous as well – hard to imagine two cars passing each other on this road... As soon as we started climbing up the windy road, the surrounding mountains started appearing all around us – yes, our guide wasn’t just optimistic. Once again we were lucky with the weather, the clouds have disappeared and we had a beautiful blue sky on top of us. On the way up our guide already started giving us instructions as to what was going to happen in the next hour or so... Once again we were told to quickly make it through the tunnel and jump into the elevator. Since we had a very limited time here, the last thing we wanted was to queue up for the elevator and waste the precious minutes we could be using for enjoying the beautiful views from the Eagle’s Nest instead. All clear then! Apparently whoever made it on their own to this place, had a few checks to do before they could make it all the way to the top – one of those stops was stamping their tickets for the return bus journey. Luckily we didn’t have to queue up for that as our guide was going to take care of it – I guess tours do have some advantages sometimes...

Once we got off the bus we made our way through the tunnel. This whole place was blowing my mind already... First the steep road cut into the mountain, then this 124-metre tunnel built in the middle of the mountain and finally the golden brass-lined elevator that would take us another 124-metres, this time up, all the way to the residence with the most amazing views... The residence which was built with a sole purpose of being gifted to the ‘great man’ himself, the Furher... The man who didn’t even seem to appreciate the gift too much as he hardly ever went there... But that may have been because of his numerous phobias and fears... Who would’ve thought that a monster who ordered to kill millions would be so petrified to walk through a tunnel or take an elevator?

And just like promised, the view from the residence was absolutely spectacular! Still it’s such an irony that a serene place like this would serve as a meeting point for top Nazi figures, a place where destructive war plans would be made... It’s amazing also that this place had been spared during the bombing and therefore remains now in its original condition and apparently that’s all thanks to one person, a former governor Jacob who pulled some strings and managed to save the residence from Allies attack.

On the way back to Salzburg we stopped at some close by town for lunch. And what a fantastic little town it was! It just screamed Bavaria from far away! Beautiful buildings, flowers everywhere, even a band dressed in traditional clothes playing some German folk music with accordion taking the lead of course. Our guide recommended trying some white sausage. Looking at the prices on the menu, it looked like it was all we would be willing to order anyway, so a portion of white sausage it was then. And two beers of course! And what a great choice it was! I was surprised the sausage was served with pretzels, but the combination was simply divine, slightly sweet and salty pretzel with a very light sausage and honey-mustard sauce... Yum!

When we got back to Salzburg we went for a stroll around the Old Town once again. We hanged out at our favourite square, listening to the nearby musicians and in general watching the life slowly go by. It was such a beautiful afternoon that we decided to head up to the castle. First a short visit to the Cathedral, the ‘Salzburger Dom’ since we were passing it by. The first thing that caught my attention were the three dates displayed on the iron gates – 774, 1628 and 1959. During its life the cathedral was destroyed by a number of fires and later on rebuilt and expanded and these three dates simply represented the dates of the major renovations. I was even more impressed by the interior – I loved the fact that everything was set in the same – white – colour. In that way there was nothing distracting you from the fantastic paintings and sculptures. I was slightly less impressed by the castle, or rather the Hohensalzburg Fortress. There were some very interesting items on display in the museum – like the torture instruments for example, but in general I thought that the castle was definitely presenting itself more majestically when seen from the centre of Salzburg rather than from close-up. At least we had a chance to view the beautiful panorama of Salzburg once again, so worth a visit if only for that reason.

We woke up to see it was pouring rain outside. Probably not the best day for a tour, still better to have ‘The Sound of Music Tour’ on a day like this than going up to Eagle’s Nest for sure! We were very lucky we didn’t book the tours the other way around... We made it to the centre and slightly soaked jumped on the ‘music’ bus. The weather was definitely influencing people’s moods as there were quite a few grumpy faces on board... That quickly changed though and all thanks to our guide. He was British, but fell in love with Salzburg and was doing this tour for 10 years or so... Wow! He really must have loved the movie then! Or maybe just learned to love it with time? Either way, he was super enthusiastic about the movie and was bombarding us with information about it and about the real Trapp family. He was a very happy lad, full of spirit, who wasn’t afraid to make fun of himself and was happily singing along with the tunes... Brilliant! Definitely a great guide for a tour like that!

We started our tour with a visit to Leopoldskron Palace where the famous boating scene was filmed. The weather was pretty dreadful when we got there... It wasn’t really raining, just a little drizzle, but the visibility wasn’t great, the surface of the lake wasn’t as calm as we would like it to be, so no perfect reflection this time... Or so we thought as when we were standing by the lake and listening to our guide talking about the shooting of the scene and how the little girl almost drowned during the shooting, suddenly the drizzling stopped, the water on the lake calmed down and soon after we had in front of us a beautiful reflection of the Leopoldskron Palace on the water. Perfect timing! Next stop on the list was a nearby Hellbrunn Palace where the famous ’16 going on 17’ gazebo was located. It was originally standing by the Leopoldskron Palace but since no one was taking care of it there, it became very neglected until one day someone decided to restore it and moved it to Hellbrunn Palace. And now a bus full of people was staring at it! I guess it was well worth it to move it then. We were told to go back to the bus hopping like Julie Andrews did in the movie, but no one was warmed up enough for things like that just yet... Except for our guide of course as he happily hopped almost all the way to the bus, waving his imaginary suitcases.

Then it was a longer drive a bit further out of Salzburg, to Mondsee where the wedding was filmed. There was no way our guide would let us get bored on the way there though... Knowing words or not, everyone was asked to join in singing. Everyone was a bit shy at first but with each song became more brave and soon after the whole bus was laughing and singing. Millie was slightly surprised about what was going on around, but she loved it and was also taking part in the whole commotion by... giggling! 😊 With a short stop for a photo by the lake we arrived in Mondsee and soon after were walking down the aisle in the footsteps of Maria and Baron von Trapp. The town was very charming as well but there wouldn’t be too much walking around as it started raining again. Instead a short break for a quick bite to eat.

After that we went back to Salzburg to see the last place on our itinerary – the Mirabell Gardens, which were the location of the famous ‘Do-Re-Mi’ song. There were plenty of places around inside the gardens where the song was filmed so we played along and walked around the garden, making sure we found them all! Altogether it was a really fun tour. A bit corny? For sure! But hey, that was the whole idea of it! Even despite the rainy day, we enjoyed every moment of it.

On our last afternoon in Salzburg we went for another stroll around the charming alleys. We even got a few no-rain breaks in between as well. With the ‘Sound of Music’ still on our minds, we headed up to the Nonnberg Abbey to tick off the movie’s another location. We were amazed to find some Romanesque wall paintings from the 12th century inside the church as well. It’s incredible how nowadays they can find and restore all these masterpieces under layers and layers of paint. It looked like the rain was slowly setting in for good for the night, so in between the breaks, we walked the last time through the Salzburg’s famous shopping street with its incredible shop signs (even McDonalds got it own elegant sign!) and after that called it a day.

We could’ve easily spent a few more days here – so much to see and do! Many trek opportunities as well as bicycle routes, even hanging out at one of the numerous charming squares and listening to music would do just fine. No doubt that if we wanted to enjoy this town fully, a bit more money in the pockets would’ve been a great help. Austria was definitely destroying our budget fast so even though we would’ve gladly stayed here longer, it was time to move on to another country. Czech Republic here we come! Next stop: Cesky Krumlov!

Additional photos below
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18th February 2017

I've never seen the Sound of Music
I love music but do not like musicals. I loved Vienna and long to go to Salzburg. I've been to the Eagle's Nest and enjoyed the area. Thanks for the blog. Very nice.
8th March 2017

The Sound of Music
Thanks for reading and commenting. I think everyone could find something they would like in Salzburg, even without watching the musical. So maybe next time you go to Vienna, you should do a little side trip to Salzburg as well, lovely and very picturesque little town.
18th February 2017
Walking around Salzburg

Street Scenes
Love this.

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