Freelance writer Maria John explains how she discovered Salzburg to be her favourite place in Europe.
I’ve travelled to many cities in Europe, including classics like Prague and Zurich. Yet everyone is surprised when I say that my favourite city is Salzburg.
The old town
To get to the fortress, you first have to go to the old town, where everything likes to remind you of its famous alumnus, Mozart. Live music accompanies you as you venture into the main square, filled with mini-attractions.
There’s a man who’ll craft a shadow portrait of you: he cuts black paper into the silhouette of your face, replicating an 18th century style, then pastes it onto white paper as you can see in the photograph I’ve included here. You’ll also find souvenirs to be purchased, and a fantastic giant chess board painted onto the ground along with giant chess pieces.
The fortress sits on a hill and is accessible by the Festungsbahn, a 325 foot high funicular railway that can hold 50 people. The ride is just under a minute, but you’ll wish it was longer as you enjoy the views of the city as it drags you up the side of the hill.
It was around 3pm by the time I was at the top, when the sunlight was at its best. The view takes your breath away as you gaze at the greenery and trace the river as it runs between the tiny colourful houses that are a testament to Austrian architecture.
In the vaulted former gun deck of the fortress you’ll find the Marionette Museum. A few of the puppets are strung up, while the pretty ones are kept inside glass cages. Some depict characters from the Sound of Music, others tell you of past peasant wars, one to help enjoy your own little puppet show, and another for laughs: a skeleton with a long beard who pops up behind a coffin door with a maniacal laugh.
A glass pane lets you peek into the room beneath you that’s filled with millions of coins of varying degrees of gold and silver.
The Regency Chambers or State Rooms have a lot for you to talk about. The Golden Hall looks like something straight out of a film, with its four large marble columns leaving you in awe, especially when you see the amount of space set aside for an orchestra. The wooden floors creak as you take each step, as you take in the rare gothic architecture.
Although us peasants couldn’t possibly have had such an extravagant bathroom at that time, the toilet in the bedchamber is simply a hole carved into a wooden ledge—a shocking contrast to the opulence of the main room!
You’ll still be impressed when you head off to the Rainer Regiment Museum, allowing you to uncover just how prominent Salzburg was during the wars. Room after room recreates these times. One particularly impressive room recreates a war station from WW1, others recreate the battleground with life-size statues and barracks, with music from that time playing in the background.
Other rooms include relics of the past, including musical instruments, large paintings, and furniture from the Middle Ages: tapestries, elaborate trunks, jewellery boxes, and dining room essentials. The kitchen has a 16th-century table stove and utensils hanging from the wooden ceiling frames. Its long-handled frying pans, mortars, and large jars are preserved for viewing, impressing upon you the strength the kitchen staff would have needed for their work.
Taking a break
When you get out after a couple of hours, you’re back in the 21st century, a little jarred from the time travelling that you just did. If you need a break after all that walking, I recommend the entrance cafe where you can try a slice of Sachertorte, a decadent Austrian chocolate cake filled with apricot jam that you can wash down with some beer.
So why not make 2019 the year you visit Salzburg and experience all of this for yourself?