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krisek Salzburg - A travel report by Krys
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Salzburg,  Austria - flag Austria -  Salzburg
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krisek's travel reports

And what would Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart say?!

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Mozart's birthhouse now houses a restaurant and is a witness to a fantastic Saturday market selling produce, food and flowers. Salzburg, complete with mighty hilltop fort and happy music scene, is perfect for a weekend trip. Like no other city in Europe.

Salzburg's hilltop castle
Salzburg's hilltop castle
I was doubtfully lucky to be a witness to a musical festival, or rather a young musical talent review event in Salzburg called 'Music belebt, Music bewegt'. A few bands formed of teenagers presented their musical skills on small stages pitched across the old town. Some of them offered a gentle slunt on a classical note, some jazzed the town incredibly, some specialised in hot Latino rhythms, but some made the stage shake with their questionable interpretations of rock. Other stages played: cabaret, folk, music theatre, dance, pop, choir, and experimental. It was actually quite nice to see what the youngsters did with their spare time. But then something unthinkable happened. Someone sitting at the Cafe Tomaselli at the Alter Markt, called the police, complaining about the loudness and the quality of the music! The police came indeed and the speaker had to explain what was hapenning. My guess was that Mozart might not have been terribly impressed with the raw skills of the young musicians but he would definitely have been appalled by the calling for the police! Well, to be perfectly honest, most of the bands were rather poor, the majority of the rest was terrible and only few were just about half-bad and could sing and play. However, the trumpet band doing the 1930s jazzy swings was magnificent. Their decadent take on things, costumes and even mannerisms created a terrific party atmosphere. I was impressed with their skills to hop and play while carrying these shiny copper? instruments, some of which were larger than them and created bass vibes which I felt in my chest like an huge and unexpected excitement! Those little tremors in the entire body kept sending strange energy to the feet and wonderful electricity to the mind. For I was in the city of music, and I knew I loved it! I was indeed very lucky.

Although Salzburg boasted a good number of museums, I am not a museum-going person. Otherwise, there were just the architecture and the unique atmosphere to enjoy.

Favourite spots:
Kapitelplatz with a superb view of the fortress, the man-on-the-sphere sculpture and a grand fountain was definitely my favourite spot in the city. Several wooden benches fixed by the side of the cathedral were the best places to photograph the castle within the old town, sit down and watch the horse drawn carts pass by, as they were about to finish their route. Some of the poor horses stuck out their long pink tongues gasping for water. It was difficult to watch that!! I really felt for these poor creatures, and the owner did not pay any attention to that, it seemed. Perhaps they knew end line was just few yards away.

I also spent a lot of time at the river banks admiring Salzburg's unique skyline, wondering why oh why I waited this long to visit this magnificent place. Standing at the bridges and watching how clean and fast the Salzach river was was my other favourite activity. At this springtime ducks were in the mood for sex, and herons hunted for fish ignoring them completely!

What's really great:
Salzburg travelogue picture
Two things stroke me about Salzburg. The first one was that the city embraced the trolleybus as the main public transport. Even direct to the airport! I think this was the main contributor how quiet the traffic was. It was incredible really. The expensive limousines that cruised the streets slowly appeared to have no engines at all. Flabbergasting!

The other thing was that old town had no lamp posts. The street lighting was suspended from cables stretched from one building to another. I am not sure if this was the case always, but it made me wondering how this worked in the past centuries, when other cities in Europe had street lanterns powered by oil. If there were no lanterns in Salzburg then it must have been frighteningly dark at night. Although a few important alleys had lanterns fixed on buildings...

I also liked that the city was compact. All of the main attractions were short walking distance from one another, and everything could be covered by foot - my favourite kind!

Salzburg travelogue picture
A few interesting sights worth visiting in Salzburg included: the Fortress on the top of the hill (€10.50 incl. return ride on the fenicular; excellent views of the city below to the north and the Alps to the south), Leopoldskron Palace; Mirabell Palace with great gardens offering superb view of the fort; a house where Mozart was born - now a museum of course, but also a nice restaurant; Mozart's House; Residenzplatz; Nonnberg Kloister; Hellbrunn Castle; the Alter Markt; the old townhall; and the Cathedral (Dom). Actually, for those who like to visit churches, there was a good concentration of them in the city, one of which (the Margarethe's Chapel) had catacombs.

The southern part of the old town boasted a couple of really nice streets lined with pretty facades and shops. I also liked how they were linked with the main street running along the river by tunnels-come-shopping passages and tiny archways. I was a little sheepish stepping under them at first.

JUFA's lobby
JUFA's lobby
I stayed at the JUFA Hotel few yards from the old town and the fortress. My room (#117) was super clean. It was small, had two single beds one stuck on top of the other to create a double-decker, tiny shower room with a toilet, and came with flat screen TV set, towels but not toiletries. The price of €40 included buffet breakfast where one had a choice of cornflakes, mixed cereal, scrambled eggs, various types of bread, cheese, hams, jams, fruit drinks, coffee and a variety of teas, including several herbal ones. Not bad at all. There was free wi-fi internet in the lobby, so if you had a laptop or a mobile phone with a browser, you were set.

JUFA Hotels have 39 hotels around the country. There is one in Vienna and Graz, but the rest was in places I have not heard about.

Salzburg had a good number of hotel right in the heart of the old town, some of which looked really cosy but I am sure they all came at a price. On the northern bank of the old town, the hotels were posher and larger.

Salzburg's skyline at night.
Salzburg's skyline at night.
I passed out on Saturday night before any action was to kick in at the city bars and clubs, having had slept only for a couple of hours the night before. So, unfortunately I think I missed all the nightlife stuff, as Sunday night is never good, unless of course it is London, New York, Kraków or Bangkok we are talking about. All day Saturday and Sunday, I kept my eyes open for any interesting nighttime venues. The only very obvious one was a gay bar, as they put up some unambiguous nude photos of athletic men on the windows. All others were less obvious to spot. Bars, rather than clubs, which closed by 3 am or 4 am were scattered around the old town, on both banks of the Salzach river. I tried the small Salzach Bar based on a platform floating on the river actually. They had happy hours between 6pm and 8pm and they opened Wednesday to Sunday only. One had two choices: sit in the front facing the upriver and therefore face things coming at them; or at the back facing the downriver and hence watching all troubles leaving, flowing away. I chose the latter.

Along the northern bank, between Staatsbrücke and Mozartsteg, there were a few bars, almost one next to another, like the Zebra, Eleven, and the Watzmann that looked very promising.

Locals with low budget, however partied at the river banks, creating atmospheric night picnics with their candles shivering in the gentle wind.

Salzburg from the hilltop castle
Salzburg from the hilltop castle
Along the nothern bank of the Salzach river, just west of the Makartsteg footbridge, on the grass, there were hangout places frequented by colourful charachters. These were the best places to photograph the hilltop castle and to organise drinking sessions. In fact, the authorities provided several wooden platforms for the loungers to relax, enjoy their liquid picnics and admire the city's magnificent panorama.

In addition, the old town boasted dozens of cafes with tables on the cobbled squares and passages that served coffees, cappuccinos, cold beer (incl. my favourite weizen), pastries and some, which belonged to restaurants, served proper food. With views of grand mansions, flamboyant statues, or the castle, it was hard to beat that!

Nordsee window
Nordsee window
The music festival came complete with mobile stands selling cold beer, rustic hotdogs, grilled meats, smoked and grilled sausages (wurst), schnitzels, bagels, extra large pretzles, and some offered cakes, too. So, on Saturday, I did not visit a single restaurant!

Probably one of the best places to eat in the old town was the Nordsee, a shop-and-eatery specialising in seafood. One simply was to choose their dish from large containers, by saying how much of what one wanted. Most of the items were priced by weight. So, if one wanted lobster's tail, it was €9.90 per 100g, etc. Very clever indeed. There were at least two of them in the old town.

For some strange reason, Salzburg boasted a large number of Italian restaurants. I tried Trattoria da Pippo only because it had Schnitzei Weiße beer (€4, 0.5l). They offered €10 spaghettis/pasta, €10 pizza, €5.40 tiramisu or apfelstrudel. I tried their pizza diavolo with spicy pepperoni, hot chili, garlic, tomatoes and cheese. It was rather nice!

Other recommendations:
Mirabell Palace gardens
Mirabell Palace gardens
Get up early to avoid crowds that start trickling in from about 9 a.m. The old town fills quickly with package and coach tourists, who are usually completely inconsiderate and happily walk into picture frames ruining your photograph!

A few stands and the authorities rented pushbikes. Two hours cost about €6 and this allowed to see all of the sights in the city with time to spare. The JUFA had bikes for €9.50 for the entire day, and €5 for three hours.

Watch the hilltop castle right at sunset! When I visited, the sun set behind the Alps, so when the city got dark, the castle's white washed walls were still brightly illuminated by the low sunrays and changed colour from white to cream to yellow to light orange. This spectacle would not have been possible had the walls of the strongold been painted in a different colour.

The airport is conveniently near the old town. A taxi ride takes about 15 minutes and costs €12, including moderate traffic.

Published on Monday May 18th, 2009

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Sat, Jan 23 2010 - 06:22 PM rating by alexsbg

You have covered Salzburg really well and reminded me of things one doesn't notice anymore when living here (the quiet traffic, for instance, it's a small town, after all). And your style of writing is something to learn from! I wish I could write in English as well as you can :-)

By the way, the old castle has been repainted in white about 10 years ago or so. Before it was grey for decades, until someone told the authorities, that in the middle ages, castles where white and just washed grey over years. After a controversial discussion about color (keep in mind that Salzburg is a very conservative city), the majority voted for white and since that, the castle is being repainted permanently. It takes about 3 years to paint it lime-white and when done, the procedure starts all over again.

Fri, May 22 2009 - 05:30 PM rating by aufgehts

A great take on one of my favorite cities. I'm so glad that Salzburg worked its charms on you!

Tue, May 19 2009 - 05:47 PM rating by orlen

Great Report Krys. I enjoyed your descriptions of the music 'jamboree'. Sounds like quite an eclectic mix.
The quality of your reports is consistently amazing, with superb descriptions, interesting observations, and lovely photos.
Great job!

Tue, May 19 2009 - 02:45 PM rating by bootlegga

Great photos as always, as well as interesting anecdotes.

Tue, May 19 2009 - 02:10 AM rating by horourke

Great report brings back very happy memories of the time spent there, the sight of young musicians playing randomly in the great square and ythe atmosphere of the sound of music.

Mon, May 18 2009 - 12:57 PM rating by eirekay

Krys, you make it sound so romantic! Wonderful descriptions and the photos are fantastic!

Mon, May 18 2009 - 10:44 AM rating by jacko1

A very interesting and detailed report which made worthwhile reading, my appetite has now been whetted and I shall look for more on this destination.

Mon, May 18 2009 - 09:13 AM rating by pesu

Thanks, Krys, for this report about one of my favourite places - very nice, think, Wolfgang Amadeus would like it... It's funny that even in Salzburg your liking of seafood became obvious: German 'Nordsee' (North Sea) restaurant chain vers. Austrian-Bohemian-Hungarian food like Salzburger Nockerln, Knoedel (dumplings), Palatschinken (pan cake)... ;-)

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