Austria and Salzburg’s Alpine Delights
By Paul Shoul
Before I left on my recent trip to Austria, I watched the movie that put Salzburg on the map, “The Sound of Music.” Julie Andrews danced and sang through the picturesque foothills of the Salzburg mountains.
Floating over fields, through palaces and gardens, everything looked just a little too perfect. How could it be so impossibly charming! It must have been movie magic.
I started my first day in Salzburg with a cup of coffee at 6:00 am seated in the impeccable dining room of Hotel Schloss Fuschl, gazing at the view before me.
Lake Fuschl was also just awakening, towering snow-covered mountains peeking through the clouds in the distance. Mist floated over the still surface as one lone fisherman aboard a small rowboat waited in peaceful anticipation.
I had to admit, it was as beautiful as the movie, even more so in real life.
Here are some tips and reviews of where to stay and what to see, eat, and do.
The Salzkammergut region
Only a 20-minute drive from Salzburg city, this mountainous region has incredible alpine scenery, lakes, rivers, picturesque villages, and towns. It is a natural wonderland crisscrossed with trails to hike, ski, snowshoe, and mountain bike. Website
Zwölferhorn Mountain Cable Car
This vintage cable car, built in 1957, takes you for a spectacular ride up to the top of Mt. Zwölferhorn with beautiful views of the Salzkammergut region and Lake Wolfgangsee and Lake Fuschlsee. There are an observation deck and a small cafe/ coffee shop on the top that surprisingly had kimchi and instant noodles in stock for an increasing number of Korean tourists.
It’s a great ride with plenty of trails at the summit to hike. The round-trip top to bottom will take about 25 minutes. Website
Making Mozart Balls
Mozart was born in Salzburg, his influence and image are everywhere. Given the Austrians’ skill in all things confectionary, it was only natural that someone would marry the two.
In 1890 Salzburg confectioner Paul Furest created the now-famous “Mozrtkugel,” marzipan, pistachio nougat center dipped in chocolate, and voilà, Mozart balls!
At Cafe Konditorei Dallmann, the lovely town of St. Gilgen, You can take a hands-on class to learn how to make them. They are delicious and their incredible selection of Austrian pastries was truly epic. Website
The Mozarthaus St. Gilgen
This is the birthplace of Mozart’s mother and home of his sister Nannerl. There is a permanent exhibit dedicated to his prodigy sister. A great musician in her own right; she always lived in the shadow of her genius brother.
Very cool to be in the Mozarts home. The original artifacts and audiovisual displays give deep insight into her life. Website
St. Gilgen Museum of Musical Instruments
This museum is smaller than you would expect and so much more than you could imagine. The kind of collection that only comes from obsession.
It is the vision of Mr. Askold Zur Eck, who gathered over 2,000 instruments from around the world.
He gave us a concert playing the Jew’s harp by holding it in his teeth and adjusting the shape of his mouth to change the sound. The deep bass sounds of the Australian didgeridoo sonic waves could be felt pulsating through my body.
Then he disappeared into another room to have us guess what instrument he was playing and emerged after playing a haunting song with a vacuum cleaner hose! Highly recommended. Website
This family-run farm has been operating since 1874, producing cheese, smoked meats, fish milk, herbs, bread, pastries, and ice cream. They are also active beekeepers. The farm has a storybook feeling, an excellent restaurant, bread-baking, and beekeeping classes.
This is a real working farm and a great way to become immersed in Austrian life.
Eat and sleep in Salzkammergut:
The White Horse Inn
Located on the shores of Lake Wolfgang, this famous inn of Salzkammergut has been run by the Peters family for 5 generations. I had a fantastic lunch there. The views are spectacular, and the food, service, and
atmosphere are total old Austria. Leave room for the famous “Salzburger Knockererl,” a light, fluffy oversized sweet souffle. One of Austria’s most celebrated desserts. Website
Run by the same family for six generations. Johannes and Gertrud Brandstätter are exemplary hosts and skillful chefs. Locally sourced traditional Austrian fare with a modern twist. This was absolutely one of the
best meals I had in Austria. Website
Schloss Fuschl Luxury Collection Resort & Spa
You could stay in a different hotel, but not a better one than Schloss Fuschl. Only a 25-minute drive from Salzburg city. The location on Lake Fuschl is beautiful.
It has an excellent restaurant: a vast breakfast buffet, and spacious rooms, lake cottages, cigar bar, wine cellar, and a first-class wellness spa. Something feels right at Schloss Fuschl. The level of service and elegance in a historic palace is hard to beat. Website
Famous for medieval and baroque architecture, the birthplace of Mozart, and as the setting for the movie “The Sound of Music,” the old part of the city is a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site. Bike paths, benches, and gardens line the banks of the Salzach river that runs through the middle spanned by 13 bridges.
Getreidegasse Street in the old town is the main shopping street in Salzburg. Crowded and bustling, it is the place to start exploring the city. Passageways extend off the main road to courtyards and open-air markets.
The Sound of Trudy, the singing tour guide
Trudy is a British expat who fell in love with Austria and moved to Salzburg in 2003. Her 3-hour walking tour will take you to all the major historical spots. Trudy has an infectious enthusiasm for the city. I found myself singing along with her songs from “The Sound of Music” as we toured where it was filmed. It sounds campy but was loads of fun. Website
Hellbrunn is a pleasure palace built in 1615 by Prince-Archbishop Markus Sittikus. Designed as a place for celebrations, it has an array of trick water fountains that amazed me with their inventiveness. They are meant to fool you. You will get wet, and I did run squealing like a child laughing with delight every time I was sprayed from such unexpected places. As you walk through the palace, water squirts from the walls.
At a large table in the gardens, water cascades on you from secret spouts hidden on the floor. Scenes of small automated figures enact the legends of the gods. An entire town of over 200 characters jumps into life, all automated by water pressure. Hellbrurnn was more than I expected. It surprised and amazed me at every turn. Website
A night at the symphony
Salzburg is known as the city of music and festivals. There is no better venue in the world to experience classical music. I was lucky enough to attend the Easter Festival concert conducted by Christian Thielmann.
To be honest, when I first entered the performance hall, I thought to myself, “just try to stay awake, Paul.” Classical music is simply not my thing.
I was enveloped by the theatrics of the event, the crowd of 2500 elegant people, the grandeur of the concert hall, and the incredible skill of the 100 musicians on stage. Concerts and cultural events are happening throughout the year. Website
On the banks of the river right across from the bridge to Getreidegasse street in the old town. Hotel Stein is in the heart of the city.
Dating back to the middle ages, it just went through a significant renovation reopening in 2018 after two years of work.
A comfortable four-star luxury hotel that was a delight to stay in. The hotel’s Seven Senses rooftop restaurant and bar have an expansive view and fantastic food. I loved having my morning coffee on the deck overlooking the town and the mountains. Website
M32 restaurant in Salzburg
M32 is located on the top of a hill overlooking the city in the same building as the Museum of Modern art. It is definitely one of the must-eat restaurants in Salzburg, specializing in Austrian cuisine. It is a beautiful room with large plate glass windows. The view of the historic district at night was spellbinding. More importantly, this was where I had my first authentic Weiner Schnitzel.
A simple dish of pounded veal that is breaded fried, and served with parsley potatoes, a slice of lemon, and Lingonberry jam. Often the simple dishes are the hardest to get right. It was tender, savory, juicy with a slight crunch to the breading. Website
Built into a sheer rock wall in what was a bunker in WW2, Magzin houses a bar, deli, wine store, and restaurant with a grotto-like stone arched dining room. The menu is international with a Spanish/Catalan influence in their many small plates.
I had a beautiful dish of Padron peppers, (my favorite tapa), lamb polenta with eggplant and sea bass “en papillotte” It is a fun and delicious restaurant that gave up a Michelin star for the freedom to cook what they want. The results are fantastic. Add a wine cellar that holds over 800 bottles, and you are in for a good time. Website
And now a final word about sausages
Salzburg may have mountains and Mozart, but what they really do well is sausages.
Late at night after being out on the town, there on the corner next to the Stein Hotel where I was staying, like an oasis, was the gleaming “Salzburgers” “nachtwürstelstand” ( night sausage stand).
This is a very cool Austrian tradition. Street food at its finest. The sausages are served like a deconstructed American hot dog with bread/ buns, and dogs served individually with dabs of spicy mustard and a pickle. They have that perfect snap!
Yes, my friends, thank the Lord, you can wash them down with a cold beer or even a glass of Schnapps. Now, that is what I call civilized.
Just across the river, down one of the small passageways from Getreidegasse street to “Horsepond,” I found the famous Balkan Grill
Literally, a hole in the wall, this tiny little grill, barely big enough for the two people working it, has developed somewhat a cult following for their “Bosna” sausages. Two sausages in a bun with, onions, parsley, secret spices, and mustard.
The line was 30 minutes long but well worth the wait.
Something for Everyone
Salzburg is one of the quaintest places I have ever had the pleasure to visit. From walking the relaxed streets of the city to the majestic Alps, there is something for everyone.
As Julie Andrews said when she returned 50 years after filming “The Sound of Music,”
“It is just as beautiful as ever.”
This trip was sponsored by Turkish Airlines and Austrian Tourism, but the opinions are the author’s own.
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Paul Shoul is a Northampton, MA-based photographer who doubles as a staff writer for GoNOMAD. For thirty years he’s lived in the Pioneer Valley and chronicled life there through his work in the Valley Advocate. He’s also been seen in the Boston Globe, New York Times, BBC, the Chronicle of Higher Education and many other publications. Today as well as shooting around the world for GoNOMAD he works for local nonprofits, banks and advertising agencies.