SALZBURG REVISITED   2 comments

I guess it’s time to share another segment of our recent trip to Europe. The last entry was Portugal – a delightful new adventure. This time it’s nostalgia all over again. Austria, mostly re-experiencing Salzburg.

My first visit to Salzburg was right after graduation from college with a National Student Association tour. We spent 11 weeks in Europe: Austria, Germany, Switzerland, France, England, Holland, & Belgium.  As I recall, the entire price (except for two free weeks at the end) was $675.00, including eleven days over and back on the S.S. Volendam of the Holland America line. Transport was not elegant – the Volendam was still fitted out as a troopship – but for a bunch of students it was great – movies, lectures, courses, each other. a small smoking room, and bottles of Heinekens for 5 cents apiece.

I think there were 15 people in our group,including three guys. It was the time of the Korean war (which history refuses to label as such.) That meant young men had to hang around home in case they were called up for the draft. I’m not sure how some were free to go, but three of them made it. I wonder who, out of that group, is still around to remember.

I learned many years later that was the year when the CIA first enlisted students to gather information.

But now the focus is on revisiting. On our graduation visit, Austria was our first stop. My roommate and I were boarded in a home in Hallein outside Salzburg, the salt city. I’ll get to that later.

The first adventure I remember was Hohensalzburg – the castle on the mountaintop overlooking the city. It was new to us, but anyone who’s been to Salzburg knows it as the major site of interest. My first visit, though, was before “The Sound of Music” turned Salzburg into a tourist site, It was right after the end of WWII, so the place was filled with displaced, homeless people, giving it the feel of a medieval village. I don’t remember walking up there, so I think we arrived at the top by way of the funicular, which shows in this photo taken from the cemetery outside the plaza of the Cathedral.

Hohensalzburg & cemetery

My second visit to the site was in 1976 when I traveled Eurail with my teen-aged son and daughter. Again, I don’t remember walking up, so I suspect we took the funicular. Even then my children had to deal with my acrophobia – fear of heights.

This time, my tour guide – otherwise known as my son Doug, well beyond teen-age – had us walking to the castle, stopping along the way at various sites, and for lunch. Obviously there were many more things along the way than had been there decades before. Thankfully we returned to the ground below via the funicular.

Most nostalgic for me was the visit to the Salzburg dom (Cathedral). On my first visit I looked at it with ooh/aw excitement. On the second visit in 1976 I hid behind a wall to conceal my tears as I was grieving the end of my marriage. But there was beauty too. My son and I attended a Haydn mass there on Sunday, so crowded we had to stand in the back. But imagine – a full orchestra and chorus. Better than a concert hall was the site of the cathedral. This year, we got there early enough to get a seat for the Mozart Mass. Equally powerful. No tears. Just plain joy.

Salzburg dom

As one would expect in a tourist town, there were sales booths set up on the plaza outside. Yes, I did buy some things. Then we walked on through to the cemetery, seen in the photo above. A lovely, calming place, I thought.

After Mass

We did visit the adjacent convent, and I even took a photo from an upper floor – hooray for me! In spite of my acrophobia, You can see the cemetery down below.

view from convent

No visit to the Salzburg area is complete without a stop at Schloss Hellbrunn. Having been there twice before, I thought I was really wise and would avoid getting wet, but they got me. No photo of that, but a picture of the early surprise for the unsuspecting. The water felt good, though, because we were in Europe during a heat wave.

Getting wet

Of course, anyone visiting the area has to see Mirabel gardens.

Mirabel Gardens

We went a step beyond and bought tickets ahead of time for a concert at the palace. Remember, Salzburg celebrates its most famous citizen – Mozart. So, of course, we attended several Mozart concerts. Here, though, the physical setting was particularly lovely.

Schloss Mirabel

But Mozart wasn’t all we experienced. We happened to see an ad for a free concert at St. Peter’s church – Talis’ “Spem in Alium.”

St. Peter's Talis ..

A ten-minute choral piece. (Hmm. I’m getting a déjà vu feeling. Have I told you this before?) Well, anyway, to go on, we got there early to get out of the heat and waited in a not-very-comfortable pew, So few people were there, we thought it would be no big deal. Then suddenly the church was filled to standing room only. And at the appointed hour, 5 pm, the choir surrounded the back of the church and we were blessed with ten minutes of the most glorious music. After a long standing ovation, we were treated to a ten-minute encore. (Note: In Minnesota it seems the audience always offers a standing ovation, but in Europe, at least in our experience those few weeks there, such appreciation is saved for something really special.)

I hope you’re not bored yet, because I want to tell you about the salt mines in Hallein. I remembered them from my early visit there. Being attired in protective white clothing and sliding down into the depths, then being transported by various means through them. It was fun. I could hardly wait for my son to enjoy it, though I chose to have lunch while waiting in the tourist area above. (No such building was there on my first visit.) I don’t have a photo, but I was well satisfied with his pleasure.

Just a few more things. When I was there the first time, right after the war, we asked our student guides in Germany to take us to Berchtesgaden. They obliged and we spent a nice afternoon on the beach. We had in mind Hitler’s retreat, the Eagle’s Nest, but it drew a blank from the students.

This time, however, we did get to cross over into Germany to visit it. (What a pleasure – no border patrols asking to see our passports. Part of the European Union now.)

Until a year after we were there as students the Americans who controlled it did not allow visitors. Sometime later, it was returned to the locals, on condition it should not celebrate Hitler. So it is now a restaurant. I do have an aerial photo of it, but it’s a postcard and I suspect I don’t have the legal right to show it here. So, the best I can do is show the only decent photo I took on that visit – just a scenic sight.

Eagle's nest view

Especially interesting was the careful timing to get there and back again. It’s a one-way drive up (and down) a single road requiring split-second departures. By the way, the elevator was very elaborate by which Hitler was raised to the Eagles Nest after being delivered by his driver who then had to back out for quite a distance.

At some point we decided to visit the “Silent Night” museum. Following the directional signs as best we could, often leading to place of “Huh? Where do we go from here?” we finally found it. Wish they had warned us. It’s closed for a period of time. Best I could do was get a photo of Hans Gruber’s grave outside his home.

Gruber grave

Finally, just to convey the atmosphere, I’d like you to see the photo of a restaurant we enjoyed in Rohrmoos – Pariente.

Pariente in Rohrmoos

The header is a photo of the boat on which we had a 40 minute ride after visiting Mirabel gardens and before going on to a series of concerts.

2 responses to “SALZBURG REVISITED

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  1. Mona! You did it! the heights! Hooorayyyy! YAYYY!
    This is one of the tours that I have enjoyed the most. Utterly alive and present. Love your text too, you come so close to me. And I ache to go there – visit – stroll through streets – seriously thinking of booking a tour all by myself. And I will also see the Sound of Music again for the umpteenth time.
    Thank you for the pleasure and joy you share so abundantly

  2. Dear Leelah, Thanks for you high praise, and yes — do it! Book a tour, and then tell us about it. (Oh, and maybe bone up on Mozart too)

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