To be honest, we intended to skip this city. I have to be straight with you- I’ve never been a die hard fan of The Sound of Music (I know, I know, it’s awful that I don’t care more about such a classic). Because the only thing visitors to Salzburg seemed to talk about is the famous Sound of Music tour, I only really associated Salzburg with ‘do-re-mi‘-ing and Edelweiss. So, you can see why it seemed excessive to us to stop in Salzburg, pay 42 Euros for a Sound of Music tour, pay for overnight lodging, and leave again. That is, until we realized our poor planning meant that we had missed the overnight train into Vienna and now our only options were to lose an entire beautiful, sunshiny day to a train ride and arrive in Vienna at around 2100 with no place to stay, or cut our losses and stop for a day or two in Salzburg. Growing up in in West Virginia makes you a slave to a day of good weather, so we made what then felt like a compulsory stop in Salzburg.
As we exited the train station in Salzburg, I got the feeling that getting off the train was a huge mistake. The day had been bright and sunny until we hit Salzburg, but then it turned dreary and dark, with a chilly breeze, essentially negating the only reason we stopped. The Soviet-era buildings surrounding the train station looked particularly ominous in the bleak light and I immediately told the husband that I had no intentions of staying past the non-refundable day we had booked at a nearby pension.
It would’ve been a mistake of absolutely epic proportions to miss Salzburg. Let me set the scene for you. Once we found our way to our pension, exhausted and insanely hungry, we asked the proprietor to direct us towards some good Austrian food and he sent us towards Augustinerbräu – Kloster Mülln, a beer garden near the river walk (found at Lindhofstraße 7, 5020 if you’re interested – you should really swing by if you’re in town). As we walked, we noticed that the buildings, previously lacking any interesting architecture or color, were taking on a warm, almost happy hue, and each building seemed to take on a personality of its own. People started appearing on the previously deserted streets. The cold, Orwellian feeling previously pervading the area seemed to disappear, and we both started breathing easier. The city started to feel alive and friendly. As we stopped to check our map, we spotted a small Italian restaurant tucked in the corner of a building across the street from the beer garden and decided to try it out. The food was perfect- I haven’t had pasta that good since the last time I was in Italy. The waitress was friendly, spoke very good English, and was extremely efficient. And then… the sun came out. That cinched it, and as the days passed, Salzburg started flying up our list of favorite cities and nestled right at the top, where it has stayed ever since.
The Salzburg city center is warm, inviting, open, and picturesque. The river walk takes you past a beautiful lock bridge where musicians play and ice cream stands abound into the heart of the city, and is easily followed by foot. If you prefer, you can cross the lock bridge to the Mirabell Palace and Gardens, or stay in the old town, picnicking by the river Salzach or eating and drinking at many of the amazing beer gardens dotted all over town.
During our time in Salzburg, we sat in the city square and listened to everything from Mozart to Gershwin while munching on oversized pretzels, watched parades celebrating the history of Austria, wandered through Mirabell Gardens, consumed our weight in gelato, and visited the fortress Hohensalzburg and the Museum of Modern Art. Moral of the story? Never judge a city by its train station. Lesson learned.
P.S. I’m otherwise completely devoted to the works of Rodgers & Hammerstein.