Beginning The New Year Exploring Salzburg, Austria
With 2016 approaching and the New Year’s holiday falling on a Friday, we couldn’t help but wonder if it made sense to start the year off with a 3-day weekend somewhere wintery. With cheap fares and a perfect winter setting, our eyes quickly set on the beautiful small city Salzburg, made famous in the US by the 1959 musical The Sound of Music. So, early in the morning on the 1st we grabbed a cab to the airport (the latter half of the ride was stressful as we were cutting it real close—we made it to the gate with about 10 minutes to spare) and were on our way! The flight was especially pretty, with a beautiful sunrise at the beginning and a great view of the Alps at the end. The journey there was made that much sweeter by the significant lack of passengers—there were more seats empty than occupied!
On arrival to the Old Town we made our way to Cafe Tomaselli to fill our empty bellies. We shared a brioche kipferl and scrambled eggs with sausage so good that it became a breakfast staple for us throughout the long weekend! We stopped at a food stall to grab a pretzel and munched on it on our way to check in at Altstadthotel Kasererbraeu. It wasn’t long before we back outside exploring the Old Town. We took the funicular up to Fortress Hohensalzburg for a grand view of the city from above and to enjoy the collection of old buildings among cobblestoned streets. Once back on solid ground we visited Salzburg’s Cathedral. What struck us most about the cathedral was the detail work throughout and its more subtle opulence, substituting natural earth tones and modest design for the overbearing bright colors and flashy details that is sometimes typical for cathedrals of this size. In order to fully appreciate it we sat down for a bit, taking the opportunity to slow down and reflect.
Keeping to the theme, we made our way to St. Peter’s Abbey next. The entrance is grand, with large, heavy doors leading to a beautiful interior. We took some time to reflect here as well. After leaving the abbey we noticed a sign boasting of Europe’s old restaurant. Intrigued, we peeked down a long, wide, ivy-covered stone tunnel that beckoned us in. On this small courtyard was the entrance to the restaurant in question—St. Peter Stiftskeller. We poked our heads in and asked if they could fit in two people for dessert without a reservation. Not only did they have room for us, but they seated us in a cozy table by a window looking out to the courtyard in a warm and inviting room that featured a decorated Christmas tree in the center! We split apple strudel and crème brulee and just hung out and talked for quite a bit of time.
We started on our way back to the hotel when we stumbled across a large outdoor classical music concert. We stopped to watch and were rewarded as a result—the crowd slowly broke out into an impromptu waltz! It was quite the experience on our first night in Austria. There was also a temporary skating rink set up in one of the squares, so we stopped to watch the skaters skillfully slide along. We ended the day with dinner at Trattoria Domani where we split bruschetta and enjoyed penne arrabbiata and spaghetti with garlic and olive oil.
Our only full day in the city started with that same meal from Cafe Tomaselli. From there we grabbed the bus to the Untersberg cable car. Untersberg is a mountain on the edge of the Alps spanning both Austria and Germany and its cable car takes you from a small town 20 minutes south of Salzburg all the way up to its summit over a mile high. The ride takes about 10 minutes and offers amazing views of the Alps and the surrounds. At the top you’re free to explore the many trails that lead away from the summit and we took the opportunity to trudge along as much as we could, taking in the views along the way. We have seen the Alps from far away many times in our travels but this was our first time on top of them. It was absolutely breathtaking and our favorite part of the trip.
Once back in Salzburg we grabbed lunch at Cafe Mozart where we shared Wiener Schnitzel, salami rolls and Salzburg’s specialty dessert, the Salzburger Nockerl. The dessert's three dumplings represent the city's surrounding hillsides Festungsberg, Mönchsberg and Kapuzinerberg. We wandered around the Old Town some more, eventually stumbling on Salzburg’s modern art museum, the Museum der Moderne. From the front it seems as though you’re entering a building, but then once inside you walk down a tunnel and immediately enter an elevator that seems to ride up for longer than it should. Once you get to the top, you realize you’ve ridden to the top of the cliff face directly behind the building out front and you are greeted by stunning views of the city (this time including the fortress in the view) from above. After walking through the museum’s floors, we made our way back toward the center of the Old Town to Mozart’s birth house. The museum offers a glimpse into Mozart’s life from birth to death, tells the story of his family, and presents some of the rooms of the house as they were in the 18th century. You even get to see some instruments from the time period!
At this point we were getting hungry so we crossed the river and grabbed dinner at Johanneskellar where Rico had a deconstructed chicken gyro and Britt had pan-fried potatoes and mixed veggies with tzatziki. It was easily one of the best meals we’d had in a while! That said, we couldn’t finish the night without some dessert, so we stopped by Cafe Fürst on our way back to the hotel to indulge in a chocolate crème puff, marmalade donut, cinnamon nut croissant, chestnut cake and chocolate crème cake. Now we know why Austrians appreciate their cafe culture!
We woke up the morning of our last day to it snowing outside! It was truly magical to see the city dusted with a coating of snow. Excited to get out and explore some more, we made our way to breakfast, which—you guessed it—consisted of a brioche kipferl and scrambled eggs with sausage at Cafe Tomaselli. First up was DomQuartier, the complex of the city’s state rooms and cathedral. It was an especially picturesque visit as all of the views out of the large windows looked like paintings of a light snowfall in a charming little city. We eventually made our way to the outdoor panoramic view from the balcony linking the state rooms with the cathedral. After enjoying the views from there, we entered the second level of the cathedral which offered a grand view of the church. On this occasion our visit coincided with a live mass which we enjoyed for a while from this vantage point. There are some things that can be enjoyed whether you understand the language or not.
After the tour we recharged with pretzels and dessert-for-lunch at Cafe Tomaselli, where Rico had a raspberry crème cake and Britt had a cheese crème cake. With not much time left, we took one last walk around the Old Town, finding our souvenirs to take back (a small hand-painted view of the city in winter tones and a couple of hand-painted eggs from Christmas in Salzburg).
Not able to delay the inevitable, we walked to the bus stop and grabbed the bus back to the airport where we boarded our plane back to London. We fell in love with Salzburg in the short time we were there and hope we find ourselves back someday!