29 March 2012

Salzburg, Austria - Day 14

Following an hour's drive from Filzmoos,we arrived at Hotel Goldener Hirsch, situated on the longest shopping strip in the old town of Salzburg. The hotel dates back to 1407 and throughout its 600 years of history it has been an inn until the mid-1900s when it was privately acquired and turned into a five star establishment. The interior reflects more of a hunting lodge, characterized by the jumping deer embroidered into the linen, deer heads decorating the walls and filled with local antique furniture which the patron collected over the years.

A UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site the city of Salzburg is divided by the Salzach River with the old historic town on one side and the new town on the other. Mostly pedestrianized, the old town is a combination of narrow streets and large squares. It is filled with churches, museums and high-end retailers.

Rooftops of Salzburg's Old town.

Retailers' signs on one of the longest and busiest streets in Salburg's Old Town.

With Mozart having spent his first 17 years here, the town is rampant with all things Mozart, be it Mozart Cafe, chocolate, museum, house, concerts, bridge and so on. Of course with Sound of Music having put Salzburg on the map in the 1960s, you will also find Sound of Music tours and theatre plays. Most surprising was the high quantity of retailers dedicated to traditional folk garb for both children and adults alike.

All things Mozart.

Child's folk dress.

The outstanding feature in Salzburg is Fortress Hohensalzburg which proudly stands on a rocky outcrop some 524m above the town.

In dire need to change Singaporean dollars we were somewhat taken aback by the local bank teller who was first checking that our 100 dollar notes were legit and secondly whether he was allowed to actually purchase them. Not a common currency for exchange the bank teller did some more checking for counterfeit signs, whilst John and I are wondering if we should start feeling like criminals or not.  I offered my passport in order to prove that we are genuine and after a third check for the legitimacy of the currency, the teller finally acquired permission to do business with us. 

Emerging from the bank we headed straight for the rows of horses and carriages to fulfil on a promise to Trini.  With excitement and delight in Trini's eyes we enjoyed a half hour ride in an open carriage drawn by two horses with blankets draped across our legs. It felt so authentic, so European and so old world.  Being a first experience for all three of us it made it extra special.

John settling Trini into the carriage.

One of the major attractions in town is the Dom Cathedral. An imposing church, it was first built in the 8th century and completely rebuilt after a fire in 1628 in Baroque architecture. Built to accommodate 10,000 worshippers (more than the town's population), the interior of this church is breathtaking. It is a compilation of frescoes, sculptures, a main organ and four smaller ones. Sculptures of the patron saints decorate the facade of the church. Here I lit a candle in memory of my deceased mother.  Explaining to Trini what I was doing, she very much wanted to light her own candle for the grandma she never had the chance to meet.

Dom Cathedral

Trini getting friendly with the cherub.

Dom Cathedral's altar.

Stunningly detailed fresco.

On a whim, I entered the Franciscan Church, which according to our travel guide, as a Romanesque mixed with Gothic architecture is vastly out of place in Baroque Salzburg. Hence my curiosity and need to take a peek. I was not disappointed, particularly with the presbytery's tall tower and star vault.

Star vault.

Following a coffee and cake pitstop, we take on the local toy store. A double storey building, we oohed and aaahed at the different collections of toys. Of course Barbie, Thomas the Tank and Lego were readily available. We found our favorite Schleich collection of princesses, fairies and dinosaurs and were pleased to find items that are not available in Singapore or Australia. We added a couple of travel jigsaw puzzles of Snow White and a little princess trinket box for our very own Princess TinTin.

Satisfied with her play time at the Thomas table, flying pteranodons, fighting T-Rexs and having her dolly moments, we ambled across the river on the footbridge and took a short walk around the main sites of new town.

Here we wondered through Makart square where the luxurious Hotel Bristol with it's Baroque facade resides opposite another of Mozart's homes. In the northeast corner is the Roman influenced architecture of the Holy Trinity church, dated late 17th century. The sculptures of Faith, Love, Hope and the Church crown the facade of the building.

Old town Salzburg with Fortress Hohensalzburg in the background.

Dinner in the hotel's restaurant was an exquisite experience. Waited on by silver service staff, we indulged in gravy topped eye fillet with parsley potatoes and vegetables and crispy young duckling cooked to perfection (crispy skin and super moist meat). Our meals were accompanied by Austrian red wine, which we have been drinking throughout our trip. Typically rouge in colour and softer on the palate as opposed to the deep red wines we are usually accustomed to.

Tomorrow we look forward to exploring Fortress Hohensalzburg.