Salzburg is known as one of the most beautiful places in Austria. It is also known as the birthplace of that composer, Mozart. Heard of him? Oh, and also The Sound of Music – a childhood favourite!
This was my first trip with Peiwen, who invited me to join her and her friend Angela, from Taiwan.
I remember catching the train at about 6am that morning, after a night partying with the Erasmus students. I was completely exhausted, but stayed awake for the most of the train ride because the scenery on the way from Graz to Salzburg was just so beautiful. I didn’t want to miss a moment of it.
Peiwen and Angela picked me up from the train station, and brought me to our flat which we had found via Couchsurfing. We cut through Mirabell Palace and Gardens, with its baroque gardens which was featured in The Sound of Music.
After lunch with our host at a surprisingly good Asian buffet restaurant, we headed to St. Wolfgang im Salzkammergut, a pretty long bus ride from Salzburg Altstadt (Old Town).
St. Wolfgang is an idyllic market town which has a similar feel as Hallstatt.
The highlight of the trip to St. Wolfgang was Wolfgangsee. As with the name of the town, it is named after St. Wolfgang of Regensburg, who built the first church there by the lake.
The church was pretty creepy. I stepped in, and immediately out because I felt something. Have I mentioned, I believe I can feel the presence of ghosts pretty strongly?
We left as night fell, and it was awfully cold as we waited for the bus. My leather jacket just didn’t cut it.
The next day, we woke up early to take a trip to Eisriesenwelt – the world’s largest natural limestone ice cave, which is situated in Werfen, about 40km away from Salzburg.
We were lucky to be in Salzburg at that time, as the cave was just about to be closed in a couple of days for the winter. It was such an amazing experience! Definitely the highlight of my trip to Salzburg.
Getting to the cable car that brings us closer to the cave can be quite a journey. From the Werfen train station, there is a van which shuttles passengers to the ticketing office, which is a distance up the mountain. Then, with the ticket, you then take the cable car until you are 1586m up the mountain.
Once you get off the cable car, it is an arduous climb up the mountain to the mouth of the cave. However, the view makes it far less painful. This was the first time I truly fell in love with mountains. I was just in awe. The view is spectacular and the colours in fall are just so vibrant.
At the entrance of the cave, we waited for the English tour to start. We were each handed a lamp with a small fire to light our way through the ice cave. Entering the cave, a huge gust of wind is expected due to the difference in temperature between the inside and the outside. My lamp had to be relit again. That rush of cold wind nearly blew my beanie off.
No photographs are allowed inside the cave, and they are really strict about this. Peiwen snuck a few, but I shall not post them here. The ice formations, such as the stalagmites and stalactites in the cave are really amazing. The total length of the cave is over 40km, and the one hour tour involves climbing lots of stairs in zero degree temperature. Needless to say, bring your gloves, wear thick socks and the appropriate clothing when visiting.
After the tour, we saw a few other tourists taking photos on a bench which sits precariously on the side of the mountain. No way we were going to miss this awesome photo opportunity!
Getting off, I almost fell to my death. The photographer kindly snapped that exact moment for me. Also photographed – Peiwen laughing at me. Thanks.
We left Werfen for Salzburg Altstadt.
Mozart is pretty much a big deal in Salzburg. You can find Mozart’s geburtshaus (birthplace) and wohnhaus (residence).
We went for dinner at Stieglkeller. The restaurant is quite famous in Salzburg, and offers delicious Austrian cuisine and beer. It also has outdoor terraces which offer an amazing view of the Old Town. Otherwise, you may choose to sit indoors in their elaborately decorated halls.
I ordered the Salzburger Fiakergulasch mit Semmelknödel, Spiegelei, Grillwürstel & Gurkerl (traditional beef goulash with dumplings, fried egg & grilled sausage). At just €12, it was totally worth it. My only complaint would be that it was too salty. But then again, I don’t usually add salt to anything. I survived my entire exchange without buying salt or sugar!
Dom zu Salzburg (Salzburg Cathedral)
After dinner, we took a walk up Hohensalzburg Festung (fortress), which is located on a hill above the city.
The view of the city is really spectacular. My photo does no justice.
To end the day, we decided to indulge in some traditional Salzburg desserts at Café Mozart. We ordered the Salzburger Nockerl, which is a soufflé-like dessert that is a specialty of the city. It is always made fresh, so our dessert took about 15 minutes to arrive, but it was worth it. It was unlike anything I’ve ever eaten. Under the golden dumplings is a berry compote.
We also ordered Topfenstrudel mit heißen Himbeeren (Topfen strudel with hot raspberry sauce). Topfen, or quark, is a soft cheese that I fell in love with when I got to Graz. It also happens to be healthy (if not sweetened) and is a good source of protein!
Topfenstrudel mit heißen Himbeeren
The desserts and the service at Café Mozart is great! We had a good chat with some of the waiters there, and even took a photo with one!
The next day, we visited another place where The Sound of Music was filmed – Schloss Leopoldskron. The route to the castle was extremely scenic. As usual, the Festung is visible from a distance, as it sits pretty above the town.
It was a great stroll to start the day.
Next, we headed to Schloss Hellbrunn. Peiwen had previously visited the palace, so Angela and I went in. She didn’t want to spoil the surprise of this magical place, but when I found out it was known for its Wasserspiele (trick fountains), I pretty much expected that I wouldn’t come out dry.
Once the summer palace of the Archbishops of Salzburg, the palace and its gardens were largely used for celebrations. Markus Sittikus, Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg, was a man with a sense of humour. He built the trick fountains to play practical tricks on his guests.
Steintheater (Stone Theater)
Needless to say, I did not volunteer for anything.
Throughout the tour, I was repeatedly caught off-guard by sprinklers that suddenly came to life from the least expected of places.
Sometimes, you just have no choice but to walk through such paths (as pictured above). This one was my favourite. But I shan’t spoil the surprise!
Schloss Hellbrunn is definitely a place for family and friends to have a good laugh. And also to laugh at complete strangers.
Within the compound, there is also a zoo. However, coming from Singapore, I thought it wouldn’t be worth it to pay it a visit, considering it will take a lot to beat the Singapore Zoo! We decided to climb a small hill to take a panoramic look of the palace grounds instead.
After Schloss Hellbrunn, we headed back to the Old Town to have some food at another popular café – Café Tomaselli, which is a traditional Viennese coffee house, and the oldest in Salzburg. The café itself is over a hundred years old, having acquired another that was opened in 1705. It is also said that Mozart used to have his almond milk here.
The waitress goes around with a cart of cakes to choose from. I chose the chocolate and marroni torte, and we also had Apfelstrudel and Eszterházy torta. All were scrumptious!
Chocolate and marroni torte
Eszterházy torta – Vanilla cream, cinnamon and walnut cake
The café also offers fragrant Viennese coffee and so many other variants I never heard about until I got to Austria. They really love their coffee!
After coffee and cakes, we set out to find the original Mozartkugel, which is a chocolate bonbon that was created by the Salzburg confectioner, Paul Fürst, in the 1800s. However, since the confectionery Fürst does not own a trademark for Mozartkugeln, there are numerous imitations out there, such as the gold ones you find everywhere. DO NOT BUY THOSE. Please, please look for Fürst if you are in Salzburg. Even though pretty pricey, I highly recommend giving it a try. As a true chocolate-lover, it receives my stamp of approval.
die Original Salzburger Mozartkugeln from Cafe-Konditorei Fürst
The difference between the quality of the chocolate and marzipan is obvious. Think Godiva versus Hershey’s. The original Mozartkugeln has a chocolate-hazelnut nougat creme core with a small piece of marzipan, and is coated in dark chocolate. Two thumbs up! So, go for the silver, not gold!
We continued to walk around the Old Town, and looked for the famous Bosna. Yes, more eating! Bosna is like the Austrian version of the hot dog bun.
We ordered the original, which has onion, parsley and curry powder sprinkled on top. It was delicious, but I think the Americans win this time.
Salzburg is truly an amazing city, and remains one of my most memorable trips. I would definitely return again if I had the chance. I got to see beautiful architecture, savour the traditional foods of the city, see the best nature has to offer and most importantly, got to know more about the history of Salzburg.
Until we meet again.