Travelling through Austria: Salzburg.

Salzburg. The city of the classical composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791). Home to the renowned Salzburg Festival, an annual cultural event held in July and August, with music and drama and the play Jedermann (Everymann) by Hugo von Hofmannsthal as the annual highlight. A city with magnificent architecture and many great Baroque examples. The shooting location of the classic movie The Sound of Music that isn’t even that famous or popular in Austria. Apparently Salzburg is a place for everyone during every season. Despite actually liking The Sound of Music a lot, my last visit to this town was during a school visit around 10 years ago. So a while ago. At the end of summer I decided that it was time to change that. I hopped on a train and spent an afternoon in Salzburg and also met up with a friend of mine (Moscow Reunion #?).

The city

Salzburg is close to the border with Germany, and is divided by the river Salzach. The Oldtown underneath the Mönchsberg and the Hohensalzburg Fortress is located on the left side of the river, whereas the ‘New Town’ is on the right side, south of the Kapuzinerberg. With a population of around 150,000 people the city is the fourth largest one in Austria (after Vienna, Graz, and Linz). It is also the capital city of the federal province Salzburg. The city’s name derives from ‘salt castle’ and comes from the salt mining done around the city.

Salzburg actually has quite a long & rich history, reaching back to the Stone Age. Key events that made the region and city important happened during the Middle Ages, especially in the Baroque times of the 17th and 18th century when many great buildings were erected. A former independent country – a prince-bishopric of the Holy Roman Empire with Salzburg as the seat of the Archbishopric – Salzburg was annexed to the Habsburg Monarchy in 1816 because the Archbishops lost their secular power as a result of the Napoleonic wars and lost much of its economical cultural prosperity. At the end of the 19th century the city was finally able to recover, and after WW1 the famous Salzburg Festival was founded. It started to become a fashionable place to be during summer, especially because of this event. The city became a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site in honour of the unique baroque architecture in 1997. Besides that and being the home of Mozart and the shooting location of The Sound of Music there is a lot to discover in Salzburg – the rich art scene, the many restaurants and cafés, manicured parks, and the narrow streets with many shops and boutiques make it a wonderful place. And the many tourists that venture to this city can agree with me on that. Salzburg is Austria’s second most visited city after Vienna.

The sights

After arriving at the central train station one of the first sights that one encounters en route to the old town is the Mirabell Palace. The name derives from mirabile & bella – admirable & beautiful – and is a perfect description for the palace and its garden if you ask me. Erected in 1606 for the archbishop and his mistress as a pleasure palace, it can now be booked for weddings and is also home to municipal offices.

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The Mirabell Garden in its underlying geometric form (typical for Baroque) is perfect for taking a stroll on a warm sunny afternoon. And on all other days as well. It is one of the shooting locations of The Sound of Music movie. Sounding like a modern fairy tale but it actually happened: the story of the Trapp family. A young woman leaves a convent to become the governess to the seven children of a Naval officer widower in the 1930s. They get married (surprise surprise), found a family choir, emigrate to the US (because of the growing popularity of the Nazis in Austria) and gain international success and fame. The ‘Sound of Music’ movie portrays this story, and even won five oscars. It is loaded with stereotypes about Austrian people, and no, we (the Austrian people) don’t sing that much.

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Crossing the Salzach via the pedestrian bridge (that always reminds me of the Harry Potter Bridge – the Millenium Bridge in London – even though it has no similarity to it at all) one already gets a glimpse of the old town with its baroque buildings and of course the Hohensalzburg Castle on top of the Festungsberg. This is one of the largest medieval castles in Europe and was built in the early 11th century. My friend Viktoria and I decided not to go up there and spend the afternoon in the old town instead.

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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born and grew up in this city, visitors bump into Mozart around almost every corner of Salzburg. Almost the entire old town is a walkable Mozart museum: his birthplace, former residence, a monument, the grave of his sister and so on. In my opinion both his former residence and birthplace are rather unspectacular from the outside (I’ve never been inside though), but it’s still a tourist attraction nonetheless. The funny thing to me was that in the house of his birthplace there is now a super fancy looking supermarket that is actually just a regular one.

One of the most pompous places in Salzburg is the Residenzplatz, a large square in the historic centre. Its name derives from the residence of the Prince-Archbishops of Salzburg. The Salzburg Cathedral, founded in 774 and rebuilt in the 12th c., is located in the south and the Alte Reisdenz in the west. There is also the Neue Residenz with a bell tower, a Renaissance building that was erected in the 16th century. Also around the corner is the rather prominent statue of a huge gold ball on top of which a man is standing. This is part of an art installation – the Sphaera – by the German sculptor Stephan Balkenhol.

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The food & sweets

A restaurant chain that was founded in Salzburg is my Indigo. They offer food that is healthy, versatile and perfect for those that do not have that much time to eat but still want to grab something healthy for lunch or dinner. Sushi, salads, curries, and soups are on their menu. Many of their dishes are either vegetarian or vegan, and they also have a lot of gluten-free options as well. I went for a vegan curry (low carb option – so with more veggies and no rice or couscous) and it was truly delicious. Feel good food for everyone. The restaurant that we went to is located near Staatsbrücke on Rudolfskai, and is open Mo–Sa 11:00–23:00 & So 12:00–21:00.

The go-to souvenir and typical confectionary of Austria – the Mozartkugel – has its origin in Salzburg. The small round confection made of pistachio marzipan, nougat, and dark chocolate was first created by the Salzburg confectioner Paul Fürst in 1890, then known as Mozart-Bonbon. Fürst’s descendants still manufacture this confectionary and sell it in their bakery in the heart of the old town. For 1.30€ per piece one can buy one of those and go into Mozart-heaven. Even if one doesn’t like marzipan (I don’t) one should definitely try them at least once.

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A coffee and a piece of cake is a must in a city like Salzburg. The Café Fingerlos is a great place for doing that. It’s a very typical and rather traditional coffee house (actually it’s a patisserie and confectionary) that also offers breakfast and lunch. They have a great assortment of cakes that look really exquisite which makes it the perfect location for a person with a sweet tooth like me. Oh, and they even have a vegan cake of the day, so of course I had to try this one with a cup of good old-fashioned ‘Verlängerter’ (a typical Austrian coffee – espresso prepared with double amount of water).

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The bottom line

Unfortunately, Salzburg faces a similar problem as Prague, Venice, Barcelona and many other places do. Like them, Salzburg has too many tourists and no added value is created for the city (because of the types of tourists coming to the city and the way they consume hardly anything to nothing). The city reports many traffic jams and most of the parking lots are occupied because of the hoards of tourists coming to the city. Many tourists are brought to the city via organised bus tours and only spend 2-3 hours in the city and don’t consume much but still overcrowd the historic old town. Many of the locals avoid going to this place at certain points of the day because of the many tourists. (read more about the problem here)

This should in no way discourage you from visiting this beautiful city though. However, I must admit that this was also a reason for me why I haven’t visited this city in such a long time: everyone’s always talking about the hoard of tourists roaming the city, making it less enjoyable. Nevertheless, I like the city, especially because of its wonderful architecture. I’d never want to live there though, but for a day visit it’s a great place. And you should pick a weekday and not a weekend to visit, there are definitely less people there. Oh, and it helps if it’s a rather gloomy day :)

Here’s my favourite Sound of Music song. I couldn’t withhold it from you. A great end to a blogpost, don’t you think? Enjoy. ;)

 

 

 

Travelling through Austria: Klagenfurt.

My boyfriend’s grandparents live in Kärnten (Carinthia), one of Austria’s nine provinces, so it was the perfect opportunity for me/us to pay a visit to the capital of the region and have ‘locals’ with us who could tell us stories about basically everything. Kärnten is the southernmost province of Austria, and most famous for its mountains and lakes. The city has a population of around 99,100 and is the 6th largest city in Austria (= not very big). It was my first time in Klagenfurt. Technically not the first time though as I have been to the train station a couple of times now, but train stations don’t really count, do they?!

In order to get from my parent’s home to Klagenfurt, you need to take a train (or three to be precise). The most beautiful way to travel is to take the train that goes through the alps. Admittedly, a train takes forever and it stops at almost every station, but you also get to see the beautiful mountains and nature.

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Benedictine Market

After arriving in Klagenfurt we drove straight to the city centre. Our first stop was at the Benedictine Market, a place where you can buy local food twice a week. On Monday there’s no market, but as there are two small market halls where you can go shopping as well, we had a look at it and opted for delicious fresh-made juices at a fruit & veggie stand.

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Neuer Platz with Lindwurm fountain

The Neuer Platz is the place where you can find the city’s famous landmark – the Lindwurm – and the Maria Theresia Monument. I’ve always wanted to see the Lindwurm and I must say I was not disappointed at all.

The Lindworm statue was erected in 1593, the fountain was added to it in 1624, the statue of Hercules in 1636. A legend says that there used to live a lindworm – a wingless dragon – in the swamps of Carinthia in the early 13th century. In order to be able to use the land for villages etc, a duke offered whomever killed the worm a high prize. A bunch of menials put a bull with a barbed hook near the worm, who devoured the bull along with the hook. The worm was unable to flee, the menials could then kill the Lindworm and win the duke’s prize.

As there is some truth behind every saga, there actually existed a duke who erected a village (which is now Klagenfurt) in the 13th century, which used to be a moor landscape full of ‘dangerous’ creatures such as boars and wolves. They also found a huge skull who was believed to belong to a lindworm. In the 19th century however it was pointed out that the skull was of a woolly rhinoceros :D

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Pedestrian zone Kramergasse

Our next ‘station’ was Austrian’s first pedestrian zone (since 1961) and oldest street of Klagenfurt. A special shop on this street was the bookstore Heyn, home of two black cats that stroll around in the bookstore and look at you with big yellow eyes. So cute!

Wörthersee Mandl
The Wörthersee Mandl – a small fountain with a gnome – is located on the Kramergasse. It was created in 1962 by the artist and sculptor Heinz Goll.

The gnome and the fountain represent the saga of how the Wörthersee came into existence: There used to be a big, rich city where the Wörthersee is now. The wealth didn’t agree with the residents and they became careless and wanton. On one festive occasion there appeared a gnome who called for reflection, but the residents didn’t want to listen. The gnome returned with a small barrel, from which an endless stream of water started to flow, drowning the city with all its inhabitants. That’s how the Wörthersee came into existence.

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Alter Platz

The Alter Platz is surrounded by houses and city Palais, which were built in the 16th and 17th century, making it one of the oldest sections of downtown Klagenfurt. On the west side of the place is the oldest chronicled building of the city – the house ‘Zur Goldenen Gans’, built in 1489. The facade is not very spectacular, but a golden goose thrones above the entranceway.

In the centre of the square is the Column of Trinity, also known as Plague Column, which was erected as a plague column somewhere else in the city in 1689, after the victory over the Turks a half-moon and a cross were added and relocated to the Alter Platz.

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Kärntner Landhaus

The Kärntner Landhaus was built between 1574 and 1594, with a Renaissance facade, is home of the Heraldic Hall with 665 crests of Carinthian nobility, governors and administrators. It is also home of the Carinthian ‘Landtag’ (the seat of the State Assembly).

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Patios

Another beautiful aspect of the provincial capital Klagenfurt is that there are many lovely patios that are open to the public. You can walk through them, sometimes you find a cute little café in there, sometimes there are just trees, benches and birds to be found there.

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klagenfurt_patio

Wörthersee

Last but definitely not least – the Wörthersee (Lake Wörth). 17 kilometres long and 1.5 km wide, and apparently the warmest of the large Alpine lakes. The lake is situated within the Klagenfurt Basin, flanked by the Gurktal Alps and the Karawanks. Along the shoreline of the lake, there is everything that one desires – from many gourmet restaurants to traditional wine taverns. Due to this and the Mediterranean climate and the clean warm waters, thousands of tourists come here every year to enjoy the beautiful lake.

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The day in Klagenfurt was well spent – we saw many beautiful spots and enjoyed a delicious meal at a restaurant next to the Wörthersee. We also visited the Minimundus miniature land, but I will talk about it and other things that I did while staying in Carinthia in (a) future blog post(s). So stay tuned! ;)

Visitors in Copenhagen: Family edition.

I had my second visitors in town: my sister and my cousin! They came to stay for a few days at my place in Copenhagen. Ergo: a lot of sightseeing for me ;) I took them to some of the most touristy places in town – ’cause that’s what a tour guide is for, right? :P As I had an exam going on at the time and my health wasn’t up to par, I made them wander around by themselves for a bit and also shipped them off to Malmö for one day. Here’s what we did in Copenhagen and which places we went to  in Copenhagen.

Kongens Have

Kongens Have, a beautiful garden with the Rosenborg Slot (Rosenborg Castle), is a nice place to go for a walk when the sun is shining.It happened to be a very nice first day for my visitors so I took them straight to this garden (on foot from Christianshavn – and yes, we stopped on Slotsholmen, went up the tower and had a great view over the city).

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H.C. Andersen statue

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Typical tourist picture ;)

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SPRING! :)

Nyhavn

Where else to go but from Kongens Have to Nyhavn, as it is almost ‘around the corner’?!

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so many people!!

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Amalienborg & Frederiks Kirke

Amalienborg is the home of the Danish royal family. The Evangelical Lutheran Frederik’s Church has the largest church dome in Scandinavia. I haven’t been to either of them, so there was something new for me too! :)

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Copenhagen Opera House

Snack and Food Time

A trip to another country usually includes eating local food and snacks, and trying local alcohol. However, as hardly anyone from Austria likes the *disgusting* liquorish stuff from the North, my sister and cousin went for more ‘normal’ options such as chips and beer ;) However, they bought ‘Flæskesvær’ (Pork rinds) by ‘mistake’ , which they wouldn’t recommend to anyone :D

As I did not go home for the Easter holidays, my visitors brought a few nice things from home – Milka chocolate, Austrian wine, Austrian liqueur and… Easter Eggs :D So I got to have my own little Easter breakfast after all (even though it was a few days late).

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The Little Mermaid

Of course, a visit to the little mermaid had to be part of the trip. My sister even said that the mermaid looked bigger than she’d expected as everyone had told her not to expect anything big :D

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Mermaid

Kastellet

Another part of the town that I haven’t been to before was the Kastellet. This is one of the best preserved star fortresses in Scandinavia and located ‘right next’ to the Little Mermaid. There are also a church (which looked a bit strange though) and a beautiful windmill on the grounds of the Kastellet.

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The Rows – former barracks for soldiers

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Paper Island Street Food

If you are a recurring reader of my blog, you probably noticed my love for food markets (mentioned here and here) ;) So I had to take my guests to Papirøen, right? Too bad that we picked a Saturday evening for doing so. There were so many people and we had to wait forever to get our food and get a table. We sat right next to one of the entrances so there was a constant air draugt… The food was nice tough ;) And the sunset was beautiful as well!

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I had a lovely time with my sister and cousin even though I still had to finish an exam for a course… But they are grown-ups, they managed to spend a few hours without me :)

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