Viking River Christmas market cruise continues to Salzburg, Austria
|Welcome to Salzburg, Austria! All photography is the property of EuroTravelogue™ unless noted. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
Early in the morning on the third day of our Danube Waltz Christmas market cruise with Viking River Cruises, I woke in the middle of night to see that we had already docked in Linz, Austria. I peeked outside the cabin for a glimpse of our new surrounds only to find a dazzling display of light—an illuminated building on the other side of the Danube casting vibrant hues of alternating neon colors—a stunning welcome to Linz I thought to myself. As it turned out, I was admiring the Institute of Computer Graphics. They sure know how to dazzle! My thoughts then wandered off to the day that lie ahead—our journey to the hills alive with the sound of music—Salzburg, Austria. Mostly known for its starring role in the "Sound of Music," Salzburg is also the birthplace of the celebrated composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, as well as its namesake festival that takes place every summer starting in July—the Salzburg Festival of music and drama! Join me on this tour through the beautiful city of Salzburg, Austria, another exciting day onboard Viking River Cruises.
|I woke up to this dazzling neon display of vibrant alternating hues illuminating the Institute of Computer Graphics in Linz, Austria.|
|Alpine grandeur in Austria. This shot taken at a rest area en route to Salzburg.|
Our day began with a two-hour bus ride from Linz through the idyllic Austrian countryside. Along the way, we listened to our guide Birgit as she explained about the geology of the land we were driving through [something of particular interest since this was my co-major in college] as well as some of the most significant sights just beyond the window panes. After an hour or so, we stopped at what is surely one of the nicest rest areas I have ever seen—overlooking a sparkling lake set against the foothills of the Alps—dramatic settings to set the mood for the day.
|Matthew and I pause to take in the stunning Alpine scenery at the rest stop en route to Salzburg.|
As we motored along, Birgit pointed out Lake Mondsee or Moon Lake, the site where Maria and the Von Trapp children were riding along on their bicycles in the "Sound of Music." Within the city proper, is Saint Michael's, the glorious church where Maria and Baron von Trapp exchanged their wedding vows followed by the harmonies of the pealing bells celebrating this long-awaited union.
Mirabell Palace and Gardens
|Spectacular view of Mirabell Gardnes, the Salzburg Cathedral and rising above it all, the magnificent Festung Hohensalzburg. Photo: Property of Tourismus Salzburg.|
We began our walking tour through the exquisite grounds of the Mirabell Palace Gardens—where Maria and the Von Trapp children sang "Do Re Mi" near the Pegasus sculpture (on the left side of the Mirabell Palace as seen in the photo below), one of many sculptures based on classical mythology that you'll find in the parterre. Surrounding them, are the geometric patterns carved into the grasses but absent were the vibrant blooms due to the time of year we visited. The Mirabell Palace was built in 1606 and the renovated a couple of time since, but it's the 1818 Neoclassical façade that we see today, the result of a palace's reconstruction after a devastating fire. The gardens were added in 1730.
|Mirabell Palace and Gardens even looks beautiful in the wintertime.|
|Locks of Love adorn the railings along the Makartsteg pedestrian bridge.|
Continuing our journey to the Domplatz or Cathedral Square where the Christmas market awaited, we first had to cross over the Salzach River from the New Town to the Old via the Makartsteg pedestrian bridge named after a 19th-century Viennese artist Hans Makart. Along its rails were hundreds and hundreds of the romantic locks of love. I think every city has an array of these these and I personally love to encounter them along my journeys. While crossing over the bridge, our guide Birgit pointed to another bridge, Salzburg's most significant actually, the Staatsbrücke (public bridge) to our left as we crossed. Actually the 10th bridge built at this location, the Staatsbrücke was completed by forced Nazi slave labor from Eastern Europe from 1939 and continuing through the end of WWII. It finally opened in 1948. Today, a commemorative plaque that tells of their plight hangs in honor of each and every one of them. Let us never forget.
|The Staatsbrücke or Public Bridge to our left as we crossed the Salzach River is the 10th bridge to stand at this location and was completed by forced Nazi slave labor from Eastern Europe beginning in from 1939 through the WWII.|
Salzburg Cathedral and Christmas Market
|Salzburg Cathedral in the center of Altstadt or Old Town. Photo: WikiMedia.org.|
Finally we reached the Domplatz or the Salzburg Cathedral Square and its festive chalets of its Christkindlmarkt filling the public spaces. But before we get to the Christmas market, let's take a closer look at the cathedral. Most of this magnificent Baroque edifice dates to the 17th century, however, a church has stood upon this hallowed ground since 767. Despite having fallen victim to a bombing raid in 1944 when the dome was destroyed, the cathedral underwent renovations and was re-consecrated in 1959. We briefly toured the highly ornate interiors and exquisite sculptures. When you go, don't miss the baptismal font that dates to 1321, the lions supporting are two centuries older yet—this is where Mozart was baptized.
|As the sign states, Herzlich Willkommen to the Salzburg Christkindlmarkt in the Domplatz!|
|Just one of many of the festive chalets in the Salzburg Christmas market. I still can't get over the oh-so-Christmassy gifts on display.|
|More festive decorations.|
Outside, we meandered through the festive Salzburg Christmas Market where rows upon rows of Alpine chalets brimming with Christmas gifts and tantalizing tastes of deliciousness awaited. As we walked, it occurred to me that this was certainly the most colorful of all the Christmas markets we visited during our European Christmas market cruise.
|A Christmas trove of handcrafted gifts at the Salzburg Christmas Market.|
|More Christmas gifts and a cute little shop just beyond the Cathedral Square.|
Saint Peter Restaurant
|Saint Peter Stiftskeller, founded in 803, is Europe's oldest restaurant. Photo: tl505s.|
Lunchtime drew near and we were due to meet our Viking Social Team at St. Peter Stiftskeller, the oldest restaurant in Europe founded in 803. Once inside the entrance, it was like a Christmas wonderland full of trees and twinkling lights. As we made our way upstairs, magnificently appointed rooms with ornate décor presented themselves; the place was a spectacle of sheer elegance and the delicious food and service impeccable.
|Just one of the many elegantly appointed dining rooms inside Saint Peter restaurant in Salzburg.|
|Exquisite holiday decor.|
|But the piece de resistance was this stunning Christmas tree in Saint Peter's grand ballroom.|
|The incredible "Sphaera" was created by artist Stephan Balkenhol in 2007.|
After lunch, we toured the Kapitelplatz or Chapter Square which eventually leads to a funicular that will take you to the top of Mönchsberg for a tour of the magnificent fortress that is Festung Hohensalzburg. Along the way, it's difficult not to notice an unusual golden orb with a little man at the top—"Sphaera," a work of art by Stephan Balkenhol in 2007 as part of the 10-year program launched by a consortium of art benefactors who organized one piece of contemporary art to be installed throughout the city every year beginning in 2002. Its counterpart is the "Woman in the Cliff" which can be seen at the Felsenreitschule or Summer Riding School.
|The Felsenreitschule or Riding School is where the Von Trapp Family Singers performed their final songs at the end of the "Sound of Music." Photo: Tourismus Salzburg.|
Speaking of the Felsenreitschule, this just happens to be the arena where the Von Trapp Family Singers performed their last few songs in Austria at the end of the "Sound of Music." As we walked by, you'd never realize the giant arena lies concealed behind such an ordinary and dull exterior. Built in 1693, this was the site of the quarry that supplied stone for the Salzburg Cathedral in the Domplatz.
Saint Peter's Abbey and Cemetery
|The Baroque cupola of Saint Peter's Abbey in Salzburg, Austria.|
|The Margaret Chapel inside Saint Peter's Cemetery, just beyond the Kapitelplatz.|
Continuing our journey and located just beyond the Kapitelplatz, we toured Saint Peter's Abbey and Cemetery which played key role in the "Sound of Music." Within the cemetery, you'll find highly ornamental tomb stones, the Margaret Chapel and the catacombs carved into the rock overhead. Look carefully to the background in the photo below and you will see the gated alcoves where Maria and the Von Trapps hid from Rolf in the Abbey near the end of the movie.
|If you look to the back of this image, the lower arcade is where Maria and the Von Trapps hid in the Abbey. Just above are the catacombs. Photo: Wikimedia.org.|
|Another view inside Saint Peter's Cemetery. To the right in the image above, you'll see the arcade again used in the "The Sound of Music" and the catacombs overhead.|
We made our way back to the Christkindlmarkt for a while before making returning to our Viking group's meeting point at Mozart's Birthplace. Along the way, we had to stop by Fürst, the home of Mozartkugel or Mozart Balls—delectable confections of deliciousness filled with marzipan and pistachio surrounded by nougat and finally dipped into milk chocolate—little bites of heaven! Created in 1890 by a Salzburg confectioner, Paul Fürst, the Salzburger Mozartkugel had achieved world renown at the 1905 Paris Exhibition. Today, Norbert Fürst, Paul's great grandson, is the proprietor who still makes the chocolate balls according to the original recipe and because of this, they can be called the "Original Salzburger Mozartkugel!
The smallest house in Salzburg
Have you ever seen the smallest house in Salzburg? Most tourists walk on by without ever noticing this little gem tucked in the middle of the Alter Markt or "Old Market." You can find it on your way from the Domplatz or Cathedral Square to the Getreidegasse, Salzburg's premier shopping street.
|The smallest house in Salzburg can be found in the Alter Market or Old Market square tucked between the Domplatz and Getreidegasse shopping street also the location of Mozart's birthplace.|
|Having fun with the living statues in Salzburg. Here's Matthew with a floating Mozart?|
|The Mozart family occupied the third floor of the house at Getreidegasse 9.|
Our tour comes to an end at Mozart's Birthplace located at number 9 Getreidegasse, Salzburg's premier shopping street. The Mozart family occupied the third floor (the fourth floor if you're an American) of this vibrant yellow building from 1747 to 1773; Salzburg's favorite son was born here January 27, 1756. Today, their apartment and the floor below house the Mozart Birthplace museum.
|Salzburg's renowned shopping street of Getreidegasse.|
|The magnificent Festung Hohensalzburg or Salzburg Castle houses three museums and can be reached via the funicular seen above and to the right of the image.|
Perched atop the Mönchsberg and looming over Salzburg is the magnificent fortress of Festung Hohensalzburg. No matter where you are in the city, it's a beacon, a symbol of Salzburg rising overhead orienting you at all times to your location. Europe's largest fortress dates back to 1077 when construction began at the order of Archbishop Gebhard. Additions were added in the centuries that followed but much of the façade we see today is the result of a 15th-century expansion under the direction of Leonhard von Keutschach, a powerful ruler who wanted to protect himself not only from foreign invasions but those of his own kingdoms. Not-to-be-missed attractions within the fortress include the Golden Chamber, Golden Hall and the Salzburger Stier (Salzburg Bull), one of the world's oldest working barrel organs which dates to 1502. Today, it plays Mozart of course—among others as well! Unfortunately, during my time in Salzburg, I didn't have a chance to visit the magnificent Hohensalzburg but it's an absolute essential to any visit to the timeless city.
Special thanks to my friends at Insight Guides who provided a complimentary copy of their Salzburg pocket guide to keep me on the right track as well as provide all of the background information of these and many more popular Salzburg sights.
Another website I found to be an invaluable tool is Salzburg.info/en/.
After arriving back at the Viking Skadi after our terrific day of touring Salzburg, we ventured to yet one more Christmas market in the Linz city centre and despite its closing, most markets close at 8:30 during the week, I still managed to get my glühwein! Cheers!
|A last toast to Linz and Salzburg.|
Be sure to stop back as my Viking River Cruises "Danube Waltz" continues to Melk and Dürnstein, Austria!
More chronicles of my Viking Christmas Market Cruise:
- In search of Christmas: A Viking Christmas river cruise down the Danube
- Making new friends on my Viking River Cruise
- Highlights from Passau, Germany, with Viking Cruises
My heartfelt thanks to Viking River Cruises for inviting me on this Christmastime voyage through Europe. Of course all opinions and thoughts reflected are mine and mine alone. Thank you Viking Cruises for a magical Christmas holiday!