Took our breath away

A few things in Salzburg fit into that category today. Let’s start with Sound of Music iconography, featured here.

We took a tour of the Festival Halls, which are three concert halls connected together, and all nestled into the side of a mountain. The most famous and interesting of these was the middle one, called the Rock Riding School. It was carved into the rock in the 17th century, to serve as a summer riding school for the archbishop, who liked to have musicians serenade the horses from the arches above the floor.

To us, it is sacred ground, the place where the movie von Trapps performed their last concert in Salzburg, ending with “Edelweiss.” Only we Americans on the tour knew the significance of the venue, and the power of the exit stage right. Our guide knew the story, but she had only watched that scene on YouTube. Like most Austrians, she was unfamiliar with the film – and uninterested. But for us, it was breath-taking.

The other two halls are the House for Mozart and the largest hall for major operas.

These are all mostly unused except during the Festival season in the summer. But they are currently preparing for a performance in the Rock Riding School, of a troop of horses from Versailles who do a ballet to the Mozart Requiem. We saw them arriving, and wish we could stay to see them.

Another Sound of Music moment took place in the cemetery of St. Peter’s Church. The scene after the concert where the family was hiding behind altars while nasty Rolf waited for them to reveal themselves was shot on a sound stage, but the reality of the scene they were recreating was also magic for us.

Close to the church is the grotto of Saint Peter, and a waterwheel that has been bringing water from the Alps to Salzburg since the 13th century. No day is too cold for it to turn, it seems.

This was a market day, and lots of business was taking place in the square where it has served the city for centuries. Very tempting stuff.

We took the funicular up to the Hohensalzburg Fortress, which has loomed over the city for over 900 years in some form. An incredible view of the city, which was the point, of course.

Lots of tourists out today enjoying a sunny weekend on the Kapitelplatz below, with its sculpture of a man atop a golden globe as well as all the lovely sights in and around the square.

One of the most unusual museum collections we saw today was on the subject of Christmas, which is still very timely. This museum features a wide range of vintage Christmas ornaments and accessories. The gift shop was tough to resist.

We also visited the Salzburg Museum, which celebrates the city’s history. Lots of good stuff here, like part of the original Roman wall, various mementos of power, and a straw archbishop’s traveling hat from 1509. Someone took good care of that one.

The final knock-out sight of the day is tucked into the walls next to St. Peter’s, founded in 696. Coming a bit later was the restaurant Stiftskeller St. Peter, opened in 803. One of its notable early patrons was Charlemagne, so the story goes, but certainly Christopher Columbus and Mozart dined here. (Local rumour is that Mephistopheles met Faust here, but that is sheer gossip and must fall into the category of fake news.) It is Austria’s (and Europe’s) oldest restaurant, and it’s hardly showing its age. It wasn’t open yet for dining when we arrived, so we settled for the house cocktail – “rum and plum” – and a peak into some of the dining rooms. Gorgeous.

For those who can handle a political note, we end with a tour of a graffiti exhibit in the annex of the Modern Museum. A New York friend asked me what they are thinking here about our situation in the U.S. These sentiments from a Roumanian artist summarize the current attitude toward America and the rest of the world quite well, I suspect.

What a lot of dreams we will have tonight.

Don’s Food Corner

Considering the action-packed day we had, we were still able to sneak in a couple of pit stops for fortification. Breakfast at the hotel kept us going for a couple of hours. But then we stopped in for a little coffee and tea — and pastries — at the Cafe Tomaselli, a Salzburg institution since 1703. A full array of goodies was carried around by a waitress, tempting everyone — or should I say daring everyone — to select just one item. We succumbed and had two, a fantastic apple strudel and an equally yummy apricot-filled donut.

Later in the afternoon we had the house cocktail at Stiftskeller St. Peter. The cocktail featured a showy use of dry ice to chill the drink and fill the glass with fog. Maybe a little vulgar, but we fell for it.

Dinner was in the restaurant attached to the hotel.  Although this was a “traditional” Austrian restaurant, serving all the usual dishes that we have now seen on nearly every menu, Jo decided to go rogue, swerving off the wiener schnitzel path, and ordered beef tips in a peppercorn sauce. Although I thought it was a perfectly fine dish, Jo was sorry she didn’t order the wiener schnitzel. We only have a few more days left to sample it!  There’s no time to waste. (In the market we saw that they were selling wiener schnitzel sandwiches. What bliss.)

And for me, although goulash and boiled beef was on the menu, I went for the “baked” trout.  The waiter claimed the trout was fresh today so that sold me on this derivation from my own taste test obligation.  While the trout was supposed to be “baked,” it was certainly baked in a lot of butter.  That’s not a complaint, you understand. The fish, almost incidental to the butter, was perfectly prepared and seemed perfectly fresh. The trout came with a serving of the ubiquitous parslied potatoes with lots of butter to help the minced greens adhere properly. In other words, a butter-delivery system. I liked it.



3 thoughts on “Took our breath away

  1. Magical, all magical : the snow, the sights, the cakes!!
    And the Rock Riding School! Now you have to go back in the summer, scissors and sewing kit at the ready for one last strut on that stage before climbing ev’ry mountain. Or maybe taking another pass at Rolf and Leisl. Why not? The gazebo awaits and I’m an optimist.
    Seriously, it looks like a really satisfying trip –and what a great time to be AWAY. Will you be home by Friday for the visit of our new Iron Lady?

  2. As wonderful as this has been, being somewhat distant from the US catastrophe has been a blessing. Even from this distance, it’s been hard to handle. Being in the Rock theater made an eerie connection to the present. But where to run? Which mountain to climb?

    Let’s hope Theresa is up to the challenge.

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