Just a short drive from the Salzkammergut region, is the festival city of Salzburg, which appears to be surrounded by far too many castles to count. After a scenic 50km, we arrived at the Leopold Schloss hotel where we were meeting a friend of Matthias’ for lunch. It was good to catch up with Ian after a few years of not seeing each other and the lunch was very yummy too. We parted with a dinner date planned for the next evening so could catch up with his wife Inge too.
We walked from the castle hotel towards the old town with just one obstacle in our way. Hohensalzburg is a castle perched on a hill high above the old town and with fantastic views across the entire valley. The walk up to the castle is a bit steep, but well worth it for the views. We opted to see the entire castle including audio guide and the two museums. Tickets also include a funicular railway ride down to the old town. The castle began as a small fort but was slowly expanded by subsequent prince archbishops to it’s current palatial size. We wandered through the bastion and courtyards before we reached the museum. The two museums are seen in tandem if you buy a full ticket or you can opt for the budget ticket and leave out the state rooms. The first museum is mainly about the castle and military conquests of the regiment who were based here. The state rooms were probably the most impressive part of the castle containing some beautifully painted and gilded wooden panels. Whatever you choose to do, the castle’s story over time is interesting especially in relation to the lives of the people of Salzburg. The audio guide tour is a little short and takes you through only a handful of rooms but it’s worth it to get the views from the tower and also visit the Salzburger Stier (Salzburg bull). The bull is actually a muscial instrument of sorts which was used to wake up the citizens and also tell them it was time for bed. Later it was used to play world reknowned composer’s music such as Mozart, who was actually born in Salzburg.
Castle-d out for the day, we took the funicular down into the beautiful old town and wandered the streets with their souvenir shops, Mozart chocolates and beautiful architecture. Salzburg is definitely a relaxing city to walk about as all of the old town is traffic free; just watch out for the horse carriages. Across the river is the Mirabelle Schloss with it’s fantastic gardens. Here we came across a summer concert from Youth Brass 2000, who strangely enough come from the Midlands. Despite the hoards of tourists we still enjoyed finding our way through the alleys of the old town. Later we returned round the castle hill and along a canal to Trevor. Our free parking spot for the day was great and we even had a lakeside view for dinner before we moved to a slightly more secluded spot, although we hadn’t reckoned on the amount of traffic that moved through the Salzburg suburbs each morning and evening.
Early the next morning we drove to Hellbrunn Schloss south of Salzburg. Hellbrunn was a fun palace of the Archbishops of Salzburg and is surrounded by a large park and forest. Today the park is open to the public and is a great place to spend a sunny day. The castle itself is relatively small but what most people come here to see is the famous trick fountains. We bought our tickets and eagerly went on the next available tour. The tours are guided since all of the fountains are still controlled by hand. The tour begins at the feasting table complete with a central wine cooling basin. Our guide encouraged people to take a seat at the table and then told us a little about the archbishop who had the fountains constructed. She explained in both English and German that there were a few surprises in store for us and a few rules for those sitting at the table:
- Two hands on the table
- Stay seated
- Keep smiling
And then, she switched on the first set of fountains. Needless to say, all but one person sitting at the table were now drenched, not onlu by the central hole in each seat, but also from a line of fountains behind the chairs. And for all those who were safe and dry, our guide back-tracked to turn the fountain back on.
Aside from the table there were multiple grottos with booby trapped doorways or fountains in the ceiling. The most fun grotto had a central golden crown representing power which rose and fell with the water jet representing time. Even better were the jets of water in the floor and doorways on the way out. Our guide waited till we were all outside and ‘safe’ before switching on the outdoor fountains, where deer trophies showered everyone with water from their noses and antlers. Probably the most impressive part was the theatre with over 80 moving figures powered by water and of course with surprise water jets at the end. So much fun!
After the fountains we visited the castle which is a little more like a museum then a true castle. A few of the rooms have original decoration with frescoes painted by an Italian artist but the rest contains a few important objects which the audio guide describes. They even have a unicorn in one of the rooms. We had a couple more hours to walk around the gardens and Salzburg town before we met for dinner. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t on our side and to avoid the heavy downpours we had to shelter in a cafe for most of the afternoon; at least one advantage of forgetting our rain jackets. By dinner time the rain had stopped and we met up with Ian and Inge. Somehow we stumbled upon a great Polish restuarant and satisfied out pierogi cravings. It was a lovely evening spent with friends.
The next morning the rain continued and although we had planned to drive slowly back to Germany, neither of us wanted to spend rainy days hanging about in Trevor. So we packed up and drove all the way back to Matthias’ home town of Renningen to surprise the his parents.