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Enraptured in Salzburg

Esther Teo on 15 Sep 2015

The Straits Times


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SALZBURG was only meant to be a transitory stop before I caught the afternoon train to Vienna.

Yet, I was still there hours later, perched atop a towering wall at the mediaeval Hohensalzburg Fortress, drenched in the golden afterglow of the dipping sun.

Looking at innumerable pop art coloured houses ensconced in verdant pastures and the grandiose snow-capped Alps looming just beyond, I caught my breath, and my heart swelled in song.

The palace of lost love

My day started at the Mirabell Palace with its lush, flowering gardens, elegant fountains and pools with marvellous artisanal stonework.

It sits by the Mozarteum University of Music and Arts and the Salzach River, which cuts through the heart of the city.

Like most timeworn but remarkably well-preserved structures in this grand old city, the palace has its own tale of love and woe.

It was originally built in 1606 by Wolf Dietrich Raitenau, a powerful prince-archbishop, for his beloved courtesan Salome Alt.

After he was ruthlessly deposed and imprisoned in 1612, Alt and her family were expelled and the palace was rebuilt in the 1700s in a lavish Baroque style.

A walk back in time

Leaving Mirabell, I chanced upon the Makartsteg Bridge, where lovers were securing padlocks as gestures of everlasting love.

Crossing the love bridge, I reached Salzburg’s Altstadt, or Old Town quarter, where many of its attractions are located.

Getreidegasse, a famed quaint shopping street, is fi lled with pricey boutiques. It is also where the birth house of one of the city’s most famous sons — composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart — is located.

There are 20 museums in the city including Salzburg Museum, which showcases the city’s art and cultural heritage. It is housed within a 17th-century residential palace.

Following the Residenzplatz, I arrived at Salzburg Cathedral, an ornate Baroque-style basilica with a monumental dome first erected in AD774.

The cathedral survived a fire and was rebuilt twice before assuming its current appearance in the 17th century.

The same road leads to the livelier Kapitelplatz Square with its mind-boggling artistic centrepiece, the “Spaera” — a huge golden globe with a mannequin standing on top — and a larger-than-life chess set.

To the left of the square sits the magnificent Chapter Fountain, modelled after Roman fountains in the 18th century. It features Neptune, who glowers down astride a spewing seahorse, trident in hand.

Queen of the castle

Nearing sunset, I skipped hiking up Festungsberg Hill and opted for a ride up in the comforts of a funicular instead.

Sitting on top of the hill, the 11th century Hohensalzburg Fortress is said to be the largest and most fully preserved citadel in Central Europe. Its formidable vantage point overlooking  the city has rendered it impenetrable to invaders for nearly a millennium.

The cavernous, stony interior is unnervingly atmospheric, reverberating with the echoes of my syncopated footfalls.

Visitors can explore its various mediaeval bastions, rooms, masonries and courtyards at leisure.

Exiting through a door that led out onto the castle’s walls, which were gilded gold at sunset, I pulled myself up onto a ledge.

Standing tall with the now-miniature Old Town at my feet, I shouted: “I’m the queen of the castle!” I was sick to the gut with my fear of the great height, yet incredibly exhilarated.

I then sat down, feet dangling over the precipice, to watch the dusk set in. And for a time, it felt like I was literally on top of the world, or just Salzburg, at least.

Getting there

From Singapore, I flew to London’s Heathrow Airport on Air France and took an EasyJet from Gatwick to Salzburg’s W.A. Mozart International Airport. From the airport, I took a 30-minute trolley bus ride to reach the city centre.

Traveller’s tips

- Choose an accommodation in the Old Town if you want to be closer to Salzburg’s main attractions.

- Go on the guided tour of the Hohensalzburg Fortress to gain special access to certain rooms and battlements. Attend an evening concert held at the fortress and get the chance to see the castle at night.

- The Sound of Music fans will enjoy tours to iconic sites in Salzburg where the blockbuster film was shot.

- There are also tours to other remarkable sights such as the Bavarian Mountains, Berchtesgaden, the Eagle’s Nest and salt mines.

- For a great view of the alpine surrounds, take a cable car up the Untersberg. Remember to dress warmly.

Source: SG Travellers © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.

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