For one entire semester, Salzburg, Austria, was my home. Anyone who has traveled abroad in Europe much knows that the big cities can be overwhelming when you try to take them in too fast. Trips should be broken up by a few days spent in smaller cities in order to relax and really learn something about the culture. Salzburg is the perfect place to spend a few days, recharging your batteries and experiencing European culture.
Salzburg is famous for being the birthplace of Mozart. The Sound of Music was filmed here too, so American tourists flock to the places where Maria and the gang frolicked around singing. The locals make a lot of money off of those two claims to fame, but Salzburg has a lot more to offer than Mozart and Julie Andrews. Here are four things I suggest for an interesting trip to Salzburg. Then, if you have time left over, or you happen to be an avid fan of Mozart or The Sound of Music, check out the usual tourist traps.
Salzburg is nestled in the Alps, and it’s beautiful no matter what the weather is doing. If it’s sunny, white-capped mountains surround the town, backed by blue skies. If it’s drizzling, you can look up and see snow falling on the mountains. It’s impossible for Salzburg to be ugly. Anyone visiting Salzburg needs to know two main landmarks. The whitewashed Hohensalzburg Fortress is visible from almost anywhere in the city because it’s perched on one end of the Monchburg, a small mountain located inside Salzburg. The other key landmark is the Salzach River. It divides the old side of town from the new side. Between these two landmarks, Salzburg is easy to navigate.
[THE BIKE PATH]
On a sunny day in Salzburg, there is no better way to spend an afternoon than on a bike. The Salzach River has a special biking trail running along both sides. A sidewalk with benches to accommodate pedestrians runs directly beside the river. The biking trail runs parallel to the pedestrian trail. If you want to look like a local, don’t confuse the two. Salzburgers get a little testy about that, and they will ring those bike bells at you with a fury if you get in their way.
The biking path runs the length of town, and it’s easy to spend a few hours biking and thinking in such a beautiful setting. A word to the wise, though: Don’t ride your bike downtown—especially in the old town. The traffic is too slow, and there are many pedestrians. I offer this advice from experience. I ran my bike into the back of a car that slammed on its brakes downtown. It didn’t hurt me, my bike or the lady’s car, but she didn’t have the most pleasant expression as I gave an apologetic smile and zoomed off.
[THE MONCHBURG] Clear Sunday afternoons are best spent on top of the Monchburg. There are stairs and even an elevator that, for a few Euro, can save you the small hike up. The view is incredible, and this is a great place to watch the locals and try to blend in. Older couples sit on benches, resting and enjoying one another’s company. Young couples lie on blankets in the grass, whispering quietly and laughing out loud. Families are out together with Mom pushing a stroller full of sleeping kids while Dad lags behind because the dog has stopped to sniff something. These aren’t tourists, and these locals have a secret that most tourists will never bother to notice—that they are taking time to enjoy life. They aren’t in a rush, and they appreciate each other and their surroundings more as a result. There will never be a single day in Salzburg when the weather is nice that the Salzburgers aren’t out enjoying it.
Every tourist sees Getreidegasse. Wrought-iron signs hang from every storefront along Salzburg’s most famous street. American tourists will notice that even the Golden Arches have succumbed, and McDonald’s has its own wrought-iron sign hanging along with those that have been there since long before Ronald McDonald sacked up his first Happy Meal. My host mother made an important point about tourists and Getreidegasse: Tourists groups merely shuffled down Getreidegasse, staring at the ground. They only visited because the tour guides said that it was important.
Take time to look up and appreciate the signs. More importantly, though, stop and grab a pretzel for a couple of Euro. I highly recommend the cinnamon flavored, and the pretzels are certainly big enough for two people to split. So grab a pretzel and stroll down Getreidegasse. Make a stop at H&M on the right, if you are into shopping. H&M is the Old Navy chain of Europe. The locals shop there, and they bring their dogs along. Sales are abundant on the three floors of Salzburg’s H&M.
[FOR THE INTERNET JUNKIE]
As you near the end of Getreidegasse, you will run into Mozartplatz. The Internet is available at the Internet café on the right of the square, and the people who work there all speak English. Internet use in Salzburg runs around five Euro an hour, which is rather pricey, but worth it if you are an email junkie. Getreidegasse is full of tourist traps, but it is worth a trip over just to eat a pretzel, check out the signs, and window shop.
Salzburg is an amazing European city with a unique atmosphere. Listing all it has to offer would be impossible, but my suggestions are guaranteed to make a lasting impression. If you go to Salzburg, do yourself a favor—head away from the touristy destinations. You will find a charming city that will break up the monotony of any European tour.
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