The Hills Are Alive

Regardless of whether you’re a fan of The Sound of Music (I can’t say that I am), the beauty of its setting – Salzburg, Austria – is undeniable.

While the city has gained fame because of this more contemporary musical, its history in the performing arts goes back several centuries.  It may be even more recognized as the birthplace of classical composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.  During my visit to the region, it’s easy to see why one would want to break into song.  The setting is absolutely stunning, with the Alps surrounding a picturesque city of 140,000 built around the Salzach River.  Saint Rupert (circa 700 C.E.) is credited with naming the city Salzburg, which means “salt castle.”  The name is derived from the salt barges that frequently traveled up the river.  The Festung Hohensalzburg, a castle on a hill at the center of the city, was built in 1077.  Salzburg was part of the Kingdom of Bavaria until the late 1300’s, and now, it lies on the German-Austrian border.

Instantly upon arrival, I knew that Salzburg was going to be one of my favorite cities in the world.  We stayed with Evan’s friends Tamara and Bern, and were privileged to get a local’s tour of this gem of a city.  Before going out on our first night, we enjoyed grilling bratwursts on their porch.  We were treated to a spectacular view of the Alps as we relaxed…and hung out with their awesome cat.

That evening, we went out to Augustiner Braustubl, a local beer hall.  This convivial experience is enjoyed by friends and families alike – the Austrian beer hall is not a rowdy experience, but one of socializing and enjoying each other’s company.  You can bring your own food and snacks, picnic-style, and enjoy their beer and the lively setting.

After enjoying some local brews, we went for a walk around the picturesque city of Salzburg.

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The next day, we had more of a chance to soak in the sights of the town.  One of the coolest things about Salzburg is entering it through this tunnel carved through an enormous rock on the border of the city.  Once you get to Salzburg city, it is very compact and accessible, and you can walk most of it within a half-day.  The charming old town has plenty of places to shop and duck into for a hot chocolate or snack.

As mentioned before, the Festung Hohensalzburg is the crown jewel of the city and stands guard upon the Festungsberg, a hill above the city.  During World War II, the fortress was actually used as a prison for Italian prisoners of war and Nazi sympathizers.

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Salzburg is truly an outstanding place that must be experienced.  Its quaint beauty combined with the alpine scenery makes it a must-visit city if you make it to Austria.

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