This past weekend Tim and I hopped a short (less than two-hour) flight to Salzburg, Austria, to meet up with two good friends from the US on holiday. Let me say this right up front: Salzburg was COLD! [OK, I just looked up the conversion for -5/-6 C and it came out around 20-22 F. It doesn’t sound so cold when I put it in F, but trust me: if you spend all day walking around in it, you get pretty chilly.] Being relatively uneducated on Salzburg, I hadn’t realized what a ski destination it is. Our flights both ways were packed with happy weekend skiers, and as we landed it became clear why: Salzburg is basically surrounded by mountains. Wherever we walked in the old town, a dramatic mountain skyline popped up behind the buildings.
Walking around the old town was our primary activity (besides consuming hot beverages). The traditional Christmas market sprawled through various plazas, and we spent time on Friday peeking into all of the stalls. Having toured several of the holiday markets in Germany last year (Munich, Freiburg, Rothenburg, Nuremberg), I confess I preferred the German markets. There seemed to be more handmade wares available, and a wider selection. But there were some unique highlights of the Salzburg market, and one was handpainted eggs.
These eggs are hollowed, with a ribbon strung through, and painted. They ranged in decoration from simple to ornate, with the cost scaling accordingly. We bought one despite misgivings about structural integrity and got it home without smushing the egg. Whew! The Salzburg market also offered a wider selection of foods for munching: fresh donuts, goulash, coffee, sandwiches, plus the sausages, pretzels, and gluhwein.
Salzburg is the birthplace and childhood home of one Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. We toured the birth house (below) and heard some of his music performed at an advent concert at the Hohensalzburg Castle, a fortress that looms over the city.
I’ve been reading this really fascinating book called Millenium, by Tom Holland. It’s a history book that reads like a novel—my favorite kind—all about what was going on in Europe around the year 1000 AD. It gave me some good historical frames of reference for this trip. This castle was begun in the 1000s.
We rode the funicular to the top (apparently you can walk, but given the snowy conditions and extreme temps this did not seem wise) with some time to spare before the concert began. Our maps identified a Christmas market inside the castle courtyard, and indeed there was one, though it was quite small and closed early in the evening. Consequently we stomped around in the cold for a while before the concert room inside the castle opened… and it wasn’t that warm inside the concert room, either.
The main draw of the concerts at the fortress is the atmosphere, and I think that’s a large portion of the ticket cost (ours were around 30 Euros). We all agreed afterward (all four of us with musical background) that the quality of the performance could/should have been higher (the musicians were mostly young students; a couple weren’t even dressed professionally), but there was a certain appeal to seeing a performance in this ancient hall with its deep blue and gold ceiling, and windows looking down over Salzburg.
I think I’ll leave it at that for today, and pick up with some more Salzburg reflections tomorrow. Merry Christmas Eve Eve!