Since my dad got to visit me during his spring break, it only seemed fair that my mom, with the addition of my aunt, planned a trip during hers. They arrived in Munich Saturday morning and were able to figure out transportation to Salzburg’s main train station where I met them. From there, we went to their hotel, the Gästehaus im Priesterseminar Salzburg, or in English, the guest house in Salzburg’s priest seminary. After settling in, we grabbed dinner together before I left them to catch up on sleep and adjust to the time-change.
The next day, we took advantage of the warm weather to explore the outdoor regions of Salzburg. We began by going up Untersberg, most-known as the mountain featured at the beginning and end of “The Sound of Music”. Straddling the border between Germany and Austria, it has a height of 6,473 feet. The easiest way to get there from the city center, and the form of transport we used, is to take a city bus. It is a relaxing 25-minute or so ride to the end of the line where the base of the mountain is. From there, it is a short walk to the valley station of the Untersberg lift.
Since 1961, the Untersberg lift has taken visitors up the mountain, the ride taking about ten minutes. Unfortunately, as there are only two cars, the gondola can get quite packed and if you are short, like me, you might not be able to see much.
Though it was a bright and sunny day, close to 70ºF in the valley which was warm for an Austrian spring, there was plenty of snow on the mountain. Unaware of this, I made the mistake of wearing suede boots, leading to a lot of tip-toeing up and down the mountain paths. We climbed up to the peak where a giant metal cross stood and I was able to point out various sights in the area. On a clear day, which this was not, one can see all the way to the Salzkammergut lakes in Austria and Lake Chiemsee in Germany. After hiking back down, we took in the sun at the beer garden, though we drank wine instead.
There are many legends attached to Untersberg, the most famous being the king in the mountain legend. According to this story, Emperor Frederick Barbarossa is asleep inside the mountain until his resurrection. As he sleeps, his beard is said to continue to grow longer and longer, going around a table two times already. When his beard has grown around it three times, the end of the world has come and he will awaken. At this point, there will be no further Holy Roman Emperor and the last great battle of humankind will be fought on the Walserfeld, a field west of Salzburg.
A twist on this legend claims it is Charlemagne waiting inside the mountain, taken care of by Untersberger Mandln, small dwarf-like creatures. Every hundred years he awakens, but falls asleep for another century after seeing that the ravens are still flying around the mountain.
After coming back down and eating lunch, where we met up with a friend of mine from school, we walked through the city to the Mönchsberg Lift. Mönchsberg, or monk’s mountain, is one of five mountains in the city of Salzburg, named for the Benedictine monks of St. Peter’s Abbey at the foot of the mountain. The mirrored elevator trip up takes you to the entrance of the Museum der Moderne, Salzburg’s museum of modern art, from which there are many hiking trails which provide great views of the city.
After taking in the views, the four of us walked down the mountain to the Augustiner Brewery. We chose to sit in the large beer garden in the back and had a great evening, snacking on pretzels while my mom tried the beer. The monks here have been brewing beer since the early 1600s and today it is Austria’s largest brewery; it sometimes seems as if everyone in Salzburg is here. As is tradition, visitors can pick their own beer mug, whether a full liter or half, and rinse it out, before having it poured for them.
The following day, because I had class, our main activity together was attending the Mozart Concert Dinner. The dinner took place in the upstairs room of St. Peter’s Stiftskeller, supposedly the oldest restaurant in the world. There is a set menu: clear lemon chicken soup with a curd cheese and rosemary dumpling as an appetizer, followed by a breast of capon on a glaze of red wine and herbs with a potato gratin and vegetables from Padre Prior’s garden, and lastly a semi-frozen parfait of wild honey on two different sauces. This last dish provided a lot of humor as it featured an image of Mozart in cinnamon.
In terms of music, the program is split into four parts, performed before and between the meals. Our program began with arias and duets from “Don Giovanni”, followed by pieces from “The Marriage of Figaro”, then the classic “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik”, and finally music from “The Magic Flute.” All of the performers were dressed in period clothing, which added to the feeling of authenticity. The two who sang were also good actors, wandering around the room as they performed, interacting with the audience. Though classical music is not my favorite, I had a wonderful time, enjoying the food and the performances.