Sunday, October 28, 2012

The hills are Salzburg

A few hours away from Vienna is the beautiful city of Salzburg, mostly known by Americans as the city where the Sound of Music originated, and where much a of the filming took place. Though I did not see any singing children riding bicycles through the town, I can understand where the inspiration for such a loved film comes from. The entire train ride over I had my eyes glued to the window, watching the green meadows pass by with small clusters of colorful houses sitting on the hills up above the roads, smoke filtering out of the chimney, keeping warm from the cold mountain air. While the weather did maintain the coolness that I found in Vienna, I was lucky enough to catch a couple of beautiful days with blue skies before the rain rolled in. 

The Salzburg Cathedral was built in the 17th century as a baroque Roman Catholic church that has been reconstructed many times as a result of damages to it over many centuries, the most recent major reconstruction being after a bomb went through one of the major domes during World War II. Massive in size, towering over 100 feet high, and located in the heart of the historical district, the Cathedral is what your eyes are drawn to first in the city of Salzburg, 

Besides the Sound of Music, Salzburg's other major claim to fame is that it is the birthplace of Wolfgang Mozart. There are many monuments upheld in remembrance of the great composer, including the actual place of his birth and an entire Plazzo dedicated to his memory, with a stature erected of him in the centre. 

One day of exploration was spent at the Hohensalzburg Castle at the top of the old town, looking out over all of Salzburg. Built on the top of Festungsberg mountain in the city centre, construction originally began in the 12th century but the castle has transformed in many ways over the past few centuries and has been occupied by several rulers who each made their own contribution and alterations.  From the highest tower, the entire old town of Salzburg can be seen, as well as much of the surrounding areas. 

 Near Salzburg are the Hallein Salt Mines that have been mined in for thousands of years and have provided the region of Salzburg a prime economic trading power with mass quantities of salt that come out of the mines each year. This particular area is no longer an active mine and is now an interactive tour to show the inside of some of the mines. Preparation was done before heading below ground, by covering yourself with a white coverall suit to protect regular clothing, and keep visitors warm in the freezing underground tunnels. The journey into the mines began with a train ride through the tunnels where we then trekked through even smaller tunnels, stopping along the way to collect information about the evolution of the salt mining process in this area from our tour guide. The main event of the tour are the wooden slides that take visitors even further into the depths of the tunnels. Sliding down the wooden rails, you travel quickly over 40 meters down into the lower levels of the salt mines. There was also a short boat ride to show how in the past there were areas of the mines in which the concentration of salt was so strong that the best way to retract it from the stone was to pump water in, creating a small lake that became saturated with salt, and was then filtered out once again where the salt was collected. 

The Mirabell Palace is a historical building of Salzburg, but is well known mostly for the beautiful arrangement of gardens that surround the Palace. These gardens are full of different colored flowers, with pathways for visitors to wander through while enjoying the statues and fountains along the way. This area is also the location of the famous "do-re-mi" song in Sound of Music, as the children and Maria dance there way through the city together. 

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