Listening for the Sound of Salzburg

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Physician's Money Digest, August 2007, Volume 14, Issue 8

Something very "musical" has had tourists swarming to Salzburg for 40 years: the 20th Century Fox movie The Sound of Music. Lovers of the Rogers and Hammerstein musical will be charmed when they see that the glorious locations used in the film are as gorgeous in real life as they were in Ted McCord's cinematography. It's all accessible on foot in this compact city of 145,000 souls—from the Mirabell Gardens where Maria and the children danced and sang "Do-Re- Mi" to St. Peter's Cemetery where the family hid behind the tombstones. The Residenz Square, the Nonnberg convent, and the Mondsee Church remain unchanged from the movie, as does the Leopodskron Palace used as the von Trapp villa. All can be visited by taking one of the Sound of Music tours that many Salzburg operators offer. And during the summer, the Sternbrau Dinner Theatre presents a group performing both Austrian operetta and medleys of songs from the movie.

The Music of Mozart

The von Trapps may be popular but Salzburg's prodigy, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, has been the city's favorite son for two-and-a-half centuries. The house where he was born in 1756 and remained until 1773 is maintained as a museum with the pianolino he played as a child on display. The simple kitchen is also accessible to tourists, but it’s hard to visualize that precocious boy sitting there drinking hot chocolate.

Mozart's presence is all around, especially at St. Peter Stiftskeller (fax 43-662-8286-95-0), a restaurant so old it's mentioned in documents dating back to 803 ad. Tourists can enjoy meals from 18th-century recipes and listen by candlelight to singers and musicians offering arias from Don Giovanni, The Magic Flute, and Little Night Music.

Scenic Architecture

There's more to Salzburg, of course, than what charms the ears. "Close to the lakes and the mountains," a guide says, "we're the real Austria! Our city goes back to the Stone Age and Roman times. We have 123 churches and a monastery built in 1696 still functioning."

Among this Baroque city's religious architectural gems is a late 7th-century Benedictine abbey and its most revered 17th-century cathedral. The cathedral is massive and was built in 1628 to show Protestants the full power of the Catholic Church. The cathedral took 14 years to build and, after being damaged in World War II, was rebuilt in 1959. The oldest part of the church, the baptistery, is 1200 years old.

The fountains in the city have been fed by gravity from a mountain lake since 1137. The Salzach River divides the old town from the new. On both banks are the coffee houses where locals indulge the Austrian tradition of taking 2 hours to drink a cup of coffee. Visitors, on the other hand, might prefer returning to whichever hotel they have along the river for an equally traditional apple strudel. The Hotel Altstadt (fax 43-662-84 85-71-6; www.austria-trend.at/ass), for example, has a convenient location, an award-winning restaurant, and an Internet café. A chart hangs on the wall above the computer showing the hotel’s ownership since 1172.