April 21 – 24, 2006
Back in 2006, I tagged along my buddies’ two-week trip to Salzburg and Croatia. Why these two totally unrelated places? From what I understand, one of them wanted to take a look at the year-round celebration of Mozart held in Salzburg to commemorate the musician’s 250th birthday while spending the rest of the trip in Croatia, which at that time was the hottest destination in Europe. These two simple wishes became the reasons for this sixteen-days trip.
Personally I was pretty excited about this trip, since I had just picked up photography and bought a Nikon D50 on the previous Boxing Day. The camera was still brand new as I had yet had the time to try it out. I understood people’s advices about getting used to a new camera or lens before a trip, but I neither had the time nor patience to take random photos in Vancouver’s infamous incessant winter rain. It was probably a mistake as I predictably screwed up many shots, but it was fun to take photos with a DSLR for the first time.
The weather was sunny throughout the several days we were in town. While the weather was certainly comfortable, it was an indirect curse for the allergic type like me and many of my fellow visitors as the flowers were in full bloom. My nose already went numb from all the sneezing on the first day, and everywhere we went there were someone sneezing so violently I thought they were having a seizure.
Salzburg has a very beautiful town centre. I like the colour of the town, with its white walls and light colour roofs. The town’s cityscape is dominated by the Hohensalzburg Fortress, a white-walled medieval complex on the Festungsberg Hill. The construction of the fortress began in 1077, and it was continuously used as the royal palace of the ruling family until the Napoleonic Wars. Salzburg’s name means “Salt Castle” in German, and the town’s many nearby salt mines were the source of wealth and power for the city during medieval time.
Salzburg is clean and efficient. The bus system is easy to use and punctual, and the service industry is professional, if a tad impersonal. The size of Salzburg is also quite ideal, similar to Florence, but a little less touristy, except for the many incarnations of Mozart on every conceivable kind of merchandise and the many “The Sound of Music” tours offered everywhere.
Aside from the beautiful Baroque style town centre, the main draw in Salzburg is its music tradition. However, the novelty of “Mozart’s hometown” quickly turned old after seeing the musician’s face and hearing his music everywhere, but Salzburg is not only about commercializing its famous hometown son. Concerts were held around town several times each day in all forms of revues, ranging from the basement of a chapel to cathedrals to concert halls. The price of admission was reasonable and the choice was almost limitless. On the same day I could choose between choir, solo pianist, quartet, or orchestra, performing on a wide range of composers, although Mozart was obviously the most available.
I had very little exposure on classical music, but it was a fun and eye-opening experience to be able to listen to so many concerts in just several days. I probably didn’t know what’s going on most of the time, and sometimes I lost my attention during a piece, but I was glad I was still able to appreciate the music performed. The solo violinist at our last concert was especially impressive.
I had more fun than I expected in Salzburg despite my allergy. In fact, I will probably make a visit again, maybe as a part of a trip to other parts of Austria or Germany.