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City of Music

June 15, 2015


Before rolling into Salzburg, I knew only two things about this ancient city: Mozart was born here, and The Sound of Music filmed here. I was told it was a beautiful city, formerly a bishopric (ruled by a bishop) so churches and religious buildings would be plentiful, and in fact they seemed to be on every corner.


Perhaps it was the sun finally making an appearance that induced me to like Salzburg, named after the salt (Medieval white gold) mined in the area. The city sparkled and shimmered in morning light, and yes, the presence of Mozart, born here in 1756, was omnipresent. The composer’s image greeted us everywhere, like Walt Disney’s at Disneyland. His face hawked candies, pastries, clothing, just about everything. Interesting that Salzburg didn’t appreciate and couldn’t tolerate Mozart when he was alive, but embraced him in a python’s grip when dead.




This is the house where Mozart was born, in the window beneath the gold plaque, on a street looking much like Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter movies.



In the Middle Ages, the population was uneducated so merchants resorted to hanging fancy iron signs over their shops to identify their wares. Today, merchants are required to hang these signs, then taxed for using “communal air.”



Most people know that Mozart was a child protégé, pushed by his father in ways that today would be considered child abuse. Beginning at the age of six, the composer began entertaining the crowned heads of Europe like a trained monkey, and when no longer cute, tried to make a place for himself at the bishop’s court in Salzburg. Unfortunately, Mozart was immature in most ways, never failing to enjoy or repeat a good fart joke, and his uncouth ways soon alienated him from the court, forcing Mozart to move to Vienna where he soon alienated the Habsburgs. Today, all is forgiven and the music of Mozart warbles in the streets and oozes from the Baroque bones of Salzburg.



Fifty years ago, The Sound of Music was filmed here. I’d been told that locals were fed up with the movie, but pictures of Julie Andrews competed everywhere with images of Mozart. Sound of Music tour buses passed us, and many of the places we visited displayed pictures of the movie during production. The TV in our hotel room featured the movie on a constant loop, making it, if only temporarily, one of my “least favorite things.” We were even taken outside the city to the church where Maria and Captain von Trapp married—in the movie; the real church where this event took place wasn’t deemed picturesque enough for the film.



The setting for the marraige scene in The Sound of Music was a church outside Salzburg



Like most films based on “a real story,” much of The Sound of Music was fictional. Our guide delighted in pointing out that the von Trapps didn’t flee the Nazis by escaping north over the mountains to Switzerland, which was over two hundred and fifty miles away; instead they went south to Italy and caught a train, eventually coming to America. Had they gone north over the Alps as depicted in the movie, they would have ended up in Berchtesgaden, Bavaria, home of Adolph Hitler and other top-ranking Nazis. But Maria, the captain and all those children marching up to the Fuhrer’s doorstep would have made for a very different movie.


Still, Salzburg lived up to its reputation as a city of music. The people were friendly; smiling university students were everywhere, the weather great, and the smells of apfelstrudel, wiener schnitzel and beer (even for a non-beer drinker like me) were intoxicating.


Mrs. C. rated Salzburg as her favorite city on our trip.



Salzburg ponies pulling a carriage





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Beautiful place. Funny they didn't appreciate Mozart when he was alive. I guess that's the place to go if you want immortality after you die.
By: Alex J. Cavanaugh on June 15, 2015
I have never seen the movie on Mozart, but realize that I should. Such a lovely city!!
By: Tabor on June 15, 2015
There's nothing I love more than the inside scoop of a story - The Sound of Music made a lot of $$, so I guess they have to promote that for the tourist dollars. But the "real story" points are priceless. I've always marveled at the fact that Mozart was pretty well glossed over by his contemporaries once he was an adult. The fact that he was obnoxious, and he must have been, makes perfect sense in retrospect. You'd have to be pretty obnoxious to overlook his musical genius. Maybe they could have a statue that celebrates his social awkwardness and ability to tick people off?
By: Cherdo on June 15, 2015
thanks for a taste of this place! never knew the reason for the name. thanks!
By: TexWisGirl on June 15, 2015
I always learn something when I visit.
By: cranky on June 15, 2015
I love Mozart--especially played on a harpsichord.
By: Jerry E. Beuterbaugh on June 15, 2015
We were having dinner in Salzburg when we were entranced by the aroma of apfelstrudel coming from the kitchen. We ordered some for dessert & were told it was too hot to cut. We had to wait 20 minutes, but it was well worth it. We LOVED Salzburg!!
By: fishducky on June 15, 2015
It's a city that lives up to its tourism campaign, then.
By: mimi on June 15, 2015
I like the Sound of Music, but I never watched the live version that aired starring Carrie Underwood. I know a few people liked it. I just don't think there's any replacement for Julie Andrews on that kind of thing. It's good to see that people have strong opinions about her in this town. I guess that means it made an impression on the world.
By: Michael Offutt on June 15, 2015
I remember Strasburg well. The coffee shop where we shared a strudel, the elevator that took us to the top of the mountain where there is a pretty garden, the Mozart piano with the sign saying "don't touch" (I did), the lovely plaza where we dropped our only camera and broke it. Yes, Salzburg will live on in our memories.
By: Catalyst on June 15, 2015
Stephen- A wonderful post today. I'm so pleased you are sharing your trip with these splendid "post card" adventures. It is a beautiful area. After considering your "back story" about Mozart it strikes me he could have been an early "punk" musician! And thanks for the historical correction about how Maria and company really left town.
By: Tom Cochrun on June 15, 2015
Fantastic pictures. This sounds like such an amazing city. Would love to go there someday.
By: Bouncin Barb on June 15, 2015
Huh. Having seen the movie "Amadeus," I always thought Tom Hulce was a poor choice for the lead, because he hammed it up when he should have played it straight like his character Pinto in Animal House. Shows how much I know about movies OR about Mozart! Looks like Hulce was a genius.
By: Val on June 15, 2015
I get a kick out of the little grocery store on the ground floor of Mozart's house of birth. And yes, Mozartkugeln....yum.
By: Pixel Peeper on June 15, 2015
It's always interesting how stories are changed to make money. You've given great examples here with the Sound of Music.
By: red on June 15, 2015
The reality of the von Trapps was very different from the movie. We stayed at their inn in Vermont quite a few years ago. The view was breathtaking. Hitler requested a performance by the von Trapps. They turned him down. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on June 15, 2015
Your photos are gorgeous. I didn't know Mozart was so unpopular during his life-time. It's a shame. He's one of my favorites, and it's good to know he was so human as to expel a fart joke or two.
By: Robyn Engel on June 15, 2015
I really enjoy Mozart's music, sounds like a fascinating place, typical though that all the praise comes after Mozart was dead!
By: John on June 16, 2015
I'm not much for classical music and while I did see and enjoyed the Sound Of Music, once was enough. the city is lovely however,
By: Ellen Abbott on June 16, 2015
When I came home from Zambia I did a whirlwind mini tour of Europe (Netherlands, Austria, Germany, Italy, France). I LOVED Austria (our hostel there had the best beds of the whole trip - ha!)! We visited Salzburg & checked out the yellow house :) And I remember a bridge with flowers all along it. But there was no mention of the Sound of Music. Maybe it was too soon - I went in 1988 :)
By: the Bug on June 17, 2015
A friend of mine took a girlfriend here for a trip. Julie Andrews will always be associated with this film. I laughed about the fart jokes!
By: Michael Manning on June 19, 2015
Gorgeous! It has always fascinated me that someone so inappropriate and uncouth could write such complex and delicately turned music.
By: Mitchell is Moving on June 29, 2015

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