I am a bit disappointed in myself to say I was disappointed in Salzburg but I did find it a little underwhelming. I will be the first to admit that the last eight or so months has completely spoilt me with fabulous and beautiful European cities, so perhaps I’ve just hit saturation point where a church is just a church, a cathedral is just a cathedral, a river is really just another body of water; maybe. Equally maybe I did things in the wrong order to do proper justice to Salzburg; it should have been Salzburg first, then Munich, then Prague, gradually working my way up in splendour. Who knows? Either way I did find Salzburg a tiny bit lacking, in pepper, in spice, in any kind of vibe.
Talking to a colleague helped explain the lack of exciting architecture- apparently it wasn’t destroyed very much/at all in the war and so the buildings all remain as they ever were, I personally even found the grander buildings looked a little, tatty (perhaps), or at least not very well maintained. As expected however I loved the layout of the small city, squished between jutting alpine peaks still decked in snow, laying a dramatic back drop. I also found the castle very interesting with its powerful ramparts and all-seeing gaze, and really the like fact that you can climb two, fairly steep, hills either side of the river and get spectacular city views. It was at this point I noticed that I really enjoy seeing places from above- I like birds’ eye views of people’s roof gardens and balconies, and I like seeing how the pattern of the streets falls below me. There are certainly plenty of great places to get up a level in Salzburg. I also really enjoyed the dense greenery penetrating the city in little pockets, it’s surprisingly not very city-like, especially if you walk out of the immediate centre. The Mirabell Platz gardens are also worth a look when they’re in bloom, very colour rich and pretty, although rather over hyped. I always like walking through walled gardens, but they are very similar wherever you go.
The main tourist trap for me didn’t have too much to offer, it was the unexpected things that I really enjoyed. We started our weekend out by the almost miniature airport at Red Bull’s Hangar 7- possibly one of the coolest free-things you can do. It is basically a glass dome cum air craft hangar housing a selection of Red Bull’s coolest sponsored projects, or replicas, three gourmet eating and drinking venues and the world’s greatest toilets. Yes. While Salzburg train station toilets cost 50cent and are not immensely clean, Red Bull’s toilets are the chicest, cleanest toilets I have ever been in, with a soft, white hand towel for your own personal use and they are entirely free; do check them out! The glass dome houses bright, exciting planes surrounded by jungle-esque greenery, and there are great views, either up to the mountain, across to the active air field, or into the second Hangar where even more flying goodies are kept. We also happened upon the strangest little farm I’ve ever found. Outside the main Altstadt, on Wolfgangschaffler Weg, behind the castle (Festung Hohen Salzburg), was a mottled collection of farm animals, which seemed to be being fed by locals: cows, pigs, chickens, guinea fowl and ducks but also carp and flamingos. It was a Sunday so apart from us it was mostly families with young children walking between the fields, I certainly got lost in being childish for a little while. I don’t think I will ever stop being excited about stroking or feeding any kind of animal, be it a cow or an elephant.
Aside from the random treasures to be had, Salzburg itself is rather lack lustre. There are a lot of expensive shopping opportunities, and plenty of bus tours to get out of the city (which is probably the way forward), but things to do in the city are rather expensive, especially the museums. Coffee doesn’t come cheap either, but I’m told that’s ‘Austrian City Prices’ for you- €4,00 for a coffee. Nothing is so extravagant or so beautiful that you couldn’t find nicer in another city, and I found a lot of it rather poorly maintained. I almost feel guilty for saying this because I wanted to love it- I just didn’t- I don’t know if it was partly the weather, or the other cities I’ve seen, or just that I feel it’s maybe riding on its name a little too much, without being anything more than a collection of over-priced tourist haunts. Give me a city with a real ‘vibe’ any day.
Images by AJF Stuart Photography