Nostalgia and New Memories in Salzburg

Like London, Salzburg is a city I campaigned to visit on this trip, and one that’s rich in memories for me. But unlike London, my Salzburg memories are older, hazier and a bit bittersweet. I’d visited twice before, once with my family during the summer I turned seven, and again on a school trip the summer I turned seventeen. On the former trip, I remember running around with my sister in the dirndls we got there, acquiring a fuzzy red toy we named “Wormy” from a street vendor and donning white jumpsuits to visit a salt mine. On the latter, most of my memories are Sound of Music-related—seeking out the trees the von Trapp kids climbed and the stairs they sang on and, perhaps most indelibly, jeteeing around the Sixteen-Going-on-Seventeen gazebo with my friend Sierra (I was so cool in high school, you guys).

But Salzburg will also forever remind me of my dad, who was a great lover of classical music in general and of Mozart in particular. As Mozart’s birthplace, Salzburg is absolutely covered in Mozart stuff—historical markers, the iconic chocolates emblazoned with his face, magnets, beer steins, life-sized statues, you name it. And as such, reminders of my dad’s quiet but fierce appreciation for the illustrious composer are around every corner there.

I never truly inherited my father’s love for Mozart, so for me, Salzburg’s Mozart-y-ness is less about the man himself than the man I loved who thought so much of him. As such, I didn’t feel like it was necessary to take my wee one to a classical concert or on the hourlong museum tour or do any other Mozart fan must-dos. But I did like taking her to a place where my dad feels so close, where I could tell her that the guy whose face is everywhere was Grandpa Richard’s favorite. And there was some lovely symmetry to returning as an adult with my own family to a place I’d been as a kid on my very first trip abroad.

And so our three days in Salzburg included lots of indulging me in sights I wanted to revisit and/or introduce Fiona and Dan to, coupled with new memories we all made together. It all made for a really special (and super fun!) visit. Here’s what we got up to:

Exploring the City

Between Mozart and The Sound of Music and their powerful year-round Christmas-ornament game, Salzburg is undeniably touristy, but in (I think) an extremely charming way. It’s also legitimately beautiful, with views of the Alps, a river running through it and an adorable Old Town. So there’s lots to see just walking around, which we did plenty of.

Visiting a Salt Mine

My one absolute Salzburg-area must-do was a salt mine visit. I remember it being a lot of silly fun, and I figured my silly-fun-loving husband and kid would be into it. So we traveled to Salzwelten, 30 minutes outside of town, which promised to take us on “an exciting journey back in time.” Did we learn anything? Not really! Was it silly fun? Yes it was. There were goofy white clothes to wear and teens on a school field trip to keep things lively and a tiny train and an underground boat and a wooden slide we all got to rocket down while holding onto each other for dear life. Fi, glazing over a little at the end from all the history interludes, wasn’t quite as amped as Dan and I were (perhaps an alpine slide ruins a kid for all other hurtling downhill experiences), but we mostly had a blast.

Touring Hellbrunn Palace

We took the bus out to Hellbrunn, a funky 17th-century palace built by the Prince-Archbishop Markus Sittikus. There are beautiful gardens, some whimsical art and a whole series of trick fountains that the Prince apparently used to use to prank his guests, and now are used to soak visitors (we were fortunately there on a hot day). It’s also home to a certain The Sound of Music gazebo, just, you know, in case you’re into that sort of thing.

Checking out the Christmas Museum!

You guys, Salzburg has a Christmas museum. It’s small but magical (even in the middle of summer). Fi especially liked learning about “Santa’s friend,” Krampus. We bought an advent calendar. It was all pretty awesome.

Seeing Fortress Hohensalzburg

This 11th-century castle complex is the big guy on a hill above the city, accessible via funicular (always an excellent start to any tourist activity, I find). We swung through on our way out of town, so didn’t make a meal out of it, but had a nice little walk-around—views, marionette theater, grand architecture, old-timey suits of armor, check, check, check!

3 thoughts on “Nostalgia and New Memories in Salzburg

  1. I’ll need a jpeg of Fiona with the Mozart chocolate in order to hang her up with the other Big-Eyed Children on my hallway wall. And glad to know we don’t have to hunt down an advent calendar for her this year (they are getting hard to find – but I did locate a new source last fall!)


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