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Salzburg, Austria

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Salzburg parks index:
Mirabell Gardens

In the city that made Mozart famous, and vice-verse, seldom a weekend evening passes without hearing his music drift along the street from some alfresco performance. We had decided to see a performance of “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik” held at the Hohensalzburg Fortress to celebrate Mozart’s 250th birthday in 2006.

salzburg_5The Hohensalzburg Fortress sits on the highest hill overlooking the diminutive city. To get there, you can take a funicular. It’s a nice, fast ride that yields some dramatic views of Salzburg. At the top, you step onto the medieval walkways of the castle grounds. Sunset at the castle is a special moment. A café overlooks the city, the river, the distant horizon. A fine wine or cold Austrian beer with dinner complements this scene. I was surprised to see so few people up here for dinner. Mmmm. The silence of your own thoughts, or good conversation with friends before a concert performance, was an ideal start to an evening.

The fortress walkways were nearly empty after dark. Shadows rose from floodlights like dragons looming on a warm summer breeze. Cannons aimed over the river to the south, the valley to the north. Had Mozart walked this path in his childhood? He was a prodigy who played for the royal court. I could see the little smarty pants walking with his violin case. In my Chicago neighborhood he would have gotten beaten up, but in his day musical genius likely gave him a sort of carte blanche among friends, I imagined.

In one of the castle courtyards, a stage sat below the slope of the courtyard, and it was on this slope that chairs stood for the audience. The acoustics of stone are legendary. The night sky lighted with stars. Wasn’t it Mozart who wrote a tune to the folk tale nursery rhyme “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”? I wasn’t sure.

The musicians walked onto the stage. The lights were low through the crowd, its hum rolling in waves as the musicians tuned their instruments. Now settled, and here comes the lead violin. Behind the stage the castle walls formed a dramatic backdrop. I looked around me. There was so much history to this city, I thought. If we were all dressed in 18th century finery, there would be little to distinguish this scene from one more than 200 years ago.

When the strings began their strong chords into the night air, I recalled that Mozart wrote “A Little Night Music” for the purpose of outdoor performances. He often played the solo himself. How splendid.

salzburg_8Salzburg Museum and Sites
Allow me to start with Mozart. Okay, so there’s a theme here. Since Salzburg plays up its Mozart connection, you shouldn’t fight it. Across the Salzach River is the Mozart family home, in the Neustadt neighborhood. The home now is a museum dedicated to bringing the Mozartian era to life using audio-visual displays. Open daily 10am-6pm. Wohnhaus, at Makartplatz 8.

Across the square is the famous Schloss Mirabell, whose palace and gardens take a good afternoon to tour. It’s not a recreation park, per se, but you can get exercise walking through the grounds. Actually, afternoon is best to tour here—the light casts dramatically across the gardens. Above, across the river, you see lighted by a sunset palate the Hohensalzburg Fortress. Open daily 10am-6pm. Mirabellplatz.

The Museum der Moderne holds a nice collection of contemporary art and touring exhibitions. Perhaps the best part of the museum is its location atop the Monchsberg, with great views of the surrounding hills and Salzburg. Open daily from 10am-6pm. Take the Monchsberg lift from Gstattengasse.

(read more about Salzburg, Austria highlights here

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