10 Jul 2017

Salzburg, Austria (May 2017)

At one point last year, during another conversation where my mum was moaning about not doing stuff and banging on about all the shit she wants to do, I turned around and went, “Then let’s go. Let’s do it. Next year, we’re going.”

I didn’t say it just (just) to shut her up. I said it because I was learning the art of ‘doing shit’ and it was about time she did too. We’re a family of excuse-makers and I was bored of it. So I told her we were going.

We were going to go to Salzburg, Austria. We were going to do the official Sound of Music tour. What on earth had I let myself in for?

When Ryan and I go on our city breaks, we make it easy for ourselves by going for our birthdays. No having to choose the best time to go. No obsessively checking the weather, and no comparing prices and recommendations. We go away to celebrate another year of ‘doing shit’ and get what we’re given.

So having to choose a weekend for Salzburg with my mum, who isn’t quite at the ‘fuck it let’s just book this and do that’ stage of ‘doing shit’, was tricky. 

We settled on the first weekend in May, Friday to Monday. A friend who had been to Salzburg also for the Sound of Music tour said it was a good shout and we’d probably be fine with the weather. We booked our flights with Ryanair - both our first experiences with the airline - with just one suitcase (which caused more flapping between Mum and me because she wants to take all the ‘just in case’s). 

Looking at Google maps, Salzburg seemed quite small so I wasn’t too bothered about where our hotel was. But I knew we had to meet for the tour by Mirabell Gardens, and the bus route from the airport to the city ended at the train station, so we picked a place near the two.

Mercure Salzburg City was a very business-y hotel. It was nice enough, but quite boring which was a stark difference compared to the boutique-y hotels I’d booked in Berlin, Prague and, I guess, even Bath. The breakfast was ok, but again, boring, and the hotel was surrounded by residential flats which just seemed… odd. It felt quite out of place. 

But that didn’t become an issue once we went out exploring, because that was the general theme of Salzburg. Odd. It was totally different to how I imagined, and I made the mistake of constantly trying to compare it to other European cities. 

Salzburg is incredibly small but very, very pretty. I mean, there are mountains EVERYWHERE. Like, it’s Austria. There are lots of mountains. We couldn’t actually see them for a while when we arrived because the weather was quite overcast, but that didn't detract from the quaintness and colour of the small city. 

We stumbled upon Mirabell Gardens rather quickly, and I’ll never forget my mum’s reaction when I revealed: “Um, I think these are THE steps, Mum. Isn’t this where they filmed Do-Re-Mi?”

The whole weekend was like looking after a toddler at Peppa Pig World. Mum was buzzing. She spontaneously squealed multiple times when she recognised a scene, and wanted comparison photos of everything. We spent 50% of the holiday on Google trying to find certain Sound of Music scenes at particular angles so she could shout on Facebook: “LOOK, I’M BEING JULIE ANDREWS!”, “DO-RE-MI STEPS!”, “THE NUNNERY! WE WANT TO SEE FRÄULEIN MARIA!”, or whatever the quote is.


The Mirabell Gardens are, like everywhere else, marvellously pretty. The colours are beautiful and everything is so neat and well looked after. The whole of Salzburg is wonderfully clean, which leads me to mention that YOU FOLLOW THE RULES IN SALZBURG. Particularly, you do not cross when the man is not green. No cars for miles with a red man showing? Doesn’t matter. You do not cross. May the people of Salzburg strike you down if you do.

Aside from the Sound of Music, Salzburg is famously known for Mozart. I was sick of the guy by the end of our weekend. He is everywhere. Not only are there the two museums: Mozart Geburthaus (his birthplace) and Mozart Wohnhaus (his house), statues in the square, and souvenirs of his face everywhere, some buildings play his music out into the city. There’s an actual Salzburg soundtrack. It was quite eerie, but nice all the same… I guess.

Finding ace restaurants for dinner is now one of my favourite parts of travelling, but Salzburg made this bafflingly hard. We couldn’t find restaurants ANYWHERE. There didn’t seem to be any classic tourist strips or squares, and the old city was just full of cafes that wanted to pile us with ice cream. No objection at all usually, but highly unhelpful when I all I wanted was a big old carb. We were probably just looking in all the wrong places, and if we ever go back then I’ll definitely need to Google the shit out of this before we go. 

For the three nights we were there, we ate at Zum Mohren, Saran Essbar, and L’Osteria. Wouldn’t recommend Zum Mohren - too dark, too quiet, too inattentive, and just a bit creepy, Saran Essbar was lovely enough, and L’Osteria was fabulous with pizzas the size of my FACE but it’s a chain you can find in the UK so doesn’t count imo. 

Saran Essbar

And that’s all I have to say on the food. 

The Saturday of our weekend in Salzburg was Sound of Music day and, oh boy, without wanting to sound too much like my nan: WEREN’T WE LUCKY WITH THE WEATHER?! Beautiful blue skies all day which made the lake and mountain visits just perfect. 

There are a few Sound of Music tours in Salzburg but I’d highly recommend the official one. It lasts for four hours, they take you to most places (just no pesky sentient hills, Nonnberg Abbey or, y'know, the actual internal sets), the guides know their shit (we had the sublime Peter and he is now my Austrian grandad), and you have sing-a-longs on their branded buses. It's not cheesy at all. AT ALL.

They even take you to Mondsee, way up in the mountains, just to see the church where the Von Trapps were married. But you get to witness some disgustingly incredible views and taste some of the best crisp apple strudel of your life up there too.

We booked the tour months in advance and it was about £40 each, which isn’t too bad considering the length of the tour and the amount of places they take you to. It was a good job we did book as there were four full coaches for just the morning tour. Four! It was like being on a massive school trip all over again. 

I don’t want to explain every moment of the tour because that would ruin it, and it would also take me f o r e v e r, so here it is in photos and locations: 

Schloss Leopoldskron - the outside of the Von Trapp house


Schloss Leopoldskron

"I am 16 going on 17..."

This face, the whole time


Basilika St. Michael - church of the Von Trapp wedding

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em

Wolfgangsee - breathtaking

Safe to say we were exhausted by the end of the day. 

The following day was hilariously different. The WEATHER. Lord, it poured. The skies were dark and armageddon was looming. We planned to go up to the castle in the morning but we had to dive into a cafe for hours instead.

By about 2pm it was safe to venture out. Tourists tentatively reappeared and we took the funicular railway up to the castle. I love the word ‘funicular’. Say it. Funicular. 

Salzburg below looked wonderfully moody under the clouds and we had a good few hours plodding around the castle trying not to fall over on all the wet stone steps. We then decided to walk back down to the city, attempting to find Nonnberg Abbey on the way - somewhere the Sound of Music tour didn’t take us. It took a while and a lot of stairs to find it, but Mum got her photo so she was happy and that’s literally all that mattered on this trip. It was hers. 

Nonnberg Abbey

Salzburg wasn’t as I imagined, and I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re looking for lots to do, try, and see, nor if you’re not a fan of The Sound of Music or Mozart. It’s worth remembering that it’s very traditional and not the capital, which is wonderful to be a part of but I didn’t even consider that a lot of places didn’t speak English. 

The city is cute and pretty and you only need a few days there, although I’m still convinced there’s a secret door somewhere that leads to utter shenanigans…

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