Februrary 27 2006 was Mozart’s 250th birthday so we made the pilgrimage to his birthplace, Salzburg. Salzburg is a beautiful baroque town. In fact the Old Town is designated a World Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO.
We arrived at our hotel, the Auersperg, late on Sunday night. It was really a very nice hotel with friendly staff and modern decor. The only downsides was that it was not in the Old Town and it only had a bar, not a restaurant.
The next day we discovered how cold Salzburg gets in the winter. Despite the long underwear and scarves we soon started to freeze. However, we found that if you tried to not stay outside for more than a couple of hours it wasn’t too bad. As we walked to the Old Town we passed a group of school kids wrapped up like Michelin men who seemed to be on a school tabogganing excursion. They needed the padding for more than just the cold as they tended to crash repeatedly in a most amusing way.
We visited Mozart’s birthplace, which didn’t have an awful lot to see and Mozart’s residence which had a bit more. We also went to the Residenz which was the Prince-Archbishop’s palace. It was only in 1815 that Salzburg became a part of Austria. Until then the whole province was an independant principality governed by the ecclesiastical ruler. The Residenz is very impressive but it is interesting to think that while Mozart was just a servant then, now it is he who is more famous and revered than the Prince-Archbishops who lived there.
Salzburg is a very small town with a population of about 150,000 but as it was Mozart Week in his 250th year we thought the town would be a little busier than it was. But the streets were quite empty, including the main street, the Getreidegasse.
We had booked tickets to see the VPO with Daniel Barenboim at the Grosses Festspielhaus on Monday night and were interested to see that about two thousand people had come from somewhere to practically fill the huge hall. I suppose they were mostly locals. They were also mostly over sixty.
Unfortunately Daniel Barenboim was ill so he couldn’t do the concert. Instead we had Manfred Honeck and Alexander Lonquich. This was rather disappointing considering the price of the tickets but the concert was still nice. I don’t think the VPO were as good as the LSO but they still made a nice sound. The strings were very good and the horns took every opportunity to remove their plumbing and upend their instruments.
Over the next couple of days we visited the Hohensalzburg Fortress on the peak of Festungsberg above the town, went to the quite interesting Natural History Museum and did some shopping on the Getriedegasse.
If I were to go back I would probably only go for two rather than three days as the town is really quite small. I would also go in warmer weather as although the town is beautiful when covered in snow, it really was frickin’ cold!