Stuart Forster looks at culture and food in Salzburg, Austria.
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Anyone from the English-speaking world who hasn’t yet been to Salzburg might be forgiven for associating the Austrian city with just two things. They are, of course, the classical composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and The Sound of Music. Every year, the legacies of both draw thousands of tourists and admirers to the Austrian city. There is, of course, plenty more for visitors to enjoy.
That said, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Salzburg’s most famous son, is ubiquitous in the historic Altstadt (Old Town) district. It’s easy to lose count of the number of shop windows in which you’ll see his portrait or profile. He appears on book and CD covers, T-shirts, postcards and on the foil wrappers of the city’s speciality Mozartkugeln (Mozart balls), a delectable marzipan-based sweet dipped in chocolate.
“Central Europe has no place more beautiful – Mozart had to be born here,” wrote the author Hugo von Hofmannsthal of Salzburg. The composer was born in a house in the old town’s Getreidegasse, an alley which characterises urban central Europe at its very best.
Multi-storey Baroque era buildings front the pedestrianised street. Wrought iron signs hang above the heads of strolling tourists, lending even the most modern of the ground floor shops something of a traditional, boutique feel. The old world lives on in the present. The resulting tourist dollars help pay for the maintenance of the Altstadt, which in 1997 became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Live music and cultural events
The city prides itself on its rich cultural heritage. Over 4,000 live events are staged here annually. Quite a number of those take place during the Salzburg Festival, Europe’s largest opera, music and theatre festival.
There’s also a Mozart Week in January, a Salzburg Whitsun Festival and an autumn Jazz Festival. But you don’t have to be in the city during one of those to enjoy a concert. Mozart’s last work, his Requiem, is performed in the Kollegienkirche (University Church) every Saturday from April to September. Palace Concerts and performances by the Marionette Theatre are held throughout the year.
You can combine an evening meal with a memorable musical performance by attending a candlelit Mozart Dinner Concert in the Baroque Hall of the Stiftskeller St Peter. This is central Europe’s oldest restaurant and it has been serving meals for more than 1,200 years. Its existence was first recorded in 803, on the occasion of a visit by the Holy Roman Emperor, Charlemagne.
Extracts from Mozart’s works
Almost a thousand years later, on 28 October 1783, Nannerl Mozart mentioned in her diary that “…papa and henry had lunch at St Peter…” These days extracts from her brother’s operas The Marriage of Figaro and The Magic Flute are among the works which are performed between the three courses of the Mozart Dinner Concert, whose menu is inspired by eighteenth-century recipes.
Members of the Amadeus Consort Salzburg – two singers plus a five-person chamber orchestra – don eighteenth-century costumes to entertain diners in a romantic, history-rich setting. Many of the group’s singers go on to perform at the major opera houses, so this is also an opportunity to see rising talent in close proximity and to appreciate the passion and expression of the artists.
The Stiftskeller St Peter is one of more than 100 restaurants in the city. Gourmets will undoubtedly enjoy an extended stay in a city that offers fine dining and traditional Austrian cuisine.
Dining opposite Mozart’s birthplace
The Restaurant Zum Eulenspiegel, opposite Mozart’s birthplace, serves a number of regional favourites, including Tafelspitz, a succulent piece of boiled rump steak served with potatoes with a garnish of shredded horseradish and carrot. Interestingly, the traditional wood-beamed rooms of the Zum Eulenspiegel, where diners now sit, were once let out. The Mozart family stayed here for a time, when the Wunderkind Wolfgang Amadeus was just seven years old. Unfortunately, history does not record whether they tucked into Apfelstrudel (apple strudel) or a Salzburger Nockerl (soufflé) while on the premises.
Visitors seeking a lighter bite might prefer to visit one of the city’s 80-plus cafes. The Austrian capital, Vienna, may well be more famous for its coffee and cakes but it would take a brave visitor to mention that to a local proprietor.
Fortunately for visitors who enjoy good food as well as history the walk up the castle, Festung Hohensalzburg, is the perfect stimulus for a calorie-burning post-lunch stroll.
A SalzburgCard (valid for 24, 48 or 72 hours) gives reduced-price entry to museums and galleries. It also covers the use of public transport and entry to the Hohensalzburg cable railway, Salzach Cruise and Untersberg cable car.
Thanks for reading this article on culture and food in Salzburg, Austria. If you want more insights into the region’s cuisine, take a look at my post on the Festival of Alpine Cuisine.
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