Salzburg: the sound of music, rain & sun

Will & Julie

Calgarians love to say, “If you don’t like the weather, wait a few minutes and it will change.” I’ve also heard people in other cities make this claim. In Salzburg, Will and I lived it for three days.

We arrived to a horrible weather forecast for our one week stay: sun and cloud the first morning, with increasing cloud, cold and rain through the week.  By the end we’d be wearing mittens under zero sunshine. I felt light-deprived thinking about it.

Our first morning, we walked under sun and cloud, over pedestrian bridges and along the riverside to check out the Mirabell Palace, where we had tickets to a chamber music concert that night. On a square near the palace , we noticed a ‘Sound of Music’ tour bus preparing to head out for the day. We’d heard these tours were pretty good and figured, why not take one now and see something of the city and region before the rain hit?

Singing along with von Trapp family

We hopped on the bus, which gradually filled with fans of the musical about an aspiring nun who marries a captain with seven children. The bus rambled through Salzburg with stops at the film’s settings: the mansion used as the back of the von Trapp house, the lake Maria and children tumbled into and the gazebo that sheltered two sets of lovers from rain. Throughout, our guide dressed in drindl supplied anecdotes about the movie location filming. We learned that the scheduled six weeks expanded to eleven due to rain that spring.  The cast and crew spent hours waiting for momentary breaks in the weather to shoot scenes, often in discomfort due to miserable cold.

We bussed into the lake district south of the city. Instead of growing dreary and rainy, the day got sunnier and warmer. Views of  Lake Wolfgang and the mountains were gorgeous. We stopped in Mondsee for a fifty minute break to see the church used for Maria’s and the captain’s wedding and had the best strudel of our holiday while sitting by Lake Mondsee watching sun dance on the water.

Lake Mondsee

Back in Sazburg, it continued sunny and warm. We explored Mirabell park, where Julie and the children marched around fountains and hopped up stairs while singing Do, Re, Mi.

Do, re, mi

We crossed a bridge and climbed steeper stairs to another scene from Do, Re, mi, fabulous viewpoint, near the modern art museum. From there, we hiked the Monchsberg escarpment looking down at the historic town.

By the time we reached the castle, the sky was growing dark. We hurried past the abbey – another SOM settting – and ducked into our apartment as the first drops hit. Within minutes, hail pounded our roof. We ate dinner cosily inside.

Rain poured through the evening and overnight. We woke to sunshine and a forecast of cloud and rain. After the previous day’s botched forecast, who knew what today’s forecast meant? Lake Wolgang and the mountains had looked so wonderful the previous day, we decided to take a chance and drive out there to ride the cog steam train to the summit of Shafberg Mountain, with its views of seven lakes.

All aboard

The steep ride was tremendous fun and the views from the top amazing. Clouds covered sections, but drifted continuously, revealing new vistas while concealing previous ones. I saw the beauty of how clouds can frame a scene.

Will and I agreed the cog railroad ride was the highlight of our Salzberg trip.

At the bottom, we ate lunch on a sunny patio, soon covered in drizzle. We boarded the Lake Wolfgang cruise boat and huddled outside in cold and rain to the St. Gilgen, at the end of the lake. Blue skies blew over the town and followed us to the opposite end of Lake Wolfgang, where we sunbathed on the deck.

View of Lake Wolfgang

Day three looked to be as variable as our first two, with a somewhat less positive forecast. We went to the lake district again, to tour a salt mine. Salzburg was founded due to the region’s abundant salt. The fun tour included rides down slides like the ones miners used to quickly get from one level of the mine to another. The tour ended with a mine train ride out. The high school students in our tour group loved it.

We emerged from the mine into sunshine, which inspired us us to have lunch on a restaurant patio on a cliff overlooking Lake Hallstatt.  After eating, we rode the funicular down to the tiny town of Hallstatt squeezed between the lake and mountain. An hour was enough to see the picturesque village before a deluge sent us scurrying under a restaurant canopy for ice cream.

Sun, rain, cloud, warmth, cold, often within the space of minutes. Luckily, the periods of sunshine and warmth were long enough for us to enjoy most of the region’s sights and views. When Salzburg looks good, not much can top her. After our dreary, initial weather forecast, our first three days in Salzburg were a gift.

Cruising on Lake Wolfgang, as the sun reappears