Saturday, May 28, 2011


So finally, after years of dreaming about it, we arrived in Salzburg and what a magical city it is. Birthplace of Mozart, it is a place that had called to us both so we were very excited to be there.

As the capital of one of the World's oldest Archbishoprics, Salzburg is home to dozens of churches and you can see the spires and domes of the Cathedral and church of St Peter (on the right) in this photo.
The first thing we did upon arrival was to dump our cases in the hotel and go for a walk to soak up the atmosphere.

The sun was shining and everywhere looked so beautiful.

You really can't walk far before encountering a place of interest but as soon as we turned the corner from the hotel we found Residenzplatz and saw a whole line of Esther's (see below for a photo of her with Mike).

The ride in a carriage seemed very popular with visitors and we encountered them all through our stay.

It became a ritual for me to say "Guten Morgen Haffies" to them every morning! My 8 months learning German stood us in good stead even though I can barely string a sentence together and it was great fun to put my studies into practice.

Mike became quite adept at asking for another beer and to pay the bill.

In the middle of Residenzplatz is this beautiful fountain, considered to be the most beautiful fountain in the city of Salzburg: four snorting horses seem to spring forth from the spouting rock. Giants rooted in the rock carry the lower basin, in which three dolphins balance the scalloped upper basin. The upper basin holds a Triton, a jet of water shooting into the air from his conch-shell trumpet.
Archbishop Guidobald Thun, a fountain enthusiast, commissioned the fountain to be built. It is considered to be one of the most significant baroque monuments in Europe today. The work is attributed to the Italian sculptor, Tommaso di Garone.

Behind the fountain is the glockenspiel clock, situated in this tower.

The 35 bells play classical tunes (usually by Mozart, Carl Maria von Weber, and his teacher in Salzburg, Michael Haydn) at 7 AM, 11 AM, and 6 PM -- with charm and ingenuity often making up for the occasional musical inaccuracy. The bells are immediately followed by a resounding retort from perhaps the oldest mechanical musical instrument in the world, the 200-pipe "Bull" organ housed in the Hohensalzburg Fortress across town.

It gets quite noisy in Salzburg!

Next to Residenzplatz is Mozartplatz, complete with a statue of the great composer himself which was unveiled by Constanze after his death.

So here it is; Mozart's Geburtshaus - literally, Mozart's birth-house. We were very lucky in that there weren't many tourists around as apparently they have over 3500 visitors a day in the main tourist season (and it isn't a large space).

We took so many photos that I could spend an age uploading them so I've been selective to give a flavour of the place.

Suffice to say that there is something of interest at every turn and we certainly burned off all the calories from our kaffee und kuchen - that's coffee and cake which is a very good tradition and we upheld it with great dedication.

These amazing hinges within the confines of Residenz Palace caught my eye.

How wonderfully ornate!

I kept spotting beautifully crafted hinges and grills and became a bit of a metalwork geek.

There were so many wonderful shop signs.

Apparently, each shop had to display a sign that showed exactly what their trade was so there are some very elaborate examples, particularly in the Getreidegasse, or 'grain lane', the busiest shopping street in the old town.

Mozart's geburtshaus is situated along here and I ran down there on my way to the finish line in the marathon, which of course was the other reason we were there.

There was a well organised series of street musicians with Oompah bands and solo artists performing throughout the old town.

They really helped bring the city to life and the traditional bands were very popular with the locals too.

We saw a couple dancing to a folk tune and an elderly lady was singing and dancing happily too.

Apparently Salzburg has a reputation for being a drizzly and cloudy city but we were blessed with the most beautiful weather (for most of the time - wait and see what happened the day before the marathon!).

It was so hot and we were walking about in the sunshine so much that we both bought holiday hats from a market trader.

Mike's hat is such a typically Austrian shape and it really suits him.

As a vegetarian, who eats neither meat nor fish, I was somewhat apprehensive about what I would eat. I was absolutely fine and had no trouble until one particular evening when we ate at a restaurant recommended by a local.

I've included this photo to remind me just how bad it can be as I look so happy before the food arrived - pleasure/pain!

I explained to the waiter that I eat "kein fleiche oder fische" (no meat or fish) and he recommended the Spargel, which he referred to as asparagus and was served with boiled potatoes and a sauce. "Yum" I said, "I love asparagus".

When it arrived it looked like this and was all mushy as if it had been boiled for about 3 hours. Worse still it arrived with a pork snitzel on the plate so had to be sent back to have scraped off. It tasted disgusting but I consoled myself that I'd have a pudding as a treat.

Unfortunately the apple streudel was disgusting as well and was served with cream that was off so we both left that too. I couldn't even have a drink to drown my sorrows as I was being good before the marathon which was only 2 days away!

Now for a bit of running.

I only did one run in Salzburg before the marathon and that was just to stretch my legs out - we walked so much in the days prior to the marathon I didn't even really need to do that but it's always a good psychological booster.

We were out nice and early so there weren't many people around, except for cyclists.

There is a very good cycle network throughout the city but as a pedestrian you had to keep your wits about you when crossing their path!

I did a couple of circuits along the riverside, across a bridge to the new town and then back to the old town whilst Mike walked along enjoying the view.

Look at those wonderful hills in the background.

I keep referring to the 'old town', which is where we stayed, as the city is divided into 2 by the river Salzach.

The river's name is derived from the German word Salz, meaning "salt". Until the 19th century shipping of salt down the river was an important part of the local economy. The shipping ended when railways replaced the old transport system.

This photo was taken from the new side and you can see the magnificent Hohensalzburg Fortress which dominates the skyline. We took the funicular railway to visit it on our second day there but later in our stay we walked up the hillside to it which was much more fun!

This photo shows the inside of the dome in the cathedral but there are some much better photos here.

We were lucky to hear the organist practising when we visited and the organ sounded wonderful in such a massive space.

The day before the marathon the weather changed. In the morning it was bright so we decided to head off to the Untersburg mountain to take the cable car to the summit.

Sadly I can only give a link to this beautiful mountain (of 'Sound of Music' fame) because when we arrived the clouds descended and by the time we'd reached the top it was raining and blowing a gale so we couldn't see a thing! It is a very popular place and when we came back down there was a bride and groom with their wedding party waiting to take the cable car to have photos taken. They must have been very disappointed.

When we got back down the rain wasn't as heavy but by the time we arrived back in the city centre it had settled in for the day so we finished off the last of the museums and Residenz gallery where we walked in Mozart's footsteps admiring the amazing Baroque stucco work and highly ornate stoves in every room.

The evening before the marathon we had a real treat as we attended a performance of Mozart's Requiem inside Residenz Palace and it was performed in one of the "Prunkräume", or "glorious rooms" (State Apartments), adjacent to where Mozart performed his first ever composition at the age of 6.

It is my favourite Requiem and it was a wonderful performance.

The railings at the end of the room were constructed from bells destined for a church. The order was cancelled and so the bells were melted down and refashioned into the ballustrade. Its secret though is that each ballustrade was tuned so that they can be played as a glockenspiel. Yes, we did try them to check they worked, but not during the concert of course!

Thankfully the rain had abated and stayed away long enough for us to get back to the hotel at about 9:30pm. Then it came back with a vengeance, torrential rain complete with thunder. It was so noisy it kept waking me up so I didn't have a good night's preparation, but that's not unusual before a marathon.

It was still raining heavily when we got up on the morning of the marathon and it was jolly cold too.

All the runners milling around were wearing jackets and some even had long winter tights on. I just had my Alzheimer's vest and shorts with me and I knew I was going to get cold so I made the decision to keep my jacket on.

It was a wise decision!
I'd checked the results from previous years so I knew that it was going to be a fast marathon field and that I would finish either last or nearly last so I positioned myself near the back.

I hadn't realised that the 1/2 marathon was being run at the same time so I was in amongst the 1/2 marathon runners in a pen labelled "4:20 or longer marathoners & 2:10 1/2 marathoners".

As the gun went off the rain decided to come down even heavier and so I was soon soaked to my skin and my feet were sloshing around - yuk. The thing about running in the rain is that once you are soaked through to the skin then you really can't get any wetter and you just tend to get on with the business of running.

After about 4 miles I was getting too hot in my jacket so I took it off and tied it around my waist. As I passed mile 11 the lead runner, Victor-Bushendich Chelokoi passed me and was looking good - I found out later that he broke the course record, coming home in 2:14:49. Wow! I decided to push ahead in the first 1/2 and keep ahead of the slower 1/2 marathoners and I passed the 1/2 way point in 2:20.

I did have to stop for a couple of toilet breaks though, which slowed me down, as I had a bit of an upset tummy when I woke up that morning which is most unusual for me as I have a cast-iron stomach. Thankfully the race organisers had positioned portaloos around the course, even in the remote areas. The other thing that impressed me about the organisation was that they had sensor mats, positioned at regular intervals, that you had to run over so that your timing chip was registered. This ensured that there was no cheating.

It was a 2 lap course and was almost pancake flat so there was pb potential there in the right conditions but for me it was just about getting round in one piece without falling over (I do have a tendency to trip up in wet conditions!).

The route took us along the Salzach then out into the countryside towards Hellbrunn Palace a wonderful 'pleasure palace' we had already visited. It is famous for its trick fountains and we had great fun there getting thoroughly soaked by the guide! I thought about that as I ran down the red carpet they had laid out for us on the drive - what a lovely touch.

Most of the course was on wide trails which although a bit muddy and puddly in parts were largely OK to run on. There was scant support along the route but this was made up for by the number of marshalls and Police out who all had a cheery word for us and held up the traffic to let us cross any roads that hadn't been closed (the roads we ran on were mostly closed for 6 hours which was brilliant).

As I was wearing my Alzheimer's vest I had some lovely comments from marshalls and fellow runners that I passed en-route. Highlights were the Policeman who took his hat off to me and the man sitting in cafe who jumped to his feet and shouted "well done Alzheimer's" and stood and clapped as I ran past. The nicest moment was running back across the Salzach for the last time and on both sides of the road there were fellow runners who had finished and were making their way home - there must have been about 40 of them and they all stood and clapped me past. I heard several shouts about relatives with Alzheimer's but I didn't understand everything. It certainly brought a tear to my eyes.

There were 547 starters but only 535 finishers and I was number 529, so not quite last then! My chip time was 5:03:38 which was pleasing given the weather conditions and that it was my 3rd marathon in 5 weeks. The last runners came home in 5:22 which was a good time too.

As I came up to the finish line I spotted Mike with the video camera so I gave him a great big wave and a smile. There were still some die-hard supporters around so I had lots of cheers and clapping to welcome me home.

Having received my medal the first thing to do was grab some water, a banana and a piece of cake!

After a great big hug from Mike we looked at my medal and it's a cracker! The cut-out bit is the silhouette of the fortress and then the city skyline is in the foreground, across which the runners dash along a musical stave with their feet being the notes. Underneath it says 'Salzburg AMREF Marathon, run in Mozart's city'. It is one of my favourite medals.

So that was marathon number 23 and the 3rd this year so the summer will be dedicated to getting my speed up for the Liverpool marathon in October.

That evening we dined on pasta and tiramisu and celebrated with some lovely wine.

The next day my legs felt absolutely fine and so we decided to have another day of adventure but his time on the other side of the river in the new town where we visited St Sebastian's church and graveyard where Mozart's wife, Constanze, and his father, Leopold, are buried in a family grave. We heard about this from a lovely Austrian man who I spoke to in St Peter's Church graveyard. In my best German I had asked if Mozart was buried in Salzburg or Vienna and he told me that although he is buried in Vienna that his sister Nanerle is buried there in St. Peter's and then told me about St. Sebastians too. It was worth learning German just to glean those snippets of information. Mozart's Mass in C Minor was first performed in St. Peters and Constanze sang the Soprano part!

On our way there we passed this wonderful lion atop a building and I snapped him.

It was only later that we realised that he made an appearance in the Sound of Music.

That realisation made us start wondering about other sights around the city and when we came home we watched the whole film to spot the places we'd visited including Residenzplatz, Schloss Mirabell gardens and the Rock Riding School where Captain von Trapp sang Edelweiss.

That evening we attended a Mozart Concert and Dinner at Stiftskeller, a restaurant adjacent to St. Peter's and dating back to 803, where the Mozart family were regular diners. It sounded a bit touristy but we did it anyway and had a wonderful evening. The food was based on 17th and 18th century menus (well, except for my vegetarian risotto which was perhaps not quite so authentic!) and between courses we were entertained by 2 opera singers and a music ensemble performing operatic arias from Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni and the Magic Flute. The singers were excellent and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

This view was taken from the path leading to the Fortress. We just had a short amble up there on our way back to the hotel and ended up walking for a couple of hours as the views were so stunning.

In the top left of the photo is the Museum der Moderne Mönchsberg where we saw an exhibition of Alberto Giacometti's work.

The morning of our last full day was spent climbing up another hill.

It was a glorious day and the climbing really helped to stretch my legs out again. I saw all sorts of wild flowers that I didn't recognise and there were really useful information boards to read about the flora and fauna. Apparently there are about 30 chamois goats living there but we didn't spot any.

I loved this view of the fortress, framed by trees.

This water fountain was most welcome and we both agreed that we'd never tasted such pure, clean water before.

We sampled it on the way up and then again on the way down.

It was one of those perfect times that you never want to end.

Although the city of Salzburg itself is completely flat, it is surrounded by these beautiful mountains and hills.

You can see the snow on the tops of some of them. When I was running the marathon I was interested to feel the drop in temperature near the mountains. The cloud seemed to roll down the side of the mountain and envelop the towns.

As a treat on our final day we headed off to the Hotel Sacher, from whence comes the infamous Sachertorte.

We'd certainly worked up an appetite from walking up the hillside all morning.

Mike declared that this was the best burger he had ever tasted so I took a photo of it to remind him!

We rounded off the meal with a piece of Sachertorte each on the premise that we'd already burned off the calories.

So that was it. I hope that's given a taster of what our holiday was like as there was just too much to include everything. Suffice to say that the reality of going there lived up to and exceeded our expectations and now we're eager to visit Vienna to continue our journey through Mozart's short life. I'd better keep up my German classes then!

There are some wonderful photos of Salzburg here courtesy of Wikipedia