Salzburg city guide

Turns out that Salz in Salzburg actually does stand for salt. Apparently, this tiny city in the mountains was a “White Gold” giant! That’s what they called salt back in the day. All the Pablos Saltobars that mined in the mountains had to move their product. Rock salt is an actual rock and it’s very heavy. How much can you carry over mountain ranges? They eventually realized that the river provides a more efficient means of transportation. Barges with blocks of salt had to travel through Salzburg, where they had to pay a toll. That’s where the city got its name from, also the bulk of its income. There is no shortage of mines near Salzburg, most of them open for exploration. There is evidence of Hallein Salt Mine being operational for over 7000 years. “Coarsely ground salt with your mammoth steak, sir?” Touring those underground tunnels is quite the experience. You can even ride the carts like in an amusement park. Wooden slides are also available if you’re not afraid of splinters up your ass. The underground lakes deep down are my favourite part of the tour. Natural wonders like those are one of the Austrian trademarks. The most amazing sights like the lakes and lush forests are a short drive away from Salzburg.

Panorama of Salzburg Old Town and Festung Hohensalzburg.

The center of the Old Town of Salzburg is the Dome Square, where the most interesting historical sights are located; on the top of Mount Festung you can see the Hohensalzburg Fortress

The city itself is a major tourist destination, particularly for the older folks. It’s not very hip and it’s not very vibrant. Mozart concerts are the wildest parties you’ll find in Salzburg. After all, this is the birthplace of the famous composer. Calling him a genius is not an overstatement. The guy started composing at the age of 5. I couldn’t even make a sandwich when I was 5. Imagine a kid like performing in front of European royalty; wearing those ridiculous wigs from the period: the whole package. There is a lot of Mozart in Salzburg. Mozart Square, Mozart sculptures, dozens of Mozart café’s, tons of gadgets and souvenirs. He’s like Loch Ness monster of Salzburg. There are two sites truly worth a visit: Mozart Geburtshaus and Mozart Wohnhaus. The first one is where he was born and the second one is where he lived. Both are pilgrimage sites for the fans of the composer. You’d be surprised how many there are in the 21st century. I thought that classical music is a niche of a hobby but these museums are crowded as hell.

Statue of young Mozart near his museum in St. Gilgen

Statue of young Mozart near his museum in the town of St. Gilgen, 40 minutes from Salzburg

Believe it or not, but the whole Mozart cult is the least interesting thing about Salzburg. The St. Sebastian Church is old, but ordinary for the most part. The cemetery on its grounds is something else though. It’s not huge, but there’s something mysterious about it. Paracelsus’ tomb (more of a plaque, really) stands within the church’s walls. They call him the father of modern medicine. They used to call them “alchemists” back in the day. He was also a traveller, a scholar, and an occultist among many other things. Paracelsus took inspiration in folk traditions, working with shamans and healers. He valued those more than university degrees. Freud was greatly influenced by this unusual scientist. There are even stories of the secret society of Rosicrucians studying his works looking for some secret code.

St. Peter’s Abbey is amazing: lots to see there. Saint Rupert founded the monastery in the year 696, making it one of the oldest in Europe. Explore the catacombs. They’re not only uniquely sculpted into a rocky mountain, but they also contain quite a few secrets. Ancient chapels and mysterious carving adorn the cold chambers. First Christians in the area used to actually live in these caves. A thing I least expected to find at an abbey is a restaurant. St. Peter's Stiftskeller is allegedly the oldest one in the whole wide world. Must-see if Bier and Lederhosen tickle your fancy. I am not really a fan of the local beer. It reminds me of the Almkanal; one of the oldest networks of canals in Europe. You could say that it was a major step in Salzburg’s development. They used these to funnel the iceberg water from the Alps into the city. It was built from the remains of the Roman settlement that used to pave the road for Salzburg. They clear the Almkanal out every September for maintenance. You can climb down and explore to your heart's content. Who knows how deep the tunnels go, or what secrets they hide? Or, you could go and see the boring castle, like all the sane and responsible tourists.

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