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I got Salz bug; City is alive with sound of music.


SALZBURG is a city of music... and I'm not just talking about the Hills Are Alive sort.

Remember The Sound Of Music? That was filmed here in 1964 and you can do the official tour - just one of many around the city.

I wouldn't recommend this one though. Buy the DVD with the interviews and previously unseen material - it's cheaper and has more information.

But aside from the Julie Andrews troupe, Salzburg means Mozart, who was born here in 1756. The city wasn't particularly supportive of him, however, and he left for Vienna at the age of 25.

However, the city is making the most of the legendary composer, with two museums dedicated to him. Go to his residence (Mozart- Wohnhaus) rather than his birthplace (Geburtshaus).

As well as seeing where he lived, you can also buy a host of confectioneries, liqueurs, jewellery and cards.

A Mozart outing definitely worth going to is the Dinner Concert in the Baroque Hall at the Stiftskeller St Peter Restaurant. It's a candlelit, multiple course dinner, prepared to traditional 17th and 18th century recipes... and all accompanied by music from young Salzburg musicians in historic costume.

If you ever thought classical music and Mozart were stuffy, this will change your mind. The baritone and soprano are brilliant, cheeky and fun.

The bells of the cathedral St Peter's Abbey and the bull organ of the Festung Hohensalzburg fortress are the next everyday sounds that ring around the world heritage city.

This is central Europe's largest completely preserved fortress, dating from the 11th century. The organ was originally included to wake the local archbishop's subjects up at dawn for work. It only plays certain chords, which are said to sound like a roaring bull.

To get to the fortress you take a cable car, which is the oldest in Austria.

From the lofty vantage point, you can take in amazing views of the city with its Alpine backdrop.

On the audio tour of the fortress, you put on earphones to hear in English about the torture techniques once used there, the primitive loos and the fact the fortress has only surrendered once in its history - that was to Napoleon.

Three miles out of the city is Hellbrunn, Schloss und Wasserspiele - which means palace and trick fountains.

Prince Archbishop Markus Sittikus built the vast complex in the Rennaissance period. His guests would sit drinking wine around a marble table in the garden on seats which had water jets concealed in the middle - so the prince could turn them into bidets at the flick of a switch whenever he felt like a laugh.

Back in town, if you're in need of some local liquid culture visit Stiegl's BrauWelt exhibition, the largest beer display in Europe. After the comprehensive info and more facts on beer than you thought possible, go down to their traditional brewery hall and be treated to two free beers and a bretzel (like a giant pretzel).

One good thing about all these attractions is that if you can see them in 24 hours, it'll cost you only 17 Euros with a Salzburger card from tourist information. There are other reasonable options to cover longer periods.

Strolling around the safe and winding streets, through the Mirabell palace gardens past unicorns and fountains, listening to street buskers on harps and violins, Salzburg is certainly a romantic city for couples.

But it is also good for families and energetic types. A short train ride out of Salzburg are the Salt Mines at Durrnberg and the Ice Caves at Werfen.

The region's wealth was based on salt - hence the Salz in Salzburg, and Salzach, the river. The salt was called "white gold" by the Celts who inhabited the area around 600BC. The salt mine trip takes you underground on a train. Then you walk for almost a mile and take two fast wooden slides before enjoying a boat trip over a saline lake, where you can marvel at the mini light display.

The ice caves above Werfen, south of Salzburg, are the largest in the world. It's quite a hike via your own foot power and a cable car but the views of the Alps make it worthwhile.

Carrying traditional Davy lamps, you walk past ice fountains, springs, stalactites and stalagmites and ice formations that look like great bears, oyster shells, palaces and a queen's veil.

The guide lights up each of these spectacular sights with a magnesium flare, making the ice glow and shadows flicker on the monstrous cavern walls.

You feel like an extra in Lord Of The Rings and expect Gimli the dwarf to step out at any moment! Austria is also famous for its coffee houses. Cafe Tomaselli is the oldest in Salzburg, although Cafe Staiger was one of my favourites.

Salzburg is steeped in history, beauty and romance but it's also cosmopolitan, accessible and worth a visit at any time.

For a first-class stay, try the Hotel Bristol by the Mirabell gardens - it's where Julie Andrews and the rest of the Sound Of Music cast stayed.

Smaller establishments offer rooms, or `zimmers', Austria's version of B and Bs. For budget travellers, the many hostels are good and cheap.

I stayed in the International Youth Hostel with a variety of rooms between 14 and 25 Euros. I travelled there by train from Munich in just under two hours.

There are cheap flights to Munich (pounds 29.99) and also to Salzburg.

I loved...

all of it, especially the local wheat beer.

I hated...

thinking about the poor souls who were tortured centuries ago in the Hohensalzburg fortress.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jan 5, 2003
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