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Salzburg: of Castles, Palaces and Music


The hills of Salzburg are alive, but not only with the sound of music. The rocky cliffs overlooking the town is dominated by the formidable Hohensalzburg Fortress. Regarded as one of the best preserved large medieval fortresses in Europe, this castle was built in the midst of a quarrel between the Pope and the Emperor. The Archbishop, loyal to the Pope, built this fortress in 1077 to protect his domain. It has never been taken by attackers in its over 900 year history.


A formidable fortress


In a period of strife known as the war of the farmers (Bauernkrieg), the castle was besieged and they ran low on food. The last remaining bull in the castle was painted a slightly different colour every day, and paraded by the garrison for the besiegers to see. In this way the besiegers were fooled into thinking that they had plenty of cattle, and in this way the siege was raised. Today’s Salzburgers display creatively painted cows in August, but in deference to history, there is only one bull and that is the one high up in the castle.


Times became less harsh and the Archbishops began to enjoy the luxuries that were the boons of better and more pacific times. The Residenz in the middle of the town, built up in the Baroque style from the late 16th Century on, is home to a rich collection of artworks by European Artists from the 16th to the 19th Centuries. This collection is now on view within the Residenz Galerie, open to the public. The magnificent furnishings made the Residenz an ideal venue for entertaining distinguished guests, such as Emperor Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie, who stayed here in 1867. Salzburg’s favourite son, Mozart, performed at the Residenz regularly. Concerts are still performed today at the Rittersaal, taking advantage of the excellent acoustics here.


The Hellbrunn Palace is virtually a playground built by an adult — an Archbishop, no less. Prince Archbishop Markus Sittikus von Hohenems commissioned the building of a “Villa Suburbana” in the Italian style in 1612. The highlight of the Palace is, of course, the Wasserspiele, or trick fountains. It got its name from the water jets located in unexpected places, spouting water at irregular intervals. There is a marble table and chairs set which would suddenly spout water from the seats, and catch the people sitting around unawares. There are also water-powered moving statues in the park. The Palace was used mainly for large grand celebrations and rarely as a residence.


The legacy of a classic movie

In the old days, musicians earned their keep by producing works of music or performed for the benefit of their patrons, who were rich and powerful nobles. They got their room and board from their patrons and that was it. Mozart got his start when his father was in the employ of the Prince Archbishop. Today, you can visit Mozart’s residence and his birthplace in Salzburg. The birthplace of the famous composer is located at Getreidegasse no. 9. It has been restored and improved upon regularly by the Mozart Foundation since 1880. A museum here displays the musical instruments owned by Mozart, documents and paintings of Mozart and his family members. A house which served as his residence, which was located at Hannibalplatz, has been rebuilt after the original was destroyed in the Second World War.


Mozart will be the highlight of 2006, when Salzburg commemorates the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth. A series of concerts and operas of Mozart works, together with exhibitions and seminars will be held throughout the year. More regularly, the Salzburg Festival is a yearly event presenting music and drama performances from around the world. Works by Austria’s own Hugo von Hoffmannsthal are often the highlight of events.


For many people around the world, their most enduring memory of Salzburg would be the movie The Sound of Music, based upon the true story of a novice named Maria, who decided not to become a nun, but instead becoming a mother to the seven children of widowed Captain Georg von Trapp, whom she fell in love with. This movie continues to have an enduring presence throughout the world.


One of the most memorable scenes is set in the Pavillion at Hellbrun Palace, which was used to film the singing of “You are 16 going on 17”. The Mirabell Gardens served as the setting for the scenes of Maria romping around town with the children, with its fountains and trees. The sombre Felsenreitschule, scene of performances during the Salzburg Festival, was the setting for the Farewell Concert given by the family and where the Captain sings Edelweiss to the people.


The von Trapp family left Austria in 1938 to settle in Vermont in the United States, but the story that they inspired has made Salzburg the perpetual home of their memory in the eyes of the world.

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