Carolina: Cruising Past 70: Are a Few Hours Enough to Enjoy a City: Vienna and Salzburg

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Are a Few Hours Enough to Enjoy a City: Vienna and Salzburg


We were already in Austria and felt we had to visit the great cities of Vienna and Salzburg. The former is two hours from Salzburg which is two hours from Innsbruck, our base. The solution was simple. Leave Innsbruck by 7:30 am, arrive in Vienna by 11:30 am, retire in a Viennese apartment by 6:30 pm, leave for Salzburg at 8 am in the morning, arrive at 10 am, go back to Innsbruck at 4 pm, and arrive at 6 pm. That would give us seven hours in Vienna and six hours in Salzburg. Or so we thought.

The Case of Vienna

What was supposed to be a brilliant solution proved troublesome for Austrian newbies like Bill and me. We lost each other in the Innsbruck Hauptbahnhof (Main Railway Station) when he bought water and I got a brochure from the Tourist Information Center. When I finally caught up with him at the platform from which we were to board the train, we hurried and jumped on the one that was about to leave. Two hours later, the conductor who checked our ticket told us that we were on the train to Munich! And it was going in the other direction!

In other words, it was already 1:30 pm when we got to Vienna.  We still covered quite a few landmarks but, because the city is the biggest in Austria with 2.6 million in population, we were rushing from one to the other, walking fast and hurriedly taking photos. It was not how to know and enjoy a city! Our time was reduced from a planned seven to an actual five.

Vienna State Opera House

Still, we saw the grandness of St. Stephen’s Cathedral and witnessed the buzz at StephenPlatz which even had public wifi and modern electric cars that ply tourists around. Just around the corner is the Mozart Haus but, of course, we didn’t have the time to go into the museum. Then we walked to the Vienna State Opera House. Before reaching it, we saw the long lines at the Café Sacher where the famous sacher torte was first served. We knew we lost the chance to taste the legendary dessert. At the Opera House, we spent some time looking at the plaza stars dedicated to great composers who had performed there.


We continued walking to the KarlsKirche, a domed cathedral with a huge viewing platform and fountain. Hungry, we sampled the ubiquitous puffers being roasted and sold by vendors, along with chestnuts and potato slices, on the sidewalk leading to the Park that was in front of the cathedral. Again, we didn’t have the chance to go inside the church since there was a queue at the ticket booth.

Hofburg Palace

On the way to the Hofburg Palace, we chanced upon the Secession Building, an exhibition hall built in 1897 as an architectural manifesto for the Vienna Secession which refers to the seceding of a group of rebel artists from the long-established fine art institution. The Hofburg Palace, on the other hand, is now the national library. Across from it is the Museum Quartier which is akin to the Smithsonian Institutes of America. We barely got to appreciate them except for a few photos. But one of those us that beautiful headline photo of a tourist trolley!

where the original sacher torte was made

And across from the Quartier, we found Café Raymond where we had a quick dinner, some wine, and, finally, a slice of sacher torte, albeit not the original. Our apartment was only four stops away on the subway. We slept well but felt sad. We may have seen eight landmarks but we really did not have enough time to get to know and enjoy Vienna.

The Case of Salzburg

Mirabell Gardens

In Salzburg, we had six hours, just an hour more than Vienna. But Salzburg is a lot smaller with a population of 150,000. From the Hauptbahnhof, we simply walked to the Mirabell Palace on the way to the Old Town Square. The Palace and Garden are where Maria (Julie Andrews), together with the von Trapp children, sang the Do Re Mi. Bill and I spent so much time taking pictures here, with me trying to look and sound like Maria. Yes, Salzburg is the city where most of the Sound of Music was filmed. That alone gave us some spring to our feet.

the Market across Mirabel Palace every Thursday

Then, would you believe right at the Church Plaza across the Palace was a raging farmer’s market that happens once a week, every Thursday? How lucky could we be? We found a haven for local food, produce, plants, and even dry goods. We sort of got stuck there and did not leave until Bill had a version of the famous apple strudel and I had bought a 15 euro leather purse. We could have stayed more hours but we had to move on if we wanted to go home before nightfall.

the Love Lock Bridge

Right before reaching the Old Town Square, we noticed a gleaming horizontal curve. When we got closer, it was the bridge that glistened with the number of locks symbolizing the love of many couples. It is the best such bridge we had seen from all over the world because of the way the sun let it gleam brightly.  After crossing the bridge, we looked for the place where Mozart was born on 9 Getreidegasse. Although the street had become a shopping mecca, the Mozart Haus still dominated the scene. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the time to visit it. 

the Fountain at Residence Platz
Salzburg Cathedral

Just about a block away is the historic center of Salzburg called Residence Platz, a large, stately square named after the Residential building of the Prince-Archbishops of Salzburg. In front of the building, beside the Cathedral, and in the middle of the Square is the beautiful Residenzbrunnen, the fountain which is another point in the Sound of Music Tour. Seeing these places evoked the same feel-good emotions the movie gave us.

The Square defined by the Salzburg Cathedral (which still contains the baptismal font used for Mozart) together with St. Peter’s Abbey and the Residential Building is called the Dom Platz, from where carriages can be hired for tours. There was even one which even carried newly-weds! From that Square, you can see the Salzburg Fortress up the hill (you can also see it from the Mirabell). The time we were there, there was a huge golden ball among the local craft stands.

Mozart Platz
When it was time for an Austrian early dinner, we walked past the Residenzbrunnen Fountain to the Visitors Information Center at Mozart Platz (where a large statue of Mozart stands) to ask for recommendations. They pointed us to Swelter’s where Bill and I had wiener schnitzel and griesnockerlsuppe. It was a great meal that capped a day of memories of the Sound of Music, Austrian cuisine (both fine dining and street food), music and Mozart, and the love bridge. Yes, we got to know Salzburg in just six hours. The Salzburg allure is truly hard to miss.

We concluded that you have a 50-50 chance of knowing and enjoying a city even if you have little time. Remember though that the bigger the city, the more time you should reserve for it. But, in general, since you may never pass that way again, you should always take the chance!

pinnable image
pinnable image