I’m out searching again, this time for a childhood crush. He was a contemporary of Maria Antonia; the two of them met gleefully once during their childhood, so the story goes. I’ll tell you about it in a bit. And there is a surprise at the end!
Festung Hohensalzburg (fortress) guarding Salzburg’s Altstadt (Old Town).
This one you will have heard about many, many times. All I need say is his first name, and you’ll be up to speed right away. Too easy? Well, maybe I’ll mention his middle name instead then. For now. Gottlieb. A name he shares with a number of my ancestors. We’ll get back to little Gottlieb in a bit, but first a few things to experience in his hometown.
7 things to do in Salzburg
Salzburg: where Italian and German tradition meet. Once a salt mining town (Salz=salt; burg=town), today it is simultaneously stylish and cosy. Music is everywhere, and you can marvel at the gorgeous urban landscape from the castle on the hill or one of the mountains surrounding it, or from one of the bridges crossing the wide Salzach River.
If you think you have seen it before, even if you’ve never been, it’s probably not a déjà vu, but possibly childhood memories of watching the Sound of Music. (You can tour the filming locations in town, as well as in the surrounding Salzkammergut lake district, including the church in mystical Mondsee, where Maria marries von Trapp).
Here are seven of the many things to see and do in Salzburg.
1. Visit Festung Hohensalzburg
Photogenic at all hours, Hohensalzburg Fortress is nearly 1,000 years old, one of Europe’s largest medieval castles, and well worth a look up close. Take a brisk (and rather steep) 20-minute uphill walk – or else the Festungsbahn, a cool glass funicular and an attraction in itself, will whisk you up in 1 minute.
In the fortress are several museums (including a marionette museum), art galleries, chapels, a restaurant and a tavern. Don’t miss the Salzburger Stier (Salzburg Bull) in the Krautturm, a large organ from 1502, with more than 200 pipes. Outside are courtyards and 360° views of Salzburg and beyond: a veritable picture postcard of the Alps.
2. Mirabell Palace and gardens
Mirabell Palace was built in 1606 as a pleasure palace. Nowadays, the palace contains mainly offices for the city government, but you can usually sneak a peek at the Marble Hall, venue for concerts and weddings. But the garden is the best bit anyway, all symmetry and mythology, with the Pegasus fountain, a rose garden, a palm house, hedges and several sculptures.
Mirabell Gardens is one of several Sound of Music film locations in town. Maria and the von Trapp children skipped about one of the fountains here, singing Do-Re-Mi.
3. Salzburg eats: street food and coffee
Before we move across the love-lock laden Makartsteg footbridge, we’re going to need some food. How about some real Austrian street food? I happened to walk past this Bosna stand a few times, and it was always a queue there. I was intrigued but didn’t have much time, so didn’t sample the goodies. And chances are I might not have been a huge fan, as I’m not much of a meat eater. Austrian street food, you see, is sausages. Sausage stands are all over the place, some are open during the day, some at night. Always a sausage for sale.
But what is this Bosna of which I speak? A bit of research tells me it’s a Salzburg speciality. A Bosna comes in small and big, i.e., with one or two Bratwursts. Think of it as a double hot dog – with curry powder and raw onions. Add parsley, ketchup and mustard, too, if you prefer. It was invented by Bulgarian Zanko Todoroff back in 1949. He called it ‘Bosa’, meaning snack in Bulgarian. Someone then came up with the clever idea of mixing Bosa and Bosnia = Bosna. And even though it has nothing to do with Bosnia – or the Balkans – Todoroff called his little stand Balkan Grill.
Balkan Grill – you’ll find this place in a narrow passage – a through-house – between Getreidegasse and Universitätsplatz
Austria’s coffee houses were offices/living rooms/lounges/homes-away-from-home for 19th century artists. Just like Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre would hang out at Cafe de Flore seemingly every hour of every day, famous local author Stefan Zweig (who, you may remember, settled – and died dramatically – in Petropolis) enjoyed the coffee houses. In his autobiography The World of Yesterday, he called them
…a sort of democratic club to which admission costs the small price of a cup of coffee. Upon payment of this mite every guest can sit for hours on end, discuss, write, play cards, receive his mail, and, above all, can go through an unlimited number of newspapers and magazines…
It’s a habit I seem to have adopted, though unlike Zweig & Co, I need wifi. Also, you can’t really call the price of a cup of coffee a mite these days. But then again, the coffee houses of yore probably wouldn’t have had frappuccino, I suppose.
Viennese coffee houses may be the most famous, but the ones in Salzburg don’t hold back either. On Alter Markt no 9 is the 300-year-old Cafe Tomaselli, the oldest in town. ‘Meh, kinda touristy,’ the locals seem to think, and go to Cafe Bazar instead (Schwarzstrasse no 3). Pick either one, or go to Hotel Sacher for the famous apricot-filled chocolate Sacher Torte. And then there is Cafe Konditorei Fürst (Brodgasse 13), where confectioner Paul Fürst made the first Mozartkugel in 1890, all yummy marzipan and pistachio, wrapped in nougat and dipped in dark chocolate. This is the only place where you can get the handmade Original Salzburger Mozartkugeln. Others are usually industrially produced.
4. Stroll through Salzburg’s Old Town
The baroque Old Town has medieval buildings, lovely squares and little alleys and passages leading to hidden corners, all worth exploring. Quaint coffee houses and shops abound. A captivating – and romantic – place to get lost.
There are plenty of churches in the Old Town, but none so striking as Dom zu Salzburg (Salzburg Cathedral). Built by Italian architects in 774, it has been demolished and rebuilt several times through history. The interior is simple and beautiful, don’t miss the frescoes in the dome – or the 400-year-old graffiti. Also, a certain famous composer was baptised here 266 years ago. Traditional festivals, Christmas markets and various cultural events take place in the cathedral and on Domplatz, the square outside.
Getreidegasse in Salzburg’s Old Town – 2002 and 2022
5. Look up: the guild signs of Getreidegasse
Charming Getreidegasse is the most famous street in town. Shops sell everything from high end fashion to traditional Austrian goods, from jewellery and antiques to perfume and stationary. However, the main thing to notice on this narrow street are the many ornate guild signs, so do look up!
Some medieval, some modern.
6 and 7 coming up, but first…
… Getreidegasse no 9, one of Austria’s most visited museums. (Proof: I’ve been in Salzburg twice; I’ve been in here twice.) And with that, we’re back to little Gottlieb. Loved by God.
Joannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart
der Bub heißt Joannes Chrisostomus, Wolfgang, Gottlieb
wrote his father, Leopold Mozart, when the little one was born.
That’s a lot of names for a little boy. At some point, I suppose he would have had to make a choice for himself. Two names will suffice. But which two? Joannes and Chrysostomus were names of his saints, in good Catholic tradition.
Wolfgangus? That could work, but better in German. Wolfgang then. Theophilus means loved by God. His parents used Gottlieb, the German version. Today, most people use the Latin one, Amadeus. People didn’t seem to care much that he preferred the French one himself, Amadé. His friends called him Wolferl.
Wolfgang Amadé it is then. And Wolferl.
His child violin, cello and pianoforte. He had less to work with than contemporary pianists do: only 5 octaves/61 keys, as opposed to 7 octaves/88 keys on modern pianos.
This child prodigy must surely have arrived here on Planet Tellus pre-programmed. (Perhaps we all are – just that many of us haven’t managed to find our programme yet. Coding too complicated?)
Wolfgang Amadé is always a guest at my imaginary dinner parties, along with Ernesto Guevara, Amelia Earhart, Leonardo from Vinci, and others, each fascinating in their own way. Oddly, most are long gone. The afterlife looks promising.
Whenever I’m in Vienna, I try to stay at Pension Nossek on Graben no 17. In 1781, Wolferl lived here for a while, when he first moved to Vienna. It thrills me to walk the same stairs he did. I was also pleased to spot Renngasse 4 in Baden, where he rented an attic for a few months towards the end of his young life, wrote Ave Verum Corpus and worked on The Magic Flute.
Here in Salzburg, he naturally plays the lead. You will find memorials to this most unconventional genius composer all about town. His birth home – the bright yellow house on Getreidegasse no 9 – is impossible to miss.
Wolfgang Amadé was born in the family apartment on the 3rd floor of this 12th century house on Getreidegasse.
After the first performance of Die Entführung aus dem Serail (Abduction from the Seraglio), Emperor Joseph II, Habsburg ruler in Mozart’s time, is rumoured to have said
Too many notes, dear Mozart, too many notes
To which the reply was
Just as many as necessary, Your Majesty
Let’s create a hashtag – #NeverTooManyNotes.
The emperor was Marie Antoinette‘s oldest brother. But there’s another connection between Marie Antoinette and Wolfgang Amadé. Maybe.
Wolferl played for the imperial family, and legend has it the two met when they were both about 6 years old. The story goes, he tripped and fell on the polished floor of the palace when the children were playing after the concert. Maria Antonia (her birth name) caught him; he kissed her and said, ‘I’ll marry you someday.’
Is the old-fashioned romantic story true? Who knows…? They never met again, and both died tragically in their 30s.
Now, here are a few actual factual facts and figures about this most fascinating of musical storytellers: (Though I’m not so sure about the factuality of that first one. Who counted?)
- He sent 1,095,060,437,082 kisses and hugs to his wife.
- He was about 150 cm tall.
- He owned 18 trousers.
- He woke up at 6am every morning and worked until 1am.
- He wasn’t poor, as is sometimes said. He made lots of money. But he spent even more. Dude just didn’t know basic financial management. (Could’ve taught him a thing or two there). When he died, 35 years old, he left debts equivalent to 21,120 EUR.
- His father set up gigs for him all over Europe. He spent 3,720 days on the road (many, many of them as a little one; what a childhood), travelling 6.5 km/h in a coach.
Little Wolferl travelled far and wide for music jobs
- His mother gave birth to 7 children, only 2 survived past childhood, Wolferl and his sister Nannerl.
- His wife, Constance Weber, gave birth to 6 children, only 2 survived: Karl Thomas and Franz Xaver.
- He played the piano from age 3.
- He took 30 minutes to learn a new minuet to play at his own 5th birthday party.
- The portrait ‘Mozart in Vienna’, painted when he was 13 years old, cost 4,031,500 EUR in 2019
- A page of his original notes cost 320,000 EUR in 2019.
Curious fact: Not only did Wolferl make divine music, he also made crude jokes. Total toilet humour. Some suggest he had Tourette’s syndrome; others say he was bipolar. Well, maybe he was just very childish, and got away with it. I know people like that. Though, sadly, they don’t compensate with musical magic (or any magic, really).
More from the life of Wolfgang Amadé
The Mozart family kitchen: not a lot of furniture, but I think it looks warm and cosy.
The room where he was born, on 27 January 1756, in a bed along the wall, over by the door.
The square, seen through a window in his birth house in the late 18th century – and today. Same. But different.
6. Mozart Wohnhaus
Mozart Wohnhaus on Makartplatz no 8
Across the river Salzach, just across from Mirabell Gardens, is Mozart Wohnhaus (Mozart Residence). The family needed more space, and moved into an 8-room apartment here in 1773. Another museum well worth your time, if you’re a Mozart geek. His original pianoforte is here, as well as various original documents and portraits.
Mozart on a marble pedestal
At the end of Getreidegasse, just minutes from Wolferl’s childhood home, is a large square where he has pride of place. After he died, people in Salzburg forgot about him for a while. But the world didn’t, and Salzburg finally followed suit. In 1842, 51 years after he died, this statue was unveiled here on the square. His two surviving sons were present.
The 3-metre-high statue is larger than life, exactly twice his size, actually. Some say he was left-handed, and would have held the stylus in his left hand, not his right. Others say he was ambidextrous. No one is around who remembers.
On Mozartplatz are also various museums, including Neugebäude (New Residence), housing Salzburg Museum and a Glockenspiel with 35 bells that plays several times throughout the day – melodies by Mozart, of course, but other composers as well. Also on Mozartplatz is the cute little Salzburger Weinachtsmuseum (Christmas Museum). You’ll also find the tourist office here on the square.
Wolfgang Amadé seen through the eyes of a modern-day artist.
And now, the surprise I promised: Allegro in D Major is a newly discovered score, written by Wolfgang Amadé. Experts disagree about the timing; it was composed either in 1766/67 – or in 1773, they say. Wolferl would have been 10 or 17! It was performed for the first time in Salzburg on his 256th birthday, 27 January 2021, by Seong-Jin Cho, a modern day genius pianist. I will learn it. And you can hold me to that.
Here you go: 94 seconds of playful, delightful music hardly ever heard before. Simple, clear and balanced. The score is available for sale in the Mozart Wohnhaus – or, better yet, download here for free.
Disclosure: In Salzburg I was a guest of Visit Salzburg. All opinions are mine, all mine. As always, as ever.