Stay in Passau and you can tour this "city of graceful arcades and cobblestone streets". St. Stephen’s Cathedral houses the world’s largest church organ with over 17,000 pipes. Those who opt for the Salzburg tour (most people) leave by coach at 8.15 a.m.
The coach trip from Passau to Salzburg takes you through lovely countryside. Along the way, our guide pointed out the holiday homes of the rich and famous and filled us with lots of trivia: Did you know that (i) an Austrian, Felix Salten, wrote Bambi in 1923 ( "Bambi, ein Leben im Walde") and this was acquired by Walt Disney in late 1930s (ii) Joseph Mohr, the creator of 'Silent Night! Holy Night' ("Heilige Nacht") was born on December 11, 1792 in Salzburg (iii) many farmhouses brew their own beer and this is mostly done by women, etc. So, we were well entertained during the trip.
Our first stop in Salzburg was the Mirabell Gardens to visit some "Sound of Music" film locations. Some of our American companions were Sound of Music buffs and this part of the tour was of keen interest for them. At quite a pace, we were whisked through the gardens, across the road and into the old town. The guided tour takes in the Cathedral and then around the town. Salzburg was in the throes of preparation for the celebration of the 250th anniversary of Mozart's birth and many buildings associated with the famous composer were covered with scaffolding, but this should have gone by now. Mozart fans would have felt the excitement as everywhere you looked, there were pictures, posters and paintings of the great composer.
For lovers of marizipan, look out for Fürst, Brodgasse 13, where the first marzipan was made. Mozartkugeln or Mozart Balls were invented by the Salzburg confectioner Paul Fürst in 1890. They're small chocolate balls with a core of marzipan mixed with pistachio. Then a layer of nougat is added and a thin layer of bitter chocolate. The balls are wrapped in silver or gold foil, imprinted with Mozart's head.
View over Salzburg,
railway in foreground
Firefighters will be pleased to know that St. Florian, their patron saint, is in the old town square as well. We took a funicular ride up to the Hohensalzburg Fortress and from here you have a wonderful aerial view of Salzburg. The fortress itself now houses several museums holding historical records of its glorious but faded past.
Mozartkugeln are everywhere!
Well, after all that running around, we felt we deserved a break, so stopped at Cafe Tomaselli (founded 1705) at Alter Markt 9. Sit upstairs on the wide balcony overlooking the square and catch all the action. Oh, and be tempted by the huge trays of cakes brought to your table. You could tell that the Austrians liked their pastries...
At about 2 pm we regrouped and left for Mondsee, another Sound of Music location. We visited the beautiful Mondsee cathedral where the wedding scene was filmed.
By 6:30 pm, we met up with our cruise companions again in Linz, where the boat was waiting. If you've not been to Salzburg before, this optional trip is certainly worth doing.