The Hills Are Alive
By Ananya Krishnan
One of my favorite places in the world is the Salzkammergut. This picturesque region encompasses the city of Salzburg, along with the lakes, mountains, and beautiful towns around it. There is something for everyone: music, museums, medieval castles, turquoise lakes, pristine trails, incredible architecture, and of course, The Sound of Music filming locations.
There is so much to see just within the city of Salzburg. My favorite museums were the Mozart museums built in his birthplace and his later residence. They hold many of his original instruments as well as portraits of him and his family. As a History minor, I loved learning about his connection to the Habsburg Royal Family and how the Empress at the time, Maria Theresa, was a great fan of his. An attraction I favored was the St. Peter’s Cemetery. Built into the hillside with catacombs to explore, I was fascinated by it. My brother and I tried to find the oldest tombstones, and many were hundreds of years older than the United States– the oldest being from the 1200s!
Some of my favorite things to see in the cities were the castles and villas: Mirabell Palace, Hohensalzburg, Leopoldskron, and Helbrunn, three of which have connections to The Sound of Music. This was exciting to us because my family are huge fans of the movie, like, quote-the-movie-and-sing-the-songs-often fans. Mirabell has the most beautiful gardens, architecture, and sculptures, traipsed through by the Von Trapp children during “Do-Re-Mi.” Leopoldskron is a stately villa overlooking a large pond just outside the city, and it was used as the home of the Von Trapps. On Hellbrunn’s grounds, you can find the famous gazebo used in several songs in the movie, most famously Sixteen Going on Seventeen, but my favorite castle in Salzburg was not in The Sound of Music. Hohensalzburg is a medieval fortress, perched upon Festungsberg hill with a 360º view of the city and surrounding area. You can spot all the other castles and museums from this overlook while soaking in the incredibly well-preserved medieval landmark. It’s incredible architecture, battlements, decorations, and displays practically transport you to the Middle Ages.
There is more to the Salzkammergut than Salzburg. We found that the perfect day trip into this beautiful region was to the Wolfsgang and Hallstatter Lakes. Bordering both of these bright, aquamarine alpine lakes are the most picturesque towns you might ever see. Chances are an auto-generated screensaver you have has featured one of its most famous ones: Hallstatt (which is also how I discovered the town and made sure we went to see it). Spending a day driving around the lakes, stopping for lunch and ice cream, and taking in the ambiance of these towns is peaceful and perfect.
Another day trip that should not be missed and is just outside the Salzkammergut: a drive to Grossglockner and Heiligenblut. Grossglockner or Großglockner is the tallest mountain in Austria and is home to the rapidly melting Pasterze Glacier. The Grossglockner High Alpine Road takes you high into the mountains, giving you the best view of the Eastern Alps. Near the top is the town of Heiligenblut, where you can stop for lunch with a view of the glacier and Alps. When you reach the top, the fog and snow transport you into an alternate world. As you drive back down on the other side, the views that emerge from the hillsides and out into the valley are frankly, indescribably breathtaking. It is quite a challenging drive but entirely worth it if you have a confident and enthusiastic driver.
This region is the gem of Austria, and it is easy to see why, given its history and natural scenery. We only spent three days in the Salzkammergut, and it was not nearly enough. From its cultural significance and staggering peaks to its pristine lakes and idyllic towns, there will always be something to explore in the region.
About the Author: Ananya Krishnan is a sophomore from Saratoga, California, majoring in Environment and Sustainability and minoring in Business and History. One of her favorite travel destinations is Provence, France, because of its plethora of historical sites and beautiful scenery.