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1:04pm on Friday, 12th August, 2011:

Impressions of Salzburg


So, I'm sitting here in the airport at Salzburg in the departure lounge., having spent 3 minutes looking at both the shops here. Maybe now's a good time to sum up my impressions of Salzburg.

Some cities have a personality it's quite easy to pick up — Paris, for example. Salzburg is a little harder to fathom, but there are some things about it that are quintessentially Salzburg. If I had to sum it up, I'd point to the signs outside all the shops on the main shopping drag:

They're elegant and consistent, and even McDonalds has made the effort to fit in:

They are also a reflection of Salzburg in that no souvenir shop sells anything remotely connected to them. You can't buy a miniature Salzburg street sign. You can buy music boxes and cuckoo clocks ("made in Germany") and plates and thimbles and keyrings and fridge magnets and T-shirts and damned marzipan-tainted chocolates, but you can't buy what Salzburg is really about. It's almost as if it doesn't know what it's really about, just what it thinks tourists think it ought to be about.

Other things I'll remember when I think about Salzburg: cyclists zooming at speed through pedestrian zones; cakes with wasps crawling over them; the smell of horse manure outside bakeries; narrow alleyways lined with shop windows showing weird and expensive goods; masses of church bells going off at weird times like 6:45 and 8:55; a bridge it's impossible to cross in daylight without getting in someone else's photo; small courtyards harbouring charming restaurants selling mouth-watering food at eye-popping prices; decent ice cream at half the price of Rome's; masses of church towers; pretty graveyards; road crossings that make a pokka-pokka-pokka noise; rain.

Salzburg was on my list of places I'd like to visit, so how does it measure up?

Well, it does look as good as it promised. The streets are as well-preserved and intimate as promised. There aren't swarms of unregulated sellers of tourist tat covering the streets with their wares. We only saw three beggars the whole time we were there (all on the main footbridge over the river). It's very aggreeable here, and although my expectations were always going to be a little out of line with the reality, I'm nevertheless not disappointed.

I'm not going to add it to my list of favourite cities in the world (currently containing just Seville and York) because although I very much like it, I nevertheless don't find it magical. Would I come here again, though, given the chance? You bet!

I'd be sure to bring my umbrella with me, too...

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Copyright © 2011 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).