Travel: Waltzing with Mozart in Vienna and Salzburg

If you want to know Mozart the man, then it stands to reason you have to eventually come to grips with Salzburg and Vienna.

It’s the only way you’ll ever discover what made the man tick and why his music endures.

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For, when you walk in his footsteps, as I have over the years, you’ll understand more about him, the times that influenced his music and the two spectacular cities that he called home.

Austria is arguably the world’s most user-friendly country. If you can’t like Austria, you might as well stay home because you won’t like being anywhere.

Outside the major cities is an endless abundance of cows and barns, many of which have small cozy homes attached to the front.

Tiny mountain roads run very close to the edge of eternity and plenty of towns and villages have wooden churches, all with tall spires.

It’s this sense of place and size that was instilled in Mozart at an early age — a view of the world he couldn’t have rejected in his own music had he had wanted to.

Once the heart and soul of Europe’s greatest power, Vienna is now arguably the world’s largest and most charming museum.

In tracing Mozart’s 10 years living in Vienna (1781-1791), you begin at St. Stephen’s cathedral, which began construction in the 11th century and completed in 1433. Its 137-metre-high tower remains the city’s landmark.

It was where five of his six children were baptized, following his marriage to Constanze Weber.

It is also where Mozart earned a living, at times, as assistant Kapellmeister (conductor).

The small chapel to the left of the entrance is where his funeral was held.

The old Vienna in which Mozart lived can be seen by taking the elevator to the observation platform in the North Tower.

Looking down on the courtyards, streets and shops in the old city, you’ll see Mozart’s town.

Behind St. Stephen’s, at 5 Domgasse, is Figaro House — the grandest of the 13 residences in which Mozart lived.

It may seem like a lot of homes, but the figure pales when compared to the 50-odd apartments in which the cantankerous Ludwig Beethoven eventually lived.

It was in this apartment that Mozart composed feverishly, creating works, which included 11 piano concertos and his opera, The Marriage of Figaro.

Considering Mozart hated Salzburg and that after he left for Vienna, he returned as few times as possible, the city fathers have been downright forgiving.

Today in Salzburg, Mozart is nearly everything — though many visit to explore picturesque sites where The Sound of Music was filmed. Take a city tour and you’ll find that actress Julie Andrews and Mozart meet often.

The ghost of Mozart stalks every corridor, every alleyway and every intimate concert venue.

For a taste of the way Mozart might have heard and played his own music, head for Mirabell Palace, where chamber concerts are held throughout the year in the ornate, intimate surroundings of a concert hall.

In Mozart’s time, the city was a commercial centre named for its extensive salt mines. It had little in the way of cultural activity compared to Vienna — the reason why Mozart left.

His Geburtshaus (birth house) dominates the inner city.

Then, like now, the area was a narrow lane of shops in the town centre. His apartment is a museum, of course, and undoubtedly the busiest place in town.

Both Wolfgang (christened Johannes Chrysotomus Wolfgangus Theophilus) and his sister Maria Anna, nicknamed Nannerl, were born at the Getreidegasse apartment, though the family later moved across the River Salzach to a larger place at No. 8 Markartplatz.

Take a break from the history lesson and stop off at one of Wolfgang’s watering holes, the Sternbrau at 34 Greisgasse, where he was a regular patron when he was old enough.

The Stiftskeller St. Peter is one of Salzburg’s famous eating and wine spots — a direct lineage from when monks at St. Peter’s Monastery worked their own huge wine cellar and began selling food and wine in the 17th century.

It’s understood that both Wolfgang and Johann Michael Haydn each tipped a few there.

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