Salzburg, with its magnificent Alpine setting, is the capital of Austria. Salt mines and salt (salz), or “white gold” as many call it, gave the city its history and wealth.

Deemed a World Heritage site in 1997, Salzburg’s “Old Town” (Altstadt), with its world famous baroque architecture, is one of the best-preserved city centers in Europe. The city’s most famous son, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, lives on in every corner: at his birthplace, in outdoor concerts, in the music of strolling musicians, in cafés named for him and, of course, in the ubiquitous souvenir shops selling everything from salt shakers and snowglobes to T-shirts.

The five-star Hotel Sacher, its face fronting the heart of the city, its back along the banks of the Salzbach River, affords fantastic views of the massive Fortress Hohensalzburg (Festung Hohensalzburg) and many other landmarks.

Fortress Hohensalzburg towers over the city.

Fortress Hohensalzburg towers over the city. (Judy Crowell / Noozhawk photo)

Coffee houses are the heart of Salzburg and you must slow down and join in the age-old, leisurely pastime of coffee and pastries. Some of the finest: Café Tomaselli, the oldest coffee house in Salzburg; Kunstlercafe, the artist’s café; and The Bazar, the second living room of writers.

Austrians think nothing of ordering one cup of coffee and lingering two to three hours enjoying it. Nary a waiter will hassle you. On the necessity of coffee houses, Viennese journalist Alfred Polgar once wrote, “Coffee houses are frequented by people who want to be alone and need company for that.”

If salt was the source of Salzburg’s past wealth, tourism accounts for most of its present-day economy. And for many Americans, a tremendous draw is still the lure of The Sound of Music.

There’s the lovely Mirabell Park & Garden (Mirabellgarten), where Maria and the children danced through the hedge arcade and around the statuary of Ottavio Mosto, singing “Do-Re-Mi”. The gazebo at Hellbrunn Palace (Schloss Hellbrunn) where Rolf and Liesl, at 16 going on 17, fell in love. The church of Moon Lake (Mondsee) where Maria was married and St. Peter’s Abbey and Cemetery (St.Peter Stift und Friedhof), the most beautiful cemetery I’ve ever seen, where the von Trapp family hid from the Nazis. In this gorgeous place, one is granted the privilege of “residing” for a mere 30 years. After that you’re moved!

In spite of the monetary windfall The Sound of Music continues to bring them, Austrians do not like the nearly 50-year-old movie. They had their own cinematic version of the story, Die Trapp Familie, a more realistic one, produced in 1956 by Wolfgang Reinhardt, who, after paying Maria $10,000, convinced her to relinquish all film and royalty rights.

And never, ever ask if “Edelweiss” is Austria’s national anthem. It’s not.

The Salzburg birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

The Salzburg birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. (Judy Crowell / Noozhawk photo)

Upon seeing reminders of the movie everywhere, it took every ounce of restraint I could muster not to break into song, thereby humiliating not only myself, but our native Salzburg guide and my family back home in Santa Barbara. Arriving home, I let Maria inspire me thusly:

Lingering in cafés, a fresh sacher torte,
Mirabell garden, everything Mozart,
Street violinists serenading with strings,
These are a few of my favorite things.

St. Peter’s Abbey, pretzels by the river,
Stars over Moon Lake that make my heart quiver,
Skylines of church spires, fountains for kings,
These are a few of my favorite things.

When I’m back home,
Sipping Starbucks,
No more noodles or strudels,
I simply remember the calories I’m saving,
And that lifts my spirits by oodles.

— Noozhawk contributing writer Judy Crowell is an author, freelance travel writer and part-time Santa Barbara resident. She can be reached at