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Salzburger Land

Most of the province lies in the Salzach river basin, at a relatively high altitude, offering excellent conditions for both winter sports and summer mountain walks. Austria’s most scenic mountain road, the Grossglockner Hochalpenstrasse, crosses the southern part of the province. The region abounds in mineral springs and waterfalls and boasts one of the world’s largest caves. Salzburg, an administrative center, is also the cultural and artistic capital of the province, the city of Mozart, and the home of the annual Salzburg Festival.

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SALZBURG

Salzburg rose to prominence in about AD 700, when a church and a monastery were established here. Until 1816, when it became part of the Habsburg empire, Salzburg was an independent city-state ruled by a succession of prince archbishops. Best known as the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, today the city has a thriving musical tradition. Each summer, large numbers of tourists arrive for the Salzburger Festspiele, a festival of opera, classical music, and theater. Salzburg’s medieval fortress, the Festung Hohensalzburg, looms over the city from its hilltop position. The castle dates from the 11th century, but the state apartments are an early 16th-century addition. The Residenz, where Salzburg’s prince-archbishops lived and held court, owes its early Baroque appearance to Archbishop Wolf Dietrich von Raiteneau, who resided here from 1587. The palace contains the Residenzgalerie, a collection of European art of the 16th to 19th centuries. Among the city’s fine religious buildings are St. Peter’s Abbey and Benedictine monastery, dating from c.AD 700, and the Cathedral (Dom), begun in 1614 to a design by Santino Solari. The Franziskanerkirche boasts a splendid Baroque altarpiece (1709) by Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach. The Salzburg Museum in the New Residenz shows the history of Salzburg throughout the ages and also hosts temporary exhibitions. The Mozarts Geburtshaus is Mozart’s birthplace, while the Mozart Wohnhaus features audio-visual displays telling the story of his life. On the right bank of the Salzach, Schloss Mirabell, with its Baroque garden, was built by Archbishop Wolf Dietrich for his Jewish mistress, Salome Alt. Only a 25-minute bus ride from the city center is the Renaissance palace of Hellbrunn, built for Salzburg’s Prince-Archbishop Markus Sittikus.

Salzburg’s beautiful Old Town occupies the area between Mönchsberg (Monks’ Mountain) and the Salzach river. It has been designated a World Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO. The town that grew up on the left bank of the Salzach was built almost entirely in the Baroque style and is unusually uniform in appearance. Its ubiquitous Baroque-period designs have been faultlessly and seamlessly blended with both earlier and modern architecture.

HOHENSALZBURG FORTRESS

Hohensalzburg, the fortress perched on the rocky peak of Festungsberg, was built in the 11th century, during the wars between the Holy Roman Empire and the Papacy, and was gradually extended. The castle served as a refuge for Salzburg’s archbishops whenever they felt threatened. Archbishop Leonhard von Keutschach gave it its present look in the 16th century; Archbishop Paris von Lodron introduced further architectural changes in the 17th century. A modern funicular provides easy access up the steep hill.

GASTEINERTAL

The therapeutic properties of the radon-rich mineral springs in and around Bad Gastein were known to the Celts and Romans, and this was when the first settlements grew in the valley of the Gasteiner Ache stream. The valley flourished in late medieval times and more recently it has become a popular spa, with a long list of clients including royalty, politicians, and artists. Cures are sought by those suffering from cardiac and gastric ailments, rheumatism, and allergies. At the same time, the valley has developed into a fabulous winter sports center, with skiing for all levels and snowboarding.

KAPRUN

Together with its neighbor, Zell am See, Kaprun makes up one of the largest ski regions in Austria. The 87 miles of interconnected ski slopes offer superb modern facilities and spectacular views of the lake below. The slopes are dominated by the Kitzsteinhorn glacier (10,509 ft), which is open for skiing ten months of the year. The region is renowned for its tough runs but there are family and beginner areas. For the adventurous, there are nighttime ski runs on the Schmitten slopes and a number of snowboard parks with jumps, rails, and pipes. In 2000, Kaprun was the scene of a dreadful mountain tragedy when a funicular carrying snowboarders up to the Kitzsteinhorn caught fire inside a rock tunnel. The incident resulted in 155 deaths, and the tunnel has since been sealed and replaced with cable cars. The disaster was commemorated in the 2003 play In der Alpen, written by Austria’s Nobel Prize for Literature winner Elfriede Jelinek. Aside from its renowned ski slopes, Kaprun is also famous for its sophisticated hydroelectric power station, Kapruner Ache. Construction of the power station began in 1938 and was completed in 1951. Acclaimed as an engineering marvel, the power station is not only a technological wonder, it is also a major tourist attraction, offering great views over the towns of Kapun and Zell am See. Artificial lakes, weirs, and dams, set amid the rocky limestone peaks of the Hohe Tauern mountain range, create a unique natural environment, with numerous trails and attractive scenery for walkers. The highest artificial lake is Mooserboden, situated at 6,680 ft and fed by the melting ice of the Pasterze glacier. It was after the building of the power station that Kaprun became one of Austria’s foremost sports resorts.

SAALBACH

At the heart of the Glemmtal, lies this small town marking the border between Salzburger Land and Tyrol. A charming winter resort, linked to Hinterglemm, Leogang, and Fieberbrunn, with guaranteed snow, it provides access to 120 miles of pistes, with beginner and more challenging runs, and facilities for tobogganing and tubing. Exciting as the winter sports are, the resort claims to be the home of lässig, an Austrian concept perhaps best translated as “contentment”. To the north of Saalbach, the Spielberghorn comes into view, while to the south the Schattberg marks the end of the Pinzgauer Spaziergang. This trail (see above) affords breathtaking views over the neighboring mountain range. The view from Rohrertörl Pass (6,293 ft) embraces the town of Saalbach and the valley.