A Day at Hohensalzburg: Where History and Heritage Collide

September 29, 2016, around 4 p.m., we made our way to Hohensalzburg Fortress. Nowadays, I always thoroughly prepare for my trips, but back then, 8 years ago, I didn’t realize the importance of researching the places I wanted to visit. Sometimes, being surprised is nice, like it was here. But more often than not, you just won’t understand what’s going on.

I know some folks like to hike up this hill on foot. I don’t recommend it if you don’t have enough time or energy. You’ll need all your gusto to explore this massive fortress. So, we opted for the lightning-fast funicular, the fortress railway, and it turned out to be one of the smartest decisions we made on this trip. Because let me tell you, if you think the fortress is just big, you’re wrong. It’s HUGE! One of the largest 11th-century fortress complexes in all of Europe.

I have to warn you, though, I visited 8 years ago, and I see they’ve modernized the interiors since then. Now, the fortress looks more like a modern museum, despite my visit to those old-fashioned halls. But fingers crossed the inner courtyards haven’t been touched! Haha!

The location of the fortress is unique and fascinating; scientists found traces of ancient Roman buildings here, so the idea of building something there wasn’t new at all. This fortress has seen its fair share of restorations, but construction began here way back in 1077. That year caught my attention because the first cathedral in my hometown was built around 903, and I couldn’t help but compare my city’s old town to Hohensalzburg.

Actually, you don’t need to know anything about this fortress before you go. There’s plenty of info inside. You can see portraits of archbishops with models of the fortress during their reigns. So, you can easily imagine that the construction process was a permanent, ongoing thing. Year by year, the fortress grew bigger and more powerful.

It’s interesting that the fortress was meant to protect the prince-archbishops’ interests, though they didn’t actually spend much time there, preferring their quarters at the Residenz. The fortress wasn’t really involved in much trouble, except for one siege when miners and peasants attacked. The siege lasted 61 days, and while it wasn’t a massive deal, people did run out of food and got pretty hungry. But when it comes to serious business, it surrendered during the Napoleonic War in the 1800s.

In the 19th century, it became a prison, and after that, someone smartly turned it into a museum. Inside this mammoth fortress, there are museums, courtyards, and viewpoints. In the museums, you can explore the history of Salzburg, check out the armory, visit the Prince’s Chambers, and dive into the Rainer museum.

The courtyard struck a chord with me; it felt like home! We have similar types of constructions in my hometown. Architects might disagree, but hey, it’s just my opinion and impression. Different cultures, different styles, but I enjoy comparing new experiences with my past ones.

There are viewpoints aplenty, and I loved it! The fortress sits high, yet you get a perfect view of the city. I used my favorite lens to capture all the details, and I never expected to spot a real deer near one of the houses!

We spent about two hours in the fortress (I don’t like calling it a castle), but I’d recommend setting aside at least half a day, or even a full day, for a leisurely stroll. And trust me, I’m not kidding about the stroll—the fortress is like a small town! So many buildings, cozy streets, and staircases galore. Apart from the museums and exhibitions, they have cafes, and it’s truly a magical place. I can imagine that when it was a prison, it wasn’t as pleasant, but today? During Christmas, they even have a market. And only the cold wind might remind you of the harsh conditions prisoners once faced in those dungeons.

After visiting the fortress, I was really looking forward to meeting my mom’s friend who had recently moved to Salzburg. But with no internet access, we struck out. Very disappointed, we headed to the train station to catch our last train to Munich. And guess who we bumped into there? My mom’s friend! She checked the train schedule and came to find us. I love unexpected encounters with great people, and even a 5-minute chat means the world to me!

It was a fantastic day, and we were famished! Unfortunately, we didn’t find any open cafes or grocery stores in the evening in Munich because almost everything in Germany closes so early! But one thing came to our rescue: Turkish döner. They weren’t the tastiest, but after a day without food, we were beyond grateful! We headed back home for our last night in Munich because the next day, we had plans to venture to another city!