The city of dreamy spires, Salzburg (“Salt Fortress”) sits in the crook of the Salzach River, just over the border from Bavaria. Indeed, for many years after its founding by St. Rupert, Salzburg was under Bavarian control. It gained its independence in the 14th century, and became the powerful religious seat of Prince Archbishops of the Holy Roman Empire. The one you’ll hear most often mentioned is Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau, a free-spending patron of Baroque art.
Like every European city, Salzburg was hit hard by Napoleon’s ruthless march across Europe. From 1803-1815, it was given to Tuscany, annexed to the Austrian Empire, ceded to the Kingdom of Bavaria and then – finally – returned to the Austrian Empire in negotiations during the Congress of Vienna. Up until the Anschluss, it was a relatively sleepy town.
Today, Salzburg is crammed with tourists searching for Mozart’s birthplace and scenes from A Sound of Music. But it still retains its ineffable charm. The best time to see the old city may be Sunday morning, when church bells are ringing through the deserted squares. In this powerhouse of Catholicism, you are never far away from faith.