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City feeling

Welcome to a Winter Wonderland

The magical serenity of a wintry forest, woodland creatures bustling about in the undergrowth and a sledding expedition plucked straight off the front of a Victorian Christmas card – during a stroll across the snowy Mönchsberg, relaxation and memorable moments go idyllically hand-in-hand.

“Walking in a winter wonderland…”. This classic from the 1930s floats constantly in our minds as we make our way across the snow-capped Mönchsberg. For this particular expedition, we have chosen a path that runs from the heart of the historical district to the top of Salzburg’s popular local mountain: via the Toskaninihof and up the steps of the Clemens-Holzmeister-Stiege. Now, bundled up in layer-upon-layer of clothing, we head north in the direction of the Neutor. As we exhale, our breath forms small clouds that rise into the overcast sky.

Rendezvous with silence

We pause at a lookout point directly above the Neutor. Rolled out before us is the city of Mozart – far more splendid than anything you’ve ever seen on a picture postcard. The historical city center has donned its most beautiful winter dress. The house rooftops are crowned with bonnets of pristine cotton wool, while the meadows and mountainsides of this festival city have all been given a generous powdering of the white stuff courtesy of Old Man Winter. Here, high above the city, it is impossible to imagine a more peaceful or tranquil way to experience the pure joys of this season.

A patch of heaven

Our leisurely stroll continues – here and there, the occasional clump of snow detaches from one of the branches above us and drizzles in small, crystalline works of art to the ground below. Talking of art: We decide to pay a brief visit to “Sky Space”. This walkable artwork located just a few meters from the Museum der Moderne awaits curious explorers, big and small. Installed back in 2006 as part of an art project aptly named “Walk of Modern Art”, passersby can step into this small structure in the form of an elliptical cylinder and marvel at the variations of natural light and color in the sky above, an effect further intensified by the steadily shifting shades of artificial light. The visual interplay of nature, architecture and technology is impressive! The project is comprised of 13 artworks – dispersed at some of the most beautiful locations in the city of Salzburg.

Strolling through the magical wintry forest

We give ourselves time to process our impressions of this unique piece of art, then continue our short hike. Suddenly we hear rustling right in front of us. Was that an owl? But before we know it, whatever it actually was has already disappeared into the trees. Incidentally, for several years now a pair of rare eagle owls have indeed lived on the Mönchsberg, raising their young on the cliffs. We can’t be 100% certain that we actually encountered these majestic birds. But we can say to a certainty that, even in winter, the Mönchsberg is teeming with life – clear evidence provided by countless animal tracks left behind in the snow. As for us, we wander onwards and, before long, are greeted by the sight of the majestic Untersberg in all its magnificence. Squinting into the distance, we venture to imagine we can even catch sight of the skiers slicing down the demanding seven-and-a-half-kilometer run on this mountain located just beyond the southern outskirts of the city.

The joys of sledding in the middle of Salzburg City

With a deep sigh, we tear ourselves away from this spectacular sight – the chill is slowly beginning to nip at our fingers and the winter wind is poking at our clothing. Notwithstanding, at the next station in our wintry foray we are certain to warm our cockles. Shortly before we reach the north side of the Mönchsberg – near Mülln – where we will ultimately drop back down to the city proper, we make one final stop on the meadow in front of the Johannes Schlössl. Just like the Krauthügel in the Nonntal area of Salzburg, this small hill outside the inn operated by the Pallottines is a popular wintertime gathering spot for sledding fans. No surprise, then, that a number of avid tobogganers just so happen to have gathered here today. Even out of eyeshot, we can hear children’s laughter and their parents cheering them on. Quite an exuberant contrast to the somewhat contemplative walk that now lies behind us. We take our positions at the edge of this natural sledding hill and absorb this fun-filled spectacle. Rosy-cheeked youngsters come running and skipping past us, giggling with laughter, with modern snow discs or traditional toboggans in tow. A group of well-prepared grown-ups has brought a thermos along, mugs of some unidentified hot beverage now doing the rounds. And as if by some secret signal, this is the precise moment when light snow begins to fall once more. Ever so gently, thick snowflakes corkscrew earthwards and two of the kids shout with glee. Verging on kitschy, we think, exchanging glances and smiling. As we said, just like a winter wonderland.