WHERE’S THE BEST PLACE TO LISTEN TO MOZART?

  1. At a concert;
  2. On radio/TV;
  3. On a gramophone;
  4. On a CD/cassette;
  5. At a restaurant that serves alcohol.

Classical-music lovers say the best place to listen to music is a concert hall, followed by an old gramophone record.

We all know that the worst place to listen is a restaurant that serves alcohol.

We plumped for the worst option when we were in Salzburg. In actuality, we didn’t select the option, but we realized what we were in for when we arrived at the place recommended to us as a “good place to have dinner.”

Salzburg is a place that lives and breathes Mozart, and everything geared toward foreigners is somehow connected to the composer.

Including the food!

The place recommended to us was St. Peter Stiftskeller, Europe’s oldest restaurant. That’s what it tells you on the door – Date: A.D. 803.

Just a few steps further on is a magnificent cathedral that was constructed in A.D. 776, making it apparent that the denizens of Salzburg first immortalized their respect for religion before repairing forthwith for food and drink.

Visitors to Europe’s oldest restaurant are treated to food underneath bright lights from chandeliers, as well as arias from Mozart’s operas performed by a five-person musical group accompanying a soprano and a tenor-cum-baritone.

The program included “The Magic Flute,” “Don Giovanni” and “The Marriage of Figaro.”

The group performed a number of arias before heading inside – during which time the first course was served. The musicians then returned, performed some new works before again departing – during which time the main course was served. After the group’s final performance, it was time to square up to the prospect of a lighter wallet served alongside dessert!

I counted 120 people in the hall. Just as at Paris’ Moulin Rouge, people were squeezed together on long tables. During the interludes from the music, the food was not served quickly, meaning we were only able to eat in fits and bursts – something that is not conducive to enjoyably soaking in Mozart. I’m not against food combined with music, provided the music is capable of accompanying the food! But the music of Mozart is not one to complement food.

The proprietors of restaurants might combine the two in the interests of commercial profit; this is very natural and their right. But not liking it is the right of those who think like me!

As I was leaving, I realized that downstairs there were far more interesting dining halls running into one another. Here, there weren’t so many tourists but rather locals. If I had known, we would have eaten there, too. If you go and don’t insist on watching the Mozart hullaballoo, go there instead. In fact, I imagine that this is the only part of the building that remains from 803!

Europe’s oldest restaurant
Europe’s oldest restaurant

Elsewhere in the vicinity – the historical section of Salzburg – there are other eating options at the bottom of the town’s famous castle. If you’re staying on this side of the river, Café Tomaselli, which looks onto the Alter Markt and has outdoor seating in summer, Gasthof Goldgasse or (for those after the typical beerhouse experience) the Goldene Kugel – established 1829 – are all recommended. But if you’re on the other side of the river and don’t fancy coming to this side to eat, you’re still in luck, because that side has the famous Sacher.

For those looking for a rest during a hard day of traveling, go catch your breath at Café Getreidegasse. But if you move for hot chocolate to warm yourself on a winter’s day at the establishment – which is reminiscent of El Greco in Rome – might I suggest you ask for it without cream.

But let me also say something about Café Altstadt: If you like the idea of listening to hymns at the Dom on a Sunday morning, stop for a coffee or breakfast at the Altstadt before it starts. The thing to pay attention to, however, is the sink in the washroom. Let me warn you; because of the minimalist and flat design, you’re liable to get water all over yourself when you turn on the tap.

Salzburg is a fairly small city, population-wise. There are many visitors during the summer festivals, as well as winter during the ski season, but it’s generally quiet, peaceful and silent.

Its residents are also exceedingly polite…

Dinner with “Don Giovanni”

And whether it’s in the city or departing from or arriving to it, transport by train, tram and bus is exceptionally well-organized. Everything is very easy and comfortable.

People in cities with a small population are generally friendlier and more polite than the people of a metropolis.

If the standard of living in a city with a small population is high, then its residents are even friendlier and more polite.

And if the cultural and educational level is high in a city with a small population and a high standard of living, then its citizens are polite, friendly and at peace with themselves to the most sublime degree.

Salzburg is a town like this.

The quality on offer in this town managed to cast away any disappointments about the food.

After all, some things are more precious than food, no?