Photo: Lorraine Seal
Salzburgers embrace New Year’s Eve—known here as Silvester—with enthusiasm and verve. As the end of the year approaches, stalls selling Viel Glück gifts spring up in shopping districts and malls across the city. These inexpensive ‘Good Luck’ gifts are often shaped like pigs—plastic pigs, metal pig charms, ‘cookie’ pigs and chocolate pigs. There are lucky four-leaf-clover-shaped tokens, too, and chocolate bars to be exchanged between friends.
In the days between Weihnachten—Christmas—and Silvester, Salzburgers are not just buying up good luck tokens. Many are also amassing caches of fireworks. Nights at this time of year are filled with thunderous booms as rockets soar into the darkness and explode in colourful bursts. This is merely prelude; on Silvester itself, the city goes crazy.
In the hours leading up to midnight, the evening is packed with entertainment of all kinds, from the classical to the romantic to the comical. For instance, traditional Silvester concerts in Salzburg’s iconic Festung and in the Prince-Archbishops Residence feature performances of Mozart and Strauss works, as well as polkas and waltzes.
Or you could attend a gala dinner in the St Peter’s Baroque hall. This sumptuous meal includes foie gras, filet of beef and lobster with elaborate desserts, all accompanied by Mozart arias performed by musicians in period dress.
There’s an evening of songs and humour with the comic team of Fritz Egger und Johannes Pillinger. Their act, a favourite of Salzburgers, is energetic, amusing, entertaining as well as moving.
As for me, I’ve already bagged tickets for my personal favourite, the Ballaststoffeorchester. This dance orchestra and vocalists, conducted by Egon Achatz, performs German and Austrian cabaret music from the 20s, 30s and 40s with wit and style.
(Details of these and other Silvester and New Year’s Day concerts can be found at www.polzer.com.)
Outside the concert halls and dining rooms, though, the platzes of the Altstadt are given over to an enormous street party. Bands play on a large stage next to the Dom, and stalls sell balloons, hats, noise makers and other favours. Others sell food of all variety, beer and drinks including, of course, Glühwein, the hot mulled wine that’s ubiquitous in Salzburg in the winter. Brilliant lightshows paint the Baroque buildings surrounding the central Residenzplatz vivid colours. All around, rockets are launched into the crisp cold sky, where they erupt in explosions that trail sparks of red, blue, green, purple, gold and white.
Towards midnight, you might want to make your way across the river to the Right Bank. From there, you can begin the climb to Kapuzinerberg, which offers an excellent view of the Festung atop Mönschberg opposite. (Take the Imbergstiege stairs near the beginning of Steingasse. The climb to the top will take between 10 and 20 minutes.) It is from the Festung that the official fireworks display marking the New Year is launched. Be forewarned though: All around you revellers will be anticipating the fireworks with their own powerful rockets launched by the score.
If you’d prefer a calmer vantage point from which to view the fireworks, make your way to Maria Plain pilgrimage church at the northern edge of the city. It offers a wonderful view of the Festung and the fireworks show. (From Mirabellplatz or the Hauptbahnhof, take the number 6 bus to Plainbrücke. From there, turn right and cross the small bridge to Plainbergweg. Turn right, and follow the signs to Maria Plain, approximately 20 to 30 minutes. Note: This is a climb up steep hills, which may be icy. If you have a car, there is limited parking at the summit.)
So come to Salzburg and join the party! Glückliches neues Jahr!