Thursday, April 5, 2012

Creamy Torten in Salzburg

Rich cakes, or torten, are as much a product of Austria’s Baroque era as its classical music or architecture, and all three of these remain wonderfully preserved in today’s Salzburg. Deliciously creamy torten beckon from gleaming café counters, ready to be served by tuxedoed waiters to diners sitting in the very same chandeliered coffeehouses that Mozart once frequented.
 Austria claims to have invented coffeehouses after the 1693 siege of Vienna, when it captured coffee from Turkish troops. Unlike the Ottomans, the drink took the city by storm. The local elite loved it, and cafés soon sprouted up everywhere; fashionable Salzburg opened its first café – the Tomaselli – in 1705. Cake was immediately recognized as coffee’s natural partner, and before long there were expert pastry chefs in every good café. Their rich and creamy embellishment of traditional cakes created torten, a culinary form that has obsessed central Europe ever since.

Most of modern Vienna has tended to move on, but Salzburg’s love of tradition has allowed the Tomaselli to thrive, and it is now Austria’s oldest café. The main reason for Salzburg’s affection for the 18th century is that this was its cultural heyday, as the hometown of its most famous son, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Many city attractions still relate to the great composer: the house of his birth and his family residence have both become first-class museums to his life and times, while the city’s main square is named after him and dominated by his huge statue. A visit to the medieval Hohensalzburg castle above the city affords a great view onto the square and the city’s wonderfully scenic Alpine location, already familiar to those who have watched the classic 1965 movie The Sound of Music.
 A Day in Salzburg
 Salzburg’s compact Old Town centers on several graceful Baroque squares. It straddles the Salzach River and sits below Hohensalzburg Castle.
 MORNING: Orient yourself with a trip to the battlements of the medieval Hohensalzburg castle, by using Austria’s oldest funicular railway or walking up its steep cobbled drive. Later, explore the two focal squares near the funicular’s base. Elegant Baroque Mozartplatz is flanked by the regal living quarters of Salzburg’s archbishops and home to a 17th-century Glockenspiel, a musical clock that chimes three times a day. Domplatz contains the Franziskanerkirche, Salzburg’s cavernous Renaissance cathedral, which has dazzling ceiling frescoes.
 AFTERNOON: Head into the network of atmospheric alleys and streets just north of the cathedral to find the evocative Mozarts Geburtshaus, where the composer was born in 1756. Then cross the river to seek out Mozarts Wohnhaus, Mozart’s home from 1773 to 1787, which is now a first-rate multimedia museum dedicated to his life.
 EVENING :Seek out the jovial Augustiner Bräu beer gardens to discover why the city is regionally famous for its beer. Salzburg’s time-warp café culture is so authentic that visitors often find themselves sharing the experience with gossiping elderly ladies tending spoiled dogs on their laps, rumpled writers penning verses over coffee, and the occasional Hungarian fiddler pouring out his heart. Aloof waiters usher in coffee on a silver plate, with a glass of water and a small piece of chocolate, or – best of all – a torte. Based on eggs, sugar, and ground nuts, torten are defined by their decorative icing and creamy layers, which routinely contain buttercream, vanilla, cocoa, coffee, fresh or candied fruits, jellies, marzipan, and even liqueurs. These are the creations of masterly pastry chefs – and Salzburg attracts some of Europe’s best.
 Salzburg airport has regular flights from large European cities, and is a half-hour bus ride from downtown. Austria’s fast train, Railjet, runs between Munich, Salzburg, and Vienna.
 Sandwirt (inexpensive) is a basic but clean and friendly pension near the station. +43 662 874 351
 Haus Wartenberg (moderate) is a relaxed, family-run B&B in a 350-year-old downtown house.
 Hotel Goldener Hirsch (expensive) offers elegant, traditional Austrian comforts in the center of Salzburg’s Old Town.

No comments:

Post a Comment