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Christmas In a Salzburg Palace

Published in the Battle Creek Enquirer

Driving up to the ornate and massive wrought iron gates of the Schloss Leopoldskron, I felt like Cinderella on my way to the ball minus the pumpkin carriage. December in Salzburg, Austria is a magical time no matter where you stay, but to stay at the Schloss made for unforgettable holiday memories.

Built in 1736, Schloss Leopoldskron is now home to the Salzburg Global Seminars, and when seminars aren’t in session, anyone can book a stay. Prince Archbishop of Salzburg Leopold Anton Freiherr von Firmian built the rococo-style palace as a family residence. I guess that’s how Prince Archbishops lived back in the day. Imagine one of the Archbishop’s friends, a musician named Mozart, may have walked through this very doorway into the Great Hall. Two crackling fires burned while candles winked in the wall sconces, making the large imposing hall almost cozy.

Our suite was on the first floor, one of 12. Up the sweeping double stone stairway was the two-story Marble Hall, where we really got a sense of the grandeur of the palace. Every morning, we sat under the massive crystal chandeliers and ate wafer-thin sliced ham and fresh rolls and a soft-boiled egg before setting off to explore the Salzburg Christmas Market, a brisk walk away.

Gluhwein, a hot-spiced red wine, chased away the chills from the walk. My husband insisted on a late morning snack of wurst with freshly grated horseradish. Operating since the 15th century, almost 100 different market stalls line the plazas around the cathedral, featuring everything from crafts to toys and jewelry. After an hour of power shopping, we retired to Austria’s oldest restaurant, the venerable St. Peter’s Stiftskeller.

We figured they must be doing something right, since they opened their doors in 803 A.D. We settled in the rustic wood paneled Petrusstube and chose the quintessential Wienerschnitzel, a breaded veal cutlet with noodle-like Spätzle for lunch. A lovely Austrian Grüner Veltliner wine rounded out our lunch.

With only a few hours until dinner, we returned to the Schloss to explore the Max Rheinhardt library. Max Reinhardt, a famous theater director and co-founder of the Salzburg Festival, bought a deteriorated building in 1918. He spent the next 20 years breathing new life into the magnificent property.  The arrival of the Nazis in Austria prevented Rheinhardt from returning to his beloved Schloss before his death in 1943. His wood paneled library is a two-story marvel, built as an exact replica of a monastery library in Switzerland. A tricky hidden staircase led to upper bookshelves.

No visit would be complete without a candlelight dinner in the Schloss’s Venetian Room. Did I mention that part of the Sound of Music had been filmed here? In 1964, when the movie’s producers asked to film their movie at Leopoldskron, they were politely invited to use the exterior and the glass music pavilion, but not the inside. Instead, they recreated the handcrafted, gold wall panels and mirrors on a sound stage.  One of the movie’s most famous exterior scenes featured the two stone sculptured horses by the lakeside.

After dinner, we took another tour of the Christmas market. At night, the stalls and squares are lit by thousands of twinkling white lights. The smell of roasting chestnuts completed the atmosphere.  The bells of the cathedral marked the hour, a soft white snowfall, and the sweet notes of a Christmas carol made the last night of our trip to Salzburg the final memory of what was a magical Christmas experience.

If you go:

Schloss Leopoldskron

Rooms start at $178 for a double, $438 for a suite

St. Peter- Stiftskeller Restaurant

The Christmas Market

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