As I flew under the cloud cover on route to touchdown at WA Mozart Airport I looked out of my window to the spectacular snow covered peaks of the Bavarian Alps and the Lake District of Salzkammergut, and into the sunshine of Salzburg, almost 60 F in mid February.
Nearby is the new EM Stadion Wals-Siezenheim, home of Red Bull Salzburg, www.redbulls.com and the only one in the Austrian Bundesliga www.bundesliga.at with artificial polytans turf. They lead the 10 team Bundesliga by a mile. I visited the Red Bull Shop and was shown the half completed stadium by Florian and his staff. It has about 18,000 seats right now with the upper tier yet to be completed for EURO 2008. Taken over as a failed club a couple of years ago by RED BULL whose HQ is in the city, they now have the controversial Lothar Mattheus as coach and his former coach at FC Bayern and Inter Milan, Giovanni Trappatoni, as Director of Football. The much travelled Mattheus is a bit of a head case actually. He played a record 150 times for West Germany and Germany and in 5 FIFA World Cups. His playing career was very distinguished and he was the first recipient of the FIFA Player of the Year award, only to finish up at New York MetroStars in the MLS. As a coach he has moved from Rapid Vienna, to Partizan Belgrade, Hungarian National team, Atletico Paranese Brazil for 6 matches, and now with Salzburg. Red Bulls also have a Formula 1 team, an air racing team, an ice hockey team and of course Red Bull New York in MLS.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born 150 years before Mattheus, at Getreidegasse 9 in Salzburg and the boy genius also travelled extensivelly, to Munich, Paris, London, Prague, Italy, Vienna, The Hague, Zurich and more, and died at only 35. In the Getreidegasse and nearby streets you can buy the scrumptous Mozart Kugel (Mozart spheres) , round chocolate covered balls with marzipan, pistachio, almond cream and nugget and individually wrapped in silver and gold foil with Mozartīs face.
Austrian soccer has limited funds and a small town complex with Vienna dominating with the national stadium, Ernst Happel Stadion with 53,000 seats. It will host the final of EURO 2008 and current champions Austria Magna(formerly Memphis) -but no cigarette advertising allowed now, and Rapid Vienna. At EURO 2008 the four sites will be in Vienna, Salzburg, Tivoli Neu Stadion in Innsbruck and Worthersee Stadion in Klagenfurt, but with 10,000 constituting a large Bundesliga crowd, they may have to 'downsize' the stadiums after the tournament. Salzburg has THE nicest shopping centre in Europe EUROPARK, designed by Massimilian Fuksas next to the stadium and linked to Salzburg main station by bus and S bahn. The toilets are AWESOME and once I sat down I never wanted to get up and leave. They were the cleanest anywhere. Salzburg Hauptbahnhof is too small for the crowds that will engulf it and I see problems such as the near tragedy at Kaiserslautern at WC 2006. It was built during the cold war with a passport/customs divide and its very confusing and too many narrow stairs to climb. Vienna's 2 main stations and the spanking redeveloped one in Innsbruck are much brighter and bigger.
Once outside Salzburg to the south you are in the Salzkammergut, a magic land www.salzkammergut.com with lakes, mountains, ice caves, salt mines, summer rodelbahn, walking and mountain bike trails, fishing, sailing and terrific gems of small villages, the most beautiful village in all of Europe, Halstatt plus Bad Ischl -the summer home of the Hapsburgs and a delight round every bend.