Hitting the Travel Wall with Mozart Balls

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Hitting the Travel Wall with Mozart Balls

Words by Dalene Heck / Photography by Pete Heck
I’m pretty sure it was the Mozart Balls that did me in.

To most it will be inconceivable that a tiny treat of chocolate-y goodness, with its harmless pistachio marzipan, nougat, and creamy dark chocolate, can cause one to recoil into oneself. To shut the door on the world outside, to curl up in a ball and admit defeat. To lick wounds inflicted from running face first into the proverbial ‘travel wall’.

For as gorgeous as Salzburg is, with all its colorful streets and the green stretch of river valley with interesting architecture running it’s length, I just wasn’t feeling it. I didn’t even really care what existed outside our door.

To most it will be inconceivable that a tiny treat of chocolate-y goodness can cause one to recoil into oneself.


After traveling around Europe for most of the past year, I had come to a point where I was quite tired of what the continent had on offer for tourists. I didn’t care to see one more church or museum full of art, which eventually abated my interest in just about everything else. With such encouraging thoughts as: “I don’t know when I’ll be back here, must see it now!” and “For the blog! For the blog!” I would still venture out, feet sometimes dragging, but somehow moving on, one foot in front of the other.

But then came the Balls. They added the last foot to the wall, at face level. Gritty concrete stones with rough edges protruding; they poked, scratched, gouged. The wall left me wincing and begging for relief.

These chocolate-y Balls, branded as the dessert sanctioned by the classical icon Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, represented one more element of travel that I was so tired ofย  – tacky commercialization created solely to depart tourists from their dollars. And in Salzburg, trying Mozart Balls is often listed as the top thing to do, which made me awfully sad.

I had to ask: How would Mozart feel about this, really? To know that he has been immortalized in his home city in this way? He never tried the Balls, never gave his endorsement. Yet his name is written in a pretty cursive font on the package, his likeness is plastered in carefully decorated store windows, surrounded by hundreds of shiny (and expensive) round Balls.

I had to ask, “How would Mozart feel about this, really?”


So that was it. The Balls did me in, and I spent most of my time hiding under the covers. I honestly didn’t care at all about what else we did in Salzburg. Once I tried the Balls (they were indeed very tasty), I had completed my tourist duty anyways, right? I was done.

Done with Salzburg, and unbelievably, feeling done with Europe. I honestly never thought that statement could possibly come from me – but as a perpetual traveler who is forever yearning for brand new experiences, I said it out loud: “Time to move on”.

I began counting the days until our departure.

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  1. This made me laugh. When I was growing up, my family lived in Austria for a while, and Mozart balls were everywhere even then, but I have never seen a display of them like in your photo. The candy plus the dolls is funny–and a bit much.

  2. I can relate; I have been there (well, except the hiding under the sheets part!). I have learned to do less of the must-do’s and more of the experiencing. However, I have not mastered it so I need more opportunities to practice ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. I don’t often retreat under the sheets, I like to get out and explore! But, that damn wall just creeped up. Happened in South America too, after seeing a few too many waterfalls. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Oh, I so totally understand where you’re coming from. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at your post. It inspired a bit of both!

    My moment like this came when I was in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin. I’m not a church-goer myself, but there were dozens of the faithful there, kneeling and attempting to pray.

    Enter hoards of buses belching out tourists by the score and it was truly disheartening. Hundreds of people milling about this sacred place, snapping photos, talking out loud and buying souvenirs in the gift shop–conveniently located next to the sacristy. I felt so bad for the parishioners who had supposedly come for a little soulful restoration.

    But at least they weren’t selling Jesus balls!

  4. It was the Mozart Balls eh? I tried those once in Argentina, my Austrian workmate brought them to share his hometown. Delicious. But it is strange what becomes popular in destinations! But have fun visiting home!!

  5. I definitely get where you’re coming from! After living in Europe now for more than three years and almost traveling exclusively within Europe, I need a break. Something different. Which is why I’m really looking forward to the latter part of this year.

  6. Hahaha…I’m glad you enjoyed the Mozart Balls! I agree with Margaret–the display seems like a bit much. I’m not sure Mozart would agree with it, but then again, there are people dressed up as him all around town, exploiting his fame. What’s one more Mozart item?

  7. Oh I can so relate! My post next Monday is about how I couldn’t handle visiting another mosque or madrassah by the time I got to Khiva in Uzbekistan. They just all looked the same and I had no desire to set foot in a single one.

    p.s. Mozart Balls are really quite tasty ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. They are definitely tasty, can’t fault them for that! In South America, I got just as sick of waterfalls. Every area has it’s tipping point I guess!

    1. Fortunately, I don’t feel it very often. And I just take it as a sign to go somewhere new or just retreat/recharge. I’ll be good to go again soon!

  8. Too much beauty? Too bad it hit in Salzburg, which was a favorite destination of mine. But tacky touristy or no, I was fascinated by the battle between two companies to be the official Mozart ball company. Law suits and all. And the same in Vienna with Sacher Tortes–BIT battle over who really had the right to use the name. Those Austrians take their sweets seriously.
    What would Mozart think? He would have laughed and made a dirty joke about the name of the candy.

    1. I think Ljubljana is prettier than Salzburg, so maybe I was just spoiled by all our time there. And I just couldn’t get over the tackiness of the balls. If I were Mozart, I would have to object. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Thanks Debbie! I just need to retreat/recharge for awhile. I don’t ever really use my travel mojo, just mojo for specific areas. I’ll be good to go again soon!

  9. Salzburg is such an amazing city so it seems ridiculous to me that these chocolate balls are so famous despite having nothing to do with Mozart. But I will admit that they were tasty – thanks for sharing ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. I never really have found Salzburg that interesting. My best time there came in the form of sitting in a cafe eating cake and talking to an old woman who was there visiting her grandchildren. And all of that in a random cafe halfway to the train station, not up on the tourist mile.
    And yes the balls are tacky. I don’t even find them that tasty. There are better things in Austria IMO.

  11. This happens to all of us at some point, I think. I’ve found, not even one month into my year-long trip, that there are times when I just feel burned out and like the last thing I want to do is explore the world outside me in anything other than a superficial way. One thing I realized is that the pressure to come up with “blog-worthy” activities every day is really stressful for me and really puts a damper on my ability to enjoy a place. I’m much better off just doing the things I enjoy, and feeling confident that in those things inspiration to write will strike. If I’m having fun and living the life I want to live, that will come through in my posts… or at least I hope it will!

    Anyway, I know how you feel, because I’ve had a few lackluster days here in Japan where I just feel like I can’t see another temple or shrine without screaming. I have to say, in the face of those, some chocolate treats sound pretty nice! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    1. I felt the same way in South America when it came to waterfalls (and had no blog commitments back then!), so yeah, we can all hit it at some point (and then again)! The chocolates were good, just obviously VERY DEADLY! Haha

  12. The balls don’t even sound good to me. Too many things in the chocolate I don’t like. I can relate to too much touristy cr*p. Sometimes you really do need something different. I can understand that popular attractions mean a lot of commercialism, but when a place seems to exist solely for the purpose of getting money out of tourists, I get turned off. I thought Pamukkale was gorgeous, but the town itself made me cringe. I hope you’re feeling refreshed after some time in Canada!

    1. At least Pamukkale *was* something worth building tourist infrastructure up around. But, chocolate balls? So sad. What about Mozart’s actual music? ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. Yeah the whole Mozart thing is a bit overboard. It’s a shame too because it makes Salzburg feel like a tourist trap when it’s a really great destination in its own right.

    1. That’s exactly how I felt Lindsay. Lay off promoting the Balls (haha), and focus on the music, or the beautiful surroundings instead. Such a turn-off.

  14. Yeah, we have been in Europe since June and even though I even wrote a post about how I love it more than ever, I have had those sinking feelings at times about the old continent. Luckily haven’t run across the Mozart balls or any other composer’s balls yet.

  15. The ballz that broke the camel’s back! Oh Dalene, how you make me laugh. Get your buns to Calgary and I promise you there will be nary a chocolate ball in sight. ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. This is EXACTLY how my husband feels even after a short trip to Europe – “Another church?”. I wouldn’t admit it in front of him, but honestly feel the same way. I do agree – experience in Europe is too concentrated, so after seeing 5-6 beautiful churches and 4-5 world-class museum, the rest seem way too repetitive. I always feel bad for places that are later on our itinerary.

    As for commercialization, I see it everywhere I go โ€“ from North America to Asia. Where there are tourists – there are cheap souvenirs of major attractions.

    1. Ugh. I know. And most of the time I can just ignore it. But the Balls really sent me over of the tiny edge I was teetering on. It could have been anything, I suppose. But it was Balls. ๐Ÿ™‚

  17. OMG… Mozart Balls… This brings back memories from my two months in Europe in 1998. I was on the last leg of my trip as well, and exhausted. I can’t even imagine how tired you guys must have been after a year. I was still able to enjoy Salzburg, and I made myself sick by eating too many chocolate balls…

  18. Puts me in mind of the “Venus’s Nipples” chocolate treat mentioned in the movie Amadeus. Probably Venus didn’t endorse them.

    In any case, will be interested to hear where you decide to venture next. ๐Ÿ™‚

  19. Aha, now I see what you’re talking about. You have mentioned these Mozart Balls in at least a couple other blog posts. So funny. But I get what you mean!

    After just 8 days in Belgium earlier this month, we already felt museum and churched out. Our brains couldn’t absorb any more information about Renaissance and early Baroque art. We no longer could distinguish between Charles the Bold the Charles the Fifth. We had had enough. So kudos to you – you lasted, what, several months at least? When did you start this current European jaunt?

    And btw, I share your revulsion for the sheep- and cattle- evoking tour groups. I once cut a trip to the Alhambra Generalife short because I had had enough of being mobbed by tour group lemmings. My enjoyment of the Rubenshuis in Antwerp was seriously hampered by being hemmed in by tour groups. I hate them like the plague!

  20. Been there. Done that. I agree, you just need to recharge when that happens, then you’re good to go again. I hit Salzburg right after 4 days in Innsbruck, Austria, which I found even more beautiful and fun, and after the previous week in the Swiss alps. So I too was let down by that city. I wasn’t at a wall point tho, so I found ways to entertain myself, and was lucky enough to be there when there was a music festival going on. In fact, I found it was the music through most of Austria that stood out for me. A few goosebump moments. That’s something I think Mozart would have approved of.

    1. Absolutely! And I’m jealous of your “goosebump” moments! I would definitely be willing to give Austria another try, especially if timed with some sort of music festival. Would love to see it that way, and change my opinion!

  21. Mozart balls were originally made by a confectioner in honor of Mozart, in the late 1800s. I guess those are still available. I don’t see anything wrong with it per se. Yes you get sick of something that’s over-hyped everywhere, but maybe too much free-wheeling travel can be something like having too much dessert? Fine until you find yourself needing some meat? (Or some tempeh if you’re vegetarian.) ๐Ÿ™‚

  22. I have often freaked out in Europe saying if I see one more cathedral, main square, cobblestone street, Old Town, I would have a meltdown. We traveled through 15 countries of eastern Europe in 3 months and by the end I could not eat another dumpling, in whatever form. I totally get it!

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