10 July 2007

Day 13: Salzburg

Weather can turn on you quickly in Germany. Apparently it can do so in Austria as well. Today we've gone from bright and sunny, to rainy and cool, to sunny, to stormy and cold, and back to sunny and clear. It's better than the weather prediction yesterday, which called for "steady rain."

Yep…so, Austria. It's actually a relief to get away from the incessant sight of the blue and white Bavarian flag, although we're still in a part of the old Holy Roman Empire. The drive from Munich was uneventful, although once we got into Salzburg we encountered the normal problems you find driving in old European cities: streets the width of an anorexic dacshund. And Armin might have driven onto a pedestrians-only street, but we're not certain; the looks we got from the people on the street certainly indicated that the minivan's presence was unwelcome. We parked the car in a massive parking garage underneath a mountain that I'll wager was once a salt mine.

As you might expect from the name (salz="salt" in German), Salzburg made its fortune from salt mining. It straddles the river Salzsach. It was the seat of an archbishop, who was one of the wealthy "prince-bishops" of the Holy Roman Empire who held both spiritual and temporal power. The archbishop lost this power in 1806 when Napoleon got rid of the Holy Roman Empire and Austria turned into a monarchy under the Hapsburgs.

Am I talking history too much? Sorry, in the blood.

By the way Salzburg is Mozart's birthplace. We saw the building today (19 Geiderstrasse). There's a museum in there, although I don't know if we'll go to it. Salzburg has a famous Mozart festival every year, over which legendary conductor Herbert von Karajan presided for many years. (We also saw the house where he lived. At night, a statue of the conductor is lit up so that a large shadow of his conducting pose splays across the side of the house.)

After checking into our hotel, Hotel Goldene Krone, we immediately had to eat at one of the many Turkish restaurants along our street because Reed has developed a love of the Döner, a Turkish meat sandwich. My stomach, however, rejected the pizza I ordered there, but I won't go into more detail about that.

With the sky threatening at any time to explode with rain (or switch back to bright sun), we crossed over the Salzsach into the oldest part of the town, dominated by many churches, principally The Dom and Franzikanerkirche, which frame the Archbishop's home, the Residenz, and ascended via funicular to the city's top tourist attraction, Festung Hohensalzburg, an enormous fortress perched upon a hill (Festungberg) that overlooks the city. Originally constructed in the 11th century as a defense for the Archbishop in the wars between the Papacy and the Empire (the Archbishop allied with Rome), succeeding archbishops continued to expand the fortress. Under the Hapsburg emperors it changed into barracks, and now houses museums and a restaurant. It commands astounding views of Salzburg, and is a wealth of architectural detail. One museum allows you into the Archbishop's state rooms where he stayed and entertained when in the fortress; the luxuriant rooms show you that these men of the cloth definitely enjoyed their worldly luxuries. These sections of the fortress also contains extensive military exhibits from World War I because of its use as barracks.

The second museum tour moves through an older section of the fortress walls, and includes a room with paintings of the most important archbishops and models of their contributions to the fortress' construction sitting in front of them. The tour then moves through a torture chamber (not actually where prisoners were tortured, but where such implements were kept) and then onto a tower with the best view you can possibly get of Salzburg. Here's a photo I took from the tower:

Unfortunately, one of the worst rains hit right as we made it to the tower, so we didn't stay up there long. The audio tour devices kept trying to tell me about all the sights I could view from the tower, but I was making for the tight spiral staircase down before the wind whipped me off and dropped me onto one of the three hundred church spires below.

Back down the funicular (which, in itself, has a long history dating from early horse-powered lifts in the Middle Ages), we moved quickly through the early evening of old town Salzburg to get a sense of what we wanted to see tomorrow. Across the river, we had champagne at a quiet hotel bar (we were the only patrons) and then had dinner at a pleasant restaurant that served a variety of cuisines in a domed cave-like setting. At least, everyone else had dinner. My stomach still wasn't feeling that great. I'll just have a Long Island Ice Tea, thanks.

I'm back at the hotel, and we'll probably see Schloß Mirabell tomorrow and the Residenz.