11 July 2007

Day 14: Salzburg

The day started out sunny, so it was the ideal time to visit Scloß Mirabell on our side of the river. Originally built as a palace for the mistresses of Archbishop Wolf Dietrich, who gave him fifteen children (there goes both that vow of poverty and chastity), in 1606, it later became another lavish residence for the archbishops of Salzburg. Today it houses civic offices, but part of the historic rooms are open to the public. The elaborate gardens are the most impressive sight, with flowers laid out like embroidery. The angel staircase is also an impressive piece of baroque architecture.

After the Schloß Mirabell, our group split up. Mom, Dad, and Colleen went on a bus tour, a Sound of Music tour. The famous Robert Wise film was shot in and around Salzburg, which was also the residence of the actual von Trapp family. However, I'm not a fan of the movie and if I'm ever going on a Robert Wise film tour, it will be an Andromeda Strain tour. I was more interested in visiting the two major churches and seeing the Residenz, and Reed and Armin wanted to get a döner, so we went off on our own. Behold this view of the city and the fortress as we crossed the bridge:

I, for reasons explained previously, skipped having a döner, and while they ate I swung by a large bookstore and purchased German-language editions of Der Herr der Ringe and Das Silmarillion by that Tolkien fellow. I simply enjoy having foreign language editions of my favorite novel. And now I know what "You cannot pass!" is in German: Du kannst nicht durch! Take that, die Balrog!

A very popular tourist shirt on sale at the many souvenir stands (right next to the ubiquitous Mozart chocolates) reads "No Kangaroos in Austria," usually with a picture of kangaroo inside a circle with a slash. Apparently the Austrians find it amusing that many tourists mistake their country for Australia. I seriously hope nobody makes such a geographic mistake. It makes me wonder if people go to Australia and ask where The Sound of Music was filmed and where Johann Strauss wrote his waltzes. I'm trying to imagine the "No Mozarts in Australia" T-shirts.

Okay, on to the two extravagant churches of Salzburg: The Dom and Franziskanerkirche, which are essentially next door to each other, separated by the Residenz. You live in a city ruled by an archbishop, you're going to have a lot of churches. That's too close for too mega-churches, even for Colorado Springs. Franziskanerkirche is a Franciscan church, and unlike the rest of the city, it avoids the Baroque style and is heavier Gothic/Romanesque. It does look unusual sitting near the Baroque Dom (full name, The Church of St. Rupert & St. Virgil). The Dom is perhaps the most impressive church I've seen this whole trip. First built in 776, it burnt down in 1598 and was remodeled into an entirely new Baroque church in 1628. It can accommodate 10,000 worshipers or tourists trying to escape the rain. Mozart played the organ in here. The outdoor concerts of the famous Salzburg Festival are played before the front gates of the church. By the way, outside The Dom is Mozartplatz, with a statue of the composer. Almost every tour we've taken here has made some mention of Mozart playing a piece in one of the rooms. And although the city is proud of their legendary composer, the Sound of Music Tour actually draws in more money than Wolfgang. Go figure.

The Residenz offered yet another tour of sumptuous rooms using audio guide devices—we've encountered these often. Saves money on actual guides versed in foreign languages. Oil paintings on the ceiling of each room tell the story of Alexander the Great. I'm glad to know the archbishops had gotten tired of Biblical stories. The building was used after secularization as the administrative seat of the city. This room, an audience chamber, is my favorite in the Residenz:
Reed, Armin, and I stopped near the Mozartplatz at a café where they had beer and enjoyed schokolade eis (chocolate ice cream, especially good in Austria) then returned to our hotel on the other side of the river. The other part of the family returned from their Maria von Trapp tour, and we re-crossed the river to eat at a fine Italian Restaurant. Yes, Austria also has great Italian food. A thunderstorm broke out while we were eating, but had subsided when we went outside. Salzburg isn't a late-night city, but we toured the winding small streets, crossed over the river and got a full view from a café atop the Hotel Stein. Massive clouds of smoke inside the actual café prevented us from staying there longer.

I'm back now in our hotel, while the family lingers a bit in a place where Dad can get the last piece of apfelstrudel. Tomorrow we return to Munich.