Visiting Salzburg

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Visiting Salzburg

(COURIER: This walking tour is tricky, so it is essential that you have it down cold the night before. The maps in the Michelin Austria are helpful, and will supplement the sketch map included here. Give your group a rendezvous time and place, so if anyone is left behind, he/she will know where to meet up afterwards.)

Schloss Mirabell  (There is bus parking opposite the palace, next to the church on the Hubert Sattler Gasse. Alternatively, there is a huge park over the river off the Petersbrunnstrasse. Do not go inside the palace, but take the group through the gardens, which afford an excellent view of Salzburg. Suggest picture taking.)

A luxurious mansion was built here in the 17th century by Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau, who became Archbishop of Salzburg in 1587. Having been brought up in Rome and exposed to the glories of the Italian Renaissance, he was determined to make Salzburg the "Rome of the North." Although an archbishop, Wolf Dietrich enjoyed his private vices. He kept a mistress, a Jewess of great beauty named Salome Alt, who gave him 12 children(!). The Mirabell villa was in fact built for her. But the archbishop was condemned by the Court of Rome for his freewheeling conduct, and imprisoned in the Hohensalzburg Castle in 1612, where he died after five years of captivity.

Remember that such worldly conduct on the part of a churchman was common during the Renaissance, especially in Italy, and Wolf Dietrich was condemned not so much for his vices as for his indiscretion in flaunting them in public.

Little of Wolf Dietrich's villa remains today. It was remodelled in the 18th century but destroyed by fire in 1818, and only the grand staircase is of interest. Mainly the attraction is the gardens and the splendid view of Salzburg.

The gardens  Laid out at the beginning of the 18 century by the famous designer Fischer von Erlach, and renowned for the many statues, the pools adorned with sculptures, the flowers, and the peaceful atmosphere. Scenes from the Sound of Music were filmed here.

(Walk through the gardens to Makartplatz, pointing out Mozart's Wohnhaus — not to be confused with his Geburtshaus in the Getreidegasse. Cross the River Salzach on the footbridge, Makartsteg, cross the Griesgasse, and take one of the tiny passages through to the Getreidegasse. Turn left.)

Getreidegasse  This is Salzburg's oldest and prettiest street, almost unchanged since Mozart and his family lived here. In those days, few people could read, so instead of a sign saying "Baker," the baker would put up over his shop a huge wrought-iron pretzel. All along the street you can see these symbols, many of them originals, fashioned with great care and craftsmanship. Not only was this a very practical idea, it also decorated the street, and provided artisans with an opportunity to exercise their skill and imagination. Mozart's Geburtshaus is on the right, and has large letters on the side.

(Walk through to the Alter Market.)

Alter Markt  This is the old marketplace of Salzburg, where for hundreds of years everything was sold, from vegetables and fabrics to hot pies, donkeys, or miracle cure-alls. This is where the people of the town would meet to exchange gossip and pick up a bargain.

(Point out the rococo Hofapotheke on one side of the Alter Markt, and the Cafe Tomaselli on the other. The latter is Salzburg's most famous cafe — very stylish, and worth a visit. Walk on to Residenzplatz and point out the Glockenspiel — the bell tower opposite the cafe.)

Residenzplatz  There used to be a cemetery here, but in the 16th century Archbishop Wolf Dietrich (who built the Mirabell villa) had the graves dug up, the bones put in a "charnel house," and this square laid out. He was the one who had the cathedral modelled, so this square was built to complement it. The fountain is 17th century (horses, a Triton, and an Atlas).

Glockenspiel: This is a carillon of 35 bells, cast in Antwerp and installed here in 1705.

Residenz: This "residence" was used by the prince-archbishops of Salzburg in the heyday of their pride and influence. The buildings of the Residence were begun in 1595 by (again) Archbishop Wolf Dietrich. Several famous meetings of European emperors took place in this building: the Austrian Emperor Franz-Joseph met Napoleon III in 1867, and the German Emperor Wilhelm I in 1871. In the Conference Hall inside, young Mozart conducted concerts for guests of the Archbishop.

(Question: did the archbishops live in the Residence or in the Castle? They lived in the castle in earlier centuries, but after that the castle was used mainly as a place of refuge during wartime. The Residence was more comfortable.)

(Now walk through to Domplatz.)

Cathedral  This is an example of pure Baroque: the building was constructed between 1614 and 1655. The west facade: made of light Untersberg marble. On the pediment between the two towers are the coats-of-arms of some of Salzburg's most famous archbishops. there are three dates on the wrought-iron gates (point this out). The first is the date of the original Romanesque church built on this site. The second (1655) is the date the present cathedral was constructed, and the third (1959) is when the cathedral was refurbished after WW II and the crypt opened. Notice that only the front of the cathedral is decorated, not the sides.

Domplatz is unique in that it was laid out in one unified style (Baroque). The Jedermann (Everyman) performance takes place every summer in the square.

(Walk through to Kapitelplatz. Point out the Kapitelschwemme, built in 1752. Only horses of members of the archbishop's household were allowed to drink from this. The water was pumped 13 miles from the Untersberg, so that the horses could drink pure mountain water. Not even the people of Salzburg enjoyed this luxury. Today the square is a marketplace. The famous Marionette Theater is located here too.)

Hohensalzburg Castle  The huge castle was the stronghold of the archbishops of Salzburg. The site was a natural one for such fortifications: the castle sits on a huge mound of Dolomite rock, about 400 feet above the River Salzach. The castle was begun in 1077 by Archbishop Gebhard, who was allied with the Pope against the German Emperor. He needed protection from the kings supporting the emperor, and built this huge castle to discourage them from attacking him. Over the centuries, the castle was often enlarged and embellished inside, and transformed into a comfortable palace. Huge granite columns, some of them five feet in diameter, were dragged up the hillside and put into the grand reception room used by the archbishop. The interior furnishings are somewhat sparse today. (Take the little passage through to St. Peter's Cemetery.)

St. Peter's Church  The church itself goes back to a Romanesque basilica, but what you see today is the 17th-century building, reflecting the baroque style of that time. Inside the nave, there are frescoes depicting the life of St. Peter. Tombs of some of Salzburg's leading citizens are in the aisle chapels.

Cemetery: This churchyard is a living picture of Salzburg's past, containing as it does the tombs of many of its citizens. Catacombs were carved out of the rock of the Monchsberg Hill, which, as you see, abuts the churchyard. The trees are mainly fir and weeping willows, giving a nostalgic look to the spot. The 15th-century St. Margaret's Chapel shows the style of the late-Gothic period. (Point out the seven black wrought-iron crosses.) These crosses are said to belong to the seven mistresses of the Archbishop Stickus who, according to the legend, met an uncommon fate: they were tickled to death! (Your group will remember the scene from the Sound of Music where the Von Trapp family were hidden from the pursuing Nazis — this is where it was filmed.)

(Walk through the passages to the Festspielhaus.)

Festspielhaus  This is the site of the annual Salzburg Music Festival (although the building looks like a gray factory on the outside). The hall is reputed to have the best acoustics of any auditorium on central Europe, because it is built into the living rock of the Monchsberg. Incidentally, the Monchsberg resembles a giant Swiss cheese: it is completely hollowed out for use as a municipal car park, and holds 5,000 cars!

(Continue on to Sigmundsplatz, to the Pferdeschwemme.)

Pferdeschwemme  So wealthy were the archbishops of Salzburg that even their horses quaffed in style. The ornamented trough was built in 1700, and was reserved for the horses in the archbishop's stable. The sculpture group is entitled "Horsebreaker," and was done by the artist Mandel. (Walk the group to the nearby Universitatsplatz — not shown on most maps — and let them go until rendezvous time.)

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