Salzburg: Classical and Country

We traveled to Salzburg on these days and were greeted with a constant, gray, dreary rain.  We toughed it out anyway and explored the Salzburg Museum, Mirabel Gardens, and the home in which Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born.

Like Einstein, Mozart’s genius made his life really difficult.  He was born in 1756 to musical parents.  In fact, his dad was a musician in the Court Orchestra for the Prince Archbishop.  Wolfgang was five years old when he wrote his first composition (today in the U.S., we call that composition “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”).  He wrote his first music for the stage at eleven and became concertmaster at sixteen.  Between his dad touring him around to gain popularity, composing, and performing, he traveled a total of 3,720 days, which amounts to about a third of his 35 years of life.  He wrote over 600 musical works, including 22 operas (ten of those as a teenager), but when he died at 35, he left his young widow in debt because of his gambling and loose living.

Mozart’s widow, Constance, was determined to help his music gain popularity, so she went around trying to get people to play it and sometimes even performing it herself.  She published a complete set of his works with the help of a publicist, whom she later married.  She also helped her second husband write a biography of Mozart, but he died before it could be published.  She publshed it after his death.  Fun fact about concerts in Salzburg during Mozart’s time:  The auditoriums were always lit because those attending the event wanted to be seen as much as those performing in the event.  They were also known to hang out in the concert hall for six to eight hours, eating and receiving guests.  It was quite an event!

After the Mozart Museum, we were thirsty.  We saw a fountain that looked just like the ones in Switzerland. We filled up our water bottle and very soon had it drained.  We went to refill it and discovered the sign:  Non-potable.  Agh.  If we die in Salzburg, you’ll be able to give hints to the police about how we were poisoned.  We decided we would need to kill off some of the bacteria with alcohol, so we stopped at the liquor store and went back to our hotel room to recover for a couple of hours.

We finished off the evening with a delicious meal at Mirabel castle.  It was fun walking to the funicular, riding it up the side of the mountain, climbing stairs to get there, and eating with a view of Salzburg.  Best of all, however, was what we did AFTER dinner.  We climbed even more stairs, all the way up to the top floor of the tower, for a chamber orchestra concert.  We heard two Mozart symphonies, as well as pieces from Haydn, Back, Strauss.  The accomplished musicians filled this stone room with beautiful classical music for two full hours.  I loved every minute of it, hanging on every note. Bill only dozed off once, although he was disappointed when two violinists got up to play a duet and he didn’t get to hear “The Devil Went Down to Georgia”.  Walking home hand in hand afterward, looking at the lights of the city, we realized something:  It was no longer raining!  We could hold hands because we weren’t holding umbrellas!

The next day started out soggy but hopeful. We decided to spend the morning inside, just in case.  First, we saw an incredible painting by Johann Michel Sattler.  It’s a 360 degree panorama of Salzburg from the viewpoint of the castle, and it took him and two other guys (Loos and Schindler) four years to paint it.  Now it’s displayed in a museum built for the specific purpose of housing it.  It is 86 feet long and 16 feet high and set up in a circle around the viewer.  We’ve never looked at one painting so long in our lives.  It was like you were at the top of the castle, and everywhere you turned,  you could see Salzburg in Sattler’s time, which was 1825-1829.

Keeping with the indoor theme, we decided to explore the catacombs of St. Peter’s Abbey.  There wasn’t much to it really; we climbed to a little chapel and a grave of… well, I’m not sure, but the year was CCCCLXXVII.  That’s 477, right?  Crazy…  We also explored the cemetery a little and overheard the sister of Mozart and the choir director for the VonTrapp family were both buried there.  Who knows… We wouldn’t have known these graves if we had seen them.

I wasn’t allowed too many pictures, but next we saw the oppulent quarters of the Prince Archbishops of Salzburg, as well as the treasure rooms of St. Peter’s Abbey.  We couldn’t help but imagine that Mozart had walked up the same steps into this grand palace so he could perform for the Prince Archbishop of his day. The Prince Archbishops were the religious leaders of the town, but they were the political leaders as well.  It was like a dictatorship that was supported by the pope, if that makes sense at all.  These archbishops did some interesting things, like forcing the Jews out of Salzburg in the 1400s because they blamed them for poisoning the well and causing the Black Plague, and forcing the Protestants to recant their beliefs or emigrate in the 1700s (20,000 Protestants left). They weren’t all bad, however.  There was one archbishop who kept Salzburg miraculously at peace during the Thirty Years War in the 1600s.  He actually built a special home away from the palace for his own family’s use.  It is now the hotel we are staying in!

We invested the entire rest of the day to one museum:  The Salzburg Open Air Museum.  It has over a hundred buildings from all over Austria, all brought to one place.  It’s organized by village, and each village has dwellings from a different region of Austria and from a different era in its history.  All the buildings, some of which were from the 16th century, were moved from their locations and rebuilt as much as possible like they originally stood. What an amazing peek into Austria’s past, as well as the past of farming and village life in general.  We spent several hours there, walked about eight miles, and we still missed being able to see one entire village because we had to catch the bus back into town.  Oh well, we learned so much, and we have yet another reason to come back!

We finally got back to Salzburg proper, picked up doner kebabs, Bill’s new favorite food, and settled in for a restful evening before heading to Germany the next day.  It’s hard to believe we have less than 2 weeks left of this fabulous adventure.

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