Another rainy day in in Salzburg
Seems Central Europe is in the grips of unseasonally cold and wet weather at the moment. Lucky us! Oh well, at least we have our thermal undergarments to keep us warm and wet weather ponchos to keep us dry(ish). And the pouring rain today gave us the perfect excuse to explore Salzburg’s many museums and churches, as well as a few of its best coffee shops!
We started our explorations at the main Salzburg Museum which includes exhibits detailing this city’s long history, from Roman times to the modern era. Here we learnt that the first signs of settlement around Salzburg date as far back as Neolithic times. However, the first actual city in the area that merged smaller Celtic communities was founded by Romans in 15BC; this ancient city was named Juvavum. The Romans, like the Celts before them, mined the rich salt reserves in the mountains around Salzburg.
After the collapse of the Roman Empire, Juvavum was abandoned and fell to ruins. It wasn’t until 699AD that the town began to flourish once again; this was the year St Rupert was given the ruins as a present from the Duke of Bavaria (this region was part of Bavaria at that time). St Rupert founded St Peter’s Abbey, reopened the area’s salt mines, officially named the city Salzburg, and became the city′s first bishop. From there the city blossomed, spreading its influence and power so that, by the 14th century, the province of Salzburg became a fully independent state within the Holy Roman Empire.
For almost 500 years the independent state of Salzburg (of which Salzburg City was the capital), flourished. The ruling Archbishop’s became Archbishop Princes (i.e. they had economic and political, as well as religious, authority in the region), with immense wealth and considerable influence within the Holy Roman Empire. During the 17th and 18th century Salzburg was in its prime: the Archbishop Princes Wolf von Raitenau, Markus Sittikus and Paris Lodron used the wealth from the salt trade to transform Salzburg into one of the world′s most outstanding Baroque cities with magnificent palaces, churches and gardens. It was during this time that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born (1756) – this means that technically Mozart was a Salzburgian NOT an Austrian!
All that history had us reeling a bit so we found another coffee shop to stop in for some lunch and caffination.
After lunch we headed over to Salzburg Cathedral. This immense Baroque church is quite spectacular and bears witness to the power and wealth of Salzburg’s Archbishops. It was first built in 767 but then rebuilt in the early 17th century after a fire in 1598 destroyed large sections of the cathedral. Below the cathedral the crypt holds the remains of all the Archbishop princes of Salzburg in suitably creepy surroundings.
Just next to the cathedral is the Residenz. This extensive complex of buildings, containing some 180 rooms, was where the Archbishop Princes of Salzburg held court and controlled the destiny of their country from the 14th to the 19th century. Many of the rooms have been restored and are open to the public as a museum, showcasing the wealth and opulence the Salzburgian rulers lived in. Some of the rooms in the Residenz are now hired out for concerts – they were setting one up as we were wandering through today. You can also hire some of the rooms for official functions,wedding receptions and the like – not a bad venue for a wedding reception if you like silk-covered walls, gold leaf and Baroque stucco ceilings.
It was still raining at this stage so we continued on to St Peter’s Abbey, one of the oldest still functioning monasteries in Europe. Established around 700AD by St Rupert the monastery sits directly below Hohensalzburg Castle, against the base of Festungsberg (translation: Mt Festung). The monastery itself is surrounded by a rather fascinating cemetery; St Peter’s Cemetery contains tombstones from as far back as 1139 and is one of the oldest cemeteries in the world. Despite the rain we spent ages wandering through the graves, fascinated by what the headstones revealed about their departed occupants.
Behind St Peter’s Abbey, carved out of the mountain, we discovered the tiniest, and yet most impressive, of all the church we saw today. The Cave Chapel, as it is known, is half way up the Festungsberg and is reached via a very narrow set of stairs. The chapel is believed to have been hewn out of the rockface by the Celts originally and then taken over by Christians in the 4th or 5th century. The chapel was consecrated in the 12th century and a marble alter and windows added; despite these “modernisations”, however, the chapel remains quite stark and simple. With the mountain around us, protecting us from the wind and rain, it was easy to see why humans would have sought shelter and solace in such places.
From St Peter’s Abbey we went to see Hagenauer House, where Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born on January 27, 1756. The Mozart family lived there for 26 years, from 1747 to 1773. In 1773 the celebrated composer bought the family a new home which is now a museum dedicated to his life and works.
And so, after a day of churches and museums, we have retired to our rooms to give ourselves time to dry out before dinner. It has most certainly been a soggy day in Salzburg, but still a good one. After so many weeks of hiking and nature-trawling in Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Western Austria, it was nice to spend some time today soaking up all that history and culture (or kultcha in Australian). The weather promises to be a but drier tomorrow so we’re considering take a trip into the surrounding mountain and lakes district – tune in tomorrow to see how that goes! Auf wiedersehen until then!