Walking treasures of Salzburg, Austria…
The historic town of Salzburg, Austria, bore the brunt of a massive plague epidemic and two world wars. Nearly half of its magnificent buildings were destroyed, but miraculously, much of the famous Baroque architecture remained unscathed. The town of today, as we see it, is its second avatar….almost rebuilt from scratch. More picturesque areas in Salzburg you need to see include the Dom Quartier and the Hohensalzburg fortress. (Read the first part of this story here).
Dazzle your eyes at the DomQuartier
If the tightly-woven streets were a hide-and-seek delight, the expansive DomQuartier is a luxurious feast. The town’s former power centre is the epitome of scale and baroque grandeur. Take in the magnificence of Residenzplatz, where a splendid forecourt showcases the Salzburg Cathedral, St. Peter’s Abbey and residences of the prince-archbishops, who ruled the city until the 1800s. The monumental central baroque fountain, Residenzbrunnen flaunts fine details…four sea horses at the base surround a central rock, over which four men held up a bowl on top of which stood three dolphins carrying another bowl, where Triton was holding the shell of a snail at the top. Fine veils of water spew from the top and the mouth of the sea horses, make calming, splashing sounds.
Venture through one of the arcade arches leading into Kapitelplatz (Chapter Square) to find a surprising show-stopper…Sphaera, a 2007 sculpture by German artist Stephan Balkenhol. The gleaming nine-metre-high gold orb is crowned by the statue of an ordinary man in a white shirt and black trousers…completely expressionless, staring into the distance. At its base, is a giant chessboard painted onto the ground. Go on, challenge yourself to a game of strategy with the knee-high pawns.
Head to the huge 17th-century church with its twin green domes and delicate carved pristine exterior. Does it look like it was completed in just 14 years? Entering the three bronze entrance portals representing faith, love and hope, stand inside the magnificent edifice with a capacity of over 10,000. Washed in glorious white and sepia tones, vertical whites accented with darker lines…like a period movie. Stucco-rich marble columns, ornate frescoes and elaborate murals, baroque scrolls, dancing cupids and gold leaf…the opulence and harmony of the 330-feet long and 230-feet tall cathedral can be deeply moving. Sitting in the pews, study the five organs, including one with 4000 pipes…possibly the greatest organ-power of any church in Europe. The mighty frescoed dome designed by Florentine Mascagni is overhead, Mozart is playing the organ, and the glorious surround-sound is reverberating through your ears. Wake up, its only a daydream!
Hide, huddle, hang out in Hohensalzburg
Salzburg’s acropolis, the Hohensalzburg fortress-castle towering grimly from 400 feet on the Festungsberg cliff top is visible from almost everywhere. Since it was opened to the public in the 1860s by Emperor Franz Josef, one of Europe’s mightiest castles continues to be the star attraction of Salzburg. Riding up in the 110-year old funicular, you realise how steep the incline is. No wonder the largest preserved medieval fortress in Central Europe founded way back in 1077, has always stayed a siege-proof haven. No one even attempted an attack on the town for a thousand years, until Napoleon stopped by…that’s when Salzburg wisely surrendered without a fight. Inside the protective plain white Romanesque walls, its like an authentic medieval village. Blacksmiths and breweries, knights and tradesmen occupied this stony area once…they’re long gone, but the ancient lime trees still rustle in the peaceful silence.
Negotiate the dark staircases and dank hallways where fire-torches would have guided the way. The rugged, brooding exterior gives no clue to the unexpected lavishness inside. Gothic-style rooms with intricate wood paneling and elaborate door frames. A glittering Golden Room with its wooden beams and gold star-studded deep blue ceiling. A smaller Golden Chamber, even more richly decorated with carved benches depicting vines, grapes, and animal figures. And the Marionette Museum, with exquisite crafted displays and stage settings of traditional puppets with tiny movable hands and detailed costumes. Some dangle from strings, others are stuck on walls…all stared blankly into space…solemn, grim, fearful, ominous. Fit your face into the life-size cutouts, attempt some amateur puppetry.
Climb 100 tiny steps to a gorgeous lookout post and lap up commanding views of the town dominated by the Salzburg Dom with its green dome and green capped towers, the curving Salzach river, the Northern Alps beyond and vast unending plains in the south. Archers would have stood at these ledges and fired arrows at approaching invaders. Turret shadows, canyon outlines and slivers of light stream through criss-cross iron bars of a formidable medieval window. There’s a strange sense of security within the sturdy confines of the mighty castle. Do you feel it?
A population of 1,50,000 and over eight million sightseers prowl these cobbled lanes each year…touristy as it gets, yet utterly enjoyable. Enjoying the new and old of this musical mecca with its magnificent scenery, and rich history, Salzburg is a symphony and you will hum its music fondly forever!
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