After a two day car drive to Salzburg, Austria, I arrived with a big list of things to do in Salzburg. I was expecting it to be cold, but instead I found Salzburg to be a mountain-surrounded retreat bathed in brilliant sunshine with clear air and perfect light for photography:
This big gold ball was a mystery, but it features heavily on Salzburg’s postcards and appears to be a bit of a landmark in Salzburg.
These bottles of Mozart perfume were everywhere in Salzburg. Presumably it’s a desirable thing to smell like a dead composer. The tagline on all the posters was “the magic of a nice feeling.” Mozart’s connection to Salzburg is that he was born here, at 9 Getreidestrasse. I didn’t feel inclined to seek out the house Mozart was born in, since I was far more interested in how the environment shaped his early music; all over Salzburg you could see Mozart’s music in the landscape; the colour of the buildings contrasted with Salzburg’s bed rock, in which it was nestled like a flute playing alongside a cello. Salzburg was light, airy, nothing that happened here could be truly terrible. This flautesque beauty was the enduring mask covering a darker past.
It felt like most of Salzburg was roughly hewn from the living rock itself, and the difference in heights could be profound in places.
This sign gets louder as you walk towards it. Sorry, it’s a science joke. Seriously, though, it’s pretty awesome that Christian Doppler (as in, the Doppler Effect) used to live here, I was surprised as I’d thoroughly researched Salzburg before I set off, and there was just so much more to Salzburg than the internet had suggested. Doppler died aged 50 but, like many of the “great men” from his era, he accomplished so much in his lifetime. Known as a mathematician and physicist, his work on the Doppler effect (the effect that explains why police sirens to get disproportionately louder as they approach, then they suddenly go quiet as they depart) is how we understand red-shift in astrophysics, and that’s the primary evidence we have which supports the Big Bang Theory. It was pretty exciting to see a reference to Doppler, the man who identified the origin of the universe, here in Salzburg, a place predominantly known for music and renaissance landmarks. I suppose it’s the old saying that maths and music go together – where a place is known for music, it tends to also be known for mathematics. Doppler’s tomb is in San Michele, Venice, so this is about as close as one can get to Doppler in Salzburg. I’d much rather see a perfume named after Doppler than Mozart – it could get stronger as one got closer to the person wearing it, and fade away unexpectedly as they passed. The tagline for advertising could be “Smell like the stars of the heavens” (Geruch wie der Gestern des Himmels) as a reference to his eponymous paper on binary stars (Uber das farbige Licht der Doppelsterne und einiger anderer Gestern des Himmels).
This was one of two fountains that I was quite taken with in Salzburg, in Rezidenzplatz, the plaza where many tourists seemed to gather. It was beautiful, with an aura of reflected droplets of water, and it could splash a person with water from twenty feet away. The fountain below has to win points for sheer class in a public park, though:
I explained what the deal was with this second fountain in my post about Mirabell Gardens back in December 2014.
I think most tourists visiting Salzburg don’t know what these plaques are for, embedded into the pavement, four or five inches square, and starting to tarnish. Tourists seem to walk around without even noticing them, which is tragic when you know what these are for. Salzburg’s more recent history is painful to touch, a dark shroud suffocating parts of the city and extinguishing the joy and wonder of Mozart’s and Doppler’s birthplace. Like when you see someone who has been in a horrific accident, and they keep assuring you that they’re fine… but it still just goes right through you, when you look at the wound. Much of Salzburg was a profoundly beautiful place with a lot of happy tourist attractions, and you could probably get through an entire visit here without seeing traces of the Second World War if you wanted to. But there were signs, and it was not very nice. These plaques are for people who were rounded up and transported, telling the world where they were sent and what ultimately happened to them. Deportiert means deported. Ermordet means murdered. Suddenly the tragedy of Salzburg is vividly real and tragic. The plaques are to show where these people lived before they were labeled as undesirable. On the plaques above, you will see this family was separated after they were taken; Irma and Arthur Bondy were both killed at Minsk, the capital of Belarus, by the Third Reich, which leads to a completely different picture of wartime Belarus than we are used to thinking about. Otto Bondy was taken to Theresienstadt, the ghetto camp in the Czech republic, before being moved to Treblinka, the other extermination camp in Poland. Rachel Rosenmann was taken to Lodz, the work camp also in Poland. It is impossible to know when they died, only when they were taken, so whether their suffering was quick or slow, we will never be able to tell. Just looking at that photo makes me profoundly sad. Just as Mozart and Doppler are famed citizens of Salzburg who should be remembered for their work, the world should also know the names of all of these people who lived in Salzburg all their lives, then were rounded up and killed. The people in these plaques were all aged in their mid-fifties. There were so many of these plaques and I feel very guilty that I didn’t photograph them all, didn’t record every name and every fate. Then I realized that the plaques do that. They remember the people who were lost. Salzburg found them and brought them home again, even if only in name. When people say the situation with the refugees in North Africa is different to this, they don’t know what they’re talking about. It’s hard for some people to remember that our side wasn’t actually aware that the Nazis were doing this to millions of people until some allied soldiers walked into Auschwitz when we liberated Poland. The same thing could quite easily be happening elsewhere.
This was a big castle. I think it’s what most people go to Salzburg for. We clomped up the hill, got to the top, enjoyed the view, balked at the entry fee and came back down again. The view was nice though and the exercise was probably good for us after the two-day drive to get from the North of England to Salzburg. There was also some sort of mechanical railway lift type thing (similar to the one at Snowdon).
On a millenial-aged bridge, this vast collection of padlocks evokes a different emotion – love. In spite of all the horror of Austria’s 20th Century past, people in Salzburg have filled this bridge with padlocks, to show their love for another human being. People in Salzburg understand suffering and loss, but the city itself endures, the people endure, and in the face of crimes against humanity of such magnitude, the city still loves, is still loved, and the pain begins to fade. Perhaps if you’re less emotional than I, you could get through a visit to Salzburg without feeling the same way.
When we had run out of time in Salzburg, we reluctantly hit the road again (there were so many things we didn’t get to see) and headed onwards, towards Rome. We never did find out what the big gold ball was.