Saturday, July 5, 2008

I Stagger In

I didn’t really sleep much on my flight, but I stayed up when I got in. I forced myself to go walking. I took the bus back to the Alt Stadt, picked a likely stop, and went wandering. I managed to take in my top three sight-seeing priorities, the Dome, the Franziskanerkirche, and the Festung Hohensalzburg (the High Salzburg Fortress)

First I went to the great Baroque Dome, the cathedral that dominates the city. It is quite beautiful inside, although oddly I’m not that connected to Baroque art. I took a good look at all of the individual altars off to the sides. There is a considerable amount of paintings but they are very hard to see because of the lighting (maybe I should have taken off my sunglasses.) The ceilings in these areas are well lit and positively amazing – bright colored paintings, beautifully composed set off by white plastered geometric pattern.

The Franziskanerkirche is a 13th century edifice (if I recall correctly St. Francis died in 1226.) It is tall and narrow, held up by tall (I mean tall) columns that seem to be carved from solid rock. How did they do this? I bet we’d be hard pressed to pull off an engineering feat like this today! The Medieval church has a beautiful starkness that seems to evoke the life and work of St. Francis. However sometime in the 17th century somebody got the bright idea of plunking a huge, bright colored Baroque altar into the middle of this austere grandeur. It seems very incongruous, but perhaps unwittingly it reflects the fate of the Friars Minor after the death of St. Francis. How does it go – ontogeny begets phylogeny? A good Orff principle.

Finally, even though I was hot and hungry and thirsty and tired, I decided to scale the path to the Festung. When I got to the top you needed to buy a ticket, so even though I’m a cheapskate I ponied up the 7 Euros and clambered all over the thing. It is quite a castle for one’s first experience of a castle. It covers a long ridge that dominates both the city and its approaches. I took the guided tour of the interior rooms, the highlight of which is when you climb the long spiral stairs of the prison tower and then suddenly emerge on to a high platform that give a 360 degree panorama, including a very impressive view of the Alps to the south.

The Alps are very large mountains – even the smaller ones near Salzburg seem 2-3 times the size of Mansfield and Camel’s Hump. They dwarf the Presidential Range too, rising right up from the Austrian Plain.

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