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.

I Made It!

Hooray! I managed to bumble my way to Salzburg more or less successfully. My incompetence at going through security probably made it really easy to get through (no terrorist could be that stupid.) Luckily the 4th of July seems to be a light travel day so I didn’t have black diamond travelers breathing down my neck as I stood there stupidly waiting to be told what to do next. Well they say experience is what you get when you don’t get what you really want – and I didn’t really want to feel stupid, so I guess I’m a little bit experienced now.

You know these people all speak German over here! I stopped feeling so confused when I realized that they really brought it on themselves. But seriously, the bi-tri-quadri-multi-lingualism over here is truly impressive. Even bad English is delivered with beautiful British accent. I could not believe the airport employees and flight attendants. Those people deserve six figures for what they can do to make a language ignoramus like me feel comfortable.
I was genuinely impressed by Lufthansa. The overall quality of the experience seemed way above my limited experience of domestic carriers – there was food, and it was even palatable. The people were extremely professional and they didn’t lose my luggage! The last leg from Frankfurt to Salzburg was on a propeller plane, which was a first for me. Frankly the Tyrolean Air plane looked a bit long of tooth, but it was fun because we flew lower and I could see the plains of Bavaria. People say that cluster housing is this new idea in the US, but in Germany and Austria it looks like they’ve been doing it a long time – there’s a lot of open space and farmland.

Incidentally , the Frankfurt airport defines the adjective “sprawling” – in fact it is vast and hideously ugly to boot.

When I arrived in Salzburg (right on time) I had an easy time navigating the bus system and got right to Schoss Frohnburg (although it is a good idea to look at the number on the bus before you walk away from it and go to the platform where it’s supposed to be….) The public transit is amazing for a city of 150,000. Puts us to shame.