Two Days in Salzburg

For a good long stretch of human history it was exceedingly good to be a prince.* Aside from probably having to marry your cousin, you had lots of power, fancy duds, and a soft bed to die in when the plague rolled through.

If you didn’t have the good fortune of being born a prince, it was equally good to be a bishop. Aside from having to officiate weddings between cousins, you had lots of power, fancy duds, and a soft bed to die in when the plague rolled through.

A rare few got to be both. Salzburg was once one of the great archbishoprics of the Holy Roman Empire, and it was our second stop in Austria. It was also the birthplace of Mozart and where a lot of The Sound of Music was filmed.

The Residence of the Prince Bishop
To be the prince bishop meant control over matters of both government and religion. The palatial residence was attached to the ornate cathedral, making matters of state and religion easier to administer. We took a tour of the Residenz (the audio guide was free with admission), and found it a fascinating trip into history.

salzburgresidencesalon
The audience chamber of the Residenz, where the prince bishop would meet with the most important dignitaries. The rooms became more ornate the further into the palace we went, and the further into the palace a dignitary was allowed to go, the more important they were. Photo by Tricia.
Detail from a ceiling panel in the residence. Stop scrolling for a second and stare at it. It’s amazing. Photo by Ryan.
salzburgresidencehall
Random gorgeous hallway that could house a small family. Photo by Tricia.

One of the greatest benefits of being the prince bishop was that all the money from both church and state were flowing into their coffers. This meant they could afford all the very best bling:

princebishopstaff
The bishop’s staff of Salzburg, made from gold, silver, diamonds, sapphires, rubies, and emeralds. Photo by Tricia.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The staff came with a very fine hat. Photo by Ryan.

The Residenz was a neat place to walk through. I mean, it was no Alhambra, but it was cool.

At this point in our journey we had some choices to make. We could try to see the Mozart museum, located in the same house he was born in, or we could see some of the places where The Sound of Music was filmed…or we could go to the world’s largest ice cave.

The ice cave won.

The World’s Largest Ice Cave
Eisriesenwelt isn’t the easiest place to get to. We took two trains, then a shuttle bus, then hiked up to a gondola. The gondola dropped us off at the ticket office, and from there we had to hike again up to the mouth of the cave.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The view on the way up was very Tolkienian. Photo by Ryan.
caveclimb
The hike up to the mouth of the cave involves a number of switchbacks, but is not as hard as it looks. The humidity was more of an issue for us than the climb. Photo via.

The cave is accessible only by guided tour and they don’t allow photos. We were given gas fired torches to help guide our way, but they immediately went out when the door to the cave opened. The temperature differential was so severe that it nearly blew me off my feet. My little torch flame didn’t stand a chance. Our guide dutifully stood inside and relit all the lamps.

Inside is wonderful. Eisriesenwelt is German for “World of the Ice Giants,” and the cave lives up to the name. Snow from the alps melts and flows into cracks in the rock. Inside, the cave is always freezing, so the water turns to ice, creating some magnificent structures.

icecave
One of the ice structures in the cave. Photo via.

The tour was about an hour and a half and there were quite a few stairs to climb, so if you’re having knee trouble this might not be for you. I do wish they’d have allowed photos, but I understand they want to protect the cave.

Hohenwerfern Castle
On our way back down the mountain we stopped in at the Hohenwerfern Castle. It was built in 1075 by Archbishop Gebhard. Yes, you read that right. A church official built a defensive castle. While the Holy Roman Emperor had been naming his own archbishops for a lot of years, the Pope in Rome had become quite put out by it. The question of whether the Emperor or the Pope could seat bishops of the church is diplomatically known as the Investiture Controversy. Gebhard sided with the Pope. There was some violence.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Exterior of the Hohenwerfern Castle. Photo by Ryan.

The tour of the castle is given by a German-speaking guide, but English audio guides are provided. You can skip it if you’re pressed for time, or have a weak stomach – a lot of what’s here is a remembrance of the torture that took place in its walls. If you do have time, the views are good:

hoenview
View from the top of the castle of the town beneath. Photo by Tricia.
hoenwefereninterior
Inside the walls of the castle. Photo by Tricia.

I’m a little sad that we only had a few days in Austria before we moved on. It’s a beautiful country with a rich history. We’ll have to come back and really get into the meat of it someday. Next up: Fussen and the Castles of Mad King Ludwig.

*I’m guessing it’s still pretty good to be a prince or a bishop. But, frankly, most of us live like royalty already and we have a lot more freedom of movement.

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s