Day 19, four weeks ago today:
In the very southeast corner of Germany, the views from the Eagle’s Nest at an elevation of 1834 metres (6017 feet) are breathtaking with the Alps on one side and Salzburg on the other. The lodge at the top of Kehlstein mountain was once a place for the Nazi elite to “get away from it all;” that is, to get away temporarily from making savage psychopathic plans for mass murder.
Thousands worked on the challenging steep Eagle’s Nest project; took less than two years with completion in 1938; and cost 30 million Reichsmarks, which is a staggering $1+ billion US (2017 Consumer Price Index). No expense was too much to build the Kehlsteinhaus; like other similar projects of the time, the grand sight to a visitor was supposed to shock and awe, impress and intimidate. Today, the building is leased to the private operation of a busy café and restaurant for the visitors who come up to Kehlstein. Normally, I’m always hungry, especially at altitude, but today all hunger has gone. It’s beautiful up here in the sun, but I wonder how many in the crowds have paid any attention to the reasons why the building exists in the first place.
The very demanding and technical construction project on Kehlstein mountain was only one part of the overall Obersalzberg complex which became 2nd to Berlin as an unofficial working capital of the Nazi regime. That meant decisions about political strategy, battle tactics, and extermination measures were also made at Obersalzberg. At the former Hoher Göll Guest House, the Dokumentation Obersalzberg centre houses a permanent exhibition about the history of the area; about the seizure of power, nation, and people by the National Socalists; and the takeover of the idyllic landscape by the Nazis for the purposes of seclusion, propaganda, and strategy.
Among mountains, trees, meadows, & lakes, it’s difficult to wrap my head around how a place of great beauty is connected to an ideology of intense hatred. Perhaps it’s meant to be this way, that it’s tough to separate lines of thought from the rush of feelings. Next week, I return to this dichotomy in a sobering & profound way.
Berchtesgaden, 🇩🇪 - 26 May 2018 (HL, x70).
Day 18, four weeks ago today:
I’m up at 4am so I can catch the 5am train out from Salzburg and make the appropriate connections to arrive in Hallstatt before 8am. Even in cloud and mist, it’s a beautiful (and historical) landscape that’s worth the lack of sleep.
Hallstatt town can be reached by car and bus, but not directly by train. The tiny station is on the other side of the lake (Hallstätter See), and a boat shuttle brings passengers across the lake and into town. The town is “squeezed” between the lake and massive cliffs and mountains encircling the lake. In town, I’m trekking along a ridge high enough I’m at the same level as attics and roofs for the houses below. It seems remarkable how the town handled the volume of vehicular traffic through narrow winding streets before construction of the bypass. There are older buildings here, of course, but the town rebuilt after the 1750 fire destroyed all the timber buildings.
Hallstatt is famous for its history of salt making, and for over 7000 years started by the Celtic people, “white gold” brought immense wealth and prosperity to the area. (‘Hall’ is related to the Celtic word for ‘salt’.) At its peak influence, the Hallstatt culture spanned a large swath across western Europe from about 800 BC/BCE to 500 BC/BCE (late Iron Age). A diverse variety of archaeological objects have been found in and around the area’s salt mines. Salt is an effective preserver of organic material, as intended for food, and as unintended for those archaeological finds. UNESCO recognized and proclaimed the Hallstatt salt mine as a World Heritage Site in 1997. That’s driven my curiosity from the outset, and frankly, both town and lake are very easy on the eyes.
#Hallstatt, 🇦🇹 - 25 May 2018 (HL, x70). #salzwelten #salzkammergut #dachsteinsalzkammergut #oberösterreich #upperaustria #visitupperaustria #feelaustria #visitaustria #fujix70 #fujifilmx70 #fotoeins
Day 17, four weeks ago today:
For 200 years of “Silent Night”, there’s a modest church in the town of Oberndorf near Salzburg.
Although today’s Gedächtniskapelle (Memorial Chapel) was inaugurated in 1937, this is the location of the original St. Nicholas church, where “Stille Nacht” (Silent Night) was performed for the first time in 1818. Once thought to be Tirolian in origin, the song is credited to lyricist Joseph Mohr (curate, priest, teacher) and composer Franz Gruber (organist, teacher). Mohr had written the poem in 1816, and on Christmas Eve 1818, he asked Gruber to compose the melody. Because the church organ wasn’t working properly, the song was completed the same day with guitar and two singing voices, and performed after evening mass on Christmas Eve. In the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars which had enveloped the continent and had only ended 3 years earlier in 1815, the song might have sounded like a peace offering. That might go some way to explain how quickly the song spread; by the late 1890s, the song had reached the southern hemisphere. Today there are over 300 translated versions around the world, and UNESCO inscribed in 2011 the song into the list of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Austria.
Oberndorf bei Salzburg is celebrating the bicentenary of “Stille Nacht” throughout the 2018 year. The town can be reached from Salzburg by regional train in about 30 minutes. From Oberndorf train station, it’s an easy 10-minute walk to Stille-Nacht-Platz, the memorial chapel, and accompanying museum.
Oberndorf bei Salzburg, 🇦🇹 - 24 May 2018 (HL, x70 imgs).
Day 16, four weeks ago today:
For a new day in Salzburg, I’m on the Mönchsberg cliffs over the Old Town, between the Hohensalzburg fortress in the east and the Museum of Modern Art in the west. Spectacular views of the Old Town await with the afternoon sun behind me to the south. That’s especially true at the site of the Bürgerwehr, or late-15th century defensive ramparts, above Siegmund Gate. Nobody’s sneaking in without being noticed. The views emphasize the strategic importance of holding the high ground over the Salzach river with Mönchsberg hill and fortress on one side (west/south flank) and the Kapuzinerberg hill on the other side (east/north flank). But these steep cliffs have also exacted a price. Not far from the picture location is where a rockslide in 1669 fell onto the town below, destroying two churches, a seminary building, 13 houses, and killing over 200 people.
Salzburg, 🇦🇹 - 23 May 2018 (HL, x70 img tags 5019, 5023, 5030).
Day 15, four weeks ago today:
A warm glow rolls over, hugs, and clings onto cobblestones and buildings at the beginning and the end of the day. An exploratory walk through the streets on both sides of the Salzach river is accompanied by increasing cloud and ominous skies, by an afternoon thunderboomer with a drenching downpour, before the clouds break and the sun peeks through again. Just another (extra)ordinary day in Salzburg.
Images: Morning light on Linzer Gasse; Max-Reinhardt-Platz, post-downpour; Getreidegasse in afternoon light.
Salzburg, 🇦🇹 - 22 May 2018 (HL, x70). #visitsalzburg #visitaustria #feelaustria #fujix70 #fujifilmx70
Day 14, four weeks ago today:
For the first time in over 15 years, I’ve returned to Salzburg. To many, the city is synonymous with “The Sound of Music”, but the place is already about the family of Leopold and Anna Maria Mozart. My childhood connection via “The Sound of Music” has motivated the reason for an informal poll during my entire time in Austria. To any and all Austrians I meet along the way, my lead question is: “have you ever seen the film ‘The Sound of Music’?” The result will be very illuminating.
After its takeover and expansion of the settlement (likely Celtic) around 1st-century BC/BCE, the Roman Empire called the town “Municipium Claudium Iuvavum” for its location along the Salzach river (a.k.a. Ivarus) and for its presence near the frontier. The town would be abandoned to ruins a couple of centuries later. But by the 7th-century AD/CE, Bishop Rupert of Worms recognized the strategic location of river, overlook, and junction. He helped rebuild, reestablish, and Christianize the town; he would also rename the town “Salzburg” for the salt trade bringing wealth and the upper fortress providing protection.
I’m interested by the city residents’ desire not only to anchor but also broaden the obvious connection with Amadeus Mozart and his early life in Salzburg. For example, artist Marina Abromovic’s 2004 sculpture installation “Spirit of Mozart” resides at the north end of the Staatsbrücke bridge. Most visitors walk past without a second thought or are bewildered by its presence. Abramovic prompts visitors to sit on the chairs which are part of the sculpture. She writes: I wanted to create a place of contemplation and devote it to the spirit of Mozart right in the heart of Salzburg, in the midst of traffic and the hectic pulsating bustle of the city.
Salzburg, 🇦🇹 - 21 May 2018 (HL, x70 img tags 4308, 4325). #visitsalzburg
Day 13, four weeks ago today:
Vienna has seen her fair share of history, back to a time when the once Celtic settlement was called Vindobona under the auspices of the Roman Empire. And there’ve been more than a few people who’ve been successful in the city …
Suspended next to the entrance of the E. A .Generali insurance company building at Am Hof 11 is a crinkly golden sphere: the Türkenkugel (Ottoman ball).. It’s a (replica) gilded cannonball fired during the Ottomans’ second and unsuccessful siege of Vienna in 1683. The ball was walled in and later gilded; the house and restaurant which used to be here at this location was given the name “Zur goldenen Kugel”, or at the golden ball.
Judenplatz (Jewish Square) was home and centre to the city’s once-thriving Jewish communities and to one of the largest synagogues in Europe. To one side of the square is Rachel Whiteread’s sculpture, “Nameless Library”, a memorial to the 65-thousand Viennese Jews who were deported and murdered by the Nazis. The memorial is a reinforced concrete cube which represents an introverted/inverted inaccessible library. Countless editions of what seems to be the same non-titled book represent the large number of victims and their individual stories. Rachel Whiteread is a UK artist and sculptor who in 1993 was the first woman to win the Turner Prize. Whiteread’s memorial sculpture is an interesting counterpoint to Micha Ullman’s memorial at Berlin’s Bebelplatz where an empty set of white bookshelves marks the place where books by authors Jewish, undesireable, or traitorous were burned by Nazis in 1933.
I had promised myself to explore more of Jewish Vienna, especially in Leopoldstadt. Along with the Vienna Modernism centenary, I had a punishing and almost impossible schedule. So I’m coming back to Vienna, hungry to see, find, and learn more in this tragic, vibrant, and beautiful city.
Wien (Vienna), 🇦🇹 - 20 May 2018 (HL, x70 img tags 4170, 4177). #Whiteread21
Day 12, four weeks ago today:
I’ve set aside the day to immerse myself in the art works by Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele at the Upper Belvedere and the Leopold Museum, respectively.
Vienna celebrates the 2018 year as the 100th anniversary of Vienna Modernism with four major figures: Gustav Klimt, Koloman Moser, Egon Schiele, and Otto Wagner. I’m pleasantly surprised, because I hadn’t expected both museums to allow visitors to photograph their collections. Sure, images for some of these paintings appear online, but I know the *act* of taking pictures of the famous paintings will deepen the memories of my visit.
In a massive crowd of people who are here to see the painting (or even if the simple desire is a quick selfie and leave), to stand in the immediate presence of “The Kiss” for a period of time is like gently swimming in a sea of gold. The speckle and sparkle seem to undulate from one Gustav Klimt painting to the next; it’s almost like changing ships in the sea. By comparison, I think Egon Schiele’s work is “sharp” with penetrating gazes and distinct lines. There’s no question Klimt’s naked women and Schiele’s direct questions caused discomfort and consternation among early 20th-century viewers in a conservative Vienna.
Seeing art is direct, personal, and visceral; the experience goes some way to complete research I’ve done in advance about historical and cultural context. Another pilgrimage is complete, one of many planned during this month-long journey in Austria.
Four images: “The Bride”, Gustav Klimt, 1917/1918. “Judith”, Gustav Klimt, 1901. “Self-portrait with Chinese lantern plant”, Egon Schiele, 1912. “The embrace (lovers)”, Egon Schiele, 1917.
Wien (Vienna), 🇦🇹 - 19 May 2018 (HL, x70 imgs). #wienermoderne #viennamodernism #gustavklimt #egonschiele #belvederevienna #mqvienna
Day 11, four weeks ago today:
The early-evening mood in Vienna’s Old Town is as ethereal as the remaining light scattered from the cobblestones. Grünangergasse was likely once the location of a green commons and, according to local legend, house #8 was where the first Kipfel / Kipferl / crescent / buttery croissant was made in the late 17th- to 18th-century to mark Vienna’s successful defence against the Ottomans’ second siege on the city. Ballgasse is a narrow cobblestone passage and one of the last remaining from medieval times, even though the surrounding buildings are much younger dating to the 18th-century. This short stretch of street, the lack of vehicles, and the sounds of quiet chatter are a slow relaxed trip back in time.
Wien (Vienna), 🇦🇹 - 18 May 2018 (HL, x70 img tags 3157, 3164).