Above: “Monocle”, on ÖBB regional train near Kitzbühel, Austria – 13 May 2018.
From 8 May to 4 June 2018, I travelled through Austria and Germany for 27 consecutive days by train with a two-country Eurail rail pass. I obtained over 10-thousand frames over the four-week span: the mirrorless Fujifilm X70 with fixed-lens prime accounted for 8020 images (77%), and the full-frame Canon 6D with changeable zoom-glass accounted for 2449 images (23%). From this giant haul of pictures, the following provides glimpses and visuals to the final 14 of 27 days, including stays in Salzburg, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, München, and Köln.
(The first 13 days here)
Day 14: Monday, May 21 – Salzburg, Austria
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 already breathes with the spirits of Leopold and Anna Maria Mozart’s family. 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 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.”
Day 15: Tuesday, May 22 – Salzburg, Austria
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 …
Day 16: Wednesday, May 23 – Salzburg, Austria
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.
Day 17: Thursday, May 24 – Oberndorf bei Salzburg, Austria
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, it’s also the location of the earlier St. Nicholas church, where “Stille Nacht” (Silent Night) was performed for the first time in 1818.
The song was once thought to be Tirolian in origin, but 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 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.
Day 18: Friday, May 25 – Hallstatt, Austria
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.
Day 19: Saturday, May 26 – Berchtesgaden, Germany
In the very southeast corner of Germany, the views from the Kehlsteinhaus (Eagle’s Nest_ at an elevation of 1834 metres (6017 feet) are breathtaking with the Alps on one side and Salzburg in the distance 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 converts to a staggering over $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 very busy café and restaurant for the many 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 at all 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 and policies 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.
In the midst of mountains, trees, meadows, and 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. So yeah, it hurts, but next week, I return to this very same dichotomy in a more sobering and deeply profound manner with a visit to Dachau.
Day 20: Sunday, May 27 – Salzburg, Austria
t’s the final few hours in Salzburg, and with beautiful morning light, I head back into the Old Town and onto Getreidegasse at the building where Amadeus Mozart was born. The light and colours are pretty. Every 15 to 20 minutes, roaming groups of eight, ten, twelve or more arrive and disperse on the square in front of the building. There’s excited chatter, the thrill of a find, something they’ll never see or have back home, and of course, the selfie sticks come out. The sticks aren’t exactly my favourite thing in the world, but I’m going to make visual “lemonade” by taking pictures of people taking self-portrait pictures. Because I like my meta-lemonade cold.
Finally, what happened to my informal poll where I asked people if they had ever seen the film “The Sound of Music”? Keeping in mind low-number statistics and the informality of my poll, the answer is an overwhelming “no”; more than 80% have never seen the movie, another 20% saw the movie the first time in their 20s or 30s. There’s little reason why the film should be aired in Austria, Germany, or Switzerland, unless it’s about cultural evangelism. After all, they have their own Christmas traditions, in the streets, at home, and on television screens.
I leave Salzburg and Austria knowing I’ll miss them both. It’s Germany (mostly) the rest of the way.
Day 21: Monday, May 28 – Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany
The sharp shrill alarm is a jolt, springing me out of bed. I pad over to the window and pull the shades aside. Sky is bright, sky is clear, and the birds are chirping the same news. It’s 6am, and I’m chasing the 620am Eibsee bus from the train station in Garmisch-Partenkirchen for the short ride over to Obergrainau. I can tell late-May morning light will strike the Wetterstein mountains at the proper illumination angle. Below the vertical wall of ancient limestone, there are a couple of people about at 7am on their early stroll; the only other sounds are songbirds and cowbells. Time seems to stand still, wrapped in alpine calm.
In the afternoon, I’m going up top, which is a matter of selecting a suitable mountain. Many will fork over the cash to ride the cogwheel-railway and cable-car combination on the ascent to Germany’s highest mountain, Zugspitze. But the return price is 56 Euros (adult), and if that sounds too rich, Wank offers decent views for less than half the price at 21.50 Euros return. From the Wank summit at 1780 metres (5840 feet), I can see how popular this location is for a short excursion from town. I can also spot with the naked-eye three additional mountains which overlook the towns of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Mittenwald, and Innsbruck, respectively: Zugspitze, Westliche Karwendelspitze, and Hafelekar.
Sure, the sniggers come fast and furious, but the mountain name is related to the German verb “to totter or stagger”. But I’ve got a few more: “Anger” is a small meadow, “Wut” is fury, “fast” is to “almost” as “schnell” is to “quick”, “Hut” is a hat, and “hat” is the 3rd-person present-tense form of the verb “to have.” Because the English language is a hot mess, I like to pick on the pronunciations and etymologies for cough, dough, slough, *and* slough. All this, on a good visit to Wank.
Day 22: Tuesday, May 29 – Oberammergau, Germany
I step off the vehicle, and the red RVO bus chugs off into the distance. It’s my first time in town, and I don’t have a smart phone. But I’ve already committed into memory a map of key locations in Oberammergau, a town well-known for at least three things: the Passion Play, wood-carving tradition, and Lüftlmalerei or house murals.
Examples of house paintings in town include The Red Riding Rood House and the Hansel-and-Gretel House. Both houses are a part of the therapy- and learning-centre for children and youth and Marie-Mattfeld Hänsel and Gretlheim Foundation for the Bavarian state capital of Munich.
The tradition of wood carving has been tied with religious theatre in town and region for centuries. For example, a stationary form of religious theatre during Christmas season is the Nativity crib which began appearing in Bavarian churches, monasteries, and palaces in the 16th-century and into private homes by the 19th-century.
Performed for the first time in 1634, the town will stage its next decadal version of the Passion Play in 2020. I’m moved by how the play has gone beyond its oath and become much more than the story of Christ. The play is about the town’s people and the community developed over time by the massive scale and complex logistics of putting on a play which attracts in a single season over 500-thousand visitors into a town of 5-thousand. On display inside the Passion Theatre are costumes from the previous Passion Play in 2010, including high priests Annas (blue and white stripes) and Gamaliel (red and orange). In the background are information panels about the history of the play and theatre.
To reach Oberammergau from Munich, it’s 100 minutes with regional trains and a switch in Murnau. From Garmisch-Partenkirchen, it’s 40-minutes with RVO bus 9606.
Day 23: Wednesday, May 30 – Mittenwald, Germany
There’s a path along the ridge of the steep upper bowl called Passamani overlooking the mountain station for the Karwendel cable car. I skipped that path two winters ago, because I wasn’t properly equipped for the deep snow. Now that it’s late-spring, it’s a big reason why I decide to ascend Karwendel a second time in as many years. Another reason is the potential to acquire additional images for an ongoing photographic project.
The Karwendel cable car is the speedy way up the vertical wall of rock which overlooks the Bavarian town of Mittenwald in southern Germany. Within minutes, I’m whisked up to an altitude of 2244 metres (7362 feet) where I have a view of the Ammergau Alps, Zugspitze and the Wetterstein mountain range, and other peaks in the Karwendel mountain range on the Austrian side.
I’m huffing and puffing at the start. Yeah, I should be more fit, but at this elevation I’m breathing only about 75% of the atmosphere at sea-level. Within an hour, my lungs and muscles “remember” what it was like to work at similar altitudes in the Chilean Andes. I’ve always wondered about the breathing capacity of animals at this altitude; there are a few ambitious and hungry crows looking for easy scraps of food. In the distance, I detect movement at the corner of my eye. I switch to long-zoom glass, and I’ve in my sights a couple of goats in the valley below, although I can’t tell whether they’re ibex (Steinbock) or chamois (Gams). I admire them not only because they’re beautiful creatures moving quickly and gracefully over snow and scree, but because they thrive in the harsh and unforgiving environment.
Day 24: Thursday, May 31 – München, Germany
I’ve had a self-imposed demanding and punishing schedule over the last three weeks in the pursuit of something that was uniquely Austrian through music, painting, architecture, and physics. Over the final stretch, I’m slowing waaay down in seeking art, memories, and memorials.
Herakut is an artist duo whose street murals have appeared in Europe and around the world since 2004. Hera (Jasmin Siddiqui) and Akut (Falk Lehmann) use walls and big spaces for their big art with a signature look which includes expressive faces and big eyes, lots of photo-like details, and sharp typography. Their work explores issues such as physical and emotional isolation, gender and racial equality, and all the things we think and feel lurking inside. But I think their compositions also include long notes and pauses for vivid fantasy and playful whimsy.
At this point of the entire trip, I wanted to be in Munich to see Herakut’s latest work before the exhibition’s final day. At the Museum of Urban and Contemporary Art, Herakut’s “Wahn|Sinn” exhibition is a reinterpretation of Goethe’s tragic play ‘Faust”. I step into the hall through open doors, and the mind expands that analogy to account how I feel; it’s as if I’ve flung all my doors wide open. Their latest work takes up the entirety of the lower floor, while other related pieces are found on the upper floor. I realize I needed to “see” it when a roughly painted face appears in a mirror with the words ‘I’m okay.’
Day 25: Friday, June 1 – Dachau, Germany
I’ve always thought I’m not emotionally prepared. But I can’t go further in my long-term study and examination of the nation’s history without visiting this location.
I’m on an S-Bahn train from Munich central station for a town to the northwest. From the town’s train station, I catch bus 726 for a short 7-minute ride, and I arrive in time for the venue to open for the day. This is the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site.
A dark heavy cloak descends the moment I step into the camp, and for the next few hours, I promise myself to be open as much as possible: to look, see, hear, and listen.
Systematic torture and unrestrained cruelty. Medical experiments on people. Arbitrary execution by hanging or gunfire. The destruction of human dignity. The annihilation of hope. This camp as “model” to broaden the scope and scale of industrial mass-murder.
The growing lump at the back of my throat feels like a massive rock, and I’m about to choke. By day’s end, I step into a small memorial room of the museum’s exhibition area. A thick hardcover book is open; the title is “Book of Remembrance for the Victims of Dachau Concentration Camp“. Inside these pages are 33205 names; the actual count is much higher with thousands whose names have not been identified.
I turn the book over towards the middle, and I read individual names: … Landsberger, Landshut, Landsmann, Landtmann, Landzettel, Lanemann, Lanfranco …
If I say them out loud, I want to believe that these human beings existed and lived and loved and breathed, that they’re recognized and they’ve come to life again, and that they will not be forgotten.
Day 26: Saturday, June 2 – München, Germany
In my hockey-mad nation of birth, September 1972 is defined by The Summit Series between Canada and the (former) Soviet Union. It’s the stuff of childhood legends. But high on my mind over the last 15 years has been about what happened that same month in Munich.
The 20th Summer Olympics were under way in Munich, Germany. “The Carefree Games” were the first summer games held in Germany since Berlin in 1936, and both Munich and Germany wanted to show a different peaceful and prosperous side to the world with the generation after World War 2. But the 1972 Games will also be remembered for and stained by the “Munich Massacre” on 5-6 September. By the end of the crisis, the 17 dead included eleven Israeli Olympic team members, one German police officer, and five Palestinian kidnappers. Questions still remain about pre-Game preparations and warnings about a possible attack, security measures, crisis management, and the failed liberation of the kidnapped victims.
The memorial “Erinnerungsort Olympia-Attentat München 1972” was inaugurated in 2017 in Olympiapark (Olympic Park). Panels provide short histories for each of the Israelis killed, and a video display with television footage of the time shows a timeline of events. North of the memorial are residential apartments and buildings in the former Olympic Village. Nothing appears too out of the ordinary for what might be expected in the architectural stylings of the late-1960s and early-1970s. At the entrance to the three-storey building at Connollystrasse 31 is a plaque in German and Hebrew commemorating 11 Israelis who lost their lives: “For the 20th Olympic Summer Games, the Israel national team stayed here from 21 August to 5 September 1972. These people died violently on 5 September: David Berger, Seew Friedman, Josef Gutfreund, Elieser Halfin, Josef Romano, Amizur Shapira, Kehat Shorr, Mark Slavin, Andre Spitzer, Jaakow Springer, Mosche Weinberger. In honour of their memory.”
Since 2001, the Olympisches Dorf (Olympic Village) is protected under the heritage listing for the Olympiapark ensemble, which includes the abandoned “ghost” S-Bahn train station “München Olympiastadion” which saw its last train service in 1988.
Day 27: Sunday, June 3 – Köln, Germany
Of Napoleon and whippets.
The final full day starts out with a cross-country train (again) from Munich to Cologne where I’m meeting friends. Although I’ve been in Cologne many times, there’s still plenty to document.
In the early 19th-century, this part of the world along the Rhine river was taken over by Napoleon’s forces for strategic prominence. The French language (re)established itself, and although Napoleon’s ambitions were stopped and he was eventually turfed out, elements of the language remain. At the northeast corner of the armoury building which now houses the Kölnisches Stadtmuseum (City Museum) is a bilingual street sign “Rue de l’Arsenal | Zeughausgasse,” which translates to Armoury Lane.
Napoleon was here, but today you’re more likely to hear Mer stonn zo Dir, FC Kölle.
I make my way to my friends’ house where there’s meat on the grill, beer, and conversation. My friends run a martial arts school in the city and they have a couple of beautiful graceful whippets: Connor and Smilla. Look deep into their black pools for eyes, and wonder if you can refuse them anything.
I don’t get much sleep and by 6am, I’m packing and preparing to leave for Frankfurt Airport. I stare out the hotel window to a pre-dawn sky and why not, because that’ll be one of the final images over this stretch of 27 days.
Das war insgesamt 27. Reisetage in Folge …
I made the images above between 21 May and 3 June 2018 with a Fujifilm X70 and a Canon 6D. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotografie at fotoeins.com as https://wp.me/p1BIdT-bUd.