As the heat continued to envelop Salzburg, we did the only sensible thing and headed for the mountains that surround the city. It was quite easy really. Just outside the Mirabell Schloss, we caught the local #25 bus and headed, with other like minded escapees, to the countryside. Most got off at either the zoo or Hellbrunn Palace but we continued further on to the end of that bus route, to the very base of the Untersberg mountain. After a quick breakfast, we joined a short queue for the cable car which would take us up that mountain and away from the heat of the valley. What a good idea!
The bottom station is at 456 m, and the top station is at 1776 m, so we rose a total of 1320 m in that cable car. The first section is a really long free hanging span of 1,548 m between the station and the first pylon. Two cable cars run as shuttle traffic, one going up as the other comes down. Each car can take up to 50 people so I was very lucky to be able to stand at a front window and photogragh the views during our ascent. This is perhaps not for those queasy of heights or of hanging in mid air, but it is, for me, always a very special experience to be able to go up into such mountain areas.
At the top, we found ourselves not only hundreds of metres above the valley floor and the heat hazed city, but ten degrees cooler. And there were added advantages: wonderful scenery and a chance to hunt for wildflowers. Although we were above the tree line, except for a few low growing alpine conifers, there were lots of tiny alpine flowers to discover. I have added photos of both scenery and flowers to my flickr site, web link at the end of this post.
The paths at the top are not easy walking, as one might imagine. But for those who can manage them, and who feel so inclined, there are walks further upwards and onwards for mountain hikers, but we do not fit into that category. Some scrambled up to the mountain climbers memorial (at Geiereck, 1805 m) while others began the hike to Salzburg Hochthron Mountain, (1856 m). A few others began the crazy, in my opinion, task of walking down the mountain on what appeared to be little more than goat tracks. We, on the other hand, found a seat on the outdoor area of the small Hochalm cafe from where we could enjoy the view in relative cool. And right beside our seat was a delightful natural alpine plant rock “garden”. Perfect!
While the Salzburg valley sweltering in the heat far below us, we enjoyed a cool respite, and cool drinks. David enjoyed his Kaiser Karl beer which came in a glass to match the brew. This we found to be a common practice in many of the places we visited. Each area seemed to have its own local, or at least national beers, and in several places there were many boutique beers as well. I, on the other hand, enjoyed the cool, fresh taste of pure tap water from the Austrian alps.
We stayed at the top until after a delicious lunch in the mountain air, and then caught the cable car back down to the small village where the #25 bus awaited us. The palace of Hellbrunn was to be our next stop.
Hellbrunn Palace with its many pools and water features was built in the early 1600s by Saltzburg’s Prince Archbishop Markus Sittikus, the one who renamed Mirabell Schloss. It was built as a “Lustschloss”, a pleasure palace, and that is how it was used during the hot summers of his reign. This Salzburg ruler made sure that he was surrounded by invited aristocracy and beautiful women at his summer residence. And, for the hot summer months, he made use of the plentiful supply of water from the mountain to add the cooling effects of water into the design of his extensive parklands.
As temporal as well as religious leader of the community, Markus Sittikus was extremely wealthy… and he also had a rather unusual sense of fun. The many water features in his Wasserspiele, all look wonderful, but they also have trick features. For it was not just a sense of fun that was on display in these gardens. There was also often an element of Markus Sittikus showing his guests just who was “top dog”. At the flick of a switch he could have his guests made extremely wet! At a table used for summer feasts, the archbishop could flick a switch under his seat to make jets of water come up through the stone chairs of his guests, making them extremely wet, while he stayed dry.
In one of the grottos, a crown, representing him, rose on a jet of water while those watching were sprayed with water which came from many unsuspected places. At another place, there’s an incredible scene of the opera Don Giovani, with a hundred or so cast all moving to the music, all powered by water. Watching, fascinated, it’s easy to forget that somewhere, sometime, fine jets of water will undoubtedly rain upon you. And so they do!
Many of the grottos, the coolest places, have highly decorated ceilings… But beware, at the whim of the archbishop, or in our case, of a uni student enjoying the “best summer holiday job ever”, those in the grotto find them selves cooled by fine mists of water. It soon became obvious that the best way to elude a drenching, was to find the floor least wet to stand on. But that didn’t always work. I was caught by a special directional spray when our young friend realised that I was completely dry! No-one escaped. But who cared. A cooling spray of water on a hot day was most welcome. The children in our group had a wonderful time and soon became completely drenched. Mothers had come with towels and a change of clothes and everyone had a great time. More photos on my flickr site.
Just before we left the water garden, we had to walk through a guard of water jets, just for luck. It was all a lot of fun and a great way to stay cool. A walk through the palace park soon had us dry and seeking refuge in another cool spot, the palace itself, which held some interesting displays of life in the Archbishop’s time.
To help visiors enjoy the palace, and learn about the important features of each room and the whimsies of the archbishop, headphones are available in several languages. These came as part of the entry ticket, not an added extra! I’ve added photos on my flickr site (see link below).
We did the whole day, bus, cable car, Palace entry, all on our Salzburg card, so really had good value for the money spent on the card. And we had seen some of the countryside and had been so much cooler than in the city.
As we left the palace, a storm was looming. We made it back to the hotel before, thankfully, the storm brought some cooler temperatures and fresher air to the city. While the storm spent itself we rested and then, in a much cooler evening, we went out to go the concert at St Andräs church. We must have misread the venue; we were the only ones there! However there was someone playing the organ and trying out the various stops, so we were able to sit and enjoy that. I still don’t know where the concert was to be!
So, no concert, but instead a delightful cool evening walk in the Mirrabell Gardens. This time, not nearly as many people and a chance to enjoy the walk. And when we got back to our room, there was a concert of Beethoven’s 7th on the TV… and that was most enjoyable too.
Jennie and David
Photography copyright © JT of jtdytravels
more photos for this post are on our flickr site
in albums titled
AUT: Untersberg Cable Car
AUT: Hellbrunn Schloss
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