On a visit to Salzburg in October 2006 the sun was shining and the pastel coloured facades of the riverside buildings looked outstandingly cheerful set against a backdrop of cobalt blue sky and hillsides radiant in autumnal yellow, russet and bronze. After walking through the main town squares, the Alter Makt and Residenzplatz we made straight for the Hohensalzburg fortress that rose high above the city on an impregnable rocky bastion. Looking up at it from below I knew how Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood must have felt in the film ‘Where Eagle’s Dare’.
At the top there were some outstanding views from the battlements. To the south were lush green valleys and snow capped mountains all decorated with farmhouses and little huts and to the north was the city spread out below along the river valley. Inside the fortress all admittance was free, which made me regret that I had paid the all-inclusive tickets to come up on the funicular but I suppose it had been quick and we had enjoyed it.
There was a room displaying marionettes, and another with a Lowry like display of an attacking stick insect army. There was a museum about the fortress that included a lot of military uniforms and a room with some unpleasant implements of medieval torture including some curious chastity belts with design characteristics that certainly looked as though they might be effective in preventing unauthorized sexual activity but had some inherent faults that I suspect made maintaining personal hygiene a bit of a challenge!
It was here that we learnt some interesting facts including the story about painting an ox a different colour every day (brown on a Monday, black on a Tuesday etc.) during a siege in 1525 to try to fool the attackers into believing the castle was well supplied (when it wasn’t) and earning the citizens of Salzburg the nickname of ‘oxen washers’. Also that the wealth of the city was based on salt mining which gave the city its name and that the fortress was never taken by an attacking army until Napoleon Bonaparte marched through the gates invited in 1801. We finally got our monies worth when we enjoyed a guided tour around the fortress including a climb to the top of the castle.