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Sunday, July 25, 2010

Storms Over Salzburg

Originally written July 22nd

Whew. That was scary. For a few minutes, my poor computer refused to boot up and kept shutting itself off. I hope we're past that now.

As I write to you from my bunk in a hostel in the side of a cliff in Salzburg, I can see through the window that the sky is lighting up with flashes of purple--and there's the thunder, too. It appears the storm is back.

It's been hot and muggy in Salzburg all day. That's quite a change from when I was here last with Jewell, and just caught a glimpse of the city on our way to Vienna. My only impressions were clear skies and a stunning blue mountain crowned in white. The mountains are still stunning and blue, but now it's difficult to discern their shapes against the summer haze in the distance.

Our hostel is perched on the top of a cliff overlooking the Old Town and the Hohensalzburg Fortress. Oh, lovely, the rain's begun; maybe it'll cool down. Right, cliff--this means we have to take an elevator to get to our hostel (like the Aufzug in Marburg, except you have to pay for it), but it also means that instead of traffic noise, city racket and drunken tourists outside our window, we have rain, the wind in the trees, and...drunken tourists (they're everywhere).

This afternoon, we hiked up to and toured the fortress, which is a huge hulk of white-plastered majesty presiding over the city like the figurines on a wedding cake. Which is actually not that obscure of a mental image, because Salzburg is surprisingly white with dark rooftops, quite a change from Prague's red tile roofs and application with wild abandon of riotous pastel colors to every flat surface. In contrast, Salzburg looks monochromatically dignified, like the house of an elderly woman who has chosen to decorate her house entirely in white. Maybe this was a tribute to the importance of salt in Salzburg's history. Maybe it's the natural color of the local building stone. Maybe there were a lot of ambitious and controlling little old ladies on Salzburg's decorations council. The world may never know.

Anyway, the fortress looks just like an imposing medieval fortress should: big, with lots of walls and turrets and parapets and cannons pointed toward the town. The best moment was climbing out on the highest bit with a 360-degree view of Salzburg in the hazy light of early evening. There were some museums and such that we dashed through as well, but really, the impressive exterior view and wandering around the courtyards and towers were the best parts.

Sheesh, it's really coming down hard now. I hope it keeps going to cool off the air and get rid of all the rain so we can have nice, if cooler, weather for our stay here.

We took the funicular down from the castle and rambled a bit through the streets and alleyways of the old town, waving at the statue of Mozart on the way. We stopped for a late dinner at a cute outdoor Italian place, but just as we got our food, there were amethyst flashes in the distance, ominous growlings, and then the first drops of rain. We scootched under an umbrella to finish our food and then went straight back to our hostel, where there's a lovely old ruined wall with a second that juts out from the cliff, affording a sweeping view of the city and of the lightning-lit clouds in the distance.

The storm stayed fairly far from us, but the purple light was dancing everywhere, pulsing like a strobe light. Still, there is nothing like being outside, exposed, and high up in the midst of a summer thunderstorm. Every swish of the leaves on the trees and ominous silences of the cicadas seem to be harbingers of doom, but then the horizon ignites and a glowing thread leaps from heaven to earth, and you forget that at any second your brain could be fried and your heart exploded by a strike from the heavens because it is so awesomely, wondrously, fantastically beautiful.

Mom and Janna have both fallen asleep, and I'm about to do the same. Assuming it's not still raining in the morning (and even if it is--oh well) we have a lot to do. Mozart and the Sound of Music await.

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