Salzburg: where the past meets the future
alzburg doesn’t (only) live off its history, although it could. A gentle stroll around the Old Town and we are whisked into the past by its labyrinthine streets with their ironwork signs and traditional inns. You can almost hear the strains of young Mozart’s violin from number 9 Getreidegasse, the house where he was born, now a museum. Or imagine yourself as one of the prince-archbishops who ruled the city for over a century, enjoying the trick fountains at the Hellbrunn Palace. A prince-archbishop himself, Markus Sittikus built the palace, one of the most magical Late Renaissance buildings, in just three years, satisfying his mischievous streak in the process. The gardens include animated fountains, mysterious caves and a mechanical theatre; quite a feat for the time.
Salzburg’s architectural past dates back to the Middle Ages, although it encompasses a mix of styles from the Baroque cathedral to the Early Christian catacombs of St. Peter, carved right into the Mönchsberg. Alongside is the cemetery, one of the oldest and most beautiful in the world, where Mozart’s sister, Nannerl, is buried.
Lose track of time with Marina Abramovic
Don’t miss the interactive sculpture by celebrated Serbian artist Marina Abramovic, part of the Walk of Modern Art, right next to one of the old city gates. The Spirit of Mozart is an arrangement of stainless steel seats that invite you to contemplate the river Salzach. The instructions are clear: “Close your eyes, look inward and lose track of time.”
But it isn’t all memorabilia and historical references. From among the baroque buildings and hundred-year-old churches arise works of contemporary art, galleries, open-air sculpture museums and artistic interventions on palace facades. These days, the prince-archbishops have passed the baton to new patrons, the International Würth Collection, the Salzburg Foundation and the International Mozarteum Foundation, to fill the city with art.
The best known initiative is the Walk of Modern Art, which began in 2002 and has shaped the look of the city for more than fifteen years with works such as Gurken by Erwin Wurm, a line of five giant cucumbers in Wilhelm-Furtwängler-Garten, and Sphere by German artist Stephan Balkenhol. The latter is one of the most photographed because of its size and location: a giant golden ball with a man looking into infinity in Kapitelplatz, with the Hohensalzburg fortress in the distance. Others, like Numbers in the Woods and Sky-Space have pulled away from the Old Town and are set deep in the Mönchsberg forests; the first, the Fibonacci sequence in luminous numbers, and the second, a window to the Austrian sky that changes colour depending on the time of day.
The Mönchsberg has become a foremost cultural stage in today’s Salzburg, and one of the sites of the city’s Modern Art Museum. Besides the latest exhibitions, visitors can enjoy the best views of Salzburg and outstanding designer dishes in its restaurant, M32.
And it isn’t just the art scene that has been revamped. Salzburg’s gastronomy and music have also learned to fuse past and future. Productions like the Jazz & The City festival introduce new genres to the classical music capital, and Chef Markus Mayr reimagines the traditional schnitzel (scallop) at the Schloss Mönchstein restaurant. The Sternbräu complex, an institution in the city since 1542, has also put a new spin on the traditional tavern with the creation of eleven different spaces from majestic hall to typical beer bar to stylish tapas lounge.
In Salzburg, contrasts are opportunities to blend past into future and future into past. The brightest example is Mozartzitat, by Sylvie Fleury, which crowns the main building of the International Mozarteum Museum with a light installation featuring Mozart’s handwritten phrase “I wish to have everything that is good, real and beautiful!” illuminated in rich pink neon. If it exists, you can surely find it in the Salzburg of yesterday, today and tomorrow.