Tuesday, 9 August 2011


Learning from yesterday that a late entrance causes waiting in lines, we went straight to the Wasserspiele fountains in Hellbrun, just outside of Salzburg, after breakfast.

Back in the 18th century, the Archbishop and ruler of the area built a pleasure palace, which he commissioned as soon as he came into power (in 1612 - and started building in 1613) as an antidote to melancholy caused by boredom. The site for the palace was specifically chosen for its many springs and streams. The Archbishop had grownup in Italy and on a later visit had seen a water garden at the residence of one of his relatives, perhaps giving him the idea to build his own. These gardens are ‘trick’ water fountains and many of the fountains tell a story.

The hour-long tour of the gardens began at the Princes table. Our guide described the trough in the centre, filled with fresh spring water, which kept the bottles of wine cool for plenty of drinking, then called for volunteers to take a seat. The rules which stand from that time are: 1) Hands on the table; 2) Stay seated; 3) Don’t panic. She then proceeded to show us the Archbishop’s little joke, which wet the crotches of every guest, but not the host.

The next short stop was a fountain labelled as a Gate to Hell. Back in the day, springs were known as gateways to hell, hence the literal translation of Hellbrun – Springs of Hell.
Next was a grotto which had a room with 40 different bird songs created and powered entirely by water. In this room nestled a metre-long ceramic dragon which had been fired in the 18th century. Here again were hidden fountains in the floor to surprise people inside and on the way out. The view out the door was of connected pools mirroring the statue of Perseus, as ever with Medusa’s head. The upper pool had 5 points, each fed from different springs and the lower pool could levitate a ball.

The walkway to the next section had miniature scenes of people: from a miller to a knight saving a naked maiden from a dragon. The walkway led to a giant scene with more than 200 figures and more than half of them that moved, powered by water. As the pipe organ sounded the finale, fountains wet the spectators from behind.

There are more surprises in store, but I won’t give more away – let me assure you it is considered ‘lucky’ to be wet by the fountains - and everyone that does the tour is considered luckier at the end. The sun came out in time for some spectacular photos around the gardens before we headed back to Salzburg.

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