June 4, 2010
Steingasse was the only road in the Middle Ages going south over the Alps to Venice. Today, it’s wonderfully tranquil and free of Salzburg’s touristy crush. This street is only a block inland from the Salzach River.
At #9, as we walk down this historic street, a plaque shows where Joseph Mohr, who wrote the words to “Silent Night”, was born – poor and illegitimate – in 1792. The popular Christmas carol that he set words to about 190 years ago was composed and first sung in the village of Oberndorf, just outside Salzburg.
On the next corner, the wall is gouged out. This scar was left even after the building was restored, to remind locals of the American GI who tried to get a tank down this road during a visit to the town brothel during World War II.
At #19 we find carvings on the old door of this building. Some say these are notices from beggars to the begging community. It’s a kind of hobo code indicating whether the residents would give hand-outs or not. Begging became more popular and a whole begging community started up after post-Reformation religious wars.
Farther down the street we stop to see a commanding view of Salzburg across the river. In the distance we can see the red dome which marks the oldest nunnery in Europe, established in 712. The real Maria from The Sound of Music taught in this nunnery’s school. In 1927, she and Captain von Trapp were married in the church here, not the one you see in the movie. He was 47 and she was 22. Very interesting.
The stone arch we passed under to get here is part of Salzburg’s medieval fortification. The coat of arms on the arch is of the prince-archbishop who paid Bavaria a huge ransom to stay out of the Thirty Years’ War, which was a smart move. Then he built this fortification in 1634 in anticipation of rampaging armies from both sides.
Video from our visit: