Monday, April 15, 2013

The Beautiful and the Ugly in Salzburg

We planned three day trips around Munich until meeting up with our friend at the end of the week, spending time with him in Munich, and going to Nuremberg together. The first day trip was my most anticipated - off to Salzburg, Austria. Germany has that great, train pass around Bavaria I mentioned, and Salzburg is included in it. Salzburg was high on our list. The day was rainy and freezing, and the Christmas Market at midday on a Monday was a bit dead, but we loved walking around this beautiful town, famous for the fanciful iron signs that hang outside every store front. All in all, we just enjoyed walking around the town rather than hitting up the sights, such as the castle high above town or any museums or even a Sound of Music Tour (the movie was filmed in and around Salzburg). After darkness fell (early this far north in December), I remembered that Salzburg is home to one of the most beautiful cemeteries I've ever seen, so we walked over to St. Peter's to take a look. Each grave is topped by a tiny garden and ornate ironwork, and it's like walking through a nice, city park. The church bordering the cemetery had this amazing, iron entryway, and across from the church is a restaurant that has been in business since 803 (I did not forget to put a 1 in front)! My favorite is that on their website, whereas other old businesses might have their name followed by "since 1975," or here in Europe, "since 1877," but in Salzburg, it's "since 803 AD." Just in case we might think they've been there since 803 BC. It would be an easy mistake to make.

We did not go in to eat at St. Peter Stiftskeller, and in hindsight, that was a huge mistake. Instead, we headed back to the busier section of the old town, planning to have a quick bite to eat before catching our train home. As we walked down one of the main pedestrian paths, we could hear music and saw advance parade type people as well as spectators lining up on the sides of the street. It was a narrow street, so we just stepped to the side, excited to see a fun, Christmas parade. It was not a fun, Christmas parade. It was a horror that kept going and going in the form of a Krampus run. Don't know what a Krampus is? Neither did we, but it's a demonic creature from folklore that comes down out of the Alpine hills in early December to either beat or kidnap naughty children. Nowadays, various Krampus clubs band together, create ornate, terrifying costumes out of goat hair, wear belts spewing out the smell of feces, and parade around the streets hitting people with switches. Krampus runs have become an important tradition in the region, occur on December 5 or 6 (or anytime as their popularity expands), and as I later did research, are usually fun, village events. The Salzburg one is not. From personal experience, it is violent and cruel. The police are present but do very little - they mainly stop extreme beatings, like one that occurred in 2010. A bunch of young men, drunk out of their minds, put on costumes with all their buddies, hit the women, push aside mothers who are trying to shield their scared children's faces, and in general, behave abominably. For unsuspecting tourists who had no idea this was not a fun, little parade, there is no escape - no alleys and dozens of costumed, drunk men blocking the streets. As soon as we could safely get past the remaining Krampus clubs, we practically ran to the train station as we had no desire to be in town once the official Run ended. While I wish we'd been having a beautiful dinner in a 1200 year old restaurant, who knows - we may have missed the Run but then been caught unawares by the post Run mischief, which I imagine is far worse.

1 comment:

  1. Hi! I did not found any email, so I'm writing here. I'm preparing a post about the oldest restaurants in the world (part 2), and searching for first hand information from bloggers about St. Peter Stiftskeller stubled upon your blog.
    That's an interesting and informative post, I have never heard about this Krampus tradition before, but it sounds no fun to me too.
    Anyway, I wanted to ask your permission to use your photo of the entrance of the restaurant, linking to this blog, of course.

    Best regards, Borislava from sharemykitchen