Monday, April 28, 2008

Salzburg, 14.7.03: Mozart and Berghorn

Back at the Schloss again, watching BBC news. Another soldier killed in Iraq, and more evidence that Bush lied about nuclear weapons in Iraq. It all feels very distant. I feel removed. But, then, I did so even before we left. I feel like a helpless bystander watching a story unfold seeing the inevitable horror, unable to do anything.

Steve read last night that the Schloss was inhabited in the 16th century (or 17th?) by a bishop who persecuted the Protestants of Salzburg. He had himself painted as a cardinal, because he evidently expected to be elevated to that auspicious office. But he was apparently extreme even for the counter-Reformation papacy, and was never made cardinal.

And then the Nazi history of this place, the expulsion of its Jewish owners the Reinhards: as the Indian man I met yesterday said, who knows what dark things occurred here?

Joy and pleasure are as evanescent as the clouds above the mountains. Or is it that, in history, things seek a nimbus, and those mountains keep trying to form one as fast as the winds blow it away?

Quotation from Ilse Tielsch, The Ancestral Pyramid (trans. David Scrase [Riverside, CA: Ariadne, 2001]): “I am standing in my own past, I think, and I tell myself that if I want to continue to follow the trail of those who lived before me and learn more about them, then I may not leave anyone out, may not jump over them” (36).

Desultory thoughts as day wanes: I can see “my” mountains from the bedroom window at our hotel (7:30 P.M.). They’re bathed, a word I choose very particularly, in Western light. No feature except their outline stands out in the beautiful sky, which is like heaven’s lining become pearl, white and shining, the land beneath it all imbued with gold. It helps, perhaps, that I have on my reading glasses—landscape al Greco—since they permit me to see clearly only about three feet in advance of my face.

Still, the evening light here is amazing. It doesn’t fade and mute to dusk as in the American South. It remains clear and strong up to nightfall, but becomes more and more gold as it becomes horizontal. This light goes wondrously well with the soft pastel colors of Austrian buildings. The house I’m looking at now is a square four-story solidly build one, painted soft yellow with white trim. A pretty wrought-iron balcony is off what I assume is a bedroom on the top story, with two French doors opening onto it. Above that, a gable with a triangular capital mirrored by two triangular side pieces surrounding a window with a round arch.

The evening light catches the yellow on the house’s walls, lifting and illuminating some patches, throwing others into shadows cast by the ornate and intricate detailed corner moldings of the house. Behind the houses, the light catches the fresh-mown hay, turning it to a gold with hues matching those in the yellow paint, but intermixed with light green.

Salzburg in summer is a city made for evening. Steve and I took a walk about two hours ago and had coffee and strudel (he) or florentiner (I) at a bakery across from the Kajetaner church, on its platz. Wonderful time to sit out. The bakery had only a solitary table and two chairs outside, so we were its exclusive patrons. No need to put up with others chattering and gawking around us as we enjoyed our coffee and pastries.

The chairs were good, honest, plain, sturdy oak, unlike the mesh and steel or aluminum most cafes use, which sling you back into an almost supine position, the preferred position, apparently, of haughty Eurogawkers. Immediately prior to reaching it, we’d stopped at a gallery, nameless on its stamp, at #40 in the Kaigasse, and bought a painting. It’s a mixed-medium (charcoal and watercolor) of a church with two spires and what seems to be a rainbow or storm in the sky beside the church.

I like it. It’s dark, not one of the prettified tourist pictures of the Dom or other Salzburg churches. The gallery owner, who clearly wanted us to buy it, called it mystical, and I think the word fits.

It was expensive—180 euros—though she claimed she gave us a deal, telling us it had been priced (painted 2001) at 500 Schillings, which translates to more than 180 euros. The artist, she told us, is a Macedonian who now lives in Salzburg. His name’s on the back of the painting, Nivolu Toplev, as well as I can read it.

More desultory thoughts: the lady at Nonnberg the other day was wrong about the German name for sycamore. It’s not Platane, as she said. Regina and Helga thought she was wrong, and turned to be precisely right. Platane is the plane tree I’m told you can find in Marseille and southern France, and which I can’t imagine.

Sycamore, the German dictionary tells me, is Berghorn—mountain maple, in the German mind. (Is a sycamore a form of maple?)

Thinking back to Regina and Helga: I’m sure I heard them say “an” for “und,” and “na” for “nay”—how do you spell that alternate German word for nein? I don’t find it under any spelling in our dictionary.

I also notice that that women in Salzburg speak at a much higher pitch than Helga and Regina, who speak very much down in the throat. All the women I recall from Jöhlingen seemed to be deep-voiced, while these Austrian women speak much more musically, like flutes. The city of Mozart, the city of flute-speaking women.

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