Sunday, July 11, 2010

Europe 2010 - Salzburg - Day 4 of 12

Borghese Fencer behind Meierhof 
I woke up a 4 a.m., not "suffering" from jet lag but surely feeling its effects. After some reading and writing, and a bit of thinking about how I could make a better impression on my theme group, I exited the Schloss gate for another morning stroll. Walking the narrow road toward town, I was determined not to get lost. I even brought a map, which helped me gain confidence in my wayfaring skills. Previously random landmarks seemed to sort themselves onto a coherent mental map. The Festung became my halfway point between the palace and the town, while the Salzach River revealed two halves of the larger landscape, helping to orient me further. Salzburg began to make sense.

Tomasso di Garona's "Residenzbrunnen"
By 7 a.m. I'd returned to the Residenzplatz Fountain in the town's historic center, just in time to see its waters begin to spray rainbows in the air. Thereafter I returned to Salzburger Dom to observe Mass. Not being Catholic, and certainly not understanding Austria's version of German, I was surprised that the basic service was comprehensible to me. I was also delighted to hear so much of the ritual being sung by a priest whose voice lifted my spirits (though I could have done with a little less standing). I needed a dose of heavenly attention and left the cathedral suitably refreshed.

Salzburger Dom
Afterward I paid two Euros for entrance to the Panorama Museum, the site of a marvelous view of Salzburg, circa 1829, as painted by Johann Michael Sattler. What a treat: a circular panorama of grand structures and tiny details, each telling stories about the lives of everyday people. Walking around the curved painting I reveled in the opportunity to peer upon miniature moments -- men herding sheep on a green field, lovers strolling upon a formal garden, two women chatting over a laundry-line. I spent about an hour in the panorama, but I could have spent half a day staring at all those tiny details of nineteenth century life [Check out a large-scale version image, and see more pictures at my panorama blog-post].

Salzburg Panorama
View from atop the Festung
Then I faced those Fortress steps again. This time I'd timed my arrival for when the Festung is open for tourists. I began the climb, panting from the heat and sleep-deprivation, dreading each turn. Each new vista merely revealed another steep incline of steps that demanded more exertion. I briefly considered taking the tram to avoid the arduous ascent but I just couldn't get past the guilt. If I'm able to make the climb, I figured, I would do it. And when I finally arrived at the ticket window, out of breath, I was proud to plunk down my Euros - and climb even further.

Festung Wall
"You've got to be kidding me!" I thought. But that fortress appeared to hold nothing but more steps, further and further upward. Finally getting to the tour's gathering spot, I nearly toppled onto a wooden seat. For once I was grateful for a delay as the guide waited for enough tourists to form a group. The "tour," actually, was really the group of us wandering from place to place with personal media players that recited interesting factoids in our various languages. The closest approximation they could round up for me was a jaunty pair of Australian speakers.

Festung cannon overlooking Salzburg
The visit was genuinely interesting. We spent some time in the so-called "torture room" and climbed narrow passages upward to a towering vantage point that reminded me of Sattler's panorama. Indeed, the views of the painting and the place are remarkably similar, though I began to understand the kinds of artistic trickery required for Sattler to approximate the human eye's ability to interpret such a dense array of data. I also turned back toward the Alps, scanning the path I took to get here, a narrow road through verdant fields. More and more, Salzburg was unfolding itself to me.

I still got lost getting back.

Field near the Schloss
Somehow I took a road that led sharply away from my destination. I didn't mind so much, though, because this time I had a vague idea of where I'd erred in my navigation. I knew east and west, here and there. My trusty map assured me that I'd added about a half hour to my return hike, so I tramped along busy bike paths and meandering streams, increasing speed as time got closer to my next meeting without getting overly stressed. I was hungry and hoped to at least scarf up some lunch scraps. Once again, I passed through the Schloss gate with moments to spare.

Garden behind the Schloss
Sunday's seminar activities were less fraught with frustration, especially since my theme group wasn't scheduled to reconvene until the next day. I enjoyed the conversation and took pages of notes, writing with a fever for the pleasure of it all. Later on, as I circled the lake behind the Schloss I thought about my struggles with the theme group. Far from home, this all seemed so familiar. I've always been a control freak, sure of my ability to manage things. Thus I've had to develop an internal monitor to remind myself when I risk overdoing my kind of activism. Apparently I'd failed to pack that device in my mental suitcase this time, and I was flailing in my efforts to get along with the group.

Schloss stairway
I took comfort in a conversation with another SJSU participant, one whom I'd never previously met. That's a wonderful thing about the seminar: the chance to meet good people. Talking about our families, he and I found much in common about our appreciation for the value of marriage. I was already missing Jenny, and our conversation helped center me on more important things than my difficulties navigating the social terrain of a seminar group. And as I joined colleagues at an outdoor barbecue, with more wine and beer freely flowing, I felt much better about the potential for this trip to be a success.

Day 3 | Day 5

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