Monday, December 14, 2020


 Did I mention that I'm fasting again? Social media fasting, that is. I would get used to it - the less time I spend on social media, the more I like being away from it, or at least limiting myself to blocks of time. At this rate, I will likely be spending more time off of social media than on it. Not that I'm anti-social - far from it - but I find that I just feel mentally healthier when I'm not on it constantly. Having that time allows me to work on writing and RPG projects, write snail mail letters to people I think are really cool, and do more blog posts like this, not to mention doing real-life projects (like I did with the Esoteric Denim). And while I do really enjoy most of my time on social media, I find that life without it, or with an intentionally-limited amount of it, is more fulfilling. I watched my parents die a few years ago, particularly, I spent the last two weeks of my Dad's life with him, and after that, I really took a more close assessment of what I really love to do in life, what makes me feel emotionally full and healthy, and social media was pretty far down the list. I don't disparage my friends who are on social media (some of which I became friends with because of social media), but there are only so many days allotted in a life, and I don't want to look back from my deathbed having spent a regrettable amount of time trying to get likes and getting in heated political arguments with people whom I don't even know, all the while feeling "hollowed out" in the process. Alright, enough of that.

One thing that I love to do, and that we can't really do now because of the coronapocalypse, is travel. Now, I can't afford to travel much. But in Summer of 2019, my wife and I went to Europe to celebrate my 50th birthday and our 28th anniversary. We spent two days in Salzburg as a part of that trip. This is all about day one. We had just spent about a week in Vienna (I'll do blog posts on that at a later date) and, after driving up from Vienna (in our nice Mercedes rental car), we found our AirBnB (man, I sure hope AirBnB survives COVID-19!), We simply crashed out. We woke, to this:

"Sehr schon," as they say, and that was just the view outside our windows! After a groggy awakening (mountain air is thinner, remember), we went online and got our bus tickets (Dear Biden administration: Want to really help the economy? Start subsidizing public transit on a large scale, especially in smaller municipalities. You're welcome.). We were about a ten minute bus ride from central Salzburg. But don't kid yourself - central Salzburg just means the "old town" - it's really not that big of a city at all. 150,000 people or so. And it felt much smaller than that! Still, the bus had to circle around for what seemed like forever before we disembarked, mostly due to that pesky Danube River one has to cross over. Note that the river was far from blue at the time. In fact, it was murky because there had been flooding up in the mountains. We saw chunks of wood rushing through the rapids that might have been pieces of houses, for all I know. After disembarking from the bus, we were here:

I love the high, steep walls abutting the calcareous alps. Cobblestone streets added to the charm, of course, as did the close alleyway shops. It just felt so darned European! Granted, we had been in Europe for almost two weeks by this point, but there was a certain quaintness about Salzburg that we really enjoyed.

We were really hungry, fresh of the bus, so we stopped at, what else? A sausage stand in the city square. My wife got Currywurst, while I opted for the more traditional Weisswurst. Oh, my, oh, my, oh, my. I had forgotten how much I loved that stuff. I don't think I had eaten it since I was a kid and my grandmother (oh, so very German) cooked it for us. It's a good thing we were only visiting, or I would have had to check into the hospital after eating there for, oh, about a month or so. Those lederhosen don't pop out like that for lack of good sausage.

After this nice, hot breakfast, we dove into the alleys and had a look around:

If you can't tell, there are a LOT of churches in Salzburg. You wonder why the joke about Wisconsin is that every town has at least five bars and five churches? Look no further than their germanic roots. Speaking of churches, we ducked into one church, mostly because it was next to the most accessible public restrooms and, given the lines, I needed something to do while waiting for my wife to make it through the seemingly interminable line. Here are some snaps from that:

As to why they had the Witch King of Angmar seated outside one of the bigger churches, I can't tell you. No one seemed to want to approach this statue for reasons I can't fathom. I did have a look a the plaque on the base there, but I didn't think to take a picture of it. This is probably just as well. If I had, I'm pretty sure my eyes would have been scoured out by some vengeful spirit that night, a'la M.R. James.

It wasn't all traditional Austrian tropes there, though. There were some oddities. Take, for instance, these:

The Nazgul looked out on the scene you see in the first picture here. I was practically sitting on his lap when I took that picture. Was that the icy hand of doom I felt on my shoulder? Probably. Yes, that's a human figure atop that gold . . . ball . . . thing. I can't remember who it was. Maybe the founder of the city or some important historical figure, I dunno. Perhaps I should have paid more attention. And what's with the junior Nazi goat? Modern art, that's what! You can direct any further questions to the artist herself.  The Green Man is a more traditionally historic figure, but finding this statue in the middle of a small parking lot behind some buildings was highly unexpected, and yet, creepily welcome. 

After wandering many of the labyrinthine streets of Salzburg, we decided to climb up to the castle. Okay, truth be told, we didn't make it all the way up. Well, we did, but to actually enter the castle would have cost us something ridiculous or at least something out of our budget at the moment. Stupid American tourists thinking you can just walk into a castle for free. Oh well, we still got a great view over the rooflines. I kept waiting for a spontaneous LARP of Assassin's Creed to break out. You can see why in these pictures:

And, yes, we were bedraggled. Once again it rained a bit and we were unprepared for it. Oh well. We dried out later.

Returning to street level, we entered the labyrinth again. While there, I took a photo of the traditional Austrian dress, mostly because I was seriously lusting after the jacket there. Actually, I had been lusting after one since we were in Vienna, but wanted to get a picture of this specific one because I knew I couldn't afford it (did I mention funds were dwindling at this point?). Someday, though, I might spring for one. That Von Trapp getup is rather appealing to me.

I'm not too keen about the lederhosen, but that jacket is. To. Die. For.

There were some other quaint buildings. The courtyard in the first photo is something you don't really see in the US anymore (did you ever?) - a true Biergarten. And the yellow building is something something Mozart's birthplace something . . . 

Speaking of Mozart, one of the highlights of our trip (for me, at least) was attending the Salzburg Marionetten Theatre. Oh, yes, I had those tickets months in advance! I was not going to miss this! We went to see Mozart's Die Zauberflรถte. This was the first full text I read in German in college and I love the fantastical, mystical story, full of occult themes and, well, magic. It was such a treat! If you're ever over there and if you have any liking for The Brothers Quay, Jan Svankmajer, etc., like I do, you cannot miss this! I couldn't take pictures of the performance, of course, nor would I have wanted to. I was too busy being transported into another world to fuss with a camera (besides, it was verboten). I hadn't been so eyeball-deep in a performance in a long time. It truly was magical. While in the lobby, I took some pictures of past puppets, sets, and murals.

I loved them all, but I was particularly enamored of the devil-bugs, though I can't remember what play they were taken from. In any case, they had a strong influence on one of my current (still secret, but you'll hear about it early next year) roleplaying projects I'm working on for Mutant Crawl Classics. If you need a dose of weird inspiration, I give the Salzburg Marionetten Theatre my absolutely-strongest recommendation. A must-see!

The next morning, we awoke and went back "downtown" to await our bus for The Eagle's Nest and Berchtesgaden (a tale for a later day).While we were waiting, I took a couple of shots, one of a garden and another of a stage in the middle of the garden's maze. I texted and told my daughter (a Shakespearean actress - I can call her that because she's been paid to perform Shakespeare) that I would love nothing more than to see her perform on this little, hidden-away stage. Perhaps someday.

Someday . . . 

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