Camp Martin Travels

These entries will be a combination of historical day trips, graduate level travel courses, and just little stops along the way. I have been teaching 8th grade American History for over 25 years. I am also a Civil War Reenactor and have traveled to Germany and Austria with several groups of exchange students and written about our adventures. Please check all my posts by using the monthly Blog Archive tabs shown below. I have posted over 150 Blog Episodes since 2009... Please explore them all!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

An American in Germany / Part # 28 / Salzburg - 3

GAPP Exchange Journal / 2012
Hellbrunn Palace / Salzburg, Austria

Hellbrunn Palace, Salzburg Austria
We had just finished touring the impressive hilltop fortress that crowned the Austrian city of Salzburg and were now back on the bus heading for one more historic stop before we would head back home to Bavaria.  As the tour bus, full of both American and German students, continued to distance itself from Salzburg, the watchful gaze of the castle fortress above seemed to observe our movements from its hilltop perch.  Within a few minutes, we pulled into a long driveway that took us back to an old palace estate that had been used during the filming of the classic film, The Sound of Music.  The palace is known as Hellbrunn and was constructed by the Bishops of Salzburg as a daytime retreat during the warm months of the year.  We exited the bus and followed the path to the palace courtyard where tickets could be purchased for the guided tour through the extensive gardens.  I was a little concerned when we were instructed to leave all non essential items on the bus, especially electronic devices but I wasn't about to leave my camera behind.  When asking both Herman and Wendy the purpose of the warning to leave things on the bus, the only answer revealed was a somewhat sinister smile!  Something was up... but what?  I guess time would tell but my curiosity was getting the better of me as I attempted to unravel the mysterious riddle as we waited for the guided tour to begin.  

Map of Palace Estate Grounds
(Image Credit / Schloss Hellbrunn)
The palace known as Hellbrunn was first built in the southern district of Morzg in the year 1613 and received its name from the underground spring of clear water found on the property.  This would eventually be the source for the multiple fountains found throughout the estate.  The purpose of the yellow painted stucco palace and extensive accompanying gardens was to serve the local church and political leaders as a summer day residence, where they could entertain various visiting guests.  All visitors would have to return to the city of Salzburg each evening, as there are no bedrooms found within the palace.  The palace is most famous today for the trick fountains located throughout the estate gardens, noted on the site map above by small round green dots.  Markus Sittikus was a prince who became the archbishop of Salzburg in 1612 and began work on Hellbrunn the following year.  The entire project was completed in just three years and stands as a monument to the fun loving demeanor and reputation of Archbishop Sittikus as a practical joker.  He would build the estate with the intention of creating a palace like no other in the world.  He would achieve that end with the help of the underground powerful water spring of Hellbrunn by creating a series of surprising trick fountains.  Like many of the guests of Markus Sittikus and countless tourists over the last four centuries, I would soon become a victim to the legacy of the fun loving archbishop!

Outdoor Garden Dining Table Fountain
As we ventured through the front gate and started the tour, we were hit once again with another warning delivered by our tour guide concerning unnecessary items.  Although it would spoil the surprise, I needed to know what was up and asked one of our German students if they had ever visited Hellbrunn before and was my beloved camera going to be safe?  My inquest revealed the threat of getting wet from unseen fountains cleverly shrouded from obvious view throughout the tour.  The English speaking guide led us to our first stop a short distance from the palace.  It was a beautiful outdoor dining area complete with a large stone table and accompanying stools where the arch bishop and guests may have enjoyed an outdoor lunch or discussed business.  I was searching for the source of danger but could detect nothing obvious but took cues from the German students who may have been wiser concerning safe locations to stand.  The tour guide invited several of the students to have a seat around the table as he explained the history of the space.  Only American students emerged from the crowd as volunteers or in this case... targets!  At first nothing happened as the guide went through his detailed monologue description.  However, without warning, water suddenly sprouted upward with amazing force from an incredible number of hidden jets embedded within the tiled floor, table, and even the chairs themselves.  The students all jumped up trying to escape the cold spring water but were hit multiple times as they retreated quickly back into the laughing crowd. 

Cascading Fountains of Hellbrunn
One lucky student bold enough to take the seat at the head of the table, which would have been reserved for the archbishop, stayed dry.  He had selected the only seat at the table without a hidden jet, even though it was an exact duplicate to all the other stools.  Apparently, Marcus Sittikus was not interested in becoming a victim of his own pranks and had a safe zone built within each design that he reserved for himself.  Smart!  As we followed the guide along the pathway our senses were heightened, searching for any spot that may contain a cloaked water jet.  We passed by other structures as the guide continued his monologue, just waiting to get sprayed but nothing happened.  Was the dining table the only prank location?  Our next stop involved the group walking down a walled pathway to a small cube shaped building.  As we stepped into the foyer of the space and began to turn to the right, jets suddenly went off without warning, soaking the victims sporadically with cold spring water.  Trying to study the pattern and find a safe way through the impending gauntlet of concealed jets was useless as new jets randomly revealed themselves from every possible direction.  It was sheer luck to get inside the structure's main room without getting hit!  I was now wet but not soaked.  It actually felt good on this hot and humid day that had already brought intermittent rain showers to the Salzburg area.

Interior Water Jet Display
Thankfully not all the amusement water jets were out to get you... Once inside the main room of the structure, we were all instructed to gather around a center mound, which we all expected to explode into a geyser and flood the entire room at any second.  However, as the guide worked a series of hidden controls, a golden rounded pyramid shaped sphere gently rose into the air, suspended by a single jet of water from the mound below.  The water exhaust sprayed directly downward, surprisingly keeping everyone watching the display dry for at least the time being.  It was a joy to watch the graceful rise and fall of the crown, dependent on the level of water pressure under the control of our friendly guide.  The guide informed the group that the rise and fall of the crown symbolized the rise and fall of political power.  After the show, I explored the remaining spaces within the small building but managed not to trip any hidden jets.  The group walked out the entrance of the building and we were spared from getting sprayed a second time by the previous nuisance jets.  We walked back up the walled pathway to the main route and were suddenly under attack without any chance of escape.  It resembled a long arched trellis sprinkler system blocked by parallel walls.  As the great American poet Robert Frost said, the only way out is through!  And, since we had entered through the same walkway only a few minutes earlier without incident, we incorrectly assumed we were safe!  Note to self... Don't let your guard down under any circumstances!

Trick Fountains / Wet... You Will Get
I soon figured out a safe spot to stand was anywhere near the guide who was completely bone dry.  I guessed he was most likely taking the safe spot at each fountain previously designated for the archbishop.  Following my discovery, I stayed within his shadow for the rest of the tour and avoided being a flood victim for the remainder of our visit.  Several other displays included water powered mechanical theater scenes, including five small grottoes, depicting artisans and craftsmen working their trade.  Each scene was brought to life through the use of carved wooden figurines that were animated through the movement of pressurized water from the spring.  Although over 400 years old, the preserved mechanical scenes all worked flawlessly.  They served as an introduction to the main event a short distance away.  The large mechanical theater display was truly amazing and my favorite part of the estate tour.  The large doors of the enclosed theater stage were opened to reveal a busy scene of town life from the time period when Hellbrunn was built.  The scene contained multiple exposed buildings several stories high, depicting a town square busy with activity.  There were over 200 figures in all, each moving to the sound of traditional folk music provided by a water organ.  It was an amazing thing to watch with your eyes struggling to take in all the complex movements of the individual characters.  The theater was first created in 1750 and continues to be solely powered by water and air.  It was mind boggling to think someone could create such a complex display of interconnected, individual, and animated creations hand carved from wood.  I wish my daughter Katelyn could have seen it in action!  I captured a video of most of the show, trying to zoom in on the individual sections in an attempt to capture the detail of the characters and their unique movements.  It was very cool!

 The Large Mechanical Theater
We continued to complete the circuit of fountains and then went out to explore the extensive trout ponds and wide open green spaces beyond.  We took a few moments to get a great group portrait of the German and American students together in the garden, a cherished image of their shared experience together.  As we exited the garden area we came upon the most recognizable feature at Hellbrunn palace, the famous gazebo pavilion from the Sound of Music.  Time to get another song from the film stuck in your head that will play on a continuous loop for the next 24 hours...  Sixteen going on Seventeen was one of the most popular songs in the movie, sung by the story's young lovers Liesl and Rolf, as evening darkness fell on the garden.  Come on, you remember the scene...  As the rain began to fall, they took refuge in the gazebo, and continued singing the song.  Nearing the end of the song, Liesl famously leaps from one stone bench to another around the interior perimeter of the pavilion supported by the steady hand of Rolf.  A drenched Liesl eventually ended up in Fraulein Maria's bedroom, who once again saved the day without being a tattletale.  A soaking wet Liesl?  Can everyone see the irony here?  Several of our damp students could have used the assistance of a helpful governess supplying towels or dry clothing.  Fortunately, the afternoon sun eventually broke through the grey cloud covered skies to help dry us all out!  

German / American Exchange Student Partners
We never got to see the interior of the palace, which can be seen by way of a self guided audio tour using an electronic device provided by the palace.  It was probably a much dryer tour route enclosed by protective walls from the threatening water jets just outside... but who knows?  Apparently there is also a popular zoo located near the palace grounds but, unfortunately, we were out of time.  Our fun filled tour of Hellbrunn Palace had come to an end and it was time to head back to the bus and return  to König-Karlmann-Gymnasium school in Altötting, Germany.  What a day!  We had seen so much!  All that was left to do was to slump down into my bus seat, close my eyes, and listen to the memorable Sound of Music soundtrack playing round and round in my head.  Please... Somebody make it stop!

Sound of Music Gazebo Pavillion
Please stayed tuned for the next installment of our adventure!


Sixteen Going on Seventeen
(Film Still Credit / 20th Century Fox)


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