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Walking With Fire 2005: Nov. 22-27, Austria
Europe: Part III

Entries from this trip:
A quick overview of the entire trip
Entry 1 | Entry 2 | Entry 3 | Entry 4
Entry 5 | Entry 6

"Reading Departure Signs in Some Big Airport, Wondering Why We Ever Go Home"

This review only really covers the important things, so not everything is covered in this one, because some things are simply unimportant. All pictures can be clicked on for larger versions (and please do click, because you won't get much out of just looking at the little 200 x200 pics)!

11/24/05: Third Day: Salzberg

We started our first day touring around by being picked up in a tour bus to take us into Salzberg.

When we got into Salzberg, we found that the thing that most dominated the landscape was the fortress in the center of town, and we saw it immediately upon coming into the town. Our tour guide, a jovial and gregarious gentleman who I found myself liking despite a desire to think he was overly cheesy and silly. I just really liked his style. The first stop we made was a view of the red-steepled Abbey from The Sound of Music.

The Fortress | The SoM Abbey

We also caught the back of the house the Von Trapps were supposed to live in, according to the movie, from which I caught another view of the wonderful fortress. I really like it, and you'll see that when you notice how many shots feature it. The lake you see in front of the back of the house here is man-made, and about 5 or six feet deep at its deepest.

The "Von Trapp house" | The Fortress

We then drove across town to the Gazebo from The Sound of Music, which was built for the movie. If you've ever seen it, you'll know that it's the place where the annoying "Sixteen going on Seventeen" song was sung. We skipped that song when we watched the movie because no one could take it. But at least I knew what it was when we saw it.

There, Raa-Raa took off for some alone time with Monika, and I managed to get a good picture of them. I swear, in 15 years, those two will be dating.

Raa-Raa and Monika | The Crew at the Gazebo

After that, we left Salzberg to view some of the sites outside the city. We stopped above a small town in the mountains, which the guide indicated was about 30 klicks from Hallstatt, which excited me quite a bit. I suddenly very much wanted to come back, to see the area where the Celts allegedly came from. I snapped a picture, looking down over the town.

Looking toward Hallstatt | Another view of the village

We spent a bit of time in the village, and I snapped some photos while there:

A mountain

The lake | The lake

Mozart's Mother's birthplace | The trails around the lake

Another Mountain

We came to a beautiful church after the village, where (apparently) the wedding scene at the end of SoM was filmed. 


I was carrying Raa-Raa through the church, and he (having just come off a pilgrimage to several temples in Japan) made a wonderful observation about the altars in the church. Pointing to the main altar, he said, "Lots of Buddhas!"

On the outside of the Church, there was a war memorial to the soldiers who had died in World War II, and I really liked the mural painted above the memorial.

"Lots of Buddhas" | The War Memorial

We made our way back into downtown Salzberg at that point, and ended up at Salzberg Palace. As I stood with my back to the palace, I could see the fortress. In the gardens before me were representations of the four elements, and in the distance, just under the fortress, a number of Roman deities stood at the end of the gardens.

The gardens and fortress | A closer view of the fortress

I also came across a great little sculpture of a cat that had caught a rat, and we went into the palace, into what is apparently widely considered the "greatest wedding chapel in the world".

A cat and rat | Wedding Chapel

Next, we crossed into the Old City, and caught a view of the river from the Mozart Bridge. Up on the hill to our left was the Capuchin Monastery.

From the Mozart Bridge | The Capuchin Monastery

When we crossed over the river, we came to this place called Klexx, which was a toy store, and I found myself snickering at it.


We also saw Mozart's birthplace, which has a scary-looking wax museum right next door now.

Mozart's Birthplace

Cold, we toured through the Old City, looking for any excuse to hide from the chilly afternoon air. I spied a church up ahead and as the guide was talking about it, saying that it was only half finished and was entirely unused, I asked if we could go in.

"It isn't finished," he said. "Not so nice inside."

"Yeah, but I'd really like to go in," I said, looking to my freezing companions for support.

"It's not nice, but if you really want. . ." He conceded, and we went in.

It's not impressive | Not impressive at all

Totally not impressive

It was in this church, though, that we first realized why Joe had never made it to Salzberg:

The Illuminati were watching!

We exited the church and went out onto the street, where we caught a glimpse of the fortress on the rocks above and a lion sitting atop Salzberg University:

The Illuminati were watching!

We soon found another church (this one beautiful and gothic), that offered sanctuary:

This hand symbolizes sanctuary

The inside of this church was great. I had a lot of fun looking at the things inside. I was particularly taken with the two saints who guarded the main altar:

Saint 1 | Saint 2

Also, you'll find this to be a common passion (and it was for everyone there): Death and skulls. Pretty much any time we found a representation of death or skulls, we snapped a picture. And there was a lot to get pictures of.

Death! | Death!

On the stairs leading up to the pulpit, I found this precious little lion. . . Being slaughtered by (presumably) some Biblical figure.

The Lion... | Slaughtered!

Of course, what trip to the Church is complete without boobies?

Boobies in the Church!

Outside, we came to a small stand next to the monastery restaurant (yes, this monastery runs the oldest restaurant in Europe), where we bought ourselves some hot, spiced wine (commonly known there as Glüwein). Up on the wall, I found incontrovertible evidence tying the Gaulish deity Cernunnos to the legend of the unicorn. I mean, look at the stylized antlers on this shield!

Unicorns and Cernunnos, of course!

Obviously, this is direct evidence of the elusive Uninos, the Unicorn Cernunnos. How much more incontrovertible can your evidence get than an artistic interpretation of a decorative plaque hanging in a monastery restaurant in Austria?

(I look forward to someone citing my findings in an academic paper.)

After this, our tour guide took us into the monastery church, where I was awed to find an actual Gaulish relief. . . that I had seen before! I recognized it immediately, but for the life of me can't remember exactly what it is supposed to be of. If I had to guess, though, I'd probably go with some Mercurial figure, though the apparent Phyrgian cap is also intriguing to me. I really, really need to look through my books (and probably re-borrow Esperandu from the library) to figure out who he is.

Gaulish Relief | Gaulish Relief

Inside the monastery church, we were greeted first by a picture of people cowering in fear from a flying demon, or perhaps three-headed dragon (it's hard to tell):

Run away! | The demon

Also, we found a skull that was designed to hold the water Catholics use to make the sign of the cross upon entering their churches. It certainly beats the little metal trays you see now in churches. Above it was a crane, which I also got a picture of.

The skull | The crane

I also came across this wonderful representation of the Archangel Michael defeating Lucifer. I really like the way Lucifer was made. I don't think that my picture really captures it, but I just thought he was well-made. Michael is as well, and I like the detail on the foot that holds Lucifer down.

The Archangel Michael | His Adversary Lucifer

(I just noticed that "The Archangel Michael" and "His Adversary Lucifer" match up numerically if you compare the number of letters in each word. I'm not big into numerology, but I find it intriguing. I love happy accidents like that.)

As we turned to leave, I saw that there was a sign on the monastery church gate, and recognized the German word for "forbidden", "verboten". I asked the tour guide, "What's forbidden here?"

He gave a somewhat sheepish look, and said, "Guided tours."

We got a good laugh at that, and wandered out toward the cemetery, where I caught another glimpse of that fortress that dominates Salzberg:

The fortress, between the cemetery and the

We moved off toward the cemetery, which is where the Von Trapps are supposed to have hidden in The Sound of Music. We were shown the grave of the American general who liberated Salzberg in World War II, Major General Harry J. Collins:

Maj. General Collins' grave

And right next to that grave, we saw that the Illuminati were still watching, as we found a good, solid eye in a pyramid. Once again, we knew why Joe was not among us. I also found another one up the hill from the first.

Illuminati! | Illuminati!

We moved out from the cemetery, as it was getting dark, and I caught a couple of pictures of the fortress as the sun completely disappeared, as well as one of a giant chessboard:

Fortress | Fortress

Fortress | chessboard

We walked a bit further, coming around to the Salzberg Christmas Market in front of the main cathedral in town. As we were coming around the corner, though, I saw what I swore was a statue of a Nazgul from Lord of the Rings (the "black riders"). Upon reading the inscription, though I found that it was (disappointingly) not a Nazgul, but rather the Madonna. Having not been raised Catholic, though, I think the mistaken identity is perfectly permissible.

Nazgul!!! | No: Mary

We bid adieu to our guide in the market, and wandered about for a little bit. We agreed that we were all hungry, and headed to a nice little place to eat. I ordered some Hungarian goulash that was pretty good. Monika toasted the hosts, Mazi and Duke, a good toast all around. We enjoyed a great dinner of good company and a lot of good conversation over wine.

It felt really good to be among friends that night. Really, really good. Thanks, guys.

While we were finishing dinner, I noticed the strange light fixture in the restaurant's main room. . . It was a mermaid with antlers! Here, of course, was another survival of Cernunnos, the antlered god of the Celts, in Old Europe: Mernunnos!

Mernunnos! | Mernunnos!

Sometimes I even scare myself with the wonderful conclusions I'm able to draw.

But, the night was wearing on, and it was time to leave. As we wandered through the streets of Salzberg, trying our best not to get lost, we stumbled across two very different, very curious things: the first was the house of Paracelsus, and the second was a weird t-shirt that Monika and Meghan demanded I take a photo of.

Theophrastus Paracelsus | Thank God I'm a VIP? WTF?

Most people spent the ride back catching up on sleep: we had to get up early, after all to get to Vienna. . . but my mind was working. My idea, I'm afraid, was pretty funny, but the repercussions might have been a tad nasty. Fortunately for me, my partner in crime had second thoughts before I did, because I might have had them too late. Oh, but it was a fun plan.

That night, I actually began a short review in my journal with two quotes I had found the night before in the Yajurveda:

Nov. 24, 2005: Kindling Fires
"Thy kindling-sticks, O Agni, thine abodes,
Thy tongues, O All-knower, thy light,
Thy cracklings, thy drops,
With these pile thyself, well knowing."

"Agni, lord of vows, thou art the vow-lord of vows."
This week, we have kindled many fires: blessings, fellowship, inspiration, sacrifice, cleansing, and discovery. We have come together in a beautiful mountain village, learned about ourselves and others, and opened new doors in our lives. What we have given has been duly returned with amazing increase.

I imagine I'll revise some, but I think it's a great start, and even though I wrote it well before we'd finished the conference, I still feel the same about it.

I slept wonderfully well that night.

Next update:

11/25/05: Fourth Day: Vienna

Entries from this trip:
A quick overview of the entire trip
Entry 1 | Entry 2 | Entry 3 | Entry 4
Entry 5 | Entry 6



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