Summer is a magical time of year in Salzburg. People dive into the waters along the lakes, ponds, rivers and streams, shady guest gardens invite visitors to stay a while, and there are all sorts of other things happening on the squares, streets and alleys in the city. But if a person is ever in the mood for something extraordinary and globally unique, then they should absolutely pay a visit to Hellbrunn Palace and the famous trick fountains. After a delightful meal in the old city, we hop on our bikes and head off southwards. We leave the fortress on the right-hand side, and admire the majestic view towards the Untersberg and as far as the Tennen mountain range. The Salzach River flowing alongside us provides a light breeze, which does not make the sun feel quite so hot. Anticipation! The mood among us all can probably be best described this way, because what is waiting for us today cannot be experienced every day.
The ‘Villa suburbana’ south of the city
It was in 1612 when the powerful Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg, Markus Sittikus, commissioned the construction of a pleasure palace south of the city. As a great admirer of Italian arts and the southern lifestyle, he wanted to have a ‘Villa suburbana’ (suburban villa) built by the famous architect Santino Solari. The palace was intended to be magnificent and in accordance with the power which prince-archbishops held in this era. It was never meant to be a residence. Hellbrunn was constructed solely as a pleasure palace with a view of the city. The central theme at Hellbrunn, if you will, was water. Fresh springs invigorated body, spirit and soul at the same time. In the beautiful gardens one could walk along the ponds for hours, and the famous trick fountains were constructed for amusement of the many guests. So much for history! During our trip it comes to mind that it is actually incredible that today, after over 400 years, the “water games” can still be experienced as in those days.
As we arrive at Hellbrunn Palace after a ride of just over half an hour, a world in which one cannot stop being astonished awaits us. There is so much to see here, so much to discover. The children cannot see enough of the gigantic sturgeons in the ponds, while we adults enjoy the magnificent Mediterranean architecture and visualise how life might have looked here hundreds of years ago. On the right side behind the palace we also reach the entrance to the trick fountains, and are introduced to our group and our tour guide. Once again the phrase “expect the unexpected” comes to mind as we take a seat in a small amphitheatre and are welcomed by the Hellbrunn trick fountains. Well, this is going to be quite something…
“Everyone gets wet here!”
Even as an adult, one can feel on edge. While we ‘older people’ sit timidly at our places and repeatedly look around scared of where the water might come from now, the children in our group are beaming with joy and accept the invitation of our tour guide to please take a seat by the large table in the middle of the square. But nevertheless our caution was of no use. So much is to be said at this point. One could also not say anything at all, there is simply too much to experience at the trick fountains. We are on the go for about an hour. We visit grottos with walls full of shells which are entirely characterised by Greek mythology. We marvel at water machines driven purely by water – which tell stories of gods and people – and see a mechanical theatre whose 200 water-driven (how else could it be) figures depict the life of a small baroque city. Of course, fountains should also not be missing in this world of water at Hellbrunn. They are magnificent, unique naturally, but primarily insidious, and do not miss any opportunity to spray us visitors with water. Loud screams, laughter and also short sprints are the order of the day, and the longer our tour lasts, the more relaxed we adults also are. You simply have to accept one thing: everyone gets wet here! And it’s great fun.
Again and again, we see our children dart past briefly. They quickly made friends with other children and spend one of the most beautiful days of the summer here at Hellbrunn. I can understand that, we also cannot stop laughing. At the end of the tour, we come back to the ponds with the sturgeons. It is truly a wonderful place here. Sun worshippers crowd the extensive meadows, while runners do their laps through the park, and over there at the palace people let delicacies from SalzburgerLand melt in their mouth. What is on our agenda before returning to the city? Ever since our children have realised that right next door at the Salzburg Zoo there are bears, rhinos, snakes and also lions, we cannot do anything but also pay a visit to these animals. But that’s another story.
Has this aroused your interest, and would you also like to pay a visit to Hellbrunn Palace? Then do not hesitate. Take one of the many ways south of the city and experience a day that you will not forget so quickly. After all, 400 years of zest for life cannot be wrong.