SALZBURG, Austria It’s t-shirt weather during the heart of winter in this Alpine city. The 6,470-foot peak of Untersberg rises up only a few miles from the city center, reminding this visitor that despite the balmy weather, the majestic Alps are not far. While snow-capped, it’s the only glimpse of snow I’ve yet to have in the first week of my stay in Austria.
It was not always so. Salzburgers tell how last year, more than a meter of snowpack collected on the streets this time of year. Outside the window, I see nothing but green.
The first day, I was introduced to one of the chief editors who gave me a rundown on the paper’s history. It’s a family-owned affair, controlled by the descendants of a pressman who was approached by a U.S. Army general after the Americans entered the city. The general had reportedly found the man in the pressroom and barked, “Who’s in charge here?” and when the pressman stepped forward, was ordered to begin printing a new newspaper to replace the Nazi organs that had been the only game in town since the Anschluss in 1938.
My command of German being limited, my usefulness to this newspaper has yet to be proved, though I’m working on it. I’ve spent most of my time doing research and trying to line up interviews for my own propaganda organ back home, the Adirondack Daily Enterprise.
I’m bivouacing in a small guesthouse on the edge of the city. The only thing between my lodgings and the newspaper is the Stiegl brewery which spews the wonderful smell of roasting hops and some of the best beer in Austria. When the director of the Kratorium, one of the organizations that organized this junket, gave me directions he said, “You simply go around I said around! the Stiegl brewery”.
So far I’ve been able to negotiate my way around the brewery without fail.The landlady seems friendly enough and I was thrilled when I was told she had a bicycle for my use. My enthusiasm dimmed a bit, when I saw it: a purple girls’ bike about three sizes too small for me. Still, I cut a pretty imposing figure as I pedal the medieval strassen and gaten in the heart of the old city. It’s all in the facial expression; doesn’t matter what ya ride as long as ya get the Hell’s Angel grimace down pat.
Perhaps I give myself too much credit.