September 23, 2012

Just look at it, a relatively simple, unadorned Renaissance-inspired  facade of a palatial size villa inducing its constant visitors and probably its long-dead owners (asking them would be somewhat troublesome) the coziest sensation of  having broken up with worldly chores into one soothing vacation-land. That’s unarguably the first impression one gets when entering Hellbrunn domain, a baroque, luxurious albeit intimate wellness center you’d expect making an appealing  brochure cover. But rest assured, your tour couldn’t possibly be more different from all the others typical to similar historical places. Just wait.

Schloss Hellbrunn, situated in Salzburg’s vicinity, was built in the early 1600’s by the renowned Prince-Archbishop of the Salzburg district, a rather unconventional Markus Sittikus von Hohenems, as a more or less accurate replica of a castle he took a liking to during his school years in Italy. Designed to be a day-residence fully supplied by water springs in the summer, the villa has no bedroom: the Prince Archbishop & comp. would arrive here before noon, enjoy the informal atmosphere with numerous concerts (a room was particularly destined to sustain high acoustics), parties, society games or whatever the naughtier spirits might’ve been up to in such permissive circles (let your imagination do its work), have their presumably well-deserved break from the court’s rigor and dutifully return by midnight, satisfied and refreshed. So far so good. No shocking debauchery to equal Versailles’, no historically essential event held between the villa’s amber walls…

Until you’re introduce to the marvelous world of the trick fountains.

Nobody explained us, the information-avid tourists, what exactly gave Sittikus the crazy ideas on which a series of water-powered objects have been craftily introduced to the garden decorations  though it’s crystal clear deriding his acquaintances was a prime purpose. Now, whether it had a connection with the age’s wellness treatments or exclusively the ridiculing folly, it’s quite hard to extract from the remaining historical resources. What remains, the fantastic products of Sittikus’ whims, are fine examples of sheer eccentricity:

A feasts stone table with an obvious wine cavity right in the middle, surrounded by 9 fixed stools, was the place where drinking heavily happened and not in the ordinary way.

Imagine the scene, centuries ago: smug, filthy, wigged aristocrats getting drunk around this very table, partially unconscious in blatant inebriety, laughing with their host, when a spring of beverage coming literally from under their buttocks propels them all off the chairs! All save the guffawing Sittikus, a man with a peculiar yet keen sense of humor.

Through the entire garden one can’t anticipate where hidden water channels stream, soaking you every five minutes or so from head to toe:  ornaments (like the reindeer above), stairs, perfectly cut hedges, sometimes even wall bricks are to be avoided if you don’t plan on making a quick bath.

But of course there’s no chance leaving the trick-fountains garden dry and sound with this many distractions luring you in Sittikus’ traps:

Uncountable figurines at each step, all water-powered, singing, motioning on defined routes like the more intricate toys of a grown up kid whose money have no other purpose than providing for a residence of ingenious albeit childish amusements.

A small grotto chockfull with marble statues depicting mythological figures of Germanic origin, sacred animals and few heraldic symbols belonging to the noble families of the region  is at the same time a ‘perilous’ area: many of the adornments you might stop admiring can get you wet in a second. And if that’s not so remarkable a surprise, do remember you’re a victim of practical pranks devised 300 years ago by a man in skirts.

Neptune’s Fountain…

…and one hilarious detail poking its tongue out at you through a once again water-operated mechanism.

Another beguilement, a heavy metal crown representing supreme authority, is being pushed up and down by a jet with a cadence imitating the rise & fall of power in a really brilliant style. Look at it for long and sprays of water directed from behind will jerk you out in a sec.

Out where a water tunnel awaits.

Every minute of the tour I couldn’t help feeling somehow enthusiastic about numerous ingenious fabrications impossible to compare with any other historical estates ever build on European territory. Louis the Swan King’s Linderhof Palace might come close in eccentricity but couldn’t have a more different approac as the period, the architecture, the structure, the whole concept is essentially dissimilar. One’s a rococo enchantment with golden stucco and garnishes galore, the first a classic fun house concentrated on  scoffing the lucky guests. In this regard, Hellbrunn is utterly unique.

To end this introduction, here’s the last diversion to which we fell victim: a music-playing theatre based on a water-organ, all vivid colors of the 1750’s,  with over 200 miniature characters mostly in locomotion to recreate a fragment of city life in those ages. Suave Mozart music as soundtrack, evidently.



Having been antagonistically said “far too occupied with relaxing”, holidays-making and putting my diary up to date after leaving immense time gaps in its composition (a bad habit of mine), I’m aware I might’ve turned my back to blogging here, which sadly and unavoidably turned poor Madame de Pique quite unpopular with “visitors”, and so, finally coming to realize it (apotheotisis!), I thought of giving the gal a voice of her own, let her speak for herself a little. Thus, within minutes of costomizing, playing with voice options, et cetera,  the Voki Madame was brought into this post. Ta-dah! the very pink Marie-Antoinette-ish figure, feather-hatted, pear jewels galore, milky white and terribly French at your service!

Now, her obvious Parisian accent might not actually get the right pronunciation of the English lines I had her say and some of you probably will meet a few problems in understanding what this shamelessly rich lady’s mumbling about, but I do feel setting her talk the Queen’s English while under the power of a clearly French name was not the most suited idea despite the intelligibility issue. You’ll never hear Elizabeth the Second expressing herself in Chinese, will you? Hence, I apologize in anticipation, the woman’s not going to change that peculiar dialect underlining her origin.She’d lose her charm.  However, just so none could complain for not getting a word of Madame’s dramatic-less soliloquy, here’s the script:

Hello, mes chéres. I’m Madame de Pique and the blog you have accessed is my collection of discoveries on eccentric historical themes, art subjects and a large variety of beautiful things. Enjoy  your visit chez moi and if you want to share some opinions or suggestions please leave a comment. Hope you will come back soon to spend some more time together!”

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