Hohenwerfen fortress

Hohenwerfen fortress

The fortress of Hohenwerfen

Hohenwerfen fortress is a medieval rock castle. It is located on a 623 metres (2,044 ft) precipice overlooking the Austrian market town of Werfen in the Salzach river valley. It is about 40 kilometres (25 mi) south of Salzburg. Hohenwerfen is a small “sister” of  the fortress of Hohensalzburg, both built by the Archbishops of Salzburg in the 11th century. The name of the major builder’s archbishop was Gebhard of Salzburg.

fortress of Werfen

a strategical defense fortress in the Austrian Alps

The fortress Hohenwerfen was built between 1075 and 1078 during the Imperial Investiture Controversy. It was a strategic bulwark at the top of a 155-metre (509 ft) high rock. Gebhard, an ally of Pope Gregory VII and the anti-king Rudolf of Rheinfelden, held three major castles extended to secure the route across the Eastern Alps along the Salzach river against the forces of King Henry IV of Germany: these were Hohenwerfen, Hohensalzburg and Petersburg Castle at Friesach (Carinthia). Gebhard was expelled from King Henry in 1077 and were not allowed to return to Salzburg until 1086.

Hohenwerfen was for the rulers of Salzburg not only a military base but also a residence and hunting retreat area. It was extended in the 12th century and also in the 16th century. During the German Peasants’ War in 1525-1526 farmers and miners from the south of Salzburg destroyed the castle – on their move towards the city the were laying fire and did a lot of damage.

From time to time it was also used as a state prison. It was not the best place to stay there – there were definitely inhumane conditions. Sometimes also noble guests were sitting behind its prison walls like the archbishop Adalbert III in 1198, Count Albert of Friesach in 1253, and Prince-Archbishop Wolf Dietrich von Raitenau – perhaps you remember him from the Saltmines in Bad Dürrnberg or Mirabell Palace.
the mountains from the fortress of Werfen

The use today of the fortress of Hohenwerfen

During the centuries it was going through many different owners – the most famous ones perhaps was the Habsburg family of Austria. Then of course it was also in the hands of the Austrian government and after World War II it was used as a training camp by the Austrian Gendarmerie (rural police) until 1987.

Nowadays the fortress functions as a museum. The museum has different main topics and it is more than fascination to walk through different centuries and climb up the biggest tower of the fortress to have a great overview over the valley of the Salzach river. Also guided tours are done which are showing its extensive weapons collection, the historical Salzburg Falconry (in summertime two times a day) with the falconry museum as well as a fortress tavern. The historic Falconry center is a special attraction, offering daily flight demonstrations using various birds of prey, including eagles, falcons, hawks, and vultures

logo where eagle's dare.

Hollywood & fortress Hohenwerfen

You will be surprised, but also Hollywood loves this area and the medieval fortress of Hohenwerfen was used as background and movie locations for several films. Perhaps you know some of them:

In the 1968 cinema film Where Eagles Dare the castle featured as the fictional Schloss Adler, command headquarters of the 3rd Rich, raided by an Anglo-American paratroop team during World War 2.

Also Just Married with Ashton Kutscher was done there in 2003, where it was used as French Hotel.

Season three of Angel used the castle as a monastery located in Sri Lanka, where Buffy summers died.

Perhaps you remember The 10th Kingdom? Also there the castle appears in the movie.

And of course it was used during the “do-re-mi-picnic scene” in The Sound of Music. Behind Julie Andrews when the kids learned to sing with here you see the valley of Werfen and the hillside with the castle.

There were also a few other movies, I do not want to count them all.

chapel within the fortress of Werfen

Drive with us to the Fortress of Hohenwerfen and enjoy a spectacular walk through the centuries. Learn more about this area and the Salzach valley and see the eagles flying. We are looking forward to meet you here in Salzburg. Best regards and a good travel Bespecialtours!

Stiegl – lifestyle and beer

Stiegl – lifestyle and beer

Stiegl – beer and Innovation such as ami beer, etc.

The Stiegl Brewery was founded and firstly mentioned on documents dated to the 16th June 1492. It was called “The House by the Steps” which is still the brand’s name and used in the logo (which can be found almost everywhere in Salzburg) of five up going steps.

At the time of foundation the brewery, Salzburg was a typical middle aged town and the development of the beer (going back to the Romans before christ time) was typically in the area due to the fact that beer had less germs than the water. Also the opinion of Copernicus became more and more popular and the world was not any longer flat. Of course – for our US community – America had been discovered on the 12th. October. 1492 by Columbus.

In the town of Salzburg there used to be a typically tavern near by a small river under the houses of the town in the area of the nowadays “Gstättengasse” which was first mentioned as “Bräuhaus an der Gstätten”. Actually the brewery is a bit outside of the city center and the original tavern does not exist any longer – it was directly in the old town, where the house of nature (museum) is nowadays located.

The name “Stiegl” came just a little later. It refers to a small set of steps situated next to the brew house. At the “Haus Bey der Stiegen”, brewing water was taken from the Almkanal (the small river under the town), which supplies the city with fresh water.

The old business operations of the brewery and of course the guesthouse had a very simple sequence of events. The brewer brews his beer, slaughters his own animals and accommodates strangers who enjoy the food and drink his products on their way through Europe. The citizens also dropped by in the evening for a drink or to take their beer home in pitchers and tankards. And so the oldest brewery in the city of Salzburg was founded and run as a private family business. This is something very unique until today – the Stiegl is still in private property. The name of the founder family was Huemer – this changed only one time – but it is run by the third generation of the family Kiener. On their website you can see also a picture of the actual business owner and his philosophy.

In the 17th century Stiegl was the biggest brewery in the area of Salzburg – but there were over 100 other small breweries which made their own recipe of beer. Another very important factor at this time took place in the taverns and encouraged the people to stay longer outside, drink their beer, eat well and of course chat. The tobacco was brought to Salzburg and people enjoyed to smoke, drink and chat.

In the 1780ies the most famous person of Salzburg started to drink Stiegl beer – Mozart. We know that, because it was mentioned in an entry of his sister Nannerl’s diary. The owner of Stiegl followed the custom among beer-brewing families to keep their children’s marriages exclusively within their professional’s circle. In 1765, Johann Ambros Elixhauser marries into the Kiener family. His family has also been part of Salzburg’s brewing circles. Elixhauser is a wealthy, successful businessman and the Stiegl Brewery flourished more than ever.

In the 1820ies the Stieglkeller – a still existing restaurant in Salzburg – was founded. This was also the time when Salzburg became part of Austria and was going through the time from a self-standing prince archbishop’s rule to a more provincial town. But the beer still flew 🙂

A time of ups and downs followed until the farmer and grain trader Franz Huemer had enough of this mismanagement. He took over at the Stiegl Brewery and put his nephew Heinrich Kiener in charge as director. Up to the present day a member of the Kiener family manages the private brewery.

In the year 1912 the Stiegl “Goldbräu” Märzen was registered as brand name and started his way over the world. It guarantees quality at the highest level and follows the old bavarian tradition of the “Reinheitsgebot” (more about it in the following text).

Of course the time of two world wars left their mark also in the company of Stiegl Brewery. During the times of the allied troops in Salzburg the lack of raw materials lead to a loss of quality. Of course this was not in the mind of the soldiers stationed in Salzburg. Therefore the Stiegl brewery got support from the US and high quality raw materials to brew a special american beer. So the citizens of Salzburg got their usual (at this time not so tasty Stiegl) and the soldiers their beer taste. Of course, when they were going back to the US they missed something – the Stiegl Ami Beer. Because of that event, until now one of the most important export markets of Stiegl is the US (behind Germany and Italy). So when back at home in the US, going to the restaurant or bar and finding the five red steps logo behind your bars, you know where it came from.

In 1954, Kiener brought Coca-Cola to Salzburg by founding the “Salzburger Getränkeindustrie” (Salzburg Beverages Industry). In its first year, the company produced and sold 100,000 crates of this caffeinated soft drink. In 2005 the most modern brewery was established in Salzburg. Nowadays the Stiegl brewery has over 600 employees and is a very well running company and it may be that the following patriarch of the Stiegl brewery is the first time in history a Lady, because in the following generation of family Kiener there a two girls and only one is interested in learning the business.

What really is the innovation at Stiegl? Since 2015 all their ingredients (except water) have been produced by themselves. We will come back to the raw materials in the next step connected with the “Reinheitsgebot”.

musuem stiegl

Reinheitsgebot – purity requirements

Since the year 1516 the Bavarian regulations of breweries have the purity requirements. Since the year 1918 also in the bavarian constitutional laws. This means that in a good beer there is only clear water, barley (wheat) and hops. In fact they forgot one very important thing – the yeast. There is still in the old fairy tales from the brother Grimm’s “Rumpelstiltskin” – the secret of why sometimes it is beer as result and sometimes it does not work. There is the sentence with the dwarf dancing around the fire: “today I bake, tomorrow I brew and the day after I am picking up the queen’s child” And that’s it! You need YEAST which was unknown at the time by the point of science but an absolutely necessary ingredient for funding the purity requirements to make out of the ingredients an alcoholic drink.

This purity requirements are still valid (the own choice of Stiegl) also in this brewery in Salzburg/Austria. The Stiegl beer includes the clear water from the Untersberg mountain which is filtered through the stone and brings a very important impact to the taste of the beer. So the most important ingredient is the WATER.

The Stiegl brewery has in Wildshut an own farm where wheat grows which becomes barley in a small malthouse and is then freshly delivered to Salzburg by train day by day. So the BARLEY is ready for production. In Wildshut they also plant special sorts of wheat which are only growing in this special region – but of course have an own taste and so give the beer a unique way of taste.

Still plants its own HOPS and since 2015 they can also use this for their production. So as far as I personally know this is very significant and unique here in Europe that a brewery farms and produces its own ingredients. For me personally an additional reason to stay regional and to enjoy the taste of a Stiegl and their lifestyle! So join us with bespecialtours – it fit’s to our philosophy :-)!

Stiegl Museum

If you are interested to visit the Brewery and of course taste the Stiegl beer, there is a great opportunity: Enjoy a guided tours through the brewery and during week time you can also have a look to the hand production process of their special beers through a glass wall (on the weekends you see the tolls but not making of it).

You start with a 360degree image movie, then you learn more about the raw materials and can also smell them or have a taste and then you get more information about the production process of making beer (I am not going into detail here – but if you are really interested in just let us know by mail). Then you will see how it really works into a production by hand and you get an overview of different special beers of Stiegl (they make every year a special beer – for example they use old wine barrels which have the taste of wine inside and so the beer gets a special flavor). In the museum on the upper floor you will see how many different beers are available in Austria and you get an overview over the historical development of the Stiegl brewery.

Of course I want to mention a special try of the Stiegl brewery – following an old roman recipe they produced a so called “UR-Beer” in big roman ceramic amphoras digged into the earth for a year. The outcome is perhaps not the typical taste of a beer, but it is something really special. Enjoy it, if you have time!

At the end of the museum’s visit we would suggest to taste a bit the different kinds of beer and enjoy a wonderful lunch or dinner in the restaurant, where typically austrian dishes are served before heading back to the center and enjoy perhaps the night life of Salzburg!

Mozart’s birthplace

Mozart’s birthplace

Mozart’s Birthplace in Salzburg

Salzburg is all about Mozart, the most famous son of this town. You will find Mozart almost everywhere in the old town of Salzburg: From a giant mozart ball, to the mozart’s square, the mozart’s bridge, the Mozart’s balls and the mozart ducks. But there are also two very important buildings: The Mozart’s living house where the family of Mozart lived before moving to Vienna and the even more famous Mozart’s birthplace. Nowadays a museum to show the life of Mozart, his work and the life of Mozart in Salzburg.

The museum is on 3 floors in the building in which Mozart was born: On the first floor you will learn about the travels of the family Mozart and the lifestyle. In the 18th century it was something very unusual where traveling was very difficult and very long. The studies proofed that Mozart was traveling for about 11 years of his life and had definitely a traveling bug. But these travels also influenced his life, his creativity and also his operas. The life in the 18th century was not easy but Mozart made this life easier and took it with more humor.

The birthplace of Mozart also demonstrates that the family of Mozart was a very good middle class family and had a clean and nice apartment and lived quite well for that time. The ceiling was not very high but since it had in each room an oven the rooms were very warm and comfortable. The family is also a typically family at that time when families had lots of children but unfortunately the child’s death rate was extremely high. Mozart’s mother Anna Maria gave birth to 7 children and only 2 out of them became older than 2 years. It was nothing unusual at that time due to the fact that many children died very early.

Mozart's birthplace Salzburg

The Mozart’s birthplace shows very nice and in a good way some original arts of the Mozart family, see the violin which Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was supposed to play because before he was able to play the piano he learned the violin. It shows also the life in Vienna in which Mozart lived his creativity and enjoyed his life more. On the second floor on which also a souvenir shop has been installed the operas and theaters of Mozart and how he imagined that his operas should be performed. Each room and exhibition item has an explanation in german and english besides. In addition it is possible to download an app for free and having all the explanations in other languages and to repeat then at home any time you want. So enjoy the Mozart’s birthplace and enjoy to get more into the life of the 18th century, the circumstances and the mastermind of Mozart!

The tickets and dates you get directly at Bespecialtours. Have fun in Salzburg with Be Special Tours!

Mozart to go – a new concert in town

Mozart to go – a new concert in town

Mozart trying to bring alive

Mozart – old and still new

In Salzburg you have the opportunity to visit a Mozart concert before dinner with a lot of interesting input. Because by “Mozart in Residence” in the new residence of Salzburg located, you get to know the history of Wolfgang Amadeus and also some impressions of his sisters Nannerls diary together with fantastic music in vocal and voices.

It was amazing to have a look at, and even when I am personally not a Mozart fan (I prefer Verdi), it brought me a wonderful overview over his time in Austria – his birth in the town Salzburg, his travels around Europe and also about his time in Vienna and WHY this happened – which impact our archbishops had here in Salzburg on the life of this world famous and impressive musician and his revolutionary ideas. Of course the concert was not only talking or singing about Mozart’s life but it was also a good impact of his most famous music pieces. The concert is not only a look through his most famous compositions but tells also his letters that he has wrote either during or before or after the composition and therefore reflects his mood into each music piece to the best.

You will get a short impact about the music played and how the location looks like – I am sure you are not often going in the residence of the former archbishops of Salzburg :-). Watch a video about it

Enjoy really good music, amusement and the local historical ceilings and paintings in the old room of the new residence for a very acceptable price and during tea time. So no need to hurry for dinner to get the concerts impressions, it is very informal and no need to dress up like for the big opera events – you enjoy Mozart to go! A good suggestion would be after the concert to go for a dinner in one of the nearby old town restaurant to enjoy the most liked foods of Mozart.

Tickets can be purchased directly through Bespecialtours. Enjoy Salzburg with Be Special Tours!

Mozart concert


Salzburg’s Easter Traditions

Salzburg’s Easter Traditions

Easter Traditions Celebrations in Salzburg

In Salzburg and it’s surrounding countryside we have a lot of easter traditions, some are completely different to the ones in the US. Of course some of them are connected with old legends and typical regional behaviors.

The inner circle of easter celebrations starts on Palm sunday with the typical palm. This is a kind of stick with different branches of different trees. In Salzburg it is made out of hazel bush, holly, yew, shinleaf, juniper, catkin, cedar, savin and oak, then a hazelnut stick and some soft willow sticks to hold it together.

These sticks are typically carried by the smaller kids and blessed by the priest in the church during palm Sunday. Of course they get a small gift from the parents and grandparents and the blessed sticks are then stored either on the garret or in the garden and the farmers stick them into the earth of their fields to protect and bless the harvest.

The original habit is coming from the entrance of Jesus in Jerusalem where real palm leaves were used. The tradition was already mentioned in the 7th century and of course, regionally you find a few differences mainly in the combination of the palm trees and also who carries them. In former times, when the rural population was strictly subdivided in farmer and farm hand, only the heir to a farm was allowed to wear a big palm stick – the others were only allowed to wear one leaf brace.

There is also a saying of the one who is the last out of bed on Palm Sunday: it is the so called palm donkey.

This saying is also connected with an old tradition still done in some smaller villages of the countryside (eg. Puch, Saalbach, Thomatal). There one of the altar boys is riding on a living donkey during the palm ceremony. Similar to the entrance of Jesus in Jerusalem.

Sometimes also wooden donkeys are joining the procession.

making of Palmbuschen

Furthermore we have a very special tradition here in this region called easter eggs or “ANTLASS Eggs”.

Traditionally the eggs are colored in the Holy week before easter. Of course, you can buy them in the supermarkets already weeks before. BUT the special ANTLASS Eggs are laid on the Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday. Antlass is dating back to the old tradition of release of the church repentance in the middle ages.

This special eggs are used for the food sanctification on Easter Sunday and then they are thrown over the roof of the house to protect it and bless the house and of course – every one – especially the kids – eat one of the Anltass eggs to stay healthy and lucky in the following year.

Easter eggs and cake

We have here in this area special kind of bread at easter – it is called “GEBILDBROT”. Some bakeries still make them in Salzburg city during the easter period in the traditionally way. It is a hand formed bread looking like a easter chicken or a easter cluster often with a colored egg inside. This is usually given from the godparents to the godchild as a easter present.

On Easter Sunday you can find in almost every church the so called “Speisenweihe”: Every family brings a basket with food for sanctification. Usually you find in the basket butter, salt, bread, eggs, ham, paschal lamb (a sweet cake in the form of a lamb). This tradition of sanctification milk and honey was already mentioned in the 10th century.

The typically items that can be found in almost every shop during easter time is the Easter rabbit and the colored eggs. The rabbit as symbol of the old celtic good Ostara was over the centuries connected with Easter and in the legends he is bringing and coloring the eggs. The egg is in the christian tradition the symbol of living and rising.

Sometimes also a paschal lamb will be used as symbol of rising. Also the white fur of the lamb is connected with the clarity and peaceful life of a good christian.

The easter candle lightened on Holy Saturday to Easter Sunday is the symbol of resurrection of Jesus and therefore the symbol of the walkover of life against death.

Easter table

A rather rare tradition at Easter time you can find in the church of Grödig (a small village of about 15 min away from the city center). There the Holy Grave will be rebuilt and in front of the Grave they hold watch – the so called “Grabsteher”. Uniformed members of the local Shooters Club (“Prangerschützen”) took over the old tradition in the Middle of the 19th century to protect the Holy Grave. Only non-married young guys are allowed to protect the Holy Grave. The guard replacement is done every 30 minutes following a hand-over ceremony.

We also have some Easter crèches showing the last days of Jesus’ life and his resurrection. This is not as well known as the Christmas Crèche.

They were founded in the baroque period in Salzburg and since the year 2000 you find it in the “Salzburger Heimatwerk” (on residence square in the old town of Salzburg) an exhibition of the Easter crèches: with wood carved and thrown passion presentation and cross presentation also like monastery works.

In the night from Holy Saturday to Easter Sunday the Easter Fire are bright shining over the area: These really timbered wooden towers are often up to eighteen feet high and filled with wood to burn for a long time. They are lightened to show the pleasure to Christ resurrection.

In the Flachgau (south of Salzburg) the Easter Fire is burned before they celebrate the mess of resurrection and then they lighten Easter candles in the church. So then everyone can lighten his own candle from the Easter candle and takes it home as a Easter light and peace light.

easter fire

Traditionally in this area it is that the bells of the churches are not longer ringing from Holy Thursday onwards. Traditionally there is the saying that they are flying to Rome and come back after Christ resurrection. Also the crosses with Jesus in the Church are covered during these days with a violett drapery.

In the time of NO Bells, the “Ratschen” take over this job. The tradition is dating back till the 8th century and the ratchet will be used from smaller boys to count every full hour during the time of Holy thursday till Holy Saturday. Originally this tradition to make a loud noise may go back to magic-celtic heritage to protect themselves with noise against bad magic.

Easter ratschen

The so called “GONESLAUF” is a kind of game between young teens in a certain region of Salzburg (called Lungau). It should indicate the end of the easter weekend and is usually played on Easter Monday.

They build a line and the couples are behind a guy who is single – this one is the so called “Gones” (male goose) who has to meet his girl. Then he shouts “Gones, Gones, Kikeriki, des lithe Paarl her für mi” and the last couple in the row has to run away and the Gones tries to get the girl of this couple for himself. If he is successful the other guy has to take over his role to catch a girl as “Gones” otherwise the old “Gones” has to try as long as needed to get his girl.

This tradition has been celebrated in the Lungau for centuries.

So we hope you have the time to enjoy Easter in Salzburg or Austria and get in touch with our traditions and legends in our country. Enjoy spring time and the blossom of our wonderful fresh green and florescence.

See you soon at Be Special Tours! Greetings to all of you!



Salzburg Easter Festspiele

Salzburg Easter Festspiele

Salzburg’s Easter music festival already for over 50years

The easter music festival in Salzburg was foundet 1967 by Herbert von Karajan. This year the festival celebrates its 50th anniversary. Every year new opera productions and some few concerts are brought to Salzburg or started newly. The festspiele last for ten days and has the status of the most elitist festival in the world. It is in organisation and in financial matters completely independent of the Salzburg music Festivals in Summer or Whitsuntide.

From the year 1967 till 2012 the Berlin philharmonic orchestra was the leading music center of the festival. The main location has always been the big opera house in Salzburg and also the concerts in the Mozarteum and – that is a speciality – in the bar republic. The republic is a location for young people with restaurant and bar and also offers a variety of cabaretts and concerts and at Easter it is part of the festival location. The easter festival in Salzburg was the only place in the world where the berlin philharmonic orchestra played opera (except some co productions) and they also founded by Claudio Abbado a line of chamber music concerts called „Kontrapunkte“.

Salzburg music festival house

Starting with Herbert von Karajan in 1967 they played big operas like „The Walkyrie, Siegfried, Fidelio, Twilight of the gods, Tristan and Isolde, La Bohème, Lohengrin, Il Trofatore, Parsifal, Carmen, Don Carlos, Don Giovanni, Tosca“. After Karajans death they played „Fidelio, Le nozze di Figaro“ before in the year 1992 Sir Georg Solti took over the oar with „The wife without shadow, Falstaff“.
In the year 1994 Claudia Abbado started to organize and played then „Boris Godunow, Elektra, Otello, Tristan and Isolde“ and so on.
2003 till 2012 Sir Simon Rattle organized the Easter Festival and his big operas were “Fidelio, Cosi van Tutte, Salome, Carmen, Siegfried, The Walkyrie“ a.s.o.

Herbert von Karajan

In the year 2013 also the orchestra changed – now the Staatskapelle Dresden is the main orchestra in the Easter Festival and Christian Thieleman is organizing the festival opera. He already staged Parsifal, Arabella, Otello and in the year 2017 to celebrate the 50years anniversary they are staging The Walkyrie from Richard Wagner again. Completely different from the stage than in 1967, but the same opera with some special highlights. They are using the same set made by Günther Schneider-Siemssen in 1967, and Vera Nemirova directs a new staging.

And also 2017 for the 50 Years Easter Festival Celebration they have two guest orchestras – The Berlin Philharmonic (Mahler’s Sixt Symphony) and The Vienna Philharmonic (with Beethoven’s Ninth).

easter festival Walkure opera

What is really eyecatching that the Easter Festival has nearly 92% own capital covering through membership and sponsors the Festival. Only 8% are coming as subvention from the public authority. This is going back to the founder Herbert von Karajan who sold fixed places only for people that are sponsors of the Festival (price for sponsor: adult 300€, teens: 50€) and only as a sponsor it is possible to buy the ticket for a opera show and three concerts. For a short period of time it is possible to get tickets without membership. One of the cheaper tickets (between 5-50€) are the ones for the chamber concerts – this is also our tipp of #bespecialtours.

A small side-note: – where a lot of money is located also a scandal was near – in the year 2009/2010 they was the reasonable suspicions of deception and also defalcation. As a consequence the organization, structure and the personal has been changed in the year 2010. The “Easter Festivals Salzburg GmbH“ is now also owned by the City of Salzburg and the Country of Salzburg as shareholders to undergo the rule of publication by the state.

We hope you take the opportunity on your visit in Salzburg to hear one of the concerts or of being one of the lucky ones with a ticket for the opera! We wish you a nice and pleasant stay in our wonderful city and hope you enjoyed the trip into the world of music. Best regards Be Special Tours!