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This Salzburg, Count Ferdinand Czernin, The Greystone Press, 1938

Jill discovered this thin volume in a rare books shop in Denver’s Cherry Creek area. As I’ve stated previously, we had been having difficulty finding books that limited themselves to Austria alone, so how could we resist a book that not only stayed within country, but within a single city that we planned to visit. And what a find this was–funny and insightful, with a surprising edge to it that may or may not have been intentional on the part of the author.

Imagine a European nobleman who learned English by reading P.G. Wodehouse, who decides to write a book about his hometown and its world-renowned festival. Then add the time period–right before World War II–and the place–Austria–and you have a very strange book, indeed. Almost like fiddling in Rome, Count Czernin’s deprecating look at Austrians deigning to take in the P.G. (paying guest) during the annual music festival has a bittersweet quality to it. And, in a few instances, such as the off-hand remark about the Fuhrer and the past practice of the Archbishop of Salzburg’s treatment of the Jewish residents, remarkably prescient.

To give an example of the style here, I must quote from the section regarding renting a place to stay during the Festival. Count Czernin explains what is expected of the P.G., and what you get for your hard-earned pounds, including the maintenance and attention of the servants, and the use of the linen. He goes on to say, “The only thing you will usually find locked is the cellar, which just shows you what a reputation you’ve got.”

It’s rare to find a tourist-trade book about a particular city quite as humorous or as informative as this, with its insight into the city celebrities, the architecture (remember, Rococo is fluffy clouds, sweet angels, shepherdesses and Mozart), and the history of the town’s formation and peerage. If I could find a book like this for every city I visited, I would be a happy man indeed.

My only regret is that we haven’t had an update to this book in the last 50 years.

[Finished 5 April 1998]


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First Impressions Copyright © 2016 by Glen Engel-Cox is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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