Hostel Salzburg

This is not like any other hostel I’ve stayed at before. I am in Salzburg, and not wanting to stay at the place that boasts screenings of Sound of Music “Every Night!” I stumble instead upon this one. It is built into the side of a church and the silence inside is thick in the way only church silence can be. The bells in the tower go crazy every 15 minutes, crazier every hour, but as soon as they’re done, the silence rolls back in almost aggressively.

On the ground floor, the reception desk is manned by a lady who, when her English runs out, simply speaks to me in German and points. She takes my passport, carefully records my details, says something incomprehensible about internet access, and hands me the keys.

I follow her gestures to a modern elevator that has been punched into one of the walls of the ground floor. Further up, the floors have been coated in the white chipboard panelling and single-coloured feature walls of the average hostel, but the ground and first floor have retained their wooden beams and dark stone. The walls and surfaces carry dried flowers and the usual array of violent religious statues in various stages of undress, sprawled upright, thrusting forward their stab wounds. Opposite the elevator stand two vending machines, glowing in the absence of windows.

I dump my bags in my dorm room and lie on a bed for a while, listening to a couple of American girls talk about the Adventure Tour they had been on that day. The bells go off and they roll their eyes. Later, early evening, they go out in search of an internet place and I wander through the empty corridors.

On the more typically hostel floors, the walls are decorated by the sort of paintings you’d find at op shops. Some have whole corners taped under signs in German and English that say, “Bilder an der wand lassen bitte” and “Leave the paintings on the wall please”.

People take the paintings off the walls?

On the second floor a Chinese family lay out an elaborate meal, rushing back and forth from the kitchen, fussing over candles. In the corner, tennis plays on the television. Later, when I pass by again, the door is closed.

There is no fifth floor. On the sixth floor, which is marked D in the elevator but 6 on the doors, there is a door  marked “Musik”. Behind it a woman plays Beatles covers on a baby grand. Downstairs, behind the closed door of 414, a violin answers in nervous spurts of notes.

I meet a girl from Barcelona named Nora, a dancer who is studying at the dance school around the corner and who has lived in the hostel since September last year. We are sitting on the fourth floor smoking, in what I guess you would call the hallway, only it is as wide and big as a living room.

“What do you see in this painting?” she asks me, pointing at one of the op shop pieces.
“Um, I dunno. Tulips. Stencils of tulips. Spray-painted on the canvas.”
“I see faces there,” she says seriously.
I look closer. “Oh yeah. Just in the middle. I see what you mean.”
“It looks like there are ghosts. It is scary, this painting. I do not like it.”

Outside, the church bells start up again. We smoke and sit and listen to them in silence.


3 Responses to “Hostel Salzburg”

  1. 1 Brad June 22, 2010 at 9:20 am

    Very evocative!

  2. 2 Geoff July 7, 2010 at 5:02 pm

    “thrusting forth their stab wounds.” Hot.

    And how surreal this whole place is. You’ve caught it. The missing floors, the captive pianist, the violins. Your writing is a dream at the moment.

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